The Unrecognizable Islam of Reza Aslan

In a piece written for CNN (mainly to plug his upcoming television series, Believer), Reza Aslan, self-anointed scholar of Islam, writes on Why I Am A Muslim. What’s most amusing about Aslan is that I can find nothing recognizable about his Islam. It’s not that it’s totally foreign, it’s more that it’s totally absent.

The first curiosity is his almost complete lack of discourse about the Prophet. More akin to a deist, Aslan talks at length about God but is awkwardly silent about the man that God revealed the codified form of Islam we know, as espoused in the Qur’an. Why is that? It seems Aslan, and those pundits like him, seem more comfortable endulging their flights of fancy about this or that abstract or esoteric theological point versus dealing with “the Walking Qur’an”: the man who was not only the recipient of Revelation, but who aslo clarified its meanings, etc. Instead, the Prophet seems to be — as far as Aslan is concerned — a mere envelope, as it were, in relation to revelation which Aslan does not, by his own account, believe the Qur’an to be true in its entirety (he rejects the story of Jesus in the Qur’an where he was not crucified let alone his outright rejection of all hadith as made up). So the question that begs answering is: By what standard is Reza Aslan Muslim? It seems rather that it’s an Islam which requires nothing of the believer other than what happens to stir his (or her) desires. Oddly enough this is the same metric by which the likes of Aslan will condone homosexuality as a lawful identity and pursuit but will in turn impugn a Muslim man for wanting to take another wife (polygyny), which is clearly outlined in the Qur’an as permissible, even if he wanted to do so only for passions or identity (heterosexual).

Unfortunately Aslan will lead many astray — Muslims in their faith and non-Muslims in their understanding of what Islam is and what Muslims stand for — if they take him as authentic and representative, applauded by many in leadership positions within the Muslim community who themselves harbor deep resentments towards religious authority, though they, like Aslan, secretly wish to supplant it with their own authority.

Clarifying Points

I clarify and expand on some points in this short piece here in the following podcast: #MiddleGroundPodcast – An Islam Without Boundaries – Is It Still Islam?