Tariq Ramadan has emerged as one of the foremost voices of reformist Islam in the West, notable for urging his fellow Muslims to participate fully in the civil life of the Western societies in which they live. In this new book, Ramadan addresses Muslim societies and communities everywhere with a bold call for radical reform. He challenges those who argue defensively that reform is a dangerous and foreign deviation, and a betrayal of the faith. Authentic reform, he says, has always been grounded in Islam's textual sources, spiritual objectives, and intellectual traditions. But the reformist movements that are based on renewed reading of textual sources while using traditional methodologies and categories have achieved only adaptive responses to the crisis facing a globalizing world. Such readings, Ramadan argues, have reached the limits of their usefulness.
Ramadan calls for a radical reform that goes beyond adaptation to envision bold and creative solutions to transform the present and the future of our societies. This new approach interrogates the historically established sources, categories, higher objectives, tools, and methodologies of Islamic law and jurisprudence, and the authority this traditional geography of knowledge has granted to textual scholars. He proposes a new geography which redefines the sources and the spiritual and ethical objectives of the law creating room for the authority of scholars of the social and hard sciences. This will equip this transformative reform with the spiritual, ethical, social and scientific knowledge necessary to address contemporary challenges. Ramadan argues that radical reform demands not only the equal contributions of scholars of both the text and the context, but the critical engagement and creative imagination of the Muslim masses. This proposal for radical reform dramatically shifts the center of gravity of authority. It is bound to provoke controversy and spark debate among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Ramadan, author and research fellow at Oxford University who in a cause célèbre has been repeatedly denied a visa to the U.S., presents a deft and timely call for radical change in the way Muslim scholars interpret and apply their central texts. Ramadan believes in an integrative approach-one that marries a reinvigorated theological, values-based approach with a spiritually realistic understanding of contemporary everyday problems. For instance, family planning through contraception is acceptable within Islam and also practical considering economic difficulties faced by Muslims in developing countries. Maintaining that Muslim scholars were once very open to creative approaches, he argues that they have now become more insular and less educated, especially in their views toward women. Ramadan's point-that the world continues to change and requires a second look at the Qur'an and other Islamic texts to keep pace-is well taken. His insistence that scientific findings are also part of God's revelation and should be included in Islamic analysis is consistent with the Qur'an. Ramadan's newest book is an exciting read because it envisions a way for Muslims to be modern without turning their backs on their religion. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.