It has been quite a long time since l read Allama Muhammad Iqbal's book, Reconstruction of religious thought in Islam. In that book, he mentions that during the early period of Islam, around the time of Imam abu Hanifa , there were around 200 schools of thought but due to political reasons, slowly all other schools lost their voice and as time went by, the power dynamics created the four schools of thought and gave them an authority that was not necessarily justified in a religious sense. Maybe the political circumstances required such measures but the problems didn't end there and then.
During the golden age and the period after that. Sufism was at its peak and it attracted all the cream of the crop to focus all their creativity on Sufism and the field of jurisprudence was left to mediocre clergy who could not set up a new ground work and it was not long before the siege of Baghdad and then came the downfall of the muslims. They suffered from a morale collapse and the light which gravitated non-muslims to come to Islamic Universities to seek knowledge was taken away and the muslims were left in utter darkness. They could not even possibly fathom to set a fresh ground to work on from.
The Ottomans and the Mughals were not well equipped either to handle the delicate matter of returning to the freedom which was natural to Islamic law. The Ottomans were largely oriented towards Sufi Islam and they were blind followers in terms of jurisprudence. The Mughals were only a force known for conquering new lands and creating artistic works and didn't play any significant role. As a matter of fact, they were completely disorganized, from Akbar's heretical tendencies to Aurangzeb's orthodoxy. They were of little help and could not really see the importance of building a newer stronger foundation. They didn't even entertain scientific pursuits.
The rest is history and it would be pointless to repeat it, from then on we had the deobandi-brelvi conflict from the Indian subcontinent and the ironic secularism of Turkey, and before all that. Salafi Islam that had elements of returning to some independent reevaluation of Islam was hopelessly bound to fail. It declared almost all the muslims as disbelievers and began to preach a fundamentalist literal interpretation of the Quran that still stings us in the 21 century as ISIS and Al-Qaeda hold fast to it. The petrol dollars certainly haven't helped the case either.
Now here comes the big question, if we look at the problems that we face in the 21 century and to point to a few examples, the issue of voting, the issue of marriage and divorce, the problems we face from relating Islamic viewpoint of the origin of man to Darwinism and the troubles from the modern atheistic movement and the moral challenges from modern philosophy. Women's rights in Islam in response to the modern tide of feminism.The issue of blasphemy and adultery and the legal proceedings that follow it. I think these problems are certainly difficult to tackle but the easiest ones are the one which involve jurisprudence. We can think for ourselves and adopt the creative mindset that enabled the earlier imams to create schools. We can still use their opinions on matters if we find them helpful or otherwise seek our own solutions and maintain a certain independence of mind. Some scholars have positively responded to the circumstance and are certainly fulfilling their responsibility but they have not been well received by the general public due to the power, the mullahs and the molvis exercise on common muslims. The most difficult problems are related to the philosophical defense and the scientific defense of our beliefs and their answers will require muslims to seriously study contemporary philosophy and possibly seek an answer that doesn't sound like it's from the 13 century Christian apologetics.
Does Islamic thought really require a reconstruction ?