Thursday, March 6, 2008

Turkey Re-examines Hadiths

I'm intrigued by the news (here) that a sizeable group of senior Turkish Clergy and scholars have undertaken a review of the Hadiths. The Hadiths serve as Islam's second-most-important religious text after the Quran - which tradition holds is the direct word of God delivered verbatim to the Prophet Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel. The Hadiths give Islamic scholars insight and direction, through the stories, sayings, proverbs and illucidations they offer. If there is to be any modernization of the ancient faith, it will begin with a re-interpretation and updating of the Hadiths.

It is also of note that Turkey is undertaking this effort. Islam is well-suited to a single political authority, and Turkey was the last Islamic Caliphate. For an extended period of history, including the Ottoman Empire which stretched well into Europe and Asia, Turkey was the sole source of political law and religious influence in the Moslem world. As the article cited above notes (link), this is not the first time the Turks have undertaken such a review. So there is historical precedent for their effort. A good thing. And Turkey has its own motivations, as it seeks to become Europe's newest member. By demonstrating its moderation, Turkey can appease its own secular, hard-line generals; make an important gesture to the European Union; and, set in motion a process that could provide a clear alternative to Muslim extremism.

In doing so, at this moment, the current Turkish leadership - with firm roots in Islamic politics - is playing a powerful card. It is also positioning itself as a far more palatable regional leader than the current Iranian regime. It will be interesting to follow this development, as it has implications for religion, politics, foreign affairs as well as regional peace and stability. It is, however, not something you'll see showcased in the MSM.

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