The impulse to reconstruct Islamic civilisation in the post-colonial ruins of the modern world explains why the desire for sovereignty preoccupies Muslim thought. This is true whether the aim is to salvage Islam as a problem-solving religion of historical relevance, which feeds nostalgia for a lost past; or whether the focus is obsessive concern for the legal tradition and all the moralising that comes with it. To make Islamic law relevant, be it institutionally or in one’s personal ethical choices, is to make Islam applicable to daily modern life in the most instrumental and practical way.

The concern with sovereignty straddles all sectional interests and approaches. For those more convinced by modern political values of individual autonomy, this may take the form of showing how and why liberal democracy, the free market or socialism, would be in line with the spirit of Islam. Muslims with more of an affinity with tradition would tend to argue that the Islamic canon offers resources to think about social harmony in a more robust way than anything the Enlightenment tradition can offer. Either way, the import is to enable Muslims to believe that Islam is a religion of personal value, that it is still alive despite the many reasons to think that it is not, that with the right understanding one can be empowered as a Muslim first and foremost, that is to say, sovereign: strengthened with the conviction that the Islamic faith can be the moral and emotional compass for life in a complex globalising world.

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