Islam – A Short History
By Karan Armstrong
It must also be recalled that beliefs and doctrines are not as important in Islam as they are in Christianity. Like Judaism, Islam is a religion that requires people to live in a certain way, rather than to accept certain creedal propositions.
Politics has never been central to the Christian religious experience… But politics was no secondary issue for Muslims. We have seen that it had been the theatre of their religious quest. Salvation didn’t mean redemption from sin, but the creation of a just society in which the individual could more easily make that existential surrender of his or her whole being that would bring them fulfilment. The policy was therefore a matter of supreme importance, and throughout the twentieth century there has been one attempt after another to create a truly Islamic state.
Many Western are also becoming uncomfortable about the absence of spirituality in their lives. They do not necessarily want to return to pre-modern religious lifestyles or conventionally institutional faith. But there is a growing appreciation that, at its best, religion has helped human beings cultivate decent values. Islam has kept the notions of social justice, equality, tolerance and practical compassion at the forefront of the Muslim conscience for centuries. Muslims did not always live up to these ideals and frequently found difficulty in incarnating them in their social and political institutions. But the struggle to achieve this was for centuries the mainspring of Islamic spirituality.