One must be realistic about Islam
The Sharia or Islamic Law is based on four principles: The Koran; the sunna of the Prophet, which is incorporated in the recognized traditions ( hadith ); the consensus (ijma) of the scholars of the orthodox community ; and the method of reasoning by analogy (qiyas).
Many liberal Muslims ( if that is not a contradiction in terms) get excited by ijma, sensing that somehow therein lies their only hope of modernising Islam. However, historically, the notion of consensus (ijma) has nothing democratic about it ; the masses are expressly excluded. It is the consensus of suitably qualified and learned authorities. The doctrine of the infallibility of the consensus, far from allowing some liberty of reasoning as one might have expected, worked in favour of a progressive narrowing and hardening of doctrine.
By the beginning of 900 C.E., Islamic Law became rigidly fixed because Muslim scholars felt that all essential questions had been thoroughly discussed and finally settled, and a consensus gradually established itself to the effect that henceforth no one might be deemed to have the necessary qualifications for independent reasoning in law, and that all future activity would have to be confined to the explanation, application, and, at most, interpretation of the doctrine as it had been laid down once and for all. This closing of the gate of independent reasoning, in effect, meant the unquestioning acceptance of the doctrines of established schools and authorities. Islamic Law became increasingly rigid and set in its final mould.
Liberal Muslims think they are more liberated than their “fundamentalist” cousins because they (the Liberal Muslims) believe that by some creative re-interpretation of the Koran they will thereby bring the Koran, albeit screaming and kicking, into the 21st Century. First, it does not seem to strike these misguided liberal Muslims that they are still prisoners to an obscure, incoherent, bizarre mediaeval text, a curious amalgam of Talmudic Judaism, apocryphal Christianity and pagan superstitions (especially in the rites and rituals of the Hajj), full of barbarisms. They have not cut their umbilical cords, and are still trying to make sense of an often senseless text, more than a thousand years old. Second this desire to re-interpret has led to some willful and intellectually dishonest “re-reading” of the Koran.
Feminists pretend that the “real Koran” is progressive towards women, human rights activists pretend, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the « real Koran » is totally compatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The reality is that the Koran, and the Sharia derived from the Koran, are totalitarian constructs that try to control every single aspect of an individual’s life from the way he or she urinates and defecates, the way he/she eats, dresses, works, marries, makes love, prays, to the way he or she thinks on every conceivable subject. Finally, while the Koran is open to some re-interpretation, it is not infinitely flexible.