Sunday, July 13, 2014

What happened to 'Reform Islam'?

Back in 2008 I discovered a new blog, "Muslims Against Sharia." This is a group that wants to preserve Islam as a religion of the modern world, and the way they want to do it is to ‘pull its fangs,’ that is, to edit out all that is incompatible in it with civilised life. One of the primary ways they are doing it is by editing out those verses in the Koran that they believe ‘do not come from Allah.’ I added the 129th comment to a post called Reform Koran, in which they decribe the process of Koran editing. My comment, saved on my blog, appears below this introduction. In it, I compare the ‘scripture absolutism’ of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and try to show why an Islam based on reform principles ends up not being Islam at all.

When I returned to the blog this morning, six years later, using the link above, I noticed that all the comments had disappeared. Moreover, when clicking on the various links in the blog header, only the link ‘Blog’ led me to the original blog webpage. All the other links took me here, which is a page of links returning to the worldwide web. The domain name ‘’ is listed at GoDaddy as for sale. So, what happened to ‘Reform Islam’? I hope its members were not ‘eliminated.’

As a late-comer to this blog and blogpost, and not having been able to read thru all the previous 128 comments (that's a lot!), nevertheless I have this to say:

To edit out the offending verses in the Qur’an is a work for the entire Islamic people, or their representatives. This is, of course, an impossibility, because there is no such thing as an “ecumenical” Islam. There are far too many sectarian divisions.

There is an inherent absolutism in the Qur’an about its contents, that is explicit and cannot even be matched in Judaism or Christianity.

The absolutism in the TaNaKh (Torah-Nevi’im-Ketuvim) of Judaism is implicit, and though the words of the scriptures for them cannot suffer any change, they have a tradition of evolving understanding about them, such that the violent passages in the Torah are modified by the pronouncements of the later prophets, without the necessity of editing them out (G’d forbid!).
The absolutism in the Bible of Christianity is an extension of the same inherited from Judaism, in which it is admittedly a participant. A verse in the final book of the New Testament, the Revelation, is explicit that anyone who adds or subtracts from the words “of this book” will receive all the plagues described in this book. This verse is often erroneously applied to the whole Bible, but it actually only applies to the book of Revelation. The absolutism of the Christian Bible is still just an extension of that applied by Judaism, and the way in which it is moderated is the same as in Judaism, by an appeal to reason and adaptation to culture. For both Jews and Christians, this willingness to modify or reinterpret the actual, unchangeable texts, still elicits problems, controversies and divisions.

The absolutism of the Qur’an can thus be viewed as a fortified version of the absolutism of the other two religions “of the Book.” Yet, this absolutism contains, as has been pointed out in some of the previous comments, unsolvable contradictions derived from the very pages of the Qur’an itself. Analyzed by an impartial logician, the Qur’an contains self-contradictions at a level which cannot be combined with the level of its absolutism, and thereby disproves itself as an infallible and perfect utterance of Allah. Similar contradictions can be found in the TaNaKh of the Jews and the Bible of the Christians, but they do not invalidate these scriptures, because the level of absolutism is simply not as high as that of the Qur’an.

As an example, the Qur’an speaks of Miriam the sister of Moses as also being the mother of Jesus. This is a well known mistake, and by itself demonstrates a logical, historical error that invalidates the whole of the Qur’an, because the Qur’an is to be accepted as absolutely perfect and correct.

Another example, in the Bible Jesus makes reference to the eating of sacred food from the Temple by secular persons who should not have eaten it, as having happened during a particular high-priesthood. In historical fact, the high priest He cited was incorrect. Yet the Christians claim that Jesus is God, and that the Bible is inerrant. How can this single example not invalidate both claims? First, because they believe Jesus assumed the human nature with all its characteristics, including fallibility in knowledge as well as the temptation to sin (the Jews call this “the evil impulse”), it was possible for Him to make an error as being human, though they believe that because He was also God, it was impossible for Him to yield to temptation or to sin. Second, because the Bible is believed to be inerrant does not invalidate it because it is not considered to be the “Word of God” in the sense that the Qur’an is so believed. Instead, like the incarnation (descent into human nature) of the Son of God, the inspiration (descent into human literature) of the Word of God can exhibit the same possibility of error in historical facts and other details.

Now, for the Christian, one more fact or item of belief also strengthens the absolutism of the Bible without turning it into a blatant bibliolatry (idolatry of a book), and that is, the Word of God and the Son of God are both names of the same Being, who is considered to be a person (hypostasis) of the Holy Triad (One Divine nature in three hypostases). Therefore, to call the Bible “the Word of God” is, though universal and unchallenged, still a conventional simplification or application of the absolute belief that Jesus is Himself the Word of God (the Divine Logos of the Father), but that the Bible is His explicit, written "image," and therefore reliable.

The point of my comment is this, that the Qur’an claims to be what Jesus is, that is, the Word of God. Muhammad therefore becomes what the Virgin Mary is, that is, the means by which that Word entered the human world. Is it not obvious that here we have two completely and diametrically opposed ideas?

If you plant a tree, and year after year it yields bad fruit. If you cultivate it, if you graft onto it branches of other trees with good fruit, if you care for it and try to improve it in every way possible, and yet it bears bad fruit no matter what you do, then there is only one thing to do. Chop it down, uproot it, and plant a tree with good fruit.

The tree with bad fruit is the Qur’an.

The tree with good fruit is the Bible.
And what is the good fruit that is hanging on that tree?
It is Jesus.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

No comments: