Antique Islam and new Islam How modernization of Islam was and how should be?

5 years ago

By Sarwar Penjweni


Recondition and modernizing of Islam is one of the most urgent and vital demands in the Arab society and other Islamic societies and communities on all sides of the globe. It is one way or another, an ongoing process. It began by scholars of Islam and its recent thinkers, modern systems in the Islamic countries, and even some modern advocates and preachers, as well as by cultural estrangement and the change of living style and coexistence pattern, and even alienation and the "Islamic diaspora."

I say recondition and modernizing, I do not say religious "reform", which has already accomplished in Sunni Islam at the hands of the Wahhabi movement similarly to the Protestant Reformation. So what Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab did with Ashʿari-Sufi Sunni Islam; is no less than what Martin Luther did with papal Catholic Christianity. But religious reform, as it is an advocacy to return to the roots (fundaments) and to the founding texts and banishment of the secondary texts and of the nationalized 'heterodox' traditions (the advocacy to "going back to the Quran and the Sunnah" in Wahhabi reform movement, and the principle sola scriptura in the Protestant Reformation); therefore it ultimately would be establishment of religious fundamentalism, which leads to a cultural setback makes the religious mind starts from scratch, eliminating the stages it passed through, in the history of its development and contexts of its nationalization and its endemism and domestication in different cultures, and lead to the revival of an ancient culture to collide with modern culture. So, religious fundamentalism is reviving religion as an entire culture as it was in his day, not a religious/sectarian and symbolic affiliation represented in symbols and rituals, and it will be a desperate attempt to place a historical ancient culture in place of an alive modern culture. This strongly suggests the need for recondition and modernization as a substitute for (protestant-like) religious reform.

But this modernization should be without psycho-historical projection and without reviewing the old Islam through projective of the new Islam, and without claim to follow the inherited old Islam as it is. So the new Islam must considered as a new experience, a requirement of the new era, and harmonization with the culture of the modern society and the laws of the modern state (and the new Islam is entitled to this, as the old Islam entitled to be compatible with the culture of the old society and the laws of the old state), and the new Islam does not share with the old Islam except the fundamentals of beliefs, ethics, basic worship and the fundamental provisions, without some specific details and partials. The old Islam, which is Islam as an entire "culture", is a first experience of Islam, has its history, its men, and its doctrines and denominations, and influenced completely by the cosmic visions, the laws and norms, and the social and political systems prevailing in those times, and the new experience cannot "retrodict" those old Islamic experience: There should be no trying to reinterpretation of the texts produced in antique Islam and to put the principles of the new Islam on its mouth (albeit this reinterpretation is an interim practical necessity for public religious legitimacy and to maintain the symbolic affiliation), but the texts and the principles of the old Islam divide into two parts: one part is the basic texts and the ecumenical principles (represented by beliefs, ethics, basic worships, and the fundamental provisions), which constitute a common denominator between the old and the new and can represent a static Islamic identity, and the other part is the secondary texts and principles required by the old experience, then it's considered to be a "history" of antique Islam and a previous Islamic experience, without covering up this history and its negative aspects, and without tinkering with it through apologetic literature, justifications, and "responses" ("al-rudūd") which often become part, a peculiar and incompatible part actually, of religious thought and the basic material of religious advocacy.

And the insurmountable obstacle in the road that should be paved for what we call "new Islam", which is an Islamic affiliation and an Islamic identity within a renewed contemporary culture, is "recognition", the recognition by religious thinkers and leaders that in antique Islam and the first Islamic experience there are principles and provisions considered erroneous or improper by the standards of this age [For example: The provisions of the captivity and slavery, aggressive "jihad" ("jihād al-ṭalab") which ends with the killing of able-bodied men, even if they were unarmed civilians, enslavement of children, women and impotent men, the killing or enslavement of prisoners of war, and take spoils from civilian property (and cultural property) and plundering of dead enemy's property ("al-salab"). As well as the execution of the apostate, marriage of minors, female genital mutilation, stoning "married adulterer" ("al-zānī al-muḥṣan") to death, cutting the hand of a thief, etc.], dictated by the ideas, cognitive, social, political and economic systems, prevailing in the era of the emergence and spread of Islam.

But this recognition disturbs the Islamists who claim and advocate that "Sharia is valid for all times and places," because it is an implicit recognition of the historicity of Islam and the progressivity of its legislations and its social, political and economic systematizations. Instead of recognition, they get to denial that sometimes amounts to denying what's " unequivocally known to be part of the religion" ("al-maʿlūm min al-dīn bi-al-ḍarūrah) in order to avoid recognizing the existence of things that really exist in the Sharia and are not really compatible with the spirit of the age they're also from. Or they resort to cold justifications and patches cover nothing but falsify historical awareness and distort the meanings of Sharia.


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