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Islam vs. Progressivism: Not actually a fight

Progression is an essential part of our society. We continue to see progress every day from the creation of new forms of medicine, to the variety of smart phones coming out, computers, I-pods, cars, etc. Progress is not something unusual to us and we expect progress to take place not only in material objects, but also in the politics and society. Now when Islam and Progressivism come up in a discussion some people will argue that it is not possible and others will express that there has been progression within Islam. To even have a conversation about this  topic, an entirely new way of thinking about Islam needs to be established. To be able to create this new way of thinking about Islam there are many different elements that need to be discussed.

The first idea that needs to be discussed is Islamic history this includes the legacy of what has created the view of Islam in the modern world today. Khaled Abou El Fadl writes, “This legacy has produced the modern ugly, ad it is the modern ugly that Muslims must overcome today, as they go about reclaiming the beautiful in the vast and rich moral tradition of Islam.”[1] This is a valid point there are many historical events and actions that have made Islam out to be something ugly and misconceived by the rest of the world. Fadl does make the point that Muslims will have to over come this and not be caught up in the mainstream view, but need to create an entirely new view of Islam. An essential part of progression for Muslims and Islam is to understand the “vulgarization of contemporary Islam.”[2] The meaning of the term vulgarization is the reoccurrence of events that shock people and are considered not moral. The term vulgarization can be applied to a variety of events that have occurred around the world. The forced removal of Native American by the U. S. government, the Holocaust, WWI, the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition were all acts of vulgarization. So no civilization is untainted by acts of vulgarization, this is an important point that needs to be considered. Islam just like the rest of the world has had terrible acts that have been done, but those acts are not what make up Islam entirely.

To be able to over come this vulgarization of Islam these events need to be acknowledged. Fadl writes, “It is far too easy for contemporary Muslims to avoid taking responsibility for the extreme acts of ugliness committed by zealots in our midst, and instead cast the blame upon Western imperialism and colonialism.”[3] This is an agreeable point that not everything can be blamed Western imperialism and colonialism, but to a certain degree these did play an imperative role in shaping Islam. Still the point is to accept the terrible acts that did happen, the only way for progress to be made is to accept and acknowledge the past, but strive for changes that are beneficial. Arkoun writes, “Islam holds historical significance for all of us, but at the same time our understanding of this phenomenon is sadly inadequate. There is a need to encourage and initiate audacious, free productive thinking on Islam today.”[4] The history of Islam is not only significant in moving forward, but the only way this can be accomplished is to form a new way of thinking about Islam. Safi writes, “We realize the urgency of the changin’ times in which we live, and seek to implement the Divine injunction to enact the justice and goodness-and-beauty that lie at the heart of the Islamic tradition.”[5] Muslims realize the need for change and are seeking to do that. Safi writes, “Progressive Muslims are concerned not simply with laying out a fantastic beatific vision of social justice and peace, but also with transforming hearts and societies alike.” [6] This is a significant point that had been made because there are multiple aspects that make up progressivism. The only way to create a new way of thinking about Islam is if these ways are created and start within Islam. This would be a form of cultural progessivism that is taking place. From there a new way of thinking about and new identity of Islam can be spread, so that others will no long view Islam as a dangerous and threatening religion.

Progressivism is something that Islam can achieve and not out of reach. For this process to start there needs to be change that happens within Islamic communities. So Islam and Progressivism can be compatible and not something so unimaginable. The question is how this Progressivism will take place and if it will recapture the beauty of Islam.

[1] Khaled Abou El Fadl. “The Ugly Modern and the Modern Ugly: Reclaiming the Beautiful in Islam. 62.

[2] Khaled Abou El Fadl. “The Ugly Modern and the Modern Ugly: Reclaiming the Beautiful in Islam. 37.

[3] Khaled Abou El Fadl. “The Ugly Modern and the Modern Ugly: Reclaiming the Beautiful in Islam. 42.

[4] Mohammed Arkoun. “Rethinking Islam Today. 18-19.

[5] Omid, Safi. “The Times They are A-changin’ – A Muslim Quest for Justice, Gender equality and Pluralism. 1.

[6] Omid, Safi. “The Times They are A-changin’ – A Muslim Quest for Justice, Gender equality and Pluralism. 6.



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