Thursday, July 25, 2024

The Crisis in Islam

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Islam as the second biggest religion in the world is currently suffering from crises, both endogenous and exogenous

Religion as a complex social force requires modernization and keeping up with the needs of age.

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Syed Ahmed Khan, educationist who founded Muhammedan Anglo Oriental College or Aligarh Muslim University argued this-

“If religion isn’t modernised, then it becomes ossified”.

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However, he didn’t know that this assertion of his would come back to haunt him.

Islam, today is suffering from multiple crises, both exogenous and endogenous.

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Momin vs kafir

One of the most controversial areas which has triggered a crisis within Islam and in other religions is the believer vs infidel debate.

Multiple verses in the Quran prescribes a repressive treatment towards people of other faiths.

The Quran promises eternal salvation for the believers and damnation in hell for non-believers.

However, the biggest question that has emerged is who is a believer and an infidel.

While Islam’s antagonism towards other faiths are understandable, what is perplexing is the sectarian infighting.

Who is a real Muslim is the question. There are multiple schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence such as Hanbali, Hanafi, Al-Malki, Al- Shafi who are conflictual as to who is a true Muslim.

Then, there is the long running Shia vs Sunni conflict.

This propounds an imbroglio as to who is a true believer.

Jihad- use of force

Famous author and commentator Karen Armstrong in her books Islam- A Short History, The Battle for God argued that jihad are of two types- internal and external.

Unfortunately, Muslim theologians starting from Ibn Tahmayya, Abdul Wahhab to Shah Walliullah Dehlavi preached external Jihad or greater Jihad.

External Jihad means waging war against unbelievers or infidels aim of, either converting to them to their faith by persuasion. Otherwise, war will be waged in the name of spreading the ‘right’ faith.

Jihad has emerged as the most controversial concept in recent times.

The virulent anti-Muslim sentiment in countries like Poland, Hungary and very recently in Italy is a testimony to this idea.

Richard Dawkins in an interview with Mehdi Hasan of Al Jazeera in 2012 admitted that while majority of a billion plus Muslims are good hearted, the problem lies with their scriptural verses which has contradictory sermons in various paragraphs.

He went to highlight the actual problem lies in the interpretation of the book by Islamic theologians.


Globalization brought new exogenous crisis to Islam. As the whole world opened up, so too did the Islamic countries.

Globalization brought countervailing forces like modernity, financial and commercial deregulation, western or Liberal values, rationality and scriptural scepticism which revolutionised the societal discourse in Islam.

The theocratic regimes got uncomfortable and tried to resist these changes.

A good example is the crackdown by security forces in Iran against ordinary Iranian citizens who were protesting the death of Mahsa Amini following her death in September 2022.


The problem with that religion is that it is resistant to changes. While critics may cite the example of Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Their arguments do not hold water. Indonesia and Malaysia have distinct Indic influence spanning centuries, while the latter two are following a policy of economic pragmatism.

Islam must begin a process of internal reformation, otherwise it will risk what Robert Sapolsky in Behave- The Biology of Humans At Our Best and Worst stated as severe otherisation by people of other faiths and cultures.

It can ultimately boil down to clash of civilizations.





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