Sunday 15 April 2012

Islam and Reformation: which way forward?

I regret to have missed the debate of 16 March 2012 between Mustafa Akyol and Abdullah al-Andalusi, organized by the Muslim Debate Initiative and hosted by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Luckily it was recorded and you can watch the video here. Or via the youtube link below:

Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish journalist writing on contemporary issues in the Muslim World and author of the book Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for LibertyHe maintains blogs in English (The White Path) and in Turkish ( Abdullah al-Andalusi is a Portuguese convert His writings can be read the Abdullah al Andalusi blog.

My PhD student Farouk Peru has covered the event for The Muslim Institute. Here are a few excerpts from his review:
Mustafa Akyol
Mustafa spoke first and immediately corrected a misconception about the notion of Islamic Reform. Reform as he said was a term borrowed from Christianity. For Islam rather, it was tajdeed or renewal. faith requires freedom for it to grow and be nurtured appropriately. In order for that to happen, draconian laws such as the infamous apostasy law must be completely repealed. He conceded that perhaps in the period which witnessed the emergence of Islam (which he considers as the basis for its relativism), the law was necessary but we are long past that formative period. I find it difficult to agree with this. I do not believe that draconian laws are necessary in any given context and that the Qur’an offers permanent values, one of which is unconditional freedom of religion. 
Mustafa points us to the higher intent of Sharia, the maqasid. When the higher intents are articulated and then met by the ahkam or positive law, we would thereby preserve both the spirit as well as the letter of the law. According to the scholar Mustafa chose, Ash-Shatibi, the intent of the Sharia is to preserve life, religion, property, lineage and knowledge. 
Abdullah al-Andalusi
Abdullah disagrees with Mustafa about the modernisation of Sharia. Rather, he seeks to understand and apply Sharia according to its original socio-cultural milieu. He believes that the institution of the caliphate, lost from the Muslims for almost a century, must be restored with its original structure. The rule of law (specifically Sharia law) will become supreme and even the caliph (head of state) himself will be subject to it. It will be, in effect, having God himself in charge of the nation.
[...]it was difficult for me not to take sides in this particular debate. Apart from Abdullah’s critiques of western systems which were very incisive, it was difficult for me to see how Sharia as we know it can be a solution for humanity. To me, most of Sharia doesn’t even agree with the spirit of the Qur’an which does not segment people according to belief. The Qur’an instead gives unconditional freedom for people to choose whatever aspects of Islam they wish to apply in their lives. What we need perhaps is a re-engineered, more personalised version of Sharia. Perhaps Sharia experts can offer ethical or moral solutions rather than force upon us the Islamic state.
To read the entire piece, click here.

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