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Genealogies of Secularism and Islam: Islamic Philosophers on Political Secularism

26 January 2024

Genealogies of Secularism and Islam: Islamic Philosophers on Political Secularism
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Al Farabi on Kazakh banknote; Image credit: Wikimedia

The concept of secularism sparks heated debates in Muslim discourses, rooted in ideational and political divisions. Anti-secular sentiments often emerge from essentialist Islamic teachings, depicting secularism as an alien ideology incompatible with Islam. Scholars like Abdolkarim Soroush and İlhami Güler advocate for an anti-essentialist approach, aiming to contextualize secularism and underscore its potential to foster a just and democratic political environment. Güler's "politics of mercy" and Soroush's distinction between "religion" and "religious knowledge" highlight the possibility of embracing political secularism in Muslim-majority settings.

In today’s world, whereas religion is increasingly privatized, there is also a reversal trend of “deprivatization” where it is assuming greater public roles (1). Religion has proved to be an enduring source of identity, demands, and legitimacy in the modern world, defying predictions of the secularization thesis that “religious thinking, practices, and institutions [would] lose their social significance” (2). Since the late 1990s, the ‘return of religion’ has necessitated a rethinking of the relationship between the private and public spheres, as well as the individual, society, and state within political theory. New theorizations yield the possible roles religion may play in the public sphere and policies of accommodation to integrate it into the public sphere. While some political theorists argue that “we are better able to economize our moral disagreements or to resolve the substantive constitutional, legal, jurisprudential and institutional issues” by abandoning secularism “as a “fuzzy”, chameleonic, highly misleading, or “cacophonous” concept” (3), contemporary political theory has a broad consensus in favor of the strong association between secularism and the recognition of pluralism. Charles Taylor maintains that in the democratic age, peaceful coexistence, and social cohesion between normatively diverse citizenry as well as the guaranteeing of rights to nondiscrimination, equality, and freedom of consciousness, probs “the inescapability of secularism” (4). “Modern liberal democracy requires a form of secularism to sustain itself” (5) not only to prevent the marginalization of people’s normative commitments but also the “the logic of non-secular or exclusionary regimes is frightening” regarding individual liberties and minority rights (6).

However, secularism is also a deeply contested concept in political theory. Taylor has rightly revealed that it is neither “entirely clear what is meant by secularism” nor which form of secularism is necessary for democratic governance (7). In the Muslim World, a lack of consensus on secularism’s meaning is closely tied to entrenched ideological, cultural, and political contests. Since the early 20th century, commonplace opinion has assumed that “[t]he cultural and political expectations about religion and politics” are not in favor of secularism in Muslim societies, at least not its laicist version (8). Secularism faces a crisis of legitimation that risks being a “sinister connotation” (9) and “a conversation stopper” (10) in Muslim-majority contexts. During the colonial and decolonization periods, some Muslim societies experienced forceful and intrusive secularization projects that emblematized secularism with despotism and/or atheism. This legitimacy crisis at a deeper theoretical level can be seen as a by-product of the homogenizing tendencies of the Enlightenment ideology that insists on unilaterally defining the relationship between the secular and the religious while oversimplifying and appropriating the diverse and complex histories and experiences of non-Western societies.

The Enlightenment has created dichotomous secular-religious categories by which the notion of ‘religion’ as we know it today is created, as confined to the private realm for confessional communities with the assumption that religion “will tend to disappear with progressive modernization” (11).  On the other side of the coin, ‘secularism’ is constructed to dictate political life by rational participation of individual citizens and their reasonable consensus (12). The Enlightenment, in principle, has aimed to outdo religious tradition’s influence on political organization. Epistemologically, it has dislocated religious tradition from scientific and political knowledge by creating a binary opposition between faith and reason. Religion and secular are taken as antithetical worldviews such that establishing a successful political system is assumed to necessitate a break with religion or a decline of social religiosity. However, this dichotomous assumption “has proven patently false as a general empirical proposition” (13). Especially outside the post-Enlightenment West, religion has lost neither its public role nor being a source of knowledge, culture, or identity. On the contrary, religion continues to function as an engine of cultural production from art to literature, from social to intellectual life, and in the production of ethical and political subjects (14)

 In Secular Age, Charles Taylor investigates the development of secular modernity in “Western Christendom” by calling for the dismantling of Nietzsche’s death of God motif. Taylor has authoritatively undone the binary oppositional thesis that purports religion and secularism, or religious faith and modern age, as dichotomous and self-offsetting. As opposed to the secularization thesis, he suggests that today’s secular world is not characterized by an absence of religion. Traditional forms of religious life or orthodox theology may be destabilized or marginalized, however, religion is reinterpreted, negotiated, and rearticulated in modernity. New forms of religiosity have been formed in which God or “bulwarks of belief” are still very much present “in ordinary life, our work, in marriage, and so on” (15).

Taylor does not only engage with the genealogy of religion but also with the genealogy of secularism. Unlike the essentialist argument that assumes immutability, Taylor shows how secularism and religion are linked in historical transformation, rearticulation, and contextualization. In his seminal works on secularism, he has demonstrated the transition contemporary secularisms are going through from their early Christian and Enlightenment roots on the ground while investigating the normative limits of Enlightenment tradition when it comes to non-Western/non-Christian contexts (16). In this vein of thought, secularism is taken as “a complicated notion, or rather a set of notions that are seen differently in different cultures” and is entitled to be diffuse and multifaceted (17). Accordingly, Taylor suggests Islam and secularism can also meet more inventively as than the Western mold(s) (18).

Pages from Abu Nasr Al Farabi’s Maqala fi aghrad kitab Ma ba'd al-tabi'a (On the scope of Aristotle's Metaphysics); Image credit: Wikimedia
Pages from Abu Nasr Al Farabi’s Maqala fi aghrad kitab Ma ba'd al-tabi'a (On the scope of Aristotle's Metaphysics); Image credit: Wikimedia

Rajeev Bhargava’s definition of and distinctions between political secularism and ethical secularism (aka laicism) are crucial in thinking of a form of secularism that can be cultivated in Muslim societies (19). Ethical secularism, or elsewhere referred to as ‘philosophical secularism’ (20), ‘ideological secularism’ (21), or ‘militant secularism’ (22), is a comprehensive doctrine, a truth claim, and conception of the good that dictates “value assumptions about the nature of the self and its relationship to society” (23). As a totalizing ideology, ethical secularism dictates universalism by abstracting secularism from its historical and social development. Ethical secularism as an Enlightenment ideology that promotes a set of foundationalist norms is substantively, and in an authoritarian way, anti-religious that leaves no space for religion in the social life. 

As Michael J. Buckley observes, “[i]t would be false to tax the Enlightenment with indifference to religion. It would be more discerning to say that it was obsessed with it” (24). Ethical secularism preserves the Enlightenment’s innate “obsession with religion” (25), however, in the form of a desire to define it rather than accepting the true separation of religion and government. This creates “a deep, quite irreconcilable conflict between ethical secularism and religion” (26) engendering endemic and epistemic tensions. For instance, under modern Turkey’s ethical secularism (laicism), “the legal institutionalization of the category of the secular arrived, with the 1925 Law on Headdress” (27). The sarık, which was once a cultural garment, has been reinvented as anti-modern, non-secular, and ‘religious’ and has thus become part of a larger modernist project of “reconstitution of the world in terms of the religious-secular binary” (28). Both in Kemalist Turkey and Shah’s Iran, ethical secularism’s “managing religion” (29) that aimed to control, discipline, and ‘modernize’ religious lifestyles proved to trigger Islamist ideologies, stiffening and “helping to radicalize them” (30).

Political secularism, on the other hand, suggests that “democracy can better be advanced by mixing, not separating religion from politics” (31). This requires “two-way protection” (32), in which “protection of all religions by law and the equidistance of the state vis-a-vis all religion” is maintained (33). Political secularism aims to emancipate the state from religion and equally emancipate religion from the state for religion’s own sake (34). It separates religion and state to establish neutral and impartial mechanisms for ensuring pluralism, equality, and religious freedoms for communities of faith, and unfaith in social life. While divorcing “absolutist truths and moral systems” from the state characterized by institutional separation from religion, political secularism equally allows “religious reference and presence” (as a part of citizen’s personal commitment) in the public sphere (35). Religion continues playing a social and political role: the normative and practical importance of individual as well as collective religious needs are recognized as a legitimate source for political rights (36). Eliding the difference between political and ethical secularism marks the move from anti-religious/hegemonic secular universalism to pluralist, religious-friendly/accommodative secularisms. This conceptual differentiation also enables new prospects, collaborations, and convergences in the relationship between Islam and secularism. 

According to Fred Dallmayr, political theory should engage with cross-cultural or comparative political theorizing as a departure from universalist presumptions derived from the European Enlightenment. Political theory should also encourage “interaction, negotiation and contestation” with theories, meanings, and practices that have historically developed in diverse cultural settings (37). As a critique of “[the] parochial mapping of Western answers to fixed questions posed by a pantheon of European American philosophers” (38), the comparative political theory allows us to reimagine “existing categories and concepts and incorporating themes, thinkers, and cultural insights from non-Western societies” (39) I join comparative political theory’s call to  embrace “religious doctrine and political thought” (40) simultaneously and argue that conceptualizing secularism within Muslim contexts needs cross-cultural fertilization of dialogical and hermeneutical approaches to engage with Western and Muslim discourses. Therefore, this paper incorporates the theories of Islamic (41) philosophers, Abdolkarim Soroush of Iran and İlhami Güler of Turkey in political theory debates to find the secular in Islam or develop ideas on secularism within Islamic genealogy.

This paper meets at the juncture of two academic discourses, one on the study of Islam and the other on secularism. Going beyond the religion-secular binary, it investigates the development of secular thinking in Islamic thought. To do this, I first look at different understandings of Islam, from essentialist vs. anti-essentialist viewpoints to show their direct implications on secular possibilities. Then, I engage with Soroush and Güler, who develop an epistemic stance against the indivisibility of religion and state. They stand out as proponents of an intellectual trend that has aimed to contextualize secularism to accentuate its political significance for a just and democratic society against an authoritarian state and religious autocracy.

Islam: The Debate between Essentialist and Anti-essentialist Views

The relationship between Islam and secularism depends not only on the genealogy of secularism but also on the genealogy of religion. The question of what Islam ‘is’ engenders a debate between the essentialist (totalistic, holistic, and deterministic) and anti-essentialist (differentiationist, historicist, and contextualistic) accounts. The essentialists refer to Islam as an innate, fixed, and universal essence exogenous to Muslims (as agents) and unbounded with time, space, or context. For anti-essentialists, Islam is temporal, historical, and embedded in Muslims’ socio-historical contexts and lived experiences. Thus “it becomes impossible to study one true Islam as universally applicable and accepted by all Muslims” (42) independently from these contexts. These contradictory conceptions of religion have direct implications on the issue of compatibility (or incompatibility) between secularism and Islam. 

The essentialist position argues that Islam denies the separation of religion and the world by conceptually coupling the two orders of “religion and the world” (din wa dunya). Islam asserts its authority over all spheres of life, including the economy, politics, and law (43). In essentialism, an essence “is an attribute of something whose possession defines its possessor’s identity and explains all or many of the other attributes or capacities its possessor has” (44). The ahistorical and deterministic idea of religion that denies any distinction between religious and worldly spheres attributes Islam to every aspect of daily business. Islam, in an essentialist manner, wholly determines society, culture, and space. 

The essentialist idea of religion, which has always been one of the accounts of Islamic tradition, was highly popularized by Orientalists in the 19th century as a by-product of modernity. Removing Islam from its historicity and hermeneutics of facticity, Orientalists reimagined Islam as the sole source in defining culture and everyday life in Muslim majority contexts (45). Orientalists such as G. E. von Grunebaum has written that: 

Islam aims at comprehending life in its totality... Profane and sacred no longer denote the area withdrawn from and subject to religious supervision…nowhere shall we find a no man’s land to which religion does not lay claim. (46)

This orientalist association of worldly practices with Islam dubbed everyday objects or techniques to insinuate an ‘Islamic’ quality from architecture (Islamic architecture) to medicine (Islamic medicine). Orientalism collaborates and homogenizes socially, culturally, and historically complex contexts of people from Morocco to Malaysia, consisting primarily of Muslims yet with considerably non-Muslim constituencies (47). In these totalistic accounts, “history, held to be constant, and society, held to be homogeneous” are seen as the “natural” foundations for an “Islamic” system (48).

Within Islamic tradition, Salafis championed essentialist Islam “premised on a presupposition of a regressive view of the nature of history and time” (49). Salafism as “a method for understanding Islam” (50) emulated the original Islamic model of the Prophet and the early Muslim community (the salaf). However, “Salafism as a label for a movement” did not emerge until the colonial era in which it was metamorphosed into an ideology of resistance against Western colonialism by developing a totalistic ideology (51). Thomas Bauer calls this ideologization process as ‘Islamization of Islam’ that occurred as a response to the instilment of “a sense of cultural inferiority among Muslim political and intellectual elites” during “the colonial moment and the military conquest, political subjugation and economic exploitation of most parts of the Muslim world in the nineteenth century” (52). ‘Islamization of Islam’ made the essentialist view of religion more popular and celebrated among Muslims. Highly influenced by Salafism, Islamism has also utilized a politicized and ideologized version of Islam against Western hegemony (53).

As the champion of an anti-essentialist approach, Edward Said deconstructed the totalistic accounts. The term ‘Islam’ with an innate sense, for Said, is an over-simplification both synchronically and diachronically and thus constitutes an imaged category. Islam is open to more than one reading, interpretation, and experience. Islam is what “living, breathing” Muslim believers make of it (54). Thus, there are plural and various Islams rather than one foundationalist religious truth. Said accuses orientalist accounts of being ‘deterministic’, ‘imperialist,’ ‘simpleminded,’ ‘reductive,’ and ‘anachronistic’ (55). Aziz Al-Azmeh shares Said’s historicism and interpretivism, suggesting “there are as many Islams as there are situations that sustain it” (56). Shahab Ahmed also conceptualizes “Islam in a capacious manner that is attentive to and inclusive of the widest possible range and loci of self-statement of being Muslim” that is “informed by the hermeneutical engagement with Pre-Text, Text, and Con-Text of Revelation” (57). The sacred texts of Islam offer interpretative discourses rather than prescriptive discourses, allowing for the potential of various understandings to exist as Islam or Islamic. Thus, it is imperative to consider the societal changes that have occurred since the time of revelation while interpreting the Qur’an’s ethico-legal components through the principle of textual holism (58).

Both Muslim and Western anti-essentialist discourses have challenged the deterministic role of Islam in society. While Ahmed criticizes the essentialist inclination to qualify everything related to Muslims as ‘religious,’ Marshall Hodgson’s term ‘Islamicate’ forcefully reveals the historical fact of Muslims’ inclusive exercise of religious and secular forms of reasoning and agencies. The term ‘Islamicate’ challenges the attribution of every worldly affair directly to religion but rather refers to “the social and cultural complex historically associated with Islam and the Muslims, both among Muslims themselves and even when found among non-Muslims” (59). Ahmet T. Karamustafa also criticizes the Islamist conception of history, society, and politics in the name of the medieval ‘Great Tradition’ of Islam. By ‘Great Tradition’, as coined by Olivier Carré, it is “meant the long Islamic tradition established after the tenth century CE until the emergence of a new Islamic ‘orthodoxy’ in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an ‘orthodoxy’ based on puritan interpretations of Islam – those of Ibn Hanbal and Ibn Taymiyyah in particular – that laid the ground for the wave of ‘Islamism’” (60). As opposed to orientalists and Islamists who “declared the culture that bore the name “Islamic” as religious to the core”, in fact during ‘Great Tradition’ “the kinds of references to religion maintained by jurists, theologians, Sufis, and preachers are totally diverse, and their relation to the worldly side of life is shaped more by the norms of their respective sphere of activity than by an alleged religious/worldly dichotomy” (61).

Anti-essentialism also insists that “differentiations between religious and non-religious spheres” have occurred in pre-modern Muslim worlds resembling modern notions of secularity (62). According to Florian Zemmin, Muslims have created institutional configurations and forms that differentiate between religion and other social domains, confirming that human existence is extremely complicated and cannot be boiled down to a two-dimensional religious/nonreligious or religious/secular plane (63). For instance, Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī’s (853-944) distinction between religion and politics and his assignment of the former to the Prophets and the latter to the kings/sultans is very critical in early Islamic theology. The distinction between the two orders of “religion and the world” derives from al-Māturīdī’s emphasis on rational thought as well as his differentiation between religion and sharīʿa (64). The anti-essentialist camp also suggests that within the classical Islamic tradition, it is even possible to come across the view that religion is an apolitical, pietistic, and private matter between God and humans, such as the Murji’a, the Malāmatiyya, and branches of the Hanafī legal school (65).

In modern times, discerning the political secularism “from within Islam” dates back to scholars like Ali ʿAbd al-Raziq and Rafiq al-‘Azm, who have argued for the separation of religious authority and political authority (66). Opposing the essentialist standpoint, ʿAbd al-Raziq argued that Islam was a “message, not a government: a religion, not a state” by revisiting the conceptual pair of din wa-dunya (religion and the world) (67). According to ‘Abd al-Raziq:

Islam did not determine a specific regime nor did it impose on the Muslims a particular system according to the requirements of which they must be governed; rather it has allowed us absolute freedom to organize the state in accordance with the intellectual, social and economic conditions in which we are found, taking into consideration our social development and the requirements of the times. (68)

ʿAbd al-Raziq does refer to “variants” within the Muslim tradition regarding the relationship between religion and politics “through a fresh reading of the tradition through a rationalist attitude is closer to that of the Mu’tazila” (69).

Islamism, Salafism, and Orientalism all similarly uphold a monumental, solidified, and static understanding of tradition that establishes our relationship with the past as objectively as going to a museum. Anti-essentialists, on the other hand, insist that Islamic tradition is neither monolithic nor conservative. Karamustafa demonstrates how “inner Islamic diversity was a patent reality” throughout the cultural history of the Islamic world (70). The Islamic tradition is diverse as a repertoire of different values, methods, and norms, which is full of complexly rich elements and multi-vocal interpretations. It reveals the possibilities with reconstruction and its reconstitution continuously occurs in the light of changing ideational, social, political, and economic contexts with different methods used. Individual agents have been reinterpreting and reforming Islamic tradition through selective and self-reflective responses and adoption (71).

The anti-essentialist approach to Islam asserts that during the last few centuries ‘Islamization of Islam’ traversed “a transition from a relatively high tolerance of ambiguity and plurality to a sometimes extreme intolerance” (72). This totalistic account of Islam does not reflect Islamic traditions’ inner pluralism and versatility:

while scholars of the fourteenth century found the variant readings of the Quranic text enriching, the existence of these readings often constitutes a scandal for contemporary Muslims. (73)

Ahmed also argues that “the considerable loss of the multidimensional spatiality of Revelation is increasingly the leitmotif of modern Islam” as highly influenced by Islamism that obliterates the temporal, human, and historical dimensions of the religion (74). Today, the rise of Islamism and its holistic approach to Islam (as being both religion and the world), as well as the global spread of neo-salafism (based on strict puritanism, legalism, and literalism) “destroyed the tolerance towards ambiguity that marked pre-modern Muslim intellectual, social and cultural life” (75).

Al-Raziq’s teacher Muḥammad ʿAbduh's meeting with members of the executive committee of Tunisian educational institute Khaldounia in 1903; Image credit: Wikimedia
Al-Raziq’s teacher Muḥammad ʿAbduh's meeting with members of the executive committee of Tunisian educational institute Khaldounia in 1903; Image credit: Wikimedia

How Muslims tailor their understanding of Islam (and Islamic tradition) directly affects how they approach governance in general and secularism in particular. The notion of essentialist Islam embraces an obverse account of static religion that is “a complete comprehensive way of life” (76) and unchanging or “immune to environmental influences” (77). Generalizing the tawhid principle (78) (the idea of the unity of the creation on the oneness of God) to human governance, totalistic views assume monopoly as “the singular and authentic voices of Islam” (79). In the totalistic school, Islam permeates and regulates all areas of life, from comics to law, where secularism is unethical and “heretical from Islam’s point of view” (80).

As opposed to the essentialist “mental tendency to generalize the oneness principle of God as a principle of human governance,” anti-essentialism reminds us that such “a generalization [is] prohibited by religion itself” based on the theologeme of divine incomparability (unrepresentability) (81). Anti-essentialism maintains that distinctions and differentiations between religious and non-religious spheres have been a constant of Islamic philosophy (82). As prominent faces of an anti-essentialist understanding of Islam, Islamic philosophers Soroush and Güler discern secularism within Islam. According to them, the state ought to practice a principled distance from all ideological and religious groups according to the notion of political neutrality. Soroush and Güler exemplify the common awareness that the sharīʿa is a product of human agency in history, and hence social morality is constructed rather than divinely prescribed. Their political reasoning revolves around justice, democracy, and pluralism principles. Güler’s theory of ‘the politics of mercy’ (rahmani siyaset) and Soroush’s ‘theory of the contraction and expansion of religious interpretation’ clear the space for the exposition of political secularism situated within Muslim majority settings.

Islamic Philosophers on Secularism: Soroush and Güler

One of the greatest theological problematics in contemporary Islamic philosophy revolves around the categories of ‘unchangeable’ (eternally valid) and ‘changeable’ (time-and context-bound) in religion. Addressing this problematic, philosophers like Abdolkarim Soroush and İlhami Güler utilized classical Islamic philosophy’s valorization of reason and intellectualism to their interpretivist espousal of a dynamic divine message and historicism of social, political and legal contexts. Soroush, as an eminent figure in contemporary Islamic philosophy, has made a major contribution to this problematic through his “theory of the evolution and devolution of knowledge,” also called the “theory of the contraction and expansion of religious interpretation” (83). Soroush ontologically differentiates between ‘religion’ (din) and ‘religious knowledge’ (maʿrifat-i dīnī). The former is eternal, complete, and flawless, or in other words, absolute and beyond human reach. As human knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunna, the latter is still sound and authentic, yet equally finite, fallible, limited, and contingent (84). Religious knowledge is time-, context-, and culture- bound, and thus is in need of constant reconstruction (85). In attempts to humanize Islamic knowledge, Soroush suggests that branches of religious knowledge such as jurisprudence [fiqh], and exegesis [tafsir], ethics [akhlaq], and speculative theology [kalam] are comparable to other fields of social sciences that have been produced, circulated, contested, and modified. Thus “not all these increases [in religious knowledge] are derived from the Book and Sunna; they are in part based on the discoveries and experiences of believers themselves” (86) like the other branches of human knowledge that attempt to understand nature, world, and human. 

‘Theory of the contraction and expansion of religious interpretation’ manifests Soroush’s anti-essentialist understanding of Islam, highlighting the human side of Islamic experience, thinking, and tradition. According to him, it is impossible to create a timeless, universal conception of Islam that is impervious to changes in the context of human religious understanding, interpretation, and practice (87). The Qur’an, Soroush argues, “is deeply and profoundly respectful of the independence of human thought and reason” and invites individual Muslims to use their intellect to understand religion (88). Thus, “no understanding of religion is considered the final or most complete understanding” in his espousal of interpretivism and historicism (89).

Soroush uses hermeneutics in approaching the Qur’anic text by differentiating the ‘essentials’ and ‘accidentals’ of the Qur’an. Some aspects of the text are ‘accidentals,’ which “are place-bound and time-bound, and not universal and metahistorical” (90). The ‘essential’ messages of the Qur’an, as the substance of the revelation, on the other hand, reveal an eternal truth that goes beyond the limitations of any specific time and socio-political context. İlhami Güler, a prominent Islamic philosopher in Turkey, also engages with the categories of ‘unchangeable’ and ‘changeable’ in religion. The distinction between ‘religion’, which stands for unchanging truth, and ‘sharīʿa’, which corresponds to changeable human existence, is one that Güler draws from historicism. According to Güler, the core of religion is, first and foremost, a moral and theological foundation that establishes a direct “submission, gratitude, respect, and worship” between humankind and God (91). Thus, the ‘unchangeable’ in religion is conceptually separate from other areas of human life that are the matters of sharīʿa. Güler contends that the Qur’an uses the term “sharīʿa” as a figure of speech to refer to how religion is practiced in a certain time and place. In other words, sharīʿa refers to religious practice that is profoundly influenced by human interactions and the human interpretative process with the epistemic ability for dynamism. As such, sharīʿa is most like the idea of ‘religiosity,’ or the historical ‘reification’ of religious truths and the variety of these reifications across time (92).

Güler insists that the essentialist view of religion “is incompatible with the phenomenon of social change” (93). Religion, while having moral principles for collective life, does not dictate all spheres of actual social relationships in a deterministic manner. Thus, considering all areas of life as religious or assuming that every aspect of life has been universally defined by religion (as contained in the Qur'an and the Sunnah) is highly problematic. Güler defends the need to defoundationalizing of sharīʿa to continuously interpret and appropriate Islam within changing historical-social conditions (94). Historicist and contextualistic perspectives are the only way to maintain the moral guidance of Islam and make Islam applicable in modern life (95). For Güler, Islam asks its followers for a continuous renewal to think about the categories of ‘unchangeable’ and the ‘changeable’ in religion. Essentialism, despite its claim of authenticity and orthodoxy, is an escape from the challenge of searching for the uniqueness of God’s revelation and human situations, or in other words, an evasion of individual Muslims’ duty of being the vicegerents of God on earth. Güler insists that if Muslims were at a state of lethargy and could not successfully build their visions of modernity and pursue ongoing reform, it was due to the confluence of the universal core of religion and sharīʿa. This confluence has led to the institutionalization of religious truth as sharīʿa, inadvertently sacralizing certain social and political institutions in Islamic history (96).

Güler argues that a state that emulates Islamism by merging religious and political authority in a totalistic manner also removes the universal duty of vicegerency and individual moral agency. He believes that Islamism “is prone to religious radicalism and marginalization” and incapable of creating a just political order (97). Soroush shares Güler’s criticisms of Islamism. For him, Islam is not an ideology that can be molded into a definitive, unchanging system. Islam does not:

consists of a systematized and ordered school of thought . . . that situates itself as [a] guide to action . . . [and acts] as a determining factor in people’s political, social, and moral positions. (98)

Soroush argues that “the use of religion as a political tool also subordinates the depth and complexity of religious understandings to the imperatives of a temporary political struggle,” which poses a serious obstacle to the free development of religious knowledge (99). State-imposed ideologies restrict an individual’s epistemic ability to decide what criteria is permissible in religious inquiry. Any application of reason that does not conform to the logic of the dominant ideology is canceled out as inappropriate in religious knowledge production. Since the evolution of religious knowledge alongside the other human sciences requires free and critical reason, these ideological constraints devastate the potential for progress. Reciprocally, the limited scope of rational inquiry and free thinking in a religio-ideological state endangers the proper pursuit of good governance. In his critique of the imposition of comprehensive conception of the good encompassing life, religion, ethics, and culture by Islamist states, Soroush elucidates his conception of a pluralistic society in the following manner.: 

A pluralist society is a non-ideological one in which there is no one official interpretation and class of interpreters. It is based on a diversity of rationalities rather than unifying impulses ... the essence of science and society rest on diverse and plural pillars rather than uniformity and conformism. (100)

Thus, epistemologically Soroush insists on the inherent subjectivity of every human account of religion and politics. There may be a majority position on religion, but there can be no official or absolutist, totalitarian interpretation that can be imposed (101).

In a direct critique of Islamism, Güler proposes an alternative political framework based on Islamic ethics: Rahmani politics. His model derives from the mimicry of God’s attributes towards human beings:  Mercy, fair, and equitable treatment in human affairs: 

Just as Allah’s merciful attribute treats everyone “equally” [irrespective of belief, sect, language, ethnicity, class interest] without discriminating between believers and unbelievers in the world, just like him, as a manifestation of rahmani politics, the state must be impartial, fair and impartial towards its citizens of all religions and languages within its borders. (102)

According to Güler, rahmani politics is a system designed to actualize justice and eradicate political animosity, structural inequality, and oppression (103). Rahmani politics promotes the differentiation of political and religious authority to maintain the rule of law, the neutrality of the state, and a pluralistic public sphere (104). Güler goes on to argue that “the independence of law and the separation of powers is a moral-religious imperative” in the pursuit of establishing a just society within the context of rahmani politics (105).

For Güler, essentialist idea of religion is a ‘maximalist’ one that does not see any “permissible (non-religious)” area in legal, economic, or political life and absolutizes and sanctifies medieval Islamic orthodoxy of four madhāhib (sects) (106). Essentialist Islam gives us a “sect and sheik-centered Islam,” a totalitarian religious understanding destined to engender autocratic political structures (107). Güler elucidates that the fundamental tenet of rahmani politics is the principle of state secularism. He insists that “the language of politics and laws should be secular,” that is, based on critical and moral deliberation, reasoned consensus, and public interests as “removed from the dominant language of religion” (108). “The religion of the state” for Güler is “justice” as “law, justice, and the constitution are the “divinity” in society” (109). As opposed to the Islamic state idea, Güler argues that the secular state, which guarantees free religious practices within the bounds of the legitimate disposition of civil liberties, fosters a more favorable environment for individual Muslims to freely interpret the divine texts and to practice religion out of volition.

Both Soroush and Güler are critical of laicism, the public-private dichotomy, and the privatization of religion. In his espousal of secularism, Soroush distinguishes between political secularism, which he supports, and ethical secularism, which he rejects. Soroush insists that the public-private dichotomy, as dictated by ethical secularism, fails to accommodate religious people’s needs, demands, and goods in an even-handed manner. Ethical secularism is anti-religious and cannot accommodate Muslim societies’ cultural and historical diversity. On the other hand, political secularism creates a public sphere for religion to be practiced by Muslims out of their free will (110). Aspects of political secularism like individual liberties, associational freedoms, and political autonomy, together with the separation of the institutions of state and religion, are essential for just political order (111).

Although rahmani politics promotes secularism as a political principle, Güler resorts to a religious justification for the compatibility of Islam and secularism. He postulates “a theocentric notion of secularism” that is politically secular but ontologically religious (112). According to Güler, God speaks in revelation by addressing people’s common sense and conscience; thus, there is nothing discordant between secularism as a political system and Islam as a religion. While Güler legitimizes the political good of secularism on religious grounds, Soroush argues for the foundation of political legitimacy and authority to be disassociated from religious knowledge. For that, he does not only separate governance from religion but also rejects the idea of using religion to legitimize political good. In Islamic ontology, humans have the inherent right to rule their own lives, and politics should be left to people’s reasoned thinking, experience, and collective decision. This reinforces the replacement of divine morality —the religious basis of Muslim political thought and practice— with self-conscious social constructions of moral authority —mundane reason, experience, and popular consent in politics (113). As a leading advocate of political secularism in Islamic philosophy, Soroush maintains that “the story of secularism is the story of nonreligious reason” (114). In secularism:

everything is open to critique, from the head of state to the manner of government and the direction of policy determination. This is the meaning of secularism. Naturally, when politics is desacralized (that is, when it becomes rational and scientific) while religion remains sacred, the two are separated. (115)

As such Güler’s advocates for ‘a theocentric notion of secularism’ that is justified within religious cosmology contrasts with Soroush’s non-theological notion of secularism, which is reinforced by civic reasoning and popular sovereignty.

Rafiq al-‘Azm; Image credit : Wikimedia
Rafiq al-‘Azm; Image credit : Wikimedia

In Soroush’s philosophy, the original purpose of religion was to establish a transcendental bond between mankind and God. This transcendentalism has only a spiritual focus and no political implications. Therefore, the principles of justice and human rights should be central to the conversation about governance, “not theological justification [is] necessary to popular sovereignty or democracy” (116). According to Soroush, the concept of democracy is incontestably centered on the exercise of independent reasoning and the rejection of absolute authority and the exclusive claim to religious truth. For him, political and legal spheres within a democratic state derive from “a rational conception of morality” that is “firmly ensconced in experience which does not invoke revelation” (117). In democracies, the popular will, grounded in a civic conception of morality, serves to balance the power of state sovereignty and combat authoritarianism and totalitarianism. 

Both Soroush and Güler are against the essentialist Islamic understanding. However, in opposing the principles of “maximalist” Islam, Güler asserts that Soroush embraced a “minimalist” approach as a purely non-theological theory that completely separates the metaphysical and the political at an ontological level. As opposed to Soroush’s “minimalist” Muslim approach, Güler adopts what he calls Fazlur Rahman’s “dynamic hermeneutics” (118). Güler argues that the theologically based interpretation of Fazlur Rahman, one of the pioneers of Islamic modernism, is more reflective of the Qur’anic normative spirit. Islam has left political issues to the people; however, this does not deny the strong connection between religion and politics. Islam as a religion, as opposed to sharīʿa (an actual historical representation of religion), has a functioning normative discourse wherever the individual and society can live in accordance with. Each Muslim is assigned by God the duty to look out for moral solutions to problems in human existence through interpretivism. When it comes to politics, Güler calls for forms of institutions that are philosophically compatible with Islamic normativity or created with a religious moral reference. According to Güler’s Islamic modernism, Islamic theological and moral imperatives enjoin political secularism, allowing it to exist in harmony with Islamic cosmology (119).

In contrast to Güler’s criticism of a ‘minimalist’ perspective, it would be inaccurate to assume that Soroush undervalues the importance of public religious presence or the interplay between religion and politics. In Soroush’s mind, religion is a part of politics and the public sphere at the hands of the Muslim citizens. However, religion does not give moral or political legitimacy to state power or the political system. Soroush is not so ‘minimalist’ in the sense that he considers the presence of the sharīʿa to strengthen democracy in Muslim politics in three different ways: by upholding the religious society’s identity, by fostering a greater sense of lawfulness and ensuring moral justification for legality, and by fostering normativity toward key questions of right and justice. A democracy in the civil society level needs an ethical and rational approach for democratic internalization and habituation, and he believes that the ‘maqāṣid al-sharīʿah’ (objectives of sharīʿa) can contribute to developing this approach (120). However, unlike Güler, Soroush does not advocate for theologically justified political secularism. His notion of political secularism rests on secular reason, albeit promises to successfully safeguard religions reasons of individuals and collectivities to reside and function in the public sphere.

By and large, both Soroush and Güler discover secularism in Islamic philosophy to create just and pluralistic governance that can accommodate comprehensive Muslim and non-Muslim doctrines. In doing so, Soroush focuses more on civic reasoning and morality in politics while Güler relates to theological justification. For Soroush, “secularism is the story of nonreligious reason; a reason which is neither religious nor antireligious” (121), insisting that modern governments derive “their legitimacy from the consent of the governed” (122). Secularism is thus “a regime in whose polity no values and rules are beyond human appraisal and verification and in which no protocol, status, position, or ordinance is above public scrutiny” (123). On the other hand, Güler maintains that there still is religio-moral legitimation necessary for governance as Muslims get the source of their morality and good from Islam. 

While Soroush and Güler may differ in certain ontological aspects, they both effectively illustrate that Islam and secularism harbor the potential for various alternative interpretations and diverse plateaus for interaction. They agree that the government’s goal should be to create an environment where believing citizens can realize their faith freely and without compulsion. To achieve this, they argue that the state should maintain a principled distance from all religions and exhibit impartiality toward all religious beliefs on the basis of pluralism and diversity. Accordingly, Soroush and Güler contextualize secularism to its political significance in fostering a just and democratic society, countering secularist universalism, religious autocracy, and political tyranny in the Muslim majority world. Incorporating their work as a part of cross-cultural political theorization allows us to rethink and reconceptualize more nuanced accounts of secularism within Islamic thought and practice.


The binary between religion and secularism that originated from the Enlightenment ideology has been reinforced by Orientalists, Salafis, and Islamists who adhere to an essentialist understanding of Islam. Essentialism in religious knowledge and political theory implies a deterministic, totalistic, and universalistic comprehension of politics. Referring to anti-essentialist viewpoints, this paper has articulated that neither Islam nor secularism are immutable, trans-historical, and universal essences; on the contrary, their very conceptualizations are normatively, historically, and contextually transformative. By critically examining what is meant by secularism and what is meant by Islam (or Islamic), this paper has revealed how much room there is within political theory for syncretic and dialogical reconstructions of secularism and Islam or secularism within Islam. Comparative political theory’s call for cross-cultural fertilization between Islamic and Western thought is demonstrated by Soroush’s advocacy of a continuous “dialogue” (124) between religious and non-religious knowledge. In this work, this dialogical approach has allowed for dismantling the binary opposition between secularism and Islam by exploring new theoretical possibilities, collaborations, and convergences.

This paper has expounded upon how secular perspectives and narratives are advancing within Islamic thought through the scholarship of Soroush and Güler. Their philosophical conceptualizations of secularism are part of broader intellectual efforts to ‘humanizing Islam’ and ‘defoundationalizing of sharīʿa’. These efforts open religion to epistemic and intellectual pluralism while aiming to safeguard it from ideological manipulation and the abuse of political power. In contrast to ethical secularism, which demands the privatization of religion and its exclusion from public spaces, Soroush and Güler favor political secularism, which acknowledges the moral and practical significance of private and public religious needs as a foundation for political rights. In their accounts, religious authority, absolutist truths, and divine morality are institutionally decoupled from the state apparatus, while Muslims’ right to live according to Islamic visions of the good life is respected, accommodated, and guaranteed. By and large, their intellectual endeavors offer fresh insights into secularism that resonate more effectively with contemporary Muslim societies, where religion remains an essential identity signifier and democracy is deemed as the desired political system (125).



1. José Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World. University of Chicago Press, 2011, p. 6.

2. Bryan Wilson, Religion in Secular Society: A Sociological Comment. Oxford University Press, 2016, p. 6.

3. Veit Bader, “Constitutionalizing Secularism, Alternative Secularisms or Liberal-Democratic Constitutionalism: A Critical Reading of Some Turkish, ECtHR and Indian Supreme Court Cases on Secularism”. Utrecht Law Review, 2010, 6(3), 8–35, p. 9.

4. Charles Taylor, “Modes of Secularism”, In Secularism and its Critics, ed. R. Bhargava. Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 47.

5. Nader Hashemi, “Rethinking the Relationship between Religion and Liberal Democracy: Overcoming the Problems of Secularism in Muslim Societies”, In Islam, the State, and Political Authority: Medieval Issues and Modern Concerns, ed. A. Afsaruddin. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 173-187, p. 173.

6.  Charles Taylor, “Modes of Secularism”, p. 47.

7.  Ibid, p. 31.

8. Laicism is frequently characterized as the French version of secularism, which distinctively differs from the prevailing forms found in Anglo-American liberal democracies (Kastoryano, 2006: 57). Laicism assumes “a monopoly over the meaning of secularism by rejecting the possibility of its diverse interpretations” (Kuru, 2008: 8). It maintains that in order to preserve neutrality and equality among citizens, religion must be restricted to the private domain and removed from the public sphere (Maclure and Taylor, 2011: 14). However, laicism is more than a political system on the relation between religion and politics. Laicism is rather a comprehensive moral doctrine, a theory of good, and a sacred moral philosophy with foundationalist and objective truth claims (Laborde, 2008: 8; Connolly, 2005: 43). It perceives ‘French’ as the signifier of a universal type of common humanity and imposes a reasonable or valued ordering of the good life, even it means outlawing alternative manifestations or claims (Jennings 2000: 579). Due to its foundationalist and moralizing comprehensive ideology, it is often described as ‘ethical secularism’, ‘philosophical secularism’, or ‘ideological secularism’. In addition, laicism while endorsing a strict separation of religion from the public sphere, it continues to exercise strict control over the authority to establish and legislate a national religion for people to adhere to in their private lives (Mahmood and Danchin, 2014: 5). Due to its management of religion through its absolutist authority, which “seeks to regulate all aspects of individual life even the most intimate, such as birth and death” (Asad, 2003: 199), laicism is also referred to as ‘nationalist secularism’ (Asad, 2003: 199) and ‘aggressive secularism’ (Kuru, 2007: 576).

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10. Nader Hashemi, Islam, Secularism, and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies. Oxford University Press, 2009, p. x.

11. José Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World, p.7.

12. Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini, Secularisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008, p.7.

13. José Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World, p.7.

14. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Outside in the Teaching Machine. Routledge, 2012, p. 218.

15. Charles Taylor, A Secular Age. Harvard University Press, 2007, p. 25, p. 79.

16. Charles Taylor, “Modes of Secularism”, p. 34.

17. Mark Juergensmeyer, “The Imagined War between Secularism and Religion”, p. 74.

18. Charles Taylor, “Foreword”, In Secularism, Religion and Multicultural Citizenship, ed. G. Brahm. Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. xvii. 

19. Rajeev Bhargava (Ed.), Secularism and Its Critics. Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 491.

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22. Abdolkarim Soroush. “Militant Secularism” (2007).

23. Mark Juergensmeyer, “The Imagined War between Secularism and Religion”, p. 74.

24. Michael J. Buckley, At the Origins of Modern Atheism. Yale University Press, 1987, p. 37.

25. Jacques Berlinerblau, “Political Secularims”, In The Oxford Handbook of Secularism, ed. P. Zuckerman. Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 95.

26. Rajeev Bhargava, Secularism and its Critics, p. 495.

27. Shahab Ahmed, What Is Islam?: The Importance of Being Islamic. Princeton University Press, 2015, p. 210.

28. Ibid.

29. Bryan S. Turner, “Managing Religions: State Responses to Religious Diversity”, Contemporary Islam, 2007, 1(2), 123–37, p. 124.

30. Charles Kurzman and Ijlal Naqvi, “The Islamists Are Not Coming”, Foreign Policy, 2010, 177, p. 35.

31. Rajeev Bhargava, Secularism and its Critics, p. 495.

32. Amy Gutmann, Identity in Democracy. Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 190.

33. Jocelyne Cesari, The Awakening of Muslim Democracy, p. 4.

34. Alfred C. Stepan, “Religion, Democracy, and the Twin Tolerations”, Journal of Democracy, 2000, 11(4), 37-57, p. 35; Naser Ghobadzadeh, Religious Secularity: A Theological Challenge to the Islamic State. Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 8.

35. Ravza Altuntas-Çakır. “Contesting Philosophical Secularism: The Case for Pluralist Secularism”, In Religion, Law and the Politics of Ethical Diversity. Routledge, 2012, pp. 43-60, p. 57.

36. Ravza Altuntaş-Çakır, A Political Theory of Muslim Democracy. Edinburgh University Press, 2022, p. 178.

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40. Andrew March, “What Is Comparative Political Theory?”, The Review of Politics, 2009, 7(4), 531–65, p. 552.

41. Terminological confusion exists regarding the usage of adjectives such as ‘Muslim’, ‘Islamic’, and ‘Islamist’ both in academia and generic usages. Ascribed identities derived from cultural backgrounds are described in terms of ‘Muslimness.’ Individuals whose background identifier is ‘Muslim’ do not necessarily make a conscious choice to follow Islamic normativity or jurisprudence. Individuals who can be referred to as ‘Islamic’ take Islam as the explicit source of normativity and manifest a direct engagement with Islamic texts, sources, terminologies, and methodologies. ‘Islamist’, on the other hand, can be used for individual Muslims and groups with a political identity that locates Islam at its center and self-consciously appeals to shared markers of Islamic authority in government. There exists a wide array of differences within Islamism, which hardly amounts to a singular or indeed uniform depiction. Today, Islamism encompasses a diverse movement with many facets, ranging from those who support the coexistence of Islam and democracy (participants) to those that use violence to restore an Islamic caliphate (rejectors).

42. Mohammed Sulaiman, “Between Text and Discourse: Re-theorizing Islamic Orthodoxy”, ReOrient 3, no. 2, 2018, pp. 140-162, p. 141.

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46. Gustave E. Von Grunebaum, Medieval Islam: A Study in Cultural Orientation. University of Chicago Press, 2010, p. 108.

47. Shahab Ahmed, What Is Islam?, p. 414.

48. Aziz Al-Azmeh, Islams and Modernities. Verso Books, 2009, p. 50.

49. Adis Duderija, The Imperatives of Progressive Islam. Taylor & Francis, 2017, p. 39.

50. Emad Hamdeh, Salafism and Traditionalism: Scholarly Authority in Modern Islam. Cambridge University Press, 2021, p. 24.

51. Ibid, p. 25.

52. Oliver Scharbrodt, Muhammad ‘Abduh: Modern Islam and the Culture of Ambiguity. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022, p. 12.

53. François Burgat. “De la Difficulté de Nommer: Intégrisme, Fondamentalisme, Islamisme”, Esprit, March 1988, p. 80.

54. Edward W.  Said, Orientalism (25th anniversary edition). Vintage Books, 2003, p. 272.

55. Edward W.  Said, Orientalism, p. 12, 15, 93, 237, 12, 301.

56. Aziz Al-Azmeh, Islams and Modernities, p. 1.

57. Shahab Ahmed, What Is Islam?, p. 538.

58. Adis Duderija, Islam and Gender, p. 68.

59. Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974, p. 59.

60. Ahmet T. Karamustafa, “Islamic Dīn as an Alternative to Western Models of ‘Religion’”, In Religion, Theory, Critique: Classic and Contemporary Approaches and Methodologies, ed. R. King. Columbia University Press, 2017, pp. 163-172, 166.

61. Thomas Bauer, A Culture of Ambiguity, p. 135.

62. Markus Dressler, Armando Salvatore, and Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, “Islamicate Secularities”, Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung 44, no. 3(199), 2019, pp. 7-34, p. 10.

63. Florian Zemmin, “Validating Secularity in Islam”, Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung 44, no. no. 3(199), 2019, pp. 7-34, p. 14.

64. Sönmez Kutlu. “İmam Maturidi’ye Göre Diyânet-Siyâset Ayrimi”

65. Ahmet T. Karamustafa, “Islamic Dīn as an Alternative to Western Models of ‘Religion’”, p. 166.

66. Ovamir Anjum, “From the Sacred Canopy to the Haunted Vault: Understanding Secularism from within Islam”, American Journal of Islam and Society 34, no. 2, 2017, pp. v-xxii, p. v.

67. ʻAlī ʻAbd al-Rāziq, Islam and the Foundations of Political Power, ed. A. Filali-Ansary. Edinburgh University Press, 2012, p. 96.

68. Leonard Binder, Islamic Liberalism: A Critique of Development Ideologies. University of Chicago Press, 1988, p. 131.

69. ʻAlī ʻAbd al-Rāziq, Islam and the Foundations of Political Power. p. 17.

70. Ahmet T.Karamustafa, “Islamic Dīn as an Alternative to Western Models of ‘Religion’”, p. 166.

71. Ebrahim Moosa, “Transitions in the Progress of Civilization: Theorizing History, Practice, and Tradition”, In Voices of Change, eds. Vincent Cornell and Omid Safi. Praeger Publisher, 2007, pp. 125-6.

72. Thomas Bauer, A Culture of Ambiguity, p. 1.

73. Thomas Bauer, A Culture of Ambiguity, p. 1.

74. Shahab Ahmed, What Is Islam?, p. 532.

75. Oliver Scharbrodt, Muhammad ‘Abduh, p. 12.

76. Khurshid Ahmad and Zafar Ishaq Ansari, “Mawlānā Sayyid Abul Aʻlā Mawdūdī: An Introduction to His Vision of Islam and Islamic Revival”, In Islamic Perspectives, ed. Khurshid Ahmad and Zafar Ishaq Ansari. Islamic Foundation, 1979, pp. 359–383, p. 367.

77. Ebrahim Moosa, “Transitions in the Progress of Civilization”, p. 125.

78. MA Muqtedar Khan, “The Political Philosophy of Islamic Movements”, In Islam, the State, and Political Authority: Medieval Issues and Modern Concerns, ed. Asma Afsaruddin. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, pp. 155-172.

79. Ebrahim Moosa, “Transitions in the Progress of Civilization”, p. 124.

80. M. Hakan Yavuz, “Islam, Sovereignty, and Democracy: A Turkish View”, The Middle East Journal, 61(3), 2007, pp. 477–93, p. 482.

81. Mohammed Abed Al-Jabri, Democracy, Human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought. I. B. Tauris, 2009, p. 131.

82. Ira M. Lapidus, “State and Religion in Islamic Societies”, Past & Present 151 (1), 1996, pp. 3-27, p. 4.

83. Abdolkarim Soroush, The Expansion of Prophetic Experience: Essays on Historicity, Contingency and Plurality in Religion. Brill, 2009, p. 63.

84. Abdolkarim Soroush, The Theoretical Contraction and Expansion of Shari’a. Serat Cultural Institute, 2000, p. 31.

85. Ibid, 65.

86. Abdolkarim Soroush, The Expansion of Prophetic Experience. p. 109.

87. Valla Vakili, “Abdolkarim Soroush and Critical Discourse in Iran”, In Makers of Contemporary Islam, eds. John L. Esposito and John O. Voll. Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 153.

88. Mehran Kamrava, Iran’s Intellectual Revolution. Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 159.

89. Valla Vakili, “Abdolkarim Soroush and Critical Discourse in Iran”, p. 258.

90. Ebrahim K. Soltani, “Conventional Secularism and the Humanization of Islam: Theory and Practice of Religious Politics in Iran”, The Journal of the Middle East and Africa 9, no. 2, 2018, pp. 195-211, p. 201.

91. Philip Dorroll, Islamic Theology in the Turkish Republic. Edinburgh University Press, 2021, p. 136.

92. Ibid, 139.

93. İlhami Güler, Dine Yeni Yaklaşımlar. Otto, 2020a, p.76.

94. İlhami Güler, “Rahmanî Siyaset ve Laiklik”, Yetkin Düşünce, (1/2) 2018, pp. 71-74, p. 72.

95. İlhami Güler, “İhvan'a Demokrasi ve Modern Toplumla Yüzleşme Fırsatı Verilmedi”, Independent Türkçe (7 May 2021).

96. İlhami Güler, “İman’ın Ahkali Temeli ve Din”, Dini Düşüncede Gelenek, Dönüşüm ve Gelecek. ed. Şaban Ali Düzgün and Tuğba Günal. Endülüs, 2017, pp.142-153, p.147.

97. İlhami Güler, Otorite ve Din, Ankara Okulu Yayınları, 2020b, p.90.

98. Valla Vakili, “Abdolkarim Soroush and Critical Discourse in Iran”, p.154.

99. Ibid.

100. Mehran Kamrava, Iran’s Intellectual Revolution, p. 161.

101. Forough Jahanbakhsh, Islam, Democracy and Religious Modernism in Iran (1953–2000) from Bazargan to Soroush. Brill, 2001, p. 152.

102. İlhami Güler, Rahmanî Siyaset ve Laiklik, p.71.

103. İlhami Güler, Otorite ve Din, p.126.

104. İlhami Güler, Rahmanî Siyaset ve Laiklik, p.74.

105. İlhami Güler, Otorite ve Din, p.126.

106. İlhami Güler, “Maksimalist ve Minimalist Yorumlar Arasında ‘Sabit Din, Dinamik Şeriat”, Perspektif, (14 March 2022). 

107. İlhami Güler, “İhvan’a Demokrasi ve Modern Toplumla Yüzleşme Fırsatı Verilmedi”.

108. İlhami Güler, Otorite ve Din, p.127.

109. Ibid, p.90.

110. Abdolkarim Soroush, “Militant Secularism”.

111. Katajun Amirpur, “Abdolkarim Soroush’s Rays of Hope” (July 7, 2014). Abdolkarim_Soroushs_rays_of_hope_By_Katajun_Amirpur.html.

112. Ibid, p.90.

113. Abdolkarim Soroush, “The Theoretical Contraction and Expansion of Shari’a”, p.121.

114. Ibid, p. 68.

115. Ibid, p. 60.

116. Abdolkarim Soroush, “The Theoretical Contraction and Expansion of Shari’a”, p.131.

117. Mohammed Moussa, “The Neo-Modernity of Soroush”, Critical Muslim, 2014, 12 (2), pp. 101–14, p. 108.

118. İlhami Güler, Dine Yeni Yaklaşımlar, p.76.

119. İlhami Güler, “İman’ın Ahkali Temeli ve Din”, p. 147.

120. Forough Jahanbakhsh, Islam, Democracy and Religious Modernism in Iran (1953–2000) from Bazargan to Soroush, p. 161.

121. Abdolkarim Soroush, “The Theoretical Contraction and Expansion of Shari’a”, p.68.

122. Ibid, p. 57.

123. Ibid, p. 60.

124. Mehran Kamrava, Iran’s Intellectual Revolution, p. 157.

125. John L. Esposito and Daila Mogahed, “Islam and the West: Clash or Coexistence?”, Gallup, 2008.

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