Islamic Revivalism in Muslim World

Linked with Fethullah Güllen – Turkey, and with The Fethullah Gülen Movement in Thought and Practice.

Published on Islam and Democracy, by Spogmay Kakar, December 5, 2008.

… Eickelman observes the twentieth century as a time of change for the Muslim world just as the Protestant Reformation was for Christianity. He explains that, “the combination of mass education and mass communication is transforming this world [...] from North Africa through Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and across the Indonesian archipelago (82).” He further elaborates that, “the faithful – whether in the vast cosmopolitan city of Istanbul or in Oman’s tiny, remote al-Hamra oasis – are examining and debating the fundamentals of Muslim belief and practice in ways that their less self-conscious predecessors would never have imagined (82).” This is what Eickelman means by Islamic Reformation. The proliferation of technology and education has brought substantial changes in Muslim world.

Literacy rate has risen in Oman, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, and many other Muslim countries; education has proliferated to every city, town, and village. Adult literacy rate has increased as well. He also explains that the market for religious and non-religious books have improved a lot. He mentions and one book that is central to the Islamic Reformation “The Book and the Qur’an: A Contemporary Interpretation (1990),” written by Muhammad Shahrur, who is a Syrian civil engineer.

This book has sold thousands of copies even though its circulation has been banned in many Arab countries. Shahrur has very contemporary thinking that contradicts with some of the sayings in the Qur’an as he states, “Muslims should interpret sacred texts and apply them to contemporary world’s social and moral issues (84).”

For instance, he says that women should inherit equal to men because if they don’t, “it is discriminatory in modern society (84).” He talks about other reformists too such as Tukey’s Ali Bulac, a university based theologian, who “calls for authenticity and reinterpretation of the first years of the Prophet’s rule (84);” Fethullah Gullen of Turkey talks about “Islam and science, democracy, modernity, religious and ideological tolerance, the importance of education, and current events (85).” Eickelman argues that the books of “Islamic Reformation are not all aimed at high brows (85).” Many educated people are not “literary sophisticates (85).” Other Islamic books are inexpensive and the readers read them; these books basically teach Muslims how to live in the modern world according to true Islamic principles; they are accessible on the streets and in mosques for people to purchase them … (full text).

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