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Debating Islam ( 18 Oct 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Promote Quran, not Hadith, Ulama, not Juhala

Need For Promotion of Quranic Knowledge to Make Our Society Really Islamic and Moderate

By Syed Sadruddin Hussain

11 Sep 2010

As Muslims we should give primary importance to our only holy book 'Quran' and not to any other book even if it is written by any reputed author  because personal bias and weak Hadiths, unauthentic tales and stories not in consonance with the Quranic directives always make inroads. Hence various deviations, Shirk, Bidah and un Islamic customs and practices prevails in our divided society based on sects, Maslak, Fiqah, Maktabi differences. So much so our Masajids are also divided.

The Ajmi Muslims are more divided today than the Arabs (Saudi Arabia) from where Islam came because Islam is a state subject there and not allowed to be exploited by anybody else like in Pakistan. Due to lack of Quranic knowledge/ Quran Fahmi our people get exploited by the Mullah community who have hijacked Islam and confined it to so called five pillars of Islam not supported in the Quran plus building of Masajids and Madrasas and collecting donations for the sake of Allah as if Allah is poor. The Madrasas instead of becoming a centre of religious and wordly knowledge and producing broad minded students with ability to adjust in today's society at large, has been narrowed down to produce Mullahs like bishops, cardinals and Popes etc.

 Their primary objects usually becomes to grow long beard with no KHAT( trimming), wear so called Islamic dress, advise others on religion, make long speeches with long DUAS, become priests or Imam,  do no hard or office job, always say that natural calamities and death destructions are Allah's wrath instead of facing and taking preventive measures through hard work and planning etc. Suicide bombings, extremism, sectarian killings, Maslaki differences, religious groupings and parties etc. are all products of the Madrasas system which required to be upgraded to schools or merged into schools as Islam is Deen and Dunya both and not separate as preached by the Mullahs to produce Mullahs. All of us should approach all mosques and Madrasas to be more liberal and promote Quranic knowledge first through reading of translation of Quran and explaining it to the students and the Namaziz instead of promoting and lecturing and confusing us through weak Hadiths, unauthentic stories, tales and traditions so that we can clearly understand Allah's directives and withstand bravely all exploitations, deviations, extremism, Un Islamic customs and practices, Shirk, Bidah etc. This is Islam.

Those who give large donations they should put such a condition to the mosques and Madrasas in the best interest of Islam. Such big donation givers should also ensure that the Masajids function as community centres to do social work instead of simply functioning as prayer houses with huge decorations, lighting, upgradations etc. Please see my article ' Mosques should serve as community Centres' published in ' Pakistan Abroad' and Urdu Times, Toronto. Thanks.


M Ghazali Khan, Sep 2, 2010

Assalamu Alaikum all

I was reminded by Tayyaba Apa's excellent posting of a tradition in my family too of a copy of Qur'an, Bahishti Zewar and a musallah being part of a girl's dowry. But unlike her I did not give Bahishti Zewar to my daughter. I have not read it and had the impression that this book was relevant only for Muslim girls of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thannwi's  time or may be of 60s, when Muslim girls did not go to school and colleges. But in 1981 I was surprised to hear one of my teachers in AMU, late Shahnaz Hashmi of Dept of English, who was known for her liberal and "progressive" views, praising Bahishti Zewar and criticising its critics who failed to see the context and time in which the book was written. From Tayyaba Apa's writeup one gets the impression that this book is as useful and as relevant for Muslim girls born and brought up in the west as it was for those born in India in the 40s - 60s. Perhaps I should buy an English translation of Bahisti Zewar and give it to my daughter and rectify my mistake.



Dr. Tayyaba Qidwai

30 August 2010

Zafar Bari Sahib, Assalam Alaikum

 Thank you for bringing out this important and interesting subject of the impact of Ulema on our society since long.

 In fact, Ulema and the language they used, that is Urdu, was a very important medium of bringing about a social change, especially in social reforms and Muslim women's Education in the late nineteenth century.

 People usually associate social reform in India primarily as a Hindu endeavour.

 But, a very important question is - What of Muslims?  Were there no reforms within the community? If yes where was the locus and how did it affect the Muslim women's question in particular?

 I, as a woman would like to bring to light the very important contribution of Ulema like Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, in education of women.

 Two distinct movements of educational reform arose among the Indian Muslims in the late nineteenth century.  One movement was led by the Ulama and the other centred in Aligarh, advocating modern education for Muslims. Both groups sought to achieve the same through the institutionalization of education. The one through madrasas, the other through schools and colleges and these schemes, to a certain extent were inclusive of women.

 Sir Syed's was the modern educational reform and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi personified the Ulema and their reform, which was by the influence of scripturalist reform. 

 The Bahishti-Zewar was written by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, who was a leader of the Deobandi reform movement of the nineteenth century. The religious leaders at the heart of that movement believed that the part of the world they lived in was going seriously on an anti-Islamic path. So they set out to reform it through- education, preaching and teaching, having public debates and - a flood of pamphlets and books. He is considered as Hakeem AlUmmah (spiritual physician of the Ummah) by the scholars...

  Bahishti Zewar was intended to provide a basic education for a respectable Muslim woman ...typically those that were non-educated themselves and this book was intended to be a “handbook" that would answer from an Islamic point of view everything they needed.

  It is important to note however, that a woman from those strata can be different from a modern, educated Muslim woman of today, who if she reads the Bahishti Zewar out of context, stands to commit a grave error of misinterpreting it.

 The book challenges widely held misperceptions and stereotypes of Islamic teachings about women. "Secluded Women" as they were called, have in fact played significant roles in economic life and in family alliances thanks to the reformative teachings of Ulema of those times. Books like Bahishti Zewar gave guidelines for women in important roles in exercising moral leadership, managing economic resources and creating social alliances.

 Maulana Thanwi and his fellow reformist Ulema sought to do nothing less than bringing women in to the high standard of Islamic conformity, which is what educated religious men do. It teaches all individuals - moderation in all things, unfailing self-control, and whole absorption in fulfilment of religious law.

  It also says that a woman's education is the key to social reform.

 The Bahishti Zewar differs in significant ways from the advice books for women that proliferated in nineteenth century America and England -or in Bengal. Like them, this book sought to standardize a respectable morality throughout a large population during a period of social change. Unlike them however, the book stressed that woman or man, could attain that high essential character of Islamic standards through knowledge and through relentless discipline and self-control.

 The difference , however, between our generation and the next is that while I was educated at AMU and came to my husband's house clutching an Urdu copy of the Bihishti Zewar, my daughter was educated in US and left for her husband's home, with an English translation of Bihishti Zewar by Barbara Metcalfe !

 It's ironic and sad , that today , women of the 21st century from South east Asia , who are educated and have reached that high level of discipline thanks to the efforts of Muslim reformers like Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi of the nineteenth century,  turn around and say that we don't subscribe to the views of the Ulema.

 We very well might be a result of the emancipation movements for women through Maulanas such as him, and were it not for such efforts; we would not have been allowed to be 'emancipated' from the fates that many of our great, great grandmothers were in.

 Bahishti Zewar was written with sincerity to cater to the needs of the society. Muslims have a religious as well as a cultural heritage and at that time in India more than 50% of the Hindu rituals had become part of Muslim women’s' life as tradition and "Rasmo Rawaaj." The Moulana's intention was in fact to bring them out slowly from those practices.

 Readers of the text, in the light of their own social norms, ask whether women lost or gained by the influence of scriptural reform. But, I feel that this book not only assures us of divine blessings, but also it clearly empowered women with skills of literacy, and told them about rationally organised principle of behaviour.

 So, Ulema have really played a very important part in education. If today, Ulema are at the brunt of ridicule and are shown disrespect, then I feel it is a general malaise which has affected the secular teachers as well. So many schools and private institutions have sprouted up, but do they have the same standard as older well established Institutions? The quality of teachers has deteriorated so much , that the standard of education is going down, even though degrees are distributed a dime a dozen, by these private colleges. 

 So, I think when we expect bringing in reforms in Madrasas and when we talk about changes which the Ulema should adopt, in all fairness emphasis should be given in improving the quality of secular teachers as well.


Syed Qamar Hasan

27 August, 2010

Subject: RE: [nrindians] Please respect our ulama

Dear Bari Sahab

Salam Aalai Kum

It is after a long time that we get a good read from you. How are you and i am sure you must be busy with coming GCC summit to be held in Abu Dhabi this December.

Bari Sahab, even I initially had the same feeling that our Ulema are not given their due. However, it took some time to realise that the term ALIM AND ULEMA is now being ascribed generally to anyone in the little know how of Islam. Like Iqbal said of the two RAKAT iMAM.

In fact the names you have mentioned are people who have served Islam selflessly and are beyond the comprehension of the common Muslim.

Mails ridiculing and castigating Ulema, i am sure are meant for the dime a dozen MOALVI AND MOULANA. Then again these two terms have come to stand for the ignorant in our society.



Zafar Bari

 27 Aug 2010

Subject: [nrindians] Please respect our ulama

Dear Members:  Assalamu Alaikum

Ever since, I have been attached to this group, I have come across many useful messages and discussions. However, I have noticed that in many cases the discussion degenerates into a show of disrespect for the ulama (ulama is plural of aalim so it does not require "s" for plural). A few members directly or indirectly tend to attribute all the ills besetting the Muslims in India and the world to the ulama. This is far from being the truth.

Historical Perspective

Ulama have been at the forefront of our struggle against injustice and tyranny. The first name that comes to mind is that of Mujaddid Alf Thani (RA) who waged jihad against Akbar for introducing deen-e-ilaahi. By his armed struggle the saint prevented Islam from being disfigured in India for ever. Indian Muslims owe a lot to this great mujahid.

During the first battle of independence many ulama were hanged for fighting against the British raaj. Ulama were also in the frontlines of India's independence struggle: Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Ali brothers, Maulana Mazharul Haque, Maulana Mahmoodul Hassan and many more, who struggled shoulder-to-shoulder with  Gandhiji to rid India of the British rule.

 Sane Leadership

During the most critical times, Ulama have provided sane and level- headed leadership. It was not the Ulama who created Pakistan. It was the secular elite lead by Muhammad Ali Jinnah who laid down the foundation of Pakistan on the blood of lakhs of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. This was against the advice of Muslim leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. No wonder that while significant numbers of the secular elite left India, the majority of Ulema stayed back. They not only stayed back but also participated in nation building. In the post-independence period, the ulama were not responsible for the martyrdom of the Babri Masjid; it was a batch of secular Muslim leaders. The secular Indian Muslim intelligentsia is yet to produce any mass political leader of any consequence. In times of calamities and riots, it is they who risk their lives and carry out relief work on the ground. A case in point is the role of Al-Khidmat Society in carrying out flood relief activities in Pakistan.

Not Against Modern Education

It is a fallacy that Ulama have been against modern education. If it were so, Maulana Mahmoodul Hassan would not have laid down the foundation stone of Jamia Millia Islamia. I have had the good fortune of spending some time in the company of the late Maulana Mujahid-ul-Islam Qasmi. He used to work tirelessly for the welfare of the community, rendering social, economic, educational, political and juridical services. to the Muslims of Bihar in particular and the rest of India in general. Aside from building mosques, he also built colleges, vocational education institutes, and health centers. He used his influence to help students get admission in colleges and Universities. I have also seen many other ulama working full time for community development. I have seen them in remote villages and slums working to keep alive the deen in the lives of Muslims. These days Maulana Wali Rahmani is leading from the front to spread modern education, and to modernize the madaris. He has started the Muslim 30 on the patterns of Bihar 30 with satisfactory success.

Working at the Grassroots Level

Our Ulama enjoy the confidence of the poor Muslims living in villages and slums. They live amongst them; they share their daal roti; they are with them in times of joy and sorrow. They experience their fears and insecurities.  They do not pontificate from the luxury of their offices and apartments via the internet. The secular elite tend to move towards the "centre": Delhi-ME-UK-USA, that being a one-way-ticket in most cases. 

 Our Clergy are not like Their Clergy

By and large our clergy are God-fearing. They are not like the Catholic priests who have the habit of systematically abusing children. They are not like Hindu God men who are involved in corruption and running prostitution rackets.

The Ulama Are Not Responsible for Our Problems

A cursory glance at the ruling elite in the Muslim world would reveal that most of the modern day Muslim world has not been under the rule of the Muslim Ulama, be it Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Tunis, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq or Pakistan. For decades these countries have been under the dictatorship of the secular elite—cartoons like Zardari, Burqeba, the two begums, and Qaddafi—to name just a few. The countries that have shown some respect to their ulama(Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf countries) have prospered and developed relatively more than those that have not.

 Need for Reform, Not Abolition

Of course, like all other institutions—including Universities—the Madaris and the Ulama that they produce also need to undertake and undergo a lot of reforms. One such reform would be to introduce modern subjects like science, mathematics, geography, history and literature etc. to increase their capacity to contribute to society. Already, there is a growing realization for this change among the ulama. Who would have thought that computer and English would be taught at Darul-Oloom?

I am specially pained by the suggestion of abolishing the madaris outright.  Instead of hurling abuses at the Ulama, and passing sly remarks at their beards, we should think of engaging them and enlisting their support in the development activities. I firmly believe that no large scale change can come about without enlisting the support of the maulvis.

 (The author of this email is a translator at the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council. He has studied at Anjuman-i- Islam Public School, Panchgani; Embassy of India School, Riyadh; Aligarh Muslim University; and Jamia Millia Islamia. He is the son of Maulana Abdul Bari Qasmi Azhari, Founder of Al-Maarif Educational Society and Jamiatul Banat, Muzaffarpur Bihar) 

Source: Google Groups "Global-Right-Path"