There is an essay in Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook section that gives some hope for a better, more tolerant future for Islam. It is “Losing My Jihadism” by Mansour al-Nogaidan, a Saudi native.
The essence of his charge to his co-religionists? Reinterpret the Koran; learn to live in peace with others. From the essay:
Muslims are too rigid in our adherence to old, literal interpretations of the Koran. It’s time for many verses — especially those having to do with relations between Islam and other religions — to be reinterpreted in favor of a more modern Islam. It’s time to accept that God loves the faithful of all religions. It’s time for Muslims to question our leaders and their strict teachings, to reach our own understanding of the prophet’s words and to call for a bold renewal of our faith as a faith of goodwill, of peace and of light.
The author is looking for an Islamic Martin Luther, which perhaps shows he hasn’t truly thought this through. Luther’s central theme wasn’t that the Roman Catholic Church was theologically wrong, but that it was corrupt. Perhaps a better analogy would be for Islam to seek its own John Calvin, perhaps the single most influential Protestant theologian in history.
In a very few words, the true reformation wasn’t merely denying the Pope’s authority as the “first among equals” Bishop of Rome. The true reformation was in redefining salvation in terms of sola fide. This is what was radical, and it was based on a thorough reconsideration of Scripture. This is what Islam appears to need.
Regardless, kudos to Mr. al-Nogaidan. He is a brave man, and while his hope for an Islamic reformation may be faint and wan in its chances for success, there is hope. And that’s always a good thing.