Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts

#1
Turkey's attempt to modernise Islam.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7264903.stm

Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam - and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.

The country's powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.

The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad.

As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia.

This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation. Not exactly the same, but... it's changing the theological foundations of [the] religion

Fadi Hakura,
Turkey expert, Chatham House

But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam.

It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.

'Reformation'

Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion.

Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.

Some messages ban women from travelling without their husband's permission... But this isn't a religious ban. It came about because it simply wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone

Prof Mehmet Gormez,
Hadith expert,
Department of Religious Affairs

Turkish officials have been reticent about the revision of the Hadith until now, aware of the controversy it is likely to cause among traditionalist Muslims, but they have spoken to the BBC about the project, and their ambitious aims for it.

The forensic examination of the Hadiths has taken place in Ankara University's School of Theology.

An adviser to the project, Felix Koerner, says some of the sayings - also known individually as "hadiths" - can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.

"Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim - or pseudo-Muslim - practice of female genital mutilation," he says.

"You can find messages which say 'that is what the Prophet ordered us to do'. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition."

The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various - often conservative - cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control.

Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself.

Revolutionary

Turkey is intent on sweeping away that "cultural baggage" and returning to a form of Islam it claims accords with its original values and those of the Prophet.


Women are re-examining their portrayal in the scriptures

But this is where the revolutionary nature of the work becomes apparent. Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted.

Prof Mehmet Gormez, a senior official in the Department of Religious Affairs and an expert on the Hadith, gives a telling example.

"There are some messages that ban women from travelling for three days or more without their husband's permission and they are genuine.

"But this isn't a religious ban. It came about because in the Prophet's time it simply wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone like that. But as time has passed, people have made permanent what was only supposed to be a temporary ban for safety reasons."

The project justifies such bold interference in the 1,400-year-old content of the Hadith by rigorous academic research.

Prof Gormez points out that in another speech, the Prophet said "he longed for the day when a woman might travel long distances alone".

So, he argues, it is clear what the Prophet's goal was.

Original spirit

Yet, until now, the ban has remained in the text, and helps to restrict the free movement of some Muslim women to this day.

There's also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment... This does not exist in Islam... we have to explain that to them

Hulya Koc, a "vaize"

As part of its aggressive programme of renewal, Turkey has given theological training to 450 women, and appointed them as senior imams called "vaizes".

They have been given the task of explaining the original spirit of Islam to remote communities in Turkey's vast interior.

One of the women, Hulya Koc, looked out over a sea of headscarves at a town meeting in central Turkey and told the women of the equality, justice and human rights guaranteed by an accurate interpretation of the Koran - one guided and confirmed by the revised Hadith.

She says that, at the moment, Islam is being widely used to justify the violent suppression of women.

"There are honour killings," she explains.

"We hear that some women are being killed when they marry the wrong person or run away with someone they love.

"There's also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment by uncles and others. This does not exist in Islam... we have to explain that to them."

'New Islam'

According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam - changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy.

He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam.

"This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation," he says.

"Not exactly the same, but if you think, it's changing the theological foundations of [the] religion. "

Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam.

Now, he says, "they are trying to fashion a new Islam."

Significantly, the "Ankara School" of theologians working on the new Hadith have been using Western critical techniques and philosophy.

They have also taken an even bolder step - rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones.

"You have to see them as a whole," says Fadi Hakura.

"You can't say, for example, that the verses of violence override the verses of peace. This is used a lot in the Middle East, this kind of ideology.

"I cannot impress enough how fundamental [this change] is."
 
#2
Ah yes, this was on Radio 4 this morning.

I'm a little wary of anyone bandying "Reformation" around, but this approach could make for a healthy change from the usual infighting one sees; the self-conscious "Reformers" on the one hand (Irshad Manji et al), and the year-zero types on the other, who between them have about 20 ahadith to quote...
 
#3
I'm not that familiar with the Turkish situation, but I don't think that these changes are that radical - it sounds like the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs is laying down ground rules for the correct interpretation of the hadith, roughly in line with what most religious authorities (outside Saudi Arabia) would agree with. There's always been a huge number of hadiths which were thought to be weak or incorrect.

Having said that, it's an interesting move - perhaps the Turkish scholars want to create more home-grown expertise so that they can challenge Saudi teaching more effectively. It wouldn't suprise if the current government hadn't at least attempted to improve the quality of Islamic teaching in recent years for the same reason.
 

TheIronDuke

ADC
Book Reviewer
#6
cpunk said:
Mod note: Jenny Agutter has gone to the Naafi with her knockers. Let's try to stay on topic
What the frock have Jenny Agutters knockers got to do with a serious discussuion of the de-radicalisation of Islam in the modern world you demented frocking...

Ah. Hi. A Mod. Sorry pal. I didnt notice.

So, do you think Turkey can pull it off? Like Jenny did with her top in Logans Run. Or not?
 

TheIronDuke

ADC
Book Reviewer
#7
Mr_Deputy said:
surely its being done so they can get into Europe.
Partly I think. But also, Turkey has for some time been trying to steer a course away from their long time enemies to the South, the Gulf Arabs.

There is a very heavy theological debate behind this one, which I wont pretend to understand. But in Geo-Political terms this has to be a good move?

As for Turkey joining the EU? Its bigger than the EU. And take a look at the infrastructure West of Ankara. Its a right mess.

Its going to be one hell of a bill to pay. Maybe the price could be re-writing Islam as a slightly more moderate religion?
 
#8
Yes I don't think this has so much to do with EU membership. Turkey historically has taken a more common sense approach to separating government and religion. Ataturk is revered perhaps equally as Mohammad. And it seems the constant waving of the carrot of EU membership so to do the West's bidding is wearing thin in Turkey.

An Islamic reformation has to be a good thing. However, whatever Turkey does, I doubt it will have much of an impact on the wider Islamic world. But a new modernised framework for Islam might be useful for Muslims living in western democracies?

IronDuke don't you mean East of Ankara?

TheIronDuke said:
Mr_Deputy said:
surely its being done so they can get into Europe.
Partly I think. But also, Turkey has for some time been trying to steer a course away from their long time enemies to the South, the Gulf Arabs.

There is a very heavy theological debate behind this one, which I wont pretend to understand. But in Geo-Political terms this has to be a good move?

As for Turkey joining the EU? Its bigger than the EU. And take a look at the infrastructure West of Ankara. Its a right mess.

Its going to be one hell of a bill to pay. Maybe the price could be re-writing Islam as a slightly more moderate religion?
 
#9
PsyWar.Org said:
Turkey's attempt to modernise Islam.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7264903.stm
...
Between aprox. 500-1000 (maybe 1500) AD, Islam was very different to what the fundamentalists claim to be Islam ATM. The Islamic world used to be way ahead of Christendom until the reformation/renaissance.

Something changed in Islam a fair while ago that changed it from a forward thinking religion to a backward one.
 
#10
TheIronDuke said:
Its going to be one hell of a bill to pay. Maybe the price could be re-writing Islam as a slightly more moderate religion?
Whilst it's not the best certainly would it really be that bad? Spain and Portugal were in fairly bad shape when they first joined the European Community back in the mid-80s or how bad Romania is today as we're letting them in. Just looking at GDP - I know it's not greatly representative of things but we're just talking broad strokes here - Turkey's is 401,763 (millions of USD). Only Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands are larger in the EU. Turkey outstrips the other 21 EU member states and in some cases by a very large margin.

Now of course there's no arguing that a lot of it's infrastructure is spotty and needs a lot of work doing to to, although can we really talk - hello British road and rail networks, but I don't think it'd be the black hole it could of been as long as you do it over a sensible time frame and target the correct things to spend the cash on. Just look at how Spain was able to spend the development aid they received to dramatically upgrade their national infrastructure.

But to get back onto the original topic of the thread for the moment I have to say this looks like it could be an incredibly good thing both for the religion of Islam itself and the Middle East region itself.
 

TheIronDuke

ADC
Book Reviewer
#11
PsyWar.Org said:
IronDuke don't you mean East of Ankara?
I meant North. Up around Mashhad. I meant a new, Northern Islam axis. I meant the home of the Prophet. The home of Sufi. The home of Islam we can deal with.

But if you want a chi-chi Rolex, or a Swiss hooker, buzz down the gulf. You can trust those boys, no error. Give my best to Osama's family?
 
#12
Interpretation .. .. and in there lays the danger!

Be it extreem or moderate, it causes the splits in huamnity.

Is this not another bloody good reason for the Law of the Land to be secular and IF you want to be following religious law, it always has to come second!
 
#13
TheIronDuke said:
PsyWar.Org said:
IronDuke don't you mean East of Ankara?
I meant North. Up around Mashhad. I meant a new, Northern Islam axis. I meant the home of the Prophet. The home of Sufi. The home of Islam we can deal with.

But if you want a chi-chi Rolex, or a Swiss hooker, buzz down the gulf. You can trust those boys, no error. Give my best to Osama's family?
:? I think we're at cross-purposes here. I thought you were originally referring to Turkey's infrastructure west of Ankara. The west of the country is the industrialised part with all the major cities, whereas as the east of Turkey is more agricultural based, and more religious.

The infrastructure in the west of the country isn’t too bad, and as was mentioned above could be brought up to European standards with some investment. The major problem for Turkey is their economy, they need to get a handle on inflation. The country, both the infrastructure and economy reminds me of 1970’s Britain.
 
#14
Good luck to Turkey with this. I've been a couple of times and found it an incredible place.

I can see this creating a lot of trouble though. You'll have two people invoking the same god for opposing points of view? Perhaps the solution is to cut the whole god bit out entirely.
 
#15
well done Turkey, good luck with your reformation, going on how the christian reformation went on, i guess in a hundred years or so we might have a conclusive result.................

............ now if the west could only start a reformation towards moderating religious fundamentalism in the US. :roll:
 
#16
make sure we only import approved turkish inmans
rather than fuckwits from pakistan and saudi
might be a bit tricky though
 
#17
the topic of this thread could be the greatest long term move towards ending middle east islamic fundamentalism yet taken.

and yet theres almost no comment or disscussion from members of these boards.

I guess then that gov of a large nation of Muslims calling for moderation and the curbing of thier more radical brothers isnt as interesting a topic to some as the ranting of the minority of Muslim bigots who called for international Sharia law.
 
#18
DrStealth said:
the topic of this thread could be the greatest long term move towards ending middle east islamic fundamentalism yet taken.

and yet theres almost no comment or disscussion from members of these boards.
I'm just not sure its impact will be that significant outside, or even inside Turkey. Wild-eyed Saudis aren't going to suddenly go 'You know, what, they're right!' and flock to the joys of raki, football and porn.

People always say the problem with Islam is that it never had a Reformation, but that assumes European history is a template that can be applied to the rest of the world. If anything, the problem is the Islamic 'Counter-Reformation', which it had in the 19th c, and which we're still stuck with...
 
#19
DrStealth wrote:

the topic of this thread could be the greatest long term move towards ending middle east islamic fundamentalism yet taken.

and yet theres almost no comment or disscussion from members of these boards.

I guess then that gov of a large nation of Muslims calling for moderation and the curbing of thier more radical brothers isnt as interesting a topic to some as the ranting of the minority of Muslim bigots who called for international Sharia law.
It could be a hopeful sign but it could be to do with Turkey wanting to join the EU and/or some internal battle brought about by the victory of the softly-softly Islamic party they have there. Personally didn't comment precisely cos I didn't want to be too cynical.
 
#20

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