Sunday, November 07, 2004

What Progressive Islam is

A few days ago, and just for a lark, I took a test on Beliefnet (not a site that I particularly recommend). The test was designed to tell me 'what kind of a Muslim' I was. To my astonishment, the result indicated that I would be considered a Progressive Muslim, while all the while I was hoping to be labelled a traditional Muslim. But then, as I got thinking, I realized that my views were in conformity with the traditional principles of Islam, a truly progressive religion. My beliefs were inspired by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings on him) whose entire life was dedicated to challenging entrenched ideas that were anathema to the dignity of Man. Now what could be more progressive than that?

It also became clear to me that the term "Progressive Islam" had been hijacked by a group of self serving individuals who wished to reduce Islam to a pale imitation of its true self. A 'sanitized'version of the Deen that they deparately hope will meet with the approval of Western society. A declaration that Islam needs to adapt to the times and that a laissez faire,'anything goes'policy is needed to attract new adherents and keep the old ones.

This, Dear Reader, is not "Progressive" Islam but a dangerous deviance from the Fundamentals of our Deen. It is an ideology that seeks to wage war against the most basic principes of Islam. An attempt to fool the gullible and the disinterested among us by stating that anyone can interpret our religion without even a rudimentary knowledge of the Quran, the Sunnah, and the principles of Fiqh. Personal opinions are allowed to take precedence over years of jurisprudence and heretical ideas advanced, all in the name of free speech. There are no limits imposed, nor any boundaries uncrossed, and any attempt to counter them with evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah is dismissed as the work of curmudgeonly cranks.

So what is "Progressive" Islam? Is it merely an utopian ideal that died in 7th century Arabia? Or is it a living dynamic that holds the key to an Islamic revival? In my opinion, it is a commitment that we will live our lives according to the Quran and the Sunnah; a desire to emulate the Best of all Men (peace and blessings on him), a constant quest for excellence in matters spiritual and temporal. And flawed as we are, we will continue to fall and to make mistakes, but we will pick ourselves up and continue on the journey of submission. We do not give up stating that Islam is too difficult to be followed nor do we claim that it needs to be pared to less than the essentials to allow for easier adherence.

I believe that a Progressive Muslim is one who, among other things:

1. strictly adheres to the Quran and the Sunnah

2. has deep respect for the Companions,the Early generations and the Great Imams of Jurisprudence.

3. believes that Islam is complete and that this is the only Religion perfected by Allah Subhanna wa ta'ala. He who follows another religion will surely be a loser for this is what Allah tells us.

4. acknowledges that every individual has the right to follow his own beliefs but at the same time denies that all religions are the same or that all paths lead to God. Truth can never be confused with Falsehood.

5. understands that this fast changing world may require us to make fresh interpretations from time to time, but who at the same time relies on our Ulema to provide guidance. It is naive, even dangerous, to assume that any Muslim can be a Mujtahid. Every field has its experts and so does Islam.

6. Accepts that the Decisions of Allah and his Messenger (peace and blessings on him)are final and are not open to dispute. This includes the conviction that any attempt to change the haram to the halal, a belief that man made laws are preferable or better than Divine Commandments, or that the Quran and the Sunnah do not offer the best of guidance are all manifestations of Kufr.

7. finally, one who in times of joy and happiness, in grief and despondency, in youth or old age is inspired by this principle:"Aamantu billahi wa Rusullihi" (I believe in Allah and his Messenger)

May Allah Subhan Wa Ta'ala always grant us the hidaya to distinguish between right and wrong, Ameen.


Blogger DrMaxtor said...

An excellent analysis. I once took a test at the Christian science monitor website to determine which American political faction I belonged in. Lo and behold, I turn out to be a neocon.
Meaning, dont take these little tests too seriously. If I was a non-Muslim I would be misinformed by's presentation of Islam.

2:03 AM  
Blogger thabet said...

The word 'progress' in an historical context was invented by 19th-century liberals in an attempt to answer what "guiding force" would replace "God" they were keen to abandon. Each stage in human history was a "progression" towards a better worldly life (a 'better' life defined, of course, by Christian and post-Christian Europeans). Interestingly, it was given life as a historical force by a man who resided over colonial India -- so much for "progressive" thinking!

The problem seems to be that "Progressive Muslims" have spent little time thinking about these issues. I once left a comment at the PM website suggesting that for all the time they spend bashing engineers from Medinah University who write books on Islam (I take that personally, being an engineer...), they have forgotten that their biggest critics are not Saudi Salafis, who would simply dismiss them as heretics or disbelievers. But that their biggest critics, those who would spend time picking apart their arguments, were the wider Muslim community. I don't know if this has received any attention...

Imho, "progress", for English-speaking Muslims should be stripped, in its first instance, of all its historical, social and political implications and be made into a thoroughly personal effort. We, as Muslims, are under _constant_ 'moral progression' towards God and the Last Day. This is ceaseless and never ending in our lives on this earth. Every sin we commit, every bad trait, every lapse in our rememberance of God, ought to make us try that little bit harder. And when we do try that little bit harder, that is 'progress'.

3:08 AM  
Blogger ajsuhail said...

Personally I am uncomfortable with labels.The term Progressive Islam was used to point out the fallacies of those who claim to follow it and who are far removed from our DEEN.

5:26 AM  
Blogger ajsuhail said...

Personally I am uncomfortable with labels.The term Progressive Islam was used to point out the fallacies of those who claim to follow it and who are far removed from our DEEN.

5:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

I tend to think of progress in Islamic terms as being each individual working on their 'ibada, dhikr, and controlling their nafs first. To me, that is real progress, and I believe this based on what I have learned from the Qur'an and the Sunnah. I would also say that "progress" as a community means implementing Qur'anic commands and principles from the Sunnah: caring for orphans (foster children), establishing justice, giving to the poor, fair business practices, defending the weak... not what progressive politics are in terms of the American political paradigm. I think it's sad that some mixed-up people think this is the way to go, Islamically.

2:19 AM  
Blogger zayna said...

I read your analysis and I find it somewhat interesting that number 4 is the very reason progressive attitudes are required. You are not God and you can not claim that other faiths do not lead to heaven. If you seriously believe we were all meant to be muslim in this dunya, then you must not be very enlightened or intelligent.

This self-righteous, we are the chosen people worldview is teh very reason islam is in trouble. Progressive movements should be monitored to ensure the core is not changed, but seriously, the black and white stance and militant view needs to stop already. We are all sick of it.

2:25 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home