Question: There has been a good bit of talk in the media recently about Islam undergoing a reformation much like the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. Supposedly that would make for a “kinder, gentler” Islam. Is that possible? And if so, wouldn’t you have to retract the harsh accusations you’ve made against Islam?
Response: The Protestant Reformation was provoked by the wide and longstanding departure of the Roman Catholic Church from Scripture into heretical teachings and practices. The Reformation was all about getting back to the Bible. A major cry was “sola scriptura!” Like Islam, wherever it had the power, the Roman Catholic Church for more than 1,000 years forced its false doctrines upon the populace under penalty of death. Its false gospel offered heaven through baptism, sacraments, indulgences, the wearing of scapulars and medals and other good works. The popes matched the Muslim promise of Paradise for the jihad martyr by offering a plenary indulgence and instant entrance into heaven for all who died in the Holy Land Crusades. Such practices were directly contrary to the teachings of the Bible and the example of Christ and of the early church. Returning to the sole authority of Scripture through the Reformation brought freedom from religious oppression.
A reformation of Islam to bring it back to the uncompromising teachings of the Qur’an and to follow faithfully the example of Muhammad does exactly the opposite. Instead of bringing freedom from oppression, it intensifies the oppression that Islam has always exerted over non-Muslims through forced conversions and over Muslims through threat of death for converting to another faith.
In fact, an Islamic “reformation” has been in process for many years. It grew out of the defeat of the Arab armies that attacked Israel when it declared its independence in 1948, and accelerated with the humiliating defeats of 1967 and 1973. It was decided that Allah had not blessed the Muslim armies as he had at the beginning of Islam because Muslims had strayed so far from orthodox Islam. Defeat would turn to victory if the Muslim world would return to the teaching of the Qur’an and of Muhammad in the hadith—and follow the examples of his life and the lives of his early successors who were able to spread Islam through conquest by the sword all the way from Spain to India and China.
The Islamic “reformation,” then, does not produce a “kinder, gentler” Islam, but an Islam that is stronger and absolutely uncompromising. It involves a revived commitment to the teaching that Muslims must conquer the world and impose their religion and way of life upon all mankind to the glory of Allah.
Such was the goal of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network, and it was to this end that the hijackers of September 11 sacrificed their lives. A return to true Islam as taught in the Qur’an demands perpetual jihad with the sword—even against fellow Muslims who are not willing to live by strict Islamic law (shari’ah). Such is the goal of any number of fundamentalist Islamic groups, and a takeover by them is feared by semisecular regimes in Islamic countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia. The only way to make Islam “kinder and gentler” would be to abandon the Qur’an and the teaching and practice of Muhammad—to invent a new Islam. But what would that prove?