The idea of Islamic reformation has entertained many intellectuals in Iran recently. After 25 years of Islamic rule over an essentially Muslim country, there seems to be a need for change, and to many the aim of this change is not the government, nor is it the people nor even the economic system, but the religion as a whole.
Reformation and revision have been with Islam since the very beginning; In fact reform has accompanied every religion and in all cases has always mirrored political and cultural environment more or less closely. As a motivation for a discussion on religious reformation, allow me to present a short (and possibly shortcoming) review of reformation in Islam, based on my own perception of it of course.
Even in the early days of Islam, when everything could be blessed with God's direct verdict (through his prophet Mohammad), the details of Islam were subject to change even on a daily basis. This has been recorded in Qur'an in many places, such as the laws against alcohol, the direction of qibleh*, the definition of "infidels" or cases for war against them. After interruption of their source of divine inspiration, Muslims in general revised and modified many parts of Islam; They mostly added to it but also changed parts of it. They also created their own interpretations of it. This includes schisms such as Shi'ite and Sunni, or those within them. This basically reflects the fact that different people had different view of things that were not so explicitly scripted in Qur'an, and they had enough influence (read "power") to embed their views in a new version (read "reading") of Islam.
The differences were not all on theological ideas (as Islam is not only about theology) but on moral and political ideas as well. In fact, muslims started discussions of morality and politics based on their religion as early as the Prophet left them. The literature on these subjects is so rich that even in the period of its first 300 years it has provided more than half of what is now being taught as Islamic Theology in seminaries and universities in the Muslim world. Islam was the religion of change and evolution for 700 years.
After the Mongol invasion and the fall of the Abassid Empire, the unity of the Muslim world collapsed to the emergence of nation states like Ottoman Empire and Muslim Persia. This was also the end of a glorious period of dialogue and reform among different sects and schools; After that everyone simply took their own version of Islam home with them and the interactions stopped. In the meantime Islamic schools shrunk their window to dissent and modern science and alternative philosophies, and then they froze completely...
This held until the beginning of the 20th century and the decline of the European colonization of Asia when nations seeking independence started to use their religious identity as means of resistance and change in their struggles for progress. This was the beginning of a new reform era. A reform movement that after surviving the amazing and numerous turns of the twentieth century is still lively and demanding.
The nature of this reform and the need and justification for it (if at all) will be the topic of a series of post and discussions on the subject of religious reformation that I hope to continue.