Reformation of Islam: Is it a Possibility?

The following essay by Russkiy is the latest in an occasional series on liberals and reformers in the Arab world. In this piece he introduces us to Ibrahim Albleahi, an unusually iconoclastic Saudi intellectual.

At the end of his essay is a subtitled version (Russkiy’s translation) of a video interview with Albleahi from Saudi television.

Reformation of Islam: Is it a Possibility?

By Russkiy

I have long been interested what is sometimes referred to in the Arab world as the Arab liberal movement. This is the first instalment in a series that I intend to write to discuss attempts by some Arab intellectuals to alter the trajectory of the Arab world.

The concept of liberal Islam or liberal movement within Islam contradicts my understanding of the underlying principles of Islam, and hence had puzzled me for a long time. I have previously written articles at Gates of Vienna concerning this subject. I discussed such figures as Ali al Wardi and Ahmad al Gubanchi. The next instalment I would like to do is to discuss in detail Ahmad al Gubanchi’s theory.

In this post, however, I would like to introduce Ibrahim Albleahi, a Saudi critic of Arab and Muslim societies, whose views largely match those of Fjordman. I understand that Fjordman is proficient in Arabic and therefore invite him to refer to Albleahi as proof that his views on Western Exceptionalism are also espoused by some objective thinkers among Arabs and Muslims.

Albleahi, as seen in the photo at the top of this post, insists on wearing the Arabian shimagh or kaffiya without the black woollen rope known as agal. This is important because in Saudi Arabia, the people who don’t wear agal are usually the Wahhabi clerics and people who are very religiously observant. Most other males wear agal. I believe he insists on not wearing it to remove the suspicion that he is an atheist. I would like to quote from Albleahi’s Wikipedia entry:

Ibrahim Albleahy is a Saudi liberal writer, thinker and philosopher who is currently a member of the Saudi Shura Council.

Albleahy has held a range of positions in government and business throughout his life. Aside from his position on the Shura Council, he is involved in a variety of organizations in Saudi civil society. While he is a devout Muslim, he is highly critical of the way Islam is publicly practiced and the degree to which modern Muslim societies are governed by it.

The central concern of his writings is the relative decline of Arab and Islamic civilization, compared to the other civilizations of the world. From his studies he has concluded that Western Civilization has several deep cultural principles that make it more dynamic, more open-minded and therefore able to develop faster, through empowering individuality and independent thinking. These principles developed in the West over centuries, beginning in Ancient Greek philosophy and gaining power in the Age of Enlightenment.

He concluded that other (non-Western) cultures, such as Japan, were able to advance to a high level of development and freedom only by taking and incorporating these crucial principles from the West. By incorporating these principles in their culture, countries such as Japan managed to actually invigorate their culture and prevent it from stagnating, while simultaneously matching the West in power, freedom and standard of living.

He blames the failure of Arab societies to develop and innovate on their refusal to learn from other civilizations or to criticize the principles of their own society. He advocates the incorporation of modern Science and critical thinking in the heart of Arab culture, as it was in Japan. Thus while Arab public society would develop along free, modern and self-critical lines, the heritage of Islam would still provide the spiritual backbone of Arab civilization.

His concern with the decline of the condition of the Arabs has led him to conclude that

“… the situation in Saudi Arabia is sad and shameful, so it is clearly necessary not only to be concerned but to be deeply anxious. I learned early in my life that a dreadful flaw afflicts the lives of others, but at first I did not understand the reasons. My deep anxiety impelled me to study our history and culture in depth in search of the source of the flaw, and also led me to devote attention to the triumphant Western civilization, beginning with Greek philosophical thought, continuing through the political, social, scientific, anthropological and other achievements of the West. I became convinced that Western civilization is exceptional and pioneering, and is not an extension of the previous civilizations: it is civilization par excellence. The excellence of the West lies not in its accomplishments in the sciences, arts and technology, but rather, these accomplishments are the outgrowth of the West’s respect for profit, the free system, its liberty, and the establishment of government in the service of the people—the government belongs to the people, and they do not belong to it as like in all other countries of the world. This is a qualitative change, unprecedented in human history, and the source of everything that the human being experiences of the amazing changes in all aspects of life.”

The above description for Ibrahim Albleahi states that he is a devout Muslim. Anyone familiar with the foundations of Islam, the Quran and Sunnah, can’t help but wonder how a devout Muslim can enjoy a high level of critical thinking. Albleahi often refers to the turning point of Arab culture, i.e. when it became tyrannical and backward, is the end of the rule of “the Rightly Guided Caliphs”, Abu Bakr, Umar, Othman and Ali. This of course is nonsense, as any reader of the Islamic history of that period would know that it was distinguished by conquests, blood and infighting. The Islamic sources all confirm this assertion; one of the clearest pieces of evidence for this is killing of Othman on the order of Aisha, the young wife of Muhammad, as well as enmity between Ali and his followers and the rest of Muhammad’s companions.

Albleahi in his discussions avoids at all cost talking about religion. When he is asked about the role Islam plays in the poor state of affairs in the Muslim world, he responds to that by saying that Islam is innocent of that and that misuse and misinterpretation of it as well as ingrained cultural qualities of Arabs are the responsible factors.

In his assertions he doesn’t distinguish between the Arab/Islamic culture and other backward cultures such as African, Asian or Latin American; he places them all in the same category against the modern Western culture and its outgrowth into East Asia. He says that all cultures are in their origins backward, not accepting of the ideas of others, self-glorifying and not critical thinkers. According to him all cultures are moving on their cultural inertia, where individuals from an early age are pre-programmed to behave in a certain way. He observes that people in most countries are identical in that they are living their lives without understanding reasons and factors contributing to their cultures’ successes or failures.

In his view, the qualitative change in human thinking and development happened in Greece, then was continued by Romans, with European culture being a natural successor to the Greek civilisation. He categorically rejects any suggestion that Western Civilisation was influenced in any positive way by any other culture, especially Islam. He argues that celebrated Islamic scientists such as Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina, al Razi and al Khwarizmi did not develop anything new, but rather provided commentary on the thoughts and works of the great Greek philosophers. His view is that the Islamic world has no right to claim these thinkers as the product of Islamic Civilisation, as even to this day, their ideas are overwhelmingly rejected by it.

My personal opinion, based on watching many of his interviews and having read a couple of his books, is that he is unlikely to still be a Muslim. His insistence on avoiding direct discussion of religious matters is a proof (for me at least) that he has no real arguments to exonerate Islam and therefore for his personal safety he uses boilerplate statements such as: “Islam’s message of tolerance, equality and justice has been twisted and reshaped into the instrument of oppression by the early Muslims.” I have discussed with Saudi atheists in Paltalk chat rooms the possibility that he is an atheist practicing taqiyya pretending to be a Muslim. They have confirmed the accuracy of my understanding of the matter. That is, for anyone, especially highly-positioned public figures in the Arab/Muslim world, to state anything other than “I am a devout Muslim” will result in an end of a career, social isolation, a term in prison and in extreme cases such as Saudi Arabia, a death sentence.

At this point I would like to ponder the reasons why philosophical ideas and critical thinking have been adopted by Western Civilisation and more recently by East Asia whilst the rest of the world, as argued by Ibrahim Albleahi, seems to be incapable of doing the same. The recent post at Gates of Vienna entitled “Outsmarting Ourselves” seems to explain this phenomenon by the fact that populations in different parts of the world have unequal IQs. For a society as whole to adopt new ways and ideas, a critical mass of people interested in the change is required. This critical mass would consist of people philosophically predisposed and curious. I don’t know whether IQ is a good indicator for a philosophical predisposition and curiosity. There are many people around me who appear to be intelligent enough in that they are high achievers, but at the same time are not philosophers nor curious by nature.

Here’s a translated interview with Ibrahim Albleahi for Gates of Vienna readers:


00:15   We welcome you
00:20   to the new episode of Gulf Talk. It gives me a great pleasure to have with us during this
00:25   episode and the episode that will follow, a Saudi thinker, a renowned writer
00:30   Dr. Ibrahim Albleahi. Greetings, Dr. Ibrahim.
00:35   Dr. Ibrahim, the subject of our meeting during the two episodes will be about the Arab Spring and
00:40   your interpretation of difficulties and the source of these events.
00:45   I relied greatly on the comments of your readers. Those who agree with you and those who don’t
00:50   on Facebook and on Twitter etc. Let us start with a question that we received
00:55   through Facebook. The question is: has the view of Dr. Albleahi about Arabs and their culture changed
01:00   after the Arab Spring? Especially considering that you are accused of practicing
01:05   cultural self-flagellation against Arabs.In the name of God the merciful…
01:10   prayers be upon his prophet… Firstly I disagree with the expression ‘self-flagellation’.
01:15   Because it is impossible for any society to advance without self-criticism. Society is in need of
01:20   a push. And if there is no criticism, society would never had evolved.
01:25   When we read the history of Western or other civilisations we find criticism is the biggest factor;
01:30   the most prominent and the most effective way to move society
01:35   from its cycle to the position of advancement
01:40   is the examination of what prevents its advancement.
01:45   There’s no doubt that that the Arab revolutions brought some hope.
01:50   They brought some hope… in that this inert state,
01:55   the inert state that we were living in,
02:00   would start to change, even though I saw that resolving the issue
02:05   does not just involve replacing individuals, but rather we need a cultural revolution.
02:10   I mean unless the mindset that created those individuals changes,
02:15   the situation won’t change… you change one figurehead for another, that will not change anything.
02:20   Rather we have to change the way we think. Open our minds to the changes impacting on human lives
02:25   which are happening in the world. We have to…
02:30   We have to stop thinking that we are complete and self sufficient.
02:35   Because this thinking is the biggest of the shackles
02:40   that bind us. When we look back to
02:45   the history of our collision with Western civilisation,
02:50   The first collision was our expulsion from Spain, from Andalus, and that demonstrates that
02:55   there was a change in Europe and we did not adjust to it.
03:00   The second collision was after the French revolution.
03:05   When Napoleon occupied Egypt, the Arabs were surprised by
03:10   by this overwhelming change that happened in Europe.
03:15   And when we noticed it, we felt a shock
03:20   This shock should have changed the way we thought,
03:25   and should have created change in us. But this civilizational shock
03:30   only made us more self-withdrawn,
03:35   and that’s what makes many people feel that what I do is self-flagellation.
03:40   I see the opposite, that we are drowning in self-glorification,
03:45   assertion of self sufficiency,
03:50   and denial that we need to change.This leads to another question that also was
03:55   asked on Facebook. It says what is the view of Ibrahim Albleahi on the opinion of Odonis,
04:00   that says that these movements are closer to mutiny, meaning that the people on the personal level don’t believe
04:05   in democracy, so how can they revolt for its sake?On the level of individuals
04:10   I had come up with a theory that a human being is an instinctive creature.
04:15   When you travel to America, Britain or France or any modern democratic country
04:20   you don’t see that individuals, the general public, realize the building blocks of the society that they are living in.
04:25   But rather they are living on instinct, they are in a vehicle that propels them
04:30   The same with people in the backward cultures;
04:35   they don’t know the reason for their backwardness. Similarly the general public
04:40   as a rule, in the advanced nations, don’t know the reason for their advancement,
04:45   because they are inside this vehicle,
04:50   so the social establishments are moving the society and not individuals.
04:55   So who creates these establishments, if groups and individuals are only operating within the framework of these establishments?
05:00   I mean, they respond to this development or trend or movement.
05:05   It is what the West had achieved. The Western experience suggest that separation of authorities is enough.
05:10   Without separation of authorities, without freedom, and without achieving balance between driving forces within society
05:15   the legislative authority, executive authority, judiciary…
05:20   This separation what has led to the state where that vehicle is continuously moving
05:25   Because that doesn’t allow any side, doesn’t allow any authority
05:30   to dominate the movement of the society.
05:35   There is continuously a push to achieve balance,
05:40   at the same time achieving progress because any authority,
05:45   because all authorities there, as we know, have limited tenure.
05:50   For example you find that the society is what employs the authority
05:55   to implement what it wants. That’s why
06:00   this continuous change forces everyone to please the society
06:05   to please the society to achieve a win in elections.
06:10   OK, at some point during this meeting we will discuss the concept of authority that we Arabs have and in the West,
06:15   but let me take you back to subject that you are known for, and that
06:20   is the science of the unknown. You say that establishment of the science of the unknown
06:25   will bring back respect to science, which we otherwise don’t give it,
06:30   in a sense that people are used to considering science as something outside their reach
06:35   and are not trying to pursue science unless having been prepared fully. One more time, the science of the unknown,
06:40   how do you explain it to people in simple terms?The science of the unknown relates to the fact that when we read the sciences now,
06:45   we find that there is an attempt to add information, but there is disregard of what comes to prior to information.
06:50   There is a huge hindrance… it is the superstitious thinking.
06:55   The superstitious thinking is still dominates human lives. Generally,
07:00   even in the developed countries the influence of science on an individual’s thinking is very limited.
07:05   You often see that many people have professional and technical skills, etc.,
07:10   but still the superstitious thinking dominates.
07:15   So the superstitious thinking still dominates even in the advanced nations.
07:20   However, the foundations there, foundations of the society,
07:25   are not in full submission to superstitious thinking.
07:30   In backward nations you would find that the foundations themselves submit to superstitious ideas,
07:35   or are founded based on superstitions. Yes, as long as superstitions dominate,
07:40   that means that science up to now hasn’t entered into the mindset of a backward society.
07:45   It doesn’t even have an influence… the opposite is true. The backwardness is now being entrenched.
07:50   Because this structure of superstitions is helping to entrench all sorts of ideas.
07:55   It takes advantage of the modern ideas and technology
08:00   to entrench its position and assert it.And this leads me to make an observation,
08:05   that its not always the case that someone who possesses an advanced degree
08:10   or went to school can think and analyse or believes in enlightenment, because there are many
08:15   who do not go to schools or universities who have a more tolerant view of society, and how to deal with others,
08:20   than those who do attend universities.
08:25   The opposite… Yes its true, you are right: the thinking in schools is against
08:30   innovation as a rule. Schools always give rules and boundaries,
08:35   but science is open and based on possibilities and not
08:40   based on boundaries. Science in principle is based on possibilities,
08:45   based on objective research, based on continuous revision, based on continuous improvement,
08:50   based on questions and on improvements. There are no absolutes, and we need to keep searching
08:55   continuously for possibilities. There is no final judgment but rather there always exists possibility.
09:00   And that’s why the view of Carol Bober, and he is one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th Century, is that
09:05   even when something has been confirmed through experimentation, it is not sufficient
09:10   to say that the science has been settled and doesn’t require revision.
09:15   He says that its not sufficient because a human being has an enormous ability to justify something.
09:20   If you want something very strongly, you can find justification for it.
09:25   That’s why the measure of science is its ability to be refuted and not its ability to be verified…
09:30   its ability to be refuted and not its ability to be verified.
09:35   In that case I have what justifies a break. We have the first break in our meeting with Dr. Ibrahim.
09:50   So we continue our conversation
09:55   with the Saudi thinker Ibrahim Albleahi … The underlying structures of Ignorance and backwardness,
10:00   the expressions you often use and repeat in your writings .
10:05   What are the most prominent factors that cause this ?
10:10   First of all I would like to correct something. There is a wrong understanding of term Science
10:15   The science is not knowledge or information, but rather it’s a way of thinking… not information
10:20   An individual can memorise a lot of information, but if his way of thinking doesn’t change,
10:25   he reinforces the ignorance and ingrains it rather than eliminating it.
10:30   Science is not information and ignorance is not lack of information, but rather the structure of thinking.
10:35   What has pre-programmed the mind in the beginning, has occupied it.
10:40   New information comes to an already-formed and solidified mind,
10:45   and unless something is done to unbind this already formed mindset,
10:50   the new information and the way of thinking remain outside of this mind structure.
10:55   And that’s why we have to realise that science is not information but rather it is
11:00   continuous correction of preconceptions. When we read the history of science,
11:05   we find that humanity never expected or waited for the science to come.
11:10   But rather humanity had preconceptions on everything, and science came along
11:15   to correct these preconceptions. The societies that are still based on the old preconceptions will not benefit
11:20   from science. It will only ingrain their misconceptions of the reality that they were preprogrammed with.
11:25   Is it because the ideological position
11:30   drowns the society in these misconceptions that its perfect and better than others?
11:35   Yes, such is human nature. The way the human being was raised formed his identity,
11:40   formed his identity. This Identity
11:45   cannot be reformed easily. Some kind of a shock is necessary, and that’s why
11:50   I say that the civilizational shock that Arabs experienced more than two centuries ago,
11:55   actually in reality more than five centuries,
12:00   should have been sufficient to reform our cultural identity,
12:05   but in defending ourselves we have created this misconception of ourselves that we are self-sufficient
12:10   and that we have sufficient knowledge… That’s what …
12:15   and then this continuous delusion that Arabs are the basis of Western Civilisation,
12:20   that Arabs brought civilisation to Europeans. Our delusion that we created Western Civilisation
12:25   makes us think that we are self-sufficient,
12:30   and that’s why I keep on repeating that this is a great deception.
12:35   We must put great effort into eliminating this deception, which claims that we are the ones who made Europe great.
12:40   Even if we say, for example, that we had a role in development of Europe,
12:45   It’s only through the likes of Ibn Rushd,
12:50   whom we reject. How do we lay claim to achievements of those whom we reject?
12:55   Those individuals were outside of our cultural paradigm. They managed to break this cultural inertia.
13:00   They managed to grasp ideas from outside of our cultural paradigm.
13:05   But we rejected them, and still reject them,
13:10   and are still writing books against them.
13:15   When we assess the beginning of European development, we see
13:20   that there were people in Europe who called themselves followers of Averroes. They took from Ibn Rushd,
13:25   and Ibn Rushd of course commented on Aristotle; therefore we see that the essence of their civilisation was returned to them.
13:30   Averroes didn’t get his ideas from our culture, but rather from Greek culture.
13:35   As if you deny any civilizational contribution Islamic world made.
13:40   Yes, of course I absolutely reject any contribution of this civilisation other than on an individual basis.
13:45   From our civilizational environment came out a number of individuals similar to Ibn Rushd such as al Razi and ibn Haitham and the like,
13:50   and they made a big impact on Europe, but they were rejected by us. This is a great shame.
13:55   Instead of taking pride in them, we try to conceal this great shame. Because we rejected them and burned their books.
14:00   OK, in terms of the current events of the “Arab Spring”,
14:05   is it possible that these events may contribute to an Intellectual Spring,
14:10   because the rulers used to control all means of social development?
14:15   If freedom is achieved. A real freedom is achieved.
14:20   And real democracy, in terms of its foundations and separation of authorities, is achieved,
14:25   this will become a possibility. But the revolutionaries have to realise that the problem is not in individuals.
14:30   The problem is not in Ben Ali or Qadhafi.
14:35   What is the culture that brought them?
14:40   This is what now is happening in Syria,
14:45   the terrible fighting. The westerners can’t comprehend this .
14:50   The people in the democratic countries perhaps cannot fathom how people
14:55   are fighting and killing each other in such a terrible way only so that a person preserves power.

17 thoughts on “Reformation of Islam: Is it a Possibility?

  1. The problem is: In Christianity, reformations are all about “getting back to the book.” Reformers say, “We’ve been clouded by worldly ways and we need to rewind: learn to walk in a Christ-like way; be like the apostles; learn how to go by Scripture alone.”

    In Islam, if you try to get back to the beginning, you’ll find a religion that conquered, slaughtered and raped. Any decent reformation of Islam has to be from a different angle: a modernization; an admission that it was originally a brutal concept.

    That ain’t gonna happen.

    • The view that muslims have of islam, is that islam is a counter-reformation. It opposes the reforms of “the one Abrahamic faith” wrought by jewish rabbis and by christianity.

      They tell the story of how Mohammed exposed a (modernising) rabbi, holding his hand over the part of the Torah that demands stoning for adultery. Muslims believe that Mohammed was in direct communication with the original, unadulterated Abrahamic religion (unadulterated by rabbis and christians).

      As an atheist, obviously I think this is nonsense. But it doesn’t seem to trouble muslims that they have to reject much of what christianity and judaism classify as core texts.

      There is no reforming islam. Islam began as the principle of rejecting reformation introduced by judaism and christianity.

    • RKae, if there was a “like” button I would hit it a 100 times for your comment.

      I just can’t understand why, after all of the years of debate that has gone on surrounding this topic, there are still people that think they can exhume this dead horse’s carcass and beat it back to life.

    • Exactly. islam has anyway been recently reformed since they kept losing to Israel, they decided they must be offending Allah and needed to get back to pure Islam, back to the scriptures , as indeed Christian reformers did, back to the basics ,then Allah might bless them and give them victory.Khomeini began this “new trend ” of going backwards to the 7th century, burkha’s , Sharia and all !
      The left wing Iranians instrumental in the fall of the Shah were shocked. As this was not what they had in mind!

      Most being middle-class ( what else changes ?) had the means to leave then or send their children to Europe and USA .

      Why the horror ? Why do so many modern Muslims not realise ISLAM is the only problem. Any kind of Islam, is still Islam. Get rid of Islam, and get a life, the only way.

  2. Islam is a fraud.

    A parodisic pastiche of poorly-grasped Judeo-Christian-Gnostic texts and concepts -distorted and reforged- to empower Mohammad’s personal vendettas and sanctify his human-all-too-human revenge fantasies.

    Why even try to “reform” it?

    Just dump it.

    It is beyond repair since its heart is poisonous, and without that, Islam has no driving force.

    You might as well try to “reform” the bubonic plague.

    Islam has nothing to add to the wisdom and poetry and philosophy of the Torah or Bible (or human thought in general) but merely perverts those works to make the plagiarist seem like a “prophet” when he was truly a loss.

    For humanity, and sanity.

  3. I would like to modify the previous statement about “getting back to the book”. In Christianity, you have these books that have very good historical evidence showing that they were authored within a century of Christ’s ministry, and (this is the important bit) fixed in their essentially final form when Christianity was still an oppressed religion. This speaks much to the reliability as well as character of what was accepted as the Bible. A substantial portion of the Christian scriptures originated as epistles, written communications sent to the various geographically separate Christian communities, though these do not have the same status as the Gospels themselves they are innately well-documented sources of the teaching of the first generation of Christians.

    In Islam, “getting back to the book” means returning to the Koran and associated materials. But we know quite well that the Koran doesn’t have the same historical credentials as the Christian Bible. It was written down after at least a full generation of purely oral transmission (because it was originally forbidden to write the revelations of Mohammed down, the Koran takes its name from being the collected “recitations”). And what is more significant is that the Koran was put into its final form by a triumphant, militarily dominant Islamic regional power. Also, the ostensible motivation to “do a thing WHICH THE PROPHET HAS NOT DONE” (a phrase indicating the radical departure from Islam which writing down the Koran represented) was precisely because a great number of Qurra’ (those who had been recognized as having memorized the revelations of Mohammed) had been killed in battle, with the attendant permanent loss of any revelations which were not memorized by the survivors. There were already some unauthorized codices extant, due to literate Muslims privately ‘supplementing’ their memories, but the Koran was compiled mainly from the oral recitations of the surviving Qurra’ for doctrinal reasons, and then all outstanding codices were supposed to be collected and destroyed, though there are recent discoveries of some which were merely buried or sealed under foundations. These fragmentary early versions which date back to this period show that there was substantial variety and deviation from the text that has been accepted and promulgated as the Koran. Some of these preservation efforts were obviously deliberate, and appear to have been a reaction by those who actually knew Mohammed and the revelations to what they regarded as an effort to rewrite Islam. These first generation Muslims recorded definite statements disparaging the accuracy and honesty of the compilation which would become the primary basis for the Koran. But because a currently dominant military leadership was promulgating the Koran, the objections of the direct associates of Mohammed were suppressed.

    So when we talk of real reform of Islam, getting back to the original teaching, there is a small but religiously devout group of scholars and philosophers who are trying to go back to before the Koran, because they recognize that the Koran is a perversion of Islam (those who regard Mohammed as a true prophet may even regard the eventual Koran as being the reason that he evidently refused to allow the revelations to be made into a scripture, insisting that it be passed along by recitation, but such an opinion is by no means universal).

    I do not believe that it is probable that Albleahi is an atheist or a disbeliever in Islam as such. But if he is a reformist Muslim, then he has good reason for not discussing this publicly, because to challenge the veracity of the Koran is indistinguishable from denouncing Islam in the view of the mainstream. Consider what he says about “The science of the unknown”.

    “The science of the unknown relates to the fact that when we read the sciences now, we find that there is an attempt to add information, but there is disregard of what comes to prior to information. There is a huge hindrance…it is the superstitious thinking.”

    Here he directs this at science and technology, how people essentially treat it as if it were magic, because they don’t appreciate the underlying theory and experimentation. Even new scientists are often more concerned with extending the details of existing theories rather than re-examining those theories to see if they really match up with what has been observed since the theory was adopted (this is of course perfectly understandable, it is also a how scientists get their PhD, through extension of existing theory rather than challenges to it). But does Albleahi only apply this framework to science, something that is chiefly characteristic of Western society? Or is this also how he views Islam?

    I would submit that Albleahi regards questioning the sources of accepted knowledge about Islam, namely the Koran and hadiths, as an indispensable prerequisite to the revitalization of Islam. That he cannot publicly admit this directly is perfectly obvious, because while it would in no way be actually equivalent to an admission of atheism or denunciation of Islam it would be treated as such by mainstream Islamic society, and the sentence for such a transgression would be death.

    Now…how much practical difference does it make whether Albleahi is secretly an atheist or secretly a reformist? I believe that it makes all the difference because if he were secretly an atheist he would have no rational motive not to pay lip-service to the Koran as a means of hiding his lack of belief. This is in fact what most Muslims do, they do not believe a tenth so fervently as they find it prudent to profess. But if he is a reformist who believes that Islam may make progress in questioning the Koran in his lifetime, he has a great deal to lose if that progress begins to occur and he has cast himself as being unwaveringly committed to the Koran. He becomes an outcast or at least marginalized from the community to which he feels the most connection.

    That is the difference for him, what is the difference for us? I believe that when the people of Europe rise up to defend themselves against Jihad, the distinction between reformist Islam which questions the veracity of the Koran and Koranic Islam which brutally suppresses all such inquiries will become an essential element in allowing Europeans to retain a measure of allegiance to the value of freedom of religion. Call that a fig leaf if you will, but I think that it will prove more than that. A credible challenge to the authority of the Koran which originates from within the devout Islamic community will not only allow Europe to reject absolutely Koranic Islam without ceding the idea of freedom of religion, it will create an attractive “third option” for many Muslims who do not like Koranic Islam but are afraid to be declared apostate for denigrating the Koran.

    Islamic society is currently too far gone in thrall to the Koran and the violence it espouses towards “infidels” for it to be likely that reform Islam can ever successfully challenge the veracity of the Koran. But in the context of an existential crisis, where Koranic Islam is reaping the harvest of violence it has sown and the militant Jihadists are being slaughtered and driven back, there is a real chance of reform Islam gaining predominance, if those fighting against the Jihad are willing to differentiate between reformist and Koranic Islam.

    The advantages for Muslims of adopting a religion that does not absolutely require ceding the faculty for rational inquiry should be manifest. For the CounterJihad, there would seem to be two significant advantages. One, the fewer Muslims you are trying to exterminate, the less fighting you’ll have. Two, the more choice you give Muslims about whether they need to be exterminated, the less innocent blood will end up on your hands. I’m not suggesting that any war can be fought without the shedding of innocent blood, and I’m certainly not suggesting that resistance to Jihad doesn’t have to come to war. But the heritage of Europe is ill-served if no attempt is made to at least mitigate the genocidal character of the war that cannot be avoided.

  4. What this Saudi says is interesting, but it still remains that the West experienced the Reformation and the Enlightenment, which the Arabs did not. For there to be a true reformation in Islam, much of the Koran and the life and sayings of Mohammed would have to be rejected. That will not happen. Luther never rejected Christ nor the Bible-only the corruption of the Vatican.

    For years, I have been interacting with Saudis in the US. They are nice enough, but they are literal prisoners of their religion. They have been brought up this way. There is no deviation whatsoever. Islam is the very essence of their being.

    There is no answer I fear.

  5. Quote:
    It’s only through the likes of Ibn Rushd,
    12:50 whom we reject. How do we lay claim to achievements of those whom we reject?
    12:55 Those individuals were outside of our cultural paradigm. They managed to break this cultural inertia.
    13:00 They managed to grasp ideas from outside of our cultural paradigm.
    13:05 But we rejected them, and still reject them,
    13:10 and are still writing books against them.

    A society of propaganda and irrational orthodoxy imposed and enforced by the shedding of blood, a society that refuses to look at itself, will never be reformed.
    This scholar, like Ibn Rushd, will be rejected.
    The Ummah’s leaders will be writing against him too.

  6. “I just can’t understand why, after all of the years of debate that has gone on surrounding this topic, there are still people that think they can exhume this dead horse’s carcass and beat it back to life.”

    The point of this post and the ones to follow is not to say that Islam can actually be reformed but rather to show the internal struggle of the Islamic world with itself. Personally I don’t believe that there is anything salvagable in Islam but don’t you find interesting to know how Muslims themselves see this issue?

    As far as I am concerned, the most important principle in a war is know your enemy. Thats why I spent many years learning Arabic. To be able to understand what’s going on the opposite side.

    • To say that I’m puzzled by this interview of Ibrahim Albleahi would be an understatement.

      You’ll have to help me here a bit. Was this interview broadcast to the general public, or was it on some specialty channel that would most likely be viewed only by westernized Arabs? Is his thinking representative of a broader movement in the Arabic world, or are his opinions, his alone?

      In the communities of Berkeley or San Francisco one can find militant, antiwar, pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel, Jewish lesbian activists with advanced college degrees and above average IQ’s. But just because someone has the proper academic credentials, it doesn’t mean they’re grounded in reality and should be taken seriously. So is Ibrahim Albleahi an intelligent man that should be taken seriously, or is he viewed in the Arab world, more like a harmless crazy uncle type?

      • He often gives lectures of similar content to very religious looking and sounding saudi audience. As long as he doesnt mention Islam as the problem he is safe to be fairly outspoken about the flaws of Arab and Islamic culture.

        The thing is that you have to be blind not to see the obvious fact that the whole of Muslim world is unique in its backwardness. Many in the Arab world recognise that there is a problem. Some listen to Salafis who preach return to the origins while others like Albleahy, they are the minority group, are calling for the opposite.

        In my next post I will talk in detail about Ahmad al Gubanchi. He is the most outspoken critic in that he actually attacks Islam and calling to open the gates of Ijtihad. He wants to abandon Koran as the main source of Islam and adopt common scence instead. He has some good arguments based on Islamic sources for that proposal.

        Ahmad al Gubanchi while in Iran was arrested and accused of Kufr. They would have executed him if not large scale protests in Iraq demanding his release. What this is telling is that there is support for liberal vision amongst large populations. Especially in Iraq where religiousity is now associated with terorism.

      • Even if the Ummah called him another prophet, his message would still be corrupted.
        They crystallize the meaning of texts instead of understanding the need for variation in understanding and application.

    • The reformers are not seen as harmless in Islam. Not at all. This is why Albleahi is careful not to present himself as a reformer of Islam itself, only an advocate of the creation of a secular sphere in which technological advancement can occur for the betterment of the Arabic world. This is already going against the wishes of those who advocate Shariah law and the totalitarian cultural edifice of Koranic Islam, but it is too clearly sensible and matches the felt impulse of most Muslims.

      Like I say, the reformers of Islam can never get out on top, it is like Catholicism during the period when their reach allowed full scale military campaigns against “heretics”, even wiping out cities. The Reformation could only happen when there were independent nations willing to stand up against that. And the Koran is much more corrupted than the Christian scriptures ever were, and I suspect that the most powerful moral ideals of Christianity are simply not ever going to be part of Islam, I certainly don’t believe that Mohammed, whatever the degree of distortion of the Koran and hadiths, could really have been morally comparable to Jesus.

      The reformists who challenge the authority of the Koran will never prevail without an outside force that makes brings the violence of Koranic Islam back down on the heads of those who practice it. But if that situation comes about, the reformers provide the out for those who do not like the implications of Koranic Islam to say, “we are more faithful to Islam than those who follow the Koran, because they follow a perversion against what the prophet taught.” I don’t think it is possible for anyone who isn’t a Koranic Muslim to understand how much that idea terrifies them. I certainly can’t. But it is clear that they do fear it greatly.

      Even if your enemy is irrational to fear something, it can still be used as a weapon as long as the fear itself is real. And I do not believe that Koranic Islam is entirely wrong to fear having the authority of the Koran itself challenged. Because, by ordinary standards of historical evidence, it is clear that the Koran is certainly a fraud. And that destroys all of the claims of Koranic Islam.

  7. Ataturk tried with some success, but ultimately failed.

    There is absolutely no reason to import tens of millions of Muslims into European Christian lands so that we can fight the Islamic Reformation in our towns, communities, neighborhoods, schools, governments an institutions. That is insanity. Keep that upheaval where Muslims have already stunk up the place for 1000s of years.

  8. I don’t see much of a problem in reforming Islam – in fact, many will take it as good news that there is already an international movement to reform Islam, and that this movement is hugely influential, including in international bodies and the US government. It most certainly seeks to bring Islam back to its scriptural roots and original intentions.

    The bad news, though, is the name and nature of that movement: Ikwan.

  9. The problem with Islam is basically it’s inability to tolerate criticism. To them the Koran is the be all and end all. How a book written 1,400 years ago by Mohammad’s followers and from memory can hold in its stone – age grip , on a people of the 21st century is simply not understandable. Even Christianity was able to take a look at itself and make reforms. Nobody killed Martin Luther or called him an infidel or pronounced a fatwa on him. Vatican 1 & 11 were conscious efforts made by the Catholic Church to reform. Even when time proves their earlier beliefs wrong, they have accepted their error, hence Pope John Paul 11 apology over Galileo’s excommunication over the Sun being centre of the solar system.

Comments are closed.