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Can Islam change?

 
 
ehBeth
 
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2004 07:11 pm
We've seen references to the author of this article on a number of threads in the politics forum. This was an interesting article to me, as it reflects what I've heard from some of my Muslim acquaintances/colleagues.


Quote:
Beslan and 9/11 are leading millions of Muslims to search their souls. Even clerics now question the harshest traditional laws and look for a more humane interpretation of their faith. By Ziauddin Sardar


Quote:
The Muslim world is changing. Three years after the atrocity of 9/11, it may be in the early stages of a reformation, albeit with a small "r". From Morocco to Indonesia, people are trying to develop a more contemporary and humane interpretation of Islam, and some countries are undergoing major transformations.

Much of the attention is focused on reformulating the sharia, the centuries-old body of Islamic law deeply embedded in a medieval psychology. The sharia is state law in many Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and the Sudan. For many conservative and radical Muslims, the sharia is Islam: it cannot be changed, and must be imposed in exactly the shape it was first formulated in the ninth century. Since 9/11, there has been a seismic shift in this perception. More and more Muslims now perceive Islamic law to be dangerously obsolete. And these include the ulema, the religious scholars and clerics, who have a tremendous hold on the minds of the Muslim masses.

In India, for example, where the secular state allows Muslims to regulate their communal affairs according to their own law, the "triple talaq" is being changed. Triple talaq gives a man the absolute right to divorce his wife by uttering "I divorce thee" three times. He can do it by letter, telegram, telephone, fax, even by text message. Quite apart from denying women's rights, the law has inherent absurdities. For example, as one critic has explained, "The moment a Muslim male utters 'talaq, talaq, talaq', his wife becomes unlawful to him, even if he has uttered those words under coercion, in a fit of rage or a drunken state, and regrets his utterance the very next moment." The only way out is for the woman to marry someone else, consummate the marriage, get the second husband to divorce her and then remarry the first husband.

But in July, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board declared that triple talaq was wrong, promised to prepare a model marriage contract (which would require both husband and wife not to seek divorce without due legal process) and asked Muslim men to ensure that women get a share in agricultural property.

These may look like minor changes, but there are enormous implications to the board's implicit admission that Islamic law is not immutable. Certainly, it has set defenders of the pure faith at the throats of members of Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD), who are campaigning for root-and-branch reform. "Remain in your senses," the conservative Urdu Times warned Javed Akhtar, the poet and Bollywood screenwriter who is MSD president. "The day is not far when you too will be counted among the infamous blasphemers such as Salman Rushdie."


<snip>
Quote:

Morocco has provided an essential lead. Its new Islamic family law, introduced in February, sweeps away centuries of bigotry and bias against women. It was produced with the full co-operation of religious scholars as well as the active participation of women.

Morocco retained much of the colonial legal system that France left behind, but, in family law, followed what is known locally as the Moudawana - the traditional Islamic rules on marriage, divorce, inheritance, polygamy and child custody. At first, King Mohammed VI had to abandon plans for change because, protesters claimed, he was trying to impose secular law and western culture on Morocco. In spring 2001, however, he set up a commission, which included women and was given the specific task of coming up with fresh legislation based on the principles of Islam. Given enormous impetus by 9/11 and its aftermath, it produced a report that many see as a revolutionary document. The resulting family code establishes that women are equal partners in marriage and family life. It throws out the notion that the husband is head of the family and that women are mere underlings in need of guidance and protection. It raises the minimum age for women's marriage from 15 to 18, the same as for men.


<snip>

Quote:
Both Malaysia's Islam Hadhari and Indonesia's deformalisation emphasise tolerance and pluralism, civic society and open democracy. Both are likely to spread. Malaysia is trying to export Islam Hadhari to Muslim communities in Thailand and the Philippines. Meanwhile, Morocco is trying to persuade Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to adopt its model of family law.

Muslims worldwide are acknowledging the need for fundamental change in their perception of Islam. They are making conscious efforts to move away from medieval notions of Islamic law and to implement the vision of justice, equality and beauty that is rooted in the Koran. If such changes continue, the future will not repeat the recent past.

Ziauddin Sardar's Desperately Seeking Paradise: journeys of a sceptical Muslim is published by Granta Books


balance of column


Do other people see these changes in the Muslim communities they have experience with?
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2004 07:25 pm
This is very good, bethie. A necessary illumination of a community and a tradition which is in no small danger of being stigmatized and demonized out of political expediency and the need that some have to scapegoat.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2004 07:50 pm
book mark

Thanks for the thread, ehBeth.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2004 07:54 pm
I read the beginning and was halfway through a composed reply about but it already has changed, it's changed hugely through history like any other religion in terms of what is officially forbidden but tolerated vs. what is officially forbidden and punished. And that anyway, peace and tolerance and nonviolence has a lot to do with it as a religion.

But then I kept reading and saw this part:

Quote:
For many conservative and radical Muslims, the sharia is Islam: it cannot be changed, and must be imposed in exactly the shape it was first formulated in the ninth century


I don't know many conservative or radical Muslims, actually.

The triple talaq thing -- its implications -- is very interesting.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2004 10:17 pm
That is a very interesting article, Beth.

Good to hear such things.
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2004 10:48 pm
everyone, please ignore, except those who love shakespeare...deb...PMs still not working or I'd have sent this link thataway
http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/?040913crat_atlarge

sorry bethie
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2004 11:11 pm
blatham wrote:
everyone, please ignore, except those who love shakespeare...deb...PMs still not working or I'd have sent this link thataway
http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/?040913crat_atlarge

sorry bethie


Have you read it, Blatham, the book, I mean???

If you have, I popped it into the portal the other day with some cover blurb. A review by a reader would be greatly valued.

http://search.able2know.com/About/17190.html

That New Yorker review is very interesting - thank you!
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Sep, 2004 11:38 pm
Haven't...going to get it next week. Gopnick's piece is just lovely.
0 Replies
 
 

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