Moral Development and the Islamic Ethics of Pluralism
- Islamic Ethics,
- Tolerance in Islam,
- Religious Ethics
How does a religious tradition construct moral relations with people of other faiths and cultures? Believers and scholars of Islam have raised this question with special urgency in recent decades. This essay offers brief critical analyses of two main lines of thinking within this burgeoning field of study, and argues for the necessity of a third. The first stream of thought contends that epistemic or cognitive postures are the most basic factors determining how Muslims construct moral relations with non-Muslims. Scholars ask what forms of knowledge Muslim groups are willing to engage, and reformers argue that Islamic traditions warrant more inclusive styles of knowing than contemporary “extremist” or “puritan” forms of Islam allow. A second line of thought analyzes Islamic Scriptures and early jurisprudential literature, seeking to uncover, retrieve or reform Islam’s historical and/or normative approaches to religio-cultural diversity. I discuss strengths and weaknesses of both strategies, and then argue that a crucial missing piece within the field is attention to the centrality of embodied, communal practices of character development and ethical formation in Islamic moral traditions. Future studies of the Islamic ethics of pluralism should attend to this neglected domain.