Charles Hirschkind discusses at length the politicization of the Qu’ran in his essay “Hearing Cultures”. He describes this history of the Islamic document, which for a long time was delivered in sermons which emphasized solely the message of the Qu’ran and not the manner in which he sermon was given. The aesthetic beauty of the words themselves was said to be such that the message would be clearly received by all who were pure of heart; the act of reception was to be performed by the listener, and failure to receive the message was characteristic of an impure heart. That, however, has changed in modern times, as the Egyptian government has introduced politics and modern ideology into the realm of religion. Sermons are monitored by the state as they attempt to change the message of sermons and repurpose them. This change in purpose has been accompanied by a change in duty on the part of the listener. Now the successful delivering of a message depends just as much on the speaker as it does on the listener; failure to give the right message in the best way will result in a failed sermon, in contrast with the previous responsibility falling entirely on the shoulders of the listener.
This transformation is no doubt a large change; the question is, is this change for the better or worse? While I was reading the article, it struck me as a perversion of the Qu’ran, and I wrote off the modernization as solely a bad thing and a political change. It seems like a perversion of the Qu’ran and a deterioration of the purity of Islam. However, it occurred to me in reflection that there are arguably some benefits to this change. One proponent of the change mentions that those who refuse to modernize their sermons are stuck in outdated ideologies, and he specifically mentions the idea that women need to cover up their skin as one of these ideologies. There may be something to be said for a progressive movement that puts certain countries more in line with more widely accepted viewpoints in the world today. While the movement seems like it’s violating the sanctity of the religion, it’s entirely possible that it could keep the main beliefs and tenets of Islam while inspiring some relatively progressive ideas in its followers. This progressive movement may be a bad thing to some people even if it doesn’t come at the expense of the religion, but to those who support it, they may believe certain traditions of the sermon to be a worthy price to pay for ideological advances. I’m still not sure how I feel about the movement, and I don’t support such heavy involvement by the state in religion, but with more thought on the matter, I believe it’s not as unequivocally bad as it had initially struck me to be.
Hirschkind, Charles. Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening, and Modernity. New York: n.p., 2004. 136. Print.