Muslim reformists say Islam Needs an Age of Reason

#1
Islam Needs an Age of Reason

Love and religion do not always mix. No wonder the most common question sent to my website these days comes from young Muslims in America and Europe. They desperately want to know if they can marry non-Muslims.

Their parents and imams tell them that Islam forbids marriage outside the faith. But that is not necessarily true. Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, a progressive American imam educated at traditional universities in the Middle East, has written a clear defense of inter-faith marriage from an Islamic perspective. I have posted his “blessing” on my website.

Now, this interfaith blessing is such a popular download that I have had to get it translated into several languages to keep up with demand. Welcome to a hot 21st-Century issue, as more Muslims are born in the West or migrate to it, then meet people of other religions.

What this imam did goes beyond matters of the heart. It reflects the power of using the mind to reinterpret the Qur’an for contemporary times. He has captured the spirit of ijtihad (pronounced ij-tee-had), Islam’s own tradition of creative reasoning. As globalization persists and pluralism spreads, both Muslims and non-Muslims need to know that Islam offers a positive alternative to the tribal mentality.

Ijtihad has a history of achievement. In the early centuries of Islam, 135 schools of interpretation flourished. In Muslim Spain, scholars would teach their students to abandon "expert" opinions about the Qur’an if their conversations with the living, breathing Qur’an produced better evidence for their peaceful ideas.

From the 8th to the 12th centuries, the "gates of ijtihad" — of discussion, debate and dissent — remained wide open. This is also when Islamic civilization led the world in ingenuity. If ever we Muslims needed to renew our commitment to ijtihad, it is now. From the emerging generation, I continually hear this question: “Is there a way to reconcile our faith with freedom of thought?”

Yes, there is. The Qur’an contains three times as many verses calling on us to think than verses that tell us what is forbidden or acceptable. In that sense, re-interpretation – which means re-thinking Qur’anic passages, not re-writing them – is an Islamic responsibility. The Illinois-based Nawawi Foundation even describes it as a “religious duty of the first magnitude”.

That is why I and other young Muslims have launched Project Ijtihad, an effort to revive critical thinking in Islam by sparking honest debates both online and in person.... After all, it is in countries like the United States, Canada and Britain that we already enjoy precious freedoms to think, express, challenge and be challenged on matters of interpretation. What a precious gift.

But even if Project Ijtihad is launched from the West, it cannot stop in the West. People throughout the Islamic world need to know of their God-given right to think for themselves.

In the Islamic world, renewing ijtihad might start with liberating the entrepreneurial talents of Muslim women through micro-business loans. The Qur’an states that women are subject to men’s authority only if men spend money to "maintain" women. So if a woman earns her own assets, as did the Prophet Muhammad’s beloved first wife, Khadija, she can make decisions for herself.

Sound like a fantasy? Then consider this example. A journalist told me about meeting a woman in Kabul who took a tiny loan from a non-governmental organization. She started a candle-making business and, with her earnings, became literate.

For the first time ever, this woman read the Qur’an for herself rather than relying on local imams to select the passages she would see. She learned that the Qur’an gives all women the right to reject marriage. And if women choose marriage, the Qur’an advises them to draft contracts protecting their rights as equal creatures of God.

She recited these passages to her husband, who had been abusing her for years. Since then, he has not laid an unwanted finger on her. Could it be that what the United Nations has identified as key deficits in the Arab Muslim world — the deficits of knowledge, freedom and women’s empowerment — might all benefit from rediscovering ijtihad? The possibility begs for our attention.

Project Ijtihad is strengthened by the voices of others who are encouraging Muslims to change. Consider the words of Dr. Taj Hargey, chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre at Oxford in the UK. During the recent controversy over whether Muslim women in Britain should veil, he wrote: “In contrast to a blind acceptance of specific 7th-Century tribal Arabian dress and cultural norms, which have no eternal scriptural endorsement (as believers are required only to be modest), modern Muslims should revive the Islamic principle of ijtihad to interpret the faith for themselves.”
A senior fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy, Irshad Manji is author of the New York Times bestseller "The Trouble with Islam Today," creator of the PBS documentary, “Faith Without Fear” and founder of Project Ijtihad, an international network of reform-minded Muslims.

In full

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/..._defense_for_interfait.html?hpid=opinionsbox1


http://www.myspace.com/projectijtihad
 
#2
A week or so ago, I went to the Southall district west of London. I was struck by the fact that I only saw one white face the whole time I was there. I came away with the impression that there is a large Muslim community there of whom many of its members have little contact with the British community at large. In effect, they exist in a state within a state.

This is a sad indictment of Labour's long held policy of multi-cuilturism, which they are only now beginning to realise is coming back to bite them in the arrse. I think it is fair to say that our Septic cousins have been far more successful in this regard. Their Muslim community seem far better integrated. Sure they keep their faith and traditions, but they consider themselves loyal Americans and are very much part of the community at large... or at least that's the impression I get from my side of the pond.

Reformation of the Muslim faith is the only way forward. It is now starting to happen. To cut a long story short, 500 or so years ago, some Arab leader a) raided one of Ghengis Khan's caravans, and b) returned the heads of the envoys Khan sent to demand reparations... mistake... BIG BIG MISTAKE. As a result of a two century Mongol rape and pillage fest (in which many enlightened Muslims died, and many priceless scientific manuscripts of Islamic origin were lost) Islam took a real knock. With their present and future taken away, they looked more and more to the past, and they have been stuck there ever since. Fast forward to Napoleon's conquest of Egypt, various British Imperial battles such as Omdurman and much more recently, the Arab-Israeli wars, the Islamic world is now starting to realise big-time how much catching up it has to do.

The only way forward would seem to be a full scale reformation of the Muslim faith. Islam as it is practiced today treats women - ie half their population - as 2nd class citizens and actively discourages independent thinking. How many 1st rate Muslim scientists are there for examle? Precious few! Sharia law has a distinctly pre-medieval feel to it, there is little if any distinction between church and state. In short, they are still locked in the past.

Reform is the only way forward. It is happening - gradually - but progress is slow. Any suggestions from outside seem to be treated as an attack on Islam, and we are now having to deal with an inevitable hard line Islamic back-lash. The reformation of Islam will only come from within Islam itself, which is why people such as Irshad Manji should be given every encouragement. Remember that the Christian Reformation was a long blood-stained process. IMHO the Muslims will get there, but probably not in my life-time.

SLR (Not to be confused with SLR Boy).
 

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
There need to be many more people like this chap, spreading the word (delicately) to the rest of Islam. As SLR said, the Muslim religion needs to come out of the dark ages, and bring its captive cultures with it.

When the oil runs out in the ME, the voice of the Arab people is going to get MUCH quieter, and they will be on very poor trading terms with the rest of the planet. If they get with the program, move the religion forward, and thus, their people, they may yet be able to find a place in global commerce and even get past the long memory of the West in relation to current and past sins.

Failure to do so, and sticking to strict religious dogma will see them back in the poor house, with NO money, and NO culture that anyone else is even remotely interested in.
 
#4
Multiculturism is a failure. It would only have a chance of working if ALL sides were willing to meet in the middle. From what I see, the Muslim community seem to be bound by their tight interpretation of their holy books.

Anyway, this Imam is going in to my Dead Pool ;-)
 
#5
Agree that as soon as we begin to move away from oil based energy the muslim world will be told where to get off in no uncertain terms. They offer nothing to the wider world but are pi$$ing it off which will reap the whirlwind one day.

Trying to force this extremist attitude on the rest of us as muslims do and don't be surprised when we reply with extreme measures. I for one am sick and tired of intollerance, murder and torture being excused as the word of god. Its not its barbaric and needs to be pointed out as so.
 
#6
There is also this interesting article (from ancient history, 2002) on the "modern" Islamic approach to science:

Islamic failure by Pervez Hoodbhoy
One of Pakistan's leading scientists gives a frank account of the political and intellectual backwardness of the Islamic world.

Pervez Amir Ali Hoodbhoy is professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.

Today, Muslims number one billion. Of the 48 countries with a full or near Muslim majority, none has yet evolved a stable, democratic political system. In fact, all Muslim countries are dominated by self-serving corrupt elites who cynically advance their personal interests and steal resources from their people. None of these countries has a viable educational system or a university of international stature.

...

Reason, too, has been waylaid. You will seldom see a Muslim name as you flip through scientific journals and, if you do, the chances are that this person lives in the west. There are a few exceptions: Pakistani Abdus Salam, together with Americans Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow, won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1979.

...

Although genuine scientific achievement is rare in the contemporary Muslim world, pseudo-science is in generous supply. A former chairman of my physics department in Islamabad has calculated the speed of heaven. He maintains it is receding from Earth at one centimetre per second less than the speed of light.
 
#7
Idrach said:
There is also this interesting article (from ancient history, 2002) on the "modern" Islamic approach to science:

Islamic failure by Pervez Hoodbhoy
One of Pakistan's leading scientists gives a frank account of the political and intellectual backwardness of the Islamic world.

Pervez Amir Ali Hoodbhoy is professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.

Today, Muslims number one billion. Of the 48 countries with a full or near Muslim majority, none has yet evolved a stable, democratic political system. In fact, all Muslim countries are dominated by self-serving corrupt elites who cynically advance their personal interests and steal resources from their people. None of these countries has a viable educational system or a university of international stature.

...

Reason, too, has been waylaid. You will seldom see a Muslim name as you flip through scientific journals and, if you do, the chances are that this person lives in the west. There are a few exceptions: Pakistani Abdus Salam, together with Americans Steven Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow, won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1979.

...

Although genuine scientific achievement is rare in the contemporary Muslim world, pseudo-science is in generous supply. A former chairman of my physics department in Islamabad has calculated the speed of heaven. He maintains it is receding from Earth at one centimetre per second less than the speed of light.
:D Does mean that the virgins are getting away from the suicide bombers? :D
 
#8
I recalled this BBC piece from 2004 which demonstrates that enlightenment has occurred in an unexpected place:

Against a desert backdrop, surrounded by parched yellow-earth hills, an army of worshippers sing devotional chants as they march through a compound to the central mosque.

Ningxia province is the heartland of Islam in China - and the base of Hong Yang, a Muslim leader who commands a million Chinese followers.

Religious freedom is laid down in the Chinese constitution, but Hong Yang admits there are limits.

"It depends on how you interpret the word freedom. Our religious freedom cannot compare with other countries. We're only free to practice within the boundaries set by Chinese law and policy," he said.

"But we don't want to overstep those limits, as that might create conflict and instability for the whole society."

[align=center]........[/align]

But Muslims in the province are pushing forward the barriers of faith - with unique results.

Jin Meihua is at the forefront of those changes. Her head covered with a lilac scarf, she teaches passages from the Koran to other women.

The 40-year-old wife and mother is one of a handful of Chinese female imams.

"I felt I couldn't be a true Muslim if I didn't understand Islam. I craved knowledge, so I went to the imam and asked his permission to study in the mosque," she said.

[align=center]........[/align]

Beijing's tight control over religious practice means Chinese Muslims have been isolated from trends sweeping through the rest of the Islamic world.

According to Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl from the University of California in Los Angeles, that means that ancient traditions like female jurists - which have been stamped out elsewhere - have been able to continue in China.

"The Wahhabi and Salafis have not been able to penetrate areas like China and establish their puritanical creed there," said Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl.

"That's a good thing, as it means that perhaps from the margins of Islam the great tradition of women jurists might be rekindled."
It seems ironic that the place where enlightened thinking and practice within Islam has been happening is a place where enlightened thinking on the whole is not encouraged.
 
#9
DozyBint said:
I recalled this BBC piece from 2004 which demonstrates that enlightenment has occurred in an unexpected place:

Against a desert backdrop, surrounded by parched yellow-earth hills, an army of worshippers sing devotional chants as they march through a compound to the central mosque.

Ningxia province is the heartland of Islam in China - and the base of Hong Yang, a Muslim leader who commands a million Chinese followers.

Religious freedom is laid down in the Chinese constitution, but Hong Yang admits there are limits.

"It depends on how you interpret the word freedom. Our religious freedom cannot compare with other countries. We're only free to practice within the boundaries set by Chinese law and policy," he said.

"But we don't want to overstep those limits, as that might create conflict and instability for the whole society."

[align=center]........[/align]

But Muslims in the province are pushing forward the barriers of faith - with unique results.

Jin Meihua is at the forefront of those changes. Her head covered with a lilac scarf, she teaches passages from the Koran to other women.

The 40-year-old wife and mother is one of a handful of Chinese female imams.

"I felt I couldn't be a true Muslim if I didn't understand Islam. I craved knowledge, so I went to the imam and asked his permission to study in the mosque," she said.

[align=center]........[/align]

Beijing's tight control over religious practice means Chinese Muslims have been isolated from trends sweeping through the rest of the Islamic world.

According to Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl from the University of California in Los Angeles, that means that ancient traditions like female jurists - which have been stamped out elsewhere - have been able to continue in China.

"The Wahhabi and Salafis have not been able to penetrate areas like China and establish their puritanical creed there," said Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl.

"That's a good thing, as it means that perhaps from the margins of Islam the great tradition of women jurists might be rekindled."
It seems ironic that the place where enlightened thinking and practice within Islam has been happening is a place where enlightened thinking on the whole is not encouraged.
Good point, well raised there mate.
It does appear that the Muslim world is being moved and dictated by the Wahabbis etc. Their take on the holy books is being taken as the way forwards. So therefore we know where the "problem" lies...
 
#10
DozyBint said:
I recalled this BBC piece from 2004 which demonstrates that enlightenment has occurred in an unexpected place:

Against a desert backdrop, surrounded by parched yellow-earth hills, an army of worshippers sing devotional chants as they march through a compound to the central mosque.

Ningxia province is the heartland of Islam in China - and the base of Hong Yang, a Muslim leader who commands a million Chinese followers.

Religious freedom is laid down in the Chinese constitution, but Hong Yang admits there are limits.

"It depends on how you interpret the word freedom. Our religious freedom cannot compare with other countries. We're only free to practice within the boundaries set by Chinese law and policy," he said.

"But we don't want to overstep those limits, as that might create conflict and instability for the whole society."

[align=center]........[/align]

But Muslims in the province are pushing forward the barriers of faith - with unique results.

Jin Meihua is at the forefront of those changes. Her head covered with a lilac scarf, she teaches passages from the Koran to other women.

The 40-year-old wife and mother is one of a handful of Chinese female imams.

"I felt I couldn't be a true Muslim if I didn't understand Islam. I craved knowledge, so I went to the imam and asked his permission to study in the mosque," she said.

[align=center]........[/align]

Beijing's tight control over religious practice means Chinese Muslims have been isolated from trends sweeping through the rest of the Islamic world.

According to Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl from the University of California in Los Angeles, that means that ancient traditions like female jurists - which have been stamped out elsewhere - have been able to continue in China.

"The Wahhabi and Salafis have not been able to penetrate areas like China and establish their puritanical creed there," said Dr Khaled Abou el Fadl.

"That's a good thing, as it means that perhaps from the margins of Islam the great tradition of women jurists might be rekindled."
It seems ironic that the place where enlightened thinking and practice within Islam has been happening is a place where enlightened thinking on the whole is not encouraged.
I was told the main reason is that the bulk of Sharia was based on pre-existing Arab custom rather than actual Islamic teaching. Take the religion away from a regressive culture and there are more than a few examples around the world where it's an overwhelmingly positive force. China doesn't particularly like outside forces influencing their citizens and there's no real desire amongst ethnic Chinese to be anything other, regardless of religion or lack thereof, so Arabism didn't take hold.

Anyone remember the Malaysian Red Crescent team that worked around SW Boz in the mid 1990s? I always thought they were great ambassadors for their country and religion.
 
#11
Biped said:
There need to be many more people like this chap, spreading the word (delicately) to the rest of Islam.
Er... actually Irshad Manji is a chapess. She is also a lesbian, which is a huge pity as it gives the gay hating Muslim fundamentalists all the excuse they need to shoot the messenger without addressing the message.

IMHO Irshad is a grade a genuine heroine. There are all sorts of Islamonazi nutters out to get her, which means that she has literally put her life on the line to get her message across.

I salute her.

SLR (|Not to be confused with SLR Boy)

P.S. She is also reasonably easy on the eye :D
 
#12
One thing that always strikes me is that the accepted method of expressing a viewpoint in Islamic countries is through a screaming mob of banner-wavers.

Enthusiasm is one thing, but it really makes me wonder sometimes ...

I congratulate Ms Manji on expressing what many seem to think ... it may be time for Islam to emerge from the Dark Ages.
 

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