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Religion Last Updated: Jul 15th, 2010 - 00:27:38

The reformist delusion
By Samar Esapzai
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jul 15, 2010, 00:20

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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 errors.

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.

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