Islam is in crisis

Sunday 31/07/2016
Russian Muslims praying outside the central mosque in Moscow, on July 5th.

Whenever a terrorist attack takes place, people, including those who have carried out the attack, rush to link it to Islam and the Quran but the reality is much more com­plicated.
We are in the midst of unprecedented terrorist attacks, particularly those targeting mosques, from inter-Islamic sectarian sources — such as those seen against Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia — to those by non-Muslims against mosques in India, Myanmar and elsewhere.
This phenomenon clearly demonstrates that Islam is in crisis and this is something that all Muslims can confirm with regards to the rise of different groups — whether the Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah or anyone else — claiming to speak for the religion.
The problem that is facing Islam and Muslims is that the prevailing version of the religion — away from debates about what, if anything, is “true” Islam — is a version that does not lend itself easily to modern-day life. Muslims, like all people, want something that is ultimately life-affirming and not too restrictive. More importantly, they want a realistic view of morals and justice based on logic, not out-of-date aphorisms.
When political and societal change was sweeping through Latin America, this was able to co-exist with the prevailing Catholic religion — one did not subsume the other. In fact, one beautiful and life-affirming slogan that arose, in Latin no less, to express how religion can change with society was: “We only deserve paradise if we can achieve it on Earth.”
As for the Muslim terrorists, they want to reach heaven by turning Earth into a living hell.
Muslim jurists, along with the rulers they serve, played a major role in creating this dichotomy. In fact, the crisis facing Islam and Muslims is the direct result of their failure to weave together a balanced relationship between the material and immaterial, between religion and rule.
This is because their aim was not to create a balanced society but to consecrate rule, ensuring that any rebellion against the ruler was viewed as a rebellion against religion. Even worse was to put forward the idea that Islam must be backwards looking and inordinately concerned with the past, rather than the future: a religion that does not value development or growth, viewing this as heresy.
So, it does not matter if there are a million Muslims or a billion, if Muslims’ entire view of the world is dominated by a few schools of religious thought created by men who have long left this world and who, in any case, were not confronted by the issues and problems that are confronting us today.
There is a well-known Arab saying that says that it is a great virtue to acknowledge a mistake and an even greater virtue to right that wrong. However, for many centuries Islam has stagnated, not developing and looking forward, nor moving to address any of the real issues that modern Muslims are facing.
It is this pressure that has seen the rise of calls for a “renewal” of religious discourse from across the Muslim world. This is something that we have seen being called for by Egypt’s oldest religious institute, al-Azhar University, in addition to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who went even further by calling for a “revolution” in religious discourse.
Islam is not just in need of a renewal but a comprehensive renewal that touches on all aspects of the faith. The Muslim world is facing an unparalleled threat in terms of the rise of extremism and terrorism. This is a threat that must now finally be addressed.
Yes, Islam is in crisis and this crisis needs an urgent solution.