What is Islam, and who gets to decide?

What is Islam, and who gets to decide?
What counts as properly “Islamic,” what doesn’t, and who has the right to decide? As we’ve discovered, this question is very difficult to answer. Not only have we found a multiplicity of sects and sub-sects, we have seen how even within each sect, madhhab, or ideological trend there can be multiple interpretations on any given issue. That doesn’t mean that various religious scholars haven’t tried. We have examined the work of several scholars in which arguments have been made about how to draw the line between proper Islam, and those beliefs and practices that lie outside that line. Ideological “tools” that have been used by some of these scholars include ijma` (consensus), bid`a (innovation), and kufr (unbelief). Others may not have referred specifically to one of these concepts, but all the same had much to say about how to define Islam.

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