Reform Islam. Destroy Islam. Just Give Me a New Religion!

Although they may be debated and in certain cases outright rejected in their specific realms, there are three major theories in the West that dictate the general popular discussion on anything regardless of what it is. These include Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, the premise of which is that all human behaviour is nothing more than a result of forgotten events that occurred during childhood and have not been resolved, combined with non-rational unconscious drives; August Comte’s positivism, which asserts that logical and mathematical analysis of information derived from sense experience is the only source of real knowledge; and Émile Durkheim’s extension of positivism into sociology, which treats society as an empirical phenomenon where the only explanations and accepted arguments allowed for an action are those that are premised on a rejection of belief in the supernatural. In other words, there is no soul, angels, or demons; there is no pure reason; and there is no clear Divine Command without being contingent on human desire. This trifecta is what makes up the intellectual foundation of the so-called Muslim Reformers.

In a Hadith related by Imam Ahmad and Al Hakim, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺis reported to have said, “The identifiers of Islam will perish one after another. Every time one identifier perishes people cling to the one after it. The first will be juristic ruling and the last will be the prayer.” A recent opinion article in the Washington Post by Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa appeared in response to the “Wear a Hijab” day initiative, where non-Muslim women were encouraged to put on a hijab for a day in interfaith solidarity with Muslim women who face the brunt of increasing Islamophobic attacks.

Nomani and Arafa asked non-Muslim women not to participate in this because the hijab in their view is not part of Islam, not mentioned in the Quran, and is an oppressive practice imposed by men to control women. A number of refutation articles were written in response, including a thorough one in Muslim Matters by Saba Syed. I took a different route and published a parody of Nomani and Arafa’s article where I implored non-Muslim men to not grow their beards in the name of interfaith solidarity with Muslim men. As one of the readers commented, “The best response to stupidity is mockery.”

I followed this parody by another one in response to the #BoycottHajj hashtag that was trending on Twitter, which appears to have been started by Nomani as well. In her efforts to confront “radical Islam” and the “intolerant” and “extremist” interpretations of Islam as she claims are promoted by Saudi Arabia, Nomani seems to believe that by having Muslims boycott the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, it will somehow exert some sort of pressure upon the Saudi regime and they will eventually cave to her demands. In the same vein of “the best response to stupidity is mockery,” I petitioned Muslims to #BoycottSalah, arguing that prayer is another oppressive practice promoted by the Saudis and we need to “stop submitting and rise up.”

While most readers enjoyed the second parody, I was shocked to see that some were sympathizing or even fully agreeing with the arguments put forth by Nomani and others in her camp. One of the contentions put forth is that Saudi Arabia gains $8.5 billion in income from the pilgrimage, which makes it morally suspect for one to knowingly financially contribute by going on the pilgrimage when the money will be going to the Saudi government, who will in turn use it towards reprehensible actions domestically and abroad.

Whether the so-called Muslim Reformers are talking about the hijab or the hajj, their arguments are based on a Durkheimian worldview as opposed to a Muhammadan one. When acts of worship and religious observance are primarily viewed through temporal worldly consequences to the exclusion of Revelation and Divine Command, one has in effect adopted a sociologically positivist view of religion, which renders it a set of rituals that has communal benefits, or a structure imposed by the elites, mostly men, to serves the purpose of social control, which will inadvertently maintain patriarchy, among other things that we now need to deconstruct and take down. This is not to mention the New Age approach of individualist “spirituality” and having “ownership of rituals”. In other words, as Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”

Treating the Saudi regime’s financial gains from the yearly pilgrimage as a morally relevant criterion in determining whether one should perform the fifth pillar of Islam not only indicates a lack of familiarity with basics of Islamic jurisprudence, but it also ignores the general practice of the Prophet ﷺ and elevates political calculus above all else. To be clear, the pilgrimage has always been the primary reason for the financial flourishing of Mecca, well before the Saudis or the borders that make up modern day’s Saudi Arabia existed, which during the time of the Prophet ﷺ was ruled by the tribe of Quraysh.

A cursory reading of the Prophet’s biography will reveal how much persecution the early Muslim community endured at the hands of Quraysh, which ranged from verbal abuse, all the way up to economic sanctions that led to starvation, and even outright physical torture and an attempt to assassinate the Prophet ﷺ. When the Prophet ﷺ migrated to Medina along with many of the companions, a few who were unable to make the move remained behind and continued to suffer the oppression of Quraysh, who in turn also took to sending armies to attack Muslims in Madina and almost succeeded in killing the Prophet ﷺ in the Battle of Uhud.

In the 6th year after his migration, the Prophet ﷺ saw in a vision that he entered Mecca on a minor pilgrimage (Umrah). Given the understood nature of Prophetic Visions by Muslims, this was taken as a sign for them to pack up and make the trip to Mecca to fulfill this act of worship. Despite the current warring relationship with Quraysh who ruled Mecca, and the real danger to their lives by performing this pilgrimage, the Prophet ﷺ and roughly 1,500 of his companions prepared a caravan and set out on their journey. No one complained about how this will politically appear to others or wondered how it will economically contribute to Quraysh. They did not even arm themselves with enough weapons to fend off a very plausible attack by Quraysh when they arrived to Mecca.

The only reason Muslims could not perform their pilgrimage that year was Divine intervention that prevented the Prophet’s camel from continuing the journey at the outskirts of Mecca where they camped and began negotiations with Quraysh. In fact, when the companions were upset when the Prophet ﷺ accepted the treaty known as the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, they were so because they viewed it as unjust and a form of Quraysh asserting their will against them. However, the verse revealed in the Quran in response to this treaty was, “Surely We have given to you a clear victory.” [48:1] Subsequent events quickly showed how the companions’ political calculus that took short-term goals and temporal gains turned out in the big picture to be gravely mistaken.

Muslims today by and large have become obsessed with politics, a field described by one Arab writer as, “The science of being lowly in an elegant way.” In his Contentions 9, Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad states in number 24, “Politics is one cell within the body of Islam. If it grows unduly, it is a cancer.” Cancer is a condition in which cells lose internal control mechanisms for cell division, thus growing uncontrollably and sucking energy resources from the rest of the body to sustain themselves.

While it is important still to be aware of the political, social, and economic forces at play in the world, and take them into account when appropriate, the current trend led by so-called Muslim Reformers uses this as a platform to appear to address legitimate concerns about how Islam is to be lived in the modern world. However, theirs in reality is an attempt to change the metaphysical foundation of Islam and the relationship Muslims have with Revelation.

From the hijab to the hajj and who knows to what else is next, so-called Muslim Reformers engage in incoherent deconstructions of acts of worship and religious observance, along with confabulations regarding the Arabic language, Islamic scripture and history in an attempt to make Islam into nothing more than a cultural practice no different than wearing a Moroccan fez. It is also not an accident that the Prophetic tradition is absent in these revisionisms. For these so-called Muslim Reformers Muhammad is dead. Muhammad remains dead. And we have killed him.