Religious pluralism and Islam : a critical examination of John Hick's pluralistic hypothesis
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This dissertation makes a full critical analysis of John Hick's pluralistic hypothesis (which views great world religions as equally valid ways of salvation/liberation) from an Islamic perspective. To be able to do this, it begins with a survey of Islamic responses to the problem of religious diversity by employing Alan Race's threefold taxonomy (exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism). Chapter one concludes that al-Maturidi's exclusivistic and AtefI's inclusivistic approaches cannot satisfactorily answer the matter in hand, namely "why a compassionate and loving God should exclude totally or partially the vast majority of human beings from salvation/liberation. " Arkoun's pluralistic viewpoint comes closer to Hick's but is incomplete, immature and radically reductionist. The dissertation, then, starts examining Hick's pluralism. First, it gives an extensive account of pluralism. At the fundamental level, Hick argues for the veridicality of one's experience in order to establish the right of one to believe, which in turn creates the problem of religious diversity: several religions claiming to offer the best way of salvation/liberation. Before putting forward his own theory, Hick examines other naturalistic (Durkheimian and Freudian) and religious (exclusivistic and inclusivistic) accounts of religions. He dismisses them as unsatisfactory and poses his religious interpretation of religion. Drawing the Kantian distinction of noumenon and phenomenon, Hick claims that religions, with their personal gods and impersonal absolutes, are phenomenal responses to the noumenal Real. His soteriological criterion of transformation from "self-centredness to Reality-centredness" contends that great world religions are equally valid ways of salvation/liberation. Since the noumenal Real is totally ineffable, religious language should be understood mythically/metaphorically. After careful critical consideration, the thesis concludes that Hick's pluralism cannot be compatible with Islam, unless it is modified from three angles: the total ineffability of the Real must be replaced with a "moderate ineffability" (hence moderate pluralism), a hermeneutical reading of the holy texts should replace Hick's mythical approach, and Hick's primarily ethical soteriological criterion needs to be extended to include the ritual aspect of religion. This modified version of Hick's pluralism is named "moderate pluralism. " The thesis concludes that moderate pluralism is compatible with Islam and offers a way forward particularly in its dealing with other religions.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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