UTCP Lecture on Understandin Islam #8: “No god but God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam”.

6 April, 2009 Understanding Islam

   On March 16th 2009, the eighth lecture on understanding Islam was held in cooperation with the Research and Educational Project for Middle East and Islamic Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.


    In the lecture, Prof. Reza Aslan (University of California, Riverside) talked with the title of “No god but God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam”.
   According to him, the authority of the ulamas (Islamic legal scholars) , who have monopolized the right to interpretation of Islam for the last fourteen centuries, has been undermined through the progress of literacy, spread of education, widespread access to new ideas and theories, and also mass migration from muslim countries into the west. Now, the authority to define Islam has been passing out of their hands into the hands of other muslim individuals. Prof. Aslan called the phenomenon as “individualization of Islam”. And also he pointed out that it is similar to the Reformation in Christianity.


   In the above-mentioned process, a new type of individuals without getting traditional education has come to gain influential power over muslims by showing them new and highly individualized interpretation of Islam. Prof. Aslan referred Osama bin Ladin and Amr Khaled, a famous Egyptian TV preacher as typical figures. On Bin Ladin, Prof. Aslan emphasized that Bin Ladin has gained support among the young muslims who, born in the western countries, have few or no Arabic language skills, and are dissatisfied with the traditional interpretation of islam by ulamas.

   Recently, severe competitions occur among those who propose new interpretations of Islam to gain support among muslims, primarily in the virtual world. According to Prof. Aslan, they are inevitable and necessary ones to promote the reformation in Islam. Not all these competitions should be criticized even if some are accompanied by violence.

   As concluding remarks, he criticized that the victories of islamist groups in the recent election held in some Middle Eastern countries, were rejected by the sitting governments and international community. He argued that they should be included in domestic political process to promote political, social and religious development in Middle Eastern countries.


   After his lecture, we have discussions about the role of “faith” when Muslims accept a new interpretation of Islam, the reason why Prof. Aslan focused on Bin Ladin, and the charasteristics of competitions in the most of Middle Eastern countries in which the specific interpretation is supported by the sitting government. Prof. Aslan shared the same perspective about the social and intellectual transformation in Muslim society which Prof. Clark B. Lombardi presented at the last lecture of the same series. We have deepened our understanding about Islam by two impressive lectures.


Reported by Satoshi KATSUNUMA

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