Islam and Secularism

Asghar Ali Engineer

in Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195174304
Published online November 2007 |
Islam and Secularism

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Born and raised in Salumbar, India, Asghar Ali Engineer received an Islamic and secular education, graduating in civil engineering. A longtime rights activist and scholar of Islam, he has been especially concerned with communal violence. He is head of the Institute of Islamic Studies and the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism; his many books include The Rights of Women in Islam, Islam and Revolution, and A Rational Approach to Islam.

The author here examines whether or not Muslims can accept secularism. Engineer emphasizes that though many commentators seem to assume that social circumstances are static, they are, in fact, always changing. If they are dynamic, then pronouncements by earlier Muslims cannot be determinative for later generations. In this excerpt from 2001, Engineer notes how the Caliphate, after its initial golden age, was increasingly secularized. Yet, the contemporary ulema (clergy) have always upheld the ideal of that golden age and condemned any effort by those considering themselves good Muslims to deviate from that model. Typifying the conflict between the two tendencies were Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the first leader of Pakistan, and Abu al-Al al-Mawdudi, who condemned Jinnahs preference for a constitution that granted equality to all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Engineer believes that an Islam interpreted liberally (thus allowing tolerance and pluralism) can coexist with a secularism also interpreted liberally (thus promoting equality of religions).

Chapter.  3231 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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