Evil, Virtue, and Islamic Moral Theology: Rethinking the Good in a Globalized World

In: Probing the Depths of Evil and Good

The understanding of evil in a culture involves important questions about what the structure of the world is like and what it means to think and act within it. Muslim moral thought today is confronted by many of the same ethical dilemmas that faced Enlightenment thinkers in the eighteenth century. However, the political ideologization of Islam has prevented coherent discussions of theological and ethical issues. Instead, Islamic identity politics encourage Muslims to forge a sense of ideotypical trans-ethnicity, a statement of "who we are" rather than "what we believe." When combined with an uncritical emotivism based on personal opinion, this inhibits the rational discussion of moral and theological issues. In Islam, the abandonment of systematic moral inquiry has led to utilitarian justifications for extreme practices, such as suicide terrorism, that subvert both scriptural and traditional norms of morality. It has also led to ad hominem condemnations of the moral qualities of non-Muslim peoples and of non-Muslim societies as sources of evil. This paper argues for a return to a rational and systematic critique of moral discourse in Islam, "with both eyes open." Muslims must be prepared to answer important questions of difference, tolerance, and evil in a reasoned way if Islam is to coexist successfully with other traditions in an increasingly pluralistic world. The task of the modern Muslim theologian is not merely to repeat the language of tradition in new contexts, but to engage critically with her own traditions and expressions piety.

Probing the Depths of Evil and Good

Multireligious Views and Case Studies

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