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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reviewing the Hadith in Ankara

Ref.: BBC: " Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts".

This is pretty interesting. I am not fan of Islam, as I am not of other religions, specially "revealed" ones, but what is clear is that it is a large religion with many millions of adepts and a large influence in the World. It is also very controversial, not just because of political reasons but specially because of socio-cultural matters, specially those affecting women, that are too often in brutal contradiction with Human Rights and modern feminist thought. You can tink whatever of the term "feminism" but the case is that 100 years ago in most of Europe and America, women could not vote, handle their finances without their husband's approval and were the main suspect in case of rape. Without feminism our reality would not be much different from that of Saudi Arabia, really.

Well, the case is that now Turkish theologists are adressing are a very hot issue in Islam: the Hadith. The Hadith (also hadiths, in plural) are the traditions regarding Muhammad's life and preching that are outside the Quran. Much of it was compiled in diferent times and the shadow of possible falsehood has always fallen upon it, with different interpretations depending on schools an so on. Yet it's most influential in Islamic doctrine as well as in Islamic law (sharia).

Along history, Islam (not just the religion but the culture as well) has evolved from what some understand as a very progressive thought for its time (the early Middle Ages, the Dark Ages of European historiography, when feudalism, religious fanatics and warlords ruled everywhere, at least in Western Eurasia) towards a much more conservative ideology, often through borrowings from other cultures, specially after the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols. For instance, most typical Muslim clothes for women are originally Byzantine. To worsen things Sunni tradition states that more recent texts overrid old ones - and more recent texts are usually more conservative in the Hadith.

Now these theologians of Turkey are adressing this hot matter in Ankara. They are trying to expurge the false from the true hadiths, those that are likely original relatios of Muhammad's life and teachings and those that are false additions. But they are also re-reading them in a more comprehensive light. This trhoughout revision has never been done in Islamic thought but is beleieved by many very necesary to expurge Islam of beliefs that are not authentic.

What will remain after this critical review? For sure the Quran will be untouched but the Hadith will be changed substantially. I understand it as a restoration of an old fresco that removes the dirt accumulated and shows again the original bright colors but I imagine that it will provoke many resistences in the most conservative and reactionary sectors of Islam.

It's interesting in any case.

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