Please note: The answers on constitute friendly advice rather than fatwas. Where relevant, we translate the opinions and fatwas of respected scholars and present them in our answers.

Why do Westerners think Islam is not progressive?

Salaam. What motivates the Western to be progressive and thinks that Islam is a religion that does not encourage its follower to be progressive?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Western progressivism is an ideology that has been getting built since the 16th century. While it believes itself to be the opposite of religious unreason and the promoter of rationality and intelligent reasoning, it is actually the other side of the same coin as religious fundamentalism. Rather than humbly admit the limits of human reasoning and show equal respect to all humans, it arrogantly claims to possess some fundamental truth that others do not posses (therefore just like religious fundamentalists, progressives believe that those who disagree with them are mentally deficient, instead of respecting dissenters as equals).

Progressivism is often simply the reflection of an atheist’s anger against their fairy tale ideas about religion and their arrogant belief that they can somehow do things better and more correctly than the hundreds of generations before them. From such a view Islam is not progressive but backward; the very fact that it calls for belief in God can be considered the very opposite of progressivism; progressivism is often the expression of the atheist’s desire to be a god himself/herself. Since progressivism has no standard beyond its self-satisfied trust in human reason and intelligence, it cannot accept any standard that claims to be derived from a higher power (such as God). So anything in Islam that the progressive does not understand or that the progressive thinks is opposed to their own limited idea of what “progress” means is automatically considered backward and superstitious.

Of course this does not apply to everyone who considers themselves a progressive since there is no single definition for what it means to be a progressive. Many things in Islam can be considered highly “progressive”, such as its zakat system which can create a “universal basic income” system when properly implemented.

And God knows best.

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