The Subjective and Universal in Modern Islamic Values
This chapter will serve to introduce the focus on the subjective within the values projects of three modern Islamic thinkers who have attempted to articulate methodologies wherein human reason and rationality is equal to and inseparable from scripture as an ethical motivator. The thinkers that feature in this study were chosen as much for what makes them diverse as for what unites them. Their objectives and methodologies are far from uniform. What they share, however, is a common belief that Islamic values are best expressed as a function of the human experience, that there is more than one road to the derivation of a set of individual and collective Islamic values, and that legitimate values systems have developed in the context of diverse nonMuslim social, cultural and religious circumstances in parallel to those found in Islamic societies.
Modern Islamic thought has shown a preoccupation with the debate over subjectivity as a key and natural motivator of understandings of Islamic values. Reformist scholars have approached the issue of subjectivity and values in a number of different ways, among them drawing upon and redefining classical Islamic methodologies, re-engaging in new ways with early Islamic history, and applying new linguistic and epistemological approaches to the meanings contained within scripture. This chapter will serve as a comparative introduction to three such scholars, namely Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Mohamed Talbi and Mohammed Shahrur, explaining their project, the possibilities contained within it and the methodological difficulties that they face. It will also shed light on the ramifications of their work to the formation of a universal human ethic and examine reactions to such new, postmodern values projects within Islamic thought.