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Islamic Faith and the Problem of Pluralism: Relations Among the Believers

Madjid Nurcholish

in Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195174304
Published online November 2007 |
Islamic Faith and the Problem of Pluralism: Relations Among the Believers

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Born in East Java, Indonesia, into a family of Islamic scholars, Nurcholish Madjid received his early education at his father's madrasah (school) and Darul Ulum pesantren (school). He completed his Quranic studies, along with English and secular subjects, at Pondok Modern Darus Salam Gontor in 1960 and received a B.A. in Arab literature in 1968 at Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta, Indonesia. A prominent student activist leader, Madjid served as the General Chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Students Association from 1966 until 1971, President of United Islamic Students of Southeast Asia, and assistant to the Secretary General of the International Islamic Federation of Students Organization. In 1978 Madjid went to the United States, where he earned a Ph.D in Islamic studies at the University of Chicago in 1984.

A gifted and prolific writer and charismatic speaker, Nurcholish Madjid became a prominent and respected voice for Islamic reform. His support for pluralism and democracy made him a prominent public intellectual in both Indonesia and the broader Muslim world. In addition to founding Paramedina Foundation, a major reform organization, and serving as the Rector of Paramadina Mulya University in Indonesia since 1998, he was also a member of the Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights and many international organizations.

In this piece from 2003, Madjid notes the pluralism of Indonesian society, a pluralism he believes to be characteristic of Islam generally. The only exception to such pluralism is the precincts and municipalities of Mecca and Medina, to which non-Muslims are forbidden entry. Madjid believes that Islam has an accepting and tolerant attitude toward those of other faiths. Islam, in preaching submission to God alone, is none other than the faith of Jews and Christians, who also emphasize such submission but who, for various reasons, have diverged from this standard. This fact necessitated Gods sending a final messenger to spread His word. Madjid quotes Qurn 5:69 to show that in fact all those who worship the one God are the inheritors of His pleasure and reward: Those who believe [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith and the Christians and the Sabians [the Sabaean people of southern Arabia]in fact any one who believes in God and the last day and performs good deedswill have nothing to fear or regret.

Chapter.  5803 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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