Reformation of Islamic Thought

Nasr Abu Zayd with the assistance of Dr. Katajun Amirpur and Dr. Mohammad Nur Kholis Setiawan

Intellectual reforms within Islam are in full swing. Moreover, the reformation of Islamic thought has a long history. Thinkers within Islam have been attempting for generations to free their religion from a dogmatic straight jacket. From the late 19th century, this school of thought gained huge momentum. In Reformation of Islamic Thought. A Critical Historical Analysis (WRR Investigations no. 10, 2006), Egyptian scholar Nasr Abu Zayd investigates liberal reformation thought in Islam.

Review of Muslim thinkers

Zayd presents a range of thinkers from many Muslim countries who are advocates of democracy and human rights on Islamic grounds. His overview shows that the Koran and the Sunnah can be read and interpreted in many different ways. With the rise of Islamic activism, the controversy regarding the correct interpretation has intensified strongly.

Reformers versus radical movements

The thinkers discussed by Zayd are far less relevant for the image of Islam in the West than the radical movements. On occasions, these movements strongly oppose values cherished in the West such as democracy and human rights. In contrast, the reformers seek a rapprochement with those values. Their approach undermines the widely held opinion that the Muslim world and the West represent two independent and contrary positions.

This study was written in the context of the WRR report Dynamism in Islamic Activism. Reference points for Democratization and Human Rights (report no. 73, 2006).