Can Islam be reformed?
This question has arisen often enough for it to merit examination. The short answer is ‘no’. Changing already long-established doctrine within Islam is strictly prohibited.
My intention is to provide an essential overview using authentic Islamic sources to provide a platform to understand why, and further educate yourself, not exhaust the subject.
Quran 5:3 “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.”
It would seem contradictory to reform what is deemed perfect. Reform is a crime in Islam, in that it may contravene Sharia Law. To quote highly regarded Islamic scholars in the Hadith:
– The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Every innovation is misguidance and going astray” Reported by Abu Daawood (no. 4607), at-Tirmidhee (no. 2676)
– And he (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) also said: “… and every innovation is misguidance and all misguidance is in the Hellfire.” Reported by an-Nasaa’ee (1/224) from Jaabir bin Abdullaah and it is saheeh as declared by Shaikh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah in Majmoo’ ul-Fataawaa (3/58)
To quote from the highly respected and authoritative manual of Sharia Law, The Reliance of the Traveller:
Reliance B7.2: Scholarly Consensus Is Legally Binding (see B7.1 for definition of ‘Consensus’)
When the four necessary integrals of consensus exist, the ruling agreed upon is an authoritative part of Sacred Law that is obligatory to obey and not lawful to disobey. Nor can mujtahids of a succeeding era make the thing an object of new ijtihadm because the ruling on it, verified by scholarly consensus, is an absolute legal ruling which does not admit of being contravened or annulled.
It is not possible within Islam to redefine what has been codified in law, since the the previous definitions and conclusions within Islam have eternal legislative authority, as indicated by the following:
“Imaam al-Shatibee in his excellent work, al-I’tisaam, has provided the most comprehensive, concise and definitive legislative definition of al-bid’ah.”
The common name for the desire to introduce change or reinterpret Islam is Bid’ah (innovation), which means ‘a newly invented matter’.