The future of Islam lies in the resolution of its fractious present. And the divisions stem from different approaches to the central issues of our day.
By Asma Afsaruddin
The future of Islam lies in the resolution of its fractious present. There are multiple conversations underway among Muslims today, both in the heartlands (Middle East, South- and Southeast Asia) and in the West about deeply divisive issues — identity and cultural expression, political authority and representation, recourse to violence, globalization, gender, and inter-faith relations — to name the most important. How these issues are debated and resolved by Muslims themselves will determine the course of Islam through much of the 21st century.
I regard these intra-Muslim dialectics to be far more consequential and more predictable than Muslim-non-Muslim engagements. The latter is always susceptible to external political events and power differentials; the former is more of an ideational and cognitive tussle among the principal agents themselves, not unaffected by the outside world of course, but still more grounded in the collective psyche and conscience of Muslims, and, importantly, in their memory of the past. As one hears frequently and portentously, “the struggle for the soul of Islam” is now being waged — my prediction is that this struggle will continue unabated in the coming decades and will decisively shape the Muslim world.