Books and Documents

Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam

Heed Pope Francis' Exhortation to Find 'Adequate Interpretation' Of Holy Quran's Contextual, Allegorical Verses, Sultan Shahin Asks the Global Muslim Community at UNHRC in Geneva
Sultan Shahin, Editor New Age Islam

In our search for peace and battle against Islamist terrorists, His Holiness Pope Francis has made a signal contribution. I would like to reach out to the worldwide Muslim community represented here with the submission that the Pope’s exhortation be taken seriously and acted upon as it is not only a wise counsel but also in conformity with repeated exhortations of Holy Quran itself.

Pope Francis has described the holy Quran as a “prophetic book of peace,” and asked Muslims to seek “an adequate interpretation.”

The Quran also asks Muslims repeatedly to reflect upon the verses and find its best meaning, as in Chapter 39: verse 55, 39: 18; 39: 55; 38: 29; 2: 121; 47: 24, etc.

So the Quran and Pope Francis are both saying that Muslims should not follow the verses literally but seek to interpret it in the best or most adequate way possible.

It is a literal reading of the contextual verses of the Quran that had come to guide the Prophet during the wars imposed upon him, and common belief in the divine inspiration of Ahadees or sayings of the Prophet collected decades and centuries after the demise of the Prophet, that has led us to the present crisis of terrorism, xenophobia, intolerance, fascistic supremacism and misogyny.

It is not that Muslims have not reflected upon these verses of Quran and ahadees. But even the readings of major theologians like Imam Ghazali, Ibn-e-Taimiya, Abdul Wahhab, Shah Waliullah and Sheikh Sirhindi, etc have led us into the blind alleys of supremacism and Jihad.  Clearly the interpretation is not adequate for the needs of the present times.

It is only with finding the best meaning and adequate interpretation that we Muslims will be able to evolve a new and coherent theology of peace and pluralism, acceptance of diversity, gender equality, religious freedom and human rights for all, consistent with the teachings of Islam, and suitable for contemporary and future societies......

Think ISIS Is Not Islamic? Think Again
Roy Abbas

Unless Muslims acknowledge the violent elements in their Islamic literature and reform it according to norms of the 21st century, groups like ISIS with their idea of revival of Caliphate will continue to rise. They will continue attacking and realizing the mission outlined by the former head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Zarqawi in his 7 point agenda which was heavily inspired by the caliphate concept of Islam......

Breaking The Ice For An All-Round Reform Of Islamic Societies To Avoid The Recurring Call For Reform From Turning Into A Mere Slogan Without Ever Achieving Any Reform At All
Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam

The writer has done a fairly good number of articles, posted at New Age Islam over the last four years that can be used as basis to have fresh insights on a whole range of Islamic issues - all within the ambit of Islam as preserved in the Qur'an. Each article is designed to be a work of Ijtihad (fresh insight) and draws on his duly authenticated joint publication, Essential Message of Islam and there does not suffer any doctrinal vacuum. As Ghulam Mohiyuddin Sahab has correctly said, and the Qur'an encourages, he has engaged Aql (intellect), Fiqh (logical reasoning) and Tadabbur (cognitive faculty) to frame the articles, and has also delved into the secondary and external sources of knowledge – as knowledge has no religious boundary and God alone is the fountainhead of all knowledge….

How Reluctance to Debate Religion Is Compounding Problems
Raza Habib Raja

A classic case is the issue of Ahmadis. Since mainstream clergy has declared them as Non Muslims and their status does not directly affect us, therefore all of us have simply accepted that they are. None of us is ready to challenge clergy and to conduct efforts to repeal second amendment. No political party can muster the courage to confront a handful of zealots.

Why Islam Doesn’t Need a Reformation
Mehdi Hasan

The truth is that Islam has already had its own reformation of sorts, in the sense of a stripping of cultural accretions and a process of supposed “purification”. And it didn’t produce a tolerant, pluralistic, multifaith utopia, a Scandinavia-on-the-Euphrates. Instead, it produced … the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

An Unsolved Murder Mystery
Khaled Ahmed

Benazir’s actual killers, connected to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud — himself killed by an American drone — had stayed the night before the murder at a seminary called Darul Uloom Haqqania, near Peshawar, belonging Maulana Samiul Haq, the famous teacher of the Afghan Taliban. That lead went cold long ago.


Leap of A Closed Mind Visible In Muslim Societies From Morocco To The Far East
Aziz Ali Dad

The Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Isis and Boko Haram are not embodiments of the old, traditional order of Islam for they do not derive their legitimacy from tradition. Rather they are forces that have succeeded to break the traditional world view of Islam by defying tenets and procedures that have succeeded to keep the religious worldview intact despite the onslaught of modernity.

It is, however, time for progressive leaders of Muslim and other religious communities to ensure their archaic personal laws changed with the times. Already, advocacy groups of various religious communities are rooting for a Uniform Civil Code. A recent survey of over 5,000 Muslim women across 10 states reveals that a majority is against the practice of triple Talaq. Over 92 per cent of those surveyed wanted polygamy banned......

Islam Has Given Birth To Monsters & Needs Reform

This denial of the right to freedom vis-à-vis religion is one of the roots of the evil from which you suffer, oh my dear Muslim world; it is one of those dark wombs in which, in recent years, monsters grow, and from whence they leap out at the frightened faces of the whole world. For this iron religion imposes excruciating violence on all your societies; she too closely confines your daughters, and your sons, in the cage of good and evil, the lawful (halal) and the illicit (haram), chosen by none but imposed on all.

Reform In Islam: Is It Possible?
Gökhan Bacik

This debate reduces to a linguistic one, at some point. Though “reform” is rejected, the Islamic tradition itself has its own words, such as ihya (revival) and tajdid (renewal). So reformists can shelter under these words to avoid censure from the radicals. The term tajdid has a particularly strong religious legitimacy.

Outlaw the Muslim Personal Law Board; Ensure Five Constitutional Paths for Reform
Tufail Ahmad, New Age Islam

A vital characteristic of modern civilisation is the growing presence of women in public domain. Every day, more and more women enter our streets, offices and shops. It is becoming easier for a girl to enter a restaurant alone, have a cup of tea and exercise her liberty to walk. But, Islamists like AIMPLB are working to undermine this civilisational trend. By advocating Burqa and triple Talaq, anti-equality Islamist groups threaten the story of our civilisation. If Prophet Muhammad advocated a new civilisation for the Meccans in the 7th century CE, the AIMPLB and its brother organisations are the heretics of modern civilisation, the Kuffar of modern times.....

Need for Reformation in Islam
Zeeba T Hashmi

The most abhorrent line of thought in any religion is delinking belief in God from rationality. Intellectual curiosity and free thought present a social dimension that is a natural reaction to society’s ever growing dogma, rigidity and shrinking of space for alternate voices in the garb of social and legal dictums (like the blasphemy laws). With a rise in violence and faith based attacks, the expression of internal convictions easily victimises the person declaring his or her non-belief.

It's the Fundamentalist, Anti-Modern Wahhabi Brand of Islam That Is Scaring You

Thanks to the Wahhabis' centuries-old alliance with the Saudi royal family (and all that Saudi oil money, barrels of it), they can -- and they have been -- spreading puritanical Islam in the US and around the world. (Some observers trace ISIS's roots back to Wahhabism; others assert that ISIS is a political movement with but a tenuous connection to Islam.)......


Religion and the Senses: Western ‘Illuminations’ and IS Tactics

I was watching a televised discussion the other day about displaying movies and conducting plays in mosques, in a room extension adjacent to the mosque that is, and the subsequent conflagration that followed between the two clerical discussants. The objective behind this suggestion, typically enough, was modernising and moderating the Kitab Al-Dini (religious discourse or message). The key objection, though, was how such ‘naughty’ things as cinema and theatre would detract from the holiness of the mosque as a site of prayer….


Reshape Islamic Thought
Saadun Suayeh

The problem, however, does not lie in Islam, which, if properly interpreted, can be a tremendous force for good, compassion, tolerance and progress. It lies rather in those few people who have held this great monotheistic faith captive to their pathological minds. It is, therefore, incumbent upon Muslims, in the first place, to salvage their beautiful religion from the claws of extremists. A new renaissance, such as the one that we witnessed in the 19th century at the hands of the brave pioneers mentioned above, is needed…..

Using 'al-Salaf al-Salih (the Righteous Predecessors)' to Misunderstand and Misrepresent Islam
Louay Fatoohi

Ignoring the inauthenticity of the Hadith, there is another problem with the way Salafi movements have understood it. The Hadith claims that the first three generations of Muslims were the best ever Muslims, which might mean that there were the most pious, but it does not state that they have discussed and covered all aspects of Islam or that their understanding of certain Islamic practices were supposed to be eternal. None of this is even hinted at in the Hadith, yet this is how Salafi groups use the concept of Salaf. They take what the first generations have said and done as the first and last word on everything. While they accept that Islam is a religion for all times, they fail to realize that this must mean that while its principles do not change, the way those principles are applied are bound to change with time, place, and circumstance.....

Muslim world is yet to liberate itself from the stranglehold of outdated dogmas, which have nothing to do with the real teachings and the true spirit of Islam. Muslim scholars and intellectuals must develop the spirit of free enquiry in finding the answers to challenges of modernity while remaining faithful to Islam’s eternal principles enunciated in the Holy Quran. Religious extremism and sectarianism which are tearing apart the Muslim world must be abandoned. This is unlikely to happen unless the Muslim governments give the pride of place to education and encourage freedom of expression and moderation in their programmes, which is not the case at present.....

One of the most pressing issues in the eyes of the early Muslims was the protection of Qur’an’s sanctity. Numerous times throughout the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the Muslims are reminded that the Jews and Christians corrupted their texts over time, which now cannot be taken as authentic. As a result, early Muslims developed an isnad system for ensuring that the Qur’an and Hadith would not be subject to change by human error, either intentional or unintentional....

Islamic law is supposed to be dynamic, so as to retain its relevance to the needs of changing circumstances. In this regard, Ijtihad (independent reasoning) assumes primary significance, absent when traditional views hold sway. For the exercise of Ijtihad, it is imperative to face issues head-on by initiating the process of wider debate by scholars. To sweep them under the carpet with an ostrich-like attitude will get us nowhere....

Islamic Reformation: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Her Heretic Are Murdering the Cause of Seculars
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Hirsi Ali’s proposed reformation of Islam, on the other hand, is completely the opposite: it demands a gleaning of the Islamic scripture, itself. Not only that, it asks Muslims to abandon the very core of their faith: the Prophet Hood of Muhammad (PBUH) and the divinity of the Quran. That is like asking Christians to denounce their claim that Jesus Christ was the son of God....

The Fundamentals of Islam and Islamic Fundamentalism
M N Buch

Unfortunately the extreme Sunni sect of the Wahabis has steadfastly opposed Ijtehad, which is why under Wahabi’s influence the fundamentals of Islam have been converted into Islamic fundamentalism.  Today it is this form of bigotry which has given Islam an extremely cruel face and set it in opposition to the rest of the world. One can only appeal to Muslim savants, religious leaders and those who are true believers to come out in the open and restore the fundamentals of Islam so that fundamentalism disappears....

Islam stands for love and affection, peace and amity, moderation and enlightenment. However, the shenanigans of the fraternity’s extremist strands have given handle to the compulsive detractors of our religion to depict it as a creed of violence and bloodletting....


Takfirism: Declaring Others as Infidels, or Conveying the Message of Truth?
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam

A thousand years have passed following this unanimous decision of the Ulema but yet the practice of Takfeer or declaring others Kafirs has still not stopped. This un-Islamic practice of Takfeer still continues among Muslims....

The Madressa Mix: Beneath the Surface
Syed Ali Shah, Manzoor Chandio and Ali Arqam

Mosques have always been described as community organisations, designed and built to involve the neighbourhood in the management of its affairs. Many Madressahs in Karachi arrived as mosques too, run and administered by mosque committees. Mosques located in commercial and business localities have a great advantage: traders and businessmen readily contribute to the income of the mosques and its Peshimam. Rent received from shops constructed along their boundary walls and other space leased out makes the mosque financially stable, and thereby, makes it easier to turn the mosque into a Madressah....


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The 21st Century Call For Islamic Reformation (Part I)
Preciosa S. Soliven

Ijtihad is the application of reason and reinterpretation to the message of the Quran. It allows every Muslim to reconsider the message of the Quran for the changed circumstances of the 21st century.“What was true for the 9th century Mecca and Medina may not be the best interpretation of Allah’s message today....

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