I believe we need an inclusive theology today because we live in a more and more inclusive world. By understanding that history one comes away with the realization that what was true for those caliphs may not be true for us today.
Islamic law came through a natural process. Muslim rulers wanted a way to make shari’ah into law. To do so, they decided which rules needed to be laws, first. Then the jurists used their interpretations of shari’ah to show the new laws were Islamic. The result is what we call Islamic law.
Islamic law is always based on someone’s interpretation of the shari’ah, which is an interpretation of the Qur’an and sunnah. Because it is a human interpretation, Islamic Law can mean different things in different places and at different times in history.
Many Muslims follow Islamic law as a way of life, not as law. In this case, those Muslims relinquish their free will, though Quran does not require it. Following shari’ah is a person utilizing their own free will to evaluate their Quranic understanding and beliefs as a Muslim, supplemented by human interpretations derived from Quran and sunnah, and derive reasonable conclusions in order to resolve conflicts in their lives today.
Therefore Islamic is rooted in empirical governance, especially those in power during the collection of Hadiths in what we now refer to as the Islamic Golden Age. During that time the caliphs ultimately decided what was or was not acceptable in their empire and what was not acceptable did not find its way to the Hadiths we have today.
By understanding that history one comes away with the realization that what was true for those caliphs may not be true for us today. It is what that understanding that I believe we need an inclusive theology today because we live in a more and more inclusive world.
Daayiee Abdullah is the Executive Director of MECCA Institute, a progressive Islamic institute with a think tank and a school.