The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has precipitated a new wave of calls for religious
reform in Islam. The proliferation of contradictory religious fatwas, and the rising number of Muslim “televangelists” on satellite channels, according to these calls, have made Islam incomprehensible. Muslims are thus divided into rival teams that accuse each other of infidelity and consider the spilling of each other’s blood permissible.
And indeed, while the ‘Islamic State’ was gaining new ground, imposing its dark shadow on millions of people, practicing ethnic cleansing and committing the worst kinds of crimes in the name of true faith, official Islamic organizations maintained a dishonorable silence for a number of reasons, both political and doctrinal. This further pushed reformists to increase their demands on official institutional Islam to declare a definitive stance vis-a-vis this terrifying organization, and against all forms of religious radicalism.
A closer look at the question of religious reform in Islam will, however, confront us with two fundamental points:
The first is that for several movements that came about since the 18t h century, religious reform in Islam has already
occurred. The Wahhabi, Senussi, Khatmya, and Mahdi movements have all claimed that they had come to fix religion after it had reached a dangerous level of decline and became a tool for charlatans to enflame public opinion and mobilize the masses. Examining these reformist movements in their historical contexts would however reveal that they emerged in societies which were experiencing various crises centered around the relationship between authority and society, and thus between two divergent understandings of the dominant ideology- which is Islamic piety, naturally.
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