[1] Oussama Arabi, ‘Islamic Legal Thought; A[1] Oussama Arabi, ‘Islamic Legal Thought; A

1
Roberta Sabbath, ‘Sacred Tropes; Tanakh, New Testament, and Qur’an as
Literature and Culture’ pg 28

2
Valerie J. Hoffman, ‘The Essentials of Ibadi Islam’ pg 30

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3
Amir Zamani, ‘What is Islam’ pg 18

4Ibn-Hazm-Author and poet 384AH-456AH-
David Powers, Susan Spectorsky, Oussama Arabi, ‘Islamic Legal Thought; A
Compendium of Muslim Jurists’ pg 212-213

5
Ibn Hazm, as quoted in Mohammad Khalil ‘Between
heaven and hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg 20

6
Nicolas Laos, ‘The Metaphysics of World
Order: A Synthesis of Philosophy, Theology, and Politics’ pg 175

7
Ibrahim Kalin, ‘Sources of Tolerance and Intolerance in Islam; the case of the
People of the Book’ pg 38

8
Ibid.

9
Ibid. pg 39

10
Reza Shah-Kazemi, as quoted in ‘Mohammad
Khalil ‘Between heaven and hell, Islam,
salvation, and the fate of others’ pg 87

11
Ibid.

12
Ibid.

13
Ibid.

14
Ibid.

15
Mohamad H Khalil ‘Between heaven and
hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg x

16
Muhammed-Abduh: Reformist and Pioneer- Ali Rahnema, ‘Pioneers of Islamic Revival’ pg 30

17
Abd-Wahhab Khallaf- Fellow of Cairo University- Abbas Amanat, ‘Shariâ a: Islamic Law in the Contemporary
Context’ pg 76

18
Khallaf as quoted in Mohamad H Khalil ‘Between
heaven and hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg 44

19
Ibid.

20
Ibn Hazm as quoted in Mohamad H Khalil ‘Between
heaven and hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg 20

21
Mohamad H Khalil  ‘Between heaven and hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg
45

 

22
Abu-Zahra: Fellow of the al-Azhar’s research academy- Ralph H. Salmi, Cesar
Adib Majul, George Kilpatrick Tanham ‘Islam and Conflict Resolution: Theories
and Practices’ pg 90

23
Abu Zahra as quoted in Mohamad H Khalil ‘Between
heaven and hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg 45

24
Ibid.

 

25
Mohamad H Khalil ‘Between heaven and
hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg 46

26
Mohsin Akhtar, ‘Oracle of the Last and Final Message: History and the
Philosophical Deductions of the Life of Prophet Muhammad’ Pg108

27
Prosecutor and fellow at Alexandria University, Tom Ginsburg, Alberto Simpser
‘Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes’ pg 117

28
Mohamad H Khalil ‘Between heaven and
hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg 47

29
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Gita May ‘The
Social Contract: And, The First and Second Discourses’ pg253

30
Ibid.

31
Ibid.

32
Jean Jacques Rousseau, ‘The Social
Contract’ pg 125

33
Muhammad B?qir
Behb?d?, ‘The Quran: A New Interpretation’ pg 57

34
Mohamad H Khalil ‘Between heaven and
hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg 138

35
Abdullah Yusuf Ali, ‘The Glorious Qurán:
Translation and Commentary’ pg 132

36
Mohamad H Khalil ‘Between heaven and
hell, Islam, salvation, and the fate of others’ pg 137

In any case, such views should not be equated with the
‘soteriological triumphalism’ in which all non-believers are inescapably
foredoomed. Indeed, such is the extraordinarily vast nature of the Islamic
tradition that one can have almost any kind of Islamic ‘theology of religions’.
Thus, instead of seeking to solve a futile soteriological debate, all that we
are left to do, as Allah instructs, is ‘vie then, with one another in doing
good works!’ (Hud 11:118)

Nevertheless, that this group of reformers saw Islam as God’s
final and revealed truth is unquestionable. In this sense, the liberal undertones
of the question are perhaps unfair. Is unwavering assurance in one’s own beliefs
fundamentally wrong? It seems to me that in our increasingly postmodernist
society, nobody can have opinions too ‘clear-cut’ lest we cause offense or fail
to ‘consider’ a proliferation of outlooks. Rather than ‘enemies of progress’ then,
perhaps we should look upon such people with profound jealousy that they have
found in themselves such a sense of esoteric purpose.

One can even detect in medieval Sunni tradition various
instances of ‘prophetic intercession’. On one occasion, it was alleged for
instance that each messenger was sent by Allah to their respective communities;
‘we sent signs of inspiration to our first prophet Noah… and to the prophets
who followed him… and they brought the people clear proofs’.33
Muhammed however, was sent to everyone, in another hadith declaring, ‘I am
given the intercession… and while each Prophet before me was sent to his own
people alone, I am sent to the entirety of mankind.’34
Indeed, whilst Moses and the other prophets proved unable to save their
‘flock’, ‘…but the people would not believe what they had already rejected
beforehand,’35
Muhammed pleads for everyone; ‘Lift up your head! Ask, and you will be
answered; plead for intercession and it will be granted to you’.36

He hath ordained for you that
religion which He commended unto Noah, and that which we inspire in thee
(Muhammad), and that which We commended unto Abraham and Moses and Jesus,
saying; Establish the religion, and be not divided therein (al-Shura 42:13)

Indeed, whilst one may find evidence in certain hadith that
urge Muslims not to be led astray by other religions, ‘…do not exaggerate in
praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary’ (S?ah?ih? al-Bukha?ri? 3261) the Quran also stresses the
underlying oneness of faiths;

Suffice to say, following a brutal war Egypt was entering a
new era in the 50s of goodwill and political fervour. Naturally then, given the
‘spirit of the age’ the members of the roundtable were breathing a distinct air
of co-operation, lending itself nicely to notions of theological
revisionism.   Still, to argue in this light that there was
no theological basis for the beliefs of these men, would be to fail to
appreciate the extraordinarily rich and diverse nature of the Islamic
tradition.

But those who dare say; ”Outside the
Church there is no salvation,” should be driven from the State, unless that
State is the Church, and the prince the pontiff.32

Certainly, Jean Jacques Rousseau reflecting on what he saw as
the ‘kinship’ between religion and any kind of ‘political order’ in his work Social Contract claimed that, ‘those who
distinguished civil intolerance from theological intolerance were…
mistaken’29
insisting that the two were ‘inseparable.’30
He continues, warning that ‘it is impossible to live in peace with people with
whom one believes to be damned… as loving them would be to hate the God
who punishes them…’31
As such, Rousseau declares;

Indeed, discussed at length during the roundtable were
political relations with non-believers; namely modifications to historical
notions of jihad with the aim of achieving lasting amity. Perhaps in this sense,
one might regard our group of Egyptian reformists as mere apologists,
de-constructing Islamic theology in an attempt to satisfy their political ends.

It is worth noting, that one could quite easily look upon the
work of these modernist reformers in something of a cynical light. Mustafa abu
Zayd27
argued that talk of Kuffar and their
chances of salvation was not the real purpose of their meeting. Whilst in his
words ‘the question of the roundtable had a noble goal… concerning their
relationship to those non-Muslims who were the subject of the roundtable’s
discussion and other Non-Muslims’28
the religious importance of non-believers was not the key issue. Rather, it was
the political significance of such theological considerations which was of main
concern.

Thus, Al-Banna justifies his claim that ‘good works’
irrespective of theological laxity had worth in themselves. The fate of
modern-day non-believers then, was an issue best left to God (tafwid) a view which on its own,
constituted a major shift from traditional Islamic doctrine.

O uncle! Say; ‘none has the right to
be worshipped but Allah, an expression with which I will defend your case,
before Allah.” Abu-Jahl and Abd-Allah-bin-Umayyah said, “O Abu Talib! Will you
leave the religion of Abd-Al Muttalib?” So they kept on saying this to him, but
the last statement he said to them (before he died) was, “I am on the religion
of Abd-Al-Muttalib.”Then the prophet said, ‘I will keep on asking for Allah’s
forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden to do so’.26

More significantly as it pertains to the question at hand however,
is that it seems that Islam was fully and properly conveyed to Talib and yet,
according to certain Sunni traditions he did not convert. As recorded in the
hadith of Sahih al-Bukhari;

Again, it was Abu Zahra who, although the thrust of his
argument was roughly the same, makes one key distinction; the ‘good works’ of so
called Kuffar, carried out ‘solely on
behalf of humankind’, he argued warranted religious merit as well, asserting
that ‘it seems to me… the deeds of non-Muslims, performed for the sake of
humanity, are religiously meritorious in themselves’.25
Indeed, one might take as our paragon here Abu Talib, the prophet’s uncle.
Amidst rampant and widespread persecution endured by the ‘Nascent community’ in
Mecca, he continued to provide his nephew safe harbour, although he himself was
never a Muslim. Accordingly, Muhammad is said to have announced that
Abu-Talib’s chastisement in the spirit world would be substantively eased given
the job he did in defending one of the earliest Muslim communities.

This the notion of ‘good works’ and what this group of
Egyptian reformist constituted as ‘good works’ in many ways also epitomised
their diversion from what we might regard as classical Islamic doctrine. For an
action to be truly commendable, it was presumed that there must be a
combination both of ‘good deeds’ and a desire to glorify God during the course
of such deeds. Thus, short of an unerring faith in Islam, any contributions
regardless of their nature, were not in line for ‘divine recognition’. Much
like the protestant idea of sola fide,
actions taken with the intention of ‘serving humanity’ without faith in God
should be treated as such; that is by way of ‘honorary award’ or other sources
of earthly veneration. Crucially however, such actions were not worthy of
divine favour.

The doctrines of these modernising Egyptian reformists then,
in many ways constituted a major shift from mainstream ideology. Indeed,
various members of the roundtable were vehemently opposed to any kind of
retribution in the afterlife short of what they regarded as the ‘sound
communication’ of Islam, in some cases insisting that such communication even
be carried out in the recipient’s natal tongue.21
Likewise, the responsibility of non-Muslims to investigate; that is to say the
previously discussed idea that they need seek out Islam from the unfathomable
abyss was not so crudely and uniformly applied. Rather, this duty to ‘inquire’
only pertained to those who having been sufficiently enlightened on the wonders
of Islam, might themselves come to grasp Allah’s splendour. A substantial
departure from usual notions of excuse was thus set in motion; the onus was no
longer on non-Muslims to grasp the universality of Islam, but rather on Muslims,
who had the responsibility of illuminating it. As Abu Zahra22
tells us ‘A person in the depths of Africa or North or South America or in the
far reaches of Europe who knows nothing of Islam, to the point that he might
call it a Turkish religion… justice requires that we conclude that they are not
accountable. Indeed if there is accountability it is for those who have been
negligent in… spreading Islam’s true teachings among the nations of the
world.’23
Thus, Zahra proclaims ‘we are the sinners… not them on account of their
ignorance’24

Indeed historically, there have been broadly speaking two
approaches to this issue. Whilst in theory such uninformed people as Khallaf
describes are not unthinkable, following the turn of the 2nd Islamic
century, it was the position of various scholars that Islam had ‘come to all’
and in practice such individuals could no longer be said to exist; As Ibn Hazm
tells us, ‘every mushrik in the furthermost reaches of the south and north… and
the islands of the sea and the west, even the heedless of the world, have now
heard mention of Muhammad.’20

The general consensus was that before the presumptive
hellfire could be pronounced, each individual was entitled to what we might
describe as ‘appropriate notice’. Compared to what in law is sometimes referred
to as ‘constructive notice’; the belief that one ought to have known, and indeed the customary position of most
premodern Islamic scholars, this group of reformists emphasised the need for
‘actual notice’. Thus, Abdul Wahhab Khallaf17
writes, ‘and what we mean by ”appropriate fashion” is that the invitation
reaches him… in a clear fashion’, and is ‘accompanied by supporting
argumentation with evidence and proof… sufficient to cause him to investigate
it and to submit to it.’18
He maintains that those who have never heard of Islam, ‘or have heard of it
only from Christian missionaries’, ie those who misrepresent Islam
(yushawwihun), ‘have not been reached appropriately.’ Hence, such people
according to Khallaf are ‘in the judgement of Islam to be saved from punishment
despite their non-belief and lack of true faith’.19

As reported by the renowned al-Azhar college journal Liwa’ al-Islam in 1955, the main matter
in question was the future of those who, in spite of noteworthy achievements,
did not adhere to the doctrines of Islam and as a result, what would be waiting
for them in the spirit world. It was agreed then that two things before
anything else needed to be resolved; the fate of Kuffar and their eligibility for salvation in general, and, whether
or not their attainments or ‘good works’ would count in the ‘great beyond’
given their ‘improper’ theological intentions (niyya).

In our quest to find such a community then, let us move and
focus on the proceedings of a specific roundtable which can be roughly traced
back to a group of 20th century Egyptian reformist theologians.
Originating during the back end of the 19th century and inspired
largely by the development of Muhammad Abduh’s16
teachings, their movement was characterised by the radical expansion of the
‘coterie’ of those who were considered redeemable in paradise by acknowledging
the moral value of those deeds carried out by non-Muslims.

Thus, I could continue in this short endeavour discussing
various scholarly viewpoints or the many Qur’anic foundations which support or
undermine the extent to which Islam can be considered as ‘non-triumphal’. Alas,
the stringent word constraints imposed by the A7 Tripos means that justice could
not possibly be done to a complete disquisition which attempted to explore the tremendously
rich and diverse nature of the Islamic tradition. Rather, in answer to the
question of whether or not one can
have a non-triumphalist Muslim theology of religions, I need show only one
thing; namely that at some point from the time when Islam sprung into fruition
in the midst of a diverse populace along the Arabian Peninsula in the early 7th
Century, a ‘non-triumphalist’ version and practice of Islam has existed and
therefore can exist.

‘The Jews say, “Ezra is the son
of Allah “; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of
Allah.” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying
of those who disbelieved before them. May Allah destroy them; how are they
deluded.’ (Surat At-Tawbah 9:30)

Even so, whilst ‘people of the book’ are acknowledged, and
non-Muslim practices historically have been protected in law, (Dhimmi status
for example, referring to non-Muslim residents of Islamic states literally
meaning ‘protected persons’) for many scholars Kuffar remain in iniquity, existing merely on sufferance, a
toleration compassionately ordained by God. As follows, still regnant in the
sphere of mainstream Islamic thinking, as well as within mainstream Sunni
tradition in both the Maturidi and Ash’ari trends, is that the dead will be
separated and judged according to what they adhered to and knew about Islam;15
hellfire the presumptive fate of those who in any way refuse the prophet-hood
of Muhammad. Hence, it is written;

Indeed, some have taken this a step further, Reza Shah-
Kazemi vehemently rebuking what he sees as a ‘narrow-minded polemic’10
running through certain factions of Islamic scholarship, based in his view
solely on ‘sentiment and vanity’.11
Thus, his invective against ‘religious chauvinism’12
begins with a strong reproach of those who maintain one must be a Muslim in a
confessional sense in order to enter paradise. Rather, he maintains that
whole-hearted submission to God’s will, alongside good works in light of this
submission, is all that is required. As maintained in scripture, ‘And they say;
none entereth Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian. These are their vain
desires’.13
On the contrary, ‘whoever submitteth his purpose to God, and he is virtuous,
his reward is with his Lord… and no fear shall come upon them, neither shall
they grieve.’14
(Surat al-Baqara, 2:111-112)

“Say: “We believe in God, and in that
which has been revealed unto us, and that which has been revealed unto upon
Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which
has been vouchsafed by their Sustainer unto Moses and Jesus and all the other
prophets: we make no distinction between any of them. And unto Him do we
surrender ourselves literally “we’re muslims to Him”.” (al-i ‘Imran 3:84).9

Unsurprisingly then, many have argued against this mainstream
view. Sheikh Imran N. Hosien for instance, argues that God did not send forth
only one Sharia for all people, rather he intended that different tribes and
nations come to fruition. He insists that ‘there exists a diversity amongst
mankind as there is diversity amongst flowers… enhancing the splendour of
Allah’s creation and functioning as a means by which men recognise each other’.6 Similarly,
‘people of the book’  are given special
mention in the Quran, Ibrahim Kalin stressing what he sees as the ‘universality
of divine revelation’,7
establishing the foundations for what he labels the ‘Abrahamic ecumenism of
monotheistic religions’.8
Certainly, it is written;

As for one to whom mention of
Muhammad has not come, if he is a monotheist, he is a person of faith
(mu’min) in the manner of the first fitra with a sound faith; there is no
punishment upon him in the next world; he is one of the people of the Garden….
In truth there is fundamentally no punishment on a kafir until the warning of
the Messenger has reached him. But if word reaches him but no one can inform
him further about Muhamad’s message, he is obliged to leave that place for
somewhere where he can be informed.5

There is perhaps a sense in which the term ‘Islam’ could be
interpreted more generically; namely as a cipher with an indistinct religious
aura amounting merely to an unwavering devotion in God.3
Certainly in this sense, one might consider all those who ‘follow’ God, as well
as those prophets who brought with them different religions, irrespective of
their acknowledgment of Islam ‘Muslims’. This however would not, unlike Karl
Rahner’s doctrine of anonymous Christianity, procure the salvation or
deliverance of non-Muslims. Contrarily, for scholars such as Ibn Hazm4 it
ensured their damnation. Much like the catholic principle of ‘invisible
ignorance’ this ‘state of bliss’ applied only to the truly unmindful;

Nevertheless, this idea of Triumphalism, or precisely what it
means in practice to have a triumphalist Muslim theology of religions brings to
the fore one of the many seeming antinomies not just in Quranic doctrine but in
large swaths of the monotheistic tradition; the seeming tension between God’s radical
inclusivity and a kind of grandiose assurance in one’s own rightness,
compounded in a religious context inasmuch as the conviction that one’s own
beliefs are so uniquely right leave others no chance in the afterlife. Suffice
to say, since the earliest Muslim communities were born, and, throughout the
age of the great scholars in both the Sunni and Shi’i traditions between the 10th
and 13th centuries, the traditionalist viewpoint has been clear; not
unlike certain tenets of traditional Catholic doctrine extra ecclesiam nulla salus (no salvation outside the church), no
salvation can exist beyond the pathway of Islam,2 ‘…
truly the religion in the eyes of Allah.’ (Ayah al-Imran 3:19)

This call for ‘collective vying’, a quest bestowed upon the
shoulders of each community by God to pursue ‘good works’, some scholars have
argued is attestation that at the very least, Allah demands that all peoples
strive toward a common goal.1

“Unto every one of you we have
appointed a different law shir’atan and way of life minhajan. And if God
had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community ummah
wahidah: but (He willed it otherwise) in order to test by means of what He has
vouchsafed unto you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works!” (Surah
al-Ma’idah 5:48)