Does Islam need a Reformation?

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freddybirkle's picture
Does Islam need a Reformation?

Dear all,

with the risk of offending someone, I'd like to share a thought, that I had for quite some time and, every now and then, try to mirror off people:

Does Islam need a Reformation?

Just to put this into perspective, I am not an expert on the matter, my knowledge and understanding definetly has holes and maybe I am overlooking some major arguments. I ask you to enlighten me then :)

Catholic church has very rocky history but for some reason what Islam seems to go through now could easily be compared to what Catholic church went through just before the Reformation. Is it fair to compare current moslim extremism with things like forced conversion in the Middle East or the African continent? Is it fair to, whatever happens right now with Islam, assume it's because Islam as a religion is younger than Christianity and "they're just not there yet"?

I had a similar conversation with some Moslim friends of mine, who told me that the whole notion of Reformation already speaks from a very Western/ Christian/ Non-Islamic perspective and could not be compared as such... I have however not encountered any theoretically based conterargument until now. WIth this I mean, I'd like to understand from what perspective I am supposed to see the matter and if I am even capable of doing that, seeing that I am born, raised and still living in a Christian society.

Ideas anyone?


I think that the only way you can compare the two experiences is to examine the historical, social and political/economic factors at play during the reformation and understand this wider context for Islam in our contempoary age. It is a big study. I don't know if any PHD students have attempted to explore this question as a comparison. I think you can only compare like with like. So for example you could do a study around diabetes but compare how it impacts on Asian people and the wider community in a particular city/country. What do others think ?

The question to ask is, Is Islam in need of revival ? Now that could be seen as a very threatening question as it may be read as going back to something from the past.

From within Muslim circles the kinds of conversations that I have been involved in recognise that there has been some time that the quality of Islamic principles have been decaying and static and that there is a need to revisit these principles and how they were practiced at  different points of history.

Another question to ponder over is that the Catholic Church, whilst one body is exepreinced differently in different parts of the world. e.g. The whole area of Female leaders and Homosexual Clergy etc. Which also resonates with the expereince for Muslims in different parts of the world.

Your question about experiencing the 'other' from their perspective is a hard one and requires for one to start from a point of checking out our own prejudices and being aware of this throughout this type of enagagment. I suppose it is like expereincing something from the parespective of the other.

I don't agree with the notion that it is a younger faith and that they are 'just not there yet' I think that this kind of development is happening all the time and it is more dependant on the 'times that we live in' whatever they are. There are other faiths which are much younger but are less troubled.

What do others think ?

robinsclafani's picture

You raise some really good points Farkhanda. Thank you for sharing something about the internal conversations you have been participating in.

I think all philosophical traditions, religions and their denominations need to remain vigilantly self-critical, examining its own beliefs and internal dynamics in relation to its role in the wider society.  Interfaith exchange can be helpful to  support the process of considering things from new perspectives.

There is an issue sometimes with religious/community leaders (from most traditions) being afraid to share externally the internal discussions and differences of opinions, seeing it as their "dirty laundry" so to speak. This is a mistake, I think, because it allows those from outside to continue thinking that the adherents to a particular tradition are uniform in their interpretations, leaving stereotypes and prejudices to flourish.