Is an Islamic Reformation Possible?
The profiled ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali has launched a new book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.” I have not yet had the opportunity to read this book. Instead, I will refer to her essay Why Islam Needs a Reformation, published on March 20, 2015 in The Wall Street Journal.
Hirsi Ali emphasizes Mecca Islam over Medina Islam, but it is not clear whether the two can be separated. The traditional view of abrogation further stipulates that the later, more violent and intolerant teachings of the Medina period cancel out the somewhat more tolerant Koranic verses of the Mecca period. Of course, that is if you believe traditional Islamic sources. An increasing number of serious historians question whether Mohammed as he is described in Islamic sources has ever existed at all.
Hirsi Ali stresses that Muslims must reform their view of the imperative to wage Jihad, or holy war. For Islam to become a true religion of peace, Muslims must reject the imposition of religion by the sword. That is certainly true. The concept of Jihad is unique to Islam among all of the world’s major religions. It is one of the things that make Islam uniquely aggressive and dangerous.
One of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s challenges is that she still harbors some Leftist instincts. This sometimes causes her to make dubious parallels between Islam and other religions such as Judaism or Christianity. There are significant differences between the Bible and the Koran, and I say this as an agnostic who does not believe in any religion. Yet, at the very least, Hirsi Ali had the personal integrity to leave Islam. This makes her a more serious writer than Irshad Manji, who tries to create her own personal Gucci Islam.
Can Islam be reformed? As I suggested in one of my previous essays, if “ reformation “ is taken to mean a return to the supposed purity and golden age of the religion’s founder, then we may be witnessing an Islamic Reformation right now. It began with the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which then spawned al-Qaida and eventually the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The problem with many of those who state that we need an Islamic Reformation is that they have not always thought through or clearly defined exactly what they mean by a “reformation.” They sometimes make an analogy between Christian Europe 500 years ago and the Islamic world today, a comparison that is historically flawed and intellectually lazy. The religions involved are not the same. The societies are very different, and the global situation differs greatly as well.