"Liberal Islam" is an umbrella term covering the thoughts and work of Muslims who share parallel concerns with Western liberalism: ideas such as separation of church and state, democracy, the rights of women and minorities, freedom of thought, and human progress.

A key concept in understanding Liberal Islam is ijtihad (from the root jahada, to struggle, endeavour, strive, take pains; the same root as "jihad"). The term has developed to mean the use of independent judgement on legal or theological questions.

Understanding of the term is coloured by history and theology.

  • Legal and philosophical thought in the different traditions of Islam placed differing limits on "acceptable use of independent judgement";
  • In the context of Islam's response to the impact of the West in the last 150 years, some thinkers have argued the need to go beyond traditional limitations.
The exercise of independent judgement on legal or theological questions.