Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Courageous Religious Figures | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Political and economic reforms cannot take place without religious reform before it. By this, one does not mean reform in the realm of doctrine and belief but rather the issues of legislation, rulings, and the management of social affairs.

Religious reform requires courage from scholars and preachers. A majority exists that is afraid of publicizing its ideas despite a strong belief in them. Many of these people will explain in private that they fear the reaction of the public to their proposals.

The possibility of religious reform entails moderate religious figures to express their thoughts in fear of nobody but their Creator. Presently, the issue of astronomical calculations to determine the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan is being discussed, and there is a strong opposition from numerous extremists who interpret texts in any way they wish to.

Another issue that people fear to tackle is that of building more mosques. Such is a virtuous task; however, the insistence of building more with an intention of showing-off is simply wrong. In some cities, there are so many mosques that residents of the same street do not see each other as they attend different mosques. One prominent Saudi religious figure has furtively informed me that the situation has become dangerous, however he fears discussing the matter. Furthermore, he is reluctant now to promote the virtuous act of establishing schools, hospitals and libraries.

Moreover, another issue that deserves to be addressed is that of polygamy. There is no debate concerning the authorization of polygamy in religious texts. However, the act of having more than one wife has created serious social and ethical problems that now threaten the idea of a strong family unit. Once more, people are reluctant to tackle such issues.

There are those who strongly refuse the idea of women driving and seek to justify their rejection by religion. However, numerous prominent figures do not share this view yet do not present their conflicting opinion.

Moderate Islamic preachers and scholars should not only raise their voices but also should raise their voices loudly, clearly and fearlessly to express their ideas as long as they maintain fixed religious principles while at the same time keeping in mind the goal of developing and improving society.