Radical Reform Islamic Ethics and Liberation By Tariq Ramadan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. 372 pages.)

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John Andrew Morrow



Tariq Ramadan’s latest book, Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation,
consists of sixteen chapters divided into four major sections: “On
Reform,” “ClassicalApproaches of the Fundamentals of Law and Jurisprudence,”
“For a New Geography of the Sources of Law and Jurisprudence,”
and “Case Studies.”
The author commences by criticizing the process of ijtihad as it currently
exists. Although it made things progress for centuries, he finds that
ijtihad is highly inadequate, has not resolved the crises faced by Muslims,
and has not produced the expected renewal. As far as taqlid is concerned,
Ramadan argues that imitating past scholars makes Muslims believe that
they can avoid today’s challenges by taking refuge in the past. Ijtihad, he
believes, has always been behind the times, simply seeking to interpret
Islamic law in light of new changes and developments in society. He is critical
of literalist, traditionalist, conservative, and culturally based interpretations
of Islam. Arab culture, he points out, is not Islam’s sole culture. Thus
if Islam is truly a universal religion, it must provide its followers with the
means to approach cultural diversity.
The author provides an intelligent criticism of Salafism, which confuses
eternal principals with historical models and thereby reduces Islam’s universality
to the dream of an impossible return to the past and an irresponsible
“nostalgia of origins.”As he points out, many Salafi reductionists cannot distinguish
between religion and culture and therefore view diversity and sociocultural
evolution as religious innovations. Not only is he critical of most
traditional approaches to ijtihad, he is critical of virtually every Islamic
movement when it comes to their methods of implementing Islamic law ...

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