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Shaykh Uthman Khan on Dialogue — Academic Dean/Director of Research, Critical Loyalty


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/02/05

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are some effective ways, means of communication to make calls for both pluralism and secularism within Islamic documented history, e.g. calls for pluralism and secularism within Islamic documented history, relationships with one another, more flexible gender roles, and so on?

Shaykh Uthman Khan: Dialogue, understanding one another, listening to each other. One should listen with the intention to understand and not with the intention to reply.

When you’re talking pluralism, there needs to be inter-religious dialogue and intra-religious dialogue. The big mess that we’re in right now is that we don’t have dialogue rather have more debates and this is also within Islamic scholarship.

The best example is how many people disassociate with others because they aren’t from the same group or sect. For example someone studied from one particular methodology or school of thought while another person studied from a different methodology, school of thought, or even institution, in realities both are islamic scholars or at the least educated but many from one side will choose not to associate with the other because they are not from the same group.

There is too much inter-religion and also intra-religion sectarianism. It’s a big problem. The only way to overcome it is to come to a common understanding or a common ground.

Religion aside, I have friends who are Christians and Jews. When I’m talking to them, I don’t talk theology with them. The theological conversation eventually starts trickling in if I need to talk theology, but we’ll talk about something that we both agree on and that is only if the conversation was meant to be theological or religious.

For example the stories of the prophets or ethics or human rights etc. If it’s not a religious topic, we’ll talk about all kinds of stuff: family and kids, sports, weather etc.

However I find many Muslims have segregated themselves from others, or from anyone who is not a Muslim. Anyone non muslims is many times considered “other”.

That approach is promoted in many muslim household and is perhaps born out of culture. When culture dictates a religion then these biases are bound to be imported in. The best approach it “I am a person and you are a person. We may have differences but that is okay!

But within Muslims, I find that a huge problem is that many muslims tend to segregate themselves from everyone who is not a Muslim. It’s a very sectarian mentality. That is why the slurs of Kafir fly around so much in certain groups. Kafir means a non-Muslim. its a word that reflects another person being inferior.

Sometimes considering someone a Kafir is simply because a person doesn’t like the way another is doing things. “I don’t agree with the way you understand this theory. I’m questioning the legitimacy behind this particular prophetic narration.” etc.

Based on this problem we can never achieve pluralism. We can never get everyone on the same page if we’re going to consider everyone that’s not us as “other”. If we want pluralism then we will need to be more inclusive and less restrictive.

This is the result of indoctrination from a very young age. Sure Islam and the books of Hadith tell a person how to live and instruct Muslims how to do the smallest things, however when such acts reflect a persons to consider others inferior then it becomes a problem of ethics. And ethics play a huge role in religion.

Many muslims focus on the details of these rules and forget about the ethics. The question theologians need to answer is can a person be considered a Muslim but lacks ethics? What defines a Muslim?

What separates Islam from other religions is the beliefs and rituals and from beliefs i’m referring to belief in one God, in the Prophet Muhammad, and Holy Books, the Angels, the Day of Judgement. that’s what makes you a Muslim. And these are very similar in other religions as well.

Then a Muslim’s rituals such as praying 5 times a day, fasting in the month of Ramadan, giving charity. However the common point in all religions is ethics, and they are universal. So not backbiting or slandering someone or harming others, and being ethically good, is not necessarily doing something only considered good in Islam, but also doing something good in all religions and the world at large. Looking at these ethics is what will bring everyone together on the same page.

When, in dialogue, a conversation starts with ethics then people are more willing to continue the conversation into other religion specific points.

The religion of Islam is simple. It’s your beliefs and rituals. I pray five times a day. That’s my ritual. The ethics are universal in all religions.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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