By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam
29 Dec 2015
Srinagar: Recently a book release function was held in Kashmir Valley in which a book Fikr e Ghamidi: Ek Tajziyati wa Tahkeeki Mutala (The Weltanschauung of Ghamidi: An Analytical and Researcher’s Reading) written by a Pakistani scholar Hafiz Zubair was released at a local college. The new edition of the book has been published by a local publisher with new additions and revision by the author. The scholars belonging to different schools of thought, organizations and shades of opinion were present on this occasion.
It was a rare event, because most of those present declare each other deviant and prefer not to offer prayers behind or besides each other. But this gathering proved that only reactionary religiosity can bring them together because it was a joint concern as all the interpretations, monopolization over religious knowledge and sectarianism was being challenged, that certainly can lead to their sectarian shops being closed down and they becoming out of fashion. Otherwise no such joint consultation, unity or shared platform can be witnessed for issues of joint concern like ecology, sectarian strife, domestic violence, terrorism, state sponsored terrorism and lack of democracy in the Muslim world.
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is a Pakistani scholar, living in exile in Malaysia due to the death threats he continues to receive because of his alternative interpretations of Islam or maybe because his critics have failed to answer them, as bullet is the last answer of the person who has lost the argument. Further his interpretations do hurt ‘religious interests’ of many. This article is not written to justify or nullify the religious interpretation of Ghamidi but to defend his right to interpret religion.
Every speaker at the event in his speech exposed himself about their secondary source reading about Ghamidi as their speeches were a testimony that they were not acquainted with the primary sources i.e. writings and speeches of Ghamidi. Further belittling Ghamidi by stating that he is not well versed in religious sciences and has not read in a madrasa was a lame criticism because many stalwarts of Islamic Revivalist movements like Syed Abul Ala Mawdudi, Hassan al Banna, Syed Qutb, Dr Ali Shariti and Maulana Wahiduddin Khan none has studied formally and completely in madrasas, but none doubts their Islamic credentials and contribution.
Plus all the speakers missed this important fact that religion does not evolve, reveal or function in void but the context, socio-economic system and historical facts cannot be ignored because religion has to interact with them. The historical development of Shariah and its niceties had been oblivious to these speakers. How only the six books of Hadith were declared authentic while more than forty collections of hadith were existing? Why the Shias have different Hadith collections than Sunnis? Who defined the fundamentals of Quran, Hadith, Jurisprudence, Exegesis etc and if they are not divine and prophetic in nature, then to differ or reject them does not lead any scholar to be labeled as deviant!
Similarly the evolution of Juristic schools of thought also owes their development to various factors including political ones. To hold few things authentic and other un-Islamic depicts arrogance and sectarian mind-set that Islam aims to nullify. If Ghamidi has different fundamentals than other scholars who are supposed to be ‘mainstream’ and ‘authentic’ ones then he cannot be labelled as wrong, deviant or rejecter of Hadith.
One Salafi scholar, who are always self-righteous in their interpretation of Islam, was demanding that Ghamidi be labelled as Kaafir, for his ‘erroneous’ interpretation, that goes against Salafi one, that is responsible for tearing down the unity of Ummah by constructing new mosques with Wahhabi funded petro dollar money in every nook and cranny as they uphold the doctrine that prayer behind every Imam is null and void except the Salafi one. Then he exposed his lack of understanding and poor reading when he described that Ghamidi has written nothing on politics and upholds the doctrine that Islam has nothing to do with politics. If he would just have read the contents page of Gahmidi’s book Meezan he would have found the chapter on Fundamentals of Politics in Islam. Further he alleged that Ghamidi allows homosexuality, whereas in reality he describes it against nature and institution of family, though ignoring the fact that there now is a whole body of literature about Homosexuality in Islam, with scholars like Imam Dayee Abdullah, Prof. Scott Siraj ul Haq Ougle, Amina Wadud engaging with this question and certainly like Islamophobia needs to be resisted in the West, Muslim societies need to overcome Homophobia.
Then among the enlightened ones, the upholders of banner of Islamic Revivalism who label themselves as non-sectarian, a representative of Jamaat e Islami (JeI) Kashmir, to secure points over others described Ghamidi as an agent of West who is sponsored to create confusion among Muslim Ummah and who has been successful in creating an audience among the Muslim intellectuals and youth, thus self-concluding that JeI has failed to address to this section. In a further digression from the Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi’s plural and democratic nature and stance he out rightly labeled Ghamidi as a Non-Muslim whose works should be rejected, thus testifying the fact that after the death of Mawlana Mawdudi, Jamaat members continued to write but stopped thinking and pondering.
Then other speakers started describing him as a Neo Mutazalite, being similar in many ways to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, while others upheld that he was Ghulam Ahmad Parvez reborn, while for others his thought was similar to Rashid Shaz and Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, who have been labeled as deviated by all these ‘self-righteous’ sectarian scholars. The reality is that it is very unprofessional, unethical and unscholarly to paint all these scholars with similar brush, we can have our own reservations with all of them but it is unjustified to invoke a blanket ban on all of them.
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is one of the few sane scholars of Islam who calls for moderation, tolerance, pluralism and core values of Islam. He enjoys mass appeal among youth, as he can communicate to them unlike the traditional sectarian scholars and mullahs. He needs to be listened and appreciated for articulating a moderate, tolerant and inclusive interpretation of Islam. The attempts of low rung mullahs and sectarian scholars who enjoy little appeal among masses will in no way hamper the mission of Ghamidi, but it certainly points out a disturbing trend in Valley where pluralism of interpretation of religion is being curtailed through Unitarian efforts of sectarian censorship. This needs to be discouraged at every level because Muslims are not a monolith and in our tradition of Islam and Rishism, dissenting, alternative voices have never been curtailed by demeaning, labelling and branding them as conspiracy against Islam.
M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org