Islam and hadiths: Sifting and combing

Point well made in The Economist on religious and scriptural interpretation, and whether or not they lead to moderation:

Mr [Jonathan] Brown [author of Misquoting Muhammad] takes particular issue with The Economist for predicting that the information age will undermine the authority of old-time scholars and revolutionise the way in which ideas about Islam’s core teachings are formed. Given his fascination with long intellectual traditions, the author insists that nothing good can come of people going straight to texts which can foster extremist ideas unless they are leavened by scholarly wisdom.

In our defence, it is an already observable fact that electronics are making it much easier for ordinary Muslims, or self-taught “experts”, to bypass the older authorities and come to their own judgements on what their holy texts say and how they should be read. And as The Economist writing on the subject has made clear, this change can have bad consequences as well as good. Amateur theologians, bent on bypassing the professionals, can come to enlightened conclusions or appalling ones, such as the gimcrack theology used to justify acts of mega-terror by al-Qaeda or Islamic State.

However it’s also worth pointing out that neither conscientious scholarship nor participation in a centuries-old chain of editing and learning are foolproof guarantees of moderation. True, scholarly activities like hadith-sifting can sometimes help to mellow a religion. But remember, too, that the leaders of the Iranian revolution, who raised the standard of militant political Islam in the modern world, included many conscientious scholars.

Islam and hadiths: Sifting and combing | The Economist.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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