As we progress further into the 21st century, religion, it
appears, is becoming more and more particularized. Seemingly religious folks
are now choosing which interpretation they want to follow, while at the same
time, rejecting antediluvian historical interpretations of religious
scriptures, deeming them as being corrupted; thus, they now feel that it is
their duty � or perhaps mission in life � to re-interpret these religious texts
in order to rectify them; and in turn save humanity from its impenetrable darkness.
And to further add to this, these are people who allow for error in historical
interpretations, but not error in content.
The most frustrating of this lot, to me, are the Reformist
Muslims. (These are �Muslims� who vehemently believe that they are returning
back to the beliefs of the early Ummah, by re-interpreting the Qur�an in such a
way so as to distance themselves from traditional and less liberal
interpretations of Islamic law, as they consider those to be
�culturally-based,� and without any universal relevancy.) This new wave of
pseudo-intellectual Muslims, in debates, become very quick to either distance
themselves or outright reject any Hadith that contradict their
beliefs/arguments, no matter how authentic they may be. They claim that if the
teachings of the Hadith are not mentioned in the holy Qur�an then, by all
means, it should not be trusted and simply rejected. To them, the Qur�an is the
only source of reliance.
Though, the irony is that when the time comes for them to
support their arguments, they don�t shy away from quoting Hadiths. (And these
are Hadiths that obviously agree with their beliefs/arguments, no matter how
unauthentic they may be.) The fact of the matter is, while the Quran is the
quintessence of Islam, a surfeit of religious beliefs are comprised from
Prophet Mohammed�s traditions, known as the Sunna, which is based on his
sayings/teachings (in Hadiths), and hence is considered second to the Qur�an in
its importance. So, in order for one to be considered a Muslim, she/he must not
only comply with Qur�anic teachings, but also Hadiths no matter how
contradictory they may seem.
It is, however, important to note that the reason why such
Muslims indubitably reject Hadiths as being �unauthentic� is simply because it
is hard to reinterpret or manipulate their meanings, as they tend to be in a
language that is not only very thorough and detailed, but also filled with a
plethora of narrations that leaves little room for discrepancies. On the other
hand, the Qur�an tends to be a little vaguer in terms of content, filled with
language that is more metaphorical; hence making it more susceptible to
re-interpretations, which, of course, leans more in favour of Reformists.
The most disturbing facet of this issue is the way in which
Reformists� shamelessly focus all their attention on teachings/beliefs of
Qur�anic verses that they don�t agree with, or find intolerable and inhumane.
One can�t help but wonder why they always feel the need to reform/re-interpret
only verses that they consider to be �bad,� while completely ignoring verses
that they think is �good,� only because those verses comply with their beliefs.
Since Reformists believe that the bad verses have been historically
misinterpreted, then couldn�t it be so that the good verses are as well?
For this reason, Reformist Muslims, in my opinion, are
befuddled. In fact, I find them to be borderline Agnostics/Atheists. While they
may not disbelieve in a supreme deity, their views and beliefs are no different
than that of Agnostics/Atheists. And this is exactly why mainstream Muslims
disapprove of them and goes on to call them �kafirs� or non-Muslims. And I
don�t disagree, for the standard method of analyzing historical documents is to
accept the older documents as authentic, unless, of course, there is strong
evidence of corruption. Without such evidence, it is erroneous for Muslims to
point out any of the historical interpretations or teachings as being �false.�
Additionally, it is rather contradictory for someone to announce that God�s
revelation is incorruptible, while at the same time, defend that revelation by
maintaining that God�s word was corrupted. Because this then leaves orthodox
Muslims with the idea that God cannot preserve His word from interpolations and
Nevertheless, this is not to say that I, personally, have a
problem with reformations and re-interpretations of religious texts, for they
may indeed serve as a positive step towards tolerance and progression in the
21st century. Hence, my problem is not with reformation per se, but with Muslim
Reformists� who are deluded with the belief that despite their �picking� and
�choosing,� while rejecting (or ignoring) a myriad of other fundamental
teachings as being corrupted, they still consider themselves as Muslims and their
beliefs as �Islamic� when literally and traditionally they are not.
Samar Esapzai is a Pashtun-Canadian who is very
passionate about international development and humanitarian issues around the
world Her blog is SesapZai � Artist. Poet. Writer.