Alexander Ignatenko, Member of the Central Asia and the Caucasus Editorial Board, Doctor of Philosophy, specializes in Islam, leading expert, Social Systems Research Institute, Moscow State University.

Selective Revival of Islamic Heritage as a Means of Islams Existence

There is a widely accepted opinion that Islam is an immutable and unchanging system of norms and ideas. Public at large is convinced that the Koran and the Hadiths are the all-embracing Islamic code, a source of quotes to be evoked to confirm lay opinions.

This approach creates a one-sided conviction that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and that the political extremists and terrorists (who call themselves mojahideen) have nothing to do with it no matter how often they quote the Koran and the Sunna. The same approach creates another widely accepted conviction that Islam is a religion of enmity and violence because political extremism and terrorism are justified by some of the propositions of the Koran and the Sunna.

In actual fact Islam, contrary to the lay opinions of its defenders and opponents, is a dynamic system of norms, rules, ideas and opinions formulated in the Islamic world to meet the challenge of the times and based on its interpretation of the Koran and the Sunna. The history of Islam is a continued process of interpretation of the divine text. The umma, as the Islamic community, and the Islamic scholars and teachers are out not so much to justify human actions with Koranic texts as to probe into the true meaning of what the Prophet meant by the Koran. Indeed, the body of interpretations (straightforward explanations or symbolic and metaphorical presentations), theological and philosophical treatises, works of prose and poetry, ethical, legal and political compositions in different languages are thousand times vaster than the Word of God yet much inferior to it in their combined importance.

In other words, Islam of today is a result of concerted human effort. This explains the existence of all sorts of Islam (varied systems of norms and actions) that claim the role of the only genuine system and are accepted as such by their followers. There is any number of clashing opinions about individual aspects of Islam, jihad being one of them. One has to bear in mind that in Islam there is no generally accepted procedure that would approve a norm or a system of norms as the genuine one. Its past history and present existence have turned Islam into a sum-total of norms, related to the Koran and the Sunna, created within Islams global historical and civilizational context. In other words, Islam is the muras, or legacy.

Islamic thought has frequently used the metaphor of a tree as an image of a religion deeply rooted in the past and spreading its branches wide over the present. Its trunk is a repository of all past epochs, the annual rings are all different yet an inalienable part of the whole.

In fact, this Islam cannot be applied to any specific Islamic community at any given moment of timeits body of norms is too vast for this.

Global Islam that exists at any given moment of time is brimming with the norms of the past put to sleep by subsequent epochs. This should not be taken to mean that they have been discarded as erroneous or obsolete even if they seemed to be such under specific historical circumstances. The anti-Tatar fatwas by Ibn Taymiyya are a good example of..

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