Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Islamic Reform?

Maybe when "Cairo-Mecca-Qom I" is a household name?


maccusgermanis said...

Do you really think that Vatican II departed from fundamentals of Christianity? Or did they return, back again, to a form more resembling the model of Christ?

Islamic reform has already happened. That is entirely the problem.

Dag said...

Maybe all Muslims should consider a long stint at Islamic Reform School.

truepeers said...

I think Islamic reform has happened thousands of times. The medieval historian, Ibn Khaldun, had it pegged. For him, Islam was a continual cycle between decadence and fundamentalist revolt by determined and offended tribesmen who came down from the hills or marginal territories to restore the real Islam to the city that formerly ruled them. The decadent cosmopolitans lost their heads, and a new family sat on the throne. In time, world-wise exercise of power and luxury eroded the puritanical zeal of the first generation of reformers, and in following generations the worldly powers were attacked again by hard men with their tribe and the next world on their minds.

The lesson I draw from this is that "real Islam" can't really exist in this world in long spurts. It is far too puritanical and intolerant of worldly realities. Power is best sustained when it is open to negotiation and the opinion of rational men. Powers like the Taleban or the present Iranian regime have often come into being in Islam, but they never last too long. Eventually compromises are made to the needs of worldly power brokering; the allures of wealth and pleasure play their part; the desire for a degree more of freedom works even in Muslim hearts.

Islam, in full orthodoxy, is just an affront to worldly humans. It is a Gnostic heresy. And furthermore, it is incompatible with modernity whose fruits we all now share a part of.

If Islam can be "reformed" it will be because Muslims will be fed up with the recurring fantasies of the "real" reformers to return to fundamentalist modes. In the modern world, each return to fundamentalism is just that more appalling to minds cognizant of larger and larger realities. Most simply, billions will die if the world, especially its productive populations, is to be returned to Sharia rule. Perhaps, eventually, the ability of the tribesmen to come down from the hills and take over the city with a neat decapitation or two will meet sufficient resistance. Perhaps it already has; perhaps the experience of Taleban, al-Qaeda-in-Iraq and Khomeini in recent years is leaving societies resolved to become sufficiently resistant, through the development of modern institutions, to such returns of the true believers and full-blown Islam. Maybe compromises between religion and secularism are in the future. And then, what will these societies be? Will they be no longer "Islamic"? Maybe, yet surely they will retain some aspects of their past.

Evolution is always more realistic than some kind of complete revolution; the attempt at complete revolution tends to bring people back to an inferior version of where they were.

It's not for us to know the course of future history. We act best when we give up the desire for total and systematic knowledge.