Religion and Spirituality

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Turkey Seeks to Modernize Islamic Texts

March 10, 2008 01:04 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs has asked a team of scholars to update portions of the Hadith, Islam’s second-most sacred text after the Quran.

30-Second Summary

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The Diyanet, the governmental body charged with funding and running Turkey’s mosques and religious instruction, is having a group of professors at the University of Ankara make the 1,400-year-old hadith texts more palatable to modern Turkey.

The Hadith provides the finer details of much of Islamic law, and is used by Muslims to interpret the Quran. It consists of thousands of descriptions of the Prophet Muhammad’s daily life.

Supporters of Turkey’s move say that many interpretations of Hadith passages, referred to individually as hadiths, have been colored by politics and used to defend human rights abuses, such as so-called “honor killings.” The term honor killing generally describes the murder of a woman by relatives who deem her behavior to have compromised the family reputation.

Hülya Koc, a “vaize,” or female imam, told the BBC how the Hadith has been used to condone “violence against women within families, including sexual harassment by uncles and others. This does not exist in Islam.”

Turkish columnist Mustafa Akyol writes that although Muslims deny any supposed imperfection in religious texts, “a believer can well accept that there are problems in the ‘cultural baggage’ of Islam—and time has come to deal with them.”

Nonetheless, the Diyanet is cautious in its description of the undertaking, writing on its Web site that it is not “reform,” “revision” or “revolution,” but that “the main aim of the Presidency of Religious Affairs is to revitalize the message of the Prophet … and offer this blessed tenets to humanity in the most accurate way.”

Religion remains a divisive issue in Turkey. The country’s secularists fear that the current Islamist-leaning government is trying to usher religion into the public sphere.

Headline Link: ‘Turkey in Radical Revision of Islamic Texts’

Background: The schools of Hadith and Turkish secularism

Reactions: Explanations of the project

Historical Context: Turkey’s secularist history

Related Topics: American Muslims look for modern religious interpretations

Opinion & Analysis: Religion and modernity, a Turkish dilemma

Reference: Hadith texts

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