Puritanical Islam: A Modernist and Conservative Understanding of the Puritan Approach to Religion
The puritan approach to Islam is revered by the more conservative members of the Muslim community as necessary and, at the same time, is ardently denounced by modernists. As highlighted by the differences in Islamic thought by modernists, such as Khaled Abu El Fadl, and that of more traditional thinkers, including Sayyid Qutb, Abu-L-‘Ala’ Mawdudi, and Ayatullah Ruhullah Khumayni, there are clear divisions between the two groups. These divergences between the two groups are highlighted through their sentiments toward the nature of rational thinking, Islamic law, government, and modernism. Puritanical Islam is a movement by which Muslims seek to return to the “pure” and orthodox practice of the fundamentals of Islam, as exemplified in the Quran and the life of the Prophet Mohammed (El Fadl 2005, 82-87). It is an understanding of the Quran and religious texts, in their literal form, as ultimate religious authority that must be adhered too in every aspect of a Muslim’s daily life. However, not all Muslims adhere to the puritan approach to Islam, and thus, there are clear distinctions that separate modernist Muslims, such as El Fadl, and puritan advocates. Even though both groups do revere and sanctify the fundamentals of Islam, they understand and adhere to them differently. Modernists apply rationality to religious texts, using the fundamentals of Islam as a means to understand modern times, and implement their understandings accordingly. On the other hand, puritans deny the use of rationality in adhering to the Quran and Sunnah, and understand them in their literal sense, denying anything that diverges from the written word (El Fadl 2005, 128-29). Thus, modernist thinkers describe puritans as being unaccepting of any Islamic jurist or religious figure who is not a strict “literalist,” which completely denounces the...
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