Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam
Any person reading a translation of the Arabic Qur’an line by line for the first time is bound to be perplexed if he/she is a believing Muslim and simply bewildered and alienated if he is Qur’an-sceptic Muslim or a non-Muslim. He can neither connect one verse or passage with the next, nor can he find any beauty, coherence and subtlety in its diction. Stark ignorant of the subtlety and nuances of the Qur’anic Arabic, and confronted by literal translation of its idioms and poetical and eschatological imageries, he is angered and frustrated. With no background knowledge of the Qur’an’s historical and Biblical allusions, he is completely at a loss to make any head or tail of what comes under his eyes. With turning of each page he confronts, often in the midst of disjointed and abstruse themes, divine threats and altruistic commandments, both of which he loathes to swallow. Who wants to be told that his wealth is not entirely his own (4:32), or to spend for the needy at every opportunity (2:274), or to write off debt to a poor debtor (2:278), or not to expect any return for a favour bestowed (74:6), or to shun greed, arrogance, back biting and other temptations and cravings of mind? He soon gives up.
The truth is, read pedagogically verse by verse, the Arabic Qur’an – let alone its translation is mind boggling. It is like a literary kaleidoscope that encompasses an exhaustive array of themes, mixes the spiritual with the mundane, the abstruse with the concrete and maintains a sketchy diary of the Prophetic mission with no dates, no names of people or places, no historical details of any kind, scattering all its data in bits and pieces in a random fashion across its text. In the midst of this wide array of themes, it interjects the diverse elements of its guidance and reverts to some of them repeatedly. The matter becomes far more complex in translation.
The caption may greatly shock and disturb all Muslims as the Sira of the Prophet plays a very important role in Islam and raising a question mark on its authenticity is like questioning the very essence of their religion. However, greater shock is in store for them if they deny the fact that the Sira contains materials that a Western scholar can piece together to project the Prophet of Islam as “a man that slaughtered captives, robbed caravans, sold women and children into slavery, had sexual relations with captive women, tortured prisoners, married a nine-year-old, forced his adopted son to divorce his wife so Muhammad could have her as a wife, mandated war against non-Muslims, and who had some of his critics and rivals assassinated . Drawing on the Sira, another Western scholar writes: “The examples and command of the Prophet, critics believe, have left a terrible legacy for Islam and cast a lurid light on the history of that religion....
The Shroud of a Holy Language
Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
-The Message is Universal. But there is NO universal unique human language. Hence, the need to rely on the translators of the Quran in various tongues to impart its message for non-Arabic people, to make them understand the Message in their own language. In order to acquire a fuller understanding of any book in a language not one’s own, it is not just enough to know the particular language in its colloquial daily usage; but to grasp its nuances and the true spirit of the Message….
In this beloved country of ours, we are in one form or another subliminally reminded of the Quaid’s three pillars of strength – Unity, Faith and Discipline. Sadly, all three are neither practiced nor visible today. Compounding this invisibility, lack of tolerance is wearing dangerously thin. The word “tolerance” now acts more as a gasp-insinuator than a reality-check….
It is accepted that Islam means ‘Surrender’. ‘Surrender to the Will of Allah’. What does that actually mean? What is meant by ‘The Will of Allah’?
In October 1989 a space probe was launched to go to the planet Jupiter. It reached Jupiter in December 1995, i.e. six years later. When we say that not a leaf can move except by the Will of Allah, how this probe was successfully planned to travel an enormous distance through space and reach the target as scheduled six years later. Did anyone say ‘Insha Allah’? Was there any ‘Will of Allah’ in this endeavour?
To explain this, we need to revise our understanding of ‘The Will of Allah’, and consequently our understanding of Islam.
In historical perspective farewell to Islam is a new phenomenon and a reflection of an abysmal state of its degeneration that renders it incapable to support the 21st century educated and even uneducated people. Those who suggest lack of love for the Prophet or commitment to religion as its reason fail to understand that what they are saying is the very result of the degeneration of Islam. Unless Islam is regenerated, people will have no love for its Prophet or respect for faith and leave this faith. This essay attempts to bring across the different facets of this pernicious phenomenon, point by point, lest it may be wrongly diagnosed to grave detriment of the global Muslim community. ...
Poet Iqbal for example had asked in this regard:
Zaairaan-e-kabaa say Iqbal yeh puchey koyee,
Kyaa haram kaa tohfaa zamzam kay siwaa kuchh bhhi nahin’?
[Iqbal asks the tourists of Kabbaa,
Is the gift of Haram nothing but Zamzam?]
The gullible Muslim-Nation quenches its spiritual thirst with the holy Zamzam water once a year and asks absolution from God of individual sins, but gains not much else.
It seems that along with the CEOs of the religious industries, and the Khadim of Haram(s), have colluded for centuries for their mutual and exclusive “worldly Benefits” but only promising the pilgrims the benefits of “Hereafter” 2: 202!
Three million Muslims annually in one place every year should help solve at least one World problem; out of the many that Muslims have today, and redeem the benefits of the Hajj in this world too 2:201,18: 10, in a business-like manner. This is desperately needed for the nation, which must seek to re-establish its own lofty Muqaam amongst the nations of the world!
Fethullah Gulen is a Turkish Islamic Imam at the centre of a popular and growing movement, with millions of disciples who follow his teachings of tolerance, interfaith dialogue, and education. Some have even started a chain of successful quality schools in the U.S. and several other countries, with an emphasis on math and science. Yet Gulen himself remains shrouded in mystery.
Over the past decade scores of quality schools have popped up all over the U.S. and in several other countries, all sharing some common features. Most of them are high-achieving academically; they stress math and science, and one more thing: they're founded and largely run by immigrants from Turkey.
As a matter of fact this policy is no longer relevant, simply because this majority opinion that re-conciliatory situation should be an exception and not a rule, is not practicable now, nay, it is ludicrous and not at all justifiable in the changed world scenario. And this is where Orientalists rightly accuse Islamic Fiqh of lacking the modesty model; meaning, that whenever Muslims are in a ruling position this Fiqh gives them a detailed guidance how they work and what their public conduct should be.
But in the situations of modesty, e.g. when Muslims are in subjection, in minority, or not in equal position, it is unable to guide them, and hence Muslim minorities are feeling embarrassment in adjusting themselves to their respective countries. To my mind, same is the case in the given situations of today's India, wherein Muslims are not in a ruling position nor they compete others on an equal footing, yet at least constitutionally, they are not a second rate citizens either, and somehow they are sharing power .But no doubt they are in a minority position and are always worried about their minority character. Here are some issues I intend to shed some light on so as a serious discussion could be started.
In fact it is the tip of the iceberg. There are many more Ahadith of this kind, reported by Bukhari, whom Maulana Meerithi vehemently rejected on viable reasoning and after a thorough study of their chains of narrators and inconsistency of various versions of their statements. He also closely checked whether they made any sense at all. He also verified whether they were in conformity with the general spirit of Islam. ..
Why did Allama Meeruthi criticise and reject so many Ahadith of Bukhari? Clearly because, after his vast research into it, he concluded that it contains concocted stories and they are aplenty. So he deemed the book fit to be re-examined. After a thorough reassessment, he criticized and eventually rejected many traditions of the same. And this because, in his opinion these false Ahadith, are either causing great damage to Islam or are creating a hindrance to a correct understanding of the holy Quran. ... It is imperative that this work is continued. For, the reform of the Muslim mind wedded to stereotypes, cannot be effected without this hammering job. ...
A must read for all non Arabic Muslims on the moral paradigms of the Juz ‘amm of the Qur’an they read patiently and diligently in their childhood.
A reminder to all humanity regardless of religion, of some of the fundamental moral imperatives intrinsic to all divinely inspired religions and upheld even by the conscientious irreligious/ atheist.
A reminder and warning to the moulvis, imams and ulama who keep Muslim masses ignorant of the essence of what they recite to them of the Qur’an:
“And the example of those who are bent on effacing the truth (kafaru) is that of one (the beast) who, when the shepherd calls, hears in it nothing but shouts and cries. Deaf, dumb and blind - they do not use reason” (2:171).
Christian Europe underwent a similar process in the 17th century. The arrival of the printing press led to the mass publication of the Bible, taking Christianity out of the hands of the clergy and delivering it to common men and women. Instead of just listening to priestly interpretations of their religion in large congregations, people were able to read and ponder over it in the solitude of their homes and their study. This process not only helped undermine the power of the Church and reform Christianity, but was crucial in developing the ideals of rationalism and individual freedom, eventually leading to Enlightenment and the dawn of the modern era.
Many of the core principles of this era―nationalism, human rights, women’s rights, democracy, free press, scientific temper and so on―are legacies of these very ideals. And one of the key problems that Muslims face today is that they are yet to develop these ideals for themselves. Understanding the Quran will, therefore, not just help Muslims comprehend Islam but also the modern world they live in―and integrate better in it.….
A few Muslims have been threatened, frightened and reduced to meek people with no guts to question the veracity of the scholars. With the unprecedented availability of knowledge, two generations down the road, you will see that new breed of Muslims will have stronger faith in God to question everything. They will be Allah fearing and not Mullah fearing, and they will question the authenticity of Imam Bukhari, Hanbali, Shafii, Jaffari and others without batting an eye. That is when Islam will be re-realized to its fullest extent. Right now our fear to question has put layers of dust over Islam…
“The idea of Islam is incarcerated, not in one, but many prisons,” argues Mr. Sardar. And the biggest of these “prisons,” according to him, is Shariah or Islamic Law which has been used to justify “almost any injustice on God's bountiful earth,” including xenophobia, misogyny and homophobia. “Most of this misogyny is justified on the basis of the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad…
Islam, he said, was a faith while democracy was a mechanism for settling differences and breeding a harmonious society. He recounted how his views had changed and said it was because he decided to adopt a prisoner-of-conscience status. His captors began to support him once they were convinced that he was not a terrorist…..