By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
07 August 2017
I have read with great
interest, Adis Duderja’s article “Progressive
Islam as Islamic Liberation Theology”. The
meaning of the Quran covering God’s will, and His purpose for creation of man,
and the way of life prescribed for him to fulfill that purpose, resonates fully
with the aims of Progressive Islam. This may sound surprising but it is true.
What we have are translations that are interpretations. We do not have a single
work that can be called the meaning of the Quran. The fight against the orthodoxy cannot be won without the
help of the Quran. Any movement that is not anchored in the Quran loses
Possible Reasons for the Wide Gulf
This is not unexpected in a
religion which spread very rapidly in a short period and was initially very
accommodating of the concepts and ideas from people of other religions who
outnumbered the Arabs by a factor 6.
Islamic Shariat was influenced by the practical need to continue with
the well-established laws in the conquered lands. The Ahadith were compiled in the 9th century
by At-Tirmidhi (Uzbek died 892), Imam Bukhari – (Uzbek died 870), Abu-Dawud
(Persian died 889), Ibn Majah (Persian died 887), Al-Nasai (Persian died 915),
Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (Persian died 875), Ibn Hanbal (Arab died 855). The books
of the first six compilers form part of the Kutub Al-Sittah or the six books.
The fact that all the six major compilers were contemporaries in the era of
Islam’s Golden period under the Abbasid dynasty could be because the
compilation may have been a political project to bend Islam to the political
compulsions of the Caliph. The Ahadith contradict the Quran on every subject
and if these alleged sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) are authentic, then it would
appear that the Prophet spent all his life preaching against the message of the
And yet, these Ahadith were
not rubbished, but had a major influence on Islamic theology and this couldn’t
have been without political support. The madrasas laid great emphasis on the
study of the Ahadith and not on the Quran and this trend continues to this day.
The Quran is “interpreted” from the point of view of the Ahadith taking the
meaning of the Ahadith as correct. If there is a conflict which cannot be
resolved by misinterpreting the Quran, then the verse from the Quran is treated
Islamic theology was dominated
by the rationalists for a short period but the traditionalists proved their
mettle by successfully warding off the challenge from the “heretical”
philosophers during Islam’s golden age. Imam Al-Ghazali (died 1111) was the
kingpin of this fight back. The traditionalists won and Islam’s golden age lost
its steam. Theology lost its earlier dynamism and spirit of free inquiry and
accommodation and became rigid, inward looking and bigoted. It has remained
very much frozen somewhere in the 12th century. Imam Ghazali was a giant and
remains without a challenge to this day, it would appear.
It would appear that either
there wasn’t much of
early scholarship or not much of what was written by the scholars of early
Islam has survived. The need for scholarship may not have been there. The Quran
was Kitabum Mubeen and understood by most people. The need for scholarship
arose when the Quran had to be interpreted in the light of the Ahadith. Much of
Islamic scholarship therefore conceals the meaning of the Quran rather than
brings it out.
Complete Subversion of the
would appear that the political and the religious powers collaborated very well
to lay down a system which promoted blind imitation, rote learning and
mastering of the Ahadith with the result that we have great uniformity in what
most scholars say. There do not appear to have been any rebels. We have grown
up with ideas such as Kafir means a non-Muslim, that the Prophet was fighting
battles against “disbelief”, that we have a soul that is immortal, that there
is punishment in the grave, that our soul testified before we were born in
Alam-e-Arwah, that our soul will be in Alam-e-Barzakh when we die etc all of
which is sheer rubbish and contrary to the Quran, However, if the Quran is read
with these meanings and ideas in our head, which is what everyone does, it will
be largely misunderstood.
I started writing my articles based on the Quran, I found that what I had to
say went against the Ijma or collective wisdom of the scholars. The question
that was often asked was whether I was the only one who understood the Quran in
all of 1400 years. I cannot speak of all of the 1400 years but from the 12th
century onwards, nobody has written what I have discovered.
series of articles cover the prophetic mission of Muhammad (pbuh) through its
vicissitudes over the 23 year period, and discovers both seamless continuity in
the message and consistency contrary to the opinion among some circles that the
Meccan period verses and message is different from the Medinian period. This is
patently incorrect. Neither does any verse of the Quran contradict another
motivation for the study is the same as that of the Progressive Muslims–
dissatisfaction with the Islamic theology vis-à-vis the demands of our times.
The approach is however different, and based on the faith that if the Quran is
the word of God, then it must lead us to the right path in any era and contain
guidance for man based on the eternal moral principles and the unchanging
nature of man. I am not trying to make the Quran yield to my ideas of what
Islam should be which is what most moderates have been trying to do.
search started with two key concepts in Islamic theology that have played a
major role in determining a Muslim’s relationship with the rest of the world.
The first is the meaning of Kufr and the second is the meaning of fighting in
the cause of Allah.
Secular definition of Kufr in
meaning of Kufr in the Quran that applies to all mankind is, oppression is Kufr
and an oppressor is a Kafir. A Momin is one who stands up in the cause of the
oppressed and fights against oppression and the oppressors. In the temporal
dimension, the faith of the oppressor and the oppressed are immaterial. The only
cause which is described as fighting in the cause of Allah is to fight
oppression. The Prophet’s battles were against religious persecution and not
is covered in my following articles:
The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In
the Qu’ran (Part 4): The Medinian Period
The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) in
the Qu’ran (Concluding Part) Summary
The Much discussed and debated Medinian Verses Relating to
secular definition of Kafir in the Quran is found in my article:
Who is a Muslim in the Quran?
Who is a Momin and who is a Kafir is
situational. For example, the Indian army liberated Bangladesh by defeating the
Pakistan Army which practiced great oppression on the people of Bangladesh. In
this role, the Indian army were the Momineen and the Pakistan army were the
(4:141) ….And never will Allah grant to
the Kafirin a way (to triumph) over the Mominin.
The Kafirin suffered a humiliating
Meaning of Kufr as It Concerns Belief
meaning of Kufr in the spiritual dimension or as it concerns the relationship
between man and God, is relative to what one knows and believes to be the
truth. Only God can judge what Kufr is in the spiritual dimension and not man.
The Quran therefore prescribes no punishment for apostasy, heresy, blasphemy
and disbelief nor does it authorise waging of war against the “disbelievers”.
is covered in my article:
Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 3): Why Kufr Is A
Relative Concept While Shirk, Idol Worship Etc. Have Fixed Meanings
Who is a Kafir in the Quran? (Part 4) Defining Kufr
Secular Justice in Islam
opposite of oppression is justice and denial of justice is oppression. The
following articles discuss the importance of secular justice in Islam. There is
no Islam in the absence of secular justice.
The Importance of Rendering Justice in Islam
Is the standard of secular justice
demanded by the Quran possible without a secular government? This is discussed
Is Islam Secular?
Jizya Discriminate Based On Religion?
Jizya was implemented in a manner by the Prophet
different from what the verse 9:29 says. In its implementation, it was a
negotiated settlement between the ruler and his non-Muslim subjects and never
had the character of a tax imposed by religion. It made the non-Muslims
taxpaying subjects with security guaranteed by the state without the obligation
to fight for the state. The non-religious character is further underlined by
the fact that only males of military age were required to pay in lieu of
serving in the army. Monks, who by their calling do not serve in the army, were
exempt from the tax.
is discussed in my article:
The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) From
the Qu’ran (Part 6): The People of the Book and Jiziya
and the Permission to Have Sex with Female Slaves
This is a difficult topic and the acid test of
whether the Quran is word of God or not. This topic is discussed in my article:
The Morality or the Immorality of the Institution of
Slavery and the Quranic Permission That Allowed Sex with Female Slaves
for the True Pillars of Islam
Several articles were written while
searching for the true pillars of Islam culminating in finding the three kinds
of people on whom is Allah’s grace. The key to it was found in Surah Fatiha
which we recite in every Rak’at of our Salat in which we pray to God asking Him
to (1:6) Show us the straightway, (7) the way of those on whom Thou hast
bestowed Thy Grace (AnʿAmtaʿAlayhim). Who
are these people on whom Allah bestows his grace? The answer is found in verse
:( 4:69) These are the Siddiq (seekers of the truth and people of true
knowledge), the Shuhuda(who are Islam personified) and the Saliheen (those who
do good deeds). This is covered in my article:
The Role Models in the Quran
The surprising discovery was that the
Shuhuda are not those slain in the cause of Allah but Muslims who are paragons
of Islamic virtues who in all their words and deeds reflect the beauty and
grace of the faith of Islam. Islamic theology has corrupted the meaning of
Shaheed to mean martyr to glorify fighting. This is covered in my article:
The Politics of Religion and the Changing Concept of
Shuhuda over the Years
The article also discusses how
suicide missions came to be accepted in Islamic theology as legitimate means of
The Quran lays great stress on
ethical living more that on ritual, these topics are covered in my articles:
Deen-e-Islam or the Moral Way of Living in Islam
Islamic jurisprudence errs when it
treats two women’s testimony equal to that of one man’s. The Quran merely
allows two women the license to witness and testify jointly a legal document.
The testimony is joint where the two women together give a single testimony
consulting each other. This is a concession, and recommended but not a legal
requirement. Discussed under:
Is A Woman’s Testimony Worth Half That of A Man?
Triple Talaq, whether given at a
single point in time or on three separate occasions is not the Quranic process
for divorce. In the Quran, divorce is a two-stage process with the period of
Iddat (three menstrual cycles) intervening. Reconciliation is possible during
this period. Else, the divorce becomes irrevocable on their parting at the end
of the Iddat period. The number of pronouncements of Talaq is immaterial. The
Iddat period must be spent in the husband’s house and this condition must be
fulfilled. Reconciliation during this period with mutual consent cannot be
prevented. If the couple had on two
previous occasions reconciled and if this is the third time they are going
through the divorce process, even then Iddat period is required to be spent in
the husband’s house and reconciliation with mutual consent cannot be prevented.
Theoretically therefore, there is no limit on how many times the couple may go
through the process. Since reconciliation is possible only through mutual
consent, the woman may refuse the same in which case she can walk out at the
end of the Iddat period. She can also lay conditions for agreeing to reconcile. The Quran maintains the balance of power between the two
sexes as closely as possible.
The Process for Divorce in the Quran
Polygamy, wife beating etc
issues are discussed in a forthright manner in my article:
Qur’anic Wisdom: Marriage and Treatment of Women
Resonance with the aims of
It may be noted that the meaning of
the Quran supports forming alliances to fight oppression and the faith of the
ally and the enemy are immaterial. The Oppressor is Kafir and those who fight
the oppressors in the cause of the oppressed, fight in the cause of Allah and
are the Momineen.
We pray to God to make us among the
people on whom is Allah’s grace and these are the seekers of knowledge and the
truth, the paragons of Islamic virtues and those who do virtuous deeds. The
stress in Islam is clearly on ethical living
Belief is a matter between man and God
and none of anyone else’s business.
Justice in Islam Is
There is no intent to discriminate
against anyone on religious grounds and jiziya in the historical context was
not meant to discriminate although the same was misused in later years as an
instrument to discriminate and perhaps humiliate.
Islam stands for balance of power
between the sexes and for gender justice
Islam as Islamic Liberation Theology
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an
independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private
sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent
contributor to www.NewAgeIslam.com
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism
Who is a Kafir
in the Quran? (Part 4) Defining Kufr
Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In the Qu’ran (Part 4): The
Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) in the Qu’ran (Concluding
kufr: Willful rejection or denial of any
self-evident or irrefutable proposition. The Qur’an refers to its recalcitrant audience by the plural noun forms kafirun, kafirin, which, for want of any appropriate English counterpart have been
rendered as disbelievers or deniers as appropriate. The Qur’an also
connotes kufr with canceling or effacing
something (29:7, 47:2), being thankless or ungrateful
I do not claim any perfection of my (jt) work as no work of man can be perfect, but I have not spotted any error in my work nor altered my views on any aspect of it.
That what is kufr for the non-believer is also kufr for the believer should be self-evident but unfortunately it is not so. I had therefore covered it in my article:
is a Muslim in the Quran?
A Disbeliever Is Not Necessarily A Kafir in the Quran
A Believer Can Be A Kafir
Logically, Therefore, Kafir Cannot Mean Disbeliever
The Quran uses the expression “la yuminun” to mean a Disbeliever
in which kafir is translated as disbeliever is a mistranslation
يَا بَنِي آدَمَ لاَ يَفْتِنَنَّكُمُ
الشَّيْطَانُ كَمَا أَخْرَجَ أَبَوَيْكُم مِّنَ الْجَنَّةِ يَنزِعُ عَنْهُمَا
لِبَاسَهُمَا لِيُرِيَهُمَا سَوْءَاتِهِمَا إِنَّهُ يَرَاكُمْ هُوَ وَقَبِيلُهُ
مِنْ حَيْثُ لاَ تَرَوْنَهُمْ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا الشَّيَاطِينَ أَوْلِيَاء
لِلَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ
(7:27) O ye Children
of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you, in the same manner as He got your parents
out of the Garden, stripping them of their raiment, to expose their shame: for
he and his tribe watch you from a position where ye cannot see them: We made
the evil ones friends (only) to the disbelivers (la yuminun).
The believers are able to guard against Satan, the
disbelievers are vulnerable. The Quran uses “la yuminun” when it intends “disbeliever”
َمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَى عَلَى
اللّهِ كَذِبًا أَوْ كَذَّبَ بِآيَاتِهِ أُوْلَـئِكَ يَنَالُهُمْ نَصِيبُهُم مِّنَ
الْكِتَابِ حَتَّى إِذَا جَاءتْهُمْ رُسُلُنَا يَتَوَفَّوْنَهُمْ قَالُواْ أَيْنَ
مَا كُنتُمْ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ قَالُواْ ضَلُّواْ عَنَّا وَشَهِدُواْ
عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُواْ كَافِرِينَ
(7:37) Who is more
unjust than one who invents a lie against Allah or rejects His Signs? For such,
their portion appointed must reach them from the Book (of decrees): until, when
our messengers (of death) arrive to take them in death, they say: "Where
are the things that ye used to invoke besides Allah?" They will reply,
"They have left us in the lurch," And they will bear witness against
themselves, that they were kafirin.
What made them kafirin? Being unjust, inventing a lie against Allah, and
denying His signs/verses, invoking those besides Allah. These are acts of
rebellion and not disbelief. A disbeliever simply disbelieves. Unless a
disbeliever is also a kafir, he does not invent lies, is unjust, knowingly
denies any truth or, knowingly invokes those besides Allah etc.
فِرْعَوْنَ وَالَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ كَذَّبُواْ بآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ
فَأَهْلَكْنَاهُم بِذُنُوبِهِمْ وَأَغْرَقْنَا آلَ فِرْعَونَ وَكُلٌّ كَانُواْ
إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِندَ اللّهِ
الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ فَهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُون
(Deeds) after the manner of the people of Pharaoh and those before them":
They treated as false the Signs of their Lord: so We destroyed them for their
crimes, and We drowned the people of Pharaoh: for they were all oppressors and
wrong-doers.(55) For the worst of craetures in the sight of Allah are those who
kafaru: They will not believe
Who are the kafaru in this verse? People who treated as
false the Signs of God in the conceited manner of the Pharaoh, the oppressors
and the wrong doers, they are the kafaru. Such kafaru will not believe. This is
very different from saying ‘those who do not believe are kafaru’. Those
who do not believe are vulnerable to Satan and may become kafaru but a
disbeliever is not necessarily a kafir.
الَّذِينَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ وَلاَ بِالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَلاَ يُحَرِّمُونَ
مَا حَرَّمَ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَلاَ يَدِينُونَ دِينَ الْحَقِّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ
أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ حَتَّى يُعْطُواْ الْجِزْيَةَ عَن يَدٍ وَهُمْ صَاغِرُونَ
(9:29) Fight those who believe not (la yuminun) in Allah nor
the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and
His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the
People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel
The subject of this verse is the “disbelievers” and not the
kafirin. They are to be made jiziya paying subjects or else fought against
until they agree. These include the Mushrikin of Mecca who never fought with the
Muslims or broke their treaty. The Kafirin were those who fought, broke their
treaty etc for whom the judgment is in 9:5 and their kufr described in 9:12.
believers who are kafir
(2:254) O ye who believe!
Spend out of (the bounties) We have provided for you, before the Day comes when
no bargaining (Will avail), nor friendship nor intercession. And the kafirun,
they are the zalimun.
Who are the kafirun and the zalimunin in this verse? Those who do
not spend out of the bounties provided by Allah. The kafirun and zalimun refers
to the believers who show their ingratitude to Allah for the bounties provided
to them by not spending. They are ingrate rebels. They are not some other
unrelated “disbelievers” in Timbuctoo or wherever.
(2:264) O ye who believe!
cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury,- like
those who spend their substance to be seen of men, but believe neither in Allah
nor in the Last Day. They are in parable like a hard, barren rock, on which is
a little soil: on it falls heavy rain, which leaves it (Just) a bare stone.
They will be able to do nothing with aught they have earned. And Allah guideth
not the kafirin.
The kafirin in this verse are otherwise believers, but those who
spend their substance to be seen of men. Such men will not be guided
(3:102) O ye who believe!
Fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except as a Muslim.
Here it is put across positively instead of saying die not as a
(3:130) O ye who believe!
Devour not usury, doubled and multiplied; but fear Allah; that ye may (really)
prosper.(131) Fear the Fire, which is prepared for the kafirin:
It is the believers who devour usury who are asked to fear the
fire and such believers are the kafirin.
In all of the verses above, Yusuf Ali translates kafirin as “those
who reject faith” which is incorrect because the addressee is the believer and
he cannot be a both a believer and one who rejects faith! Others translate kafirin
as disbeliever which is also incorrect for the same reason. While Allah is speaking
of the gravity of devouring Usury etc as constituting kufr or ingratitude and
rebellion against God, the translators are deflecting the severity of the kufr
of Usury etc by making us believe that here Allah is not talking about the
believers but the disbelievers!
The fact of the matter is that, since the addressee of the verse
is the believer, Usury etc is kufr for him but not for the disbeliever. Else
the addressee would have been all of mankind or “the Children of Adam”.
there were, among the desert Arabs (also), men who made excuses and came to
claim exemption; and those who were false to Allah and His Messenger (merely)
sat inactive. Soon will a grievous penalty seize the Kafaru among them.
(The Kafaru referred to here are Muslim)
Yunus Sb, I follow very strict rules of logic and base what
I say on strong evidence. Your sentence “It is
perhaps ingrained human nature to defend one's views and more so if it is
arrived after long research” does not apply to me. It may apply to your defense
of what you have written in your book and reluctance to go beyond it.
I must acknowledge however, that you
have accepted that the Quran does not treat all the Mushrikin of the Prophet’s
times as kafir even in Surah Taubah, although, you had earlier held the
Dear Naseer Sahab,
I am, since the jt. publication of my book, fully dedicated
to communicate to others the essentials of the Qur’nic message as evolved in it in a
focused, inclusive, gender neutral, non-political, non-Sectarian manner. This I
believe commands far greater priority than my indulging into further research.
I believe my jt publication as it stands should be taught as
a core religious book in all major Islamic institutions – and with the full
support of Sultan Shahin Sb and interaction with all other commentators, regardless
of their background and agenda, I am trying to create a positive impression among
the readers so that if not in my life time, at a later date, my following
Umbrella article is included in the curriculum of AMU and other prestigious secular
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
I do appreciate your sincere efforts in defending Islam against
those who pick the worst bits from the underbelly of its secondary sources and project
its offal and refuse for its true message somewhat like Irshad Manji presenting
the forged Pact of Umar for the original.