November 27, 2007


The Qur'anist Movement (Jamie Glazov, 11/27/2007,

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Thomas Haidon, a Muslim commentator on human rights, counter-terrorism and Islamic affairs. He is active in the Qur'anist movement and works with a number of Islamic reform organisations as an advisor. He has provided guidance to several governments on counter-terrorism issues and his works have been published in legal periodicals, and other media. Mr. Haidon has also provided advice to and worked for United Nations agencies in Sudan and Indonesia.

FP: Tell us about the Qur'an Only movement.

Haidon: The Qur'anic movement is shift back to the Islam of the Qur'an. Qur'anic Muslims follow the words of the Qur'an alone, and reject the so-called traditions of Islam, as these traditions are not revelation. It is a rationalist movement that is based on the principle that the Qur'an provides a comprehensive guide and criterion for Muslims to live by. The Qur'anic movement does not consider the Sunnah and hadith as valid or reliable sources of Islam. This is primary because the Qur'an is the complete source of Islam ("And We have sent down to you the Book explaining all things, a guide, a mercy and glad tidings for those who submit" 16:89). The primary problem with the Muslim tradition is that it is often inconsistent with the Qur'an. Muslims have attempted to resolve these inconsistencies by interpreting the Qur'an through hadith, not the other way around. Put simply, the Qur'an is God's word, the Sunnah is not.

The so-called Sunnah was not written down until approximately 150 years after Muhammad's death. The rightly guided Caliphs fought against codifying the Sunnah out of fear that it would take a life of its own. Muslim jurisprudence has developed a complex approach to determining the veracity reliability of hadith. Early Muslims fought against the transcribing of the hadith, and were able to clearly see the difficulties. Each of the four righly guided Caliph's (Muhammad's companions) were opposed to the transcribing of hadith, regardless of whether they were valid or not. The Sunnah was initially used as a political tool to consolidate the political power of the Abbasids and Ummayids. There is nothing in the Qur'an explicitly requiring Muslims to follow these traditions, only generic verses that Muslim jurisprudence has exploited to serve Islamic rules. A key element of the Qur'anic movement is that it employs a contextual exegetical approach in interpreting the Qur'an. The Qur'an, without contextual and non-literal explanation, can be dangerous (even without reliance on the Sunnah). While many ahadith are innocuous, other ahadith encourage violence, rape and tyranny. Other ahadith (accepted as valid) are simply absurd, such as the ahadith extolling the virtues of camel urine. The Qur'anic approach puts this in perspective.

In my view, the Qur'anic movement provides the only effective mechanism to comprehensive Islamic reform. Importantly, a number of Islamic scholars including Sheikh Ahmed Mansour, Tarek Abdel Hamid, and Edip Yuskel, among others, have developed devastatingly clear arguments in justification of the approach. The Qur'anic movement is also becoming better organized and strategic. Edip Yuskel and other reformers have recently developed and published the "Quran: A Reformist Translation" which provides a contextual interpretation of the Qur'an along with commentary. It also sets out a strategic framework for the reform of Islam, consistent with the Qur'anic approach. The Qur'anic movement is not without its detractors or skeptics. Unlike other reformist approaches, however, the Qur'anic approach is one based in fact and logic. As the movement becomes more organized and develops greater capacity, it will begin to reach traditional Muslims.

It's Islam's turn for protestantization.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 27, 2007 5:02 PM

Just what the folks over there need. Since there are no electric lights nor automobiles mentioned on the Koran, they can sit around in the dark and hitch their camels to little black wagons like the Amish in Lancaster County.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 27, 2007 6:50 PM

there's no society more free of pathology than Amish.

Posted by: oj at November 27, 2007 8:32 PM

OJ - well said.

With respect to the Koran and the "movement", this guy has to address the accuracy (or completeness) of the "original" Koranic text, which was compiled years after Mohammed's death. He may think the Sura is free of problems (unlike the hadiths), but that is an error. Indeed, the most accepted Koranic text(s) were not written in final form until around 1100 AD, about 450 years after Mohammed's death.

And the Koran itself suffers internally from the doctrine of abrogation, whereby Mohammed's later statements (dreams, sermons, pronouncements) replace any earlier words on the subject (that is, they are considered more final). It's difficult to 'reform' anything when I can simply claim that verse X from the autumn of 631 supersedes all previous discussion.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 28, 2007 1:52 AM

Seems to me it's Bin Laden pinning theses on the Saudi's door.

Posted by: Randall Voth at November 28, 2007 5:53 AM

Bin Laden's dead and he lost. Luther won.

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2007 7:11 AM

Christ didn't write the Bible either. No biggie.

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2007 7:16 AM

Well, he didn't have to write it down. He sort of is it, no? You know, the logos and all that.

With respect to bin Laden, the Wahabbis have drawn their lines in the sand. There are tiny examples of theological pushback, but it's difficult when the sand keeps shifting, and when (for many) any struggle at all means death. Someone who posted questions on a university door in Cairo, Riyadh, or Islamabad today needs to have an American visa to catch tonight's flight to JFK.

Posted by: ratbert at November 28, 2007 8:32 AM

When did someone get around to writing it down?

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2007 10:20 AM

Call in and check out our interview tonight at 8PM EST with Dr. Paul L. Williams, author of The Day of Islam at

Posted by: Chuck at November 28, 2007 10:21 AM

Exactly my point, oj -- the reformation is over. The Saudis have won.

Posted by: Randall Voth at November 28, 2007 4:51 PM

They'll have won when they can govern without Wahhabism.

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2007 6:37 PM

Corruption will usually win over time (the Saudis, the Alawites, Egypt), but the other problem for Islam is that the fastest growing (and most numerous) Islamic nations are heavily influenced by tribalism. The Islam of mountainous Pakistan bears little resemblance to the Koran, or to any form of Sunni worship in Mecca. And the Islam of the Philippines is probably more like Elijah Mohammed's Nation of Islam on steroids than anything in Riyadh.

Imagine Calypso Louie without the rule of law (and the sheer weight of numbers) to restrain him. How will that be "reformed"?

In Christian history, the church (Catholic, orthodox Protestant, reformed Baptist) would at least identify heresy, and sometimes attempted to stamp it out altogether. Conversely, Islam seems to thrive on 'heretical' energy. How can that be "reformed"?

As for 'writing it down', when Luke and John basically said - "hey, this is what we experienced from meeting this man, from hearing him speak and from getting to know him, and we want to tell you about it" - I think that means they got around to it. So did Moses, who was told to write it down (see Deut. 32) because he wasn't going to be there forever. And, of course, the prophets spoke directly ("thus saith.....").

Logos can be annoying, but it's the visible expression, now isn't it?

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 28, 2007 7:35 PM

We heretics had a rather easy time Reforming the Church, Judaism, Shinto, etc. Islam's just next.

Posted by: oj at November 28, 2007 11:23 PM