Islam and modernity - Compatible?
21 Aug 2011 02:05 GMT
Despite what many Islamic fundamentalists will claim wholeheartedly, Islam and modernity are totally compatible. Historically Islam has been a religion that has embraced progress, individualism and human rights.

While in the practice of many Muslim countries there have been severe cases of barbarism and backwards thinking, following the Qur'an without prejudice or blinding oneself with barbarian traditions really is a recipe for an enlightened, modern society. It is mistaken to think of Islam as separate from the West. Western culture and Islam share many things and for hundreds of years have been intertwined very closely. The image of Islamic society as a barbarous, primitive community is as stereotypical and false as the view of many Muslims of the West, a view that was formed by movies and television of a society in which violence and sex are glorified and the spiritual has no place. Both are ridiculous, cliched and stereotypical.

Many fundamentalists Islamic scholars reject modernity and continually denounce it. This kind of rejection is reasonably based on a reading of the Qur'an but rather it is based on fear. Fear of losing their positions of authority or perhaps fear of change itself. It is strange that this call to orthodoxy, this fear of modernity is found not in rural areas but in the great Muslim cities of the world. Completely the opposite of the Western thinking of cities as opposed to villages. However, Islam in rural areas is much more practical and flexible; it retains much of its roots which allowed it to blossom into one of the great religions of the world. Urban Islam is often orthodox and very disciplined, with an “us versus them” mentality. Rural Islam tends to be much more flexible and of a Sufi nature. It is more concerned with finding a way to make dogma work in daily life, in getting things done and living in peace with one another.

Fundamentalist Islam and the rejection of modernity is ironically a result of modernity. Fundamental Islam, much like communism and socialism in its time, offers millions of urban dwellers that lack an identity a common ideology. A sort of revolutionary attitude that allows them to put themselves above the vile unbelievers, feeding their need for outrage self righteousness. This combined with the blind faith in God's plan and the hatred of those that are not of the same faith can only lead to disaster, as it often has. Radical movements that have resulted in bloodshed and vile activities, such as terrorism, do not have their origin in rural Islam which lives closer to the teachings of the Qur'an, but in urban areas. Extremism comes from the scholars, from the urban dwellers that are more concerned with dogma than with practical matters.

Islam, as any religion, will adapt to the World. Nothing in the Qur'an makes one think that Islam is particularly more barbarous in regards to individual rights and equality among the population that either Judaism or Christianity. There is certainly no flaw in Islam that could lead one to think that Islam is lesser suited for change. In fact, compared to the two other principal monotheistic religions, Islam could be even more flexible and willing to adapt and evolve.

Let us remember that religion is not a reflection of the dogma of the scholars. Religion lies in how each individual lives his faith and finds comfort in God. So is Islam, which is not really in Islamic fundamentalist scholars but in the millions of Muslims that live every day in the modern world while maintaining their identities. Religion has been constantly exploited by the greedy for their own gains, as well as used by those of good heart to do great deeds. For centuries Islam has been on the forefront of modernity, constantly changing what is customary in the world and adapting to the circumstances of its time.

Perhaps the future of Islam does not lie in the great Islamic societies but in those Islamic communities living as minorities among other cultures. Historically one of the things that Islam has done best is adapt itself to external circumstances to meet modernity under its own terms. Without the weight of its past, much vilified and weighted down by dogma and extremism, perhaps Islam can blossom into something that will meet modernity and include it into its own ideals. Whatever many happen, one can be sure that millions of Muslims around the world, of all sexes and economic circumstances, both urban and rural, educated or uneducated, will continue to live in this modern world, adapt to new technology and learn to live with circumstances that may not be particularly agreeable to their own customs and traditions. However, the Islamic identity is so strong that there is no doubt that they will emerge integrating the modern world in the Islamic faith.

-- Al Arabiya Digital