Towards dialogue with Kashmiri Nomad

11 May

Yesterday I mentioned Kashmiri Nomad’s post Islam and Reformation. The Nomad has kindly commented: “As I have said in my post I think that for the West religion has been left in the dustbin of history. The reason for writing the post was one and only one: To explain to a non-Muslim audience the depth of feeling and connection that most Muslims have with their faith. Also that Islam does not have a tradition of reformation as Judeo-Christianity does.”

Please note before going on my carefully worded heading; what follows is not in the spirit of debate but in the spirit of dialogue. I preface this too by commending a search (and on the following links I have done it for you) of my Archive under the tag “Islam”: here.

I understand and respect the fact of “the depth of feeling and connection that most Muslims have with their faith.” My reading of the Nomad’s blog shows him to be a sincere religious man, intelligent, well-read, and a worthy blogrollee — of course, or he wouldn’t be on my blogroll. However, “Islam does not have a tradition of reformation as Judeo-Christianity does” would seem to be only partly true; it is true that the tradition of reformation does not exactly parallel that of Judeo-Christianity, but there is still a tradition ranging from scepticism to varieties of philosophical positions and strategies of interpretation.

So you see, I am not directly addressing the Nomad’s post after all. He has rightly pointed to the nature of the Qu’ran as divine word being qualitatively different to the view of the Bible held by mainstream Christians, let alone agnostics or atheists. Some of the biblical views of many of those I have been reading about in Adam Nicolson’s Power and Glory have indeed been consigned for the most part to the dustbin of history, even by most evangelicals. But the religion of Jesus remains a potent force, for good, at its best. Islam too may be a force for good, at its best.

NOTE: In preparing the above, I see that Tabsir: Insight on Islam and the Middle East has a new address: I commend it to you, along with Charles Notess, Depolarizing a Hostile World.

Peace be with us all.

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3 responses to “Towards dialogue with Kashmiri Nomad

  1. Kashmiri Nomad

    May 13, 2006 at 7:51 pm

    I believe that you have not addressed the central point of my post, namely that there is not a historical precedent and tradition of reformation In Islam akin to the movements in Western religions.

  2. Owner

    May 13, 2006 at 9:47 pm

    Actually, I agreed that was the case, but only up to a point. This is partly because it really is a ticklish issue, and one requiring much learning which I do not claim to have. “Akin to” is probably the key issue. There certainly are and have been varieties of Islam, and varieties of philosophical schools within Islam, as one would expect in any religion or civilisation that has lasted as long as Islam has and in so many cultural settings.

    The status of the Qu’ran is certainly an enormous issue between Islam and other religions; to most Christians, the Bible is at the very least both human and divine, having been formed over a very long time in historical contexts we have learned much more about as time goes on. People diverge about exactly what they mean by it being “inspired”, and about whose is the right of interpretation, but to most Christians it is no longer seen as an eternal book delivered once for all time. In practice it never has been so seen, which is not to deny that God may be found in it, but no-one sees every verse of Scripture as simply applicable to all situations and all times, not even those who still claim to adhere to the doctrines of infallibity and inerrancy. We no longer burn witches, and very few Christians countenance slavery, even though the Bible may be adduced in support of both.

    Yes, I know that is paradoxical, but deep down Christians still believe God leads them towards truth, but very few Christians would claim to know all truth, not even, dare I suggest, the Pope himself.

    Is not having a tradition of reform necessarily a good thing? It may be comforting, but is it wise?

    Thanks for your reply. If you review my posts on this subject, as I have suggested, you will see many thinkers referred to, both from the West and from the Islamic world. From the West, for example, one might consider Karen Armstrong, who is far from unsympathetic to Islam. From the Islamic world there are people such as Abdelwahab Meddeb; I don’t know what you think of his work.

  3. Owner

    May 13, 2006 at 10:20 pm


    I see you have been through some of those posts, finishing with the one which came with a warning: “there are times I go beyond what the Nomad would be comfortable with: for example, The Atlantic Online | June 2003 | The Logic of Suicide Terrorism | Bruce Hoffman.” Yes, I was pissed off when I wrote that one by the really silly things that Melbourne Sheikh Omran had been saying; and he was not being quoted out of context, as he was given plenty of scope to say his piece on television. You must note though that even there I was arguing: “Somehow we do need to rise above the bigots and the tabloid press and see the good there is [in Islam]as well, and also see the fact that “our” side, the present world order and the Bush Republicans, do not represent heaven on earth either.

    See also Maruf Khwaja, “Terrorism, Islam, reform: thinking the unthinkable”, and Reinventing Islam in Europe: a profile of Tariq Ramadan.

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