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30 January 2011


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Patrick Lang


"Usama bin Laden," and "Ayman al Thawahiri" The "The" in the later name is usually pronounced "Z" for ease of speech. Actually the name would properly be pronounced "ayman ath-thawahiri." No capital letters in Arabic and "al" the article is pronounced as a mimic of the first letter of the described word is a "solar letter." Abu Sinan or someone will explain that. pl

FB Ali


Yes, in my view the top leaders of al Qaeda are political Islamists. All of their followers are Islamists, but many of them are of the religious variety.

Adam L Silverman

ChrisE and M: I have no disagreement regarding the Protestant notion of going back to the book and I believe I referenced it in regards to Luther. That said, ad fontes really means back to the fountain or source, and in the case of various attempts to reform Islam should, if one is going to apply the concepts, be considered in light of going back to the sources of Islamic thought, theology, and dogma, which in a lot of ways is what's really happened with some of the back to basics/fundamentalist movements within Protestantism in the US.

ChrisE: as i indicated at the end of the post - this framework or conceptualization is something that occassionally bounces around in my brain when someone, in this case GregB, asked this question. Its certainly not fully researched or vetted, so if you've got either Protestant thinkers or periods of Protestant development that you think would be better examplars for comparison or contrast, please let me know.

Adam L Silverman

COL Lang: I'm tracking on the Mutazili period as well as the fitnah, and several of these other periods of reform. Moreover, I'm quite familiar with the fact that there were at various times up to 19 Sunni madhabs/schools of jurispredence and in many ways each of those, including the four surviving ones, can be seen as their own mini or meso level reform. To be perfectly honest this post is the first time I put this idea down on paper, so to speak, in any real way, and I'm not sure if it will actually hold up to further examination. One of the reasons that I did it was that GregB's question gave me a chance to organize my thinking on it and place it somewhere where I knew it would get informed and constructive criticism. Comparatively there may really not be reform or revitalization cycle to the growth of monotheistic religions and I'm just seeing a false pattern or a very superficial one, but I don't think, should the trend that I think are there,be borne out that it becomes an either or: so that the micro and meso level reforms somehow prevent the much larger, almost systemic attempts at reform from happening. Additionally, and to condense some response: I'm fully tracking on both the nuance and flexibility that the concept of ijma/consensus brings to Islam, but I think that this both encourages variation and attempts at reform and at crucial or crisis point might actually promote larger scale reform or revitalization attempts.

Adam L Silverman

JohnH: Your point about use of the term reformation does make a lot of sense, though I would argue that just because there isn't an institutional hierarchy to reform, doesn't mean there aren't other things that can not be reformed. As for the Sunni/Shi'a distinction - I didn't tackle that because I'm still trying to think my way around the issue of how the major sectarian distinction in regard to theology, dogma, and practice would fit into or not fit into this type of explanatory schema. Not to mention that the explanatory schema may not really have any utility when all is said and done.


thanks, FBAli; and thanks Col. Lang, you think I should learn Arabic? I'll think about it.

Also thanks to Adam Silverman, good he warned us of the images/cartoons, and better still he introduced you Rodney Blackhirst.

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