I notice that people born in Muslim families and entangled in Muslim cultures often conflate their cultures with religion. The inheritors of the Islamic intellectual tradition – the lay as well as the sophist ‘ulamā’ – further tend to conflate human opinions and divine will in the package known as “sharī‘ah”.
Such conflation of culture and religion, and of human opinions and divine will renders religion restrictive and local. It strips the Qur’anic message of its simplicity and potentially universal appeal.
Failure to draw a line between culture and the core values of religion, and inability or unwillingness to distinguish between divine commandments and human legislation is potentially fatal for the Islamic civilization. Societies that are too obsessed with local aspects of their cultures and received tradition can hardly offer anything to this world.
Thus, I am inclined to think that the Islamic civilization (with its current composition) will be rendered irrelevant in a few decades or may be a century, because local customs and the burden of Islamic tradition are weighing down Muslim societies.
Islam will survive nonetheless, because occasional non-Muslims will continue to see the beauty and simplicity of the Qur’anic message in isolation from the cultural and intellectual-traditional shackles that grip the Muslim world today. They will embrace the Qur’anic-Islamic religion without subscribing to Muslim cultures and the bulk of the Islamic tradition.
They will give birth to a brand new Islamic culture that is a product of their time, a neo-Islamic civilization (if at all Islam will manifest again as a civilizational force in history) that may look radically different from existing Muslim societies, yet would be Islamic at its core.
As for born Muslims who are too obsessed with their cultures and overawed by their intellectual tradition, and fail to respond to the needs of their time – their numbers will reduce, and their spaces will shrink to small pockets and ghettos. They will lose their members to the dominant Western civilization or the neo-Islamic civilization (if one is impending).
Converts are the future of Islam!