« Islam Actuel » : The Meaning We Have Chosen
We have chosen to give our institute the name 'Islam Actuel.' Literally, 'actuel' in French means 'current,' 'timely,' or 'today.' Every word, every name triggers positive or negative images and representations. When we ask people: 'What does Islam today mean to you?' we find that minds are often trapped in two big images. The first one, in a part of the French society, influenced by the media's discourse, we see in 'Islam today' the Islam of radicalism and terrorism. The second one, in a part of the French Muslims, we see in 'Islam Actuel' the Islam of the yes-men and yes-women, of the conformists to modernity and of those submissive to power.
In both cases, each scenario represents Islam as if it could only have a negative reality. The imagination is blocked, unable to see Islam expressed and lived in a positive, critical, constructive and universal way.
To choose a name is to choose a direction. What direction do we want to give to the Islam Actuel Institute? What meaning do we want to give to our name, to the word 'timely' or 'current?'
Let us take two common situations to better clarify the meaning of the word 'actuel.' First, we have all been known to ask our single friends, 'So, are you still looking to get married?' Second, we have all looked at job offers while wondering if the company in question was still looking for the profile described.
Through these two examples, we can better understand the meaning behind the word 'actuel' in 'Islam Actuel.' In fact, the meaning is simple to understand: Islam is 'actuel,' always timely, always topical, whatever the context and the times. Islam is a universal path that inspires human societies while taking into account the diversity of cultures, traditions, collective and individual habits.
Because everything changes, the human family needs a stable reference point, a wisdom that helps everyone to find their place in the midst of all these changes, to find out how to participate in the construction of a better and more just world.
In this sense, Islam is a universal Announcement, a Bushra, from Adam to the Prophet Muhammad, through the Prophets Joseph, Moses, Jesus and all the others (peace be upon them all). It is an Announcement that is always timely, until the end of the present life. This Announcement reveals to us a truth about God, about the world, about the meaning of life, about Man, about the meaning of success and happiness in the present life and in the next life.
Islam is the Announcement of a Da'wah, an Invitation for all to enjoy all the beautiful things in life, to exercise one's reason to discern good, to resist injustice and to participate in making the world a better place.
In the face of this conception, some objections persist: 'Yes, but Islam must still adapt to the modern age!'
The truth is that every era, civilization and society has its own fashions, idols, religious and cultural intoxications, political and economic follies. In Nazi Europe, it should have actually been wrong to adapt to the dominant cultural, political and economic order. In the time of colonial France, it should have actually been wrong to adapt to the colonial and industrial order. Today, at the time of the planetary ecological crisis, of global political and economic injustices, of the crisis of French democracy, of the global crisis of Islamic civilization, is it enough for one to simply 'adapt' to the situation, integrate, find a job, eat organic food, say one's prayers, go to the polls and seek personal development in order to be happy in one's own little corner?
In truth, Islam does not invite Humans simply to adapt to their time, to their tradition, to their culture, to the existing political and economic order. Animals must adapt to their environment to survive. But Humans can go further than animals: they must not only adapt to survive but also evaluate their cultural and political environment, exercise their critical judgment, resist any injustice, reform and transform their environment to make it better. This is why Islam will never be simply 'traditional' or 'modern.' Islam is never the parrot of an era, the caravan that blindly follows the choices of a society or a community. The entire value and vocation of Islam is precisely to offer to every era and every tradition, past and present, the means to step back, to re-evaluate its practices, to cure its diseases, to transform all forms of injustice embedded in its culture, religion, education, politics, economy, agriculture, arts and media.
Faithful to this spirit, the Islam Actuel Institute does not work to make Islam a carbon copy of today's fashionable ideas, but on the contrary, to give it back its primary function: to help human beings never to adapt to the diseases of their time, to always strive to exercise critical judgment and to live according to wisdom and justice.
Islam is always timely because an era - whether past or modern - should never be considered as an infallible god that tells us what to do.
Islam is always timely without trying to conform to the idols (religious, political, cultural or intellectual) of a past or modern era, without falling into conformity to the past or the present.
Islam is always timely because it is always critical: it helps every person and every community that wants to look at the world in its truth and try to transform it with wisdom.
Islam is always relevant because it is doubly anti-conformist, doubly critical: critical of the past and the present, critical of 'Us' and the 'Others.'
Islam is always timely: it has something essential to tell us today as it did yesterday.
This is the meaning and the direction that we have chosen for our institute and that we propose to you. To animate the Islam Actuel Institute is, for us, to participate in spreading joy, to form a critical collective intelligence, animated by a sense of wisdom and justice. And this is the best thing we propose to offer to our modern world.