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Islamic Reformation?

February 27, 2008

h/t Archie!

Update: For the record I am not, in any way, muted or otherwise, celebrating the removal of hadiths.  I am not claiming to be knowledged in the art of hadith science.  I do not believe that scholars of Islam should be required to use some sort of abbridged version of hadiths.  I thought I made that clear but apparently not.  Additionally, when I say that Muslims are not required to follow hadith, I am not saying that hadiths are not a second source for Muslims.  In the future, I would appreciate a comment on my blog or an email to me expressing any concerns that are had with statements that I make – if our concern is not to have a misrepresentation then it is wiser to sort it out on the concerned post rather than making it a top post.

Islamic Reformation?

I have to say that I found this to be quite surprising but I guess I’m not surprised with where it’s comming from.

Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam – and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.

The country’s powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.

The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad.

As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia.  

But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam.

It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.

You must read the whole article here.

I’m sure this will cause a bit of a stir amongst the wahabis and salafis but as for the mainstream Muslims, it will really depend on exactly what they are doing.  If they are going through the Hadiths to once again reinterpret them – to provide the historical backgrounds on the hadith and eliminating some of the Hadiths that are known to be very very weak or false then I think no one will mind and who knows it may even be possible that this provides a reference, a collection of hadith for moderate Muslims.  However, if it is being done in a manner which is going to look like modernizing Islam by forcing the Turkish scholars to use only these new and improved hadiths – the project could fail even in secularizing the average Muslims of Turkey.  Islamic jurisprudence is basically an art and science all in one.  Just because one hadith seems to have one moral – that doesn’t mean that the hadith couldn’t have another moral in today’s time.  Additionally, Muslims are not required to follow hadiths .. a hadith should not abrogate a Quranic verse .. although it does happen and we see that happening in cases of stonings.  Those that are learned in the traditional field of Islamic jurisprudence are able to come to rulings which are fair and just for today’s society through the very hadiths that fundamentalists use to come to inhumane practices.
Personally, I’d like to see a collection which further explains the historical backgrounds of these hadiths and how these hadiths are reasonably being interpreted in today’s society.  I think the answer is in educating the average Muslim who likes to follow hadiths instead of giving them a set of “stamped and approved” hadiths, let them come to an informed conclusion which uses reason (as is required by the Quran).  I think anything beyond that, in our present situation, is going to cause controversy:

According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam – changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy.

He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam.

“This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation,” he says.

“Not exactly the same, but if you think, it’s changing the theological foundations of [the] religion. ”

Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam.

Now, he says, “they are trying to fashion a new Islam.”

So .. what do you think?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2008 5:43 pm

    about time!

  2. February 27, 2008 10:29 pm

    From an outsiders point of view, I think the most radical part of this exercise is the empowering of women. By creating the group of Faizes, there seems to be a commitment to a level of equality which appeared to be impossible in a patriarchal religion. This is the equivalent of the Catholic Church deciding to allow women to become priests.

  3. February 28, 2008 6:20 am

    ATTENTION CONSERVATION NOTICE: All this is being said by an un-Islamic anarcho-pessimist.

    This is epic. But I’m not ready to pronounce it epic win.

    The fact that there’s a government involved in this sets off BIG alarms in my head. Some of it’s because I’m really still an anarchist; some more of it is because all of this is based on hearsay and nobody has any idea what the hell the documents actually say (at least, nobody that I know of.) Given what I know of the way Turkey teaches Islam officially, though, it’s safe to say that they DO have a vested interest in the way that any reformation gets formed, and depending on any number of other variables that could have all kinds of crazy blowback. So I can’t say that this can’t hurt. It could.

    But I do look forward to reading the doc anyways.

  4. February 28, 2008 9:24 am

    @Edo, I object to the labels “Un-Islamic” and “Pessimist”. I am non-religious in all formats and I am an optimist!

    But I AM an anarchist. I see hope in the fact that there could be change within Islam. Anything which does not change is dead. I keep waiting for the Catholic Church to make changes – That may not happen in our lifetime. Or in our millennium.

  5. February 29, 2008 4:11 am

    Oh no, I wasn’t calling YOU an un-Islamic pessimist. That’s me all the way. Sorry about the misunderstandings. *deep Japanese bow*

  6. February 29, 2008 5:57 pm

    Archie – I’ve never considered my religion as patriarchal. Neither do most Muslim women. Patriarchy has definately found ways to exploit it but it does so hypocritically.

    Islam had in its time given women unprecedented rights. Many of those rights may now look unreasonable for today’s age and time but those rights were not supposed to end with that time period. The Quran stresses equality between men and women – that is the core message in regards to gender – similarly as is the message of peace the core message to our religion. When it comes down to it it is our responsibility as Muslims to achieve what is core to our religion. That is why scholars and jurists spend their lives studying the texts and continue forming their opinions. If it was all literal and that cut and dry we wouldn’t have the examples of the prophets companions practicing this in their time but we do.

    It is additionally our responsibility as typical Muslims to be knowledgeable in regards to our religion. We must take our own reason and apply it towards any rulings, customs, and trends .. so education is going to be the key. I’d really love to see this work in Turkey and I hope I’m not just being a pessimist 🙂

    Edo – well you don’t have to be an un-Islamic pessimist to have that view. It’s definately something to watch.

  7. March 1, 2008 12:59 pm

    Even the Prophet (pbuh) warned Abu Hariyah to stop making up hadiths. Apparently he was notorious for it. Besides, all the real hadiths have to do with love, mercy, kindness, generosity, charity, etc, as these were the attributes of the Prophet (pbuh), so the weak ones would be no loss, since there were mostly patriarchal prejudice.

    Ya Haqq!

  8. bboysmaster permalink
    March 4, 2008 11:44 am

    From my side of view it good to reinterpret the hadith but they must not ‘CHANGE’ the hadith for every hadith have it own reason.

    ‘It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad’, this kind of ‘fake’ hadith should be study and if it prove to be like i say, ‘FAKE’ it should be discard.

  9. March 4, 2008 11:46 pm

    Thank you all for your comments – those of you tracking the post – there is an update, clarification on my part.

    Additionally, everyone should read dawood’s link as it seems that this may not be everything that western media has been reporting it to be.


  1. » Authority of Sunnah: Hadith=Revelation
  2. A Muslim Reformation? « Mercury Rising 鳯女

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