Islamic Reformation or “Big Crunch”? A Review Essay – By Richard W. Bulliet
Review by Richard W. Bulliet
Khaled Abou El Fadl. The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. New York: Harper Collins, 2005. 308 pages.
Tariq Ramadan. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 272 pages.
Like the physical cosmos, the universe of Islam began with a “big bang” God saying to Muhammad, “Recite!”
The release of religious energy triggered by this command was not as instantaneous as the one that physicists visualize when they model the origin of the physical universe, but it is universally agreed that this moment–or belief in the moment–was one of the most powerful events in history. Conquest and empire followed in almost miraculous fashion, and Islam has since spread through every clime.
The physical big bang started with an undifferentiated singularity but quickly developed an unevenness that led to the formation of stars and galaxies of astonishing variety.
According to some scientists, after eons of time, a “big crunch” will follow the big bang.
Stars and galaxies will lose their heterogeneity and meld their energy in a return to the singularity from which they began.
Then the cycle will start all over again.
This model of diversity expanding from singularity and then contracting again toward renewed singularity may help to illuminate a pattern in the history of Islam that has manifested itself three times in the past and is recurring at the present moment.
It may further help in identifying the positions that some prominent Muslim thinkers have staked out in recent writings.
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