Et forskerteam ved det teologiske fakultet i Ankara har i all stillhet foretatt en revisjon av hadithene – hva Muhammed sa, og brukt moderne kildekritiske metoder. De har renset ut hadither som åpenbart er falske, dvs. lagt til lenge etter Profeten levde, og modernisert utsagn som er forankret i 600-tallets samfunn.
Tyrkia styres av et islamistisk parti, AKP, som springer ut av og bygger på en ny middelklasse. Regjeringen gir religionen større plass, men vil samtidig modernisere islam.
En revisjon basert på kildekritisk metode kan få stor betydning. En reformasjon av islam har vært etterlyst av mange. Koblingen middelklasse og modernitet har vært drivkraft i Vest. Kan Tyrkia vise at et muslimsk land kan få til det samme?
According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam – changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy.
He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam.
«This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation,» he says.
«Not exactly the same, but if you think, it’s changing the theological foundations of [the] religion. «
Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam.
Now, he says, «they are trying to fashion a new Islam.»
Significantly, the «Ankara School» of theologians working on the new Hadith have been using Western critical techniques and philosophy.
Historisk-kritisk metode påviser empirisk at en hadith, et utsagn av Muhammed, er lagt til mange hundre år senere. Men hittil har det vært tabu å bruke vitenskapelig metode på de religiøse tekstene.
The forensic examination of the Hadiths has taken place in Ankara University’s School of Theology.
An adviser to the project, Felix Koerner, says some of the sayings – also known individually as «hadiths» – can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.
«Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim – or pseudo-Muslim – practice of female genital mutilation,» he says.
«You can find messages which say ‘that is what the Prophet ordered us to do’. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition.»
Forskningen kan dokumentere hvordan bestemte grupper eller personer hadde interesse av å få inkorporert sitt syn som en hadith.
The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various – often conservative – cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control.
Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself.
Forskerne bryter også med et innarbeidet prinsipp om at senere uttalelser har forrang fremfor de eldre.
They have also taken an even bolder step – rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones.
«You have to see them as a whole,» says Fadi Hakura.
«You can’t say, for example, that the verses of violence override the verses of peace. This is used a lot in the Middle East, this kind of ideology.
«I cannot impress enough how fundamental [this change] is.»
Størst frihet tar forskerne seg når de sier at visse bestemmelser som er autentiske fra Muhammed, er foreldet fordi de refererer til datidens samfunn.
Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted.
Prof Mehmet Gormez, a senior official in the Department of Religious Affairs and an expert on the Hadith, gives a telling example.
«There are some messages that ban women from travelling for three days or more without their husband’s permission and they are genuine.
«But this isn’t a religious ban. It came about because in the Prophet’s time it simply wasn’t safe for a woman to travel alone like that. But as time has passed, people have made permanent what was only supposed to be a temporary ban for safety reasons.»
The project justifies such bold interference in the 1,400-year-old content of the Hadith by rigorous academic research.
Prof Gormez points out that in another speech, the Prophet said «he longed for the day when a woman might travel long distances alone».
So, he argues, it is clear what the Prophet’s goal was.
BBCs reportasje er velvillig og positiv innstilt. Myndighetene har utdannet 450 kvinnelige religiøse lærere som reiser rundt og forteller kvinnene om sine rettigheter og hva som strider mot islam.
As part of its aggressive programme of renewal, Turkey has given theological training to 450 women, and appointed them as senior imams called «vaizes».
They have been given the task of explaining the original spirit of Islam to remote communities in Turkey’s vast interior.
One of the women, Hulya Koc, looked out over a sea of headscarves at a town meeting in central Turkey and told the women of the equality, justice and human rights guaranteed by an accurate interpretation of the Koran – one guided and confirmed by the revised Hadith.
She says that, at the moment, Islam is being widely used to justify the violent suppression of women.
«There are honour killings,» she explains.
«We hear that some women are being killed when they marry the wrong person or run away with someone they love.
«There’s also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment by uncles and others. This does not exist in Islam… we have to explain that to them.»