Turkey presents Prophet's sayings for the 21st Century

Wed May 22, 2013 12:56pm EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

ANKARA (Reuters) - Scholars around the Muslim world were alarmed five years ago by news reports that Turkey planned a new, possibly heretical compilation of the Prophet Mohammad's sayings that might scrap those it thought were out of date.

Turkish religious leaders and theologians received anxious calls asking about Western media reports they would edit a "radical" new set of hadiths, scriptures that are second only to the Koran in Islam.

"Will you write a new Koran next?" one irate Arab scholar asked a baffled Turkish academic.

The new work, finally ready after six years in the making, is nothing like the 95 Theses in which Martin Luther condemned practices in the Roman Catholic Church and launched the Protestant Reformation.

Instead, its 100 authors have selected a few hundred of the about 17,000 reported quotes from Mohammad to examine Islamic views on God, faith and life in terms that the average modern Turk can understand.

"We don't live in the 20th century anymore," said Mehmet Ozafsar, director of the project and vice-president of Ankara's Religious Affairs Directorate, or Diyanet, a state agency.

"We needed a new work with Islamic beliefs in the perspective of today's culture."

The hadiths record Mohammad's words and acts during his life. Preachers and jurists use them to understand the Koran and support Muslim teachings and fatwas (religious edicts) on all aspects of life, from prayer to education for women.   Continued...

The new seven-volume encyclopaedia of hadiths is pictured at the library of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate in Ankara May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas