07 Jul The Muslim World’s Problems Are Because Islam Needs Reform [I disagree] Part 1
The Muslim World’s Problems Are Because Islam Needs Reform [I disagree] Part 1
In many Muslim countries there is a serious problem. The people do not read Arabic (strictly speaking, the Koran may not be translated), and have to rely on barely literate imams to tell them what to think. These imams are misogynistic and bigoted and just parrot stuff they memorized. They rely on over-literal interpretations of the text too. Is it time for Islam to have a reform movement so that ordinary Muslims can read the Koran in any language and decide for themselves what to believe?
I disagree with you, quite strongly.
The serious problem is not that people rely on barely literate Imams, the serious problem is far more foundational: many Muslims countries do not have the basic services that a state should provide, they have problems of access to education, access to work (to provide for future generations, should the parents be unable to study), and even a lack of access to clean water and proper food.
When you look at the social ills that plague countries, let’s take my Egypt for instance, the people should be eating each other. The amount of violence, crime, and various social ills that should exist, relative to the problems that exist within the society, on a practical level, should, according to various social science theories, mean that Egypt should have exploding rates of crime, murder, theft, and other social ills.
Now, because Egyptians do not like using statistical methods towards describing social ills, they take the anecdote of some friend, who heard from some guy, about this time, this kid, did XYZ, and thus they think Egypt has major problems. Egypt’s problems are not social, and while there is, indeed social issues that need to be addressed, when we are talking from a grand, macro-level, the issues that plague Egypt are practical.
The Revolution in Egypt happened because of economics. The minimum wage in Egypt is 28 pounds A MONTH, that is approximately $5ish. With the cost of living in Egypt, literally, exploding, how does someone make a living on the 300-500 pounds a month they make, on average? How?
If you think that the misogyny that exists in the Muslim world (and indeed the entire world) is down to things that are simply regurgitated, then I am sorry, I cannot agree.
The reality is far more practical. You know you can trace the correlation between literacy in a population and women’s rights? It’s not rocket science, it’s basic stuff.
I do not think that over-literal interpretations are the problem, either. The problem for Western Muslims, yes, is the over-literal interpretations. That, I would agree with. However, the issues that Muslims countries face (and we generally mean the Arab world when we say this, anyway) are far more pragmaticand far less interesting, which seems to be one of the reasons people turn to “Islam” or “culture” and other essentialist arguments to downplay the fact that Egyptian University graduates have a far higher rate of unemployment than compared to other portions of the society.
The number one issue for everyday Egyptians is “Durus Khususaya” which is after school tutoring lessons. These are charged by teachers who are underpaid, for a national test that is cumbersome, that stresses out parents who get paid far below their true market value, in an artificially low labor market, which is skewed to favor the new class of rich Egyptians who waste their time in shopping malls and complaining about buying an unlocked iPhone.
These issues are important. Issues over how much meat is in their diet is a massive issue! Egyptians used to eat meat, once/twice a week 15 years ago. Today, it is around once a month.
Where is the Islam? Where is the reform necessary?
Islam will never need reform, because Islam’s structure is like water, it becomes whatever you want it to be, when you need it to be. So you have a cup, put water into the cup, it becomes the cup. Put it in a kettle, it becomes the kettle. Islam shifts and changes to suit the needs of the believers. Not because it is disingenuous, not because Islam is altered by people, but because God did not give us a religion to be kept to a certain time and place, rather, it is designed to address things that will never change: how people deal with other people.
The spiritual stuff, that’s all on the individual. It’s supposed to make better individuals, so that you can have a better and stronger society. Yet, Islam is based in regulating human interaction, and you judge these sorts of social systems, not when things are great, because every system works when you have money, and have the luxury to refrain from theft for food. The true test of a social system is when things are terrible, and quite frankly, things have been terrible, practically, in many Muslims countries for a verylong time, but guess what, relative to the macro-economic statistics, the Muslim world has held together very well.
Compare Egypt to a South American nation of similar size. Compare the rates of crime, murder, pick a social ill, and compare. The impact of Islam on the imperfect being that is humanity is unquestionable. Are things perfect? Are they living in a Utopia? Absolutely not. But, when you distill things to its most basic, when there are no rules, that is when Islam shines.
Have you read “Lord of The Flies?” Look at that chaos. Compare that to Egypt when the police were taken away, when the criminals were sent into the streets, when the secret police went in to destroy things… Look at how things were taken care of.
So why do I go into such detail? Because if there is a problem that I have, it is not with the “barely literate Imam,” rather, it is a problem I have with the elitist and well-educated classes of Islamic scholarship and the upper classes of Muslim societies, who are either unwilling or unable to communicate with the common man. Instead of imparting the tremendous tradition of Islam in a way that made sense to the non-scholar, they have confined their intellectual strength to their elitist circles, while watching the new breed of literalists yell the loudest, and they have done nothing, and simply shake their heads and speak about how bad things are.
That is why I do what I do. I want to take the most scholarly and base assumptions, and communicate them in a way that makes sense. The last truly great Sheikh who did that was Sheikh Sharaawy. The fact that no one in the West knows about him, underlines how dire things are.
I will end with this: people come to me, thinking that I’m some sort of “liberal Muslim” or that I am “interpreting things in a new way,” but that is why I laugh. I am not changing anything, I’m not giving “my opinion” or whatever, I’m literally, just presenting you the traditional view. I’m not trying to use “my opinion” or “my desires” or whatever else I have been accused of. I’m seriously just opening the books of the super scholars, historically, and I just repeat them.
Sure, I put in some cool words, I’ve called Islam “awesomesauce,” and I make nerdy reference to Tekken and Star Wars, but at the end of the day, my view is highly traditional. I’m not doing anything “new,” it’s only “new” because we have been starved IN THE WEST of the TRUE traditional view. We get this simplistic notion of “all scholars agree” and that “all four madahab agree.”
All the scholars can’t agree on how to hold your hands when you pray. They can’t agree on how to determine when you pray exactly. So, you really want me to believe that they’re ALL going to agree on whether or not issue X or issue Y is bidah, or haram, or whatever? Seriously?
If there is a need for reform, it is because of Muslims today who have simplified their religion to simple rules of “halal” and “haram.” They have made Islam merely a “religion,” and so if there is to be a reform, it will be as a result of the regression we have undergone, and thus our reform would simply be a return to the way things used to be, because quite frankly, the problem (if you look around Tumblr for a day) isn’t that people are too shy to decide for themselves what to believe, oh no, the problem is that they have never been taught how to approach The Qur’an, in the first place. It’s like they’re wearing soccer cleats to go play basketball.
So does Islam need reform? No, it doesn’t. We do.