Why didn't Islam reform like other religions?


Hardly a day goes by on which the feature sections of the major German newspapers do not call for a fundamental reform of Islam. In order for the Muslim minorities to find their place in an open, pluralistic society and to appreciate the institutions of parliamentary democracy, an "Islamic Reformation" is finally required. Often an "enlightenment of Islam" is called for. Demands of this kind are made not only by politicians from all democratic parties, but also by representatives of the two major Christian churches and journalists.

Need to catch up?

The call for a "Reformation of Islam" is echoed in many ways among German Muslims. Prominent Muslim intellectuals such as Navid Kermani and Islamic theologians express themselves publicly and often with great media coverage as "reformers", for example by demanding a historical-critical interpretation of Islam, the equality of Muslim women and the right to elementary religious self-determination of every individual Muslim . For example, the political scientist Bassam Tibi criticizes "Sharia Islam" and for a "Euro-Islam" that recognizes "Western values" such as individual freedom, tolerance, human rights and equality. [1]

Mouhanad Khorchide, a religious educator from Münster, outlines the vision of a reformed Islam as a humanistically good religion that, thanks to God's all-embracing mercy, promotes love for God, human solidarity and individual freedom. [2] Although he raises rather moderate reform demands, at the end of 2013 several influential Muslim associations such as the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM), the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (DITIB) and the Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany (IR) accused Khorchide of to undermine the authority of the Holy Koran through historical-critical readings and therefore not to be suitable for a denominational instruction of future Muslim religion teachers. [3]

The political scientist Hamed Abdel-Samad, who publishes in part together with Khorchide [4], expresses his criticism of traditional Sharia Islam more fundamentally. [5] Abdel-Samad, who often argues critically against religion, recommends his European "Islam light" without Sharia, jihad, mission and oppression of women as a counter-program to those new politically sectarian Islamisms, which he fights as "Islamic fascism" not least because of their massive anti-Semitism. [ 6]

The Islamic scholar Lamya Kaddor, first chairwoman of the "Liberal-Islamic Association" founded in 2010, initially researched and taught in Münster before she played a decisive role as a teacher in the North Rhine-Westphalian school experiment "Islamic Studies in German". The co-founder of the Muslim Forum Germany (MFD), who has received numerous awards and is well represented in the media, calls for a reformed "contemporary Islam" with "less dogma and more spirituality". [7]

The assertion that Islam finally needs a reformation and also an enlightenment in order to be able to overcome the elementary cognitive dissonances between ancient beliefs and modern pluralistic society is also shared by devout seekers of meaning who, like the writer Zafer Şenocak, deal with the beliefs of their fathers dispute: [8] "Today's believers in Islam are rooted with one foot in the seventh and the other in the twenty-first century. This results in numerous conflicts that cannot be resolved spiritually or socially. How do you live in a community with people of equal status who are not Are Muslims who have neither a sacred book nor a belief in God? How do you respect other views from the position of the last, eternally valid revelation? There are no satisfactory answers to these questions from the Islamic tradition. The necessary respect is in contradiction with the demotion of women in the Koran, with the demotion of the unbelievers, even with the deprivation of the right to life for certain positions. "[9] This is why Şenocak calls for an" Islamic Reformation "that enables productive doubts and new individual appropriation of the poetry and beauty of the Koran.

The spectrum of Muslim intellectuals who advocate an "Islamic Reformation" in Europe and the USA is also wide. Fazlur Rahman, who was born in 1919 in what is now the Pakistani British India and after studying in Lahore in 1949 did his doctorate in Oxford and in 1952 with a book on the influence of Ibn Sina or Avicennas on Thomas Aquinas, [10] headed the von General from 1961 Ayub Khan founded the Central Institute of Islamic Research in Karachi, Pakistan, which was supposed to develop a reformist, modernizing interpretation of Islam. This led to violent protests by the ulama, the religious scholars in Islam, so that in 1969 Rahman moved to the University of Chicago as a professor of the history of Islamic ideas. Here he published "Islam and Modernity", which was soon considered to be a classic text of a modern reform Islam. [11]

The Swiss Islamic scholar and religious intellectual Tariq Ramadan, born in Geneva in 1962, now teaching in Oxford and doing research in Doha, a grandson of the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, spoke about his religious self-image Ramadan in 1998 at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo Wrote his doctoral thesis, sees himself as a "reform Salafist", with great public response, especially among younger Muslims in Europe and the USA, who advocates an active Muslim mission in Europe, continues traditionalist and orthodox-Sunni positions as a conservative modernizer and a new one Tries to establish genuinely European Muslim identity. [12] His concept of "Islamic socialism", which he defends in sharp criticism of the neoliberal economic policy of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, also inherits old Christian, especially Catholic ideas of an economy for the common good that goes beyond maximizing private utility. Time magazine hailed Ramadan as "Renewer of the Month" in 2009, and some of his enthusiastic followers proclaimed him Martin Luther of Islam at the turn of the millennium. [13] The accusation repeatedly raised against him that he argues in front of Muslim auditoriums in a much more traditional, anti-liberal and anti-western manner than in texts and lectures that are also addressed to a non-Muslim audience, [14] leaves the changing, iridescent and also opportunistic in his speech from " recognize radical reform "and" Muslim reformation ".

The corresponding demands of Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, born in Sudan in 1946, who teaches law at Emory University, researches the relationship between law and religion and in 1990 received a lot of attention with his essay "Toward an Islamic Reformation", are much more concise . As a student of the influential Sudanese religious reformer Mahmud Muhammad Taha, he fights in particular for a fundamental redefinition of Sharia law, which in states with a predominantly Muslim population should allow constitutional law, criminal law and international law to be based on principles that correspond to modern human rights thinking. [ 15] The lawyer argues much more critically than many other Muslim reformers in favor of the idea of ​​the secular, religiously and ideologically neutral state. [16]

In Iran, it was above all the historian Haschem Aghadscheri, born in 1957, who criticized the religious culture of the Islamic Republic as over-bureaucratized, hierarchically and dogmatically hardened and therefore promoted "Islamic Protestantism". When he was attacked in 2002 by the theocratically oriented spiritual elite of the state, then arrested and sentenced to death, he quickly became a globally celebrated icon of all those Muslims who campaigned more or less "liberally" for elementary reforms of their religious cultures. "Aghajari's case was unusual in its setting: a Shi'i country with a constitution placing religious scholars at the head of the state. But his argument was far from unique. Around the world, numerous Muslim authors made use of the analogy with the Christian Reformation, and have done so since the nineteenth century, as have Western observers of Islamic reform movements. "[17]

Massive international protests resulted in the death sentence being reduced to five years in prison. But the conflict shows that the call for a "Reformation of Islam" under the conditions of modernity-specific internal Muslim pluralization and differentiation of competing religious milieus always provokes strong counter-movements. Some observers warn that anyone who calls for this Reformation or speaks of the "Current Islamic Reformation" [18] is provoking religious and cultural developments that cannot be calculated and which may lead to many new violent religious conflicts [19]. In fact, the Reformation protest movements of the 16th century were also associated with harsh violent confrontations. Similar can be observed in the present: "Like the Christian Reformation, Muslim movements of reform tend to stigmatize their opponents and have become notorious for proclaiming takfir (expiation) against dissidents. "[20]

However, as different as all the "liberal" positions, reform concepts and religious-political visions are in detail [21] - the "reformers" are always concerned with finally catching up in the Islamic religious cultures of what had already happened in European Christianity in the 16th century: the comprehensive renewal of religious tradition through a "Reformation", which enables a completely new, internalized and reflective-critical relationship to one's own tradition and is compatible with genuinely modern Western concepts of freedom such as human rights in particular. A very close connection between belief and education is always established and a basic right to individual inwardness is emphasized against any merely external, ritual practice of belief.