Does Islam Accept Reform?

Sacred scriptures that were written centuries back have their own special places in the hearts of their believers. Whether they were divine revelations or written as traditions of famous figures and prophets or philosophers. They provide codes of behaviors and rites that most can take as guidelines. They also codify morals relative to a specific culture. Codes of morals for the Hindus, for example, differ from those for Moslems. But nevertheless, most of them contain universal moral codes. They retain their holiness for many reasons; most important reason is that they were the codes of the ancestors. Primitive cultures did not have those literal codes, but still they adhered to the ways of the ancestors that were verbally transmitted from generation to generation. It aided them to face mysteries in life, as it aided modern religion believers. The only difference is that as religion evolved, it got more complex with time. In a nutshell: those scriptures, figures and rituals became a symbol for the believer.
It is also common and healthy to change some codes from generation to generation through interpretation, so long that the basics were intact. It was done throughout history with all religions. But that does pertain some dangers. Some interpretations might develop into creating sects or cults. More interpretations, or reinterpretations are also needed to comply with the needs of each new generation as per time and locations. A new generation usually follows the interpretations of his parents, adhering to their sources, but when the location changes, say someone who lived in the Middle East and his children were raised in the United States, he’d have to comply with the new rules of that place, and therefore be more flexible in his interpretations. Even if the location stayed the same, the world is getting smaller, and humans are getting smarter, each one of us would eventually develop his or her own interpretations according to what makes things more logical to ones specific logic. They may not even realize that that’s what they’re doing.
Fundamentals refuse any interpretations but the original ones, taken from famous figures in history where religion was at its purest. Fundamentalism is derived from the word fundamental, which means basics. Moslem fundamentals, for example, believe that Quran is a set of instructions on life given by the almighty, ordained from all eternity as the final and the ultimate truth for all human beings. This group considers any deviation from the fundamentals of Islam deprives it from its essence in the belief that it is the words of the divine, and therefore it becomes a human intervention and an assault on the fixed dogma. Fundamentalism can take many shapes; Wahabis for example, who take their traditions from the prophet and his following khaleefats, call the Shiites Khawarij; a word indicating the ones who went astray from the ways of God. Shiite on the other hand, who take their traditions from the prophet’s linage with a strong belief that their philosophy is the continuation of the divine revelation, and hence consider Sunnis Nawasib which means the ones who carry hate for the prophet’s linage, descending from Ali, the prophet’s cousin. Both sects claim that they have preserved the basics of Islam, and that their differences are minor, yet wars between them never ceased since the prophet’s death until today.
This was an example of the old dispute concerning different interpretations regardless of the hidden political agendas. Of which it’s implication is still evident in Iraq and Palestine.
Modern thinkers, peace loving individuals of both sects may not pay these differences any attention, but no doubt when a member of each sect meets with the other, each is sure that he’s from the salvation group and the other is destined to be burned in hell.
Yet interpretation is not a rigid phenomenon as I mentioned before, new interpreters like Amro Khalid who addresses the new generation and gives Islam a new look, is also faced with a lot of criticism from both sects. Some even consider him an apostate. And his likes are many, especially in the West, who have been bitten by the old interpretations and trying desperately to modernize Islam.
But could Islam be modernized?
Let’s look at history:
Sikhism began as Hindu reform under centuries of Moslem rule in north India; a religion that began in the fifteenth century AD with the teachings of Nanak and nine successive gurus. Its message is the one of compromise between Hinduism and Islam. And although today Sikhism is the fifth growing religion in the world, it was never digested; neither by Hindus nor by Moslems. Moreover, it was fought by both religions in fierce battles.
Modern Moslem reformers who work on the philosophy of compromising between civil human laws orchestrated by the secular West and Islam, most probably would face the same fate.
Mainstream Moslems would never accept their reform. Quran had described those who take part of their religion and leave the other part as Monafiqeen, i.e. the hypocrites. And It described them in a whole Soorah with the same labeling as:
[1] When the Hypocrites come to thee, they say, “We bear witness that thou art indeed the Messenger of Allah.” Yea, Allah knoweth that thou art indeed His Messenger, and Allah beareth witness that the Hypocrites are indeed liars.

[2] They have made their oaths a screen (for their misdeeds): thus they obstruct (men) from the Path of Allah: truly evil are their deeds.

[3] That is because they believed, then they rejected Faith: so a seal was set on their hearts: therefore they understand not.

[4] When thou lookest at them, their exteriors please thee; and when they speak, thou listenest to their words. They are as (worthless as hollow) pieces of timber propped up, (unable to stand on their own). They think that every cry is against them. They are the enemies; so beware of them. The curse of Allah be on them! How are they deluded (away from the Truth)!

Now should we expect after that, that the mainstream Moslems would take any modern interpretations? Would the people of Saudi Arabia and Iran abide to modernization?
There is a saying that goes:

هذا حلم ابليس بالجنه

i.e. this would be Satan’s dream in heaven.
Like any other religion, Islam does not accept reform. Christianity had gone through seas of blood to achieve reform in the past. And although it had come a long way, there are still many fundamental Christian sects who oppose reform and want to stick to the literal interpretation of the bible.
Religion is part of human evolution, it was accepted by our ancestors in the past, albeit with bloodshed. Time has changed, with centuries of human development, nothing can be found in religions that the people of the twenty first centuries can’t find in civil laws that started with Hammurabi, and ended with reason against faith. Humans can’t just go in circles and not learn from history; circles would only take us to the beginning point, right were we first started, humans are destined to move on. That past has to be acknowledge as part of our history, and there is no escape from the bottleneck except divorcing religion for good. Science proves everyday that religion is nothing but myths. It may have not proved the existence of a creator, even the ultimate nonexistence is solely based on logic that may have different arguments from both sides, but religion is something totally different. And it is a pity to destroy our planet earth with a mere belief in a symbol. Religion has done too much harm to humans, and all indications point that this is the time to ask rational questions, and demand religion to step aside.
An Update: meet Greydon Square

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kila_ma6goog
    Oct 06, 2007 @ 23:59:44

    excellent artical

    however u said

    Religion has done too much harm to humans

    why dont we look at it from the other side..

    humans did too much harm to religions

    🙂

    dont u think so?

    Reply

  2. AyyA
    Oct 07, 2007 @ 00:15:50

    KM
    Definitely, whether intentionally or unintentionally through interpretations, which was the theme of my post 😀

    Reply

  3. Angelo
    Oct 07, 2007 @ 06:38:50

    Another excellent post Ayya and should definitely provokes the thoughts and ideas of your Muslims and none-Muslims readers. (BTW, I find it quite ironic that you chose your nickname as Ayya (i.e. Quranic Verse) but I guess that was your intention from the beginning).

    As a fellow moderate Muslim, allow me to explain what is our idea of reformation in Islam. Well, first of all, you should understand that Islam when was first preached by the prophet, it contained many ideas of reformation for the region of Arabia. I realize that’s hard to believe but the sole reason that the Prophet was kicked out of Mecca is because he preached reformation of the region; they didn’t kick him because of his monotheist message. For example, many scholars (even western scholars) concur that Islam gave rights to women that European women at that time could only dream of. Women are allowed to divorce their husbands, own property, inherit money, and have their own businesses. I’m not saying the Prophet was a feminist, but what he did for women at that time was extravagant.

    Now as moderates of Islam, our vision of reformation is to revert to the time of Medina when the Prophet used to live there (with the luxury of 21st century of course). A place where women were feminists, and pray alongside the men. A place where followers of other “Abrahamic” religions and pagans (i.e. someone who doesn’t follow any religion) lived in peace. After all, when the Prophet reached the Medina during the time of his Hujra, his Bay3ah (constitution) was between him (along with his Muslim followers) and many pagans and Jewish tribes. A time when the Shar’ia Law was not part of the government and didn’t actually exist because it was written after the Prophet’s death and at a time where the true traditions of Arabia raised again. And some moderate Muslims truly believe that following the five pillars of Islam is quite sufficient to be considered a loyal, spiritual Muslim, and all those five pillars are nothing but spiritual and none of them are “violent”. You can easily argue that those “hypocrites” are them not us, the moderates.

    You mentioned mainstream Muslims several times in your post and you associate them with the ideology that is corrupted. Now, I don’t know what is your definition of “mainstream” but if you mean the majority, then I’d like to say that the majority of Muslims do not follow the ideology that you mentioned. For example, Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country and a large percentage of Muslims are originated there, and yet it is considered as one of the most moderate religious nations in the world. The Shar’ia Law is not adhered, and religious freedom is well celebrated by many, the same goes to Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan etc. Thus, Muslim extremists are still in the minority and there voices aren’t always heard in the whole Muslim countries.

    As for the both Shi’a and Sunni sects, I think in the present time there is no tension or violent conflicts between those sects. The conflict in Iraq shouldn’t be interpreted to the whole wide Muslim world; if that’s the case, my Sunni friends who have killed me long time ago whenever I pray with them. Again, the whole conflict in Iraq between the Shi’as and the Sunnis is completely political (I don’t to explain why it is political, do I?).

    As for your closing comments, again it’s up to you to decide what to believe or not to believe. But I think it is completely absurd to think there’s no room fro science in religion. I don’t know about the other religions, but Islam stats that the statuary of scientists equal to those of the prophets, because what scientists do is to deliver a message (obviously not a divine message) to the nation and to masses, and provide reformation to the society. Islam encourages people to think, to assess, and to contribute, even if it leads to the disbelief in God, because “there is no compulsion in religion”. Take a look at what Muslims and Arabs did during the “Golden Age of Islam” and you should know what I mean. We have invited the Algebra and the Arabic numbers, we advanced medicine, we improved chemistry, and best of all, our literature and poetry were considered one of the best at that time. What happened to all of this? The simple answer would be: politics.

    So to answer to your original question:

    Does Islam accept reformation?

    Yes, because its mere existence was to reform.

    Reply

  4. AyyA
    Oct 07, 2007 @ 09:36:51

    Angelo
    First of all my name is
    ايا
    Which means the Akkadian Goddess of wisdom, and not a verse in Quran, which ends with an “H”.
    Second; Islam’s first movement was not only reform, it was a revolution against his own people when he introduced Monotheism in a new look, adding to it many rituals of his own ancestors. There were Jews in Mecca, and there were Abrahamic followers like Waraqa Ibn Nofal and there were Christians. Yet there was no reason to kick them out of Mecca. Mecca was an open society, it believed in pluralism. People were free to worship whatever God they chose. There was even a picture of the virgin Merry and her son Jesus right in the middle of Kabba. But Mohammad didn’t want any of that, he wanted only Islam, and he wanted to convert all. This was the main reason he was kicked out. And it is partly true that Islam gave freedom to women according to the information we have about the pagan life, which is btw not much. In any case, that was relative to his time. And the civil laws he decreed were mentioned in Medinan verses, and it’s part of a whole structure of role assignment to each gender. But looking at those rights in comparison to Modern civil rights, they seem obsolete.
    Shareea was written after the prophet’s death, as was Quran in the form that we have today. But if the texts were not documented then, that does not mean that the laws were not applied. It’s part of Quran and tradition. Unless you are implying that Quran is not authentic? Then this is another case.
    Let me give you what modernization requires according to some philosophers:
    1-The elimination of earthy imperfection and divine perfection. Which means, Islam supposes that this life on earth is a test for the believer, a passing period in which a person should work hard for Hereafter. It requires perfectionism. But we know that people are imperfect, with the modern belief that life is beautiful and it’s worth living and enjoying every moment, how could that be accomplished?
    2-Appreciation of freedom, variety, and change. And this is radical when it comes to Islamic dogmas. Change threatens the security of the basics and is anxious towards the uncertainties. Variety involves the acceptance of other religions and quaranteeing them equal rights of worship. As well as accepting the nonbeliever’s right for not worshiping, and I do not see how Islamic States like Saudi Arabia can tolerate this.
    3-Individualistic humanism. Which basically means that each individual is free to choose his religion, his way of life and all the other personal freedom that a civil society grants him. This does not work with a totalitarian system of Islam. Personal freedom vanishes in the face of total advantage of the society.
    4- Skepticism about the supernatural; Miracles, spirits (Dgin), witchcraft and so forth are defied by the scientific minds of the modern individuals; yet, it’s a basic part in Moslems beliefs. How can you not believe in Dgins and witchcraft when they are mentioned in the Holy Scriptures? How can you not belief that a virgin could conceive? Or a fire cannot burn?

    If reformer are ready to change all this, then they might as well call it another name, not Islam.

    Reply

  5. malekifar
    Oct 07, 2007 @ 17:24:17

    http://zard.myblog.ir/

    now. I `m busy

    Reply

  6. WaGeF
    Oct 07, 2007 @ 18:47:18

    loved it , and the song was hmmmm extraordinary , keep it up , )
    i wanted to say something i mean to comment on something but now is not a good time perhaps later

    Reply

  7. AyyA
    Oct 07, 2007 @ 21:06:36

    Malekifar
    LOL, that was good, really good 😀

    WaGef
    Glad you enjoyed it. Waiting for your insight 🙂

    Reply

  8. MHG
    Oct 08, 2007 @ 07:53:26

    Ayya-

    This is an extremely interesting viewpoint. However, I have to disagree with most of what you arguments. Although you have some acute insights I must admit.

    1-Reformation is evident with a vigor throughout religious history. There have been volumes upon volumes of histriographic documentation attesting to this. To name one for example: Protestantism, at its inception was a reformation movement, and in comparison to Catholic ideology it certainly remains so to this day.

    2-You have provided an interesting definition of Islamic fundamentalism. One that is most probably you’re own interpretation, which is most acceptable. However, Islamic fundamental movements do not include the groups you’ve mentioned (i.e. Wahabi’s). Rather, they are Salafi movements, and they differ in every-way possible with fundamental movements. The only real fundamental movement we have in modern times are the Muslim Brotherhood. You should read the works of Hugh Leach on this or maybe John Esposito (Islam: The Straight Path).

    3-Islamic doctrine has much room for reform. More than we imagine. The Mutasarafiya movement enacted a pivotal aspect in Islamic jurisprudence: Ijtihad Al-Ray. Unfortunately Salafi movements in the 12th century decided to opt Ijtihad Al-Ray for Ijtihad Al-Qiyas, which also provides for strong interpretation, yet not as candidly as the former. Both are true in jurisprudential prisms. We only choose not to implement the more open route. (For more information refer to the work of Sohail Hashmi)

    4-It is extremely detrimental to make sweeping generalizations by stating that “mainstream Muslims do not accept reform.” First of all, there is no such thing as mainstream Islam-it exists in Judaism, possibly in Hindu and SOME Christian denominations, but certainly not in Islam. Islam is a pragmatic religion with more sects then you can count (they don’t confine to the Sunni-Shitte) and as such it is quite dangerous to say mainstream. It would be interesting if you meant more conservative Muslims and in that case, I would agree. But certainly not for religious reasons.

    5-You’re comment to Angelo. You noted that Sharia was written after the prophet’s death. I am sorry but thats simply untrue. You seem to confuse Sharia with Islamic law (and they diverge in more ways then a human mind can conceive). Sharia is the Quran and prophetic traditions. They ceased six months before their prophets death. Islamic law, like any other law, is an ongoing process that is open to new interpretation and Sharia is but one source of it. This is extremely reductionist of me, and I apologize but I don’t believe this is the forum to dichotomize between both. If you’re interested in learning more I urge you to refer to the work of Baber Johannsen. More specifically, his book: Contingency in a Sacred Law: Ethical Norms in the Muslim Fiqh. It’s half in English and half in German.

    Thanks again!

    Reply

  9. AyyA
    Oct 08, 2007 @ 10:14:53

    MHG
    It seems to me through the points that you mentioned that you’re reinstating the points I made even though you don’t agree with me on the general theme.
    1- What you said in this point I already mentioned in my post. Protestants and Catholics went through thirty years of bloody wars that lasted from the year1618AD to 1648AD, what a price for reform!
    2- I mentioned Wahabi’s movement because they were the first seeds of Salafi movement, even though the contemporary Salafis deny this fact. But nevertheless this is not the issue here and I won’t disagree with you on this one.
    3- This point reaffirms my point that any new reform would be faced with rejection, and may be wars, at least by some Islamic movements, if you don’t like “mainstream”.
    4- What I mentioned in this point was in response to Angelo when he said that shareea was written or documented after the death of the prophet, and that it was not applied at the time of Mohammad. However; I do realize that after Taliban regime in Afghanistan, hardly any Islamic state strictly applies the law of Shareea. Yet, civil laws, especially the ones concerning marriage and role assignments of genders, witness in courts, polygamy, divorce and so forth are applied in all Islamic states except the secular ones like turkey. Even Turkey is facing a lot of criticism from the hardliners. And if you can see that this could change, I don’t.
    Now the ultimate question without going into so much detail:
    This basic faith that humankind has lived by the earliest times, has been challenged in modern times with the development of reason and the advancement of science. Does lingering in religion really make sense any more? Or is it ultimately worthwhile?

    Reply

  10. WaGeF
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 03:39:14

    i guess the insight is gone ;/
    i want to bring ur attention to this ….
    http://fernas.blog.com/1543517/
    what i wana say is that i still think that the religion itself does accept reforming but the ppl am not so sure , however a look at fernas blog can really give us some hope for that matter .
    one last thing ;p
    naqee9at 3aQel wDeeN , eldeen we know how , w al3aQeL just by seeing all those women protesting against their rights … well do u beleave in miracles 😛

    Reply

  11. AyyA
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 04:45:01

    WaGef
    Not only religion, anything is liable for reform. Change is the only unchangeable fact in this universe. But religion is void of meaning without the dynamo behind it, which is the people who make it a way of life. Fernas here is an example of what I mentioned in my post that each individual has his own interpretation, he may have the linguistic ability to express it and convince himself and may be few others with it, but his interpretation is not necessarily accepted by the other Moslem sitting right next to him. Many don’t have that ability and keep their interpretations to themselves. And all I can say about his views is that his efforts are in vain. The real change is to keep religion away from our lives and go on with it. Lingering too much needs efforts and we have already exhausted all our effort in religion. It’s time to gather our efforts to produce something useful for human beings. It’s time to ask religion to stop meddling in our lives.
    As for naqisat 3aql (have less brains than men): No, I do not believe in miracles, but I do believe in psychology. Keep telling a stupid guy that he is smart and eventually he’d become one. And keep telling a smart guy that he’s stupid, he’ll also become one. This has been proven in psychology labs so many times, so what do you expect from women who have been taught for generations, along a millennium and a half, that they are naqisat 3aql? The miracle is that some of us still have brains. :p

    Reply

  12. Noufa
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 21:34:05

    Ayya the goddess of wisdom? Umm interesting 😛
    I enjoy reading your blog so much so keep it up 🙂

    Reply

  13. harmonie22
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 10:37:48

    Excellent post, as usual!

    Reply

  14. AyyA
    Oct 12, 2007 @ 05:56:05

    Noufa and Harmo
    :*

    Reply

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