Whither Islam?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Status
Not open for further replies.

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
Here are some questions I want to ask practitioners and students of Islam. Not armchair commentators but scholars, servants and friends of the faith...
  • Islam has been accused of looking backwards, of failing to adapt to a changing world. Do you think that's true?
  • Inasmuch as Islam can or should change, how do you see it changing?
  • Where are the forces for change pushing Islam; what are the 'pull' forces and how do they communicate?
  • How do you imagine that the outcome will be decided?
  • In the light of all that, how do you think that Islam will contribute to a changing Western narrative?
Here's why I'm interested...

I feel that Islam has been largely neglected and ignored in the West. I know many non-Buddhists and non-Hindus who've read Buddhist and Hindu scriptures; many non-Christians who've read Biblical texts. I don't know many non-Muslims who've read much of the Qur'an, or much interpretation of the Sunnah, or who really know how these things are interpreted in mainstream Islam.

The balance of political and economic power is shifting as nations develop and with it, I think that the dominant historical, religious and humanitarian narratives will shift too. Where the narratives found in the West have largely been Christian-centric, I think that is changing and has been for some time. I'm interested in how it might change in future and what role an emerging Muslim narrative may play in that.
 
Last edited:

Saint Fool

Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 15, 2006
Messages
716
Reaction score
135
Location
Gone to see the elephant
I'll admit to the same questions. I've been reading Karen Anderson's books on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and I think I have a very basic understanding of the history of the religion. The doctrine and the dogma are still - to paraphrase Churchill on Russia - a mystery wrapped inside an enigma inside a black hole for me.

Looking forward to seeing if you get any answers
 

AMCrenshaw

...
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 26, 2008
Messages
4,671
Reaction score
620
Website
dfnovellas.wordpress.com
I feel that Islam has been largely neglected and ignored in the West. I know many non-Buddhists and non-Hindus who've read Buddhist and Hindu scriptures; many non-Christians who've read Biblical texts. I don't know many non-Muslims who've read much of the Qur'an, or much interpretation of the Sunnah, or who really know how these things are interpreted in mainstream Islam.

I tried reading it more when I studied Islam a couple of years ago. One problem was that even as I studied I had no idea about how Muslims interpreted the Qur'an now, as it continues to rapidly grow.


# Where are the forces for change pushing Islam; what are the 'pull' forces and how do they communicate?

One should wonder about the French and their willingness to protest: Is it true people can't wear religious symbols or regalia in public-- even though quite soon there will be more Muslims than Christians. But I wonder: does anyone mind crosses or the like? Or is the law centered on the Muslim symbols?


I'd recommend No god but God. I wouldn't do the book justice trying to paraphrase.

Inasmuch as Islam can or should change, how do you see it changing?

The extremes are much more noticeable and indeed people are tending to notice. I understand that Islam is considered a strict religion by a lot of people in America, mostly because the only form that makes the daily news is extremist in nature. What I've found, though, is that -- like the Eastern philosophies-- people are writing books and making documentaries that sort of "unearth" or re-discover Islam. Its growing population might actually correlate with its global growing popularity. Maybe I'm ahead of myself.

Also, I think that technological advances in Indonesia, India, and hopefully the Middle East may influence the sort of neo-primitivistic tribes in, say, Afghanistan.
 

Cassiopeia

Otherwise Occupied
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 1, 2006
Messages
10,852
Reaction score
5,280
Location
Star to the right and straight on till morning.
My comments are in blue.
Here are some questions I want to ask practitioners and students of Islam. Not armchair commentators but scholars, servants and friends of the faith...
  • Islam has been accused of looking backwards, of failing to adapt to a changing world. Do you think that's true? Looking backwards how? Can you give us a more specific example of what the accusation is directed at?
  • Inasmuch as Islam can or should change, how do you see it changing?Who will decide Islam should change? In what way do YOU think it should change?
  • Where are the forces for change pushing Islam; what are the 'pull' forces and how do they communicate? There has been for quite sometime a push for more rights for the women of Islam. The western world has a great deal to do with this as well as the infiltration from within the Islamic community due to western influences through media.
  • How do you imagine that the outcome will be decided?Islam will decide what Islam can live with.
  • In the light of all that, how do you think that Islam will contribute to a changing Western narrative? That is a subject which requires more time than I have to answer but let me suggest you begin by looking for information on the positive aspects of Islamic beliefs and their community. It's quite easy for the news media to focus on the bad. The majority of my fellow students in the Religious Studies department at the University of Cape Town were Islamic. I had the opportunity and blessing to get to know some of them quite well. They are a wonderfully faithful, kind and generous people. Out of the many religions represented in my department, it was my Muslim friends who first extended their courtesy to me as an American. We shared many lunches and discussed religious similarities between our respective religious beliefs. If you look past those who are extremist in the Islamic community you will find a very peaceful and spiritual people.
Here's why I'm interested...

I feel that Islam has been largely neglected and ignored in the West. I know many non-Buddhists and non-Hindus who've read Buddhist and Hindu scriptures; many non-Christians who've read Biblical texts. I don't know many non-Muslims who've read much of the Qur'an, or much interpretation of the Sunnah, or who really know how these things are interpreted in mainstream Islam.

The balance of political and economic power is shifting as nations develop and with it, I think that the dominant historical, religious and humanitarian narratives will shift too. Where the narratives found in the West have largely been Christian-centric, I think that is changing and has been for some time. I'm interested in how it might change in future and what role an emerging Muslim narrative may play in that.
I'm not sure if that answers your questions but the hour grows late. :)
 

Cassiopeia

Otherwise Occupied
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 1, 2006
Messages
10,852
Reaction score
5,280
Location
Star to the right and straight on till morning.
I understand that Islam is considered a strict religion by a lot of people in America, mostly because the only form that makes the daily news is extremist in nature.
Yes, to understand Islam we can't buy into everything the news media presents. After all, as we all know, the news blows almost everything out of proportion.

Islam is really not any more strict than some of the fundamentalist groups within every other religious group. They just get a lot of attention thanks to their fanatical factions.
 

Samantha's_Song

At least I don't need backing-up
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 25, 2008
Messages
2,189
Reaction score
482
Location
Here
Just dropped in to say that I have an ebook copy of the Qur'an on my PC and do plan to read it at some time. I like to read about most religions/faiths.
 

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
Thanks to posters for their interest and of course there's nothing to stop other contributions here but as per my prefatory remarks, please note that I won't respond to commentary or questions by posters who for instance, haven't read the Qur'an, haven't worshipped at a mosque, haven't lived for a prolonged period in a Muslim country, or who don't have close Muslim friends, family, loved ones. As someone who's gradually working his way through the Qur'an, made investigations into the Sunnah, read a fair bit of Muslim history, researched both Shi'ite and Sunni arms of the faith, read several contemporary commentaries by Islamic scholars and had a couple of casual Muslim friends and colleagues over the years I'm not interested in platitudes and casual opinion. I'm looking for informed opinion, of the sort I've seen in the Christian Writers or Non-Theistic Spirituality forum for instance.

I'm not trying to be rude here -- just clarifying where I've set the bar for contributions I'd consider helpful.

Thanks :LilLove:
 

Norman D Gutter

Engineer Sonneteer
Poetry Book Collaborator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 13, 2006
Messages
2,144
Reaction score
351
Location
Arkansas, USA
Website
davidatodd.com
I lived five years in the Persion Gulf region, split evenly between Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s and Kuwait in the late 1980s to August 2, 1990. I have not read the Qu'ran, though some day would like to. But I watched the religion in practice, first in the strictest of Moslem countries and then in one that was fairly moderate. In addition, business took me regularly to the UAE, and somewhat to Qatar, and Bahrain. So I have a pretty good idea of Islam in practice.

Besides this, I've studied about Islam some, both before going to those countries, while there, and since. I do not consider myself to be an expert in Islam, either the theology or practice (not by a long shot), but I do have some up close observations.

I'll just tackle your first question right now.
Islam has been accused of looking backwards, of failing to adapt to a changing world. Do you think that's true?
IMO, this is most definitely true. Islam has not moved beyond the culture of its genesis, whereas Christianity did. Take foot washing as an example. This was a common practice throughout the Middle East in Mohammed's time and before and after. The wearing of sandals, the dusty conditions made this common. You came in the house and a servant washed your feet. Or, if you were in a tent in the desert, you shook the dust off your feet before entering. So Mohammed made this a practice concerning prayer: Do not approach Allah in prayer until you wash your feet. Probably a good practice in the Middle East then and maybe now. Totally unnecessary in a modern setting.

Or take the architecture of the mosque, with domes and minarets. This was the architectural style in M.E., and the minerets were necessary for the mussein to walk up and make the call to prayer so that his voice would project to a wide area. Now, with clocks and alarm clocks and audio projection equipment, the minraet is unnecessary. The dome is out of fashion as a means of having a wide, indoor space with no pillars, and normally is not the least expensive form of construction. Yet, they still build mosques in the exact same style as the did in 7th through 10th centuries. Why? Because Islam cannot move past its culture of origin.

Or take the name of God. Moslems, no matter what their nationality or mother tongue, must call God by His Arabic name, Allah. It doesn't matter that the word for god or God in their language is different; they must say "Allah". Again, Islam has not moved past the culture of its origin.

Ma'asallamah,
Daoud Al Fred
 

Smiling Ted

Ah-HA!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 3, 2007
Messages
2,456
Reaction score
406
Location
The Great Wide Open
I lived five years in the Persion Gulf region, split evenly between Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s and Kuwait in the late 1980s to August 2, 1990. I have not read the Qu'ran, though some day would like to. But I watched the religion in practice, first in the strictest of Moslem countries and then in one that was fairly moderate. In addition, business took me regularly to the UAE, and somewhat to Qatar, and Bahrain. So I have a pretty good idea of Islam in practice.

Besides this, I've studied about Islam some, both before going to those countries, while there, and since. I do not consider myself to be an expert in Islam, either the theology or practice (not by a long shot), but I do have some up close observations.

I'll just tackle your first question right now.
IMO, this is most definitely true. Islam has not moved beyond the culture of its genesis, whereas Christianity did. Take foot washing as an example. This was a common practice throughout the Middle East in Mohammed's time and before and after. The wearing of sandals, the dusty conditions made this common. You came in the house and a servant washed your feet. Or, if you were in a tent in the desert, you shook the dust off your feet before entering. So Mohammed made this a practice concerning prayer: Do not approach Allah in prayer until you wash your feet. Probably a good practice in the Middle East then and maybe now. Totally unnecessary in a modern setting.

Or take the architecture of the mosque, with domes and minarets. This was the architectural style in M.E., and the minerets were necessary for the mussein to walk up and make the call to prayer so that his voice would project to a wide area. Now, with clocks and alarm clocks and audio projection equipment, the minraet is unnecessary. The dome is out of fashion as a means of having a wide, indoor space with no pillars, and normally is not the least expensive form of construction. Yet, they still build mosques in the exact same style as the did in 7th through 10th centuries. Why? Because Islam cannot move past its culture of origin.

Or take the name of God. Moslems, no matter what their nationality or mother tongue, must call God by His Arabic name, Allah. It doesn't matter that the word for god or God in their language is different; they must say "Allah". Again, Islam has not moved past the culture of its origin.

Ma'asallamah,
Daoud Al Fred

While I acknowledge Dave's experience, I disagree with the statement that "Islam cannot move past its culture of origin."

Indonesia and Malaysia, Asian countries with non-Arab cultures, identify as Muslim. (Indonesia is one of the most populous countries in the world.) So do African countries like Mali and Senegal; and the mosques of Timbuktu have neither domes nor minarets. In fact, many mosques in places like Cairo are no more than storefronts.

Islam has also splintered in Sunni, Shia, Sufi and other groups, with practices and dogmas that differ radically from one another.
 
Last edited:

veinglory

volitare nequeo
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
28,690
Reaction score
2,863
Location
right here
Website
www.veinglory.com
I know that if I was Muslim I wouldn't be in a huge hurry to stand up in this thread where the usual arguments are likely to get rehashed.

As for moving past the country of origin, I would suggest visiting a few Mosques in places like Fiji and New Zealand--and indeed American Mosques especailly ones with a large proportion of American-born and convert members.
 
Last edited:

Norman D Gutter

Engineer Sonneteer
Poetry Book Collaborator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 13, 2006
Messages
2,144
Reaction score
351
Location
Arkansas, USA
Website
davidatodd.com
Ah but Ted, why does Saudi Arabia send out emmissaries to China to berate the Moslems there to build the right kind of mosques, with domes and minarets? That happened while I was in Saudi and was still going on while I was in Kuwait.

Why does the mosque in Jonesboro, Arkansas, have a dome and minarets--minarets from which the mussein cannot make his call due to city noise ordinances?

Why the push to have foot washing stations built on college campuses in the USA?

I freely admit I know nothing about the practice of Islam in Indonesia (the country with more Moslems than any other) or Malaysia. Perhaps in those countries they are indeed moving past the culture where Islam began.

But that is not true in much or perhaps most of the Islamic world. Otherwise, the practice of foot washing before prayer would have been discontinued in the USA, and no one would want foot washing stations on college campuses.

NDG
 

veinglory

volitare nequeo
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
28,690
Reaction score
2,863
Location
right here
Website
www.veinglory.com
America sends out Mormon emissaries to pretty much every country to recommend people wear certain underwear and book their seat in heaven. Most religions have an orthodox base as well as radical margins--even in "the Christian world".
 
Last edited:

Ruv Draba

Banned
Joined
Dec 29, 2007
Messages
5,114
Reaction score
1,319
Why the push to have foot washing stations built on college campuses in the USA?
Islamic moques and schools in Australia generally have a place to wash your feet, hands and face. Although that's an ancient Muslim tradition it's perhaps also the most modern -- considering how long it took Europe to develop even basic hygeine. :tongue As old as it is, it also looks a lot more progressive than (say) Buddhist prayer-wheels or the Christian blood-fetish.

But you've picked up on exactly what that first point meant anyway, Norman: an idealisation of the past rather than some sort of emerging vision for the future. The 'looking backward' comment is not my own but appears in social commentary by Muslims [1, 2] as well as non-Muslims.

While traditional Islam is a daily caricature in the West, mainstream and progressive Islam have almost no voice at all. For instance, there's an annual function in NY called the 'Cordoboa Bread Festival' inspired by the once pluralistic and Muslim-held Spanish city of Cordoba, in which the 'Children of Abraham' (Jews, Christians and Muslims) break bread together. Try googling it though and you get three measly hits and virtually no mainstream press coverage.
 

Cassiopeia

Otherwise Occupied
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 1, 2006
Messages
10,852
Reaction score
5,280
Location
Star to the right and straight on till morning.
America sends out Mormon emissaries to pretty much every country to recommend people wear certain underwear and book their seat in heaven. Most religions have an orthodox base as well as radical margins--even in "the Christian world".
I was really hoping that this forum would not make generalizations and say uncomplimentary things about other religions. As someone who has been LDS both active and non-active, I have to correct this misinformation that America doesn't send them out, the LDS church does and as the mother of a son on a mission his responsibility is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not recommend people to book seats in heaven or to wear certain underwear.
 
Last edited:

MacAllister

'Twas but a dream of thee
Staff member
Administrator
Super Moderator
Moderator
Kind Benefactor
VPX
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
21,766
Reaction score
9,990
Location
Out on a limb
Website
macallisterstone.com
Yeah. Let's do be very, very careful here, people.

Em, I too would feel more comfortable if you'd edit the "funny underwear" comment.

Ritual does not necessarily mean stuck-in-the-past, Norman. It's just ritual -- and most organized religions have ritual components, whether it's hanging mistletoe at Winter Solstice, participating in taking the sacrament, singing two-hundred-year-old hymns, or the various baptismal traditions.

Now -- I'm going to say this yet again: It's absolutely one thing to ask honest questions about another faith, from a perspective of honest inquiry. It's altogether another thing to make assertions about, criticisms aimed at, or dismissals of someone else's religion because you think you disagree with its precepts or followers. Please don't do that.
 
Last edited:

Medievalist

Moderator
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
25,450
Reaction score
6,340
On foot washing:

This is still a fairly common practice in a number of Christian traditions. There's the passage in John 13: 1-15 at Christ's last Passach, when he washes the feet of the disciples.

There's the earlier bit in John where Mary washes and dries Christ's feet (John 12:1-8).

There's a long tradition of illustration of this incident in medieval and renaissance art, and yeah, there are the modern traditions, still of foot washing as an act of contrition in both Catholic and Baptist traditions, and in the Latter Day Saints.

And, in non-Judeo Christian traditions, it is the right of an Irish filidh of the order of ollam to have his feet washed when he comes to a brugh or he delivers a judgement.

I know you wanted to know that . . .
 
Last edited:

Alpha Echo

I should be writing.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
9,615
Reaction score
1,847
Location
East Coast
On foot washing:

This is still a fairly common practice in a number of Christian traditions.

This is true. My sister, when she married, the performed a foot-washing ceremony.

I'm sorry this is all I have to add. I'm in this forum to learn about other religions, though I must say that I do not at this time know much about any other than Christianity.

I will say that it doesn't seem to me, by Norman's posts, that Islams are "stuck in the past" but merely embrace their traditions. Which can be a very good thing.
 

Smiling Ted

Ah-HA!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 3, 2007
Messages
2,456
Reaction score
406
Location
The Great Wide Open
Ah but Ted, why does Saudi Arabia send out emmissaries to China to berate the Moslems there to build the right kind of mosques, with domes and minarets? That happened while I was in Saudi and was still going on while I was in Kuwait.
NDG

Um...so what? You're judging a billion people by the actions of a single royal family in one of the most reactionary countries in the Islamic world. And as you acknowledge, you don't know Indonesia - which has more Moslems than Arabia and the Gulf put together. Despite their pretensions to the contrary, the House of Saud does not speak for the whole umma.

And the persistence of some customs over time doesn't mean that the religion as a whole is static. By that logic, the Anglican/Episcopal church is static and unmoving because half the communion still object to the ordination of gay bishops.

The irony is that I'm not a fan of Islam (or of any faith that makes the claim "no man comes to the Father but through me") but there are more cogent reasons for that than the architecture of a mosque in Arkansas.
 

Norman D Gutter

Engineer Sonneteer
Poetry Book Collaborator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 13, 2006
Messages
2,144
Reaction score
351
Location
Arkansas, USA
Website
davidatodd.com
Okay, tell you what: I'll rephrase my answer to the first question.

Islam has been accused of looking backwards, of failing to adapt to a changing world. Do you think that's true?

Yes.
 

Smiling Ted

Ah-HA!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 3, 2007
Messages
2,456
Reaction score
406
Location
The Great Wide Open
Perhaps this is a better measure of "forwardness" and "backwardness." This article measures patent applications and economic innovation geographically. Since religion is geographic across much of the world...
 

Alpha Echo

I should be writing.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
9,615
Reaction score
1,847
Location
East Coast
The irony is that I'm not a fan of Islam (or of any faith that makes the claim "no man comes to the Father but through me") but there are more cogent reasons for that than the architecture of a mosque in Arkansas.

Mind if I ask why you have a problem with "no man come to the Father but through me?" I realize this may get us off topic, but I'm curious.
 

cethklein

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 26, 2007
Messages
3,453
Reaction score
452
Location
USA
I'll answer one question as a student (but non-practitioner). Islam will have a major role in the changing world. It has to, it has over a billion followers. Islam's, like any other faith's role will be determined by those in control. Islam has been hijacked for a long time not by religious leaders but political ones. Most problems you see in Muslim nations are due to politics, not the faith itself, it only seems that way. Islam isn't a backwards faith, to the contrary it's a very forward-thinking faith. Those in control are the ones who are backwards.

Again, Islam is in a sort of dark age right now. It is in a phase like the one Christianity was in in the 1400s. How did Christianity get out of this phase? With strong forward-thinking leaders like Martin Luther. Islam has such leaders now, the top of which being the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a man whom I admire greatly and whose works should be read by everyone interested in religion.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Featured Book