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Is there such a thing as moderate Islam?

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  • Is there such a thing as moderate Islam?

    I'm opening this thread in response to Hong's recent suggestion to explore or debate, as well as Dan's longstanding statement that moderate Islam is false. Ironically, Dan has public support from atheist Sam Harris, whose notorious book End of Faith asserts that religions can never come to terms with each other because their dogmas contradict each other, and nobody who is a "real" believer can ignore the fundamental dogmas.

    Some suggested questions:
    1. What is "moderate" Islam? Western media generally refer to NU as "conservative" vs Muhammadiyah as "modern" but those commentators who have some insight into Indonesia note that NU is more tolerant of "local" traditions, while Muhammadiyah is more strict that Indonesians should follow external (i.e., Saudi) Islam so that all Muslims are united "on the same page".

    2. Is "moderate Islam" actually a description of Indonesia? Or is it more accurate to say that there is a very wide spectrum of belief here, ranging from "happy Muslim" (an ethnic Indian acquaintance's label for himself when he joined me for lunch in Bali during Ramadan about 20 years ago) to tolerance to santri to extreme fundamentalism that rejects centuries of legal commentary and refinement by Muslim scholars and leaders.

    3. In what ways can Islam change over time without losing its identity and (self-defined) sacred mission? For example, it is obvious from the history of Islam (and indicated by various passages in the Quran) that a huge effort was expended defending Islam from outside threats in its early decades.

    How does that history translate into modern groups that seem to have a chip on their shoulder, insisting that Islam is "threatened" at every turn? For example, a billboard that shows naked forearms is a temptation (even though God gave you eyelids and a neck, so you can avert your vision) and alcohol sold in a supermarket "might tempt those who are weak of will" ("but not me, of course"). "If we don't blast the adzan with loudspeakers, some people might miss morning prayer" (even though you can get the adzan on TV, cell phone ringtone, radio, or just ask your neighbors to check on you).

    IMO, a group like FPI should really be called Front Pemilik Islam because they assert authenticity and don't defend anything. In a world where "pre-emptive strike" has become increasingly justified thanks to the Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt (FUD) industry, is it wise for a majority to keep projecting threats while most practitioners follow the pillars of Islam without external difficulty?

    And finally, I want to say that I feel a certain amount of pity for the preachers and screamers who try to deal with Asian conformity and the consequent millions of nominal Muslims in Indonesia by pushing ("you say you are a Muslim, so you must..." as if that person automatically knows what is the next step for the other to become more devoted) and embarrassing (e.g., big banner across Malioboro Street during Ramadan: "Sudah dewasa tapi belum puasa? Malu dong!"). These types of believers seem to view the "weak Muslims" who surround them with haughtiness, almost like "white man's burden", instead of thanking God that they live in a Muslim-majority country where you don't have to ask all the time "is this halal?" or drive with a map to find a masjid.
    Last edited by martindo; 08-05-14, 09:25.

  • #2
    In the UK you don't have to ask if the meat is Halal, is already is, probably to the annoyance of the Sikhs, who should eat meat that has been killed in that manner

    Im wondering if we really need another religious discussion on the virtues or not of Islam, they tend to get out of hand and heated, and in the end everybody is in the same position as at the start,

    Comment


    • #3
      I am almost certain that these two threads would soon invite 'new (aggressive) members'. Let's see how this will unfold.
      .: love is in the air :.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Anglian View Post
        In the UK you don't have to ask if the meat is Halal, is already is, probably to the annoyance of the Sikhs, who should eat meat that has been killed in that manner

        Im wondering if we really need another religious discussion on the virtues or not of Islam, they tend to get out of hand and heated, and in the end everybody is in the same position as at the start,
        In America something like 1 in 4 products at a grocery are kosher. There are tons of chains that serve only kosher food. That's a business decision and nothing more.

        Welcome to diversity.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by martindo View Post
          1. What is "moderate" Islam? Western media generally refer to NU as "conservative" vs Muhammadiyah as "modern" but those commentators who have some insight into Indonesia note that NU is more tolerant of "local" traditions, while Muhammadiyah is more strict that Indonesians should follow external (i.e., Saudi) Islam so that all Muslims are united "on the same page".
          A desire for a moderate version of Islam is natural, I suppose, for Westerners. They want to see an Islam which jives with their vision for the world, they want to know that a religion can change to meet the needs of modern people. In their minds, religion should be adapted to fit their morals and ideals and not the other way around.

          That is completely and utterly wrong when dealing with Islam. The religion of Islam is unlike any other religion on the planet in a few key ways.

          -The Qur'an may very well be in exactly the same form it was in the 7th century. There is some debate about this among secular scholars, but there is also much evidence that ancient copies are the same. Among Muslims, it is universally held to be true. This means that the text cannot be changed; it is immutable AND Muslims don't believe it comes from Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa sellam). They believe that this is the immutable word of God Himself, speaking to humanity through His conduit. This means that the text can NEVER BE ALTERED EVER.

          -Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa sellam) was the last prophet for all humans and djinn. While messengers were sent to all peoples, no more shall come. That means that this is the final word, unerring and never to be changed.

          -Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) says numerous times that the Qur'an "is clear guidance" and that Islam is "the straight path" as well as "the approved religion for mankind." This means that what He says in that work is what goes. To stray from that is incompatible with Islam. Again, you cannot change the text and you cannot use "interpretation" as a means to completely gloss over clear items.

          One interesting note about this, though, is that Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) does state that some verses are "allegorical in nature." This means that some should NOT be taken literally. However, those verses are generally very easy to spot and are not direct commands. (Yes, this means that cutting off limbs is NOT up for debate).

          -Sunni Islam is divided into four juristic traditions. I will get into that later, but they do have some variation. All of them are agreed on certain matters though that NOBODY would consider "progressive" or "moderate."

          NU and Muhammadiyah are often seen by outsiders to Islam as being "moderating forces." HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA.

          First, let me remind you that NU and Muhammadiyah support fully female circumcision. Anybody here think that's moderate or progressive? Why do they do so? Because they are Shafi'i, because Indonesian Muslims belong to a tradition of fiqh that state it is mandatory to do so. They aren't going to go against about 1,200 years of juristic tradition on the matter. It's a closed case, for them.

          And on many issues I assure you that you will find that they are not "progressive" or "moderate" in any sense understood by Westerners. I mentioned some time back that the head of Muhammadiyah spoke at a 200,000 person strong rally for Hizb ut-Tahrir! That's nobody's idea of moderate in the Muslim world.

          There are some self-described Muslim "moderates" like Irshad Manji. I will discuss her in a separate post so you can understand why she is wrong. There is no moderate Islam. There is simply Islam. It isn't Arab Islam, it is a religion given to all mankind for the express purpose of serving Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) alone.


          Originally posted by martindo View Post
          2. Is "moderate Islam" actually a description of Indonesia? Or is it more accurate to say that there is a very wide spectrum of belief here, ranging from "happy Muslim" (an ethnic Indian acquaintance's label for himself when he joined me for lunch in Bali during Ramadan about 20 years ago) to tolerance to santri to extreme fundamentalism that rejects centuries of legal commentary and refinement by Muslim scholars and leaders.
          This is one of my favorite topics, because it exposes how little the kuffar really understand about Muslims. They widely believe that Indonesia is home to a "friendlier" incarnation of Islam.

          What exists in Indonesia is a pool of nominal Muslims or "cultural Muslims" from which many of the expats here derive their wives. What also exists here is an even larger pool of Muslims who are normal Muslims, conservative in ideals and values. This was evidence by the recent Pew Research poll that showed that 72% wanted shari'a as the SOLE LAW (unambiguously) and a majority wanted its punishments enacted.

          The truth is that the Shafi'i tradition of fiqh is very conservative, and nearly all Muslims here adhere to it. For example, mukena is worn here. That is because the Shafi'i jurists believe that only a woman's face can be exposed during prayer. They are also conservative in a woman's dress, she cannot expose her hair in public. For point of reference, this tradition is exactly the same as ... Somalia. Now, if you asked a kafir to say if they thought Somalia or Indonesia had the more "conservative" Islam they'd say Somalia. The truth is that it is EXACTLY THE SAME in both countries. They have exactly the same juristic tradition.

          Personally, my tradition is Hanafi, the one most common in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It's not as conservative, but it's still conservative. There is what I call "preference of opinion," and you can shop around a bit. But on matters spoken of directly in the Qur'an there is no room to argue.

          Originally posted by martindo View Post
          3. In what ways can Islam change over time without losing its identity and (self-defined) sacred mission? For example, it is obvious from the history of Islam (and indicated by various passages in the Quran) that a huge effort was expended defending Islam from outside threats in its early decades.

          How does that history translate into modern groups that seem to have a chip on their shoulder, insisting that Islam is "threatened" at every turn? For example, a billboard that shows naked forearms is a temptation (even though God gave you eyelids and a neck, so you can avert your vision) and alcohol sold in a supermarket "might tempt those who are weak of will" ("but not me, of course"). "If we don't blast the adzan with loudspeakers, some people might miss morning prayer" (even though you can get the adzan on TV, cell phone ringtone, radio, or just ask your neighbors to check on you).
          Islam cannot change. It is "the straight path" and "unerring." If you want a religion that can change easily, adopt Christianity. What Islam CAN do is encourage gradual reform on issues that are not a necessity for belief. Slavery is a great example. Slavery is permitted in Islam, and rules exist for how to take slaves and how to treat them.

          However, in the body of Islamic lore, our Sunnah, the example of the Prophet is to FREE slaves rather than take them. This suggests to me, and most Muslims today, that Islam is a religion that permits it but encourages you to end it at the same time. This is about as close as you can get to reform with Muslims.

          You can also be technically correct. What I mean by that is you can look at the text, take it word for word, and use it only in that literal sense. For example, many people (and most Muslims) believe that homosexuality is a sin in Islam. Actually, the sin is anal sex, for which the penalty is death. Is it possible to argue that anal sex is forbidden but gay love is perhaps makruh? Possibly.

          Again, this is as close to "change" or "reform" you can get.

          Muslims as a majority feel that they live in a Muslim society in Indonesia. I don't care how much Pancasila garbage the state tries to impose upon them, they recognize that they live in a MUSLIM COUNTRY. As such, they try to enact the rules and standards of Islam in their lives. It is indeed important that Muslims be "warners" for one another. They are empowered to create an Islamic society, and there is a growing body of believers in Indonesia that want the ultimate Muslim legal entity... the caliphate!

          Again, Indonesia is NOT moderate or liberal in this sense. Indonesia is one of only a handful of Muslim states that have not banned Hizb ut-Tahrir. Every other state recognizes them as a threat.


          Originally posted by martindo View Post
          IMO, a group like FPI should really be called Front Pemilik Islam because they assert authenticity and don't defend anything. In a world where "pre-emptive strike" has become increasingly justified thanks to the Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt (FUD) industry, is it wise for a majority to keep projecting threats while most practitioners follow the pillars of Islam without external difficulty?

          And finally, I want to say that I feel a certain amount of pity for the preachers and screamers who try to deal with Asian conformity and the consequent millions of nominal Muslims in Indonesia by pushing ("you say you are a Muslim, so you must..." as if that person automatically knows what is the next step for the other to become more devoted) and embarrassing (e.g., big banner across Malioboro Street during Ramadan: "Sudah dewasa tapi belum puasa? Malu dong!").
          FPI are just preman, from what I can gather. They are not your real problem. NU, Muhammadiyah and their close association with groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir totally are. I have seen it personally, I have seen how openly they operate in Indonesia. The kuffar do not seriously know or understand who their real enemies are in this equation.

          Comment


          • #6
            To add to the above discussion, I want you to consider this picture from the terrific blog "Side Entrance."

            http://sideentrance.tumblr.com/image/59535030446

            This is a picture of a woman leading a mixed congregation of men and women, but there is more. A pop quiz, if you will, for understanding why there cannot be a moderate Islam. What is wrong with this picture? There is a much greater problem here than a woman leading a mixed congregation, and it will do much to explain why these high-minded progressives are fooling themselves. The religion that they seek to "reform" is deemed to be "perfect" and "unerring."

            Progressive Muslims are nice people. Unfortunately, they are living in their own private Islam, an Islam that only exists in the minds of people willing to completely overlook the religion's fundamental teachings.

            Consider also this video of Irshad Manji.



            She believes that she doesn't need to perform salat as we do, she "prays in her own way." While it is very nice that she prays "in her own way," it is a religion other than Islam. This is beyond all of her other "issues," just consider how unorthodox she is.

            These are the people who champion "progressive" Islam. They do so without any basis in fiqh, without any basis in the Qur'an and Sunnah. They sorta just make it up as they go, they believe that they must harmonize Islam with the modern world and their own needs. Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) and Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa sellam) both warn against this MULTIPLE TIMES.

            Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa sellam) said on the authority of Abu Dawud, "Beware of newly invented matters, for every invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is a going astray, and every going astray is in Hell-fire."

            This is the concept of "bid'ah," innovation. Unorthodox behaviors and changes to a religion that we consider to be perfected. What's more, consider this from al-Bukhari:

            Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa sellam), on the authority of Aisha (radhi Allahu-anhu) said: [FONT=Helvetica, Arial] [/FONT][COLOR=#ff0000][FONT=Helvetica, Arial]"If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected."[/FONT][/COLOR]

            There is more to say on this issue, but it is clear that these changes are NOT in line with the religion of Islam. Worse yet for the progressives is what Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) says:

            "[SIZE=3][FONT=arial][/FONT][/SIZE][SIZE=3][FONT=arial]It is He Who has sent down to you (Muhammad ) the Book (this Qur'an). In it are Verses that are entirely clear, they are the foundations of the Book [and those are the Verses of Al-Ahkam (commandments etc.), Al-Fara'id (obligatory duties) and Al-Hudud (legal laws for the punishment of thieves, adulterers, etc.)]; and others not entirely clear. So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation (from the truth) they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah (polytheism and trials etc), and seeking for its hidden meanings, but none knows its hidden meanings save Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord." And none receive admonition except men of understanding"[/FONT][/SIZE]
            [SIZE=3][FONT=arial][/FONT][/SIZE]
            It's that simple. Progressives are arguing for something that simply does not exist.

            Comment


            • #7


              A much more controversial video... this video shows one of the forum's favorite champions of "progressive Islam," the one and only Gus Dur. It's a video of Gus Dur at a church, or at least what looks like a church. Some sort of denomination of wishy washy presbylutheranism or whatever. Anyway, in the video the Christians pray on him and... ask God to faith heal his eyes.

              He just sits there and, apparently, allows them to attempt the faith healing. Such "healing" is not allowed in Islam. It is strictly forbidden. Also, it doesn't work as evidence by the fact that he was still blind.

              This is the sort of thing that Muslims speak of when they speak of "bid'ah." It's nice that he was interfaith, but this is far more than interfaith. Actions like this call into serious question his Islamic religion. Was he an apostate? I don't know if that's safe to say. Was there more context to the video and the event? It's hard to say. What we can safely say is that no Muslim should be allowing Christians to attempt a ridiculous faith healing over them. This is a problem, and this is incompatible with our religion.

              Comment


              • #8
                First, I think you should address *what makes it possible* for leaders of different reilgions to talk to each other. What unites them?

                It's obvious what separates them, and as you say, it would be more obvious if people focused on tenets and dogma, as Sam Harris claims.

                Second, I suppose you are more of a Muslim scholar than Gus Dur, because you suggest apostate even while you yourself admit "context" is incomplete. When you're not sure, why not use wording that is more temperate, Dan?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by martindo View Post
                  First, I think you should address *what makes it possible* for leaders of different reilgions to talk to each other. What unites them?

                  It's obvious what separates them, and as you say, it would be more obvious if people focused on tenets and dogma, as Sam Harris claims.

                  Second, I suppose you are more of a Muslim scholar than Gus Dur, because you suggest apostate even while you yourself admit "context" is incomplete. When you're not sure, why not use wording that is more temperate, Dan?
                  It's pretty damning, martin. I mean, what else could there be? The guy sat there in a church and let 'em faith heal him. I know he was sick, but heck that's pretty ridiculous. We don't do faith healing.

                  Honestly, I'm being nice. Every other Muslim I've presented this to was like "astagfhirullah!" He made a clear demonstration of kufr. I don't know how much worse it could be other than him openly stating it. That is why I stopped short of declaring him an apostate.

                  What unites religious leaders? Well, there's our first problem. Muslims don't exactly have 'religious leaders.' I mean, we do, the word imam itself means 'leader'... but they're lay people. We have a class of scholars, they're experts (and again, I am NOT a scholar) but their word isn't definitive. We have a concept of consensus, and that's generally where we draw our directives from. But there's no leader who can really direct us outside of a caliph, and we don't presently have one. Simply put, there's no Pope of Islam. It's the world's most disorganized organized religion.

                  Interfaith dialogue probably isn't a good idea for Muslims. Honestly. A lot of us participate in it, and most of us are relatively tolerant of other faiths. However, that should be achieved by secularism and pluralism rather than any attributes of faiths. What neuters religions, what gets them to play along, is a secular society. It has NOTHING to do with qualities of religions, which are often absolute in their world view.

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                  • #10
                    zzzzz
                    Last edited by phokas; 07-10-14, 22:22.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      What we can safely say is that no Muslim should be allowing Christians to attempt a ridiculous faith healing over them. This is a problem, and this is incompatible with our religion. un quote...does the same go for dukuns in this muslim country?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by brodee View Post
                        What we can safely say is that no Muslim should be allowing Christians to attempt a ridiculous faith healing over them. This is a problem, and this is incompatible with our religion. un quote...does the same go for dukuns in this muslim country?
                        Absolutely. It is kufr.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by phokas View Post
                          She appears to be a Quranist from the video, although I wouldn't like to say without knowing her, but I have to disagree with you here, 'they' don't make things up as they go along, they follow the Quran. The way that Muslims pray now is not in the Quran, the Quran says to stand, bow and prostrate, that is all, and it does not state the number of units. Some of them choose not to follow hadiths, they don't have a problem with them and accept they could be accurate, but everything they need is in the Quran because it is complete. Quran is the word of God, hadiths are the words of men, men make mistakes, God does not.

                          One of the problems Muslims today and Islam is that they put too much weight on the hadiths and not enough on the Quran, a lot of Muslims know everything there is to know about laws, rules etc.. that come from hadiths, but hardly know what the Quran says on these matters.
                          Irshad Manji does not follow the Qur'an. I say this not because I merely disagree with her statements, but because the Qur'an is more than what you are making it out to be.

                          The belief among some people, among some progressive Muslims, is that if you excise the ahadith Islam becomes a friendlier, gentler faith. Does it really? Let's examine the source material on one issue of note, amputation.

                          Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) says:

                          "As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah."

                          This sounds definitive; you must amputate the limbs of thieves. And yet it is the ahadith that tell us that there are lesser values of theft which do not necessitate amputation.

                          Again, Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) says:

                          "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter"

                          Wow. Crucifixion. And yet again, it is in the ahadith that we learn that crucifixion is used AFTER someone is dead as a means to display the body. We do not crucify live people, but yet if you took merely what is stated here you may indeed crucify live people.

                          And everybody knows that the punishment for apostates is clearly only stated in the ahadith... or is it?

                          Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) says:

                          "And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared that he would overburden them by transgression and disbelief."

                          "So we intended that their Lord should substitute for them one better than him in purity and nearer to mercy."

                          The "boy" in question was an apostate and disobedient child, killed by Khidr.

                          What you should know about Islam's relationship with the ahadith is this: anyone who leads you to believe that the ahadith are a source of misguidance should consider the source material, the Qur'an, and then examine the ahadith. I have argued numerous times that there is nearly always reasonable doubt with the ahadith, but that we must discuss them and reach a consensus on their value and meaning. This is why Muslims "grade" them, and this is why we accept that they are fallible.

                          Muslims are not merely informed on the ahadith. They know the Qur'an well, and they know full well that the immutable word of Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) is merely complemented by the Sunnah. One can be a Muslim and possibly reject the Sunnah, but why would you? The Sunnah is a positive force on Islam. It gives us a model for Islam. The Qur'an tells you WHAT to do, the Sunnah tells you HOW to do it.

                          Originally posted by phokas View Post
                          If you don't believe me, try this little test: ask any Muslim you know in Indonesia why men should be circumcised (I have tried this 5 times now) everyone of them will say the same answer - because we were told to follow Abraham. Then ask them where in the Quran it says about circumcision, and they cannot tell you, but will insist that it is there (even though it is not)
                          2 of the people I asked about this called their leader at mosque to check with them (they didn't seek truth themselves)
                          the other 3 went on google and looked for reasons to be circumcised and then quoted from the Quran to follow Abraham, they just took a sentence from the Quran that was talking about polytheism and twisted to fit as following Abraham on everything he did (they never once looked at the Quran themselves)
                          The Shafi'i jurists, the dominant tradition of fiqh in Indonesia, have ruled that circumcision is mandatory for both sexes. They draw this from "The Reliance of the Traveller," a Shafi'i manual of jurisprudence. I don't personally believe it is mandatory, but it is indeed Sunnah. This is a matter of preference, a juristic difference. I have, on previous occasion, recommend that men who have converted NOT seek circumcision for this reason. It is best that you do it, but you are not obligated to do so. The Shafi'i jurists respectfully disagree, oh well.

                          It's not an issue of consequence. What is of consequence here is the fact that Muslims draw information from the ahadith and interpret that. This oral tradition is useful. To disregard it entirely is fine, I suppose, if one does not want to be a Sunni Muslim. If you or anyone feels that they have the knowledge of Islam to make their own decisions that's up to them. But the two bodies of work don't disagree with one another. They don't contradict one another. The fact is that anyone who believes that Islam is made nicer (for Western ears) or easier (and this is WHY people do this... the fools) by getting rid of the ahadith clearly HAS NOT READ THE QUR'AN.
                          Last edited by DanInAceh; 10-05-14, 12:49.

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                          • #14
                            On one hand we're as hard-line as Somalia, yet our only democratically elected Muslim cleric president (who remains popular even after his death) is an apostate.

                            Interesting.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Now then, if Irshad Manji were to say that she is on board with crucifixion, amputation, executions, death to sodomites, jihad fisibillah and so on... I would believe your argument. But let's face the facts...

                              Irshad Manji is a lesbian who denies all of the above, despite the fact that all of the above come from that unerring, immutable source. This isn't a matter of "DanInAceh" said so, this is a matter of what Muslims believe to be the immutable word of God. She is not a Qur'an alone Muslim (Quranist? Really?). But is she a Muslim? No. I feel quite comfortable in saying that Irshad Manji believes in her own private Islam.

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