This book deals with Islamic studies and with the question how the scholarly study of religion can contribute to the study of Islam. The author advocates studying Islamic phenomena as signs and symbols interpreted and applied in diverse ways in existing traditions.
He stresses the role of Muslims as actors in the ongoing debate about the articulation of Islamic ways of life and construction of Islam as a religion. A careful study of this debate should steer clear of political, religious, and ideological interests. Research in this area by Muslims and non-Muslim scholars alike should address the question of what Muslims have made of their Islam in specific circumstances.
Current political contexts have created an unhealthy climate for pursuing an "open" approach to Islam based on reading, observing, listening and reflecting. Yet, precisely nowadays we need to look anew at ways of Muslim thinking and acting that refer to Islam and to avoid certain schemes of interpreting Muslim realities that are no longer adequate for present-day Muslim life situations.
Muslim recourses to Islam can be studied as human constructions of value and meaning, and relations between Muslims and others can be seen in terms of human interaction, without blame always falling on Islam as such.
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