THE FREE CONSCIENCE
“No Compulsion in Religion”
By engaging in dialogue with Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush on the subject matter of freedom of conscience, we begin to see this human right from new perspectives based in Islamic thought. We commence with the fortunate agreement that freedom of conscience is, indeed, a human right, but how one comes to this conclusion varies. The particulars of freedom of conscience differ according to each thinker and the unique context in which he understands this human right. That we understand the paths these Islamic thinkers take to their conclusions about freedom of conscience and the nuanced ways in which they comprehend this right is essential to the possibility of coming to an agreement—a fusion of horizons—about human rights.
As with the concepts of democracy and, as we will see, toleration, Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush claim that freedom of conscience is a human right found within Islam. In their more apologetic moments, Maududi and Qutb claim that Islam is superior to other religious and political systems in its early observance and command to respect the free conscience of other human beings. The three thinkers, however, differ in the ways in which they assess and analyze freedom of conscience within the Islamic tradition. Soroush situates freedom in general, and freedom of conscience in particular, within his larger understanding of the unity of truth that can be found in multiple religions. Freedom of conscience is necessary to deepen not only our knowledge of Islam but also our