Addressing a large audience at the Montreal conference of the American Academy of Religion—attended by RW—Tariq Ramadan (Oxford University) summarized his message of the need for a radical reform within Islam while remaining faithful to the sacred text.
According to the influential Swiss Muslim thinker, this will be made possible by contextualization. Indeed, not only the text, but also the context can become a source of religious law, since there are issues on which the text is silent. But over time, more importance has been given to scholars of the text, a situation that today needs to be redressed. At the same time, Ramadan warns that those who deny the text will not be able to change anything. Ramadan emphasized that there are different types of reform.
A reform that just adapts to a new environment would be misguided, since the call of religion is not to adapt to the status quo, but to aspire to transform the world. Thus a transformational reform is needed that would not transform Islam itself, but rather Muslim minds and interpretations. The experience of Muslims in the West will have a tremendous impact, but Western observers should not ignore vibrant debates currently taking place in non-Western Muslim societies. Such a transformational reform requires an ability to project into the future. And the complexity of science makes it impossible for just one person to give an answer on all possible topics. Currently, according to Ramadan, the best results have been reached in the field of medical science.
In countries such as Kuwait, interaction between religious scholars and medical experts have resulted in fatwas (religious edicts) that deal with issues such as cloning or contraception. In contrast, until now, in the field of the economy or ecology, Ramadan finds results to be unconvincing: regarding the economy, Muslims have only been following global trends, he says, being satisfied, for instance, with just creating a small window of religiously permissible financial practices within the wider global economic system.