In this chapter, it is discussed how to study/teach Islam objectively, how the term religion’ came about, how one would classify as belonging to a certain religion and the image of Islam in the Western world/the media. The Author starts by talking about the concept of religion, and how it came about; the word religion’ not mentioned in the bible, but actually from a pre-Christian Latin term that Cicero explains was “”religiones”” which means ritual duties. It started out to be an exclusively Christian term for Augustine, to whom religion “”only existed in singular””.
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Then, Hugo Grotius used the term for non-Christian groups too but believed that Christianity was the only true religion–his books written to convert non-Christians to Christianity.
Later, it is mentioned that religion started to interfere with politics and there were many religious wars which eventually brought about the Enlightenment which made religious tolerance more common. This shift to modernity’ gave the state more power rather than religion having solely the power in European countries, however, in colonies Christian missionaries were allowed to spread the religion and find/make new converts. The religious tolerance was limited to different types of Christianity only. The modern colonial era had a lot to do with defining the terms of religion which is why Islam was given a misleading image, but this extreme-missionary image serves to be true for some modern Muslims. Everyone did seem to think their religion was the best but in the post-modern and post-colonial world, acceptance of religious pluralism came about. There are still religious fundamentalists, though, who do not tolerate other views. Religious pluralism is supported by the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad but despite this, Islam is still portrayed as an intolerant religion.
Moreover, the author talks about how pre-modern Islamic societies were more influenced by culture than the actual teachings of Islam hence cannot really be called Islamic’. In the 20th Century, this changed and Islamic societies began to be completely Islamic, but Islam has been reinterpreted.
There is still competitiveness, especially between Christianity and Islam, about which religion is better (as they have the largest followers). It is also hard to categorize people into religions as certain sects believe another sect would not classify as belonging to the religion. The earliest efforts to categorize was through the system of Linnaean Biology but it failed when describing religious groups, so the better way is the Descriptive method (to classify whoever claims to follow a religion to be a part of that religious group).
When it comes to teaching religion, there is a difference between teaching about it and teaching of it. Religions do not remain the same overtime, and the two major components are faith and cumulative tradition. Religions are abstract terms but it is hard to study it as a “”thing”” if not referring to individuals. Another perspective says that studying religion can be done by two approaches: Prescriptive and Descriptive. It must not be a biased approach and should be inclusive of everyone even if they are not from the certain religion.
The understanding of Sacred Scriptures is different for different groups so the concept of scripturalism is a misunderstanding as it assumes every verse has the same value, and also that every member of the religious group is supposed to follow it. The reason why the general public has less knowledge of Islam is because it is inaccessible to non-specialists’ and it is viewed more politically. Thus, the approach that should be taken while studying religion is to be tolerant, respectful and open-minded.
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