Ijtihad, says Irshad Manji.
For those who think we've lost our minds here, no, we have no interest in any such thing as living under a reformed Islam. Nor is there any sympathy here for ijtihad as a reforming vehicle. What is ijtihad? It is interpretation, the early Persian approach some intellectuals took to Islam during the early Middle Ages. It was a new idea to some Muslims 1,000 years after Aristotle died and left his ideas for the Mutazilites to find. It's now over a thousand years since any Muslim other than Irshad Manji has taken it seriously. Really, it doesn't even sound good in theory unless we all wish to have a world in which we revert to pre-Socratic science. Philosophically it's no better. And in practical terms, well, let's look at it and then forget it.
Below we'll post two short accounts and links for further enquiry for those who wish to be disappointed.
When reading the accounts below, keep in mind that Islam is not a race; that not being a race doesn't men it isn't an Arab tribal code; and that not being a race, Islam is an ethnic supremacy in practice even though it's ostensibly non-racial. We often conflate Islam and Arabism, thinking wrongly that Islam is an Arab religion. In truth, it is. But it is not.
Only 20 per cent of Muslims in the world are Arabs. Of the Arabs in the United States, according to the CIA census, 80 per cent are Christians. The largest population of Muslims on Earth is Indonesians, followed by Pakistanis. Arabs make up, in their 22 shit-hole nations, only 20 percent of the Muslim population. Those numbers mean little to most people who insist that Islam is a race. Anyone can be, in practice, a Muslim. But Islam is not the non-racial multi-culti paradisaical solution to "racism." Muslims adopt Arab names and Arab customs over their traditional names and customs and attempt in all ways to be ersatz Arabs when they become Muslims by conversion. To be a Muslim is to try to be an Arab. To be an Arab doesn't mean to be a Muslim. And to look at the Arab world is not to see a place inherently Muslim but to see one conquered by Arabs, to see people whose ancestors for a thousand years in some cases were Christians. And to look at the Arab world and to see Arabs is a mistake of vocabulary as well, because only a small part of the "Arab" world is Arab at all, the majority being anything but Arabs, that Arabness being a self-appointed religious identity rather than an ethnicity. Yes, "Arabs" speak Arabic. That's where Arabism begins and ends for most so-called Arabs. To be Arab is to live in "Arab" lands and to speak Arabic and to have forgotten or to have never known of ones own history.
This brings us to the Islamic reformers of the 8th century. They were not, for the most part, Arabs or "Arabs" at all but were Persians. They were not only Persians, they were Muslim Shiites. What Shia? What Party of Ali? And where do we find Islamic reform in all of this? We find a group of new converts to Islam who are not, were not, won't ever be Arabs. They, the ruling class of early Islam, were outsiders from the start, rulers due to intelligence and skill, due to a thousand years of high civilization prior to the Islamic conquest. The Persians excelled. Within 200 years, the Arabs had receded from history, never to be heard from again as a force till the West required their oil supplies. But those who claimed Arabness, regardless of themselves, followed not the Persians, not Shia, not the party of Ali, but the Sunna, the traditional, the legitimately Arab Islam. Today only 15-20 per cent of all Muslims are Shi'ites. They are the ones who promoted ijtihad, the hope that some in the West base their optimistic plans on for reform in the Islamic world. Good luck.
But let's look at this plan to reform Islam, this plan we hope to validate from searching for precedent. Yes, over 1,000 years ago there was a very unpopular clique of Muslims from Iran who decided to take up Aristotelian philosophy and who tried to apply it to Islam. Yes, it came to a brutal end. No it has not been heard of since. Yes, it is still an Iranian and heretical form of sectarian Islam from the discredited past. Al bab al-ijtihad, the gates of interpretation, the reform of Islam through reason and rationality, is still disallowed-- for the very reasons it was banned in the first place: to use reason and logic is to question the already set and unalterable word of Allah as it was received by Moahmmed and compiled in the unalterable Qur'an. To question the unquestionable is to defy Islam. It's a non-starter for Muslims. But here is is anyway.
The Mu'tazilites are an offshoot of the Shiite branch of Islam. The Mu'tazilites believe that instead of the Prophet the true arbritrar is reason. The Mu'tazilites believe that no sin can harm a true believer (manzileh bain al-manzilatain). They believe that the wise can only do what is salutory and good, and that God's wisdom always keeps in view what is salutory for his servants. They believe that Gnosis is intellectual and that only a reasonable person can possibly have it.
The Mu'tazilites believe that all objects of knowledge fall under the supervision of reason and receive their obligatory power from rational insight. Consequently, obligatory gratitude for divine bounty precedes the orders given by divine Law; and beauty and ugliness are qualities belonging intrinsically to what is beautiful and ugly.
The Mu'tazilite school of theology emerged out of the question raised by the Kharijites whether works are integral to faith or independent of faith. On the question of the relationship between faith and works, the Mu'tazilites adopted the position that someone who commits a grave sin without repenting occupies a middle state between being a Muslim and not being a Muslim.
A second doctrine concerned the nature of God. God is pure Essence and, therefore, without eternal attributes such as hands. Passages in the Qur'an that ascribe human or physical properties to God are to be regarded as metaphorical rather than literal.
The Mu'tazilites also argued that the Qur'an was created and not eternal. The basis of this doctrine was the claim that the eternal coexistence of the Qur'an beside Allah gave the impression of another god beside Allah.
Human acts are free and, therefore, people are entirely responsible for their decisions and actions. Divine predestination is incompatible with God's justice and human responsibility. God, however, must of necessity act justly; it follows from this that the promises of reward that God has made in the Qur'an to righteous people and the punishments he had issued to evildoers must be carried out by him on the day of judgement.
Mu'tazilites are generally seen as responsible for the incorporation of Greek philosophical thought into Islamic theology. This is particularly apparent in their belief that knowledge of God can be acquired through reason as well as revelation.
History The term Mu'tazilah derives from the Arabic al-mu'tazilah, which means the one who separated. It was applied to the school established in Iraq by Wasil b. 'Ata (699-749), a student of the distinguished scholar Hasn al-Basri (642-728).
At the time of the rise of the 'Abbasids in 750 the Mu'tazilites began to become prominent in the Islamic world. In the 9th century the 'Abbasid caliph, al-Ma'mun, raised Mu'tazilah doctrine to the status of the state creed. Openly supported by the caliphate, the Mu'tazilites became increasingly intolerant and began to persecute their opponents. On one occasion the eminent Sunni scholar and founder of one of the four orthodox jurisprudential schools, Ahmad b. Hanbal (d.855), was subjected to flogging and imprisonment for his refusal to subscribe to the Mu'tazilite doctrine that the Qur'an was created in time.
Always unpopular with the ordinary people, the Mu'tazilites' power gradually began to wane. They lost the support of the caliphs and by the 10th century the Traditionist (Sunni majority) opposition to Mu'tazilah found a spokesman in Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d.935), who himself had previously been a Mu'tazilite. Al-Ash'ari's new school of theology and the school of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d.945) provided the new basis of orthodox Islamic theology, leading to the complete disappearance of the Mu'tazile movement.
So, over 1000 years ago the "reformists" lost their power, and they haven't had a hope since. What's going to bring them back and give them credibility? Nothing on Earth. They were hated in their time, and they remain unloved by all but a few Western intellectuals today. I conclude that we must look in other directions for any hope of a practical solution to the billion or so savages who today pose the most dire threat to our world and to themselves as well. I am open, of course, to correction. I welcome further input.