Muslim Separatists and The Idea of an “Islamic” State by amina wadud

amina 2014 - croppedThe other day, someone on twitter said she would not allow ISIS (known as the Islamic State of the Levant) use the name of “her” religion.  In fact, scholars in Egypt had proposed that they be called “the Separatist movement” and take the word “Islam” out of it. This question raised here is: what exactly is “Islamic” about what they are doing and how they are doing it?

I have contended for at least 2 decades that people use the word “Islam” anyway they want to make any point they want.  More importantly, whoever has the power to assert their definition of the word “Islam” controls how it is used. I say the past 2 decades because I used to think I could somehow determine “pure” “Islam”—as opposed to cultural reflections, human imperfections, and intellectual genuflections.  I came instead to see that everyone has a definition of Islam and whose definitions held sway was less a matter of epistemology and more a matter of power.

So, I followed one of my intellectual mentors and agreed that for any discourse about Islam, a definition had to be established, agreed upon, and then consistently maintained. He suggested that a simple criteria referent be applied based on Islam’s two primary sacred sources: the text of the Qur’an and the normative practices of the Prophet Muhammad, called sunnah.  He juxtaposed these to “little traditions” in the multiple ways Muslims experience or live out their understandings of these two.

Part of the methodology of Islamic feminism and reformed Islamic thought has been to demonstrate a direct link to the two primary sources but with a different paradigm about key principles espoused there in- like justice, human dignity, and compassion.  From that point forward, I tend to provide my definition of Islam, give evidence to support that definition from the primary sources and then elaborate how it would work in application to whatever issue is at hand.  Continue reading “Muslim Separatists and The Idea of an “Islamic” State by amina wadud”

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