There Will Never Be An Islamic “Reformation”


For Once I Disagree With Ayaan Hirsi Ali

She believes Islam is capable of a “Reformation” (it’s the subject of her new book). I think that, so far, Islam has shown itself capable of but one kind of “reformation”–the kind that looks backwards to an earlier and purportedly “purer” time (i.e. the time of Islam’s founder and his first few successors, the “rightly-guided caliphs”). Here’s what I wrote in a letter to Commentary on more or less the same subject (only it was Daniel Pipes who was pushing the idea at the time):

Daniel Pipes employs a quasi-highfalutin concept—”essentialism”—and argues that it (along with history) points to Muslims’ ability to reform and modernize Islam in a way that the West can live with. If anything, though, history has shown again and again that whenever Islam “reforms,” it does so by looking backward, not forward. That’s because, in keeping with its essential nature, it is a religion that claims its doctrines and its founder are perfect. It divides the planet into two worlds, the world of Islam and the world not yet conquered for Islam. At the same time, the religion accepts no division between mosque and state. This is not Islamism. It is Islam, pure and simple.


On the subject of Islam and its supposedly rogue aberration, Islamism, Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a more reliable authority than is Mr. Pipes. Vis-a-vis Islam’s essence, Erdogan has remarked: “Islam is Islam and that is all.” Which is why, pace Mr. Pipes, the future will likely give rise to more reformist movements in keeping with Wahhabism, Khomeinism, and the religious thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is also why the possibility that an Islamic equivalent to, say, Judaism’s reform and reconstructionist movements will gain traction in the Muslim world is so remote as to be nearly ridiculous.

2 thoughts on “There Will Never Be An Islamic “Reformation””

  1. I strongly agree that Islam can never be ‘reformed.’ Unlike the genuine world religions that predated Islam, Islam is solely dependant upon the alleged writings of one man – Mohammed, ‘the perfect man.’ Whatever Mohammed did, all good Muslims should do too. If Muslims are to doubt some of the most abhorrent actions of Mohammed – the taking of slaves, the rape of captive women, spreading the so-called ‘Faith’ by force rather than true conversion, the marriage of nine year old girls, the taking of multiple wives, the extreme sexism and racism inherent throughout the ‘religion’ (sect) that is Islam – then nothing much will be left, surely? Maybe a few pleasant sounding motherhood statements from early in Mohammed’s career – ‘no compulsion in religion,’ ‘if you kill one person, it is as if you killed all of mankind,’ ‘you have your religion: I have mine,’ all of which have been abrogated by the later Koranic verses, as Mohammed’s power grew, and he no longer needed to pretend to be other than the warlord and murderer that he really was? Surely Islam is ‘all or nothing’? If you are going to doubt the truth and validity of some actions and statements by Mohammed, then where do you draw the line? Islam is not about private piety. It is in essence a political movement, akin to Fascism. Surely the whole edifice will begin to crumble, if Muslims start to wonder, and ask any questions whatever? There is a reason for the longstanding ‘Death to Apostates’ Rule. Actually, come to think of it, roll on the Islamic Reformation!!!

  2. what people call the Christian reformation was simply “returning to & obeying the real words spoken & written by the first Christians.

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