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Islam’s ‘Protestant Reformation,’ Part 2

Can Islam be reformed? Part 2 of 2. (Read the first part of this series here.)

by
Raymond Ibrahim

Bio

June 27, 2014 - 12:04 am

How Christianity and Islam can follow similar patterns of reform but with antithetical results rests in the fact that their scriptures are often antithetical to one another.   This is the key point, and one admittedly unintelligible to postmodern, secular sensibilities, which tend to lump all religious scripture together in a melting pot of relativism without bothering to evaluate the significance of their respective words and teachings.

Obviously a point by point comparison of the scriptures of Islam and Christianity is inappropriate for an article of this length (see my “Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam” for a more comprehensive treatment).

Suffice it to note some contradictions (all of which will be rejected as a matter of course by the relativistic mindset):

  • The New Testament preaches peace, brotherly love, tolerance, and forgiveness — for all humans, believers and non-believers alike.  Instead of combatting and converting “infidels,” Christians are called to pray for those who persecute them and turn the other cheek (which is not the same thing as passivity, for Christians are also called to be bold and unapologetic).  Conversely, the Koran and Hadith call for war, or jihad, against all non-believers, until they either convert, accept subjugation and discrimination, or die.
  • The New Testament has no punishment for the apostate from Christianity.  Conversely, Islam’s prophet himself decreed that “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”
  • The New Testament teaches monogamy, one husband and one wife, thereby dignifying the woman.  The Koran allows polygamy — up to four wives — and the possession of concubines, or sex-slaves.  More literalist readings treat women as possessions.
  • The New Testament discourages lying (e.g., Col. 3:9).  The Koran permits it; the prophet himself often deceived others, and permitted lying to one’s wife, to reconcile quarreling parties, and to the “infidel” during war.

It is precisely because Christian scriptural literalism lends itself to religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Western civilization developed the way it did — despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

And it is precisely because Islamic scriptural literalism is at odds with religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Islamic civilization is the way it is — despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

Actual Islamic Reform Would Be Nothing Like Protestant Reformation

Those in the West waiting for an Islamic “reformation” along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation, on the assumption that it will lead to similar results, must embrace two facts: 1) Islam’s reformation is well on its way, and yes, along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation — with a focus on scripture and a disregard for tradition — and for similar historic reasons (literacy, scriptural dissemination, etc.); 2) But because the core teachings of the scriptures of Christianity and Islam markedly differ from one another, Islam’s reformation has naturally produced a civilization markedly different from the West.

Put differently, those in the West uncritically calling for an “Islamic reformation” need to acknowledge what it is they are really calling for: the secularization of Islam in the name of modernity; the trivialization and sidelining of Islamic law from Muslim society.

That would not be a “reformation” — certainly nothing analogous to the Protestant Reformation.

Overlooked is that Western secularism was, and is, possible only because Christian scripture lends itself to the division between church and state, the spiritual and the temporal.

Upholding the literal teachings of Christianity is possible within a secular — or any — state.  Christ called on believers to “render unto Caesar the things of Caesar (temporal) and unto God the things of God (spiritual)” (Matt. 22:21).  For the “kingdom of God” is “not of this world” (John 18:36).  Indeed, a good chunk of the New Testament deals with how “man is not justified by the works of the law… for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal. 2:16).

On the other hand, mainstream Islam is devoted to upholding the law; and Islamic scripture calls for a fusion between Islamic law — Sharia — and the state.   Allah decrees in the Koran that “It is not fitting for true believers — men or women — to take their choice in affairs if Allah and His Messenger have decreed otherwise. He that disobeys Allah and His Messenger strays far indeed!” (33:36).  Allah tells the prophet of Islam, “We put you on an ordained way [literarily in Arabic, sharia] of command; so follow it and do not follow the inclinations of those who are ignorant” (45:18).

Mainstream Islamic exegesis has always interpreted such verses to mean that Muslims must follow the commandments of Allah as laid out in the Koran and Hadith — in a word, Sharia.

And Sharia is so concerned with the details of this world, with the everyday doings of Muslims, that every conceivable human action falls under five rulings, or ahkam: the forbidden (haram), the discouraged (makruh), the neutral (mubah), the recommended (mustahib), and the obligatory (wajib).

Conversely, Islam offers little concerning the spiritual (sidelined Sufism the exception).

Unlike Christianity, then, Islam without the law — without Sharia — becomes meaningless.   After all, the Arabic word Islam literally means “submit.”  Submit to what?  Allah’s laws as codified in Sharia and derived from the Koran and Hadith.

The “Islamic reformation” some in the West are hoping for is really nothing less than an Islam without Islam — secularization not reformation; Muslims prioritizing secular, civic, and humanitarian laws over Allah’s law; a “reformation” that would slowly see the religion of Muhammad go into the dustbin of history.

Such an event is certainly more plausible than believing that Islam can be true to its scriptures in any meaningful way and still peacefully coexist with, much less complement, modernity the way Christianity does.

Read part one of this series here

Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam specialist, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, World Almanac of Islamism, and Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center; Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum; and a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution, 2013. Ibrahim’s dual-background -- born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East -- has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.

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Top Rated Comments   
Islam was never "reasonable", and never forget that the Crusades were - at least initially - a reaction to the Muslim invasion of the holy land. Christians, Jews, and others had lived together quite peacefully there for 800 years; all of that changed when the Muslims invaded from the Arabian peninsula.

Oh, and you're quite incorrect to say that the O.T. is not the "actual Word of God." It isn't in the same way that the Koran is supposed to be the word of Allah, of course; although some of the words of the Prophets are more or less dictation. And you really can't "interpret it widely".

It must, however, be read in context. All of the really horrible parts are either specific instructions to the Isrealites aimed at very specific circumstances or a documentation of evil behavior (generally on the part of an Israelite king) - which is invariably punished. There is NEVER, for instance, the sort of blanket command given to kill all unbelievers that Mohammed received.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
To sum up:

Jesus said: "My Kingdom is not of this world."
Mohammad said: "Mine is."
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
You ignore the fact that Judaism never asked its
Followers to kill or conquer anyone. The Scriptures
We're never meant as a guide for personal conduct.
According to Jewish Law there are 613 basic commandments
For personal conduct And not One of them tells a Jew to
Conquer, kill, enslave, lie, abuse, etc...There is zero comparison
With Muhammad who Muslims are required to emulate
Even as to lying, killing, and enslaving 'infidels', the
Subjugation and abuse if women, and worse.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (92)
All Comments   (92)
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To ask if "Can Islam be reformed?" is to demonstrate either ignorance or a lack of discernment. Islam cannot be reformed and survive.

That is because to reform Islam one MUST logically reject Muhammad. That is inescapably so because of Muhammad's most basic claim and thus Islam's most basic tenet. Muhammad emphatically and consistently denied that he is the Qur'an's author. He repeatedly claimed that he merely took dictation from the archangel Gabriel who directly transmitted Allah's direct testimony. Archangels do NOT make mistakes and the archangel Gabriel was supposedly there to make sure that the 'illiterate' Muhammad got everything just right, all the way down to the last comma.

To accept Islam you must accept this, Muhammad's most basic claim, as truth or you implicitly declare that he was either deluded or a liar. But if Muhammad got something as basic as who wrote the Qur'an wrong... it begs the question; what else did he get wrong? So, in either case, Islam's fundamental theological infrastructure collapses.

But if you DO accept Muhammad's claim as to the Qur'an's authorship being Allah's direct words then not a single comma can be changed because imperfect, fallible mankind cannot 'correct' divine perfection. Which would be blasphemy by any measure. Muhammad has Islam locked within an unchangeable stasis field of theological premises. Just as the infidel faces conversion or death, the Muslim faces acceptance or apostasy.

There is NO middle road in Islam and without a middle road, reform is impossible.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
The New Testament has no punishment for the apostate from Christianity. Conversely, Islam’s prophet himself decreed that “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”

Mr. Ibrahim is mistaken. Most Christian denominations believe if you leave the Christian faith you will go to hell.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Ibrahim (and islime) is talking about earthly punishments.
Christians are talking about heavenly punishments.
Completely different.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
And most of them believe that in the same way that if you walk off a mountain path, you'll hit rock bottom. I think it's fairly clear Mr Ibrahim is talking about punishments to be meted out by Christians on the apostate. The closest thing I can think of is "shake the dust from your shoes", but that's for people who reject Christ in the first place.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Muhammad never existed. He's as real as one of the composites in an Øbama "autobiography". The whole Islam thing is a fiction going in so no amount of tweaking will fix anything. The medieval Arabian death cult needs to be shouted down everywhere it goes. Muslims need to be reality shamed, the world simply shouldn't put up with the murder and mayhem any longer.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Muhammad certainly did exist and you aid Islam when you assert that he never existed because such a charge is so easily disproven. Or is that your actual goal?
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Muhammad's existence is not something I currently doubt. I'll be interested to read Robert Spencer's book on the subject, however, which claims the evidence is rather sparse.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
#non PC comment to follow:

Best way to influence a secularisation of Islam is the bombing and total destruction of their holy places: carpet bomb Mecca, nuke Medinah, and Qom. Ask them: so? Where is your so called Allah saving your effing holy places? Shower them with pig blood and ask them to call for Allah a save them.
After that, the true follower of a pious kind way of life will be a better believer. The ones thinking stupidly about conquering infidels or something will think twice, for no Allah will come to rescue.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Beautifully researched and written.

To me, this essay means that there can be no reconciliation between Islam and the West, or Islam and the East, North and South, for that matter. For the Dar Al Islam to see long-lasting peace and prosperity, Islam will have to be abandoned.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
LOL...when they say the Koran is not the ABSOLUTE word of Allah..........they will be murdered as APOSTATES

No reform ...... ;-)
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Probably the closest thing you're going to see to a reform is for Islam to realign its vision of itself compared to non-Muslims. To do that they are going to have to come to grips with Islam's colonialist imperatives founded in war and conquest and acknowledge it's not 640 anymore.

To do otherwise is to invoke Orwell's eternal war in "1984." It's one thing to have some metaphorical eternal "war" for men's souls and another to have scriptures literally founded in managing conquered populations of Christians and Jews in actual and real cities and a dogma that seeks to literally conquer the world.

As I've pointed out before, Islam is a supremacist doctrine born from winners and people used to having their way, not persecution like Christians endured under the Romans. So when Islam doesn't get its way it gets pretty hot in bothered.

So in that sense Ibrahim's probably correct Christianity is better suited to not being a power broker at the center of all things. My guess is that for Islam to realign itself is probably going to take some sharp shock from the outside. The problem with fanatics is that the more they lose the more that fulfills their own visions of righteousness. It's hard to fight people who suicide.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am not trying to engage in a false moral relativism here, but I notice that no one has mentioned the Christian wars of religion that were a result of the Protestant Reformation. If there is an Islamic 'Reformation' going on here and theologically I think the only similarity is a reference to the centrality of both Islamic and Christian emphasis on 'sola scripture' in fueling religious activity.

However, however much one may want to differentiate Islamic fundamentalism from the Christian reformation, one thing they have in common is exceptional violence. The wars of religion in Europe lasted over a hundred years and were scenes of incredible destruction and cruelty and mass loss of life. Moreover, the Christian wars of religion were not pure theological affairs but combined a complex variation of religious, social and political interests. One of the best examples of this is that during the 30 Years War - the final and most destructive of the wars of religion in Europe - the 'Most Catholic' king of France sided with Protestants against the catholic Holy Roman Emperor and even allied himself with the Islamic Sultan of the Ottoman Empire against the Holy Roman Emperor. The end of the Years War was the Treaty of Westphalia that did many things, but important among them was reshaping the map of Europe, the emergence of new states and recognition that states would largely define the predominant religion within them (examples: the Church of England, the calvinistic Dutch Synod of Dort, the end of religious tolerance in France by Louis XIV). The result of the Christian wars of religion was the 'state church', vestiges of which have lasted perhaps to this day (when I served in Vienna in the mid 1980s, a Protestant church had to be offset from a street and Austrian citizens still had to pay a tax to the church). Similarly, the king or queen of England (United Kingdom but the king or queen is still king or queen of England as part of the United Kingdom) must be a member of the Church of England. Religious tolerance in Europe was a long drawn out affair even after the Wars of Religion, which in many cases merely codified state defined religious identity within a mostly secular state.

Thus, if there is an Islamic 'reformation' going on, then wars of religion may and are appearing to be following. If they follow the western model, what the result will be is violence along sectarian lines, states using religion to advance their interests, a reshaping of maps and an acceptance of state churches with differing degrees of religious tolerance.

We have transcended in many ways the world of the wars of religion - the result of the Enlightenment, the way for which was however, in part, paved by a rejection of the extreme sectarianism and violence of the Christian wars of religion. It has taken centuries for the West to largely but not completely escape from the consequences of sectarian belief. We want Islam to get with the Enlightenment. We forget how violent and difficult the path to modernity was for the West.

PS I write this as an orthodox Christian, but one who is often dismayed by the narratives that Christians tell themselves about their own history, which, given the nature of humans, is often not as we would have it.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Much of what you say is factually true, it is what you leave unsaid and that you attempt to draw an historical parallelism without reference to theology (while comparing theological movements) wherein IMO you depart from objectivity. What you leave unsaid is the theological difference between Christianity and Islam and because you do so your attempt at an historical parallelism collapses.

The brutality and violence of Christ's followers was in direct opposition to Christ's teachings. The brutality and violence of Muhammad's followers is in direct alignment with Allah's edicts and Muhammad's teachings and actions.

Christianity returning to its roots is peace and toleration. Islam returning to its roots is violent conquest, brutal subjugation and the murder of anyone who resists.

Because Christian violence was in opposition, it could reform. Because Muhammad's most basic tenet is that the Qur'an is Allah's direct testimony, it cannot reform for to become more peaceful Muslim's must 'revise' Allah.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
What I am arguing, however imperfectly, is that it would be wise to note that despite the truth of Christianity, many of Christ's people acted, contrary to the tenets of their faith, as pretty awful people and in ways that seem historically to parallel what is happening in the Islamic world. Can Islam become a world which their history and theology may make it incapable absent a secularist revolution that was, however religiously perilous, in part necessary in returning Christianity to its roots in peace and tolerance. I have no way of knowing if Islam can be anything different - perhaps not. But it took Christians centuries to return to their roots in peace and tolerance. My main point was that if history and Christian history is any guide, we may have to wait a long time to see, just like we did ourselves. Unfortunately, I wonder if Islam will have to burn out its sectarian difference in violence just like we did. Whether it can or not, given the vast theological (including judicial and political institutions that have some very partial shadows in Christian history but which are fundamentally different - the question of a Christian equivalent of a caliphate has echoes in Christian history but was decided many centuries ago but is still central to Islam today) I would not presume to know.

I would argue that at some point there may be an Islamic de facto if not de jure treaty of Westphalia equivalent. Reshaped maps, new actors, state churches that may or may not evolve over time. Actually much of such a world existed before the Islamic Revolution. Now it has to reform -not 'reform'. Can it do so. We did. That does not make Islam religiously valid in my opinion. But history is a useful tool and if you reject my parallelism find a better one or say that fallen human nature does not manifest itself in recurring ways.


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16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
"despite the truth of Christianity, many of Christ's people acted, contrary to the tenets of their faith, as pretty awful people and in ways that seem historically to parallel what is happening in the Islamic world."

That "many of Christ's people acted, contrary to the tenets of their faith, as pretty awful people" is factually true. However, the apparent similarity between historical christian violence and what is happening in the Islamic world today is deceptive and a false analogy.

Why that is so is contained in, what you imply to be a rhetorical question: "Can Islam become a world which their history and theology may make it incapable absent a secularist revolution that was, however religiously perilous, in part necessary in returning Christianity to its roots in peace and tolerance. I have no way of knowing if Islam can be anything different - perhaps not."

But we do know. That is because Muhammad's most basic claim prevents theological revision and without revision, Islam will remain violent. Muhammad's most basic claim prevents revision because he asserted that he is NOT the Qur'an's author. That Allah dictated the Qur'an to Muhammad through the archangel Gabriel, who watched over Muhammad to make sure he got it exactly right. No room for error, no room for doubt, no room for revision because man may not revise his creator and the creator remain divine.

That conundrum places Muslim's in an impossible theological position. If the Qur'an can be revised, that necessarily rejects Allah as direct author and that in turn implicitly declares that Muhammad must have either lied or been deluded. In either case, Islam's theological foundations collapse.

Rejecting the apparent similarity of your historical parallelism does not place upon me the obligation to offer another explanation. But human nature does manifest itself in similar and dissimilar ways, history does not exactly repeat itself, it at times, partially parallels itself. It's easy to falsely assume that apparent parallels imply essentially identical historical dynamics. But when fundamentals are different, the apparent similarity is illusory.
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16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
"No one?"
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not sure to what statement you are referring.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I am not trying to engage in a false moral relativism here"

And yet you just spent a lot of "ink" doing just that.

Heres a cliff notes version to save you the trouble next time.

Jesus never killed any one.
Mohammad did. And boy, he really REALLY liked it.

Which one do YOU want babysitting yours daughters soul?
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Root, I dodged most of the "part 2" discussion because I'm catching a lot of willful misunderstanding on this board. For instance, downstairs, Smokeless is saying, "Jesus did not shed a lot of blood, but many of his most ardent followers did..."

What the hell is that? The blood Jesus shed was his own and for us, period.

His most ardent followers, likewise. Willingly conflating biblical teaching with
the ambitions of religious institutions is to deliberately indict on a false charge.
How the hell is it that Christianity on trial?
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was attempting an historical parallelism not a theological parallelism. Jesus did not shed a lot of blood, but many of his most ardent followers did in the course of Christian history. If you do not want to see how Christ's church has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, then you are blind and vulnerable. Since it is indisputable but sinful how do Christians avoid such behavior in the future -denial. Looking at ourselves does not validate Islam, it is merely a pre-condition for more faithfully following Christ.

I know who is babysitting my daughter's soul and it is the Lord Jesus Christ, but not the perpetrators of the Sack of Marburg- look it up
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was attempting an historical parallelism not a theological parallelism. Jesus did not shed a lot of blood, but many of his most ardent followers did in the course of Christian history. If you do not want to see how Christ's church has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, then you are blind and vulnerable. Since it is indisputable but sinful how do Christians avoid such behavior in the future -denial. Looking at ourselves does not validate Islam, it is merely a pre-condition for more faithfully following Christ.

I know who is babysitting my daughter's soul and it is the Lord Jesus Christ, but not the perpetrators of the Sack of Marburg- look it up
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
The times in history when Islamic nations prospered and advanced are the very times that they ignored a lot of Islamic rules and allowed Jews and Christians more freedom and influence than proper Muslims should. Then the fanatics from the desert always show up and knock over the more kindly Islamic realms. It's a pattern that goes back to the very beginning, and thing is, the fanatics from the desert are always much more true to the written word, or at least they always think so. I love the speech given by Herbert Lom at the beginning of 'El Cid' that puts it very clearly.

Of course, the way Islam is practiced, nobody actually follows the written text. They make tribal customs equal to the Quran, they ignore whatever they like, and add other gods to Allah, such as those who 'love death,' or those who set up a hypocritically decadent socialist state and call it Islamic (like Iran). However even as written, the text would be antithetical to the modern world in many ways just as Mr. Ibrahim has indicated. I've only read the Quran twice, and only part of the Hadith and Sunna, but it's enough to learn that it's not even close to the same thing as Christianity as written.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly...

Islam is not "back", it never went away.

It was merely contained for a time.
The Warrior/thugs ran out of EXTERNAL victims to exploit at the gates of Vienna….

Better cultures built stronger walls, and Islam, left to itself, naturally festered and decayed on its own. Islam is not A civilization, it is a failure OF civilization. A cancer, always needing a host on which to grow.

20th century Petro-Dollars gave them cash and access all sorts of Useful Western Technologies (gasoline, explosives, automobiles, small arms, cell phones, the internet, transportation hubs) and The War has been “back on” ever since.

We’re just too rich and lazy to be motivated enough to fight back.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
The cure for Islam is quarantine and consequence.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
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