Egyptian Imams and intellectuals: Renewing Islam towards modernity
by Samir Khalil Samir
The program - truly revolutionary - wants to rethink the value of women, fraternisation between the sexes, the relationship of equality with Christians. And it also desires to clarify interpretations on the sayings of Mohammed and the myths of fundamentalist Salafism, rejecting the influences that come from Saudi Arabia.
Rome (AsiaNews) - Rethinking fraternisation between the sexes; opening the doors to women right up to the Presidency of the Republic, guaranteeing the right of Christians to have access to positions of prestige (even the presidency), purifying and reinterpreting the sayings of the Prophet (the Hadith) ; bringing people to God through wisdom and thanksgiving and not with the threats ... these are just some of the – truly revolutionary - proposals that a group of professors, theologians and Egyptian imams are putting to their communities. The attempt to modernize the lives of Muslims, to put a halt to (and even stop) the fundamentalist influences that come from Saudi Arabia. The group of scholars holds the renewal of Islamic teaching at heart, as well as a relationship of harmony with Christians.
A score of intellectuals and theologians of Al Azhar have issued a text of enormous importance, entitled "Document for the renewal of religious discourse." The text was "posted" on the Internet on 24 January at 18:27, on the website of the weekly magazine Yawm al-Sâbi’'("The Seventh Day"). The importance of the document also derives from its signatories, all noted scholars and profoundly committed Muslims.
Among these it is worth mentioning: Dr. Nasr Farid Wasel, former Grand Mufti of Egypt, the imam Safwat Hegazi, Dr. Gamal al-Banna, brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the professors Malakah Zirâr and Âminah Noseir the celebrated Islamist writer Fahmi Huweidi; Dr. Mabruk Atiyyah, a large number of preachers (du'ât), responsible for Islamic Propaganda, such as Khalid al-Gindi, Muhammad Hedâyah, Mustafa Husni, etc..
It is the first time that such an attempt has been made by recognized Islamic figures. On being posted, the document received 153 comments in the same day. The majority (88.25%) condemned the text, saying it distorts Islam or tries to establish a new religion. Only 18 people congratulated the authors. This means that the path of renewal will be long and require much time and effort.
The original text of the document (in Arabic) and comments can be found at: http://www.youm7.com/News.asp?NewsID=343007.
Here we publish a draft translation of the document, which will probably need to be reviewed. In the coming days we will also comment on some of the proposals.
Document for the renewal of religious discourse
- Review the books of the Hadith (the words attributed to Muhammad) and Koranic commentaries to purge them.
- Fine tune Islamic political-religious vocabulary, such as the gizyah (the special tax required of dhimmi, the second-class citizens).
- Find a new expression for the concept of fraternisation between the sexes.
- Develop the Islamic vision of women and find suitable ways for marriage laws.
- Islam is a religion of creativity.
- Explain the Islamic concept of gihâd, and clarify rules and requirements that govern it.
- Block attacks on external piety and foreign practices that come from neighbouring states [a euphemism that aims to expose the influence of Saudi Arabia-ed.]
- Separate state and religion.
- Purify the heritage of the "first centuries of Islam (Salafism), discarding the myths and attacks against religion.
- Give adequate preparation to missionary preachers (du'ât) and in this field open the doors to those who have not studied at the University of Al Azhar, according to clear criteria.
- Formulate the virtues common to the three revealed religions.
- Eliminate incorrect practices and provide guidance with regard to Western ways.
- Articulate the relationship that should exist between members of religions through schools, mosques and churches.
- Redraw in a different way [adapted] to the West the presentation of the biography of the Prophet.
- Do not keep people away from economic systems with the requirement not to deal with banks.
- Recognising the right of women to the Presidency of the Republic.
- Combat sectarian claims, [underling] that the flag of Islam [must be] one. Invite people to come to God through gratitude and wisdom, not through threats.
- Evolve the teaching of Al Azhar.
- Recognise the right of Christians [to have access] to important positions and [also] to the presidency.
- Separate religious discourse from power and restore the bond with the needs of society
- Establish the bond between the Da’wah (the call to conversion to Islam) and modern technology, satellite chains and the market for Islamic cassettes.