Today we are continuously being barraged by so called ‘progressive Muslims’ and their attempts at reforming Islam from within, many of whom are being encouraged and indeed influenced from without. Calling for reform has certainly become a quick and easy way of obtaining a platform in major media outlets in the West. It was about a year ago when Whitehall papers that revealed secret plans to win the hearts and minds of British Muslims were leaked to the Sunday Times. Proposals included screening foreign imams prior to allowing entry to Britain while giving a government seal of approval and support to selected moderate clerics in the UK and abroad. The papers included suggestions that the government might fund moderate Islamic newspapers, television and radio stations, and promote young Muslim “ambassadors” to push an Islam-friendly image. It seems apparent that these proposals have taken effect and this attempted state-sponsored morphology of Islam has been put into action.
Recently we have become accustomed to reading more and more alien ideas propagated by the self-proclaimed ‘Muslim progressives’, many of whom have certificates of artificial scholarship by western institutions, and whose propaganda is hosted by the western (not Muslim) media. Often, a call is made addressing problems among the Muslims while only being publicised in the western media addressing mainly the non-Muslims.
Many progressives believe they are heroes leading Islam into the modern era. Muslims in the East (and the West), however, see them as clinging on the verge of what little remains of their faith. The problem often stems from an inferiority complex about their religion, coupled with a gross ignorance of basic Islamic sciences. It also comes from an apologetic mentality that seeks to compromise rather than comprehend.
They manage to confuse some of the lay Muslims, but actually their arguments are often old arguments concocted by orientalists, this time clothed as if coming from a sincere reformer from within.
Today’s ‘progressives’ are not as neoteric as they would often like to see themselves. In fact, they have a precedent: the Mu’tazili sect, an extinct group who advocated a theology that expanded on the logic and rationalism of Greek philosophy, seeking to combine them with Islamic doctrines to show that they were inherently compatible. Failing to realise that the human mind (and hence its ability to derive logic and rationale) is limited and therefore cannot always comprehend God’s infinite wisdoms in his rulings, they ended up compromising on issues very fundamental to the Prophetic creed. This is why they declared that intellect should precede revelation if there was an apparent contradiction. They should have realised that the premise that the revelation is divine, naturally concludes that it must always be correct, but they may not have understood it correctly.
This theology has been inherited by today’s progressives, some of whom assert that if revelation contradicts (western) values or principles, we should reform Islam (not just the Muslims) to fit in with these values. In other words, if the West doesn’t like something about Islam, we should change Islam to accommodate them.
Progressives come in different flavours and varieties. They start from the mild types who typically try to hunt out all the possible eccentric juristic opinions they can find that agree with the West’s ‘moderate’ Islam. The extreme flavours end up denying the very divinity of (parts of) the Koran, at the same time vehemently claiming that they are Muslims, in order to satisfy their eagerness to amalgamate Islam and western dogmas. This is a conspicuous example of the contradictions that they fall into: how can one assert that Mohammed is a true prophet of God, and at the same time believe that some of what the prophet of God stated was from the Koran, is not really from the Koran? Is it conceivable that the One who chose his prophets would choose someone who would invent lies on his behalf as a noble prophet and messenger? The Koran [4:150] speaks about those who say “We believe in some and reject some” of the verses, saying that they “are the true disbelievers” [4:151].
One of the most typical approaches used by the progressives is to suggest that we as Muslims need to reinterpret certain verses of Islam to fit in with today’s society. They start with the premise that Koran as understood by the great exegetes, from the time of the Prophet’s companions until recent times, is incompatible with modern times. The solution, they advocate, is to reinterpret (and indeed reject) parts of it to keep in line with present-day thought. This whole methodology conflicts with the Koranic notion of the religion of Islam being perfect and complete [4:3] and indeed the very meaning of Islam: submission. The Koran teaches the Muslims to “enter Islam completely” [2:208] and the Prophet informed his companions that “there will be a people who seek to make lawful wine, gambling,” among other things.
The problem that Muslims have is that the progressives often find fertile ground to spread their false arguments by conjugating the true state of affairs of many Muslims who are far from Islam and who deem cultural practices as Islamic, with the speck of truth that is in their arguments in the midst of all their counterfactual rhetoric. It is true that some Muslim women are oppressed, for example, but the reason for this is not because of Islam itself; it is because of the lack of Islam. It is precisely the neglect of Islam that is the cause of some Muslim women being oppressed.
Certainly Muslims do have problems as a nation. However, these problems are often a direct result of turning away from divine revelation. Therefore, our problems need to be addressed by turning back to our religion, not migrating from it.
It is clear that the war against Islam has taken on a new front. It is not just a physical war; clearly there are people who do not want to just destroy the Muslims, but want to destroy their whole ideology. This will never happen. Islam has been able to withstand the attacks of old and it is able to withstand the attacks of today. But the question we must ask is: Where are the progressives trying to take us?