Countries with Muslim populations over 10% of total (source - CIA World Factbook
, 2004). The darker green represents a Sunni
majority and the light green represents a Shia
Although the most prominent movement in Islam in recent times has been fundamentalist Islamism, there are a number of liberal movements within Islam which seek alternative ways to align the Islamic faith with contemporary questions.
Early Sharia had a much more flexible character than is currently associated with Islamic jurisprudence, and many modern Muslim scholars believe that it should be renewed, and the classical jurists should
lose their special status. This would require formulating a new fiqh suitable for the modern world, e.g. as proposed by advocates of the Islamization of knowledge, and would deal with the modern context. One vehicle proposed for such a change has been the revival
of the principle of ijtihad, or independent reasoning by a qualified Islamic scholar, which has lain dormant for centuries.
This movement does not aim to challenge the fundamentals of Islam; rather, it seeks to clear away
misinterpretations and to free the way for the renewal of the previous status of the Islamic world as a centre of modern thought
and freedom. (See Modern Islamic philosophy for more on this subject.)
Many Muslims counter the claim that only "liberalization" of the Islamic Sharia law can lead to distinguishing
between tradition and true Islam by saying that meaningful "fundamentalism," by definition, will eject non-Islamic cultural
inventions — or instance, acknowledging and implementing Muhammad's insistence that women have God-given rights that
no human being may legally infringe upon. Proponents of modern Islamic philosophy sometimes respond to this by arguing that,
as a practical matter, "fundamentalism" in popular discourse about Islam may actually refer, not to core precepts of the faith,
but to various systems of cultural traditionalism.