Islamic Thought | Karim H. Karim: Re-asserting the Qur’an’s Cosmopolitan Ethics

By Dr Karim H. Karim, Chancellor’s Professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada

The Prophet Muhammad’s open and outward-looking worldview has been constricted over centuries into insular dogmas that circumambulate increasingly tighter circles. Contemporary extremists, particularly, seek to hold believers hostage in narrow confines. The Prophet’s establishment of the umma encompassed Medinan Jews; it was later limited only to those pledging themselves to Islam. The umma has grown to be a world-wide religious community; however, not all who declare themselves Muslims are embraced.

Authors of the first set of essays in this project on the ethics of community, community support, and community formation agree that Islamic ethics promote goodness (iḥsān) and neighborliness (jiwār) towards all humanity. The Qur’an ushered in a particular religious vision that was embedded in a larger context. Its cosmopolitan spirit valued the goodness in other monotheistic believers: Jews, Christians, Sabeans (Q 2:62). As they traveled beyond Arabia, Muslims came across additional religious paths: Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Hindus. However, ways of relating to neighbors have differed, even between Muslims. The borders between self and other are policed on a shifting scale. Some Shias do not consider the leadership of the three Rashidun Caliphs before Ali to be legitimate and some Sunnis do not consider the Shia to be Muslims. Twelvers, Ismailis, Zaydis, Alawis, and Druzes are considered part of the fold in some circumstances but not in others. And Ahmadis are often left out in the cold. Ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and national differences are additional barriers to interaction despite the Qur’an’s exhortations to rise above them (5:48, 30:22).

[The Qur’an’s] cosmopolitan spirit valued the goodness in other monotheistic believers: Jews, Christians, Sabeans (Q 2:62). As they traveled beyond Arabia, Muslims came across additional religious paths: Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Hindus. However, ways of relating to neighbors have differed, even between Muslims. The borders between self and other are policed on a shifting scale.

Read full article at Maydan

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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