July 30th, 2005

His Evil White Majesty

Is Moderate Islam A Myth?

From Little Green Footballs and The Spectator comes The Myth of Moderate Islam:

It is probably true that in every faith ordinary people will pick the parts they like best and practise those, while the scholars will work out an official version. In Islam the scholars had a particularly challenging task, given the mass of contradictory texts within the Koran. To meet this challenge they developed the rule of abrogation, which states that wherever contradictions are found, the later-dated text abrogates the earlier one. To elucidate further the original intention of Mohammed, they referred to traditions (hadith) recording what he himself had said and done. Sadly for the rest of the world, both these methods led Islam away from peace and towards war. For the peaceable verses of the Koran are almost all earlier, dating from Mohammed’s time in Mecca, while those which advocate war and violence are almost all later, dating from after his flight to Medina. Though jihad has a variety of meanings, including a spiritual struggle against sin, Mohammed’s own example shows clearly that he frequently interpreted jihad as literal warfare and himself ordered massacre, assassination and torture. From these sources the Islamic scholars developed a detailed theology dividing the world into two parts, Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam, with Muslims required to change Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam either through warfare or da’wa (mission).

So the mantra ‘Islam is peace’ is almost 1,400 years out of date. It was only for about 13 years that Islam was peace and nothing but peace. From 622 onwards it became increasingly aggressive, albeit with periods of peaceful co-existence, particularly in the colonial period, when the theology of war was not dominant. For today’s radical Muslims — just as for the mediaeval jurists who developed classical Islam — it would be truer to say ‘Islam is war’. One of the most radical Islamic groups in Britain, al-Ghurabaa, stated in the wake of the two London bombings, ‘Any Muslim that denies that terror is a part of Islam is kafir.’ A kafir is an unbeliever (i.e., a non-Muslim), a term of gross insult.


This isn’t just a litany of infamy, however. Sookhdeo outlines a difficult path toward evolution of a true moderate Islam:

Muslims must stop this self-deception. They must with honesty recognise the violence that has existed in their history in the same way that Christians have had to do, for Christianity has a very dark past. Some Muslims have, with great courage, begun to do this.

Secondly, they must look at the reinterpretation of their texts, the Koran, hadith and Sharia, and the reformation of their faith. Mundir Badr Haloum has described this as ‘exorcising’ the terrorism from Islam. Mahmud Muhammad Taha argued for a distinction to be drawn between the Meccan and the Medinan sections of the Koran. He advocated a return to peaceable Meccan Islam, which he argued is applicable to today, whereas the bellicose Medinan teachings should be consigned to history. For taking this position he was tried for apostasy, found guilty and executed by the Sudanese government in 1985. Another modernist reformer was the Pakistani Fazlur Rahman, who advocated the ‘double movement’; i.e., understanding Koranic verses in their context, their ratio legis, and then using the philosophy of the Koran to interpret that in a modern, social and moral sense. Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd, an Egyptian professor who argued similarly that the Koran and hadith should be interpreted according to the context in which they originated, was charged with apostasy, found guilty in June 1995 and ordered to separate from his wife.

The US-based Free Muslims Coalition, which was set up after 9/11 to promote a modern and secular version of Islam, has proposed the following:

1. A re-interpretation of Islam for the 21st century, where terrorism is not justified under any circumstances.
2. Separation of religion and state.
3. Democracy as the best form of government.
4. Secularism in all forms of political activity.
5. Equality for women.
6. Religion to be a personal relationship between the individual and his or her God, not to be forced on anyone.


So that's what went wrong with Islam. I've been wondering about this for quite some time. And this goes along with my idea that just as Christianity had to reform itslef from within, so to must Muslims take responsibility for their religion and its future.