Every Tom, Dick and Harry now seem to have an opinion on the need for Islam to go through reformation.
While on the other side we have every Ahmad, Bakar and Zaid who are in a state of denial and reject the very notion of reformation of Islam.
The Egyptian military dictator al-Sisi after deposing an elected government followed by ruthless suppression of Islamic opposition called for reformation of Islam while speaking at Al-Azhar University in January 2015.
A number of writers and politicians particularly in the West have echoed his call for the reformation of Islam as if he represents the entire Muslim Ummah or is a scholar of Islam.
Early December, the former Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott waded in this debate and while quoting al-Sisi, Mr Abott said, “We’ve got to work closely with live-and-let-live Muslims because there needs to be, as President Al-Sisi of Egypt has said, a religious revolution inside Islam.”
“All of those things that Islam has never had – a Reformation, an Enlightenment, a well-developed concept of the separation of church and state – that needs to happen, but we can’t do it; Muslims have got to do this for themselves, but we should work with those who are pushing in that direction,” Mr Abbott added.
Muslims as usual had a knee jerk reaction to these comments and while ridiculing his calls for reformation, the overwhelming response was that Islam does not need any reformation.
Waleed Aly in his column in the Sydney Morning Herald on 10 December argued that Islam had its reformation during the last two centuries as a reaction to colonization and hegemony of the West on Muslim lands and the results have been disastrous with the emergence of violent movements from time to time and now Al-Qaida and ISIL. He concluded that it was best that Islam was better left un-reformed.
In a brilliant opinion piece on 11 December in ABC, The Drum, Sheikh Ahmad Abdo said that what Islam needed was restoration and not reformation.
However he admitted that “there is scope for continuous development within Islamic legal theory and practice, but we must know what is up for negotiation, and what is not.”
He further added “Abbott has played the card of reform, but what he really appears to be suggesting is that the principles of Islam are backward and less civilised. He appears to be suggesting that Islam is not fit for the modern world.”
The response from various quarters wading in this debate can be categorized in simple cohorts as follows:
- Toms: There are a small group of ultra-extremists who are totally against Islam and reject the right of 1.5 billion Muslims to live and practice their faith as they see fit.
- Dicks: There are extremists, who believe that Islam needs to be reformed to their wishes and Muslim can only live if they become just like them.
- Harrys: There are moderates who pick and chose what tenets of Islam should be practiced by Muslims and what should be abandoned by them.
- Ahmads: These are a small group of ultra conservatives who are in a state of denial rejecting any reformation of Islam.
- Bakars: This is the vast majority of Muslims who wish to restore and practice Islam in accordance with the authentic resources of Islam.
- Zaids: These are the modernists who want to present Islam in the language of today and practice Islam in context with time and place.
Associate Professor Mehmet Ozalp on 12 December had this to say in contextualizing Islam, “Ultimately we have a duty that we need to understand Islam from its sources, from its traditions and restore that tradition in an Australian context, and transmit that to future generations.”.
Z I Ahmad