Ali Shariati, in; where shall we begin addresses the essential issues of human existence, i.e., questions about the creation of man, his place and purpose that every human being asks.
Two types of Islam have confronted one another in Islamic history ‘the degenerate and narcotizing religion’ and ‘the progressive and awakening religion’. Islam had been reduced by the traditional religious leaders, or Ulama and others to a ‘degenerate and narcotizing religion’ and had to be replaced by an Islam, which could be progressive and dynamic.
Islam needs revival and renewal which will be beneficial and helpful for the change. Islam has the solution of every problem. The Quran says the people (al-nas) are the chief force inducing social change. The masses collectively represent God and the Quran equalizes God with social matter which unlike Marxist conviction, legitimizing mass mobilization by revolutionary Islamic discourse.
An enlightened Muslim must be aware of the truth that he has inimitable culture which is neither completely spiritual, mystical or philosophical nor completely materialistic and technological like western. It is the combination of spirituality, idealism, faith, justice and equality.
The progressive Muslim should know that the Islamic strength covers his moral codes, culture and historical process which are all designed by Islam. Only the enlightened intellectuals not the traditional ulma can spearhead the Islamic resurgence. This can be accomplished through scientific research and logical analysis of political, religion and philosophical ill-motives and class factors which had been at work throughout our history.
Contemporary Islamic thought in its current stagnated form has neglected this question and what few attempts it has made have been in the form of medieval perspective that are irrelevant and un-meaningful for today’s humanity, or of offering a highly ritualistic interpretation of Islam failing to explain in contemporary terms the world view bearing to it and its (Islamic world view’s) social implications. The tragedy is that, on the one hand, those who have controlled our religion over the past two centuries have transformed it into its present static form and, on the other hand, our enlightened people who understand the present age and the needs of our generation and time do not understand religion. As a result, our Islamic society, despite Islam with its rich culture and history which would have otherwise enabled it to emancipate itself, could not acquire the religious awareness necessary for its salvation. The intellectuals erroneously fought Islam and the reactionaries used it to narcotize the masses and to maximize their own gains. Meanwhile, true Islam remains unknown and incarcerated in the depths of history. The masses buried in their own static and restricted traditions and the intellectuals isolated from the masses and disliked by them. Therefore, whereas our masses need self-awareness, our enlightened intellectuals are in need of faith.