Check out this article in The Washington Post by Mansour al-Nogaidan on his spiritual journey (excerpts below):
It's time for Muslims to question our leaders and their strict teachings, to reach our own understanding of the prophet's words and to call for a bold renewal of our faith as a faith of goodwill, of peace and of light.
I didn't always think this way. Once, I was one of the extremists who clung to literal interpretations of Islam and tried to force them on others. I was a jihadist.
I grew up in Saudi Arabia. When I was 16, I found myself assailed by doubts about the existence of God. I prayed to God to give me the strength to overcome them. I made a deal with Him: I would give up everything, devote myself to Him and live the way the prophet Muhammad and his companions had lived 1,400 years ago if He would rid me of my doubts.
I joined a hard-line Salafi group. I abandoned modern life and lived in a mud hut, apart from my family. Viewing modern education as corrupt and immoral, I joined a circle of scholars who taught the Islamic sciences in the classical way, just as they had been taught 1,200 years ago.
My involvement with this group led me to violence, and landed me in prison. In 1991, I took part in firebombing video stores in Riyadh and a women's center in my home town of Buraidah, seeing them as symbols of sin in a society that was marching rapidly toward modernization.
By the time I turned 26, much of the turmoil in me had abated, and I made my peace with God. At the same time, my eyes were opened to the hypocrisy of so many who held themselves out as Muslim role models. I saw Islamic judges ignoring the marks of torture borne by my prison comrades. I learned of Islamic teachers who molested their students. I heard devout Muslims who never missed the five daily prayers lying with ease to people who did not share their extremist beliefs.
Read on here
Of course, every 'religious' group has its own share of corrupt and hypocritical leaders. Check out this story which appeared in the LA Times recently (slightly different ending than the first one though).
AlhamdulilAllah, I'm so glad the brother figured out that Islam and attacks against the innocent don't go together. I'm sure his journey was not an easy one, and one which took a lot of courage. However, I don't like the whole "modern" vs. 'traditional' Islam idea. Who said that the Islam revealed 1400 years ago called for isolation and promoted the killing of innocent Jews and Christians? To the contrary; for example:
"Allah forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just." [The Holy Quran, chapter 60, verse 8]
Yes, we do need strong, pragmatic, charismatic and more importantly knowledgeable and wise Muslim scholars and preachers who can connect with the masses and challenge corrupt leaders and twisted ideologies. We need them, not to "reconcile us with the wider world", but to first reconcile us with the faith we claim to practise. Once that happens, we will not only be 'ideal' Muslims, but 'ideal' global citizens.
We , the global Muslim community, need revivers not reformers. I believe we already blessed to have some great scholars and 'preachers' around: Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi and Amr Khaled are the first that come to my mind of each category. AlhamdulilAllah, individuals like those have helped our ummah come a long way in the past ten years, and insha'Allah the coming ten years will witness an even stronger growth with Muslims figuring out how to truly put their faith in action to benefit themselves and the people around them, wherever they may be.
By the way, anyone know anything about the Ibn Taymiyya story al-Nogaidan mentions?