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Reason, Freedom and Democracy in Islam
August 4, 2013
A Lecture by Prof Mohsen Kadivar, Duke University
Venue: Senate Room, International Islamic University of Malaysia
Date: Wednesday, 21 August, 10AM – 1PM
The relationship between revelation and reason is without doubt one of the major epistemological issues faced by the Muslim world today. The tension between reason and revelation that is between human consideration of man’s own welfare in this life on one hand, and divine intervention and decree, on the other, has been consistently present ever since the advent of Islam itself.
Muslim civilization has also experienced aging; and as part of the aging process, the relationship between revelation and reason has become the subject of controversy.
The controversy is made worse when one discusses about the concept of freedom. Reason is considered as a dynamic faculty for thinking and seeking the truth while freedom is the exercising the faculty of reason that is the freedom of thinking.
Freedom emerges as a collective contest with defining rules of its own. Obviously it improves with practice, and those who violate the defining rules of competition, or decide to withdraw from it, deprive themselves of benefitting from it.
The whole equation becomes more complex when the most important development in the last century about democratization is discussed. The relationship between Islam and democracy or more precise, the compatibility and co-existence of the teachings of Islam with the principles of democracy is a theme that is hotly debated, defined and discussed by the diversity of voices.
What is probably true is that a religious society could become more religious as it grows more free and freedom loving as it trades diehard dogma with examined faith. This is the true spirit that will break the tyrannical arm of religious despotism and breathes the soul of free faith in the body of power.