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Tuesday, 9 October 2007
Islamic "Reformation"

Ibn Warraq thinks it better not to aim for a "Reformation"  of Islam which, if it means sola scriptura, is back to the basics, and the basics -- pace some self-promoting "reformers" such as Mustafa Akyol -- means the Qur'an alone, without the Hadith or the rest of what makes up the Sunnah, and the Qur'an is bad enough. The names of the successful "reformers" of Islam over the last few centuries are well-known; their names are Al- Wahhab, in 18th century Nejd, and Maududi, and Qutb, and others in that line.

In the late nineteenth century, the would-be "reformers" -- Afghani in the lead -- were alarmed at the perceived power of the West and wanted to "reform" Islam in order to make it stronger. But they never abjured the foundation of the Islamic worldview: the division of the world between Believers and Infidels, and the state of permanent war that exists between the two, and that requires, as a central duty of Believers, their participation, in whatever way possible, in the struggle or Jihad to push forward the boundaries of Dar al-Islam, and to push back the boundaries of Dar al-Harb, and to ensure that ultimately everywhere, all barriers to the spread and then dominance of Islam are removed, and Islam does indeed everywhere dominate, and Muslims rule, everywhere.

Ibn Warraq is keenly aware of this history. And he is also keenly aware that the study of the early Qur'an, the subjection of Islam to the Higher Criticism to which Judaism and Christianity have been steadily subjected, beginning more than a century ago (see Julius Wellhausen, see a whole host of, in the main, German and English and American students  of the Bible and of Christianity), a putting of the Qur'an back into its historical context (and that means studying such things as the attempt to undo philological knots and to study the varied texts of the early Qur'an, and the conceivable explanation for its otherwise inexplicable lapses and confusions and places that, if read as classical Arabic, simply do not make sense but may make sense if subjected to the alert philological analysis of those well-versed in Aramaic, and especially in what we call "Syriac" -- that is, the Aramaic associated with Edessa. Its status as the Uncreated and Immutable Word of God falls, if the Qur'an is put back in history.

Those so-called (and sometimes doubtfully educated, or doubtful in other senses) "reformers" of Islam, who include such ostentatious self-promoters as henna-haired Irshan Manji, who hardly can offer the same kind of knowledge of the scholarship on the origins, and the composition, of the early Qur'an, and on modern Western scholarship on Muhammad. As to the latter, while a figure may have existed, it is not certain when, or exactly where he did so, and what he actually did, so that when a redoubtable historian such as Patricia Crone, perhaps not quite as fearless as one would expect (her comment to Alexander Stille for a Times article several years ago, about the treacly presentation of Islam in the media, was attributed to an "anonymous" scholar), and suggest, in a misleadingly phrased article, that no one should doubt the existence of the historical Muhammad, and then adduces evidence not nearly as conclusive as the she thinks, and then, furthermore, does not address the what or the where or the who of that historical Muhammad, she surprises, and she disappoints.

And in this discussion below, Melanie Phillips is a bit different. She does not surprise. She merely, and not for the first time when she attempts to discuss the texts and tenets of Islam, disappoints.

Posted on 10/09/2007 11:17 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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