By Adis Duderija, New Age Islam
This paper discusses the origins and the worldview behind two global contemporary movements among Muslims, namely Neo-Traditional Salafis and Progressive Muslims .It endeavours to historically situate and position them in relation to the cumulative Islamic historical harvest and their approach to modernity. Additionally the paper briefly examines the concept of the role and the function of women in their respective worldviews. Finally, it analysis the implications of the underlying ideology of these movements on the relationship between Muslim and non-Muslims in both Islamicate and Non-Islamicate societies
Qur'an and Sunnah, as primary sources of Shari'ah (i.e. Islamic Weltanschauung), are uniformally recognised as the ultimate points of reference on whose basis, in the past as well as in the present, a variety of interpretive communities across the Muslim ideological divide have based their worldviews. However, the often-invoked formula of "going back to the Qur'an and Sunnah" has become a clichƒÆ’© phrase in contemporary Muslim discourse. Throughout the Muslim historical experience the phrase has been an ideological battleground in terms of whose understanding, definition, nature and scope of these (textual) sources is the most representative of God's Intent/ Will and Prophet's (s) bodily interpretation of it. Indeed, often this slogan was used to "provide doctrinal, ideological or geo-political theme used by peripheral Muslim groups against a central power."
Various interpretations of the primary sources of Islam are highly relevant considering the dynamics of current global political context for several reasons. Firstly, the ideological conflicts between Muslims for Qur'ano-Sunnahic legitimacy inherited from the past are once again resurfacing and have become much more potent, intense and on a broader scale due to the communication and information technology revolution. Secondly, the internal battles for authentic Islam that are currently going on within Muslim communities are resulting in an increased polarisation along ideological lines, especially in the post 9/11 eras. Thirdly, the increased ideological affinity of the Muslim youth to what we term the NTS -like worldview such as in the case of some Muslim Student Association subcultures thanks to its highly attractive "epistemological promise" can set in motion powerful socio-religious or political movements which have the potential to further increase suspicion, tension and even open conflict between Muslim and Non-Muslim communities. The emergence of groups such as Al-Qaeda, Hizb al-Tahrir, Al-Muwahhidun and Al-Muhajirun among Muslims in Western liberal democracies is a clear manifestation of the presence of such currents. Fourthly, it is closely related to the phenomenon of increased religiosity of western-born Muslims in the context of liminality.
Lastly, NTS's highly attractive, simply and persuasively formulated "epistemological promise" of being the sole custodian of true Qur'anico-Sunnahic teachings gives substantial credence to their claims as they have largely succeeded in monopolising the religious discourse. As such, they often find many a sympathetic ear among economically, socially and politically marginalised, alienated, frustrated, dis-empowered and deprived Muslim masses both in predominantly Muslim as well as in largely non-Muslim societies. These Muslims are often used for recruitment and indoctrination purposes (i.e. born again Muslims- as in the case of the notorious Syrian leader of Iraqi insurgency Al-Zarqawi or even that of Bin Laden/Zawahri) and equipped with a certain understanding of Qur'anic and Sunnahic legacy which is then, in turn, utilised as an ideological springboard for furthering the ideological, political and social agendas of the underlying NTS worldview.
In his most recent book Western Muslims and Future of Islam, Professor Ramadan presents a typology of six "major tendencies "or "trends of thought" concerning the interpretation of the Qur'an and Sunnah by contemporary Muslims living in both predominantly non-Muslim and Muslim populated societies. Of these six typologies three include the term Salafism/Salafi. This (re)- emergence and wide spread dissemination of Salafi -like currents within contemporary Islamic thought is argued also by other contemporary scholars of Islamic tradition such as Jabiri, Hanafi, Madjid, Abu Zayd ,Tibi, El-Fadl , Arkoun, and many others. Thus given the current global political landscape surrounding and focusing on Muslims and Islam, especially its Salafi version, in order to understand how many contemporary (western-born) Muslims are constructing and deriving their sense of religious identity the concept of Salafism requires some further clarification and elaboration.
1. Origins and Worldview of Neo-Traditional Salafi Thought- A brief Overview:
In this part of the article we are concerned o with a succinct exposition of broad and general historical antecedents of one Salafi-oriented Islamic group the author refers to as Neo-Traditional Salafism and their worldview. As such the Salafi and Wahhabi movements, the "ideological parents" whose marriage and union in many ways "gave birth" to NTS will not be dealt with at length since a wealth of literature already exists on them. Similarly, the so-called "Political Islam" movements have been widely deliberated in recent literature and are not of direct concern to this article.
Salafism as a general approach to the interpretation of Islamic history, is embedded in the idea of the following in the footsteps of the as-salaf as-salih, the Righteous Predecessors. These usually include beside the Prophet, his Companions and the two generations of pious Muslims that came after them. As an ideological premise Salafism has been a part of Islamic intellectual tradition since its earliest days as reflected in the works of Muslims in the first century of Hijrah.
As a concept, the genesis of Salafi mind-set is perhaps best understood in the light of the political and theological schisms that took place in the Muslim community of the first century Hijrah. At this time the concept was used as an anchoring point for various ideologically competing groups to show that their views were consistent with those figures that were held in high esteem during the inception of the Muslim community, such as the first four caliphs, thus imbibing these factions with the sense of normativeness, credibility, legitimacy and authoritativeness.
From a historical point of view, the earliest usage of the terms Salaf or Salafism is than not associated with any particular "movement" or religious party per se. Rather it usually refers to the general attitude of the post- as-salaf as-salih generations mind-set on "emulation-worthiness" of the first century religious and political authorities who were thought to / or perceived as, having remained faithful to the teachings of the Qur'an and the example of the Prophet (i.e. Sunnah) in contrast to those who deviated from them. As such Salafism can be described as a " project of reviving heritage projecting the ideologically sought future onto the present" and the belief "in the possibility of materialising the past in the future."
Salafism is to be viewed primarily as manifesting itself in the belief that the historical legacy of the Prophet's embodiment of the Qur'an as it was understood by the most eminent authorities belonging to the first three generations of Muslims is normative, static and universalistic in nature (in terms of methodology and its byproduct, the creed) as such is to be literally adhered to and imitated in a "contextual vacuum" across all space and time by the subsequent generations of Muslims primarily by being faithful to a literal and decontextualised Qur'ano-Sunnahic hermeneutic whose anchoring epistemologico-methodological tool is the canonical Hadith-based literature.
The origins of what we refer to as Neo-Salafi creed and movement, go back to the late nineteenth century. The creed's major proponents were authorities such as 'Abduh (d.1905 C.E. ), Al-Afghani (d.1897 C.E.), Rida (d. 1935), Al-Shawkani (d.1834) and Al-San'ani (d. 1810). Remaining faithful to the Salafi mind-set these Neo-Salafi reformers re-claimed the "epistemological promise" of the earlier Salafi oriented ideologies of being able to retrieve the lost teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah as exemplified by the Prophet and his rightly guided Companions by means of revivification of the true Qur'anic and Sunnahic teachings (ihya al-Qur’an wa- s-Sunnah). Their primary motivation behind this undertaking was the desire to free the Muslim countries from shackles of colonisation and prevalent practices deemed "un-Islamic". Its intellectual and methodological basis was characterised by the insistence of the return to the pure, original textual sources of the Qur'an and Sunnah of the Prophet. Neo-Salafism, furthermore, was built on a romanticised and utopian view of the past “ignoring or demonizing the balance of Islamic history." It largely rejected the a priori adherence to the long-established juristic heritage and legal hermeneutic of traditional schools of thought (madhhab) by engaging in the practice of talfiq or cross-madhhab legal hermeneutic, thus "deconstructing traditional notions of established authority within Islam."
This one-dimensional, reductionist, view of Islamic historical heritage inherent in its Salafi interpretation is particularly appealing to Muslim masses "because it connotes authenticity and legitimacy [and] as a term, it is exploitable by any movement that wants to claim that it is grounded in Islamic authenticity." That the belief in return to pure Qur'ano-Sunnahic teachings is, however, intellectually and scholarly inaccurate is borne out of the fact that:
This [Salafi] approach, besides being historical, proved to be hopelessly simplistic and naƒÆ’¯ve [as] -it was impossible to return to Qur'an and Sunnah in a vacuum [because] return to the Qur'an necessarily meant a return to classical sources that commented on the context and meaning of the verses and that explained the collection and documentation of the Qur'anic text. Furthermore, a return to Sunnah necessarily meant a return to the classical sources that compiled, authenticated, conceptualized, and interpreted traditions of the Prophet and his Companions.
Neo-Salafism, however, neither isolated itself from, nor was reluctant to engage with modernity, nor was it inherently anti-Western. It attempted to reconcile the realities of modernity and the era of post-colonially emerging Arab nationalism with the Islamic tradition itself by "reading the values of modernism into the original sources of Islam." In the words of Tibi, who uses the term Islamic Modernism as the equivalent of Neo-Salafism, this approach "attempted to espouse cultural and institutional modernity by seeking a synthesis between these concepts and Islam, but doing so without rethinking the traditional Islamic theocentric worldview."
Methodologically, Neo-Salafism is the twin brother of another strong current in the more recent history of Islam, namely that of the much deliberated Wahhabism which spread in the Muslim world under the banner of Neo-Salafism. Wahhabi thought, originating in the deserts of Saudi Arabia in the middle of the eighteen-century but aggressively spreading with the help of Saudi petrodollars in the 1970s, is based on the "most patriarchal and exclusionary orientations within contemporary Islam."
Wahhabism' s anti-rationalism, anti-intellectualism, anti-mysticism and strict literalism is hostile to humanistic epistemology, and attempts to interpret the Divine law without any degree of contextualisation thereby proclaiming "the diacritical and indeterminate hermeneutic of classical jurisprudential hermeneutic as corruptions of purity of Islamic faith and law." Wahhabism oppositional dialectic and hostility extends not only to the "Western Other" but also to un-like minded Muslims. In its self-contained system of belief "it has no reason to engage or interact with the other except from the point of dominance." Other characteristics of Wahhabi thought include a complete disregard for universalistic moral values and appreciation for ethics in the realms of Islamic theology and law. Its epistemology is entirely pre-modern and considers modern knowledge disciplines in the realms of social sciences, arts and humanities as foreign and alien to Muslim tradition, rejecting their validity and legitimate usage in the religious sciences such as in the interpretation of Qur'an and Sunnah.
It's attitude towards interpretation of Qur'an and Sunnah follows closely in the footsteps of the pre-modern ahl-hadith movement "who are conservative in outlook, generally try to superimpose the face value of Scripture (Qur'an and Sunnah) on civilisation...[they are] puritan, idealist and fundamentalist in their effort to adapt reality to the Scripture." The usage of the slogan of going back to Qur'an and Sunnah by NTS "instead of interacting with the present, takes refuge in the golden age of Islam by making and hence isolating a certain period of Islamic history as its [only] foundation."
The complex dynamics and interaction between social, political and economic factors over the last two to three decades resulted in the merging of Wahhabism and Neo-Salafism and formulation of a new hybrid model that Professor El-Fadl refers to as "Salafabism" which inherited the both Salafi and Wahhabi worldview/mindset. Salabafism's, or what we refer to as Neo-Traditional Salafism, worldview by extension considers itself an inheritor and a continuation of the traditional approach to viewing the past of the Salaf whose quintessential contemporary exponents, amongst others, are contemporary Saudi Arabian and Syrian Muslim scholars such as Al-Albanee, Al-Atharee, Al-Madkhalee, Bin Bazz, Al-Uthaymeen who hold senior positions on councils responsible for issuing fatwas (legal opinions). They also hold high positions in educational institutions whose influence is felt not only across the Middle East but also North Africa, the Indo-Pakistani Subcontinent and, due to easier and faster communications between major Muslim communities living in United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom where their ideological sympathisers have established own publishing houses and websites.
Although militant fanatical groups with a political agenda operating in both predominantly Muslim and non -Muslim world such as Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Al-Hizb Al-Tahrir, Jama'ah Islamiyah, Al-Muwahhidun, and Al-Muhajirun together with Bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahri and other like-minded Muslims, do not have a large following among Muslims, they are " in fact extreme manifestations of more prevalent intellectual current in modern Islam" that the current author refers to as Neo-Traditional Salafism. NTS's approach to Qur'ano-Sunnahic teachings and Islamic Weltanschauung, as such, can be seen as providing an ideological foundation on whose basis its more politically radical offshoots mentioned above operate.
NTS's theological (lahutaniyah) worldview considers revelation to be the "first source of human knowledge and the indisputable complete final source" in which human beings are torn between two extremes, command and prohibition." This attitude towards tradition (turath) is solely concerned with the "imitation of the original, the preservation of the original requirements and prohibition of going against the original."
Another quintessential element of NTS thought is its attitude towards the past and present (and future). Mansoor asserts that according to the NTS's particular tradition is exclusively seen as providing a sense of direction one should not deviate from. Past is seen to provide all the answers and constantly imposes it self upon the present. In words of Al-Azmeh “history consists of continuity over a time which knows no substentative causalities, for causality is only, manifest in discontinuity...[and] continuity is constantly [in] antithetical relation to all otherness." Textual sources precede and should not be understood through reality but reality should be understood through the text, thereby ignoring the reality that shaped the process of text formation. It accepts the accomplishments of modern civilisation [the West] but refuses its intellectual premises."
An essential element of NTS identity construction is therefore premised upon a particular concept of time. According to this understanding:
[P] Rophetic time is privileged over human time, for prophetic time keeps him [the believer] close to the origin, where there is no innovation of creativity, only imitation and repetitiveness...where the notion of identity operates within imitation and repetativeness.where essence supercedes existence, specificity precedes universality, and the distinctive supercedes connective.
In other words the authenticity of one's identity can only be established by returning to a fixed point in historical time, that of the Prophet and early Muslim community.
The concept of "authenticity", a term of paramount importance in this worldview, is, in turn, conceptualised in terms of contingent linking of both past and future by the ontological void of today. Authenticity serves the sole purpose of "designating the self in contradistinction to the other."
This "neo-fundamentalist" component of the contemporary Islamic resurgence among Muslims, is exhibited by engaging in what Noor terms the "rhetoric of oppositional dialectics" in which the question of Islamic identity is primarily approached on the basis "of the trope of the negative Other which manifests itself in a number of forms: secularism, the West, international Jewry/Zionism, capitalism etc." Its worldview is binary in nature considering the Islamic civilisation as largely (if not completely) antithetical to that of the West allowing for no civilisation cross-pollination and syncretism. It justifies this view by employing the medieval epistemology found in Muslim jurisprudential works of that time such as dar-ul-Islam and dar-ul-kufr/harb.
Epistemologically, it considers modernity and its byproducts such as rationality, development of human and social sciences as bida'ah, an ungodly innovation, irreconcilable and alien to pure Islamic thought. Furthermore, NTS's political ideology, based upon the imitation of the early models of Islamic caliphate, is hostile towards any modern theories that do not have an epistemic root in a pre-modern Islamic tradition, and considers feminism, democracy, and human rights issues as entirely alien to Islam and as ungodly innovations (bid'ah) from the West polluting the minds of Muslims.
2. Origins and Worldview of Progressive Muslims-A-brief Overview
This part of the article aims to offer a brief answer to the question of who Progressive Muslims are is how can we characterise Procreative Muslim Thought (PMT), especially with regards to the question of its relationship to the "innovation, discontinuity and continuity " of the accumulated Muslim tradition and the approach to the interpretation of Qur'ano-Sunnahic teachings?
The term Progressive Muslims in this study is used as originally described by the contributors of the book titled "Progressive Muslims" edited by O.Safi and as defined by the PMU of North America statement of principals. The book was a "result of almost an entire year of conversation, dialogue, and debate among the fifteen contributors. It had its real genesis in the aftermath of September 11,2001 in what we [the contributors] saw as the urgent need to raise the level of conversation, and to get away from the standard apologetic presentations of Islam."
According to the PMU website:
The Progressive Muslim Union (PMU) is the result of almost two years of conversation and collaboration between a group of North American Muslims who are committed to representing and renewing our community in all its social, ideological and political diversity. PMU members range from deeply religious to totally secular, sharing in common a commitment to learning, political and social empowerment, a commitment to justice and freedom and a concern and love for the Muslim community.
This is not to imply that Progressive Muslim thought is only found in North America that the term "Progressive Muslims" is confined to those who contributed to this volume. All those who subscribe to the worldview as described below could be considered proponents of PMT. Neither PM nor NTS are actually restricted to a particular geographical area since in the final assessment and analysis the foundational principles of all Islamic groups lead back to a particular interpretation of the primary sources of Qur'an and Sunnah. It is on the basis of differing heuristics to the interpretation of these sources that all religious, political, social, economic differences between various Muslim groups emanate from.
In simplest terms the term PMT, a somewhat problematic term in itself as openly admitted by its original users is an "umbrella term that signifies an invitation to those who want an open and safe space to undertake a rigorous, honest, potentially difficult engagement with the tradition. In its nature it is unapologetic, anti-neo conservative and anti-simplistic. Indeed, one of the aims of this intellectual movement is to bring forth the sheer breath, wealth and richness of Muslim thought and to self-position itself in it.
PMT does not claim a complete epistemological break with the Muslim interpretative harvest of the Muslim tradition of the past. It is rather engaged in what PM scholars call a "multiple critique." One aspect of this critique is the engagement with tradition in light of modernity, "a critic which derives its inspiration from the heart of Islamic tradition". This attitude to the accumulated intellectual heritage is not framed in the context of the Islamic equivalent of Lutherian Christian reformation, argues Safi, but a "fine tuning, a polishing, a grooming, an editing and re-emphasising" of certain aspect of Islamic historical legacy of Muslim thought. Indeed, for PM Qur'an continues to assume a central position to the contemporary Muslim debates and is considered the ultimate legitimising text of the Islamic tradition.
This progressive type of religious identity is based on a "multiple critique" and notion of interactional civilisational identity formation and development. One aspect of this critique, upon which this religious identity is constructed, concerns epistemology. One of its main characteristics is engagement with tradition in light of modernity, the embracing of the modern episteme, including the realms of social sciences, arts and humanities. It is "a critique which derives its inspiration from the heart of Islamic tradition" and is not a "graft of (Western) Secular Humanism onto the tree of Islam" but "a graft that, although receiving inspiration from other spiritual and political movements, must ultimately grow in the soil of Islam." As such politico-legal institutions/principals present in contemporary Western societies like parliamentary democracy, secularism, constitutionalism, (gender) equality and human rights are considered as the part and parcel of not only the Western but also Islamic normative worldview. The above does not mean that progressive religious identity is identical to, uncritical of and completely subsumed by the dominant "Western one" but that there are several spheres of congruence and overlapping between the two as noted above.
Its approach to modernity is characterised by an attempt to "problematise the history of debate between Islam and modernity or Islam and the West"; by internalisation of modern ideas and concepts in contemporary Muslim discourses'; by exemplifying fragmentation and diffusion of intellectual authority in contemporary Muslim societies and reflecting the multiplicity of its sources."
It considers modernity and its byproducts a result of transcultural/transpolitical intercivilisational processes, thus demonopolises the claim that modernity is a pure, universal and monopolar Western civilisational product. Its understanding of modernity is based upon a cultural theory of modernity according to which modernity unfolds within specific cultural (or civilisational) context having different starting points and leading to different, multiple alternative modernities.
Tradition (turath) is not seen as static but as living "manifesting itself in the relationship between the past which produced the turath and the present in which the turath still lives. Based upon a dialectical relationship between the past and the present, PMT "studies turath in the light of the present, its problems, its questions and its needs." The question of authenticity and heritage is constructed along the lines as outlined in the Fourth Statement of the Final Declaration on the question of heritage and authenticity by the Arab Muslim intellectuals who convened in Kuwait back in 1974. The statement asserts:
Authenticity doe not consist in literal clinging to the heritage but rather in setting out from it to what follows and from its values to a new phase in which there is enrichment for it and development of its values. Real revivification of the heritage is possible only through a creative, historical ,critical comprehension of it; through transcending it in a new process of creation; through letting the past remain past so that it may not compete with the present and the future; and through a new assimilation of it from the perspectives of the present and the future.
PM is, therefore, not the first generation of Muslims who have grappled with the issues of Islamic tradition and modernity. When talking about the phenomenon of Neo-Salafism we have referred to the attempts of Neo-Salafi reformers of the 19th and 20th centuries to come to terms with the advent of modernity and the modern episteme. These early reformers made the first steps in "advancing a synthesis between Islamic and modern Western values with the impulse stemming from within the Islamic tradition and culture itself as the integrating framework for modernity." Modernity's most precious gift of rationality to the Muslim modernist of the 19th and 20th century, however, argues Prof. Moosa did not result in their embrace of the modern episteme in the realms of humanities and social sciences. . Therefore, maintains Moosa further, the Islamic intellectual legacy at the hands of these scholars was not subject to a critical insight of modern epistemology something that PM does subject itself to.
PM proponents, as we explained in the first chapter, do not advocate assimilation into the Western modernity's worldview. Their attitude towards modernity is characterised by an awareness that the modernity they are facing now is unlike what their Muslim forerunners experienced. Additionally PM are more familiar with the complexities of modernity and do not consider "culturo -intellectual assimilation of western modernity as the basis for reform."
Although proponents of PMT are to be found spread throughout the Muslim and non -Muslim world vast majority of them live in the West and teach at Western universities and many have obtained their graduate and post-graduate qualifications from these institutions in some cases in addition to having received traditional training in Islamic sciences.
PMT is based on the fundamental premise that textual sources (such as Qur'an and Hadith derived Sunnah) are subject to humanly constructed interpretational processes and that a distinction between "religion and religious knowledge" , "normative and historical Islam" (to use Rahman's terminology) or in the parlor of Islamic jurisprudence between shari'ah (divine worldview) and fiqh (human understanding of it) ought to be made. As such this being the reason for using the phrase Progressive Muslim thought and not Progressive Islamic thought. This interpretational awareness of PMT translates itself in the importance and emphasis given to the examining the epistemological and methodological dimensions underlying and determining the validity and soundness of various inherited interpretational models of overall Qur'ano-Sunnahic teachings. PMT calls, therefore, for a "careful analysis of some of the more complex and foundational presumptions in Muslim legal and ethical philosophy" and the necessary epistemological and paradigm shift in the post-Empire Islam climate.
An additional criterion of PMT is, unlike the overwhelmingly de-contextualised hermeneutics of interpretational models employed by previous interpretational communities, characterised by the realisation of the necessity to contextualise the primary sources of Sharia'ah (Qur'an and Sunnah) with the benefit of the hindsight of the fruits of labour of those who have engaged in the same processes in the past. To aid these processes, apart from traditional disciplines, among others recourse to anthropology, sociology, politics and political economy, psychology, reading/textual hermeneutics (list not exhaustive) is taken.
Besides awarding a vital role to the concept of socio-cultural embeddedness of Qur'an and Sunnah, ethico-moral considerations are the highest hermeneutical tool in PMT approach to interpretation of Qur'ano-Sunnahic indicants. As such PMT is a "search for moral and humane aspects of Islamic intellectual heritage and [force] against moral lethargy." One of its guiding principles is " to reclaim beautiful in the vast and rich moral tradition of Islam and to discover its moral imperatives."
PMT therefore has a holistic, non-sectarian approach to the Muslim religious harvest.
As far as its approach to Qur'ano-Sunnahic teachings PMT can be defined as inclusive of both the pre-modern traditional Islamic sciences as well as modern sciences including those in the realm of humanities, social sciences and arts as they pertain to Islamic Studies including the works of non-Muslim scholars.
In summary PMT vis -a vis its Qur'ano-Sunnahic worldview understanding can be characterised as being based on a complex, inclusive, contextualised, ethico-moral approach to interpretation of Qur'an and Sunnah and their historical legacy in the forms of the previous communities of interpretation in the light of modern episteme embedded in a dynamic and civilisational understanding of Islam. All those who subscribe to such an approach can be considered proponents of PMT.
3.) Representation and role of the women -PM and NTS:
Representations of Muslim women are central to political debates on cultural identity, relationship between Muslim societies and the West, tradition and authenticity and cultural specificity and globalism." Furthermore, women in Islamic discourses play a vital role in (re)-construction of Muslim religio-cultural identity and even more so in the context of a minority group. Based upon there diametrically opposed interpretational models of Qur'ano-Sunnahic teachings PM and NTS envisage a very different view of the representation and function of women in Islamicate and non-Islamicate cultures. Due to space constrains only a brief juxtaposition is possible for the purposes of this article.
By developing the theory of active female sexuality and considering female body as inherently morally and socially corrupting the classical and NTS schools of thought impose a number of socio-spatial regulatory rules and regulations on women including the religious obligation of hijab or niqab , seclusion of women and segregation of sexes.
Based on particular model of interpretation of Qur'ano-Hadithic texts participation of women in the public sphere, even for the purposes of attending the mosque, are considered resentful, provocative and offensive to the public domain which belongs solely to males. The normative, authentic Muslim female identity is constructed in reference to that of a veiled, secluded woman who remains within the privacy space of her home and does not venture or mixes into the public space of the male ummah. Another aspect of this ideal Muslim female is that of an obedient wife whose religious duty is to please and satisfy the needs of her husband.
PM view maintains, on the other, that the question of the perceptions of the nature of female gender, including that of her sexuality is socio-culturally contingent and tainted. Thus, they reject the classical and NTS view of the inherently active female sexuality and the concept of the female body being innately morally corrupting. Qur'ano-Hadithic evidence used to give these practices an "Islamic " foundation is considered as essentially as remnants of the patriarchal nature of the interpretative communities in the past echoing the view of Bellamy that the "sexual ethics in Islam" were "worked out by men."
As far as segregation and attitude to public space is concerned PM point the fact that during the early Muslim community in Medina whilst the Prophet was alive, as testified by a large number of traditions and on the basis of historical evidence of the Prophet's sira (i.e. life), women lead a very active social life. They would frequently attend the mosque which was a widespread practice. Often men would pray behind women and their prayers would be considered valid. Woman and men were not separated by a physical barrier in the mosque and, furthermore, some early Muslim jurists maintained that a physical barrier between men and women during the prayer would invalidate women's prayers.
Additionally, the institution of gender segregation is considered a later introduced practice and, although having been advocated by some of the Companions of the Prophet (especially the second caliph 'Umar), essentially entrenching itself only at the time of the Abbasids.
The practices of seclusion of women, segregation and that of veiling are not considered normative parts of Muslim female religious identity. Women are seen as autonomous, human beings inherently equal to men whose religious identity are based upon their level of Taqwa and does not hinge upon their blind obedience or satisfaction of their husbands demands.
The implications of the above two approaches vis-ƒÆ’ -vis the other is self-evident. PM's understanding of the Qur'ano-Sunnahic teachings provides a religiously and traditionally authentic approach towards a nature of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslim in either the contexts of Islamicate or non-Islamicate societies based upon the principles of inclusivism and a non-antagonistic approach to the (religious) Other at both individual and civilisational levels.
The NTS approach, on the other hand, is based upon a methodology of interpretation of Qur'ano-Sunnahic teachings which fosters a type of religious identity and worldview that is oppositional to, reactionary and even conflictual towards the (religious) Other resulting in social orientations which are isolationist and confrontationlist in nature. It is an ideology, to quote Tibi, for inciting conflict, not a strategy for fostering peace between local cultures and regional civilisations."
Needless to say that given the current global political climate it is of paramount importance that the contemporary generations of Muslims are exposed to and eventually adopt a PM worldview, a task in which both Muslims and non-Muslims can work together in achieving for the purposes of creating conditions in which the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, regardless of the place and time, can co-exist in peace, harmony and mutual respect. A relationship based upon the Qur'anic principle of competing in goodness.
Dr. Adis Duderija is a research associate at the University of Melbourne, Islamic Studies. He recently published a book: Constructing a Religiously Ideal "Believer" and "Woman" in Islam: Neo-traditional Salafi and Progressive Muslims' Methods of Interpretation (Palgrave Series in Islamic Theology, Law, and History.URL: http://newageislam.com/the-war-within-islam/adis-duderija,-new-age-islam/islamic-groups-and-their-worldviews-and-identities--neo-traditional-salafis-and-progressive-muslims/d/7070