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Hans Kessler

Two Kinds of Islam

Reasons for the Correction of the Prevailing Image of Islam


From: Stimmen der Zeit, 7/2011, P. 460-470
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    Muslims and Muslim scholars are increasingly discovering worldwide a Koranic interpretation which is aware of the context and humanistic tradition. Hans Kessler, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Frankfurt, describes topics and protagonists of this development and offers thus an in-depth view of Islam and the dialogue with its representatives.


Few things in this country evoke currently such strong emotions as the question of Islam. It is then often ignored that the Islam does not at all exist - as little as the Christianity. As in Christianity, in Islam, too, there are many different opinions, trends and directions. The situation is complex. One neither does justice to it when one belittles the dangers of the totalitarian militant political Islam nor does one justice to it when one sweepingly suspects the many sensible and good-hearted Muslims and criticizes wholesale Islam (as e.g. "the Islam is violent", "misogynist", "incapable of democracy", etc.). Both belittlement and blanket criticism of Islam misjudge the reality. We do well when we take a closer look {1}.

First: All denominations of Islam refer to the Koran and to the "Sunna" (the handing down of Muhammad's deeds and remarks). There is broad consensus among Muslims that the Koran is seen as a revelation, as God's speech (by the angel Gabriel) to the Prophet Muhammad. But from the very beginning the various denominations widely differ in the question how the statements of the Quran must then be understood. Early on, from 8th to 10th century, the Koran understanding was a topic of discussion: There were many and diverse doctrines and schools of thought - and so it is again today. Simplified, one can distinguish two contrasting mainstreams and basic positions: the one interprets the Koran as the Word of God, which is (independently from its historical context) literally valid for all times, the other understands the Koran in the historical context of the 7th century as God's speech first to the people of that time, as the divine answer to their questions. The two basic positions and movements are competing for the prerogative of interpretation.


The Mainstream and Basic Position of Literalism

This is the traditionalist interpretation. It prevails since the 10th century and is, so to speak, the orthodox view of most legal scholars (ulama). It adheres strictly to the wording of the Koran: All statements of the Koran are literally valid for all times and must always be obeyed.



One therefore insist on the wording without giving attention to the historical circumstances of the respective statements (revelations) - without inquiring into the intention, the meaning of the texts (of the revelations). One regards all the Koranic statements as context-independent, binding divine law. It has to be observed strictly by all Muslims also in today's Europe (where one then - depending on the mentality - allows either adjustments to the current situation or, as the hardliners, strives for the introduction of Sharia, the religious law of God in Europe and promotes the formation of isolated parallel societies).

If one so context-independently and literally reads the Koran as timelessly valid law, then this does not necessarily lead to radicalism (there are many moderate fundamentalists who reject e.g. violence), but then unenlightened and fanatical minds, hardliners and militant Islamists can use Koranic statements which expressly call for the persecution and killing of "infidels" (for example, Sura 2.191: "Kill them wherever you meet them") as a justification for violence against non-Muslims, if they do not want to embrace Islam (or to submit to the Islamic order) {2}. Then the Koranic statements, according to which daughters inherit only half as much as sons (Surah 4:11) or which justify the beating of women (Surah 4:34), can be taken literally, and so one is at best discussing how far the beating should go.

If one takes everything in the Koran literally, then one keeps also today to those Koranic statements according to which Jews and Christians have "knowingly falsified" their holy scriptures {3}; and therefore, in order to avoid temptation, one does not read their holy scriptures. Then Jews and Christians in the Islamic dominions are only tolerated with minor, unequal rights {4}, and in some countries such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia they are virtually even without rights. Also in many other countries the preachers spread nasty things about Christians and Jews during the Friday prayers. In the case of slavishly literal understanding of Koranic texts, Islam becomes a religion of intolerance and violence and is incompatible with human rights and pluralist democracy {5}.

This literalistic Islam asks therefore for criticism and vigilance. But: This is - unlike the blanket criticism of Islam asserts - not the entire Islam (and for a great many Muslims it is not the true character of Islam). The vast majority of Muslims in this country does not want to be concerned with this kind of Islam, neither do so the devout Muslims who today in Egypt and other Arab states take a stand against unjust despots and demand democracy.



The Mainstream and Basic Position Aware of the Problems

The humanistic interpretation of the Koran, which is aware of time and context and led by reason, is anything but new. It existed already from 8th to 10th century in those circles (especially the Mu'tazila) who said that the faculty of reason is the best gift of God's Creation, and that's why one must use one's reason while reading the Koran and orient oneself towards the common good. The relevant religious scholars and philosophers have made great achievements {6} - let alone the Arab physicians and mathematicians. But then these humanistic approaches, which were aware of the problems, disappeared {7}, first in the East since about 1000, then since 1200 also in North Africa and Andalusia {8}; One was more and more strictly and legally oriented towards the literal wording of the Koran and the Prophet's sayings (Hadith).

Already in the 19th century, but especially since several decades these historical and humanistic approaches, which are aware of the problems, come to life again. They are represented by more and more Muslim scholars - not only in Western countries, but also in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Indonesia, India {9}, Iran {10}, and in Turkey {11}. Also the professors of Islamic theology and religious education at German universities (in Münster / Westphalia, Osnabruck, Frankfurt, Tübingen, Erlangen, Paderborn), who as devout Muslims have been reflecting for several years on Islam from an internal perspective (i.e. not from the distant external perspective of religious and Islamic Studies) and who have been training imams and Islamic religious teachers, belong to this humanistic school of thought which is aware of the problems: e.g. Ömer Öszoy who comes from the "Ankara School" {12} and has been teaching from 2006 in Frankfurt am Main, or Bülent Ucar who has grown up in this country and has been teaching from 2007 in Osnabrück, or Mouhanad Khorchide who comes from Beirut and is since 2010 Professor of Islamic Religious Education in Münster {13}, or Hamideh Mohagheghi who comes from Iran and is lawyer and Islamic theologian in Paderborn {14}.

They all assume that the Koran must be seen as God's speech to the Prophet Muhammad (this is not at issue for them), but they are mindful of the fact that this revelation to Muhammad happened in a historical context and under quite particular circumstances. They inquire after these circumstances, after the context of the emergence of a Koranic verse, in order to be able to ascertain thus its intention, its meaning. Only someone who knows the circumstances of the revelations is able to understand what God wants to tell the people, says with many others Ömer Öszoy, while a rigid literal understanding of the Koran misjudges the actual nature of the religious text {15}.

According to this reading, the Koran was revealed on the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century - in the course of 23 years, with their changing situations. Accordingly, the then community of Muslims had different problems and expected "divine" answers to them.



Among these answers, says this reading, there are those that are timeless guides, and other answers that were intended for the situation at that time {16}. In the Koran are therefore only about ten percent of timeless importance, the rest is time-conditioned. Timeless guides are: monotheism (one God, Creator and Judge, the Most Gracious), prayer, the equal dignity of all people, justice, social responsibility.

But verses which e.g. allow the use of violence against unbelievers, as e.g. Sura 2.191: "Fight them and kill them wherever you meet them, and expel them from wherever they have expelled you!" are time-conditioned and intended for the then situation. Great exegetes of the Koran point out that this verse belongs wholly to a historical context, namely to the context of the expulsion of Muslims from Mecca, who had to leave behind their belongings and emigrated with empty hands to Medina, where they were exposed to the attacks of the Meccans; in this context the verse allows the Muslims in Medina to defend themselves. For example, Allameh Tabatabai, the eminent Iranian exegete of the Koran who wrote the current standard work of Shiites says literally:

In this verse "it is not about fighting until everybody has embraced Islam, but here only the fight against Meccans is meant, until they stop the repressive and unjust treatment of Muslims" {17}.

Hamideh Mohagheghi adds, "In my opinion, this contextual interpretation is the only way to put into perspective the sharpness of the text," and "to protect us against the possibility that it is used to legitimize violence" {18} The verse must therefore not be generalized, it is not a command for dealing with "infidels" or "persons of a different faith or religion" {19}.

Rather, as e.g. Mouhanad Khorchide says, the Koran contains clear timeless principles (maxims) for dealing with persons of a different faith or religion {20}: 1st Regardless of his/her belief, everybody has a God-given inviolable dignity. God has breathed his spirit into man. Something sacred is in him/her (Sura 15.28 f., 16.97;, 38.71 f., 17.70; equality of the sexes 4.1, 9.71 95.4-6 ); 2nd The diversity of the monotheistic religions is willed by God. "Race to [all that is] good" (Sura 5:48) {21}; 3rd Only God is entitled to judge between the members of religions on the Day of Judgement (Sura 22:17); 4th God loves the people who exercise justice and goodness (Surah 60.8).

Also for many other difficult verses of the Koran a rather different picture results from a contextual interpretation. An example: In the pre-Islamic Arab tribes, women were completely without rights, exposed to the violence of men, and they inherited nothing at all {22}.



In this context, it was a revolutionary step to assign to the daughter at least half as much of the heritage than to the son. It was a step towards the recognition of women as equal members of society (also other regulations of the Koran limit men's then absolute entitlement to dispose of women {23})). If one insists slavishly on the wording then one stops at this first step and does thus not justice to the intention of the text, because it is oriented toward justice and equality of the sexes. And our present social context allows a development in this direction, which is therefore also necessary {24}.

Also with many other statements of the Koran, one must in this way be mindful of the meaning and intention of the texts (revelations) and follow up their thought, rather than to insist on the wording of certain passages: what matters is therefore meaning and intention instead of wording {25}.

"Islam needs a reformation," says Khorchide. "In Saudi Arabia a misunderstood religion is preached"; also in this country there are "still imams who preach a religion of strict laws," but that has little to do with the essence of Islam. It is also a question of education:

"The God of the Koran describes himself repeatedly as the absolute merciful and kind one. When a man asked the Prophet, 'I want to see God', Muhammad pointed at a beggar and said, 'There you find God.' What have we Muslims made out of this God? God as an avenging judge who needs us in order to be glorified. So we have belittled him."

That's why imams and religious teachers must learn a different understanding of Islam {26}. Islam is not a juridical but a spiritual and ethical message. It is crucial to the understanding of Islam that one distinguishes between the role of Muhammad as a prophet who must proclaim a divine message (monotheism, prayer, the equal dignity of all people, justice, social responsibility), and his later - quite tricky - role as the political head of state (above all in Medina), in which he within the means of that time sought to lay the foundations of a constitutional state for an aggressively quarrelling and fractious society. Islamic scholars who do not distinguish these two sides (his religious message and his political activity) regard all his then temporary legal regulations as timeless, obligatory, divine law, which all Muslims must strive after also today. And this understanding inhibits every thinking about the intention of the texts, which is entirely humane, says Khorchide {27}.

With it he says not at all something revolutionary, because already for a long time the Islamic sciences of the Koran {28} say that the revelations had different "causes" (asbabunnuzul {29}). But we must not simply disregard these reasons.



One must therefore consider the reality of life at that time, the specific circumstances, if one wants to be loyal to the intent of the Divine Revealer and Legislator and not to make it mean the opposite {30}.

What matters in the above described second mainstream and basic position, which finds more and more representatives, is a "humanistic Koranic hermeneutics". It understands the words of the Koran as God's lively appellation to the then addressees, with a profoundly humanizing intention and with some timelessly valid principles, which "are the starting point and framework of every legitimate interpretation of the Koran" {31}. This enables today a reconciliation of Islam with an enlightened but humane modernity and an integration of Muslims in a democratic legal system, and indeed - this is crucial - not anti-Koranic but with the Koran.

The important Maghrebian writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, who lives in Paris and Tangier, writes about the demonstrators (rising against their despots) in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen:

"The people have ignored the Islamist movement and refused to carry out its revolution in the name of Islam. We owe this to the new generation of the Arab and Muslim diaspora around the world. ... The Islamistic discourse is obsolete and no longer functions. ... The people read the Scripture through different glasses: prudent, reasonable and context-related. This is new and revolutionary." {32}


New Signals

On 13 October 2007 - a year after the Regensburg Speech of the Pope - 138 Muslim scholars sent an open letter titled "A Common Word Between Us and You" to Benedict XVI and other church dignitaries {33}. In it the authors from almost all Islamic and some Western countries and from different branches of Islam assume that "Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour." Thus they write:

"In obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love." {34}

In a lecture, the Bonn Islamic scholar Stefan Wild sees here a new kind of Islamic scholar who is distinguished by openness to the dialogue of religions.



However, he says also that a Muslim-Christian dialogue at the highest theological level is of little use as long as the effects are not felt in everyday life, for example in the daily lives of Christian minorities in Muslim countries (which currently more and more disappear, due to the growing pressure). The 138 have nevertheless taken an important step towards a better cooperation. It is necessary to go on in this direction {35}.

The pity is that they have completely ignored the Jews. They are admittedly in numbers a small people, but for Christians there can be no peace in the world, if justice and peace are not granted the Jewish people, too. The two commandments of love of God and love of the neighbour have their origin nowhere else but in the Hebrew Bible, also Jesus of Nazareth has them from there. Jews must not be excluded from the dialogue.

At the end of January 2011, there were two spectacular events in Egypt: On 25 January the uprising against the Mubarak regime started. The day before, something happened that was unkown to the protesters and also in this country hardly known {36}: On 24 January Egyptian Islamic intellectuals (theologians, imams - including the brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood - and professors at Al-Azhar University) presented in the weekly magazine "The Seventh Day" (Yawn al-Sabi) an incredibly revolutionary reform manifesto with 21 points, which wants to modernize the Islamic world and to suppress the fundamentalist influences, e.g. from Saudi Arabia. Some key points of the Manifesto: revision of interpretations of the Koran and the Islamic tradition, revision of the relationships between the sexes, free access of women to all offices, including that of president of the state, the right of Christians to take up all the important offices including that of president of the state, separation of state and religion, separation of the religious discourse from the secular power, emphasis on the similarities of the three monotheist religions [Schriftreligionen], in education emphasis on active religiosity instead of outer appearances (as e.g. headscarf, veil, beard) etc.

For the first time, renowned Islamic scholars have spoken so openly about the reform of Islam. The response was predictable: The magazine received mostly letters condemning the text. It distorted the image of Islam and tried to establish a new religion. This shows that still a long way must be gone, where courage, endurance and strength are needed, until such demands are realised.

But it showed as well: Something is set in motion in the world of Islam. It can no longer simply be eliminated. It is something that Muslims can take up time and again. The spiritual situation in the worlds of Islam is much more pluralistic and eventful as it is widely assumed.



A Global Struggle

Around the globe, in Islam there is today a struggle between two basic positions {37}. On the one hand, the literalists with a large range (from benevolent Orthodox believers over moderate Islamists up to hardliners, Islamists and 'hate preachers' prepared to use violence, who now via Internet call on everybody to fight for the Islamic theocracy and against the infidels as well as against the "soft" Muslims {38}). On the other hand those who are aware of the problems and open-minded, who ask after the meaning of the revelation, they, too, with a large range (from conservative and liberal reformers among theologians, legal scholars and Imams over scientists and writers up to Sufis, who go the thorny mystical path of inner liberation for the infinite God, a path that unlimitedly opens you also for others).

The representatives of this second basic position strive for an opening of the Islam to freedom and pluralism, in loyality to one's own origin and to the fundamental sources of Islam (there shall be no break with them). They stand up for mutual religious tolerance and for the separation of Islam as religion from politics; they call for the rule of law and equal human rights for all people (for atheists as well as Islamists). They practice again a humanistic interpretation of the Koran, which is committed to the use of reason and oriented towards the common good (as in Baghdad of the 9/10 century). They want to develop an authentic self-interpretation of Islam in the context of a secular, pluralistic society, also within the German constitutional order.

The vast majority of Muslims in Germany belongs to this position or sympathizes with it. Negative headlines about actions of small minorities cannot obscure this fact. All Muslims who approve of and respect the current German legal system must get their place in our society and be allowed to live their religion - in the framework of German law. However, criterion for the observance of this law are not some verses in the Koran or the Bible but what the faithful in concrete terms deduce from them in their speeches and actions or simply their concrete talk and action {39}.

When chairs of Islamic theology are now established at universities and Islamic religious lessons (with teachers and imams trained in Germany), it is also about the intellectual framework for the vast majority of Muslims in Germany, who actually long since arrived here but who need helpful answers from the heart of their religion, answers that enable them to say with a clear conscience 'yes' to this state and its legal system also from the perspective of their religion. (One should not forget how difficult this was for a long time also for many people in the Christian churches.)

Worldwide and also in this country within Islam a struggle takes place. It remains open what its results will be in Egypt and elsewhere.



There will always be setbacks, irritations and attacks. They must not discourage us. We are not only observers of this struggle, we are involved in it. The way in which we conduct ourselves influences this struggle; it strengthens the one or the other position. By prudent action and friendly attitude, by maintaining contact on the spot, we can support and strengthen the majority of reasonable, peaceful, open-minded Muslims who say "yes" to the democratic rule of law and stand up for tolerance and a cooperation which is beneficial and advantageous for everybody.



{1} In the following I will concentrate on the aspects of religion. But we must not forget that nobody is only influenced by his religion, but also (and often more) by many other things: culture and social class, family, education and socialization, propaganda spread by the media, internet forums, personal limitations, narrow- or open-mindedness, ability to self-criticism or inability to do so, etc.

{2} What matters for them quite independently of the circumstances prevailing at the time and in general is: Islam is the only way of life recognized by God, "the true and complete religion," God "will give it victory over all other religions" (so or similarly Sure 3,19.110; 5.54 to 56; 9.33; 30.30, 48.28, 61.8 f.). Muhammad's wars (especially for defense and elimination of injustices) are interpreted as a fight against "infidels"; they are also today obligatory, and must be continued as soon as the opportunity is given.

{3} According to the Koran, God has repeatedly sent prophets (including Moses and Jesus) with the same message as then Muhammad. The Old and New Testament was not available to Muhammad. What he knew of it, he had from oral statements by Jews and Christians with whom he came in contact. At first, he thought to proclaim the same message as Jews and Christians. When the Jews of Medina declared that he did not know their Bible and taught errors, he in turn rejected the Holy Scriptures of Jews and Christians as "knowingly falsified" (See Sure 2,75; 3,71.78; 4,46; 5,13.41; 7,165 and others).

{4} Since Jews and Christians have divine revelation - albeit distorted, this doctrine allows in the Islamic dominion the toleration of Jews and Christians as protegees (with religious self-governance, wine and pork consumption), but with inferior, unequal rights (exclusion from state offices, poll tax, and at times also harassments as the transfer and Islamization of the firstborn son, etc.), which leads to creeping Islamization, or, if possible, to emigration (e.g. recently of Jews from Morocco, today of Christians from Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq).

{5} The Islam clinging to the letter (from the orthodox over the moderate Islamists up to the radically militant Islam) has up to this day trouble with dealing with religious freedom and mutual tolerance. Its concept of tolerance comes from a God-given inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims, so that in this country one makes fully use of tolerance and religious freedom, but in Islamic countries tolerance is granted to a highly inadequate degree to members of different religions (seen from the viewpoint of a constitutional state).

{6} See e.g. W. G. Lerch, Denker des Propheten. Die Philosophie des Islam (Düsseldorf 2000); and U. Rudolph, Islamische Philosophie, von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (München 2004).

{7} "The gate of ijtihad "(independent use of reason and independent opinion oriented towards the public welfare when interpreting the sources) was "closed", at least in Sunni Islam. It remained open among the Shiites.



{8} With the death of Averroes 1198 and the burning of his books.

{9} To give a few selected names: in Morocco, Muhammad Abed al-Jabri, the Algerian Mohamed Arkoun, the Egyptian Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid, Hasan Hanafi and Tariq Ramadan; in Tunisia Mohamed Talbi and Hicham Djait; in Lebanon Mahmoud Ayoub; in Syria Muhammad Shahrur; in Pakistan Fazlur Rahman, in India Asghar Ali Engineer; in Indonesia Amin Abdullah and Muna-war-Rahman.

{10} See K. Amirpur, Unterwegs zu einem anderen Islam — Texte iranischer Denker (Freiburg 2009). Also Hamideh Mohagheghi, who in Paderborn works as lecturer in Islamic theology, represents this Shiite tradition.

{11} The new school of theologians in Ankara, which also includes the Islamic theologians Ömer Özsoy and Abdullah Takim who are teaching in Frankfurt/Main, has meanwhile become well-known; Alter Text — neuer Kontext. Koranhermeneutik in der Türkei heute, edited by F. Körner (Freiburg 2006).

{12} Ö. Özsoy, Erneuerungsprobleme zeitgenössischer Muslime u. der Qur'an, in: Alter Text — neuer Kontext (note 11) 16-28; the same, Die Geschichtlichkeit der koranischen Rede u. das Problem der ursprünglichen Bedeutung von geschichtlicher Rede, in the same place 78-98; the same, Die fünf Aspekte der Scharia u. die Menschenrechte, in: Forschung Frankfurt 2008, issue 1, 22-28; the same, Koranhermeneutik im europäischen Kontext, in: HerKorr Spezial 2009/2, 33-38.

{13} M. Khorchide, Auf dem Weg zu einer humanistischen Qur'anhermeneutik, in: Moderne Zugänge zum Islam, edited by H. Mohagheghi and K. v. Stosch (Paderborn 2010) 32-58; the same, Eine Frage der Lesart. Islamische Positionen zum religiösen Pluralismus, in: Konflikt u. Kooperation. Können die Religionen zusammenfinden?, in: HerKorr Spezial 2010/2, 17-20; the same, Der islamische Religionsunterricht zwischen Integration und Parallelgesellschaft: Einstellungen der islamischen Religionslehrerinnen an öffentlichen Schulen (Wiesbaden 2009).

{14} H. Mohagheghi, Gewalt u. Islam, in: Moderne Zugänge zum Islam (note 13) 59-82; the same, Der Mensch u. seine Verantwortung. Überlegungen aus der Perspektive muslimischer Frauen, in the same place 129-147; Was der Koran uns sagt. Für Kinder in einfacher Sprache, edited by the same together with D. Steinwede (Mannheim 2010); the same, Theologie des Herzens — im Gebet Liebe und Nähe Gottes erfahren, in: "Im Namen Gottes ..." — Theologie u. Praxis des Gebets in Christentum u. Islam, edited by H. Schmid, A. Renz u. J. Sperber (Regensburg 2006) 54-70; the same, Menschenrechte u. Islam, in: Internationaler Schutz der Menschenrechte — Stand u. Perspektive im 21. Jahrhundert, edited by S. B. Gareis and G. Geiger (Wuppertal 2009) 161-178.

{15} Özsoy, Die fünf Aspekte der Scharia (note 12) 22, 27.

{16} So e.g. Mohagheghi, Gewalt u. Islam (note 14) 61.

{17} So A. Tabatabai, Tafsire al mizan (= balanced interpretation), volume 2 (Teheran 1977) 87 f., quoted from Mohagheghi, Gewalt u. Islam (note 14) 65.

{18} Mohagheghi, Gewalt u. Islam (note 14) 69, 63.

{19} In the same place 68.

{20} See Khorchide, Auf dem Weg zu einer humanistischen Qur'anhermeneutik (note 13) 50 f.; and Mohagheghi, Der Mensch u . seine Verantwortung (note 14) 129 ff.

{21} Sure 29,46 (likewise 16,125): "And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, "We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him." ." Sure 2,148 (and 5,48): "So race to [all that is] good."

{22} The reason: In the tribal wars and raids, women were often the war booty and became slaves. They should therefore inherit nothing, in order to avoid that tribal property came into the hands of other tribes.

{23} In this respect, Muhammad can be understood as a "liberator of women" (as the title of a Muslim leaflet reads, which is laid out in the Frankfurt Nur-mosque).

{24} Khorchide, Auf dem Weg zu einer humanistischen Qur'anhermeneutik (note 13) 52: parts of Islamic law, as they are formulated in the Koran, however, are not compatible with today's context, if one - as many Islamic legal scholars - slavishly adheres to the wording of the Koran.



{25} See Mohagheghi, Der Mensch u. seine Verantwortung (note 14) 134 ff.

{26} M. Khorchide, Interview im Bielefelder Westfalen-Blatt No. 42, 19./20. 2. 2011: "Centuries ago Christianity faced the same challenge as now Islam." — On Khorchide's Internet pages it says programmatically: "The goal of the professorship is on the one hand the training of teachers of religious education for the denominational Islamic RE, on the other hand the establishment and development of an inner-Islamic discourse of enlightenment, which aims at seeing Islam as spiritual and ethical source, and to understand it as a humanistic, cosmopolitan message that is based on love and mercy."

{27} Khorchide, Auf dem Weg zu einer humanistischen Qur'anhermeneutik (note 13) 44. — About Muhammad's role as political and military leader Mohagheghi says in 'Gewalt u. Islam' (note 14) 70 f.: "It is a historical reality that Muhammad has waged wars, like every other political leader of his time. He was ordered by his people to lead it politically, and this included — in the tribal society of the 7th century — inter alia also to attack caravans, to wage wars and to kill in order to survive. According to the Koranic tradition, his fights are described as necessary measures to remove injustices. They were not primarily used for the spread of Islam or even forced conversion."

{28} The Islamic Koranic studies with their historically localizing the revelations differ from the Western historical-critical Islamic studies with their outside perspective.

{29} Mohagheghi, Gewalt u. Islam (note 14) 66 f. — See about it also S. Wild, "We have sent down to thee the book with the truth". Spatial and temporal implications of the Qur'anic concepts of nuzul, tanzil, and 'inzal, in: The Qur'an as Text, ed. by S. Wild (New York 1996) 137-153.

{30} Khorchide, Auf dem Weg zu einer humanistischen Qur'anhermeneutik (note 13) 39 et al.; likewise Mohagheghi, Özsoy, or the writers mentioned in note 9.

{31} Khorchide, Auf dem Weg zu einer humanistischen Qur'anhermeneutik (note 13) 32.

{32} T. Ben Jelloun, Revolte ohne Islamisten, in: Die Zeit, 7. 4. 2011, 49-50; see the same, Arabischer Frühling. Vom Wiedererlangen der arabischen Würde (Berlin 2011).

{33} The letter is found in:

{34} Plenty of evidence from Islam is given for them, but for the commandment to love one's neighbor there is no evidence from the Koran, only evidence out of the prophetic tradition, and also they actually only speak of the love of neighbors in one's own community. However, the 138 scholars do probably not misrepresent the intention of the Qur'an and Sunnah texts when they universalize them.

{35} In his answer to the driving force behind the 138, the Jordanian Prince Prof. Dr. Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, the pope has accepted the offer of talks.

{36} See the report "Aufstand der Islam-Gelehrten", in: KIRCHE IN. Das internationale, christlich-ökumenische Nachrichtenmagazin (Wien) issue 3/2011, 26-28.

{37} We must not forget that a struggle of conflicting interpretations takes place also in other great religions. Narrow-minded fundamentalists who cling to the letter (and are sometimes prepared to use violence) exist also in Judaism and Christianity.

{38} In Pakistan, for example, not only Christians are murdered but still a lot more Muslims: journalists, lawyers, politicians.

{39} So M. Rohe, Das ist Rechtkulturrelativismus, in: FAZ, 22. 2. 2011, 30. — Mathias Rohe teaches civil law, international private law and comparative law at the University of Erlangen, where he heads the Center for Islam and the Law in Europe. About the compatibility of Islamic law with the pluralistic modernity, see M. Rohe, Das islamische Recht. Geschichte u. Gegenwart (München 2009).


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