Friday, January 06, 2006

No Enlightenment Possible for Islam?

I was listening to a fascinating interview yesterday of Father Joseph Fessio by Hugh Hewitt. I am not a Catholic. In fact, I view parts of the Catholic structure as very strong hindrances to an individuals Christian growth. But I have many Catholic friends, and their savior is my savior. It is not to drive a wedge between believers that I say these things. Simply to provide a foundation for discussion later. In my perspective there is only one leader of the Church, and it is not the Pope. In essence, calling for a man to lead us, instead of personally looking to God for leadership, is an structure based on a dispensation that God disposed of with the perfect sacrifice. Yet, amongst Catholics, are many very devout people, as well as some extremely astute scholars. The wisdom that is brought to the political table by such is significant, and should be considered with great care.

In this interview a question arises as to whether a Reformation is possible within Islam. One presenter at a conference proposes the idea, and it is discussed. At the conference is the current Pope and some of his former students. The Pope opines that it is not possible due to the nature of the Koran, that the word of Mohamed is absolute, and is not able to be reinterpreted. He contrasts that with the Christian Bible, in that interpretation of said tome lies always with the believers, and is in constant application to the present.

For a moment let us consider the Bible. One could make a argument for it being 'peer reviewed' at various times throughout history. There are many letters and writings, holy in nature, and from the time period, that are not included. Even the source of each of the letters and messages is different. There are many prophets, and the disciples separate contributions. Is not it paramount to have multiple sources for verification of principles? But here we do not argue for the rightness or wrongness of a text. We are interested in the philosophic principle that guides large groups of people in this day. Specifically we want to know weather Islam is capable of an Enlightenment reform. I say this instead of 'The Reformation' because the principles of democracy and individual freedom were solidified in the Enlightenment period, even though their source is earlier.

I have made the argument previously that Islam is easily capable of reform. Now, I can say, it appears to be far more difficult than I previously thought. If in fact, the underlying method of moral justification in Islam is based on the exactitude of Mohamed's utterances, they are incapable of reform. I say this not to denigrate any Muslim, but this is a perversion of God's intention for the individual. We have been given a free will, an intellect, and a conscience. Are we to suppress our reason? Ignore our conscience? And simply choose to believe the words of one man, to the exclusion of primary witnesses? The Christian principle of the living word of God is far removed from this. Yes, to study and contemplate the historic records is edifying. Certainly meditating on the allegorical writings of the past will build discernment and wisdom. These alone will not grant new life. Without the reality of the guiding Spirit of God illuminating a path in the word, all that is created becomes dogmatic, yielding not fruit of life.

If a individual decides to restrict the scope of what is possible down to a single man's utterances, the end result is inevitably legalistic servitude to a dead structure. Within Islam, the avenues to reform appear to be very few. I predict that there will be great conflict within Islam itself in the near future, simply due to the principle of non-adaptable interpretation. This is the greatest hurdle they will face initially. Even the incredibly over structured Catholic Church survived such an upheaval due to the inherent nature of changing how the scripture is applied. And this change and adaptability is built in. There were twelve apostles. There were many prophets foretelling the ultimate sacrifice and change in dispensation. There were many scholarly believers who agreed upon the best texts and letters to preserve and collect.

It may seem a fine point to some, and the atheist will equate any religion with blind belief, but I contend that in this instance the current Pope has provided us with a enlightening view. Whether you agree or not, it would behoove you to read the transcript of the interview, and empower yourself with the opinions contained within. Time will not stop in the eleventh century for Islam, and much as some try, you can not go back. Western history contains a significant amount of toil and travail in the emergence of our free society, it would be safe to assume that the Arab states may be experiencing the same fate. We must be required to make ourselves aware of the possibilities, so we can plan for a safe future, not just for ourselves, but for every realm of human life we influence.

1 comment:

Vinayak said...


Happy new year. That was a nice post there. Religion, Tolerance, Racism, Terrorism, war on terror etc. leave very strong feelings.

Your blog made me think of the Indian context and "..Gudia, a Muslim girl and Shri Ramdev ji, a Hindu male...".

I feel Terrorism need not be overt. It could be covert too. . My blog below is on how the society defines the "weak" and who becomes the underdog !

more at