I found a nifty post on the vexing and topical question of reforming Islam. Lots of non Muslims are talking about the fanciful notion of an Islamic Reformation--is it even possible or is it so much moonshine? Perhaps the question should be rephrased--if there was an Islamic Reformation, what would it look like and what form would it take?
I think this question is best answered by Callimachus over at Done with Mirrors. Here is (in part) his answer:
Read the rest here.
You Say You Want a Reformation
People in the West talk about the need for an "Islamic Reformation." By which they mean, perhaps, something that will have the same effect as what happened in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, when a monolothic theopolitical power cracked and what emerged, over time, was a Christianity that overall was less oppressive, less domineering, less dogmatic than what had come before.
Something like that -- the picture is oversimplified (and never mind that barrels of blood were spilled in the process). Or maybe they really just want someone to stand up and be Mecca's version of Martin Luther and say, "enough of this foolishness."
It's a hopeful vision. It's optimistic, and I've learned to be optimistic about the world -- like Churchill, because "it does not seem to be much use being anything else." So I like this idea, too. But I'm not so optimistic that I think it will happen.
For one: We want there to be an Islamic Reformation. There's no particular evidence that Muslims, in sufficient number and in the right places (i.e., not living in America or Canada) want there to be an Islamic Reformation. Reformations don't happen because rival civilizations want them. If the Ottoman sultan in 1519 had said to the Pope, "Just this and this and this needs to be changed in Christianity so we can get along better," you can bet Rome would have responded with a papal "Bull!" In fact, if the Sultan had been advocating for exactly the same things Martin Luther spoke up for, you can bet Luther never would have got past the Wittenberg church door.
For another: There already was an Islamic Reformation. It happened while we were sleeping. The result is Wahhabi dominance, and Islamic Brotherhood, and Bin Laden. This is the Islamic Reformation. We're fighting it now.
When religions "reform" -- note the "re-" prefix -- they swim back toward their sources. And in every case, they carry the baggage of the present with them. Every attempt to reform Christianity during the 16th and 17th centuries sought the wellsprings. It turned away from the Catholic Church not because it was wrong to mix political power with religious authority, but because that's not how it was in the Gospels.
So they set out in search of the Christianity of Paul. But they always dragged their own time and place with them -- how could they not? If the command was, "be separated from the world," the shape of your separation would be determined by the shape of the world you lived in. Thus the same motivation, and the same Gospel, in different times and places led one group of people to be Quakers and another to be Pentecostals.
Or Amish. Look at an adult Amishman: he has a beard, but no mustache. Why is that? Because in 18th century Germany it was fashionable for young men to wear mustaches but no beards. So to get back to the Gospel and be not of this world, the Amish enshrined the exact opposite style. And they still wear it.
When Christianity reforms -- when it goes back to its roots -- it tries to foreswear the world. When Islam goes back to its roots, it tries to conquer the world.
And it takes modern conflicts and technologies with it.