Question: Is there now or has there ever been in the past a sizable liberal Islamic tradition? As a self-identified liberal Muslim, I would imagine that you would be well situated to answer that question. The reason I ask is because I know that Christianity in the US used to be largely liberal. It emphasized helping the poor, the dangers of greed and power, and intellectual understanding of the teaching of Jesus. –Sidfaiwu
Answer: Ah! What an amazing question! Yes yes – Islam has been through an entire transformation period of liberalism to conservatism. In it’s heyday Islam was a very liberal religion. This question can’t be answered briefly because history needs to be properly unraveled so I’ll just do my limited best here.
From the liberal tradition which flourished in Muslim Spain and Cairo two philosophers and their words come to mind:
1) "Religion must be guided by reason" – Ibn Sena
2) "Religion is nothing but an old wives tale" – Ibn Razi
Both of the gentlemen quoted above are very popular Islamic figures with their own schools of thoughts. If we had scholars utter the same words today they would be chased down the streets by angry mobs. But yes, in brief, Islam did have a liberal tradition where the rights of the individual were supreme.
Its a part of history that not many know about because… and this is the terrible truth … not many Muslims know their own history. If we could send each Muslim to Yale and Princeton they would learn things about their history they never imagined existed. And this is where comes my strong belief, that mankind will be saved by liberals, not by religion. Liberalism is the state you enter after reading 8 books of history. and Ibn Sena said it best … religion must be guided by reason. –Muhammed