The Illusion of Reforming Islam
19 Apr, 2009
- Islam is really a bad religion. The problem with Islam is with its sacred book and not just with its followers. Taking advantage of this confusion, a breed of Muslims has come up with the idea of “reforming Islam.” A few of these “reformers” have also gained some recognition among the unwary westerners, even though they are ignored and derided by the fellow Muslims a large.
In this article I would like to discuss whether Islam can be reformed.
Let us consider the etymology and meaning of re-form. Reform derives from Latin refōrmāre, which means to redeem, to reclaim, to renew. All these imply restoring something to its original shape.
Before talking about reform in Islam let us first take a look at reform in Christianity.
The Christian Reformation
The Christian Reformation began as an attempt to reform, not the Christianity, but the Catholic Church. Many believers were troubled by the Church and its practices, such as the sale of indulgences (tickets to paradise) and simony (buying and selling church positions). They considered these as false doctrines and malpractices within the Church.
Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and other reformers protested these and other practices and beliefs of the Church such as Purgatory, devotion to Mary (Marina veneration), the intercession of and devotion to the saints, most of the sacraments, the mandatory celibacy for the clergy (including monasticism), and the authority of the Pope.
None of these are doctrines of Christianity. These were practices of the Church. The reformers protested against the Church. They did not defy the authority of the Bible. They suggested that the Bible should be read literally. They rejected the allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures and took the texts of the Old and New Testaments as something like statute law. The words meant what they said; any difficulty, contradiction, or obscure meaning was the fault of the reader and not the text
Anything not contained explicitly and literally in the scriptures was to be rejected, and anything that is contained explicitly and literally in the scriptures was to be followed unwaveringly.
This is the essence of Protestant Reformation.
An analogous reformation also took place in Islam. This reformation was Salafism.
Many westerners, erroneously believe that Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, (1703–1792) is the founder of an extremist sect of Islam. This is not true. Abdul Wahhab did not found a new sect. He was merely a reformer of Islam in the same way that Luther was of Christianity.
The core of Abdul Wahhab’s thinking is that Islam was perfect and complete during the days of Muhammad and his companions and its decline is the result of religious innovations (bid‘ah) and that an Islamic revival will result through the emulation of the three early generations and the purging of foreign influences from the religion.
The concept that Islam was perfect in its early stages is asserted in the Quran.5:3
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلاَمَ دِينًا
Abdul Wahhab, proposed that Muslims should refrain from any innovation and follow the salaf, (“predecessors” or “early generations) hence the name Salafis.
Salafi: سلفي, takes the pious ancestors of the patristic period of early Islam as exemplary models.
This belief is not an invention of Abdul Wahhab but is based on a hadith that reports Muhammad’s saying:
The people of my generation are the best, then those who follow them, and then those who follow the latter (i.e. the first three generations of Muslims).[Bukhari 3:48:819 and 820 and Muslim 31:6150 and 6151.] (Tabi‘in and the Taba‘ at-Tabi‘in,)
In order to demolish the western myth that Abdul Wahhab was the founder of Salafism, it is import to note that ibn Taymiyyah (1263 – 1328) was also a Salafi. Ibn Taymiyyah opposed the celebration of Muhammad’s birthday and the construction of shrines around the tombs of Sufi “saints” saying: `Many of them [the Muslims] do not even know of the Christian [Catholic] origins of these practices. Accursed be Christianity and its adherents.
Early usage of the term Salaf appears in the book Al-Ansab by Abu Sa’d Abd al-Kareem al-Sama’ni, who died in the year 1166 (562 of the Islamic calendar). Defining the term al-Salafi he stated, “This is an ascription to the salaf, or the predecessors, and the adaptation of their school of thought based upon what I have heard.” He then mentions examples of more people who were utilizing this ascription.
The Salafis derive their authority from a hadith of Muhammad, who noted:
“I am the best Salaf for you.” [Sahih Muslim: no. 2450]
The desire to reform Islam and go back to its original pristine state did not start with Abdul Wahhab. It is actually an old thought. Abdul Wahhab, however, succeeded to give shape to this concept, which took ground thanks to the Saudi kings who are his descendants through one of his daughters.
The Similarities between Christian Reformation and Islamic Reformation
There are many similarities between Protestantism and Salafism. The former rejects devotion to Mary and saints and their intercession. The latter rejects devotion to Muhammad, his intercession and the interception of Islamic holy men (such as practiced in Shiism). Both these reform movements want to take their respective faiths to their original purity and eschew the innovations that have been added to the religion after the death of their founders.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson, the woman who was invited by Barak Hussein Obowma to represent Muslims in the interfaith prayer of the Democrats Presidential convention, and who is the president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), when asked whether Wahhabism is an extreme right wing sect of Islam, responded:
No it’s not true to characterize ‘Wahhabism’ that way. This is not a sect. It is the name of a reform movement that began 200 years ago to rid Islamic societies of cultural practices and rigid interpretation that had acquired over the centuries. It really was analogous to the European protestant reformation. http://www.thewahhabimyth.com/intellectuals.htm
The Outcome of Reform in Christianity
Although Christian Reformation and Islamic Reformation are almost identical in their scope and methodologies, the outcome has been very different. The literal reading of the Bible became the underpinning of the social theories and organization of Protestant societies and the foundation of social organization of the English colonies in America.
These reformers literally transformed the philosophical, political, religious, and social landscape of Europe. We still live in a society dominated by protestant theory of social organization.
American political discourse is essentially Calvinistic. In other words its social organization is based on the literal meaning of Christian scriptures.
According to Calvin and Zwingli, not only should all religious belief be founded on the literal reading of Scriptures, but Church organization, political organization, and society itself should be founded on this literal reading.
Luther wrote a letter to Pope Leo, (which resulted his excommunication from the Church) in which he explained the substance of his ideas. The letter is entitled “On the Freedom of the Christian.“ This letter explains the core of Luther’s thinking. According to Luther, the essence of Christianity is “freedom,” or “liberty.”
It is this concept that eventually gave rise to the notion of “individual freedom,” “political freedom,” and “economic freedom.”
Most of the European Enlightenment revolves around freedom and the project of “liberating” people: liberating them from false beliefs, false religion, arbitrary authority, etc.–that is, what is called “liberation discourse.” Westerners still participate in this Enlightenment project today.
That is why America invaded Iraq to liberate, first the Kuwait and a decade later, the Iraqis. That is why America has fought in nearly forty wars abroad, from Japan to Germany and Italy, from Panama to Nicaragua, from Vietnam to Somalia. Whether you agree with these wars or you don’t the objective has been always the same, to liberate people, to export democracy and freedom. This idea of “liberating” people, of democracy, so entrenched in America’s international politics, comes out of Luther’s idea of “freedom.”
The Outcome of Reform in Islam
What is the essence of the reformation in Islam? The essence of the Wahhabi belief is that man is not free but a slave of Allah. People are Ibad (slaves).
This is diametrically different discourse from the discourse of Protestantism and here is the essential difference between Christianity and Islam.
On the surface, there are many similarities between Christianity and Islam. Both believe in a God, both rely on an intermediary between man and God, both faiths are eschatological and have a hell, a heaven and an afterlife, etc. However, in their core they are very different, in fact opposite to one another. Islam is not a continuation of Christianity, as Muhammad and Muhammadans claim, but it is an anti Christian belief in its essence. These faiths are different. One advocates freedom of man and the other his slavery. One brings the message of liberation the other, of submission.
The discourse of freedom, so essential to Christianity is contrary what Islam stands for. When you see Muslims carry placards that read “democracy is hypocrisy,” and “freedom go to hell,” during their laud demonstrations, they are expressing the true essence of Islam, which is anti freedom, anti democracy, pro slavery and pro subjugation.
True Muslims should not be free to choose, but they should emulate Muhammad. The Quran 33:36 says:
وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَن يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُّبِينًا
“And it behoves not a believing man and a believing woman that they should have any choice in their matter when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he surely strays off a manifest straying.”
It is not up to Muslims to decide what is good for them. This decision is already made for them and all they have to do is to obey, even when they don’t like it.
كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْقِتَالُ وَهُوَ كُرْهٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَى أَن تَكْرَهُواْ شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَى أَن تُحِبُّواْ شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ وَاللّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
Fighting is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know. (Q. 2:216)
Islam can be distilled in its name: Submission. Allah knows best. Therefore man must accept His command, given to humanity by his last emissary Muhammad.
Democracy means the government of people by the people. In Democracy men make the law. You cannot have that in Islam. In Islam the law comes from God. Man must obey even if those laws appear contrary to reason and are oppressive.
This is the reason why Muslims cannot oppose stoning adulterers or killing the apostates.
Both Christianity and Islam underwent through reformation. They tooth similar paths and methodologies, but they ended up in two opposite poles. While Christian reformation brought freedom, enlightenment and democracy, Islamic reformation resulted in ignorance, slavery of man and jihad.
Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Abdul Wahhab were reformers of Islam. Among
the contemporary Islamic reformers we can name Maududi (1903 – 1979)
who wrote an interpretation of the Quran and Sayyid Qutb,
(1906-1966) the leading intellectual of Muslim Brotherhood in the
50s and ’60s, who was the inspiration for all Islamic terrorists
including Ayatollah Khomeini and Bin Laden.
Reformation vs. Transformation
What today’s so called Islamic reformers are proposing is not reformation but transformation of Islam. Unlike the above mentioned reformers, these new reformer wannabes do not want to go to the origin of Islam, but rather they want to eschew part of the Quran and the entire Sharia and invent an entirely different religion, still calling it Islam.
This is delusional thinking, and impractical both logically and logistically. It is also strictly prohibited in the Quran.
These neoreformer wannabes want to change Islam to something different. In other words he wants to bring bid’a to Islam. Is that possible? Can believers have an opinion contrary to what the Quran says? We already saw that the Quran 33:36, prohibits the believers to have any choice in their matter when Allah and His Messenger have made their wishes known. How can they decide what is good for the religion?
When the Quran says Fighting is ordained for you, even if you don’t like it, the message is clear. This is God speaking. That is what you have accepted a priori. So how can you dispute with God? Once you accept the Quran as the word of God you cannot pick and choose and discard what you don’t like. This is strictly prohibited.
أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ فَمَا جَزَاء مَن يَفْعَلُ ذَلِكَ مِنكُمْ إِلاَّ خِزْيٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَى أَشَدِّ الْعَذَابِ وَمَا اللّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
Do you, then, believe in some parts of the divine writ and deny the truth of other parts? What, then, could be the reward of those among you who do such things but ignominy in the life of this world and, on the Day of Resurrection, they will be consigned to most grievous suffering? For God is not unmindful of what you do. (Q.2:85)
أَفَغَيْرَ اللّهِ أَبْتَغِي حَكَمًا وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنَزَلَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكِتَابَ مُفَصَّلاً
6:114 “Am I, then, to look unto anyone but God for judgment [as to what is right and wrong], when it is He who has bestowed upon you from on high this divine writ, clearly spelling out the truth?”
وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ صِدْقًا وَعَدْلاً لاَّ مُبَدِّلِ لِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
وَإِن تُطِعْ أَكْثَرَ مَن فِي الأَرْضِ يُضِلُّوكَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللّهِ إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلاَّ الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلاَّ يَخْرُصُونَ
6:116 Wert thou to follow the common run of those on earth, they will lead thee away from the way of Allah. They follow nothing but conjecture: they do nothing but guess.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَيَشْتَرُونَ بِهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلاً أُولَـئِكَ مَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ إِلاَّ النَّارَ وَلاَ يُكَلِّمُهُمُ اللّهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَلاَ يُزَكِّيهِمْ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
2:174 Verily, as for those who suppress aught of the revelation which God has bestowed from on high, and barter it away for a trifling gain - they but fill their bellies with fire. And God will not speak unto them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He cleanse them [of their sins]; and grievous suffering awaits them.
See also 16:89 39:23,
كَمَا أَنزَلْنَا عَلَى المُقْتَسِمِينَ الَّذِينَ جَعَلُوا الْقُرْآنَ عِضِين فَوَرَبِّكَ لَنَسْأَلَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِيْنَ:
(Q.15:90-92) Such as We send down for those who make division, Those who break the Quran into parts. Therefore, by the Lord, We will, of a surety, call them to account,
وَلاَ مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللّهِ
(6:34) there is none that can alter the words of Allah.
لاَ تَبْدِيلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللّهِ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
(Q.10:64) There is no changing the Words of Allah that is the Supreme Triumph.
وَاتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِن كِتَابِ رَبِّكَ لَا مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَلَن تَجِدَ مِن دُونِهِ مُلْتَحَدًا
18:27 And recite that which hath been revealed unto you of the scripture of your Lord. There is none who can change His words, and you will find no refuge beside Him.
How can one claim to believe in the Quran and disregard all these warnings?
The so called reformers of Islam are misguided at best and deceptive at worst. Their efforts should not be welcomed. Whatever their intention, whether genuine or malicious, they are hoodwinking people and as the result giving legitimacy to a very evil and dangerous creed.
Only truth can set us free. By sugarcoating Islam you cannot change its nature. You can purify any water. You can even convert your urine into drinking water. But can you purify gasoline enough to make it drinkable? The essence of Islam is evil. You cannot reform it enough to make it a humane faith. Can you reform Nazism? This whole notion is misguided and absurd.
Reforming Islam is impossible. It is either a dilution or a ruse. Jiahd is based on two pillars, war and deception. I don’t want anyone to be fooled by the soothing promises of Muslim reformers. Moderate Islam does not exist. It’s a myth.
I prefer jihadi Muslims to these “Muslims against Sharia,” fellows. With the jihadis I know my enemy. I do not trust Muslims who are against Sharia. I do not understand them. What they say does not add up. I don’t know what they are up to. I do not trust people who say, I am a follower of Muhammad, but I do not follow Muhammad. There is something fishy, something dishonest and hypocritical about their claim.
If you are a Muslims, be a Muslim. I do not agree with you but at least I know where you stand and where I should stand to be safe. But if you are now a Muslim and now against Islam and the Sharia, I don’t trust you. You are either a fool or a crook. “You are neither hot nor cold. I will spit you out.”
Some of these so called reformers hide their identity and face claiming to fear Muslims. Why should they? They are not saying anything that CAIR does not say when they want to Con the Americans with Islamic Ruse. This is all sham.
Reforming Islam is impossible but to transform it you need divine authority. Only God can change his words. Where is that divine authority? The only honest reformer of Islam was Baha’u’llah. He realized Islam cannot be reformed. So he declared to be a new manifestation of God and announced that through him God has sent a new revelation and has annulled all his previous mandates in the Quran.
So he told Muslims, whereas before you were told to slay the unbelievers wherever you find them, now God wants you to love all mankind irrespective of their faith. Whereas before He told you women are deficient in intelligence, beat them if you fear they may disobey you, now he changed his mind and says men and women are equal in all respects and no one is permitted to mistreat women. Whereas in the previous dispensation God told you all non-believers will go to hell and will burn eternally, now he says it’s your deeds that matter and your faiths without good deeds is worthless and that He is not going to discriminate against anyone because of his belief. Now he has decided to look at the purity of your hearts and not in what you profess with your tongues. Whereas before he had invested zillions of celestial currency building a huge rotisserie to burn humans, he has actually closed it down and has decided to forgive everyone, including the sinners but he wants you to obey him and love your fellow being for the love of Him alone and not because you fear him. Just act as mature people. Whereas before He told fighting is good for you, now He has had an epiphany and says fighting behoove the savage beasts and not humans.
That requires courage. Now this was in 19th century in the middle of Shiite Persia. Of course he was put in jail and spent the rest of his life in exile. Many of his followers were executed. However, there is some logic in that argument. The logic is that only God has the authority to abrogate his own laws. That logic remains valid, until of course you ask what was God smoking when he sent Muhammad and why such a shift?
Please, let us stop this charade. Either be a Muslim and do as Muhammad said or leave Islam and let us know who our enemy is.
Islam cannot be reformed. They tried in every imaginable way. The Mu’tazelis tired, the Sufis tried, hundreds of old and new schools tried and they all failed. Islam belongs to the toilet of history. Please drop it and flush. Get rid of it and don’t fool yourself with this nonsense. Face the truth. Accept the truth. Yes truth matters. Islam is a lie. Muhammad was a mentally sick conman. Get over with it and stop this ridiculous farce of reformation.
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Ali Sina is the editor of Faithfreedom.org. He is has contributed in 'Beyond Jihad - Critical Voices from Inside Islam'. His latest book is Understanding Muhammad: The Psychobiography of Allah’s Prophet.