Our Islamic Jurisprudence insitutions here do in fact have exceptions to the rule...a graduate from their classes can end up being a progressive, creative, intelligent thinker...but maybe that has less to do with studying here than it has to do with further studies at Yale, Princeton and U.Penn...I am talking about Khaled Abou El Fadl...Law professor at UCLA...He was at one point on the path to becoming a militant...fortunately his father and a religious scholar/Imam saved him, and we are the luckier for it.
He has written several terrific books...One called Conference of the Books which is a poetic inspiring journal written over the span of a few years...the chapters are short and beautiful to read and he covers topics such as Islamic history, marriage, prejudice, extremism, love and just about anything you can think of...and he does all this with an open heart and a sense of the complexity and wonder that comes with this life we all live.
Another one is Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women...The title pretty much says it all..and again it is well written and you can't help but be impressed with how obvious it is in his writing that he is kind and fair in the way he approaches anything and anyone.
"Besides influencing the theological discourse, Abou el Fadl is also considered one of the world's leading Muslim feminists; he rejects all puritanical requirements such as the wearing of veils by women."The Wahabis' claims about women reflect their preferences and are not based on classical sources. There are no textual sources that say that the government can force women to wear a veil," says Abou el Fadl. For example, the Wahabis expect women to obey their husbands blindly. "For me, that is idolatry; it makes demi-gods of men," says Abou el Fadl."
Not only are all his works banned in Saudi Arabia, the professor of Islamic law has for years been receiving death threats from Wahabi activists.
Be that as it may, it does not stop him criticising Wahabism: "Wahabism is despotism. There is never any mention of love; music, art, everything human, beautiful, and delicate is banned. Wahabism is a harsh theology; as hard, Arabic, and hostile as the desert itself."
Taken from Qantara
Khaled Abou El Fadl's UCLA Faculty web site.
Further Reading on progressive Islam:
Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism Edited by Omid Safi
Liberal Islam Ed. by Charles Kurzman
Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam: Essential Writings of Abdolkarim Soroush
Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective Amina Wadud
Women in the Qur'An, Traditions, and Interpretation Barbara Stowasser
Islam's new voices see faith with critical eye Scholars, activists favor democracy, gender equality
Quote from Conference of the Books:
It is Jum'a and the Imam rambles on and on. The topic is as unclear as the grammar. A boundless web of familiar terms and phrases are woven, but they all dissipate the second they leave the Khatib's mouth. The endless rhetoric stupefies the intellect and puts one in a trance-like state. The numbed brain yearns for signs of life but like a drug, rhetoric is addictive. It induces a state of intellectual paralysis that is as ugly and comfortable as death. Once one is accustomed to this state of dullness, any vibrant or critical thought is bound to cause a profound state of disturbance.Weeks ago, a young man gave a simple but beautiful Khutba. Someone in town had issued a fatwa that it is more important to memorize and learn to recite the Quran than it is to understand it. The young man wondered, how is it possible to search the Divine Will and to obey God if one does not understand God's speech? The most surprising aspect, and a rare quality in the culture of sermons, was that he spoke meticulous English and Arabic.And now you find yourself in this town again. You ask about the young man and you are told that "There are issues, brother." What issues? you inquire. "He does not fulfill the qualifications, brother; his appearance is not Islamic." How so? you ask. "He does not wear a beard, he tucks his shirt in, and, in addition, he is not married."
... The imam giving the khutba blows his nose and you awaken for a moment. You notice his watch and you wonder if that is part of a proper Islamic appearance? Absurdity begets absurdity and you find yourself wondering: how about buttons on a shirt or socks on feet? How about eyeglasses, underwear, zippers, velcro, tennis shoes, sneakers, jeans, pantyhose, brassieres, ties, raincoats, gloves or earmuffs? Which of these, if any, are consistent with a proper Islamic appearance? How do we generate a systematic way of distinguishing between an untucked shirt and other items? Well, at least in the case of the brassiere, Shaykh Bin Baz issued a fatwa saying a woman may not wear it if the purpose is to commit fraud. Fraud is never a good thing. But what if a man wears a shirt larger than his size to conceal the fact that he is overweight? Yet the illal (legal operative causes) of fraud are very different than those that pertain to an Islamic appearance. The analysis must be consistent, systematic and coherent. I suddenly remembered that a month ago an imam in the same mosque led Jum'a with his shirt tucked in. But he was married. Perhaps married imams may tuck their shirts in and unmarried imams may not. Perhaps the distinction is that ...I felt the intellectual rigor mortis that follows insanity setting in; I felt the Conference distant and fading away. I was dying before reaching the end of the bridge. Blissfully, the call to prayer started, and a breath of life seeped in again.They got their married imam with his beard and untucked shirt. They got their imam with the numbing rhetoric and incomprehensible broken English. But what they perpetuated is intellectual death. (taken from the site Scholar Of The House)