The presence of paper signifies literacy, education, productivity, scientific inquiry, and Islamic scholarship. All of this is synonymous with paper and therefore when Muslims embraced this new technology called paper, the Islamic revolution of thoughts and ideas sparked off.
How the Failure to Adopt the Printing Press Gave Europeans a 300 Year Advantage Over Muslims and Contributed to the Fall of the Last Islamic Caliphate
The presence of paper signifies literacy, education, productivity, scientific inquiry, and Islamic scholarship. All of this is synonymous with paper and therefore when Muslims embraced this new technology called paper, the Islamic revolution of thoughts and ideas sparked off.
The Muslim Ummah was an intellectual powerhouse. At the cutting edge of civilization, admired and respected by the entire world. We reached the peaks of scientific development, literature, arts, and calligraphy.
Now the whole situation has reversed. Why? What happened?
The mindset changed in regards to how Muslims reacted to the then-new technology of paper in comparison to how Muslims reacted to the printing press 1000 years later is key in understanding what happened. But before we address the question of how and why the Muslims rose to global power, the reason for their fall can be answered generically due to two causes: spiritual and worldly.
They rose to power due to their Eman (faith) and because they embraced the technology around them. Then they failed due to their lack of Eman and failure to keep up with the times. In our times we have two groups of intellectuals – usually the religious class on one side and the progressive/more academically inclined on the other. Both try to analyse the rise and fall only by one of these two aspects.
Usually, when you hear the Imam preaching from the minbar he will quote the verse in the Qur’an: “God does not change the condition of a people until they change themselves” – in other words, “All we have to do is to be better Muslims”. If we are better Muslims and we have more faith and God-consciousness and come to the mosque, we will rise up again.
However, I beg to differ and say that’s one of the two causes.
On the other extreme, we have those who are generally not that religiously inclined. They don’t emphasize the Qur’an, faith, God-consciousness, and praying at night and instead say “we rose because we led the world in secular worldly knowledge”. We had the Golden Age and we discovered this and that and we charted out the skies (we named the stars etc).
They cite this whole intellectual history and the Golden Age for them is Andalusia where all the cultures mixed and scientific achievements reached their zenith. They say that when the Muslims stopped this and turned their back on civilization the decline began. For them, faith and spirituality barely matter.
I again differ with them also and the easiest way to differ with them is to point to the generation of the Sahaba RA (companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ ). The Sahaba RA conquered more land than any future generations yet they were technologically the least in comparison to later generations. Civilizationaly, they hadn’t reached that pinnacle that Andalusia reached later. Yet because of their faith and their willingness to engage with the modernity of their time and adapt accordingly, they did manage to thrive.
I don’t want to emphasize the religious side because I do that often. Even though I fully agree in viewing that side as more important in terms of understanding the decline of the Muslim Ummah. Muslims’ inquisitiveness and their embrace of the modernity of their time was an important factor. The shutting of that door, their close-mindedness to change became a cause of their failure as well.
Let’s now discuss and compare the rise and the proliferation of paper and what the Muslims did with that invention/technology and compare it with how they reacted to the printing press.
Let us begin by talking about paper. It’s a substance that we can not imagine our lives without, we write on it and print on it. Paper was invented by the Chinese in around 100CE, but the Chinese only used it for very specific purposes. They didn’t realise the full utility and potential of paper.
They used it for things like fanciful artwork, and they didn’t use it for bureaucracy. It didn’t become a staple usage of the Chinese empire. So the Chinese kept it a trade secret and did not proliferate it. In fact, they had guilds set up, where whoever wanted to learn the art of papermaking had to join a guild. So it didn’t become public knowledge. It was a private enterprise and remained so for the next 300 – 400 years.
Up until that time, the things people used to write on were rocks, stones, bones, and papyrus. Papyrus had been invented by the Egyptians and was common in Mesopotamia. In Arabia when the Quran came down from God, papyrus was very difficult to get a hold of so the primary materials used were leaves from date palms.
They also used large shoulder bones and the leather of camels. The problem with using leather and things made out of leaves was fear of decomposition and size. That’s why we have copies of the Quran written on leather from that time (first 50 – 70 years) and it’s almost as big as a table – big in width and length.
So because the earliest copies of the Quran were written in parchment and leather hardly any copies of this period have come down to us in their entirety from the first 50 years of the hijrah because of decomposition. We have bits and pieces, parchments, and fragments, but we hardly have a complete Quran.
Another major importance of paper is that paper absorbs ink far more deeply and in a better way than leather. All they had to do when they wanted to reuse the leather back then was to put it in water for a few hours or a day and then take it out, let it dry and they could then reuse the leather all over again.
So when did the Muslims first come across paper? They did so after the battle with the Chinese forces in 751CE, the early Abbasid period. This battle was very insignificant politically (it was more of a skirmish) than a full-blown battle, but it changed the entire course of humanity afterward because of the discovery of paper.
The battle is known as the “Battle of Talas” in 751CE. It took place in what is now known as Kyrgyzstan. In this battle, the Muslims took prisoners of war from the Chinese Tan Dynasty. They discovered that two of the prisoners of war were from this secret Chinese guild of paper manufacturers.
The Muslims had of course seen paper in China (it was used openly) and now that they found out that these two prisoners of war knew how to make paper they sent these prisoners of war under armed guard back to the Khilafah in Baghdad. VIP treatment!
The Caliph decides that instead of collecting any ransom money for their freedom they prefer that the Chinese prisoners teach them the art of papermaking. They agreed that once that is done they will be set free.
We find here a willingness to acquire knowledge from non-Muslims and then implement it. The Abbasid Caliph just like the Prophet ﷺ centuries before understood the importance of knowledge. In the Battle of Badr when the Prophet ﷺ had prisoners of war that could read and write he also asked the prisoners to teach 10 kids to read and write instead of receiving ransom money for their release.
So that’s what happened – and slowly but surely paper began to spread in Baghdad and then in Samarkand and began to surpass papyrus and other materials. We hardly have any remains of ancient manuscripts in papyrus because it erodes away. We have fragments of the Muwatta of Imam Malik RH and the Seerah of Ibn Hisham on papyrus pages here and there (in Europe) certain fragments, but we don’t have a single ancient book in papyrus.
With the advent of paper, this changes. During 754 – 775 during the reign of Al Mansur (one of the early Abbasid Caliphs), he decreed that the entire bureaucracy should change from papyrus to paper.
So they began to use paper for all government transactions and business dealings. Therefore in around 770, the entire Muslim lands began transcribing taxes, quotas, and everything to do with the government on paper. Therefore Muslims needed to manufacture their own paper and for this very purpose, the first paper manufacturing plant was first set up in Samarkand and then in Baghdad. So that’s the first paper manufacturing plant outside of China.
Paper Takes the Islamic World
It is said that Caliph Harun al-Rashid was one of those who popularised paper. At that time it was called ‘Kagad’ from the Persian ‘Kagaz’ (the same in Urdu) and this Persian word comes from the ancient Chinese word for paper.
It is said that the Muslims understood the significance of paper way more deeply than the Chinese. Paper revolutionised knowledge completely.
One of the first people to point this out was Ibn Khaldun – the first social historian and the first person to analyse the rise and fall of nations from a sociological perspective. Ibn Khaldun wrote: ”Thus paper was introduced for government documents and diplomas and then afterward people used sheets of papers for scholarly writings. The manufacturing of paper reached a considerable degree of excellence”.
So what is paper? Paper is an engine for intellectual change, social change, and artistic change. The presence of paper signifies literacy, education, productivity, scientific inquiry, and Islamic scholarship. All of this is synonymous with paper and therefore when Muslims embraced this new technology called paper, the Islamic revolution of thoughts and ideas sparked off.
Muslims began doing many things with this new technology. Writing books, translating the books of the ancient Greeks – all this led to the initial Islamic renaissance, the flourishing of sciences. An interesting side point is that there were many different types of paper that began to emerge, depending on who patronised the manufacturers. So there was Suleimani paper, Ahmadi paper, and Noorani paper for example.
When Muslims acquired this paper-making knowledge from the Chinese they did two things. Firstly they developed a new process from the Chinese way of manufacturing and as stated earlier, produced different types of paper. So the Muslims took the technology of making paper to a whole new level. They proliferated paper throughout the Muslim lands. The Chinese hadn’t done that, their manufacturing was still very primitive, secretive, and elitist. The Muslims made it popular in an entire region.
Another thing the Muslims did was invent bookbinding. When the Muslims had papyrus instead of paper what they did was scroll the papyrus up so they could store them. The Chinese would also do that with their paper and put it in a box. So the Muslims decided to stack sheets of paper together and start binding from the side. Never before had paper been bound by the side. A stack of papers is known as a ream (that’s why Uthman’s Quran was known as a Mus’haf because it was a collection of paper and not bound).
The word ream comes from the Arabic word “rizmah” which means bundle. Once they had made the ream the Muslims invented the cover. So the modern notion of a book was developed in Muslim lands when paper flourished. In other words, the structure of a book was something that the Muslims developed.
In fact when they developed this binding and the hardcover they also began to write the name of the book on the side. So just to reiterate when you see the modern structure of the book today this is a Muslim invention.
The Spread of Paper from Muslim Lands
So look at how at this stage the Muslim minds are just abuzz. They are willing to embrace change. They are embracing a technology that was not theirs, they made it better and then improved the world because of it.
The Western world at this time has no clue what paper is, they are in the Dark Ages. Eventually, paper is introduced to the West and it’s introduced in a few different ways. The first intro comes during the crusades in 1096.
There are around 9 crusades – the first one was when they conquered Jerusalem and this is one of the first introductions between Europe and the Muslim lands. This was before globalisation, the average person then was born and died in the same city that their parents were born into. People didn’t really travel within this time, they are within their own little spheres.
In this crusade, the Europeans came across paper, as they see Muslims have books, scientific achievements, and are learning on paper. So they bring paper back to Europe but they don’t know how to make it. During the Reconquista in Al Andalus, the Europeans always spared a few families that knew the trades. One of the trades was paper making.
In Sicily (which was under Muslim rule for 200 years) which had a far more pronounced influence on the medieval European mind, Roger I reconquered Sicily from the Muslims. Roger was more sympathetic than his Spanish counterparts and kept a lot of the Muslim ministers – plus he introduced many changes that have a direct influence on the European renaissance and reformation. Among these influences was the introduction of paper.
So paper was introduced to Europe from different places (Spain, Sicily). The first paper mills of Europe are in Andalusia and Sicily. Then from Sicily, it spread to Italy and from there took this technology from the Muslims and like every smart civilization and intellectual culture they adopted it, tinkered with it, and improved upon it.
In Italy, they introduced a type of manufacturing procedure that was unknown to Muslims – primarily because they took advantage of the many rivers and water tributaries that they had to introduce water mills. This allowed the Europeans to make much better quality paper than the Muslims.
Slowly but surely the Europeans began to make thinner, more durable higher quality paper than the Muslims. The tide had shifted. By the beginning of the 14th-century paper is being exported to Muslim lands from Europe. So the Europeans did what the Muslims did before. They found a new technology, adopted it, and used their God-given intellect to make it better.
Another thing Europeans did was put a watermark on paper. Even now if you buy any fancy paper you will notice a watermark. This was introduced in Italy in the 13th century. This means that any paper produced in Europe after 1300 has a watermark. Therefore we can track from where paper originates from within Europe – the year, batch, and manufacturing plant that produced the paper.
By 1400 we find that more and more Islamic books are being written in European paper. At Yale university for example (they have a lot of Islamic manuscripts) you can put the paper up to a light and see the date and place where the paper was made. By 1600-1700 all quality paper comes from Europe while the Muslim manufacturing mills had almost all collapsed.
This was an indication of what was about to happen. There’s a beautiful copy of the Qur’an written in around 1340 or so and the whole Qur’an is written on Italian paper because it was the best paper around. Unfortunately, this Qur’an has a Christian cross watermark on it because it comes from a Catholic country and manufacturer.
By the 15th century, almost all manuscripts in Muslim lands are written in European paper and by the 16th century, the art of papermaking almost disappears from Muslim lands due to there not being any point in continuing given that Europe had a superior product.
With the mass proliferation of paper in Europe Johannes Gutenberg with his business partner, who was a paper manufacturing owner, invented the modern printing press.
With this new technology, they were able to mass-produce a book over and over again. It made the printing press one of the most important discoveries for mankind alongside the wheel. It is impossible to imagine the success of the printing press without paper. Imagine if you had to still use leather, it’s too thick and finicky and you cant print ink on it the same way – plus too expensive to mass-produce.
Within a few decades of Gutenberg’s printing press invention, there is an explosion of printing presses all over Europe. By the turn of the century, 300 European cities have printing presses and by the late 1500s, 20 million copies of books had been sold.
Bear in mind that this is in a civilization that 100 years prior didn’t know how to read and write. This is a civilization where at a point in time the Catholic Church would kill you if you owned a science book.
With the coming of the printing press everything changes – what’s going to happen when you can spread a science book, a work of ethics, a work on philosophy…what’s going to happen when you can mass produce books and distribute knowledge?
The population becomes what? More and more educated, and more and more inquiring minds are fostered.
The Printing Press is now Unwelcome in Muslim Lands
Around this time (16th century) Columbus ‘discovered’ America and within a generation of Columbus arriving printing presses were established in Mexico City and in other North American regions.
What’s happening in the Muslim world in this same time frame? The decline has already begun and now the closing of the mind happens. The printing press was invented in 1436, and it’s already all over Europe and even in Mexico.
Within 20 years the Muslims began hearing about this new invention and they see copies of these books that just appear magically and miraculously. Once upon a time what did the Muslims do with new inventions? They embraced them, adopted them, and made it better. However now the tide has changed the Muslim psyche, and the Muslim mindset is undergoing its own devolution.
When the Muslims first came across the printing press the first thing they did was to ban it and in 1485 the Ottoman Caliph Sultan Bayazid II declared (all the scholars supported him in this) the printing press to be haram.
He said it was not allowed to import the printing press into Muslim lands. He even prohibited books that were printed in Europe to be imported into Ottoman lands. Surely this is a strange fatwa that would be reversed in 10 – 12 years? Right? Unfortunately, it continued for much much longer.
In 1515 one of his descendants Sultan Salim I, at a time the printing press is becoming even more powerful when 20 million books had been sold in Europe, issues a decree that anybody who is caught with a printing press in any Ottoman land shall be executed. The penalty is death.
In 1492 because of the fall of Granada, there was a huge influx of Jews into Ottoman lands and it was they who petitioned the Sultan for printing presses. They describe that they had printing presses in Andalusia and want them in Ottoman lands too. The Sultan agreed but only for them, in their language for their people and they were prohibited from selling to the Muslims.
So the Jews and then later the Christians got private printing presses that they used to educate their people. It’s not a coincidence that in Ottoman lands the most educated class were Jews and Christians. The doctors, engineers, and physicians were almost always Christians.
This is unlike 500 years prior when Ibn Sina was ruling the world of medicine. Now things are changing and the average Jew or Christian is upper middle class because they have the education and scientific background that is being deprived to Muslims.
It’s because of this ban that the first Qur’an printed in Arabic was not printed in Muslim lands. The first Qur’ans ever printed were printed by non-Muslims for non-Muslims because the Muslims refused to get involved in printing presses. The first printed copy of the Qur’an was in 1537 in Venice, Italy.
Italy is the bastion of the Renaissance mainly because of the Muslim influence on Italy. Dante’s Devine Comedy – which is really the spark that sparked the Renaissance – is basically adopted from the “Al-Isra’ wal-Mi’raj: The Story of the Miraculous Night Journey” in Islam.
Many other things have been shown to have a direct impact from Muslims on the European Renaissance. To be more accurate the Europeans took these kernels from the Muslims and allowed these kernels to grown and flourish. It’s not fair to say that the Muslims are completely responsible for the Renaissance but it’s true to say they sparked it and then the Europeans took it to the next level.
In 1980 a private copy of the first Qur’an printed in 1537 was discovered. Prior to this people thought that all such copies had been destroyed. The 2nd Qur’an to be printed was in 1694 in Hamburg by a Jew (there are still copies of this in Germany). The 3rd is in Russia yet Muslims still didn’t want anything to do with the printing press.
So as we said the Jews and Christians established printed presses in Ottoman lands by 1520-1540 but they were not in the language of the people. They were not in scholarly Turkish (Ottoman Turkish) but only in the local dialects of the Jews and Christians.
So when was the printing press finally introduced in Muslim lands for the use of Muslims? Some Muslim intellectuals and Muslim scholars were trying to get the printing press introduced. Perhaps the most famous of these was a diplomat and Hungarian convert to Islam by the name of Ibrahim Muteferrika. In 1720 he was a high-ranking minister in the Ottoman Empire.
He petitions the Grand Mufti for a printing press. This is 300 years after Gutenberg had invented it. Finally, the Grand Mufti is being respectfully told to wake up and smell the coffee (something that was also initially banned when it first emerged in Muslim lands but that’s another story for another day).
So Ibrahim writes a book that is called “The Usefulness of Printing” (Vesiletü’t-tibaʿa). He writes it by hand because he is not allowed by law to use a printing press. He hands it to the Grand Mufti and he adds in this book that one of the reasons why Europe is catching up is due to the printing press and the dissemination of knowledge to the masses.
In fact, the Europeans by 1720 had already caught up and surpassed the Ottomans. However the Ottomans were still blinded, but hindsight is 20/20 so it’s easy for us to say this now but in 1720 the Ottomans still thought they were going to win. So Ibrahim tells the Grand Mufti that the reason why we Muslims are in decline is due to not having the printing press. The Grand Mufti agrees to introduce a printing press in Ottoman lands but under three conditions.
The conditions: 1) Nothing in Arabic, 2) Nothing to do with Islam (you were not allowed to print books on Islam but secular sciences and history was fine) no tafsir, no Islamic history, no hadith books, and 3) A government-approved list of books, where control is completely in the hands of the Government. They didn’t want anybody to just have free inquiry they wanted to approve the books cover to cover. At least even with these three draconian conditions the first printing press is established.
The Emergence of the Printing Press (Again)
So in 1726 a full fat 300 years after Gutenberg’s invention is when finally the printing press is allowed in Muslim lands for secular books – but not in Arabic (the scholarly language) and cannot be about religion.
By the time the printing press is introduced to Arab lands far away places like Tahiti already have full up and ready printing presses. There are printing presses in Hawaii before Damascus and Cairo. Understand this point that the Muslim psyche of the time is completely shut off.
So when was the prohibition lifted? In 1798 when Napoleon invades Egypt, the beginning of European colonialism, this is the beginning of modernity for the Muslim world. The Mamluk Dynasty is still functioning when Napoleon invades. A 700-year-old dynasty that had defeated the Mongols.
The Mamluks were still living in a bubble and they tried to oppose Napoleon’s forces with bows and arrows (they have a few old guns but nothing resembling a modern arsenal). Napoleon’s forces took over Egypt in a week or two.
On the ships that he came in to invade Egypt, he brought a printing press. So when he conquered Egypt his printing press is established and it becomes the very first free printing (without government conditions) in Muslim lands.
That is sad but that is the reality. When Napoleon leaves Egypt eventually (the details of which are another chapter for another day) he actually leaves the printing press there. So the Muslims of Egypt broke away from the Ottoman Empire which is left to Muhammad Ali Pasha. One of the reasons why Egypt then becomes one of the pioneers of the Muslim world is due to the printing press, alongside Muhammad Ali Pasha’s reforms towards modernisation.
The very first Islamic printing press that is established is in around 1870 or so and it is called the Bulaq Printing Press. Until this day some scholars say that the Bulaq books are some of the best books ever printed even though they are old and the printing press types are ancient, but they are the most authentic and scholarly.
Why? Because the people in charge were not businessmen. They were actual scholars so they edited ancient manuscripts and made the best editions of Sahih Bukhari, Fath al-Bari, Ibn Kathir, etc.
The introduction of the printing press into Muslim lands, however, was too late. 40 – 50 years after this, after World War I the Ottoman Empire is essentially made symbolic. Within six years Atatürk comes and he even abolishes the symbolic Caliphate.
All of this is not coincidental. The rise and the eventual decline of paper and then the printing press is symptomatic and gives us an indication of the rise and fall of the Ummah.
The Decline of Paper and the Decline of the Ummah
So why did the Muslims oppose the printing press for so long? Why was there this shift of mindset if you compare how the Ummah was keen to adopt paper technology and compare it to its aversion to the printing press?
There are some small practical and economic reasons. From among the economic reasons the secretaries and the book scribes are obviously going to lose their jobs so they petitioned against the printing press. It is also said that Arabic is a complex script so to have letters that are all merging together would be difficult.
Plus they viewed it as undignified for the Qur’an and Islamic books to be printed with a printing press. This is because for them the whole concept of a Muslim scribe doing tahara/wudhu/ablutions before sitting down and writing the Quran by hand and subsequently getting hasanat (rewards from God) for every letter he writes was important, it was special.
We are used to it now but they viewed the printing press as something that made you lose your adab/manners towards the sacred, with this idea of just clicking a button or flicking a switch and the machine starts pounding away. In other words, it felt sacrilegious to them. This is to their credit that they felt this way about having manners with sacred knowledge.
Another reason why the printing press was opposed was that it was assumed that this was a technology of the kafirs. This is a fact, the Muslims became so arrogant and so proud when they ruled the world that when something came to them from outside of their lands they said no. They became deluded by their own accomplishments that they shut themselves to external accomplishments.
Scholars were also worried that if this “kafir” invention were to be used freely and openly it would dilute Islamic scholarship because everyone will start reading and then we will have what we in today’s day and age refer to as Mufti Wikipedia and Shaykh Google (to use modern parlance). What will become of the scholars when any layperson can access scholarly works? The printing press signified a power struggle in other words.
They had this concern that they wanted to keep the ijazah system. What is the ijazah system? It’s when you get permission to teach Islamic books by other older more knowledgeable scholars. So if a scholar has Sahih al Bukhari (a book compiling narrations about The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) if you want to learn about it you have to come to a scholar and he will teach you face to face and you can copy his copy of Sahih al Bukhari and recite it to him.
Then if you pass the test you can get authorised by that scholar to go ahead and teach Bukhari to others. This makes sense if you want to keep scholarships high. However, let’s fast forward to our times. We have Shaykh Wikepia and Mufti Google and we have plenty of people whose Islamic education comes from the internet/online but let me be frank with you. If you have not studied abroad can you tell the difference between a real scholar and a Mufti Wikipedia scholar?
The truth is most people can, some cannot and do get bamboozled but somebody who has even basic knowledge can instantaneously tell the difference between a quack and a real Alim/Scholar. It is difficult for some but not impossible. My point here is if the scholars had adopted the printing press and then had incorporated it into their ijazah system they could have had their cake and eaten it too. They could have incorporated the best of both worlds but by shutting themselves off completely – what happened?
By 1800 the average Muslim had not read a printed book, because there was still the penalty of death by law, but by 1800 the average European had. Some people have said that if they had to blame the decline of the Muslim Ummah for one reason it would be the printing press. There is truth to this because with the printing press comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power.
Every type of power – economic, political, religious, the printing press – was so strong it destroyed the Catholic Church. It split Christianity into two. It’s not a coincidence that Martin Luther had a printing press and he printed his own Bible.
The Renaissance and the Reformation, the two main things that formed the modern world, both of these events in history are linked to the printing press. So with the printing press comes power and this power shook the foundations of Europe and made it a whole new world as it is now.
The Sahaba (may God be pleased with all of them) in terms of Eeman were at the pinnacle of exemplary faith – however not in worldly education terms, civilization areas of judgment, of architecture, literature, etc. The Sahaba and Tabiun had a different understanding but they were open-minded and willing to embrace and adopt.
When they conquered lands they had no problems adapting to the local practices. For the first 50 years of Islam, all of the Government documents were printed in local languages by scribes that were not Muslims because the Sahaba understood that they didn’t know how to run an Empire.
They conquered the Byzantine and Sassanids but they didn’t know how to rule over 100 square miles plus of land. They recognised their limitations and they embraced change. Many of the famous viziers of the early Umayyads and Abbasids were non-Muslims and they did not have a problem with that. It was only in the late Umayyad time that they made Arabic the national language and made their own currency.
Before this, the Sahaba had no problem adopting Roman currency, Persian currency, and adopting Roman practices when it had nothing to do with the realm of religion. This is the inquisitiveness and open-mindedness that I’m talking about. They see paper, they see how useful it is, they adopt it and make it better and change the world.
Then 1000 years later the printing press comes along and Muslims negate to use it partly due to it being an “invention of the kuffar”. We are still suffering from this type of mentality. Alhamdulilah things are changing though. Muslims are more open-minded (sometimes too open-minded).
We have two extremes. One extreme is to be so narrow-minded in the religion as to avoid any type of change whatsoever. To this day there are mosques that do not let women in their prayer spaces because mosques back home don’t allow women. The other extreme is the progressive extreme. To them everything goes, whatever public society says should also be part of Islam according to their mentality. No gender segregation and decorum at all, same-sex marriages, whatever is popular should also be made into Islam.
As usual, the truth is in the middle. Many of our scholars are not open-minded enough and many of our open-minded Muslim intellectuals are not scholarly enough. So there is a huge clash and tension between these two ranks of people. Scholars who are open-minded should lead the change, they should tell us where the lines are to be drawn.
Understand the limitations of the clergy class and the Muslim intellectuals and progressives. Realise that Allah sent this religion down to be applied in every time, place, and location. He allowed for some change to occur and had He not allowed for that change, Islam would never have spread as successfully as it did.
This article was republished with the author’s permission. The original post can be found here.