Thoughts on How the West was Lost, Jamie Glazov's interview of Hasan Mahmud, the Director of Sharia Law at the Muslim Canadian Congress:
I have argued here that our understanding of what Islam is should not be exhausted by orthodox interpretations of Islam's sacred texts, although it is very important that we know what orthodoxy and its power over people is. Not only is it a principle of religious studies in the West that we best understand a religion (and/or political ideology) by examining all the understandings, of both insiders and outsiders, that the reality of the religion's presence creates (a religion being understood as something paradoxical that generates much meaning, or meanings). But no matter how committed to following some orthodoxy a believer may be, he still has to interpret that desire for orthodoxy in relation to a larger reality that the religion cannot entirely block from sight, explain, or define away, no matter how much violence it is willing to do to people in trying.
For the thinking believer, this creates an inevitable conflict between the understandings of orthodoxy and the contrary realities of a world that the believer takes to be full of insight into the nature of God. This problem may be lessened in a religion like Christianity whose orthodoxy encourages followers to recognize that holy texts are "divinely inspired" but not the literal word of God, and to question worldly authority, such that successful clerics usually have to be leaders in thought and not mere dogmatists. But it is obviously a huge problem in Islam.
It is inevitable that thinking Muslims in the modern world are going to question much about Sharia orthodoxy. Will this lead them to reject Islam entirely or to develop a new modern form of Islam or "Islam" as some would prefer? I don't know what will be possible, what people will find a useful focus for their mental energy, what the core revelation of Mohammed actually is or can be reasonably interpreted to mean. But I think it important to pay attention to those who are trying to reconcile our God-given reality with their religious and humanistic faith in it. Their efforts may well turn out to be failures; yet this is how we will learn more of what our shared reality is.
I find it a little amazing that Hasan Mahmud, the Director of Sharia Law at the Muslim Canadian Congress can, essentially, 1) reject the entire tradition of Sharia law, explaining it away as the product of a conspiracy to corrupt the true faith as it must have once existed, and 2) still declare himself a faithful Muslim. But he simply cannot reconcile Sharia with the human reality he sees around him. So of what then does his Islam consist? He does not tell us in his interview at Frontpage Magazine and we have to imagine a largely privatized conversation between man and Allah.
Still, Mahmud shows the kind of thing that has to happen when one pays attention to our God-given reality. If the Creation that we can see working itself out all around us is indeed God's Creation, then the thinking believer has no choice but to question received understandings of the faith. But to some degree this must even be true of the minimally thinking person. Whether our instinct is to move towards orthodoxy or liberalization, no one can divorce himself entirely from the revelations that historical change forces on all of us. Eventually this will lead all of us to refine our understanding of the original revelations that found our religion, or our humanity more generally. I say all of us because even the most closed mind cannot be entirely closed to reality and still survive.
At the end of the day I am sympathetic to the thinking believer who recognizes that the truth of his religion cannot be at odds with the truth of human reality, and that study of the latter must be more of a guide to the proper or original nature of the former than any received orthodoxy. And if this questioner still says he is a Muslim, I am willing to respect his belief, even if that means we will have to rethink the various possibilities inherent in the word `submission'.
Of course, one might argue that this "Muslim" is so outside the meaning of Islamic tradition that he is mentally all askew in considering himself a Muslim. But ultimately the test of that is the historical laboratory itself. At present, we can only place bets on how he will be received. Will history judge him a nut, or not, or most likely just ignore him? But the question that tests our own faith in the nature and future of humanity is this: in what kind of marketplace do we want to make our bets?