Islam needs its reformation

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There has been little new Islamic theology, jurisprudence or reinterpretation of scripture in centuries. This has lead to Islam failing to meet the needs of contemporary times. Some social commentators have called for Islam go undergo a period of renewal along the lines of the Protestant Reformation.

"Given the constraints of Muslim orthodoxy, given the penalties within Islam for a radical (and reasonable) adaptation to modernity, I think it is clear that Islam must find some way to revise itself, peacefully or otherwise."

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

During the Reformation, writers such as Martin Luther brought new ideas into Christianity, including:

  • Making scripture more accessible and comprehensible to rank and file believers
  • Purifying religion by emphasising scriptural authority, rather than institutional authority
  • Scripture can be interpreted directly without referring to "sacred tradition" - being the traditional view of institutional authorities.

The political reforms that followed the Reformation, such as freedom of religion, were arguably an inadvertent side effect of Protestants trying to assert their own religious identity. Because the New Testament supported no particular form of government, reform was possible. However, Islam appears to promote theocracy, which makes political reform less likely. Islam is also suspicious of rationality, which is required for any re-interpretation to have weight. [1]

"A liberal Muslim can argue, with some reason, that Mohammed put more emphasis on compassion than his contemporaries did, but cannot deny that he affirmed a basically theocratic ideal. By contrast, Christianity’s founding texts do authorise a radical break with theocratic violence.[2]"

There are few Muslims calling for significant reforms. Muhammad Iqbal's The Reconstruction of Religious Thought is one work that calls for re-examination of the foundations of Islam. Reformers within Islam often face persecution, exile or death. [1]

Alternative views

"Islamism must be challenged by an enlightenment, not a reformation. (Some would argue that Isis is Islam’s reformation.) [3]"
"We shouldn’t export terminology. Islam doesn’t need a reformation, but Muslims need to reform their minds, their interpretations of Islam, which is not exactly the same as what you [went] through because we don’t have a church.[4]"

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. [4]

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