The concept of “reform” implies a return to the past. That is why Islam needs no reformation but rejuvenation to transition away from the past and move on to the future.
Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are religions of moderation, reconciliation, and peace. Because these qualities are essential to the human pursuit for felicity and security, these religions are part of the solution to conflict. Unfortunately, all of these faiths can be perverted and abused by extremists, who cherry pick holy verses to support their own agendas. Would-be peacemakers need to remember that their religions share the same moral values, including the golden rule, the encouragement to do good deeds, and the prohibition against evil. Moderation is a common concept among all religions and a core human virtue which can cultivate social harmony and peaceful coexistence.
Moderation is fundamental to Islam and has a clear basis which can be found in many Surah and Hadith. Only rational analysis of religious texts and principles enables one to reach a moderate and righteous version of Islam, but it is only possible if the Quran is accepted as a divine authority that combines rationality, religion, and science. Moderate Muslims need to learn that jihad is the spiritual struggle within themselves against evil and sin, not a struggle against non-believers to convert them to Islam.
Justifications for religious freedom, gender equality, and abolition of the death penalty for certain offenses can all be found in Islam. While extremists can select Quranic verses out of context or misinterpret them and misquote Hadith to support their narrow comprehension of the spirit of Islam, proper religious study looks at the intention of the text and teachings. Strict literal interpretations do not provide true meaning. Considering this, Islam should look at the Christian reformation which distanced Christianity from literal interpretations of the Bible. Islam’s ultimate goal is for the betterment of humanity and its prophet is sent as mercy to mankind. Under this approach, it can only be studied with a human heart, not a heart of stone.
Moderates are impelled to stand up against extremism committed in the name of Islam. Extremism will not be eradicated by a war of hatred and vengeance, but by moderates conquering fear and promoting reconciliation. Muslims, Christians, and Jews know little about each others’ religion. Thoughtful interfaith dialogue can combat ignorance by advancing knowledge and highlighting the good common in all sides. Government, civil society, and think tanks also have a role in combatting extremism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism.
The Arabs have tended to monopolize Islam since the Quran is written in Arabic to impose their terminology and interpretation. Arab Muslim scholars the likes of Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Sayyid Qutb, Hasan el-Banna, and others while advocating a purging of what they considered impurities and innovations in Islam, promoted ultraconservative orthodox extremism in the practice of religion. For example, Jewish and Christian enmity, female genital mutilation, the veil, stoning of adulteress, killing of apostates or homosexuals are not prescribed in the Quran nor are they traditionally Islamic, yet they are being practiced by extremists. Moderates in Islam do not advocate, promote or practice these backward practices.
Prof. Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi is the founder of the Wasatia Movement and director of the Wasatia Academic Institute
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