Is the monopoly of the clergy on the interpretation of texts and history of religion justified? In the modern era, a group of religious intellectuals have emerged in competition with the clergy by asking this question. With their university educations, they have tried to offer a new interpretation of Islam and sharia. Is their interpretation of religion necessarily more liberal and democratic? Can sharia be amended? Can one believe in sharia and yet reject “Islamic government” or vice versa? What is the meaning and function of sharia in the absence of such a government?
Could a liberal and democratic legal system replace the sharia-based legal system in Muslim countries? How can the idea of human rights and fundamental freedoms appeal to devout Muslims without their feeling that their religious faith is endangered? Can one be a Muslim without believing in the legitimacy of sharia? Can one accept one part of sharia and abandon another?