As we noted last week, this month’s issue of Tabletalk addresses the significant subject of Islam. The second main article dealing with this growing and mysterious religion is by Dr. James Anderson. It’s title is “Islam Today” and in it Anderson points out the wide diversity within Islam, similar to what one finds also in Christianity.
His article is well worth reading, as it taught me a number of previously unknown things about Islam. Below are a few paragraphs; find the rest at the Ligonier link below.
Christians in the West tend to identify Islam with the fundamentalist Qur’an-based religion found in the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Southeast Asia—and with good reason. Even so, Islamic fundamentalism represents only one of several directions in which Islam is being driven today. The Islamic world has faced a crisis of confidence since the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924. Since that date, there has been no recognizable caliphate to which Muslims can look for leadership. The various Islamic dynasties that dominated much of the civilized world in previous centuries have fallen, and Muslims are consequently asking, “What went wrong, and how do we fix it?”
Broadly speaking, two very different reform movements have arisen in response to this crisis. The fundamentalist movement insists that Islam needs to return to its roots: Muslims today, including the leaders of Muslim-majority countries, are simply not Islamic enough. The proposed solution is a return to an uncompromising adherence to the Qur’an and Hadith (traditions about Muhammad and the early Muslim community). In contrast, the progressivist movement contends that Islam has stumbled because, unlike the Christian West, it has failed to come to terms with modernity. In this view, the way forward is to reform and contemporize Islam, accommodating it to the modern world. Clearly, this demands a more flexible and selective approach to the Islamic sources.
The question arises: Where do most Muslims today stand with respect to these conflicting reform movements? There’s no simple answer, but it’s fair to say that most Muslims find themselves torn between the two. The prospect of living under the strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) advocated by the fundamentalists holds little appeal, and they’re disillusioned by the cycle of violence perpetuated by hardline Islamism. Yet they cannot shake the sense that when it comes to representing “true Islam” based on the Qur’an and Hadith, the fundamentalists have the better claim than the modernists.