The video below is what will hopefully be the opening salvo placing Islam on a path to having its own reformation. The timing is pretty much right on schedule as Judaism had its expansionism where it took lands by force and eventually ended that stage of its history after which it only fought to retain the small area of lands which it occupied, a struggle the Jewish state is facing today as the forces of the world continuously attempt to slice and carve Israel up leaving an ever smaller piece of land for the Jewish state to continue existing. The first story telling of Avram’s belief that idolatry was an empty concept and likely led Avram on his quest for the knowledge which eventually led him to finding G0d tells of Avram going into the showroom where his family sold idols to make a living. Avram smashed all of the idols in the shop except the largest idol which he placed the large hammer he had used to smite the rest of the idols. When his father entered the shop he was beside himself and furious demanding that Avram explain what had happened. Avram calmly explained that when he arrived that morning he caught the largest idol, the one holding the hammer, smashing and destroying the other idols. His father rejected the ridiculous story yelling that stone idols were incapable of such acts which Avram simply and calmly inquired why his father and family were selling idols under a false claim. This episode was the beginning of the travels and tribulations for Avram as most certainly he was invited to vacate his family home by his irate and distressed father. The amount of anger Avram probably received from his father and the rest of the family likely drove him to the farthest lands he could find where he felt safe from their reach and where Avram’s life was drastically changed and he started the seeds of what would become Judaism. During this struggle to find truth Avram found G0d and upon G0d instructing him, he changed his name to Avraham.
Some five or six hundred years later, after the Jews had been enslaved in Egypt, their numbers had increased to a point that the Pharaoh saw the Jews within Egypt as a potential threat and so placed them in bondage such that they would not revolt and join with one of Egypt’s enemies thus toppling his rule. After four hundred years we are told that the Jews were led to freedom by Moses who gave the Jewish people the Torah gaining Moses the title of the law-giver. Moses also led the Jewish people back to their ancestral homelands, the lands which presumably were granted to Avraham by G0d. The path to freedom and liberty and the forming of a people who did not have their minds enslaved and fearful, as were the minds of the vast majority of the Jewish people whom Moses led out of Egypt; Moses had to turn the nation of Israel around and journey back into the dessert. Moses had initially led the Jews directly to what was to be their homeland but the test of the spies who told of a formidable peoples who had cities with insurmountable walls and themselves were giants with great strength which was given by all but two of the twelve men sent to reconnoiter the land and the people’s panic caused Moses to lead them back into the desert until a new generation had been raised not under the oppression of slavery and with the mindset of a freed people. This, we are told, took forty years of wandering through the desert. To make this telling short we will simply list that Moses did not enter the Promised Land but turned the leadership over to Joshua who led the Jewish people on their initial efforts to conquer what would become their homelands. Initially the Jewish people broke into their individual tribes with each being autonomous. It was not until King David melded the twelve tribes into one nation and King Solomon built the L0rd’s Temple, the First Temple, in Yerushalayim. This was the pinnacle of Jewish expansion and conquest of lands and the rest of time until the Romans dispersed the Jews to the far corners of the Roman Empire in order to make them cease to exist and to perish from the pages of history that the Jewish People lived in the lands straddling the Jordan River and across the plains of the Galilee, much of these lands are where Israel exists today. The Israelites took approximately fifteen hundred to seventeen hundred years from their founding as a people and a religion by Avraham to their conquest and settling their lands centered on Yerushalayim and the Temple. This was the end of military expansionism and the adopting a kinder and gentler Jewish People, the same area approximately that the Jews are attempting to rebuild their homelands which had sat desolate for almost two millennia. Without going through the periods of conquest, rebirth and reconquering their area across Europe but instead look to when Christianity also became nonviolent and no longer expansionary, one sees that this happened for the Christian faith approximately fifteen hundred to sixteen hundred years. Checking the Islamic calendar one would notice that Islam is approaching the time-period where both Judaism and Christendom went through their transformations and became less violent and mostly no longer expansionist. So, perhaps this video has arrived and this will be the first salvo for the transformation of Islam. Here is the video and more continues below, but first the video requires watching if you have not yet come to see it already as it did appear on the social media circuit.
Time will tell if Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the latest general turned leader of Egypt will turn out to be the man who began the reformation of Islam or at least the reformation of Islamic beliefs and thought in Egypt, the most populous Islamic nation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the location of the oldest and most prestigious Islamic university in the world, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University. This was the University where el-Sisi gave his landmark speech. When I first viewed this speech made by el-Sisi I immediately feared for his life. There exists probably nobody in a more advantageous position to foment this transformation. The previous time such a reformation in Islam might have been possible was just after World War I with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the secularly based Turkey which he had placed what he considered an unimpeachable guardian of the works of his lifetime when he placed the enforcement of the secular state he had set for Turkey. Much of his work is being undermined and undone by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has been slowly and inexorably sliding Turkey away from the standards put in place by Mustafa Ataturk a century ago and has already replaced the top generals thus coopting the military from interfering with his designs on returning Turkey to the glory of its time as the head of the Caliphate. Now we have General el-Sisi aiming to turn Egypt into a modern and functional Islamic state. One has to give Abdel Fattah el-Sisi credit for giving this address before the faculty and administrators of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the recognized premier and most prestigious Islamic institution for higher learning in the world. If Abdel el-Sisi can persuade the Imams who teach at Al-Azhar University to teach a reformed and flexible version of Islam more centered on the original teachings of Muhammad during the time in Mecca where he initially wrote the Quran and find some evidence or writing which defines Islam in the manners of Turkey then Abdel el-Sisi may turn out to be the man who started the reformation of Islam. What might the signs be that Abdel el-Sisi is making progress and what form and nature would a reformed Islam take?
We can all probably agree that the first accomplishment that Egyptian President and Islamic reformer must achieve will be remaining alive. The fate that awaited former Egyptian President Muhammad Anwar El Sadat after signing a peace treaty with Israel was that he was assassinated while watching a military revue when a soldier broke ranks and charged the reviewing stands and shot President Sadat at almost blank range. Anwar Sadat, like Abdel el-Sisi, was a general in the military before becoming President for Life and that relationship with the military was short-lived as it was from amongst the ranks of the military that the Muslim Brotherhood was able to reach out and assassinate him. So remaining alive and the symbol of a reformed Islam which is being practiced within Egypt, the largest Islamic state in the world, as well as taught at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the premier institute of higher learning and scholarly discourse in all of Islam, will produce a base for Islamic reformation in which Islam is transformed into a religion which is finally capable of living in a world in which other religions are deemed to be permitted and Islam will finally be able to be practiced side-by-side with the other faiths and will no longer pose a threat challenging all other faiths demanding to be the sole religion of the world. Making such a transition will take time, hopefully not too much time, but time just the same as such a transformation cannot be expected to take place overnight, or even in a single year.
The signs that such changes are being effectively spread throughout Islam and there will be more than sufficient pushback making the task of spreading the reformed version of Islam that much more difficult. There will be the resistance from the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia who with Saudi oil monies who have been at the forefront of Jihad as a violent manner of spreading Islam if coercion and conversion failed to convince a people to adopt their version of Islam. Then there is the not so small matter of Shiite Muslims as Abdel el-Sisi is Sunni and thus will not hold any acceptable powers of persuasion or authority, moral or otherwise unless Abdel el-Sisi is planning to conquer all of existing Islam in order to teach then a version which is non-violent. Then there are places where Islam is practiced solely because of their willingness to use brute force to enforce the laws of Islam as they perceive such. There are entities whose very existence is dependent on violent Jihad such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezballah, the Twelvers which had their influence solely through nonviolent means. Then there are the recent events in Paris which may have revealed something extremely threatening about Islam today. The two brothers claim that they received training and that the plans were worked through and rehearsed before they were sent to France to perform their deadly acts. This would not seem to pose any problem except that one brother claimed to have worked with al-Qaeda while the other claimed he worked through ISIS. If what this implies is true then the world and Abdel el-Sisi have a serious problem on their hands. The merging of the two of the largest, best trained, and militarily capable of ruling over entire nation is seriously frightening. The world can only hope that al-Qaeda and ISIS are not working together, even if only on Jihadist acts which both terror entities have an interest, then reforming Islam will have become that much more difficult. Abdel el-Sisi made clear that he was speaking about changing the thinking and not the religion, the interpretation and not actual Islam. What he likely meant by these declarations was that he aimed to preserve the writings of Islam and simply shift the emphasis to coexistence as the Quran was first written and that the changes he was purporting were things which the Quran already states but which are not currently stressed and utilized thus getting Islam to change from being a threat to the other religions of the world into a more gentile and pleasant form where it coexists with the other religions in the world. Abdel el-Sisi reflected on his realization that should Islamic practices continue insisting on violent Jihad and the transformation of the entirety of the world to Islam by spreading Islam by the sword that Islam was facing a problem. Abdel el-Sisi described that problem perfectly when he stated, “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire Ummah to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!! That thinking, I am not saying ‘religion’ but ‘thinking’, that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world! Is it possible that 1.6 billion Muslims should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants – that is 7 billion – so that they themselves may live? Impossible!!” Abdel el-Sisi has looked at the world through open eyes and seen that should Islam continue in its current path its hand will be against every religion, and every religion’s hand against Islam, and will in the end lead to the destruction of Islam, thus its path must change. Abdel el-Sisi has awakened from a nightmare revelation where he realizes that Islam will only continue if it refuses to continue raising its hands against the world thus he has taken upon himself the task of teaching the Imams and the presumed greatest of those preaching Jihad to now preach kindness. Can he win against the likes of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Feisal Abdul Rauf and Abu Hamza al-Masri? All the rest of us can do is pray that Abdel el-Sisi is making an honest attempt and not trying to aggrandize himself, and that should his intents be pure, from the depths of his heart, and guided by his reason, that he be blessed in his quest as, should he succeed, then both Islam, the Muslim world and the world as a whole will benefit from his efforts.
Beyond the Cusp