Rethinking Islamic Reform


This debate has taken place in London, Sheldonian Theatre, on 26th May 2010 . Guest Speakers:
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson and Professor Tariq Ramadan



In the post 9/11 world, it has grown to be an axiomatic truth that Islam needs to reform. Whether it is Western policy-makers seeking to protect themselves from Muslim extremists, humanitarian activists fighting to liberate silenced Muslims, or Muslims themselves responding to new paradigms faced in the 21st century, all are agreed that something within the tradition of Islam needs to change. The question though, is what, and perhaps more pertinently, how?

The drive to reform has spurred many projects with diverging aims and often contradictory trajectories, yet the notion of reform itself, despite being one of the most oft-repeated, remains ill-defined. Indeed, some reform projects have been judged to be wholly inattentive, if not injurious, to the Muslim communities they claim to be serving. Most recently, a House of Commons’ Committee highlighted the sensitivity of the issue, reporting that much of the effort towards reform has resulted in ‘stigmatising’ and ‘potentially alienating’ the Muslim community.

Considering widespread readiness to support Islamic reform, effective management and guidance must be provided to ensure the success of this pursuit. Thus, at this decisive historical juncture, it is crucial that voices which command the intellectual respect and trust of the Muslim public are engaged. Our two esteemed guest speakers, Hamza Yusuf and Tariq Ramadan, provide precisely that: the leading figures in this field, both are active and sensitive contributors to Western political discourse whilst being able to authoritatively communicate mainstream Islamic opinions to Western audiences.

Invitations for this event will extend to ministers, policy advisors, think tanks, journalists, theologians, scholars and other public figures with an interest in the field of Islamic Reform.

Drawing on the expertise of the speakers and that of the prospective audience, this instructive conference will therefore seek to clarify and answer: What is reform? What is legitimate reform? What are its spheres and remits? Why have reform movements been met with distrust and trepidation by the Muslim grass-roots? What roles, if any, should governments play in Islamic reform? What are the challenges they face?

Ultimately, this conference aims to address: What type of reform is needed, and how should this reform come into effect?


8 Commentaires

  1. “And this is what Islam has to say to the people of the Americas (and through them to all the non-white Westernized persons in the world): ‘Together, liberation theology more Latin American Left more Islam, we can prevent the seemingly imminent and inevitable bursting of the 3rd World War and re-establish a new order truly universal!’ ” — with these words I happen to end “What Islam has to say to the Americas”, a page of “The open way”: in summary, the result of an intense effort I have been doing throughout these last nearly 4 years to share with people the way God has allowed me to experience the message of the Koran.
    So, with all humility, and only for the sake of Islam, I dare to invite here all the participants of this forum to take cognizance of such an approach, which tries to demonstrate (or, at least, to indicate) the factual existence of fundamental (historic and ideological) commonalities (already grasped by many but never related fully) between these 3 important movements favorable to some sort of fusion which could not result in nothing less than that so expected restoration of the original Islam. This, just because I could not here in one sole stroke to picture it to you in detail without threatening the consistency of the argument.
    God be my witness that this appeal has nothing to do with personal promotion! And that, after your preliminary contact with such a surprisingly revolutionary proposal, I return here to discuss with you whatever you think to be necessary — if that come to be the case. Thanks for your patience.

  2. There was a mention of the so-called “fatwa” of Mardin made by Ibn Taymiyya al-Harrani. Note that the fatwa in its entirety is invalid, mostly because Ibn Taymiyya himself was known as a heterodox and weak individual. Imam Ibn Hajar writes in al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyya:

    ” Ibn Taymiyya is a servant which Allah forsook, misguided, blinded, deafened, and debased. That is the declaration of the imams who have exposed the corruption of his positions and the mendacity of his sayings. Whoever wishes to pursue this must read the words of the mujtahid imam Abu al-Hasan (Taqi al-Din) al-Subki, of his son Taj al-Din Subki, of the Imam al-`Izz ibn Jama`a and others of the Shafi`i, Maliki, and Hanafi shaykhs… It must be considered that he is a misguided and misguiding innovator (mubtadi` dall mudill) and an ignorant who brought evil (jahilun ghalun) whom Allah treated with His justice. May He protect us from the likes of his path, doctrine, and actions!… Know that he has differed from people on questions about which Taj al-Din Ibn al-Subki and others warned us.”

    To add to this, even the members of the Wahhabi sect, such as Rabi` ibn Hadi al-Madhkhali, agree that Ibn Taymiyya is not an authority, when he says:

    “I didn’t find this hadith and I am afraid that Shaykh ul-Islam [Ibn Taymiyya]’s mind has gone to the other hadith of Abu Hurayra (ra), that says “Allah has angels wandering on earth, in addition to what is in the record of deeds of the people; and when they find a group remembering Allah, they call each other ‘come unto what you desired’ and they come. And they surround them until the lowest sky. Allahs says, ‘what were My servants doing when you left them?’ They say, ‘we left them thanking You, praising You and remembering You.’…” Imam Ahmad, 2/251, Tirmidhi 5/579, 130 Chapter of what has been narrated regarding what Allah has wandering angels on earth. Tirmidhi said the hadith is hasanan sahih, #3600, and Ad-Darimi 2/225, hadith #2777″

    Of course, this is by the member of Ibn Taymiyya’s own sect, who called him weak. Amongst the most staunchest of those who called Ibn Taymiyya to have disbelieved is Imam Zahid al-Kawthari, may Allah have mercy upon him, who states in his “al-Maqalat”:

    ” In al-Ta’sis fi Radd Asas al-Taqdis (“The Laying of the Foundation: A Refutation of al-Razi’s “The Foundation of Allah’s Sanctification”) Ibn Taymiyya says: “Al-`arsh (the throne) in language means al-sarir (elevated seat or couch), so named with respect to what is on top of it, just as the roof is so named with respect to what is under it. Therefore, if the Qur’an attributes a throne to Allah, it is then known that this throne is, with respect to Allah, like the elevated seat is with respect to other than Allah. This makes it necessarily true that He is on top of the throne.” So then the throne is, for Ibn Taymiyya, Allah’s seat (maq`ad)- Exalted is He from such a notion! ”

    Ibn Taymiyya is also well noted for his aberrant and heretodox opinions. The following is a listed from Imam Ibn Hajar’s al-Fatawa al-Hadithiya of many of Ibn Taymiyya’s wrong opinions:

    1. that whoso violates the consensus commits neither disbelief (kufr) nor grave transgression (fisq);
    2. that our Lord is subject to created events (mahallun li al-hawadith) – glorified, exalted, and sanctified is He far above what the depraved ascribe to Him!
    3. that He is complex or made of parts (murakkab), His Entity standing in need similarly to the way the whole stands in need of the parts, elevated is He and sanctified above that!
    4. that the Qur’an is created in Allah’s Entity (muhdath fi dhatillah), elevated is He above that!
    5. that the world is of a pre-eternal nature and exists with Allah since pre-eternity as an “ever-abiding created object” (makhluqan da’iman), thus making it necessarily existent in His Entity (mujaban bi al-dhat) and not acting deliberately[GH1] (la fa`ilan bi al-ikhtyar), elevated is He above that!12
    6. his suggestions of Allah’s corporeality, direction, displacement, (al-jismiyya wa al-jiha wa al-intiqal), and that He fits the size of the Throne, being neither bigger nor smaller, exalted is He from such a hideous invention and wide-open disbelief, and may He forsake all his followers, and may all his beliefs be scattered and lost!
    7. his saying that the fire shall go out (al-nar tafni),13
    8. and that Prophets are not sinless (al-anbiya’ ghayr ma`sumin),
    9. and that the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — has no special status before Allah (la jaha lahu) and must not be used as a means (la yutawassalu bihi),14
    10. and that the undertaking of travel (al-safar) to the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — in order to perform his visitation is a sin, for which it is unlawful to shorten the prayers,15 and that it is forbidden to ask for his intercession in view of the Day of Need,
    11. and that the words (alfaz) of the Torah and the Gospel were not substituted, but their meanings (ma`ani) were.

    Some said: “Whoever looks at his books does not attribute to him most of these positions, except that whereby he holds the view that Allah has a direction, and that he authored a book to establish this, and forces the proof upon the people who follow this school of thought that they are believers in Allah’s corporeality (jismiyya), dimensionality (muhadhat), and settledness (istiqrar).” That is, it may be that at times he used to assert these proofs and that they were consequently attributed to him in particular. But whoever attributed this to him from among the imams of Islam upon whose greatness, leadership, religion, trustworthiness, fairness, acceptance, insight, and meticulousness there is agreement – then they do not say anything except what has been duly established with added precautions and repeated inquiry. This is especially true when a Muslim is attributed a view which necessitates his disbelief, apostasy, misguidance, and execution. Therefore if it is true of him that he is a disbeliever and an innovator, then Allah will deal with him with His justice, and other than that He will forgive us and him”

    Also, even Sulayman ibn Sahman has listed 53 issues where Ibn Taymiyya has gone against the 4 Imams.

    Ibn Taymiyya’s so-called “fatwa” is thus invalid, un-applicable, and against the authority of the `ulema of Ahl al-Sunnah and even the Wahhabis (who are heterodox and deviant) recognize Ibn Taymiyya’s heterodoxy.

    And Allah and His Messenger Knows Best

  3. Mmoderate Muslims state that ISIS, Buko haram, Talaban Etc are wrong. they aren’t “true” Muslims, and Islam is a religion of peace. When Lee Rigby’s murderer cited Surah At-Tawbah to justify his actions and When ISIS claims divine sanction for its actions of beheading all male yazidi (infidels), for the the mass raping of Yazidi girls and selling them in the markets and other brutal crimes against humanity by citing verse 33 from Surah Al-Maaidah or verse 4 from Surah Muhammad, or citing other verses from Quran as well as saying they are following the actions of their prophet, Mohammad’s beheading of 600 male members of a Jewish tribe and the raping of “Safia”, the bereaved wife of that tribe’s chief by making her his concubine (sex slave) after killing the entire male members of her tribe, then, people start to investigate this book and the life of its founder, out of fear/terror. They find countless verses of terror as well as verses in the Quran like 4:89, saying to “seize and kill” disbelievers? Or 8:12-13, saying God sent angels to “smite the necks and fingertips” of disbelievers, foreboding a “grievous penalty” for whoever opposes Allah and his Messenger? Or 5:33, ” (a vague phrase widely believed to include blasphemy and apostasy) should be “killed or crucified”? Or 47:4, which also prescribes beheading for disbelievers encountered in jihad, or the domestic violence verse in sura-al-nisa? A questionnaire asks about why there are so many verses clearly ordering actions of violence against infidels/non-believers? this does not inspire the peace moderates are talking about. The moderates respond by defending these verses as Allah’s word — they insist that these verses have been quoted “out of context,” have been misinterpreted, are meant as metaphor, or that they may even have been mistranslated. Despite being shown multiple translations, or told that some of these passages (like similar passages in other holy books) are questionable in any context, these Muslims insists on his/her defense of the Scripture. Sometimes, this kind of exchange will lead to the questioner being labeled an “Islamophobe,” or being accused of bigotry, as Aslan did with Maher and his CNN hosts. This is a very serious charge that is very effective at ending the conversation. No one wants to be called a bigot. But put yourself in the shoes of your non-Muslim audience. Is it really them linking Islam to terrorism? We’re surrounded with images and videos of jihadists yelling “Allahu Akbar” and quoting passages from the Quran before beheading someone (usually a non-Muslim), setting off an explosion, or rallying others to battle. Who is really making this connection? What would you do if this situation was reversed? What are non-Muslims supposed to think when even moderate Muslims like yourselves defend the very same words and book that these fundamentalists effortlessly quote as justification for killing them — as perfect and infallible? Like other moderates, you frequently bemoans those who read the Quran “literally.” Interestingly enough, we sort of agree on this: the thought of the Quran being read “literally” — or exactly as Allah wrote it — is unsettling to many muslims. This is telling. Many of you insist on alternative interpretations, some kind of metaphorical reading — anything to avoid reading the holy book the way it’s actually written. What message do you think this sends? To those on the outside, it implies there is something lacking in what you claim is God’s perfect word. In a way, you’re telling the listener to value your explanations of these words over the sacred words themselves. Obviously, this doesn’t make a great case for divine authorship. Combined with the claims that the book is widely misunderstood, it makes the writer appear either inarticulate or incompetent. I know that’s not the message you mean to send . But it is important to understand why it comes across that way to many non-Muslims. If any kind of literature is to be interpreted “metaphorically,” it has to at least represent the original idea. Metaphors are meant to illustrate and clarify ideas, not twist and obscure them. When the literal words speak of blatant violence but are claimed to really mean peace and unity, we’re not in interpretation/metaphor zone anymore; we’re heading into distortion/misrepresentation territory. If this disconnect was limited to one or two verses, I would consider your argument. If your interpretation were accepted by all of the world’s Muslims, I would consider your argument. Unfortunately, neither of these is the case. I know your explanations are very convincing to fellow believers who, are capable of critical thinking, but don’t want to abandon their faith or their conscience, they’ll jump on anything they can find to reconcile the two. Western liberals admit they don’t find these arguments convincing, but hold back their opinions for fear of being seen as Islamophobic, or in the interest of supporting moderates within the Muslim community who share their goals of fighting jihad and fundamentalism. Many of your liberal allies are sincere, but you’d be surprised how many won’t tell you what they really think because of fear or political correctness. The only difference between them and Bill Maher is that Maher actually says it. Unfortunately, this is what makes otherwise rational moderate Muslims look remarkably inconsistent. Despite your best intentions, you also embolden anti-Muslim bigots — albeit unknowingly — by effectively narrowing the differences between yourselves and the fundamentalists. You condemn all kinds of terrible things being done in the name of your religion, but when the same things appear as verses in your book, you use all your faculties to defend them. This comes across as either denial or dis-ingenuousness, both of which make an honest conversation impossible. This presents an obvious dilemma. The belief that the Quran is the unquestionable word of God is fundamental to the Islamic faith, and held by the vast majority of Muslims worldwide, fundamentalist or progressive. Many of you believe that letting it go is as good as calling yourself non-Muslim. I get that. But does it have to be that way? there has been discussions about an Islamic reformation. Ultimately, I came to believe that the first step to any kind of substantive reformation is to seriously reconsider the concept of scriptural inerrancy. Maajid Nawaz, a committed Muslim, speaks openly about acknowledging problems in the Quran. Recently, in a brave article here right here on The Huffington Post, Imra Nazeer also asked Muslims to reconsider treating the Quran as infallible. Is she right? At first glance, this may be a shocking thought. But it’s possible. In fact this is an urgent need to save humanity. My people of the Yazidi faith, a very peaceful inward religion have been at the receiving end of Islamic Jihad many times culminating in 9 episodes of mass genocides. After the previous genocide (before the most recent by ISIS), hundreds of thousands escaped Iraq to settle in Armenia away from the Muslims to be under the protection of Christian Armenians who, in turn, had lost 1.5 millions to Islamic Jihad in the last century. Please stop claiming Islam is a religion of peace, when the evidence to the contrary is staring at you and the world with verses, so clearly inciting violence and terror and so clearly, followed literally in actions by it’s founder, the role model for his followers.

    • Is Liberal Democracy peaceful ?
      Anne Norton has made some very interesting comparisons, contradictions and has come up with her own conclusions. Her book entitled The Muslim Question makes an interesting read…


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