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It’s a red flag for me when a person who identifies as Muslim says he or she wants to “reform Islam.” Most Muslims believe Islam is perfect. Flaws arise exclusively from mistakes Muslims make in their understanding and practice. This is a bedrock concept, which is precisely why it’s under relentless attack.
The difference between “reforming Islam” and “reforming Muslims” is by no means trivial. These are two entirely different approaches, with very different implications and expected outcomes. I think we need to spell this out clearly and concisely.
Irshad Manji considers herself a reformist Muslim. She wrote a book entitled, “The Trouble with Islam.” In an apparent effort to appease critics who found the title problematic, she changed it to, “The Trouble with Islam Today.” This demonstrated to me that it wasn’t out of ignorance that she chose that title in the first place, and that she had no intention of straying from her original approach. In fact, adding “today” actually compounded the problem by suggesting Islam changes over time!
If something is perfect, then by definition, change is devolution into something less than perfect. There is an essential, inherent logic in the Muslim idea that when reform is needed, it is Muslims who must change, not Islam.
The Gatestone Institute is neocon-linked and devoted to spreading propaganda that demonizes Islam and undermines Muslims. Yet a group of “reformist Muslims” chose their website as the venue for their announcement of the “The Muslim Reform Movement.” Signatories include Zuhdi Jasser, Asra Nomani, and Usama Hasan of Quilliam Foundation.
One phrase in their declaration, above all, caught my attention: “Sharia is manmade” ~ The Muslim Reform [sic] Movement
If a signatory agrees to this, the game is over, no matter what the rest of the document says. If the Qur’an is “flawed,” Islam is “troubled,” and Sharia is “manmade,” then we are merely dealing with a flawed and antiquated human construct. This “obsolete” construct ought compete with liberal secularism in the marketplace of ideas, where “critics” are sure it will lose. Better still, from their perspective, it should simply be consigned to the historical dustbin without further ado. Of course this is what many “critics” already believe, but their goal is to convince Muslims. Or at the very least, to convince non-Muslims that Muslims are ridiculous for continuing to believe in Islam.
Upon recognition of such tactics, we must launch an immediate, unequivocal verbal counterstrike, and never waiver from these truths:
- The Qur’an is the revealed word of Allah, inerrant, perfect, and eternally preserved down to the last letter.
- Sharia, the Straight Path, is likewise perfect and immutable.
- To “reform Islam” would necessarily mean a devolution from perfection.
- Muslims achieve reform through our individual and concerted efforts to perfect our understanding and practice of the deen. Nothing more, and nothing less.
They never have to accept our assertion that Islam is perfect, and we never have to accept their assertion that it isn’t. Logically we will have achieved a stalemate, while simultaneously promulgating our own declarations as a solid bulwark against kind of insidious attack.
This post is part of the Talking Points initiative.