The writer's original title was "The Modernist Re-Formulation of Islam" but I modified it for the sake of precision. Re-formist fools who flatter themselves with modernism and call the Hadith and Fiqhbound Muslim masses and Ulema 'traditionists,' 'priests,' 'brahmans,' 'pharisees,' 'mullahs,' or even unamerican (!!) continue to miss the point that they themselves are intellectually and morally non-Muslim, if only they were not drastically ignorant to begin with.
Hajj Gibril ©--
(*) While the Sunnis and Shi`i do differ over what orthodoxy is, both do agree that there is such a thing as orthodoxy and heterodoxy.
While orthodox methodology, creed, and law have superficial importance for the non-Muslims (because their goal is to remove from Islam all aspects feared or presumed incompatible with Western philosophy and economics - so authenticity is of no consequence), they are central to the preservation and application of Islam.
Unfortunately, many of the modern re-formulation movements abandon orthodox methodology, which leads to abandoning orthodox creed and law.
One of the components of "re-formulation" has been to abandon hadith. An extreme argument calls for abandoning hadith on the pretext that the hadith corpus is of questionable authenticity. They never bring up anything that the scholars of hadith have not themselves mentioned and answered centuries ago. What these hadith deniers fail to realize is that their arguments concerning hadith apply to all transmitted knowledge: Prophetic narrations, historical accounts, language, poetry, and even the Qur'an itself.
A less extreme form of hadith denial exists in those who accept hadiths in principle, but feel free to arbitrarily select and reject individual hadiths. Rejection here returns to the hadith contents, not problems within chains of transmission. The latter is the method of those who use evidence to arrive at conclusions; the former is the method of those who use prejudices to arrive at evidence - a notion totally at odds with all forms of scholarship.
Whereas the extreme version is hadith rejection in principle on grounds that the mechanism cannot produce acceptable answers, the less extreme version leads to hadith rejection in practice on the grounds that the mechanism produces answers that are not acceptable to their prejudices.
In addition to abandoning hadith, many of the modern re-formulation movements abandon the traditional methodology for examining, interpreting and working with evidence, and what qualifications and requisite knowledge one must have in order to do so.
One of the principles of this detailed methodology is that before making any judgment, one must do one's best to take into account all evidence one a given matter. These principles do not include that one mention only the evidence supporting their case, initially ignoring - and if caught: dismissing - any and all conflicting evidence.
These re-formers begin with one assumption that the previous generations had an incorrect or partial understanding of things. To this they add a second: That they will not fall prey to the same.
Evidence for the first assumption include hadiths concerning strife and trials: that each subsequent generation is inferior, that Islam will fragment into sects, that some Muslims will fall into the ways of the Pharisees before them, and others. This assumption of theirs ignores the fact that there will always be a group of Muslims who remain steadfast on the pure Shari`a and that there are scholars in each generation who will renew the Shari`a.
When they do acknowledge this evidence, they claim that that they are the ones who are steadfast on the Shari`a, that they are the renew-ers of the faith mentioned above, and that they are the ones to usher back "the stranger" announced in the hadiths that just as Islam came as a stranger, some day it will return as a stranger. Perhaps they fail to realize that their understanding of the Shari`a is incompatible with the understanding passed through the Prophet ﷺ (God bless him and give him peace), though his Companions (God be pleased with them on and all), through the next generation, and so on - so they cannot renew that which they know not; and that their claim of ushering in "the stranger" is wishful thinking and pure arrogance.
As for their second assumption, that they somehow will not fall prey to what they accuse of their predecessors: There is no evidence to support them in this. Indeed, the evidence they cite against the previous generations of scholars more appropriately applies to them, and with greater weight.
For more information on the topic, see `Abd al-Hakim Murad's excellent article Understanding the Four Madhhabs: The Problem of Anti-Madhhabism.
And God knows best, and He alone grants success.
[18 Jun 2003]