Can Islam be reformed?

Posted on December 16, 2013

Reblogged from Da Masked Avenger. Cheers to Oz.


Acknowledgement:  A part of this essay was written by a good friend of mine to whom I am eternally indebted. His knowledge of Arabic and access to classical texts has made my work possible.

The Muslim community in the UK (as well as Europe) is now well into its third generation.  While the first generation immigrants had limited interaction with the wider society, the same cannot be said of the second and third generations for whom “home” is fairly and squarely the UK.   Muslims now comprise a not insignificant 5% of the UK’s population and are represented across all strata of society.  Given the influx of more recent Muslim immigrants as well as the events of 9/11, 7/7 and the British invasion of two Muslim countries – Iraq and Afghanistan, the question of Islam and its compatibility (or otherwise) with western liberalism has taken on an added sense of urgency.

Today Islam and Muslims find themselves under the spotlight of media scrutiny as never before. With a right wing press that grants maximumexposure to the vitriolic speeches of fringe Muslim groups as well as their provocative (and sometimes violent) actions it is hardly¬¬¬ surprising that the public’s perception of Muslims and Islam is acutely negative. Successive governments have talked about the increasing tide of “Muslim radicalisation” and have allocated considerable resources to countering this phenomenon most recently via the “PREVENT” programme. Ministers have talked of a need to reform Islam and bring it into line with British values. Back in 2007 under the previous Labour government, Ruth Kelly then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government penned an article entitled “Time for a British version of Islam”.  Extremism has been defined to include calling for the implementation of Shariah law or advocating a unified Islamic state – the much talked about Caliphate.

The aforementioned “PREVENT” strategy was first launched in 2007 and has since provided millions of pounds of funding as well as significantlogistical support to those Muslim groups prepared to champion the cause of fighting “radicalisation”.  These groups, who usually sport a non-existent support base in the community (think Quilliam), are then propelled into the limelight given platforms on the mainstream media and invited to attend public discussions and debating events where they are presented as if they are mainstream Muslim representatives.

By contrast, those who affirm classical Islamic opinions are marginalized by the mainstream society and media, condemned as backwards, regressive, fundamentalists and even potential terrorists. They are denied platforms and the chance to speak freely in public fora and in extremis even encounter difficulties with their employers. Just today the coalition government unveiled new plans to legislate against people who spread “extremist” ideas including potential bans on them communicating with others or attending public venues such as mosques or universities.

Let there be no doubt as to the ferocity of the intellectual attack that Islamic law is being subjected to in the West, including of course Britain. Shariah law is labelled as barbaric, misogynistic, homophobic and in general a regressive, retrograde force pitted against modern civilization that would take humanity back to the medieval era.  No Muslim academic will be taken seriously regardless of his excellence in his field of study if he/she is deemed as “homophobic” or supports “barbaric” outdated laws regarding amputating thieves’ hands or concepts such as gender segregation.

This then forms the backdrop against which an examination of “Islamic reform” takes place and the lens through which it must be viewed. It is not a call emanating from a vacuum but is rather a borne of the particular global social context described above. It is a call forged by years of Western intellectual, scientific, military (and even to an extent cultural) dominance over the Muslim world.

In the face of such a truculent state orchestrated intellectual and political assault members of the Muslim community have generally adopted one of three stances:

1.             Withdrawing and isolating themselves from mainstream society preferring to avoid anything more than cursory contact in order to avoid the embarrassment of having their views and beliefs mocked.

2.             Shying away from discussing the “controversial” aspects of Islam in public or claiming that certain aspects of Islam have been “misunderstood”.

3.             Some have succumbed to the intellectual assault and cultural indoctrination and have conceded that Islam as it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad 1400 years ago is indeed in need of reformation, revision and updating.

In recent years it is this last reformist group who have had their voices deliberately amplified by the government and a sympathetic media while the silent majority who hold true to the original unadulterated meanings of the Quran and Sunnah have been the focus of a relentless campaign of demonisation and stigmatisation.  Those who do dare to speak up for the understanding of Islam handed down from the Prophet (saw) through successive generations of scholarship are attacked as extremists and by insinuation as potential terrorists. Whether these reformers are sincere in their beliefs is not the focus of this article but rather whether what they advocate has any basis in Islamic theology and whether it makes rational sense.

With respect to the tactics employed by the reformers they can be categorized as follows:

1.             Expropriating Islamic legal terms and giving them wholly foreign meanings. For example Shura which refers to the right of Muslims to be consulted by the state in mubah issues – matters Allah’s law has determined to be permissible – is hijacked to mean Democracy which is representative man-made secular law where sovereignty no longer belongs to Allah but to man.

2.             Justifying the abolition of specific Shariah rules by stating that the Maqaasid (fundamental Objectives) of the Shariah are better realised by modern secular ideals and laws. Often this is may be done by using the excuse of “Ijtihad” which links back to point 1 above.

3.             Calling for a new Tafsir or interpretation which invariably seems to lead to the justification of contemporary values and ideals.

4.             Stating that the Quran and Sunnah should be historicised i.e. seen as texts that were relevant to a particular time in history and by implication not applicable to the modern world except in the application of their generic principles.

One of the difficulties in debating with these soi-disant reformers is that their basis of discussion is not evidence adduced from the primary sources of Islam (the Quran and Sunnah) but rather their yardstick for approval or disapproval of an idea is whether it conforms to secular liberalism.

So no matter which ayah or hadith you present, they will just dismiss it out of hand citing one of the aforementioned reasons. What I wish to show in this article is that there is nothing Islamic about their views.  They have no basis in Islam, and that they contradict the views of the very scholars that they quote in order to provide some Islamic camouflage for their agenda.

Islam Law is derived from the sources, not the Human mind (Aql)

The celebrated Jurist Al-Shatibi, who ironically is oft-cited by the reformers due to his detailed exposition of the concept of “maqaasid” or overriding objectives of the shariah – more on that later – discusses this in detail in his book al-Muwafaqaat:

Rational evidences (al adillah al aqliyya), if they are used in this discipline (ilm) must be used in conjunction with transmitted [ie texual] evidences (al adillay al sam’eeyah). They are not used independently as evidence because their employment is for amr shar’ee (legal matters) and reason/the human mind (aql) is not the legislator (shaari’)

In other words Islamic law is not dictated according to rational, human thinking, but rather it is prescriptive according to what has been revealed.  Later on Shaatibi is even more explicit when he states:

When support is sought from transmitted evidences [eg Quran and Sunnah] it is on the condition that the transmitted evidences will be given precedence so that they are the ones that are followed.  Reason will be relegated and it is subservient to transmission.  Reason will not be permitted a free play during investigation except to the extent that may be determined by transmission.

This is in direct contrast to the reformist assertion that Good and Bad are absolute and Islam or religion is not needed for its definition, the human mind is perfectly able to discern a good act from a bad act.  However this is in direct contradiction to what the scholars and Shaatibi have said,

It is determined from Ilm al Kalam and in Usul al fiqh that reason/the human mind cannot independently determine what is good (hasan) and bad (qubh)…if [this] were permissible then it would be possible to annul the Shariah through aql (reason/the human mind).  This is impossible and void and the elaboration is: the purpose of the shariah is to lay down limits for the subjects with respect to their acts, statements and beliefs”.

Underlying Objective of the Shariah (maqaasid)

While Shaatibi was not the first to posit the theory that the Shariah has certain overarching objectives, he is perhaps the individual who is most associated with this view.  His writings on the maqaasid are often cited to justify the view that individual shariah laws can and should be abandoned according to changing times and realties.  So for example they argue that the verse of the Quran: “And the male and female thief, cut their hands off” is no longer applicable because the maqasid of that verse is the protection of property and safeguarding against theft.  This can be better achieved in today’s reality by imposing a term of imprisonment rather than amputation. They cite Shaatibi to justify this when he said:

The shariah was laid down to safeguard five necessities (durooriyaat) which are: aql (intellect), din (religion), nafs (life), nasl (progeny) and maal (wealth).

To this they add that these overarching objectives are in fact what we call Human Rights in the modern era.  To an extent the argument is fallacious from its inception since Shatibi himself has already clarified that ration is not to be used when discussing islamic law, but rather the transmitted texts of the Quran, and prophetic traditions (ahaadith) are what is important.  So to a degree the argument is flawed from its inception, but to provide peace of mind for our viewers that no classical Islamic scholar ever announced such a specious argument we will quote none other than Shatibi himself; in fact we will quote from the very same paragraph where he elucidates the matter.  It is worth setting out in full to gain the context of his discussion:

When we examine (the obligation of) prayer we find (the command) “and establish prayer” related to it in various forms.  We find praise (madh) for those who observe it, the assignment of blame to those who neglect it and the compulsion (ijbaar) of the people (mukallafeen) to do it, for example waging war against those who neglect it or lend support in its neglect…Likewise in the case of life (nafs) where homicide is proscribed and murder has been subjected to the liability of retaliation in order to prevent it and its declaration as a major sin (kabaa’ir) that is very close to polytheism (shirk)

This is a far cry from the overall objectives being used to justify the abandonment of the law (shariah) but what shatibi is explicitly stating is quite the opposite.  That when the laws are implemented and people are compelled to pray if necessary and the murderer is himself executed (due to Qisas) then the overarching objectives are achieved.  This is an example of the grotesque misrepresentation of Islamic texts that is occurring in this state backed program to justify the diametric opposite of what the scholars were in fact arguing!

As for the remit of the fundamental objectives as well as the concept of public interest, this is a detailed topic.  Suffice it to say it is restricted to issues for which there is not an explicit text in the Quran or sunnah.  Shaatibi says:

Each principle of the shariah that is not supported by a particular text but it compatible with the fundamental principles (tassarufaat) of the Shariah and its meaning has been derived from evidences, is valid and can be employed for further extension (of the law).”

Naturally, where an explicit text exists and the meaning of the Arabic word(s) is clear, there can be no dispute as to what the Shariah law is on the topic.  It is definitive (qatee). One cannot override a specific explicit text by recourse to a general principle. This conveniently leads us to the topic of “reinterpreting” the Quran.

A new Tafsir or Interpretation of the Quran

Tafsir comes from the verb fassara which means to explain or interpret. The Quran was revealed in Arabic and hence tafsir is only possible in Arabic, as Mujahid (the student of Ibn Abbas [ra]) said, “It is not permissible for one who holds faith in Allah and the Day of Judgment to speak on the Quran without learning classical Arabic.

Shaatibi states:

The issue is that the Quran is in Arabic and the Sunnah is in Arabic….the methods of interpretation (istinbaat) and reasoning (istidlaal) from them has to be in accordance with Arab usage (kalaam al Arab) insofar as the determination of its meaning and specific modes of address are concerned.

Shawkani affirms the point that the meanings of the Qur’anic words can only be taken according to their confirmed usage:

The word is used according to what it was coined for

It would be thought that these points are statements of the obvious for if words no longer carried definitive meanings, then the whole concept of language and communication breaks down.  In that instance words lose their meanings and can be “interpreted” according to whatever the individual wants them to mean.

Shaatibi warns against this:

There are many people who interpret/take legal evidences in the Quran according to how their own reason (aql) sees them and not in accordance with what is understood from its form.  In this is a grave error (fasaad kabir) and it is goes against the purposes of the Law-Giver (Shaari’).”

The great Hanafi scholar Sarkhasi states in his eponymously named, “Usul as sarkhasi” in the chapter: “Nouns: forms of address in the usage of the jurists (fuquhaa) and their (associated) rules” the following:

As for the zaahir (literal word) it’s intended meaning (murad) is known from just hearing it without having to ponder deeply.  It is what races to the mind and thinking due to its literal coined meaning, for example: His (Allah) saying, exalted be he,  ‘Oh mankind, fear your Lord, and His saying, exalted be he, ‘and he has permitted trade’ and his saying, exalted be he ‘cut their hands’.  These and similar examples are literal, their intending meanings are arrived at by hearing the wording/form…

In light of the above excerpt from Sarkhasi’s primer it might be worth mentioning that recently a known advocate of Islamic reform, Maajid Nawaz, stated that he opposed the cutting of hands as a punishment for theft in any circumstances and on his Twitter feed called for the re-translation and reinterpretation of Islamic texts. Quite how “cut their hands” can be translated to mean something else or “re-interpreted” another way is beyond the mind of this author and clearly beyond the understanding of the classical scholars of Islam.

Words must be taken at their literal meaning unless there is a justification for departing from this and employing a metaphorical one. With respect to the Qur’an and hadith any such metaphorical meaning must be justified by what was customarily known amongst the Arabs of that time i.e. classical Arabic metaphors and idioms.

Can you imagine having any meaningful conversation with a person if every word you uttered was “interpreted” in a way inconsistent with their customary accepted meanings and usages? For example, if I asked someone who was about to visit the local supermarket to bring me back a dozen eggs and two pints of milk you can imagine my surprise if upon his/her return they handed me a packet of crisps and a litre of orange juice claiming that in their “interpretation” of my request that’s what I had asked for!

Islamic laws were revealed for the 7th Century, not 21st

To this we say, did not the Creator of the universe in all of its vastness and complexity not know that there would be Muslims a mere 1400 years after he revealed his Law?  Saying that his laws are not applicable is tantamount to saying there is a limit in Allah’s knowledge of the future?

Shaatibi who himself came some 650 years after the Prophet is dismissive of the notion that laws and principles are no longer relevant:

In fact, what was established as a cause will remain a cause for ever without repeal, what was established as a condition will forever remain a condition, what was established as a wajib (obligation) will forever remain a wajib and what was established as a mandoob will remain a mandoob.  Likewise all the other types of rules.  There is no diminution in them, nor can these be altered.  If the continued existence of duty to Allah (takleef) is presumed without ever ending, the same is to be said about the related rules

So Shatibi here is very clear that the ahkam (divine rules of the Shariah) do not change according to the passage of time.  Whilst discussing divorce, hajj and umrah he states:  “They used to undertake these acts prior to Islam. They distinguished between marriage and fornication; pronounced divorce; performed circumbulation of the house every week; they used to kiss the black stone (of the ka’ba); make circuits between al-safa and al-marwa; pronounce the talbiya; make the stay at Arafat, descend to Muzdalifah, throw stones at the jimaar (pillars); respect the prohibited months and treat them with veneration; they used to bathe after major impurity, and wash their dead and praying over them; they used to cut off the hands of the thief and to crucify the brigand…”

So here Shatibi is stating that the rights of Hajj were known to the Arabs before Islam and were practiced well before the advent of the Prophet (saw). Now if we were to employ the line of thinking propounded by the reformists we could argue that the Hajj pilgrimage was merely a custom of the Arabs peculiar to that time and place and is of no relevance to us in the 21st century. No Muslim, no matter how liberal, would ever advocate such a thing because they understand that the Islamic rules relating to rites and rituals are applicable for all times and places.

Shatibi goes on to say:

They [the arabs] continued doing these things until the arrival of Islam and they maintained the earlier rules till Islam issued the rulings that it did, abrogating those that went against it…acts that were practiced before Islam the were abrogated if they went against Islam. Those that had to be abrogated were abrogated, while those that had to be retained were retained.

So some of the tribal practices of the ancient Arabs were done away with by Islam and only that which the Prophet (saw) explicitly brought us do we follow now. This refutes the idea that the Shariah contains ancient Arab practices, laws and rituals that are not relevant to us today.  In an authentic hadith contained in the Sunan of Abu Dawood:

Anas bin Maalik (radi Allahu anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allah (saw) came to Madinah and the people had two days when they would play and have fun.  He said, ‘What are these two days?’  They said, ‘We used to play and have fun on these days during the Jaahiliyyah (Days of Ignorance i.e. the pre-islamic era). The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, ‘Allah has given you something better than them, the day of (Eid) Adhaa and the day of (Eid) Fitr.’

So Islam already did away with that which needed to be done away with. To say that we need to now start doing away with more because it was only relevant for that time is to effectively play God with the deen. Who are we to decide what is relevant and what isn’t? Is Hajj still relevant? What about Salah (the 5 daily prayers)? How about circumcision? Conveniently enough (and not at all surprisingly) such questions are not even considered by the reformists rather the only rules and practices of Islam that they deem in need of scrutiny are those that directly contradict western secular notions of freedom. Although I did previously state that the motivations the reformists are moot and not the focus of this article it would be remiss not to draw attention to their glaringly inconsistent application of their own “historicisation” hermeneutical method.

One is reminded of a particular hadith of the Prophet (saw):

Whoever interprets the Qur’an based on mere opinion let them prepare their seat in Hell.

Concept of Ijtihad and Usul ul-Fiqh and Urf (custom)

The method of deriving a Shariah verdict on a given issue from the textual sources is termed “ijtihad”. It comes from the same root as the word “jihad” and means to expend effort. Usul ul-fiqh are the foundational principles/rules that the scholars laid down in order to guide the process of extracting the Shariah laws from the texts. The purpose of usul is to ensure consistency and prevent verdicts being derived based upon the whims and personal desires of the scholar. So for example if the scholar specifies that in his opinion he prefers to use qiyas (analogy) rather than hadiths which only have single narrators he must apply this principle consistently. As scholars differ upon the principles of usul so the rulings derived thereof will naturally differ but what has always stood true is that every scholar has abided faithfully by their respective usul whilst performing ijtihad. Thus whilst scholars have argued over the rulings on practically any given issue (right down to the basic details of the prayer) and even upon the usul used to derive those rulings they have never accused each other of insincerity or giving rulings based upon their own desires. When it comes to these reformists however, what is noticeably absent is any framework for ijtihad. I have yet to see the reformists’ usul – probably because it doesn’t exist. So whilst people like Irshad Manji may call for ijtihad they don’t define the mechanics of how their ijtihad works – the cynic in me would suspect that it’s because their version of “ijtihad” consists of simply discarding any ayah or hadith that disagrees with western liberal mores and values which then begs the question why bother referring to the Islamic texts at all?

Lastly I want to touch on the topic of urf (customary practices). This is one line of attack that some reformists like to use when it comes to the subject Islamic reformation. Urf was used a source of Islamic rulings where no explicit ruling was given in the Qur’an, the Sunnah or couldn’t be derived by recourse to Ijma or Qiyas. Therefore one is at liberty to use the customs of the people in order to give a verdict. To cite a recent example of a question that a scholar answered via recourse to urf consider the case of spouses holding hands in public. Some societies deem it to be indicative of, and a precursor to, sexual intimacy (as strange as that may sound in the west) whilst other societies deem it to be merely a sign of closeness and attachment. So here the ruling may differ according to the time and place.

Urf can never be used to override a specific text or a ruling derived from one of the primary sources. So for example one cannot say that because homosexuality is customarily regarded as permissible in contemporary western society ergo it’s permitted to engage in this forbidden act if you live in the West!

So can Islam be reformed?

Every ideology has certain core ideas and beliefs which form its fundamental basis and stripped of which it ceases to exist. For example the idea of collective ownership of the means of production as opposed to private ownership is one of the defining features of Communism. If one were to “reform” Communism so that it allowed for private ownership and a free market economy then it would no longer be Communism and nobody would reasonably argue otherwise. Christianity believes that Jesus (as) is the begotten son of God (may Allah[swt] guide them to the truth) who died on the cross 2000 years ago as an atonement for the sins of humanity .  If one were to claim that they have “reformed” Christianity and created a synthesis bereft of these beliefs then it would no longer be Christianity. Similarly if you extirpate from Islam the concept that legislative authority belongs to God rather than man or the concept that Islamic law governs both the spiritual and temporal spheres then the resultant ideology/belief system is no longer Islam.

But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” [TMQ 2:216]

The Islamic texts are there to guide and inform the believers every action, belief and behaviour and the Muslims have always approached them from the perspective that God knows best for us; a concept elucidated eloquently and forcefully in the above verse of the Qur’an.

The Qur’an itself states that Islam is perfect and not in need of any alteration.

This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” [TMQ 5:3]

Commenting on this verse the celebrated Qur’anic exegete, Ibn Kathir stated:

This is why Allah made Muhammad the Final Prophet and sent him to all humans and Jinn. Therefore, the permissible is what he allows, the impermissible is what he prohibits, the Law is what he legislates and everything that he conveys is true and authentic and does not contain lies or contradictions.”

It is perhaps with this verse in mind that the former Quilliam co-director, Ed Husain acknowledged that his call to update (i.e. reform) certain Qur’anic laws pertaining to women’s inheritance rights and testimony was tantamount to apostasy.

With respect to the retranslations and re-interpretations of the reformists one has to ask why it took 1400 years before it dawned upon scholars that the Qur’an and Sunnah could be interpreted in the manner they posit. Has someone chanced upon hitherto undiscovered new meanings for the classical Arabic words used in the Qur’an and ahadith?

Harking back to what I mentioned earlier I submit that the raison d’etre of the reformist movement is the West’s current material and scientific (and in certain aspects social and cultural) ascendancy. For the reformists the Islamic aqeedah (beliefs) and ahkam (shariah rules) are the obvious cause of Muslim disempowerment and stagnation and the adoption of secular liberalism the cause of western supremacy.

The reformists position provides a haven of comfort for those Muslims who do not wish to abandon Islam in its entirety or who wish to keep it as a personal spiritual practice but without those parts they deem not compatible with their own moral code. It is in effect a call to take Islam down the same path as Christianity has ventured by shedding those commandments not in keeping with the prevailing zeitgeist. Unfortunately for such people the Qur’an itself stands clearly against adopting a piecemeal approach to Islam in numerous verses.

Then do you believe in a part of the Scripture and reject the rest? Then what is the recompense of those who do so among you, except disgrace in the life of this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be consigned to the most grievous torment.” [TMQ 2:85]

And also:

It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.” [TMQ 33:36]

I respectfully submit that Islam is as the Qur’an and Sunnah dictates not what one wishes Islam to be (despite the exhortations of Maajid Nawaz). As much as I may look at my Peugeot 106 and tell myself it’s a Ferrari F12berlinetta alas when I push the accelerator pedal I don’t feel the force of a 730 horse power engine pushing me back into my seat. Either you accept Islam as is – “faults” and all – or you should reject it. For sure some aspects of Islam even I have difficulty comprehending and sometimes I also ponder over certain actions of the Rasul (saw) but ultimately I am convinced that the Qur’an is indeed the unadulterated communication of the one and only God and that Muhammad (saw) was his last and final Messenger whose example we are commanded to follow. If I didn’t believe that I would reject Islam in its totality in which case my life would be my own to do with as I pleased without the need to justify any of my beliefs, actions, morals or ethics by recourse to 1400 years old texts.

The stance of these reformists belies a lack of belief in the divine authorship of the Qur’an and/or a lack of belief in the Omniscience of the Almighty. I respectfully submit that the sincerest course of action for them and the one that makes logical sense is to abandon Islam and have done with the idea of Islamic reformation. It simply will not work and precious few Muslims are buying their garbled farrago of contradictions. As much as I detest apostates like Ayan Ali Hirsi her stance with respect to Islam is considerably more coherent and logical than the stance of people like Irshad Manji, Maajid Nawaz, Ed Husain, Usama Hasan et al.

All attempts at Islamic reformation are doomed to fail because Muslims since the day of the Prophet’s last sermon at Mount Arafah have understood that despite the need to respect scholarship and to defer to the rulings of scholars in matters of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) ultimately they are enjoined to follow the Book of Allah (i.e. the Qur’an) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saw). No scholar – no matter the greatness of his erudition or intellect – can ever override the clear injunctions contained therein. It is ironic to say the least that many anti-Islam commentators have clearly understood this yet some of those who profess to be Islamic scholars cannot.

David Solway sums it up best in his June 25th 2013 article on Frontpage Mag website:

The fact is, unfortunately, that Islam cannot be reformed if it is to remain Islam. The apostles of secular values, interfaith communion, and reconciliation with the infidel are, as Muslims, in denial of the proscriptions and prescriptions of the faith they continue to profess.

Of course his arguments that Islam condones terrorism and the oppression of women and non-Muslim I strenuously disagree with nevertheless the apodictic point that the texts of Islam do not conform to the cornerstone values of secular liberalism is made well by him (albeit in a rather brusque manner).

I urge Muslims who read this to ask themselves whether they want to keep the lucid, pristine and immutable Islam that was handed to us from God Himself by the hand and tongue of our beloved Messenger (saw) or if they desire a nebulous, insipid, malleable religion which instead of providing society with definitive guidance and a moral backbone is instead constantly being moulded and remoulded to conform to its ever more degenerate, hedonistic norms and values?

To the non-Muslims I ask you to consider carefully your interlocutors when it comes to a dialogue with the Muslim community. Whilst the reformers may be saying what you want to hear and are propagating the type of Islam you would love Muslims to adopt unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) their views are rejected by the vast majority of Muslims and will never gain widespread acceptance. Consequently any discussions with such people from the viewpoint of promoting community cohesion and integration are otiose. I would urge instead that you seek to engage with those who propagate the actual teachings of Islam and whose views more accurately reflect those of the 2.6 million strong Muslim community. Peaceful coexistence is in everybody’s interest and despite what I have said I do believe that Muslims can with integrate peacefully within a secular society without compromising their faith. Attempts to foist upon us a “British Islam” or “Islam lite” are doomed to failure and will only further the cause of those on both sides who wish to promote conflict and discord between the communities.

May the peace and blessings of Allah (swt) be upon our Master Muhammad. Ameen.

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