March 22, 2015
A Modest Proposal for a Muslim Reformation

In What Happened to Islam? I noted Azeem Ibrahim's article in the Chicago Tribune, printed in edited form in the Albuquerque Journal, and printed in the Athens (Georgia) Banner-Herald as Wahhabi perversion of Islam sows seeds of terrorism. In his article, Ibrahim asked

How did Islam come to this point? Can we do anything about it?
This post addresses Azeem Ibrahim's second question: "Can we do anything about it?"

Of course, that may depend a bit on who "we" is. "We" as non-Muslims can talk, but can't do diddley squat. "We" as Muslims can do something, and must be the ones to do it.

So let's take a look at what "we" as Muslims can do.

The thing we must do, first and foremost, is admit that Mohammed was a man — a human being. This is a small thing that is absolutely consistent with everything in the Quran and the Hadiths. A very small thing, but this admission would lead to several major conclusions.

One conclusion — one that can have a huge impact on the number of violent attacks in various Muslim countries — is this: Mohammed was a prophet. The last prophet. He was a man. He was not Allah. He was not God. Indeed, Allah did not speak to Mohammed. Remember that the Quran was revealed to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel, not directly by Allah.

Blasphemy is defined as (a) the act of insulting or showing contempt for God or (b) the act of claiming the attributes of God. Since Mohammed was not Allah, things said against Mohammed obviously cannot be blasphemy. Neither can things said against Mohammed's associates or others. Those asserting that speaking against Mohammed and/or his associates is blasphemy are admitting they are worshiping Mohammed et al. as gods. That is un-Islamic.

A second conclusion is that, since Mohammed was a man and was not Allah, Mohammed was fallible. He was subject to the same temptations and faults as the rest of us. And based on the record enshrined in the Quran and the Hadiths, he succumbed to them — he fell to temptation and became a mere warlord carrying a veneer of religion with him as a shield.

How would this one small acknowledgment, that Mohammad was a human being, be reflected in Islamic doctrine? Perhaps not at all if Mohammed was a perfect man without human weaknesses — that is, not really a human being. But if Mohammed was a real human being, and failed at times like all the rest of the human race, it may be that only one small thing would need to be changed. That one small thing is the doctrine of abrogation, which would need to be reversed. In other words, the doctrine would become this: If two verses (ayat) contradict one another, the earlier one is the better one. The effect of this change would be that Islam would be taught as Mohammed originally taught it, not as he later changed it — which really should please the Islamic fundamentalists if they are at all honest in their claims of following originalist Islam.

The reason this is so important

is because the nature of Mohammad's revelations totally changed once he gained military power. When he first started out (when Islam was a small minority) Mohammad preached peace and tolerance. But once he gained enough followers, started raiding caravans, and gained military and financial power (from the booty he gained from the caravans), he stopped trying to curry favor with the Jews and Christians and his revelations became intolerant and then downright hateful.
Thus, Islam would become what its proponents keep claiming it is — a religion of peace. No more Islamist supremacy, because "Muhammad proclaimed to them [the people of Mecca] that he was of the line of the Jewish prophets, and was commissioned by God to restore true faith in the one God of Abraham." It was only later, when he had succumbed to temptation, that he started preaching violence and hatred. The likely reason for this change is all too human — Mohammed and his teachings were rejected by all but a few of the Jews to whome he preached. It didn't start out that way.
When Muhammad first arrived in their valley, the Jews listened politely to him, but when they analyzed the prophet verses he had come up with in Mecca, they realized they were not based on the Torah. They were versions of the derivative Jewish legends about the prophets, but even then there were significant variations, yet Muhammad claimed his versions were the correct ones because he got everything from God. When he insisted they accept him as their prophet, the Jews laughed in his face and began mocking him.
Mohammed evidently had an all-too-human reaction: He turned on the Jews he had been preaching to, began preaching to the non-Jewish and non-Christian Arabs, and started raiding the caravans and settlements of everyone but his own followers. All of Mohammed's hateful and spiteful teachings come from this later period, as and after Mohammed turned into a common warlord.

This modest proposal does have at least two key issues to overcome. One is that the charge of blasphemy must cease to be used when things are said or done that can be interpreted as insufficiently laudatory toward Mohammed, his companions, and his wives. This means changing a long-standing tribal and cultural practice.

The other key problem is the Islamic doctrine that the Quran is eternal, unchanged, and unchangeable. And yet the Quran has changed. The versions of the Quran compiled shortly after Mohammed's death by his companions differed from one another. This problem was (largely) ended when a single standard "unchanged and unchangeable" version of the Quran was established by the Caliph Uthman; this version is now considered to be the archetype of today's Quran. In addition, of course, the Quran itself shows it has changed. Many ayat (verses) in the Quran contradict others. Why else would something like the doctrine of abrogation be required?

A scene in pre-Taliban Afghanistan
If these problems (largely cultural ones) can be overcome, it would appear a true Islamic Reformation may indeed be possible. With that Reformation, the Muslim world may come to look more like pre-Taliban Afghanistan and pre-war Lebanon and Egypt before its domination by the Muslim Brotherhood.

UPDATE: This posting and its predecessor are available as a single two-part article here.
Category: Religion (Islam)


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