By Hassan Al Mustafa
19 July 2018
In 2004, King Abdulaziz Library held a seminar under the name Islam and the Dialogue between Civilizations, which drew the participation of 120 cultural and religious figures from various countries and diverse political and intellectual streams.
I had the opportunity to attend the seminar, which held many discussions and included several advanced ideas for its time. I participated in several discussions and one of my interventions focused on the fiqh (jurisprudential) position of the status of the “non-Muslim,” and the dilemma of being open to him/her and on the Islamic movements’ dual rhetoric in this regards.
I discussed how many scholars consider non-Muslims as “impure” beings, either physical or spiritual. I deemed that this Fiqh position poses a real problem in our relations with others whom we look at as “inferior” whereas we are the “pure” and they are the “impure.”
My intervention provoked a response from Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayah, who refuted the notion of physical “impurity” of any human being. He strongly defended his point of view, which was quite progressive compared to many of the traditional peers and scholars.
This story can be read within the context of the contemporary understanding of texts, consequently, this understanding changes the way we look at non-Muslims, alters the way we deal with texts, and transforms them from being the erstwhile repositories of infinite permanence or having undisputed and abiding determinants into historical references related to circumstances and specific to their time of issuance.
To consider texts as only one of the many sources of knowledge and fatwas, and not the only basis and the only cornerstone, results in interpretations that are completely different than past interpretations that date back to centuries ago when texts were treated by many scholars as holy and rigid and when only a few dared to question and challenge them.
Human Rights Charter
Nowadays, human being is treated with outmost respect. They are dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the human rights charter. The modern state has regulated laws to organize the public space to preserve human rights, freedom and individuality and to prevent clashes.
This centralization, which was formed in the mind and in the social, philosophical and even political reality of men, makes the contemporary modernist jurists adopt a different mentality.
Thus, they see provisions such as slavery, which were accepted in previous times as no longer acceptable as was discussed by Dr. Tawfiq Alsaif in his article, entitled “The constant and the variable, once again,” published in Asharq Al-Awsat daily.
Man’s self-consciousness currently makes the duty of scholars even more difficult because they have to reflect upon the doctrinal system via a different mechanism and a new mindset to establish a modern code of provisions that provide solutions to the fiqh and legal problems faced by Muslims today – solutions which old texts do not provide despite their significance.
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in Middle East and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle Eastern societal matters.