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Daniel Pipes is too optimistic about the possibility that a moderate Islam can evolve

Reader comment on item: Are Muslims Fatalists?

Submitted by traeh (United States), Oct 10, 2015 at 04:46

Daniel Pipes as I understand him believes that some day a moderate Islam might evolve. He compares Islam to Christianity and Judaism, noting that Christianity and Judaism have changed greatly over the centuries. Why then should not Islam eventually evolve as well toward a moderate stance?

Does Daniel Pipes believe that any ideology is equally capable of evolution? Does he believe that some ideologies have minimal capacities for evolution? Is it not true that some ideologies have such rigid core doctrines that they cannot evolve, but only dominate or shatter?

Perhaps it is not absolutely impossible that even Islam could one day evolve -- but the more interesting question is how likely is that, by comparison with other worldviews such as those of Christianity and Judaism. It would be interesting to see an attempt at a sort of rough comparative quantification of the likelihood, say on a scale of 1 to 10.

I suggest that the core teachings of Judaism and Christianity give far more scope for evolution, and have for more flexibility, and always have, than Islam ever has. Judaism and Christianity were never totalitarian doctrines to anything like the extent that Islam has been.

And it seems to me that Daniel Pipes' view suggests that he takes an almost post-modern view of the scope for interpretation -- that a text sets no limits on how one can interpret it, that it is infinitely elastic, and says whatever people choose to make it say. If that's what he believes, it surely is an error. Yes, there is some elasticity to texts -- and in vaguer texts moreso than in more literal texts -- and Islamic core texts permit some variation in interpretation -- but at the same time, Islamic texts are not infinitely elastic. They tend to channel most interpretations of adherents along a broadly consistent course based on the fairly clear meaning of the core doctrine.

I know Daniel Pipes is a historian, but I prefer the interpretation of Islam given by another historian, Daniel Boorstin, who compared Islam to Christianity and Judaism and did not find, as Pipes seems to do, that the religions are almost entirely relative to a historical period, or have little or no stable essence encoded in sacred core texts.

Boorstin (in a short chapter in The Creators) finds Judaism and Christianity profoundly different from Islam in several core doctrines. The Islamic God is conceived primarily as a commander, who did not need to rest after creating the world, because he merely had to order things to Be, and they were. He did not need to do any creative work. The Judeo-Christian God commands as well, but the emphasis there is much less on mere fiat, and much more on the actual active work of creating. The Jew and Christian furthermore according to the Bible were meant to imitate their God's creativity, to be fruitful and multiply -- whereas for a Muslim, to create is a rash and dangerous act - as only Allah can create. The Muslim is conceived as a slave or servant of Allah, who has no children. Whereas the Jew and Christian conceive themselves as children of God the Father. The Qur'an says that nothing is made in the image of Allah, that there is nothing like him. Jews and Christians are made in the likeness of God. The prime exemplar of Christianity said "my kingdom is not of this world," and "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," and from the very beginning of Christianity, Christians however confusedly, have tended to assume two realms, and gradually that evolved into the explicit distinction between religion and state. By contrast, Islam's chief exemplar BECAME Caesar, more precisely, the ruler of a theocratic state.

Daniel Pipes sometimes seems to think such tremendous differences of core doctrine are of little moment when considering potentials of Islam to evolve. Totalitarian core assumptions do not mean that it is absolutely impossible for Islam to evolve beyond such beginnings -- but for Pipes to point to changes in Judaism and Christianity as proof that Islam can be expected to evolve, is to treat as small what are in fact huge and probably unbridgeable differences between totalitarianism and non-totalitarianism assumptions. Islam cannot evolve, it can only dominate or be shattered. And when it shatters, what emerges will not be something that has evolved from Islam. To speak of evolution there must be sufficient continuity between one stage and another. But when something shatters, what comes next is something essentially different.


Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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Reader comments (33) on this item

Title Commenter Date Thread
1Daniel Pipes is too optimistic about the possibility that a moderate Islam can evolve [755 words]traehOct 10, 2015 04:46225548
Israel should send troops to arrest Abbas for inciting violence. He is not above the law [396 words]YJ DraimanOct 9, 2015 02:42225525
Theological or sociological? [101 words]Jason POct 3, 2015 08:04225431
Muslims are fatalist [76 words]imdad AliOct 2, 2015 05:17225419
What about Islamic terrorists? [60 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
AnonSep 27, 2015 17:53225380
Allah,s wish [44 words]ashokSep 26, 2015 03:35225370
1Islam and Israel [17 words]PezDispenserSep 24, 2015 12:59225350
Islamic activism [77 words]VijaySep 22, 2015 10:07225324
A recommended article in the Times of India [139 words]PrashantSep 20, 2015 15:22225291
Saying 'It was willed by God' does not make you a fatalist [62 words]PrashantSep 19, 2015 00:38225112
Predestination is an idea. . . [22 words]Elisha benAbuyaSep 18, 2015 21:33225111
Fatalism and God's Will [34 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Michael E KatzSep 18, 2015 13:22225104
1الرافعات سقطت or The cranes crashed (fell) and 9/11 [87 words]dhimmi no moreSep 18, 2015 12:40225101
al-Qada' wa al-Qadr is not everybodys' business [84 words]Ibnu AbeehiOct 5, 2015 10:25225101
1Guiding the perplexed [243 words]dhimmi no moreOct 6, 2015 07:57225101
The Inescapable [197 words]Pied PiperSep 18, 2015 02:42225086
Predestination in Christianity vs. Islam [594 words]Michael SSep 19, 2015 00:42225086
2al-Qada' wa al-Qadr [102 words]dhimmi no moreSep 22, 2015 09:10225086
3SUBMIT, inshallah akhbar! [75 words]Uncle VladdiSep 18, 2015 01:26225085
2Islam is only the fatalistic idolatrous excuse of predetermined might-makes-right [1194 words]Uncle VladdiSep 18, 2015 01:13225084
Misinterpreted verse [44 words]DajjalSep 18, 2015 19:57225084
"Muslim fatalism" in Auschwitz [81 words]Peter SuedfeldSep 17, 2015 20:21225083
possible explanation [115 words]VijaySep 20, 2015 13:03225083
Are Muslims and Westerners really different from each other? [1850 words]Michael SSep 17, 2015 16:31225082
2Judeo-Christianity teaches self-reliant free-will and personal guilt, while islam only teaches alibi-excuses. [432 words]Uncle VladdiSep 18, 2015 17:43225082
different bible [245 words]Michael SSep 22, 2015 17:37225082
Can't say [59 words]MIchael SSep 24, 2015 05:17225082
Educational Update [110 words]Uncle VladdiSep 25, 2015 19:14225082
King Judah and Muslim v Westerner fatalistic attitudes [215 words]JoeRuOct 1, 2015 18:09225082
Fascinating Info, but Message not entirely clear [177 words]Ron ThompsonSep 17, 2015 15:57225081
A very different example [108 words]VijaySep 17, 2015 14:07225079
They Are Not The First [171 words]Barry BlackSep 17, 2015 14:05225078
Man is a devil. [30 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
steven LSep 17, 2015 13:50225077

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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