The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Theologies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2023) | Viewed by 20894

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Guest Editor
School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
Interests: modern Islamic thought; comparative liberation theologies; Christian–Muslim relations; social justice struggles; decolonization

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The open-access journal Religions invites submissions for a Special Issue titled “The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology”, to be edited by Dr Shadaab Rahemtulla (University of Edinburgh). As a working definition, Islamic liberation theology (henceforth ILT) refers to a broad and diverse constellation of radical theologies that seek to reinterpret Islamic texts, including (but not limited to) the Qur’an, hadith, and legal tradition, in the light of lived experiences of marginalization. Built on an abiding commitment to social justice struggles, ILT wrestles theological understanding away from the privileged center/s of society, shifting the interlocutor of theology to the neglected, and often dehumanized, margins. Over the past several decades, a rich and sophisticated body of Islamic scholarship has emerged that has hermeneutically grappled with a variety of categories and frameworks, particularly in terms of gender and religious pluralism.

The purpose of this Special Issue is to chart out new directions in ILT. What is the current state of the field? Hitherto, what are the key contexts, problems, and thematic areas that ILT has focused on and why? How have establishment religion and its hierarchies of power and authority been deconstructed, and, in turn, how have liberationist re-readings of religious texts been produced? That is, how has ILT challenged dominant hermeneutical approaches and offered more inclusive reading methods? To what extent are these alternative methods themselves problematic, carrying contestable assumptions? Which areas of human experience (class? race and ethnicity? non-binary gender identities? disabilities? ecology?) have received less attention, or have even been ignored altogether, in ILT? Looking toward the future, how can ILT begin to grapple with such thematic areas, unexplored intersectional realities, and changing global contexts, and speaking concretely, what exactly would critical theological scholarship in these new research areas look like? With regard to method, how can fresh interdisciplinary interpretive strategies be cultivated that can offer readings that are liberationist and transformative, but also critically reflexive and unapologetic? Finally, in a field that has been deeply shaped by textual hermeneutics (however contextually sensitive), what is the place of social research methods, and of the social sciences in general, within ILT? This is a non-exhaustive listing of the type of questions that this Special Issue will seek to engage.

Prior to submitting a manuscript, interested authors should initially submit a proposed title and an abstract of 400-600 words, summarising their intended contribution, by 15 September 2022. Please send this to the Guest Editor Dr Shadaab Rahemtulla ([email protected]) or to the Religions Editorial Office ([email protected]). Abstracts will be reviewed by the Guest Editor to ensure proper fit within the scope of the Special Issue. Full manuscripts will undergo double-blind peer review and should be approximately 6,000 words each.

Manuscript deadline: 1 April 2023

Abstracts deadline: 15 September 2022

Dr. Shadaab Rahemtulla
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Discounts or waivers will be provided for accepted authors who cannot secure institutional support for the APC. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Islamic studies
  • liberation theologies
  • social justice
  • praxis
  • hermeneutics
  • class
  • prisons
  • racialisation
  • gender
  • feminism
  • sexuality
  • empire
  • decolonisation

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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9 pages, 220 KiB  
Editorial
The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology
by Shadaab Rahemtulla
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1079; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091079 - 22 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1326
Abstract
This Special Issue is devoted to Islamic Liberation Theology (hitherto ILT) [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

17 pages, 327 KiB  
Article
Tawhid Paradigm and an Inclusive Concept of Liberative Struggle
by Siavash Saffari
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1088; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091088 - 22 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1215
Abstract
Building on previous studies on a mid- and late-twentieth-century recasting of Islam’s doctrine of monotheism, or tawhid, as a distinctly Islamic framework for liberative praxis, this article considers the interplay between the particular and the universal in the tawhidic paradigms of Iranian [...] Read more.
Building on previous studies on a mid- and late-twentieth-century recasting of Islam’s doctrine of monotheism, or tawhid, as a distinctly Islamic framework for liberative praxis, this article considers the interplay between the particular and the universal in the tawhidic paradigms of Iranian lay theologian Ali Shariati (1933–1977) and African-American pro-faith and pro-feminist theologian amina wadud (b. 1952). The article proposes that although it was developed in a distinctly Islamic register by means of Quranic exegesis and intrareligious conversations, the tawhidic paradigm has always been conversant with a range of non-Islamic liberative paradigms, and these conversations have been integral to the negotiation of a more inclusive concept of tawhid. To continue to recast tawhid in a more inclusive register, the article further argues, requires taking account of the non-Muslim ‘other’ as an equal moral agent in liberative struggles and embracing Islam’s theological and ideological ‘others’ as equally significant repositories of liberative potential. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)
12 pages, 244 KiB  
Article
The Egalitarian Principle of “Qist” as Lived Ethic: Towards a Liberational Tafsir
by Omaima Mostafa Abou-Bakr
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1087; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091087 - 22 Aug 2023
Viewed by 996
Abstract
The Qur’anic term and principle of “qist”—generally defined as fairness, equity, and giving each his/her due share—occurs twenty-two times and forms a particular intentional discourse against social and economic privilege and against power in its various dimensions. These occurrences, their contexts, and fields [...] Read more.
The Qur’anic term and principle of “qist”—generally defined as fairness, equity, and giving each his/her due share—occurs twenty-two times and forms a particular intentional discourse against social and economic privilege and against power in its various dimensions. These occurrences, their contexts, and fields of meaning demonstrate its distinctive place within the Qur’anic moral worldview, at the nexus between private virtue ethics and collective praxis. Qist is presented not merely as an abstract ideal, but as a specific, concrete social and economic goal for the marginalized and disempowered of any community. Especially in the domains of gender relations, poverty conditions, and authorial power, the divine injunction for applying equality in lived contexts becomes a call for liberation from “zulm” (injustice) and “taghut” (false deities). Can the examination of this concept and its affiliates form the basis for a scriptural theorization on an Islamic theology of social and economic justice, of resistance to tyranny and unjust constructions of privilege and superiority? Towards an answer to this inquiry, one can argue that qist directs attention to the practical ways of applying the overarching, comprehensive value of shari’ah, al-‘adl (justice), as well as to its defining features of collectivity and distributiveness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)
17 pages, 282 KiB  
Article
Towards a Theology of Class Struggle: A Critical Analysis of British Muslims’ Praxis against Class Inequality
by Sharaiz Chaudhry
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1086; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091086 - 22 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1518
Abstract
The primary goal of Liberation Theology is to change the material conditions of marginalised and oppressed groups in society. Within Islamic Liberation Theology, however, issues related to class and economic inequality are notably missing. This paper seeks to begin this conversation and highlight [...] Read more.
The primary goal of Liberation Theology is to change the material conditions of marginalised and oppressed groups in society. Within Islamic Liberation Theology, however, issues related to class and economic inequality are notably missing. This paper seeks to begin this conversation and highlight the necessity of addressing economic exploitation, which affects most of the world’s population and Muslims disproportionately. Using a praxis-based methodology, it centres the interpretation of activists from Nijjor Manush, a British Bengali activist group, and seeks to understand how Islam is used as a liberative tool to combat class oppression. Through interviews and focus groups, an alternative and revolutionary Islam emerges. Echoing a Marxist understanding of class, it sees exploitation as an inherent part of the current capitalist system and recognises the necessity of people seizing economic power. This overarching objective is the lens through which activism in the here and now is interpreted and tactics decided. Establishing economic justice therefore means trying to secure “non-reformist reforms” in the short term, which resist the logic of capital and secure the interests of the marginalised, while working towards the ultimate goal of ending economic exploitation and, by extension, abolishing class. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)
14 pages, 274 KiB  
Article
Locating ‘Praxis’ in Islamic Liberation Theology: God, Scripture, and the Problem of Suffering in Egyptian Prisons
by Walaa Quisay
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1085; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091085 - 22 Aug 2023
Viewed by 2304
Abstract
The paper examines the tenability of a project for Islamic liberation theology by exploring the religious lives of Egyptian prisoners—with an emphasis on their encounters with the Qur’an, devotional and contentious contemplation, and theodicy. It employs an ethnographic approach to the study of [...] Read more.
The paper examines the tenability of a project for Islamic liberation theology by exploring the religious lives of Egyptian prisoners—with an emphasis on their encounters with the Qur’an, devotional and contentious contemplation, and theodicy. It employs an ethnographic approach to the study of Islam in Egyptian prisons by interviewing former political prisoners incarcerated after the 2013 military coup. By examining the work of key liberation theologians Farid Esack (b. 1959), Hamid Dabashi (b. 1951), and Asghar Ali Engineer (b. 1939), I ask: can a justice-oriented hermeneutics, concerned with pluralism and breaking down binaries, be a meaningful starting point to those struggling under oppression? I posit that the concern with developing hermeneutics can potentially limit the praxis whereby the faithful struggle with the text in the very moment of suffering. It shows how Egyptian prisoners’ devotional (and contentious) contemplation (taddabur) of the Qur’an—rather than reading liberation into the Qur’an—allowed for emancipatory embodiments of scripture. Furthermore, I show how prisoners stripped of their agentic power come to understand human action and divine action in history and how the metaphysical responses to human suffering inevitably shaped how they view both structures of inequality and domination as well as their potential liberation from it. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)
14 pages, 269 KiB  
Article
Islam and the Emancipatory Ethic: Islamic Law, Liberation Theology and Prison Abolition
by Haroon Bashir
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1083; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091083 - 22 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1170
Abstract
This paper provides a genealogical overview of discourses pertaining to emancipation within Islamic thought. I demonstrate how classical Islamic scholarship developed a tradition in which a clear emancipatory ethic can be located. Further, I explore how emancipation came to be read as anticipating [...] Read more.
This paper provides a genealogical overview of discourses pertaining to emancipation within Islamic thought. I demonstrate how classical Islamic scholarship developed a tradition in which a clear emancipatory ethic can be located. Further, I explore how emancipation came to be read as anticipating the abolition of slavery in the contemporary period through focusing on the work of Muhammad Abduh. Finally, I discuss the potential engagements between Islamic notions of emancipation and contemporary discourses pertaining to prison abolition. I argue that the strong emancipatory ethic found within the classical legal tradition would not abide by the exploitative prison systems found across various nations. Engaging Islamic law through a Liberation Theology framework, I claim that a serious engagement with prison abolition discourses is a natural continuation for a tradition with such a strong precedent of emancipatory impetus. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)
15 pages, 316 KiB  
Article
Friendships, Fidelities and Sufi Imaginaries: Theorizing Islamic Feminism
by Sa’diyya Shaikh
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1082; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091082 - 22 Aug 2023
Viewed by 2245
Abstract
This article theorizes Islamic feminism as a form of ‘friendship with/in tradition’, drawing creatively on Sufism. It unpacks these feminist friendships as forms of ‘radical, critical fidelity’ which includes commitments and loyalties to tradition while simultaneously engaging critically with sexism, patriarchy, and homophobia. [...] Read more.
This article theorizes Islamic feminism as a form of ‘friendship with/in tradition’, drawing creatively on Sufism. It unpacks these feminist friendships as forms of ‘radical, critical fidelity’ which includes commitments and loyalties to tradition while simultaneously engaging critically with sexism, patriarchy, and homophobia. Core epistemological and ethical concerns are explored, including the nature of relationships to tradition; analytical methods for engaging with Muslim tradition from a gendered lens; religious authority and authoritarianism; and most significantly, engaging with emancipatory horizons of imagination that are attentive to the contemporary axes of power and privilege. The paper turns to rethinking approaches to hierarchy and possibilities for abuse, focusing on the shaykh–murīd and broader teacher–student relationships. It presents a nuanced approach to engaging with hierarchies as a serious analytical category that requires attention. Positing fluidity, transparency, and accountability as central to cultivating responsible hierarchical practices, the article suggests that friendship as a modality of relationships can contribute to such positive transformations. This article, emerging from a project on Muslim feminist ethics, presents creative theorizations of Islamic feminism as a liberatory project of human and divine friendships, inspired by Sufi ideas of walāya. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)
14 pages, 293 KiB  
Article
Queering Jihad in South Africa: Islam, Queerness, and Liberative Praxis
by Mujahid Osman
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1081; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091081 - 22 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1137
Abstract
This essay examines the theology and politics of queer Muslims in South Africa. Through a queering of the analytical lens of “struggle and praxis” or jihad, this essay traces the deployment of the term jihad by a collective of queer Muslims in Cape [...] Read more.
This essay examines the theology and politics of queer Muslims in South Africa. Through a queering of the analytical lens of “struggle and praxis” or jihad, this essay traces the deployment of the term jihad by a collective of queer Muslims in Cape Town. In this articulation, queer Muslims play with their inherited traditions of liberation, challenging its presuppositions, and expanding its contours. This essay argues that these queer Muslims read liberation traditions through their experience and praxis which guide their orientations toward theological meaning-making and community practice. By doing so, they challenge the regulatory nature of hegemonic forms of queerness, which emerged in the Global North, resonating in the local posturing of South Africa as a safe space for queer people, ignoring the disparity between the law and public practice, and erasing the experiences of the margins of the queer community. By embracing this marginality, queer Muslims “reimagine” tradition by presenting an inclusive alternative theology and praxis, suggesting a queer possibility within Islam. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)
15 pages, 322 KiB  
Article
Islamic Liberation Theology and Decolonial Studies: The Case of Hindutva Extractivism
by Ashraf Kunnummal
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1080; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091080 - 22 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1421
Abstract
Decolonial studies define the coloniality of power as a complex assemblage of dominance and hegemony that emerged during the modern era or the era of colonialism, which stretches from the conquest of the Americas to the present. This article argues that, as part [...] Read more.
Decolonial studies define the coloniality of power as a complex assemblage of dominance and hegemony that emerged during the modern era or the era of colonialism, which stretches from the conquest of the Americas to the present. This article argues that, as part of the critical dialogue between decolonial studies and Islamic liberation theology, the latter should position itself in a decolonial political praxis around the preferential option for the poor that takes both a decolonial turn and a decolonial option seriously. There is a tendency to appropriate certain brands of decolonial studies to engage with forms of nationalism, such as Hindutva, to build a “decolonial option” in the global South by undermining the key insights of the “decolonial turn”. This article specifically engages with the claims of “decolonial Hindutva” to critique the nationalist appropriation in decolonial studies, thereby marking its divergence from decolonial Islamic liberation theology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)
19 pages, 309 KiB  
Article
Decolonising Islam: Indigenous Peoples, Muslim Communities, and the Canadian Context
by Shadaab Rahemtulla
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1078; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091078 - 22 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2275
Abstract
The problem of empire has been a key theme in Islamic Liberation Theology (ILT). However insightful, ILT’s engagement with the category of empire has generally presumed a particular colonial configuration in which Muslims are located on the receiving “end” of power, being occupied [...] Read more.
The problem of empire has been a key theme in Islamic Liberation Theology (ILT). However insightful, ILT’s engagement with the category of empire has generally presumed a particular colonial configuration in which Muslims are located on the receiving “end” of power, being occupied by an external, non-Muslim force. But what about the presence of Islam within settler colonies, in which voluntary Muslim migrants are structurally complicit in the ongoing disenfranchisement of Indigenous peoples? Focusing on the Canadian context, I ask: How can we decolonise Islam in the settler colony? That is, how can Muslims address their own complicity with the settler colonial project, standing in solidarity with native peoples and revisiting their own faith tradition in the light of that praxis? I argue that decolonising Islam entails three hermeneutical moves: (I) gaining a critical understanding of the socio-historical context, namely, the history of empire on the land; (II) deconstructing the boundaries between “migrant” and “settler”, which actually serves to vindicate the former group, releasing them of accountability and responsibility; and (III) engaging in bold theological reflection on the Islamic tradition. This final theological step, I maintain, is a two-fold dynamic: expounding Islam as both a radical subject that decolonises and a problematic object requiring decolonisation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Islamic Liberation Theology)
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