As believers, we must look to God’s diversity in all things, and we must accept that this diversity of God’s creation is boundless. As human beings, we are not required to accept the limitations of generation-after-generation thinking–it quickly binds our hands and smothers our free will.
We live in a time when traditional (taqlidi) thinking dominates the Muslim World. Although these traditional thinking systems are diverse in their own ways, as there are many kinds of Muslims, the general attitude is the same. That is, it is theological thinking more inclined to tradition rather than thinking contemporarily.
Following Islamic cultural traditions is quite okay; however, to follow these traditions to the detriment of improving our lives today is not okay. Some of the cultural traditions are not religious in origin, but based on the habits of various cultures of that time. We should not blindly follow in mimicry the orthodox reasoning and rites current religious mythology depends.
God’s messenger, Prophet Mohammad, came as the “seal” of the Prophets. In adoration, worldwide, some Muslims believe this exactitude of physical performance is appropriate to show religious piety. In actuality, if the symbolism is not fully understood, it can easily become misplaced adoration of the Messenger and turning away from worshiping God. We need only look to the Quran and the story of Abraham to understand how humans can make associations with God.
God created all human beings to have variation in our outer appearance and in our inner dimensions. This variation appears on so many different levels, we should not think of ourselves as people to be “molded-into-shape”. Furthermore, Muslims must understand and learn to appreciate that God did not want all human behavior to emulate some pristine image of Prophet Mohammad–particularly one that is not representative in his true image as a human being, who lived a life like most humans, but who was also our Messenger and Prophet.
Being God’s vicegerents refers to the People of the Book. As believers, we must look to God’s diversity in all things, and we must accept that this diversity of God’s creation is boundless. As human beings, we are not required to accept the limitations of generation-after-generation thinking–it quickly binds our hands and smothers our free will. Believers of God in earlier centuries had to push beyond the accepted limitations of their knowledge of their times. It was their ability to dream and think, use their free will, personal initiative and drive to improve their lives. As our knowledge of our world has grown and expanded in depth and breadth, our knowledge today is improving our lives and also transforming our thinking as we reform Islam for today.
Reform has been consistent since the beginning of the nascent Muslim community in Mecca, and over the whole time of revelations, more adjusts and reforms were instituted in Medina during the Prophet’s time. Even after the Prophet’s death, the community continued to transform over and over again throughout its history. Thus, it is inevitable, every believer learns to accept changes that improves the quality of living, whether individually and collectively. We should not be fearful that some do not agree that reform is necessary. We must remain cognizant and acknowledge that multiple changes that come with each new tomorrow will also amaze and dazzle–a process that will continue until the end of times.
Daayiee Abdullah is the Executive Director of MECCA Institute, a progressive Islamic institute with a think tank and a school.