Debating the Faith

In 1985, the Sudanese government executed a theologian named Mahmoud Muhammad Taha for daring to question the Koran. The sages at Al-Azhar University in Egypt had found Taha guilty of apostasy for a thesis he developed in his book, The Second Mission of Islam. Taha argued that the Koran contains two categories of verses: those that the prophet Muhammad recited in Mecca and those recited in Medina. For Taha, the Medina verses, with their emphasis on legal rules, were written in a historical context that no longer exists, so Islam should instead focus on the spiritual and ethical message revealed in...

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