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Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam ( 23 Jan 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islam needs to regain its vibrant and dynamic character

By Fazl Illahi

24 January, 2012

I read some articles in Greater Kashmir sometime back about democracy, secularism and Islam. One enticed us to look into the pockets of secularism and democracy for better understanding and adjustment, and second, a word of caution about harbouring any thought of such kind. One stood for getting lessons from Turkey, and second highlighting an aberration in faith should a thought like this be nursed.

We as common people see around and take lessons from our times and history. We cannot close our eyes. Whatever is happening is not to be brushed aside as reaction to the misdoings of the West. The reasons are to be looked into. Ask some and they have one reason only to speak about: “Muslims have lost their character”, and they wind-up discussion with Iqbal’s verse leaving no scope for proper analysis. Character may be just one issue. There may be other issues that we are overlooking. But they cannot think an inch beyond this. This is not to say that religion is to be thrown to the backburner. Our religion is not set into watertight compartment, insulated from its surroundings. It is a vibrant and dynamic religion, not a static one, as some theologians have us believe. Their favourite dictum: world shall change but our religion shall never. This we hear from every mosque pulpit every Friday. This is like setting a static religion into a dynamic world. Is that possible? This mindset has already set us into inertial state. We are already hamstrung. Just think, do we have any idea of striding out of present logjam situation. Do we have any direction to move toward? We are caught in a dust cloud thrown up by the nations moving ahead in leaps and bounds. Leave aside having any idea of escape from this morass we are bogged down by the sectarian animosity. Every sect has its own claim to paradise, branding others hellish. Having a different opinion on some religious issue is no problem but dogmatism at its worst leaves no room for any difference. We, like ants, should follow one line only. It is killing, that such dogmatism is validated by verses from the scripture by some unscrupulous people.

There is a large space between verses to be decided by rational and pragmatic judgement. But our problem is that we interpret every situation and problem through scriptural spectacles, blowing them out of proportion. Verses have meaning only when understood in temporal setting, devoid of time and space they shall escape any interpretation. Verses flow from eternal and unfold into temporal slowly in serial time. That is, one verse shall differ in interpretation across time; it follows that same verse with different meanings and applications is possible.

It is not absolute non-changeability of Islam that makes it powerful as claimed by some people but its dynamism and changeability that shall make it fit to all times. Changing times is okay, what about changing places? I feel it should fit spatial changes at one time as well. Does it mean that we should fit Islam to every situation? Or can every situation be made to fit Islam? We have been trying later without success. Let us allow Islam its dynamism and remain in accord with spatio-temporal dynamics.

For scripture to be understood we need well versed theologians, and researchers social and in natural science. It is not the job of one man, there has to be panel of commentators. And, furthermore, it has to be reviewed frequently, not so much for theological dimension, although that too is necessary, but more so for changing temporal dimension. One person commentary is, I suppose, thing of the past.

Any “ism” cannot be thrown into dustbin by unreasonable interpretation of a verse, but broader approach and research shall pave way for better understanding. One more thing: Quran is easy to understand for individual morality, but for social and wider application it needs wider consensus across knowledge spectra. One person’s judgments shall be subjective, and may be irrational. For internal journey to the self it raises you to the level of an angel, and here subjectivity is the key. The journey without, into the external objective world, objectivity rules the roost. Our disaster has been application of subjectivity into the objective world.

The author teaches at Govt. College of Education, Srinagar

Source: Greater Kashmir