This week, a colleague sent me an informative and thought-provoking post from a group of Australian bloggers at SkepticLawyer.au.com. I'm not sure about their other posts, since I haven't read them, but there was much truth in this one.
It made me think back to my time at Duke University, when my Sharia professor Ebrahim Moosa gave us his perspective and the perspective of influential thinker Fazlur Rahman. The two are great scholars in a line of Muslims attempting to contextualize Islam for modern times.
For example, in traditional Islam, Muslim nations are at war with non-Muslim nations by default. That is why Muslim lands were called "Dar al-Islam", the house of peace, whereas non-Muslim nations were called "Dar al-Harb", the house of war. But as Dr. Moosa suggested, this traditional teaching became obsolete with the advent of the Geneva Convention. The Islamic distinction of "Dar al-Islam" and "Dar al-Harb" should no longer apply, since the nations of the world are now at peace. He is contextualizing Islam to modernize it, bring it into the 21st century, and make it more peaceful.
So what are thinkers like he and Fazlur Rahman trying to do? Are they trying to reform Islam? I agree with Lorenzo at SkepticLawer - that is not what they are doing. Reformation would be to strip away the added layers of jurisprudence and modernization, returning to the most original state of Islam. But the original form of Islam, according to the traditions, was intensely violent. Today's reformers of Islam are the Islamists and Jihadis.
According to Lorenzo, "What folk are trying to say when they say 'Islam needs a Reformation' is 'what Islam needs is the Enlightenment reaction to the Reformation.'"
Read the rest of his thoughts here: http://skepticlawyer.com.au/2013/11/06/enlightenment-foreclosed/