Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam
For 38 years, since way back in 1961 when he was a student of engineering, Asghar Ali Engineer has been waging a two–pronged battle — against the divisive forces of communalism and the gross human rights violations of ordinary Bohra Muslims by an oppressive and corrupt priesthood under the head–priest — Syedna Burhanuddin.
Turning 60 in March, the crusader for peace and amity typically spent his birthday at yet another seminar on ethnic conflict in the entire South Asian region in New Delhi. Reflecting on 38 years of struggle against bigotry and unreason, Engineer travelled down memory lane with Communalism Combat, from the time when the Awaaz–e–Biradaran (Voice of Brotherhood) was born after the first, post–partition communal riot at Jabalpur in 1961 to the threat of communalism in South Asia in 1999, at the turn of this century.
The current status of Muslim societies shows the hollowness of so much that has passed for Islam over time. Conflated personal opinions mainly to establish a power base and following have been a problem. The actions of radicals claiming to represent a “truer and more pious” form of Islam are mainly to stifle the discussion and progress toward reform and renewal....
During the time of peace though the Indians were humiliated at every step because of their being the ruled nation, the prominent example of this humiliation was that outside the high society clubs of the period, signboards with ‘Indians and dogs are not allowed’ were put up. In the eyes of the British people, the place of the ruled nation was akin to that of dogs. Today the same nations have become the flag bearers of human rights......
Islam Needs Critical Approach
Nastik Durrani, New Age Islam
This war cannot be won by terrorist activities that these Salafist jihadi organisations are adept at nor can we expect any improvement in the condition of the Muslim ummah through this. On the contrary, this will push the Islamic world into further degradation and backwardness and the stagnant Islamic thought and the attitude based on hate towards humanity will be responsible for that.
Perhaps the next generation of independent and free thinkers of Islam will be able to win the attention of the world and there will be an end to the war between Islam and the other communities otherwise this clash of civilisations will inflict huge damages to humanity and ultimately Islam will be defeated.
Ijtihad is the most important source of Islamic law next to the Qur’an and Sunnah. The main difference between Ijtihad and the revealed sources lays in the fact that Ijtihad is a continuous process of interpretation and reasoning while the Divine revelation and the Prophetic legislation and oral traditions are immutable. In this sense, Ijtihad will continue to play its role as the main instrument of applying the Divine message in the continuously changing conditions of the Muslim Ummah in its aspirations to truth, and justice…..
Even in the West the ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘gender biases, is aperennial issue! However, to take that as a licence, for continued injustice and inequity and dwell in the past, is a lame excuse for the churches and to stand back and operate from the fringes. They have a responsibility and a duty to redress these practical issuesand bring their followers in line with changing times and so lead them to progresswith equality.
Rote-learning the Qur’an is not the solution. It is only when Muslims understand its uncomplicated beauty that when justice fills our lives, that our actions will be proper, and that we will find peace; success for all, in this life and the next, ameen.
Most mainstream political parties in the Muslim world today can be said to be following various degrees of Liberal Islam. Not all of them are secular in the western sense of the word, but they are flexible in their outlook towards matters such as Islamic laws, and concepts and practices that are deemed as ‘un-Islamic’ by their Islamist opponents (such as co-education, non-segregated events, women’s rights, films, music, alcohol, etc.).
Reviewing the sources of Islamic jurisprudence and the interpretation and relative significance accorded to Quran and Hadees is no doubt important. But Muslims need to look beyond that. They need to look at the world not simply as a preparation for the afterlife but maybe as the only life they will ever have, at least as the conscious individual beings they recognise themselves as. Most importantly, they need to view themselves not simply as “Muslim,” but as individuals imbued with agency and enterprise, who have the choice to lead the life they want and the attendant responsibility to let others do the same.
There is also ijtihad that is concerned with the proper application of ruling to the case. This kind of ijtihad never ceases, as Ash-Shatibi said, because it is concerned with the application of an agreed upon rule to a new status quo. This kind is not like the first one which only the mujtahidun (practitioners of ijtihad) can assume. Rather, both the mujtahid and the muqalled (imitator) are equal in this regard.
Hajj -- Some Afterthoughts
Syed Rizvi, New Age Islam
When Abraham pulled his knife on his son Ismail, to whom Abraham was deeply attached, Abraham bore the pain and anguish of the oncoming demise of his son. You did not feel that pain when your sheep was slaughtered -- why should you? It was a sheep you never met, slaughtered by a butcher you never knew, at a killing field you never visited and most importantly the critical moment when your sheep took his last breath remained out of your consciousness. Your sheep had no name other than an ID tag stapled on his ear....
At 80 years of age, I have tried all my life and to the best of my ability to live up to the noble precepts of Islam, as taught to me by my parents and elders, my teachers and those whose opinion I have always respected. However, I have always followed the dictates of my own conscience, even unto losing, on three separate occasions all that I had owned and labored for years to achieve, rather than give in to any corrupt practice.
For more than 1, 400 years, Islam has stood steadfast on the five pillars that have given it strength and the right to be known as the religion of peace, justice, equality and progress. These are the Ima’an (Faith) of each Muslim and his adherence to Namaz, Roza, Zakat and Hajj. But even before mentioning observance of the 5 Pillars, Allah’s revelations in the Quran has commenced with the command to the believers to, “READ in the Name of thy Lord”. That is to EDUCATE oneself before anything else.
Sadly, arrogance, avarice, chicanery, debauchery, ego, greed, ignorance, jealousy, pride, superstitions, vanity, wastefulness and other negative traits (all abhorred in Islam), mainly by its own adherents has, knowingly or unknowing, started to corrode these pillars over the years. Is it because for 500 years or so, Muslims have lacked EDUCATION? Have they PRODUCED knowledge, have they DIFFUSED knowledge and do they APPLY knowledge? The answers are obvious and very pessimistic.
It has changed our social psychology. We have become immune to love for life and sorrow for death. Sectarian violence, road accidents, bomb explosions and suicidal attacks are nothing but a drama for us. We just pass through the dead bodies while going to attend Walima (marriage reception). We enjoy delicious food to our satisfaction and laugh out loudly. This lack of love of life and sorrow on death has made us sad from within. We have forgotten being happy, satisfied and enjoying God’s favours. We have lost the charm of our faces....
Any person reading a translation of the Arabic Qur’an line by line for the first time is bound to be perplexed if he/she is a believing Muslim and simply bewildered and alienated if he is Qur’an-sceptic Muslim or a non-Muslim. He can neither connect one verse or passage with the next, nor can he find any beauty, coherence and subtlety in its diction. Stark ignorant of the subtlety and nuances of the Qur’anic Arabic, and confronted by literal translation of its idioms and poetical and eschatological imageries, he is angered and frustrated. With no background knowledge of the Qur’an’s historical and Biblical allusions, he is completely at a loss to make any head or tail of what comes under his eyes. With turning of each page he confronts, often in the midst of disjointed and abstruse themes, divine threats and altruistic commandments, both of which he loathes to swallow. Who wants to be told that his wealth is not entirely his own (4:32), or to spend for the needy at every opportunity (2:274), or to write off debt to a poor debtor (2:278), or not to expect any return for a favour bestowed (74:6), or to shun greed, arrogance, back biting and other temptations and cravings of mind? He soon gives up.
The truth is, read pedagogically verse by verse, the Arabic Qur’an – let alone its translation is mind boggling. It is like a literary kaleidoscope that encompasses an exhaustive array of themes, mixes the spiritual with the mundane, the abstruse with the concrete and maintains a sketchy diary of the Prophetic mission with no dates, no names of people or places, no historical details of any kind, scattering all its data in bits and pieces in a random fashion across its text. In the midst of this wide array of themes, it interjects the diverse elements of its guidance and reverts to some of them repeatedly. The matter becomes far more complex in translation.
The caption may greatly shock and disturb all Muslims as the Sira of the Prophet plays a very important role in Islam and raising a question mark on its authenticity is like questioning the very essence of their religion. However, greater shock is in store for them if they deny the fact that the Sira contains materials that a Western scholar can piece together to project the Prophet of Islam as “a man that slaughtered captives, robbed caravans, sold women and children into slavery, had sexual relations with captive women, tortured prisoners, married a nine-year-old, forced his adopted son to divorce his wife so Muhammad could have her as a wife, mandated war against non-Muslims, and who had some of his critics and rivals assassinated . Drawing on the Sira, another Western scholar writes: “The examples and command of the Prophet, critics believe, have left a terrible legacy for Islam and cast a lurid light on the history of that religion....