'No Salvation Outside Islam': Muslim Modernists, Democratic Politics, and Islamic Theological Exclusivism

37 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2010 Last revised: 19 Dec 2020

See all articles by Mohammad Fadel

Mohammad Fadel

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 21, 2010


The extent to which religions with excluvist claims of salvation can be tolerated in a democracy has been the subject of substantial controversy among liberal political theorists, as exemplified in the different positions taken on this question by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract and John Rawls in A Theory of Justice. This article explores the plausibility of Rawls' claim that democratic institutions have the tendency to dilute the exclusivist claims of salvation theologies in the context of Muslim Modernist theologians in 20th century Egypt. While these theologians were not living in a proper liberal democracy, the prospect of just terms of coexistence with non-Muslim, particularly western, powers apparently prompted them to undertake a substantial revision of pre-modern Muslim theology with respect to the prospects of salvation for non-Muslims. Rejecting pre-modern theologians' insistence on acceptance of true doctrine as a pre-condition for salvation, these modernist theologians radically expanded the concept of excuse while at the same time effectively eliminating the pre-modern doctrine of the duty of inquiry with the result that non-Muslims' prospects for salvation became almost entirely a function of their practical virtue, i.e., contribution to the welfare of mankind and their readiness to engage in peaceful relations with Muslims. The example of these theologians, at least, suggest Rawls' intutions on the effects of democracy on exclusivist theology are more plausible than Rousseau's concerns that exclusivist theology will subvert liberal democracy.

Keywords: salvation, excuse, Islamic theology, Muslim modernism, democracy, practical virtue, theoretical virtue

Suggested Citation

Fadel, Mohammad, 'No Salvation Outside Islam': Muslim Modernists, Democratic Politics, and Islamic Theological Exclusivism (November 21, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1712972 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1712972

Mohammad Fadel (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5

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