In my post on traditionalist vs. reformist Islam, Sara posted an interesting comment:
Whether these people are anyhow influenced by Western ideas or accused of being so is another question, but many of them have traditional Islamic schooling.
She was referring to “modernist” scholars such as Nasr Abu Zayd, Fatima Mernissi, and Abdolkarim Soroush. This question is something that has fascinated me for a long time.
When looking at scholars such as those mentioned above, Khaled Abou El-Fadl, Amina Wadud, Layla Ahmed, and other reformists, it is interesting to note that they are rejected by many Muslims for being too “Western” in their education and approach. However, upon closer scrutiny, it becomes clear that most of them have had a traditional Islamic training, including Arabic language, Qur’anic tafseer, hadith methodology, grammar, etc. Abou El-Fadl and Wadud, for example, both studied at al-Azhar, yet are often accused of having a purely Western education. What is also interesting is that they often use the same methodology as the ‘ulama but are still criticized.
The only difference I can see is that they come to different conclusions, even though they are using the same sources, techniques and methodology. So what makes their conclusions less authoritative than those of the ‘ulama?