The Muslim World’s Problems Are Because Islam Needs Reform [I disagree] Part 2

The Muslim World’s Problems Are Because Islam Needs Reform [I disagree] Part 2


I am very impressed by your answer to my question about the Koran in different languages. I freely confess it was a facetious question, but I was impressed by your personal interpretation. The trouble with Islam, perhaps, is that it is still a consensus religion. There is no chief prelate, for example. Shariah law is judge made, and therefore based on precedent and interpreted by people in messed up societies. It’s unfortunate most Muslims are not as open-minded and non-literal as you are.

Salaam alykum,

Thank you very much for your compliment, but I do not deserve your praise, as I have said nothing worth such praise.

Thank you for your candor, I genuinely appreciate that.

As far as your issue of what is “the trouble with Islam,” again, I strongly disagree. I see no reason why we should consider it a fault when issues that a community face is determined through consensus, I would argue that it is the distinct lack of true consensus that is what creates a problem in society.

As far as there being no chief prelate, again, that label denotes a purely religious connotation, especially one that abounds with the assumptions of the Western historical experience.

Islam does not function in the mere confines of “a religion,” but rather in a far greater space, akin to the place that Americans hold their Constitution, the importance of the “Founding Fathers,” and how the conceptions of that particular history guide the discourse and culture.

For example, Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly are opposite ends of the political spectrum (more-or-less), and supposedly disagree, fundamentally, on everything. However, neither one of them would deny the centrality of the Constitution and how important it is for one’s adherence to its (and supporting documents [i.e. Declaration of Independence]) precepts are to a great society.

Islam functions in the same way in Muslim societies. The issue is that Westernized elites do not realize this, and they discuss “religion” in their home countries as their Western counterparts do, and so from the very base assumptions in which your arguments lie, we are discussing two very different issues, and more importantly, there is something that is also missing from your critique:

How else can a religion (or any societal structure) govern the interactions between human beings, without human beings?

It is not religious (i.e. theological) precepts that follow the system of precedent, but, as you said, Shariah Law. What is “Shariah Law?” It is simply the jurisprudential system that was (but is currently NOT) in use in Muslims countries, and as a jurisprudential system is concerned with public order, justice, and systematic and predictable interactions between the court and the citizen.

Would you not agree that within the American Legal System there are things that are considered to be “undeniable?” Sure, certain courts have ruled horrendous things, like Korematsu vs. US or Plessy vs. Ferguson, and so on and so forth. However, those things have been corrected, have they not?

The same thing occurs within the framework of Shariah.

Furthermore, messed up societies are everywhere, the question is: how can we make society the leastmessed up? Islam, I would argue, does that very well. It is the distinct absence of Islam from the public sphere (institutionally) that has led to many Muslim countries to be in the current state. It is no coincidence that when Colonial Powers took over Muslim countries they made sure to abolish Shariah Courts.


Because Shariah Law works to the benefit of people. Colonialism is directed towards helping the Colonizer. People (and the institutions in the Colony) are important only as far as transported goods and services are concerned. That is why in former Colonies you can see the residue from Colonialism to this day, because the Institutions in the society were structured in such a way.

Therefore, it is not a surprise that oppressive, horrid, Western legal systems (not Common Law structures, mind you) were imposed by Colonial Powers.

It is from this perspective that I disagree with you that most Muslims aren’t open-minded. The issues are Institutional, and the relative “openness” of various countries has little to do with its state of “progress.” Institutional structures guide a society, and stronger, more flexible institutions are able to weather storms, and that is why the use of precedent has ensured that Shariah is an extremely powerful, if not supremely efficient system of law.

I do not think I am anything special, and the more I interact with Muslims, especially younger Muslims, although I must commend older Muslims too, the more I realize this. I think that Muslims should be commended for having an immensely diverse religion, and that while no group of people are immune from prejudice or mistakes, I believe that the centrality of an egalitarian methodology towards religious rituals, conceptions, and practice is one of the most important reasons for Islam’s success, and continued growth, and its secret for breaking down bigotry and hatred.

My only place in which I agree with you is that I find that many Muslims have a tendency to “shut down” when confronted by literalists and they think that they are following some sort of “easy Islam” and there is this base assumption, especially in the West, that the more “conservative” is the “more authentic” or “real,” when there is really nothing in the corpus of the Islamic Tradition to support that.

If anything, the Islamic Tradition is characterized by challenging norms, by challenging injustice, and by having a rather inflexible position on ensuring the concepts of equality through righteous action. I find little of that active element in literalism, and that goes beyond my personal theological views, which I seldom share, because they do not matter. What matters is my actions towards others and to myself, and I find that literalists forget that, and more worryingly, stress the “self” at the expense of the “society.”

Once you put your individual interests above those of other people, you have created a weakness in your society’s ability to withstand stresses. That is why I direct everything towards the Macro, and find little value in discussing individualistic approaches without consideration of how we connect to our fellow man.

The failure to consider the impact of your actions (or inaction) on others is arrogance, and we must avoid arrogance, even if it may be cloaked in religious terms.

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