Reform thinking 2

June 2, 2006

I was struck that two points of comparison were overlooked in the criticism of the Dean of Southwark's statement that the world was witnessing a "Muslim Reformation".

First, both the Christian and the Muslim movements involve a shift from other-worldly towards this-worldly piety, both set in motion a faith of social action in which believers know they must act on Earth in the light of God's guidance to achieve salvation, and both are associated with the introduction of print and the translation of key texts into the vernacular, thus enabling increasing numbers of believers to interpret their faith for themselves and to challenge authority.

Second, leading actors in Muslim reform have made the comparison to the Protestant Reformation. Jamal al-Din al-Afghani saw himself as the Muslim Luther. Muhammad Iqbal in Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam declared: "We are today passing through a period similar to that of the Protestant revolution in Europe."

Understanding the this-worldly emphasis in much Islamic practice is the essential first step to achieving a better meeting of minds.

Francis Robinson

Royal Holloway, University of London

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