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Islamic Society ( 26 Jan 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Tradition and Traditionalism in Muslim Community

 By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef, New Age Islam

27 January 2022

Why Is So That Whenever There Is Any Progress In Medical Field Or In Any Scientific Branch Of Knowledge Our Ulema Feel Challenged

Main Points:

1.    Western infidels are interfering in God's affairs!

2.    how can we as an Ummah be so narrow-minded while we are the inheritors of great legacy Muslim philosophers, scientists and inventors

3.    Most often we ourselves are the cause of this rampant islamophobia.


The Western infidels are interfering in God's affairs! latest is the case of transplanting the pig heart in a human body by medics in US; the enemy number one of Islam! This is a sample of jargon proclaimed nowadays from rooftops in our religious circles, time and again, especially among the ulema of our neighbouring country, Pakistan.

We have been hearing from our childhood and it is very vehemently being reiterated that "the knowledge of all kinds of the unseen is with the Almighty God and no one can know it". But today a lot has become known by scientists and this speed of knowing is increasing day by day. From new cosmology based on natural evolution explored and explained by Charles Darwin, human "DNA" and genetic engineering, cloning of the sheep named as Doli, lab-born usable flesh, Artificial Intelligence, the cyber world, automation age ushered in by Nano technology and more recently the James Webb telescope's journey to the skies to unravel natural mysteries and so on. There are much more hidden facts in the universe that remain to be revealed but could be explored and revealed in due course of time.

Why it is so that whenever there is any progress in medical field or in any scientific branch of knowledge our Ulema feel challenged and, therefore, oppose it initially then gradually they come to terms with it. For example, they resisted telephone, tv etc, saying that some Jinny speaks in there. They resisted in the beginning loud speaker with heated debate around it. They opposed photography, and strangely a section of Ulema is still opposing it, while many of them are using photography and images for personal gratification or propagating their ideas with this tool unscrupulously, though still giving fatwas, dubbing it forbidden and haram to the masses! They still grudge the banking system, on the ground that it is a damned Jewish invention, yet are unable to give satisfying answers legitimizing their objections to it.

That is why I was not surprised at all when they express confusion in the case of heart transplantation. The question is how can we as an Ummah be so narrow-minded while we are the inheritors of a great legacy of Muslim philosophers, scientists and inventors like Jabir bin Hayyan, Ibn Al-Haytham, Al-Khwarizmi and Abul Qasim Al-Zahrawi, Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina et al?

Time is defeating us day in and day out and science is venturing into miracle after miracle. We Muslims, a poor lot, still trying to apologize, defend or somehow justify our traditional thinking which is sacred to us. But how long will it continue to perform this duty of adjusting the rotten traditional thinking with the scientific one? Our traditional views -- such as the unscientific notion of revolving of the sun round the earth! -- are constantly being challenged by new scientific conquests and researches, arising from the scientific revolution. We have in our ranks many people, YouTubers, bloggers, and Shariah proprietors who try in vain to defend bizarre viewpoints belonging to our “sacred” past. But for how long? Isn't now a hard time for our interpretations of religious texts in the face of new cosmology based on natural evolution?

We have been hearing since childhood that it would be near the Day of Resurrection that knowledge will be taken away. Knowledge has really been taken away but from which nation has it been taken away? This is the billion-dollar question.

 Our religious zealots poetically say and boast that it is the heart of a believer that is the centre of enlightenment and Godly manifestation and now it is being preyed upon by putting a pig's heart there.  According to our popular thinking pig is a very impure animal and eating its meat produces savagery and barbarism, so it could not be sanctioned religiously of taking advantage of it's impure heart. But the question is if this is the case then why God created a pig heart similar to the human one? And why pig eaters, the Goddamned westerners are more humane than non-consumers of pig flesh? And more relevantly, where has gone our principle of iztirar( اضطرار a dire and invariable need) to save a human life? What should we do now?

      The biggest tragedy for us is that our wallet is empty of research and our collective heritage of nearly three past centuries is nothing but "good tidings’" for believers! when Charles Darwin came up with his theory of Human evolution, Muslim scholars and ideologues such as Maulana Maudoodi failed miserably, either to appreciate that aspect or even refute it with good, sound and convincing methodology and scientific reasoning. They could do nothing except mocking the theory by saying that Darwin made human beings children of apes and monkeys. They could not delve deep into the matter, even though the theory has its roots in the rich Islamic scientific heritage in the writings of Ibn Miskawayh ,Al-Jahiz and Rumi et al.

 Tradition is a good thing and a healthy mind does not deny the value of tradition, but tradition should be used as a tool to explore new vistas of knowledge, invent new methods and use that for betterment in future. So, we have to think that we have become a burden on earth by our perverted, parochial thinking, narrow mindedness and blind imitation of our clergy.

Nobody can deny that by dint of new technology the world now has become a global village. It has shrunk down to your fingertips as it is popularly said. Now no nation, no faith group or no country can live in isolation from other nations and countries. Clearly a tolerant and science-oriented outlook is required.

          Coming to Muslim Ummah, we see that it is still living in its past glory. That past is now a bygone era, our present is not so good and our future is depending on what we do now and what steps we would take for betterment of the future. We generally mourn and bitch about our clergy and their unscientific approach and rotten ways of thinking. Yet the irony is that there are so many modern educated people, drawing upon Urdu critics and writers like M. Hasan Askari, Saleem Ahmad and Javed Akbar Ansari or following blindly the footsteps of some western converts like Abu Bakar Martin Lings and French convert Rene Genu (Abdu Wahid Yahya) etc. These rather extremist thinkers and critics of the West abhor all western scientific achievements. In Pakistan these traditionalists have now became a school of thought which is unfortunately waging a misguided jihad against all rational activities and scientific research.

Most of the time we complain of growing Islamophobia around the world, yet if we could introspect, most often we ourselves are the cause of this rampant islamophobia. The holy Quran says: "Verily those who believe and do righteous works, the Compassionate will assign for their affection" (Maryam:96) It was a promise made by God for the prophet and his companions and was fulfilled in very gigantic mode. AS history tells us Muslims of the first generation were welcome around the world most of the times, after initial resistance and warfare because they were not the epitome of dreadfulness, terror and extremism from which human being will more likely flee. Instead they were a messenger of love, peace, and justice, virtues which human beings are always in want of and aspire to. That is why people invited them, opened their doors, cities and citadels and rendered their keys to them.

 History testifies that when the Byzantine imperial forces were busy in fighting the invading Arabs in Yarmok and Ajnadeen, people of Syria were sending love letters to them, Busra opened her door, Hums requested them to come, Tripoli was waiting for them and not only that they were welcomed in Egypt too. It was all for one reason, that they were the salt of the earth in the words of Jesus. They were useful for the people, for the human sciences, for the research and knowledge and for human civilization. And it is law of nature that ‘’Then as far the scum, it departs as rubbish, and as far that which benefits mankind, it lasts on the earth! (Ar-raid:17)

      The question is, how long will we continue to use failed "justification tactics" to make ourselves falsely compatible with the times, only to the extent of mouthing big words and doing nothing? The biggest question that arises today on our traditional thinking is that we are so stunned by some scientific discoveries today, and in the time to come more such revelations will surely come to light for which we may have no response except bowing down in shame before other people.

 Do we have an any plan for that? Or will our demagogues continue to speak loud, only with stubbornness. But the question will be the same, till when? Isn't it true that we have changed completely from what we were in the past? This is something to think about.


Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef is a Research Associate with the Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India, AMU Aligarh.



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