Mohammed Yunus

on: "Islam Is an Abstraction", Interview with Hamid Dabashi

It is time Muslim scholarship takes cognizance of the dichotomy of Islamic faith between its primary scripture, the Koran and its theological corpus (traditions and Sharia laws): one appearing at a point in time in history as an epicentre of faith, and the other evolving in its second century onwards – as the ripples of the initial surge of faith. The former is constant, eternal and independent of history. The latter inevitably shaped by historical factors: pre-Islamic faith of the incoming converts, state of civilization, theological orientation and scholastic methods of the era. If Islam is equated with the 'religion' (or worldview) espoused by the Koran – regardless of whether it came from God or Muhammad made it up, it is universal, tolerant, balanced, gender-neutral, inclusive, non-political, pluralistic, flexible and open ended – albeit within broad boundaries, and emblematic of justice, liberty, equality, and other universal secular values.

But if this a religion, crowned nominally by the Koran, but built around its theological resources as the classical theologians and doctors of law insist, then it can differ from and even be antithetic to the pristine Koranic model: region-era specific, intolerant, exclusive, politically oriented, gendered, and wanting in justice, liberty and equality. If the present theology oriented politicized model of Islam persists, its mullahs, ayatollahs and orthodox champions will remain committed to keeping the community in its medieval Mid-Eastern mould, and Islam will remain alien to and despised (openly or tacitly) in Europe and the West.

But if Muslim theological leadership objectively reassesses the fundamentals of the faith and homes in on the universal values of the Koran - treating the theological discourses in their historical perspective, Islam has a far better chance of secularization, globalization and broader rapport with the Western society. Therefore more than any social or economic forces, it is the theological orientation of the living faith that will shape the European Islam. As for the integration of Turkey into Europe is concerned it is not likely to happen unless the Turkish Islam reassess itself in lines mentioned above. If it continues to harbour theological materials that foster hatred and conflict with Western values (as much as with the Koranic ideals), it stands little chance of acceptance in the EU.

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