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Islamic Society ( 29 Jun 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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What is 'Progressive' Muslim Thought?

By Dr. Adis Duderija

29 June 2017

Over the decade or so of publishing on theory of progressive Islam a number of people have asked me why do I use the word “progressive.” While I have provided a systematic and detailed discussion (in academic terms) of what this means from a philosophical, epistemological and methodological perspective in my academic writings on the subject matter, I understand that given that progressive Islam /progressive Muslim thought is very much present at grassroots level that there is a need to provide a non-academic explanation. In what follows I provide four reasons why I use the word “progressive” in progressive Islam/progressive Muslim thought:

Reason 1:

 Quran and Sunna were progressive in approaching ethical and legal issues of that time by having a more ethical vision beyond what was considered as status quo and customary (Ma'ruf/ 'Urf)! Progressive Islam wants to stay true to this vision.

Reason 2:

Ethical values like justice and fairness do not remain frozen in time. They, as collective human experience testifies, in principle are subject to change as God's creative powers have a direct bearing on our own collective reason and our collective ethico-moral compass. Our aim is to ever more faithfully approximate the Divine as source of absolute Beauty, Justice and Mercy and that is only possible if our ethical systems do not remain frozen (as in case of traditionalist/pre-modern based approaches) and are theorized in such a manner to allow space for progress /improvement in the never ending quest for ethical perfection. Theory of progressive Islam does exactly that.

Reason 3:

 To highlight the strong affinities in the kind of theologies, interpretational approaches and socio-political and ethical values that exist among progressive religious/spiritual movements worldwide whose pillars are affirmation of religious pluralism and strong commitment to social and gender justice. For example, the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

Reason 4:

For the same reason why we have Sufi Islam, Sunni Islam, and Shi’i Islam. It's about affirming the fact that progressive Islam has its own methodology of interpretation and its own theological orientation and its own approach to conceptualising the Islamic intellectual tradition (that are discussed in my works systematically and in some detail).


Dr. Adis Duderija is a lecturer in Griffith University, Australia.