As a humanitarian worker who was professionally involved for decades in crisis- and war-shaken countries, the author strove to understand the political, socioeconomic, and cultural factors contributing to conflicts. This contextualization, with a focus on Arab countries, confirmed what other thinkers found: the majority of political, economic, social, cultural, religious, and finally humanitarian crises in the Arab world are man-made and can be attributed to both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Central to the latter appears to be a shared cultural construct that can be termed “Arab reason.” This essay tries to present information on various aspects of the crisis; to understand why reform efforts come so late and why are they are more difficult for Arabs than for other Muslims. It continues by looking at the knowledge systems that govern Arab reason and their evolution, including the decisive role of the religious knowledge system. From there, it proposes some reform ideas including a renewed legal reasoning process with the goal of a future-oriented, knowledge-based, and inclusive Arab Islamic vision. A pragmatic way forward could be an additional unifying eighth legal school (madhhab/madhāhib) to counter sectarian conflicts and violence. This essay is built on a targeted literature search and is not a comprehensive review of the growing literature generated by distinguished thinkers on various aspects of Arab Islamic identity.

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