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October 04, 2003

Voltaire or Luther?

Enter the following into google & google news and you get....

The "Reformation" hits for the news stories often dealt with Irshad Manji's book. But in any case, it seemed that the "Islamic Enlightenment" hits were usually due to the words Islamic & enlightenment being on the same page (though not always), while the phrase "Islamic Reformation" is in pretty wide usage as a duet.

I think that this is interesting in light the following comment by Diana:

However...I find this phenomenon of Islamic freethinkers/apostates/what-have-you's fascinating. It's kind of like what the Jews went thru in the 19th century. Freed from the ghetto and pouring into the universities in one generation. Educated daughters of illiterate mothers. And so on. We are seeing the same thing, but on a more gigantic scale, because there are so many more Muslims.

While I have heard of the Jewish Enlightenment (the Haskalah), I rarely hear of the "Jewish Reformation." Though Hasidism and Reform Judaism might be conceived as "Reform" Jewish traditions[1], it seems that Jews have succumbed to secularism (or been liberated by) to a greater degree than Christians.

This might be the result of the special nature of the Jewish people. But, I would like to note that there are many similarities between traditional Jewish practice & Muslim practice. Jews & Muslims, less Hellenized than Christians, have always emphasized orthopraxy over orthodoxy (right practice rather than right belief). Sharia ~ Halakhah, Halal ~ Kosher, etc. It seems that the popular conceptions of religious change in Islam look to Christianity, but one might find the Jewish experience instructive as well....

More later.

fn1. Lutheranism and many of the Protestant Reformations yearned for a more primitive Christianity, less sullied by pagan accretions, whether in ritual or thought. Sola Scriptura and Justification by Faith alone. Hasidism to me more resembles Pietism and Reform Judaism seems like some of the more de-racinated forms of liberal Protestanism, despite their protests that they look back to pre-Pharisaic Judaism (Reform Jews ~ Christians with curly hair?).

Posted by razib at 07:00 PM

Judaism and Islam are philosophically very similar. When I was in high school I studied Maimonides (possibly the greatest religious Jewish philosopher from around the 14th century)with an Orthodox rabbi. Curious I also read on my own some Islamic philosophers, Averroes and Ibn Ezra who were from around the same era and found (that at least in my unlimited understanding) they were saying pretty much the same thing. Both Islam and Judaism are social religions where you do good works by following the laws of God. Actions are what is most important, motives are less important. At least in Judaism this had the positive impact of making faith much less dogmatic. If you followed the laws you could be an atheist and still be a good Jew (although why you would is beyond me). I have known religious Jews who believed in heaven, others who believed in reincarnation and still others who believed the messiah was going to come tomorrow. Christianity is much different especially Protestantism. For most Christians good works are not enough and cannot redeem you, one can only gain salvation as a gift from God himself.

Posted by: Larry Levin at October 6, 2003 05:18 PM

Just goes to show you how two similar religious ideologies can seem very different - because of the ethnic character of their believers.

"It doesn't matter what you believe, but how you believe it?"

Posted by: Melnorme at October 6, 2003 05:45 PM

Maimonides and Averroes were from the same Al-Andalus background-makes sense they would have congruent thoughts.

Posted by: razib at October 6, 2003 06:17 PM

The first masters and founders of Reform Judaism -
men like the rabbis Samuel Hirsch, Einhorn, Kaufmann Kohler or Samuel´s son Emil Gustav Hirsch came from a German background and they saw themselves as proud heirs of Germany´s intellectual heritage. In their books and articles they emphasized the outstanding importance of German philosophy (especially the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel) for the development of Reform Judaism. Again and again they pointed to the fact that without German philosophical thought there would not have been a Jewish reform movement.

Posted by: Gregor Brand at October 7, 2003 09:51 AM

Is Reform Judaism a special interest of yours? I doubt that many Reform Jews (at least among the laity) know of those rabbis. Out of curiosity, is there a reason you left Isaac Mayer Wise off the list?

Posted by: [email protected] at October 10, 2003 05:10 PM