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  • Your Favourite Author's Page

      

    Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, NewAgeIslam.com

    Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor of this progressive Islamic website NewAgeIslam.com and President of non-profit NGO New Age Islam Foundation and its subsidiary Education for Peace, a center for preventing radicalization, established in April 2008. He has over four decades of experience in journalism, mostly writing op-eds for major Indian and international publications, specializing in Islamic theology and Muslim politics. As a human rights defender, he has been representing major international NGOs and participating in debates at the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva for over a decade. He considers Islam as a spiritual path to salvation, one of the many, not a totalitarian political philosophy to dominate the world. He founded this website, seeking to rethink Islam, in all its aspects, to adjust to the demands of changing times, and thus to encourage Ijtihad in earnest.


    Please read below the articles written by him for NewAgeIslam.com

     
    Radical Islamism and Jihad

    Defeating Islamism and Jihadism: Evolve a New Theology of Peace, Pluralism and Gender justice, Sultan Shahin asks Muslim States at UNHRC in Geneva
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    A War on Terror has been raging for 17 years now but we are no closer to defeating Islamist terror. Jihadism continues to attract Muslim youth. This is because the world has not paid enough attention to the ideology of Islamism and Jihadism.

    Mainstream Muslims have considered Islam a spiritual path to salvation, one of the many. Islam aims at reforming society for a peaceful, harmonious, pluralist existence. However, due to certain historical factors, the theology and jurisprudence of Islam that evolved in the 8th and 9th centuries (CE), present Islam as a political, totalitarian ideology of supremacism, xenophobia, intolerance and gender discrimination. It is this theology of violence, exclusivism and world-domination that is taught in madrasas and sustains Islamism. But despite the Islamist violence against peaceful Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the community is still not focussed on the need for evolving a counternarrative of Islam.

     It is imperative that Muslim countries that have signed the UN Charter look into the issue urgently and work towards developing a new theology of peace, pluralism and gender justice. While several countries like Morocco and now Saudi Arabia appear to be moving in this direction, the one country that has made a solid contribution is Turkey. In a decade-long exercise 100 Turkish scholars have managed to limit the number of authentic ahadith to just 1600, out of over 10,000, and provide each hadith with context and suitable interpretation. This book of authentic Hadith has been provided to all mosques in Turkey but I hope it is made available to the global Muslim community in their own languages as soon as possible.

    Allama Iqbal, a poet-philosopher of the South Asian sub-continent had called for the reconstruction of religious thought in Islam almost a hundred years ago. Let us at least start working on it now....

    Debating Islam

    Is God in Islam Just and Rational as Mutazillah believed or Arbitrary and Despotic as Hanbali-Zahiri-Ashari-Maturidi postulate?  Does Quran Support Both Positions?
    By Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam
    … 

    the mainspring of thinking of both these groups, indeed all Islamic scholars of all schools of thought was Quran and except in the case of Mutazillah, Hadith. All of them may have violently disagreed with one another, even thrown each other in prison and got one another lashed, but they were all very sincere seekers of the Truth of Islam. The proof of their sincerely lies in the fact that not one of them recanted, despite facing extreme persecution by the Khulafa of their times. And the source of their thinking was Quran alone in the case of Mutazillah and Hadith and Seerah too in the case of others. Apart from Zahiris and Hanbalis, all of them had studied Greek philosophy, but their primary faith was in Islam and Islamic scriptures.

    Islamic Ideology

    Sufi Theologians Too Need To Introspect and Cleanse Their Theology of Elements of Supremacism and Political Islam: Sultan Shahin Tells Muslim Nations at UNHRC, Geneva
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Mr. President,

    Even17 years after 9/11, terrorism in the name of Islam is nowhere near its end. Yet, all that one hears from Muslim leaders is rhetoric against Islamist terrorism. No concrete action has been taken to cleanse the Islamic theology of totalitarianism, xenophobia, intolerance and a historical urge to expand the land of Islam through offensive Jihad. One would think that at least Sufi Muslims, who have been for long a victim of Jihadism, an offshoot of neo-Khwarij Salafism, would introspect and look into their own theology and purify it from elements of political Islam.

    This may sound strange to some. For, Sufism has been identified as the antidote to Jihadism. But we must also understand that Sufi theologians too have been votaries of Islamic world domination. The strangest thing that is happening now is that rather than cleansing their theology of traces of political Islam, sections of Sufi Muslims are actually engaged in what can be called a Wahhabisation of Sufism. The inclusive doctrine of Wahdatul Wujood (unity of being) has been replaced by exclusivist doctrine of Wahdatul Shuhood (unity of perception). Enlightening Sufi books teaching mysticism, ethics and morality have been taken out of the courses of study from Sufi madrasas and women are being barred from visitation of shrines.

    I would like to appeal to Muslim governments represented in the Council to introspect and cleanse the Islamic theology of elements of totalitarianism and offensive Jihad for world domination. There are war-time instructions in Islamic scriptures that should not be considered applicable to us Muslims today in the 21st century. Instead, what even earliest Sufi and Salafi theologians have said is that one so-called sword verse alone has abrogated 124 early verses of Quran preaching peace and pluralism....

    Islam and Politics

    Greater Damascus: The Final Touches on the New Demographic Map
    Eyad Abu Shakra

    Well, logically, what remains of the set ‘scenario’ are determining the details of the Kurdish-American co-operation east of the Euphrates River, and settling the issue of Southern Syria with Israeli input. The pre-2011 is now dead. This is a painful fact that one needs to accept; however, what is even worse and more dangerous is that we are going through the redrawing of new maps in an increasingly fragile and weak region....

     
    Radical Islamism and Jihad

    'Make Revolutionary Changes in the Islamic Theology of Consensus to Fight Jihadism': Sultan Shahin Asks Muslim Nations at UNHRC in Geneva
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Sixteen years after 9/11, the issue of Jihadi terrorism has become even more complex and widespread.

    First, though Jihadism is a violent offshoot of Wahhabism and Salafism, the international community has allowed the fountainhead of Wahhabi/Salafi ideology to continue to spend tens of billions of dollars to Wahhabise the world Muslim community.

    Second, we recently saw with horror, but without any protest from the international community, the sight of a UN-designated terrorist, with a ten-million-dollar bounty on his head, launch a political party and nominate another US-designated terrorist to contest democratic elections in Pakistan. Apparently, some countries can ignore UN directives with impunity.

    Third, the Muslim community has failed to grasp that Jihadism spread so rapidly around the world because at its core it is not very different from the theology of consensus that informs the religious beliefs and practices of all Muslim sects. That is why Jihadis are not impressed when we Muslims either proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace and pluralism or when we try to wash our hands off Jihadism by claiming that it has nothing to do with Islam. If we Muslims want to live as honourable citizens in the 21st century’s globalised world, we must rethink our consensus theology in all its dimensions and make revolutionary changes to bring it in line with the needs of present times....

    Islam, Women and Feminism

    Triple Talaq Row: Social Boycott as Punishment Is Juvenile; AIMPLB Scholars Must Follow Quran and Accept Inevitability of Change
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    The root of the problem for the ulema lies in the stagnation in Islamic theological thought for over a millennium. Orthodox Islam had called for creative rethinking of issues as and when new situations emerged. This was called ijtihad. It was practised by jurists like Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafei, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, etc. The gates of ijtihad, however, were closed after that. It was said that fresh thinking is no longer required. No one had the authority to close the gates of ijtihad, but ulema accepted that. This is what has caused the biggest problem. Indian ulema are perhaps the most conservative of all today. They would not even accept what their counterparts in Pakistan and Bangladesh have....

    Islam, Women and Feminism

    Triple Talaq Controversy: Male Chauvinist Indian Ulema Are Subverting Islam to Mislead the Supreme Court
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    ... Now Islam is a religion being practiced only by some Indian Mullahs, so it would seem. This even amounts to declaring Shias as well as Sunni Wahhabi sects like Ahl-e-Hadith apostate because they consider triple talaq in one session as equal to only one reversible talaq.

    Even stranger is the fact that AIMPLB consists of Ulema from Shia, Ahl-e-Hadith and other Salafi-Wahhabi sects as well.  Why are they not protesting at being virtually called apostate groups which have “re-written Quran and forced Muslims to commit sin, altering the very essence of the religion of Islam” by a group of which they are members?

    The most astounding fact in the AIMPLB affidavit is the justification it seeks for instant triple talaq from the Holy Quran. This has never been done before. Everyone knows there is no justification for instant triple talaq in the holy Quran. All protagonists of the triple talaq in one sitting have so far only quoted Ahadith (so-called sayings of the Prophet, many of them clearly weak and inauthentic, collected hundreds of years after the demise of the Prophet) and juristic rulings of companions of the prophet, or later jurists and theologians.....

    Islamic Ideology
    Is This the Islam of Prophet Mohammad, a Blessing to Mankind?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Is This the Islam of Prophet Mohammad, a Blessing to Mankind?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    So it is good that Sufi ulema, under attack from Wahhabi militants, are coming out to denounce the Salafi understanding of Islam. But is this enough? Do they not need to ask why it’s Salafis who are winning this ideological war? Have Sufi ulema been able to bring back to the Sufi fold even a single Islamist terrorist? After all, all the terrorists of today, at least from the South Asian and African Sahel region were part of a Sufism-oriented Islam until recently. Wahhabism existed mainly in the Arab regions. There were very few Salafis anywhere else. Easy availability of petrodollars for the propagation of Salafism has certainly played an important role. But can money alone bring about this kind of transformation? Why is the Sufi counter-narrative not effective enough to make a difference?

    Writing in this space, almost exactly a year ago, I had made an earnest appeal to the Sufi Ulema and Mashaikh gathering in Delhi for an international conference. I had asked them to go beyond the usual shibboleths and utilse this great opportunity to consider this most urgent question: why is the Sufi focus on positives of Islam not working? The more Sufis and other moderate Muslims denounce terrorism, the more followers this Satanic ideology finds. I had pointed out the basic reason behind this conundrum: the radical theology of violence and exclusion and the current theology of consensus of all ulema, including Sufi ulema, are by and large one and the same. Any differences are cosmetic...

    Islamic Ideology

    If Not the UN Charter, Muslim Countries Should At Least Follow Their Own Primary Scripture, the Holy Quran, Sultan Shahin Tells UNHRC at Geneva
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Blasphemy laws continue to be on the statute books, for instance, in Pakistan. Salman Taseer, the liberal Governor of Punjab was murdered merely because he showed compassion for a Christian lady wrongly accused of blasphemy and asked for the repeal of the blasphemy law. On the basis of this law, religious minorities can be arbitrarily accused of blasphemy and killed, either by a lynch mob or by the judiciary. No evidence is required, as that would allegedly amount to accusers being asked to blaspheme the Prophet again. Similarly, attacks on minority Hindu, Christian, Shias and Ahmadis continue under different legislations. Pakistani laws prohibit the Ahmadis from identifying themselves as Muslims.

    It’s time the Council found some way to see that the countries that agree to its covenants also practice it.

    Such anti-minority legislations not only violate the UN Resolution, but also Islam’s primary scripture. The Holy Quran does not prescribe any punishment for blasphemy. Nor does it permit any one to declare others kafir. It clearly says: La Ikraha fid Deen, (There can be no compulsion in religion). (Chapter 2: verse 256).

    If not the UN Charter, Muslim countries should at least follow their own primary scripture, the Holy Quran.....

    Islamic Sharia Laws
    How Islamic Is Instant Triple Talaq?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    How Islamic Is Instant Triple Talaq?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    As an average Muslim understands, in Islam intention is all-important. So much so, that when a Muslim stands up for prayer, it’s not considered enough that he is doing everything that is done in prayer. He has to specifically state that he intends to pray. Now read what AIMPLB’s law book says in the matter of triple talaq:

    “Talaq-e-Sareeh i.e. Talaq by using clear and plain words effect divorce whether one intends divorce by them or not.”

    It must have been based on this that the Deobandi fatwa told a young Muslim husband that even if you wrote the word talaq thrice in jest while chatting playfully with your newly wedded wife online, your divorce is final and you cannot remarry her unless your wife performs halala, that is, marries someone else, consummates her marriage, sleeps with the new spurious husband for a few nights, and gets a divorce from him later.  Halala is the most obscene social practice among Indian Muslims which has the blessings of all sections of ulema....

    Radical Islamism and Jihad

    Deepening Signs of a Civil War in Islam: Massacres of Sufis in Pakistan In The Name Of Pure Islam Reveals a Worsening Global Crisis
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Today the question is: Is this pure Islam or true Islam, as Salafis claim? Not for the first, nor for the last time, to be sure, over hundred devotees of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh have been killed in the name of what Salafi-Wahhabis consider true, pure Islam. Salafi-Wahhabis abhor Sufism because they believe that Sufi practices resemble pre-Islamic polytheistic Hindu traditions. Any Muslim who strays from the path of what Salafis consider true Islam is an apostate and deserves to be killed. The murderer has been brainwashed by ulema of his sect into believing that he can be assured of a place in heaven if he kills apostates and kuffars....

    Islam and Sectarianism

    Murderous Sectarianism in Islam: Salafi Ulema Should Not Only Condemn the Massacre at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Shrine but Also the Ideology behind It
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    We also need to expose the hypocrites within Islam. There are people who denounce terrorism in public and teach in their madrasas that early peaceful and pluralistic verses of Quran have been abrogated by the later war-time verses asking us to kill the kafir and mushrik. Of course, war-time verses had come in a certain context which no longer exists and so these instructions can no longer apply to us. The first task before us is to come out of denial, accept that our theology and jurisprudence have been corrupted and then start thinking of changing our mindset, so that we can live as peaceful citizens of this inter-connected twenty-first century world....

    Islamic Ideology
    How Islamic Are ‘Islamic’ Blasphemy Laws?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    How Islamic Are ‘Islamic’ Blasphemy Laws?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Regardless of any justification for Blasphemy laws in Muslim countries, common sense suggests that they can only be applied to Muslims. Otherwise, the term blasphemy can be stretched to mean anyone who doesn’t believe Islam to be a true religion. But anti-Blasphemy laws are applied to non-Muslims in every Muslim country that has such laws. So ultimately the question is related to whether Muslims believe in freedom of religion. Clearly many don’t, except when they live in non-Muslim-majority countries.

    Although Quran, Islam’s foundational text, contains hundreds of verses asserting the legitimacy of other religions, a consensus in Islamic theology and jurisprudence has somehow emerged that other religions cannot be allowed to exist. Theologians cannot directly contradict the Quran by saying so, but this is the obvious implication of their doctrines of Jihad. Mainstream Islamic Theology and jurisprudence is completely based on a dichotomy between Muslim and Kafir. Kafirs have to be eventually eliminated from the world, either by persuasion or use of force. The only other option is they accept Muslim domination and accept the status of dhimmis (jizya-paying second class citizens).

    Islam and Politics
    Deoband- Bareilly Unity: Cosmetic and Dangerous
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Deoband- Bareilly Unity: Cosmetic and Dangerous
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    As long as this Muslim-Kafir binary informs the consensus theology of ulema, it will be difficult for Muslims to live amicably with others. Temporary sectarian unity which could threaten permanent communal harmony is not the way forward. As Muslims, we need to not only bridge our internal divides, but also stop thinking in terms of Kafir and Momin. We cannot survive as Muslims in the 21st century multicultural world with our antiquated notions of supremacy and separatism....

    Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam
    Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Denying freedom of religion to Muslims and ex-Muslims, not to speak of non-Muslims, indeed has a long and gory history. The Quranic dictum (2: 256) la ikraha fid Deen [Let there be no compulsion in religion] did not leave an impact beyond the life of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Forcible conversions started with the first Caliph Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) fighting Ridda (apostasy) wars against the tribes who had left Islam after the demise of the Prophet. They were all brought back to the fold of Islam or killed. Similar is the case of Khwarij in the time of the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali (RA) and beyond to neo-Khwarij today, also known as Wahhabi or Salafi.  These groups mostly kill Muslims whom they consider “heretics” including Shias and Ahmadis....

    Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam

    If Islam Means Peace, Why Is Much Of Its Theology Soaked In Hatred, Humiliation, Offensive War?
    Sultan Shahin, New Age Islam

    Among many factors, social, economic, political, psychological, the one common feature is a brainwashing of vulnerable people on the basis of a supremacist, xenophobic, intolerant, exclusivist and totalitarian Jihadi theology. This is a blatant misuse of Islam, a spiritual path to salvation, that 1.6 billion Muslims believe, teaches peace, pluralism, co-existence and good neighbourliness.

     But there has to be a reason why jihadi ideology has gained acceptance so quickly; why fatwas issued by reputed moderate scholars prove so ineffective? How are Jihadis able to create a 100 percent certainty in the minds of some Muslims that violence against innocent people, including Muslims, whom they consider infidel, will please God and lead them to heaven?

     Clearly we Muslims need to rethink some basic features of our theology. Success of jihadism lies in the fact that, at its core, the jihadi theology is not very different from the consensus theology of all other schools of Islamic thought. For instance, jihadists are able to misuse the intolerant, xenophobic, war-time verses of the holy Quran, as Muslims believe that all verses, regardless of the context, are of universal applicability. Indeed, the Islamic theology of consensus, taught in all madrasas, says that Quran is uncreated, meaning that it is just an aspect of God; and so, divine like God Himself.....

    Islam, Women and Feminism

    Sultan Shahin Raises Triple Talaq Issue at UNHRC, Asks Muslims to Engage In Serious Rethinking Of Islamic Theology and Bring It In Line With the Needs of 21st Century
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Mr. President,

    While the world’s attention is focused on violent extremism practised by a section of Muslims, gross violations of human rights are taking place in various Muslim societies in the name of religion. In a South East Asian country, the Arabic name of God is monopolised by Muslims. Non-Muslims using the traditional term Allah for God are punished. In a South Asian Muslim country thousands of Hindu and Christian girls, many under the age of 18, are abducted, forcibly converted to Islam, and then “married” to their abductors. In a Middle Eastern country, courts allow marriages of as small as 9-year-old girls and force them to consummate their “marriage” and live with their husbands. In my own country, India, Muslim husbands can utter the word talaq, meaning divorce, thrice in a row, and legally throw their wives out of their homes in less than a minute.

    While these are gross violations of human rights, they also amount to denigrating the religion of Islam. All these and many other similar social evils and criminal acts including terrorism are practiced as if they have been ordained by Islamic scriptures. This calls for deep introspection in the Muslim community. We Muslims should not allow our religion to be hijacked in this fashion.

    Mr. President, I would like to make a request, through you, to the representatives of Muslim countries in the Council. Dear Sirs, Madams, Please start a serious dialogue with theologians in your countries and ask them to open the gates of Ijtihad, the creative re-thinking. This was not only permitted, but ordained by God, in Islam’s primary scripture, the holy Quran, as no other Prophet was to come after Mohmmad (saw). We Muslims must revisit our theology in the light of the needs of the 21st century. We are not living in the 7th century and can neither fight those early battles nor organise our societies in that medieval fashion....


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    Related Articles:

    1.  Xenophobia and Religious Intolerance in Islamic Societies Is a Result of Deliberate Misinterpretation of Islamic Scriptures, Sultan Shahin Tells UNHRC

    2.  Coping With Critics of Moderate Islam

    3.  Muslims Need To Reflect Why So Many Millions of Us Are Leaving Islam for Christianity or Simply Calling Ourselves Ex-Muslim

    4.  Islam Fully Protects Human Rights of Religious Minorities: Sultan Shahin tells UNHRC at Geneva

    5.  Islamo-Fascism and Islam-Supremacism Feeding Islamophobia Worldwide: Sultan Shahin Tells UNHRC

    6.  Open Letter to Maulana Firangimahali: Why Do Moderate Ulema Stay Silent When Terrorists Claim - 'Islam Has Never Been A Religion Of Peace, Not Even For A Day'?

    7.  Terrorists Have Failed So Far and Should Not Be Allowed To Affect Global Multiculturalism, Sultan Shahin Tells Parallel Meeting at UNHRC in Geneva

    Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam

    Addressing the UNHRC at Geneva Sultan Shahin Questions Contemporary Applicability of Contextual Verses of Quran Meant For 7th Century Wars and the Divinity of Hadith and Sharia
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Fifteen years after 9/11, the scourge of violent Islamist extremism has become even more complex and deadly. The alacrity with which 30,000 Muslims from around the world joined the so-called Islamic State’s war against humanity has puzzled many. How could a peaceful, pluralistic religion be subverted so easily to create inhuman monsters? Among many factors, social, economic, political, psychological, the one common factor is a brainwashing of vulnerable people on the basis of a supremacist, xenophobic, intolerant, exclusivist, totalitarian, Jihadi theology. 

    This is a blatant misuse of Islam, a spiritual path to salvation that teaches peace, pluralism, co-existence and good neighbourliness. But there has to be a reason why Jihadi ideology has gained acceptance; why fatwas issued by reputed moderate scholars are proving so ineffective? How are Jihadis able to create a 100 percent certainty in the minds of some Muslims that violence against innocent people, whom they consider infidel, will please God and lead them to Heaven?

    Clearly we Muslims need to rethink some basic features of our theology. Success of Jihadism lies in the fact that, at its core, the Jihadi theology is not very different from the consensus theology of all other schools of Islamic thought. Jihadists misuse the war-time verses of the holy Quran, as Muslims believe that all verses, regardless of the context, are of universal applicability. But most damaging for Islam and useful for Jihadism is the Doctrine of Abrogation whereby all peaceful Meccan verses are considered abrogated by the confrontational, war-time Medinan verses. Similarly the divinity attached to Hadith and Sharia and their universal applicability will have to be reconsidered by mainstream Islam, and not just to defeat Jihadism, but also to deal with many other issues including Human Rights of women, children and homosexuals....


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    Related Articles:

    1.  Open Letter to Maulana Firangimahali: Why Do Moderate Ulema Stay Silent  When Terrorists Claim - 'Islam Has Never Been A Religion Of Peace, Not Even For A Day'?

    2.  Do Not Entertain Any Defamation of Islam Resolution Until Islam Is Protected From Defamation by Jihadi Literature in the Islamic World First, Sultan Shahin Asks UN Human Rights Council

    3.  Islam Is Based On the Prophet's Mysticism, Honesty and Social Activism, Says Sultan Shahin in Pune: Muslims Should Strengthen These Spiritual Foundations of Islam and Not Fall Prey to Fascism

    4.  Do Muslims need to disassociate themselves from Salafi, Wahhabi ideologies of permanent war with non-Muslims and moderate Muslims? A New Age Islam debate

    5.  Terrorists Have Failed So Far and Should Not Be Allowed To Affect Global Multiculturalism, Sultan Shahin Tells Parallel Meeting at UNHRC in Geneva

    Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam

    If Sharia Is Divine, Why Don’t Ulema Demand Medieval Punishments Of Flogging, Amputation And Beheading For Muslims?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    The Muslim reaction to Javed Akhtar’s tweet can be summed up by what Khalid Yunus Ansari wrote in Pratap of 11 September: “There has never been any dearth of opportunists and traitors among Muslims. These people may appear intelligent and educated but are ignorant of Muslim mores. … A real Muslim is one who consciously and even sub-consciously believes in and follows Islamic Laws, someone who cannot even imagine finding fault with or challenging or violating any of them. Even imagining any fault with Muslim Laws is absolute kufr (disbelief), not to speak of expressing such thoughts.”

    I have been reading Urdu newspapers for 45 years. While Muslims have been constantly fighting for the so-called Muslim Personal Law which allows them to treat women as inferior beings, never have I come across any Muslim demand for being governed by Islamic criminal laws. If Sharia is so important, if it is such a vital part of our faith, then why this dichotomy? Except for drinking alcohol, punishments for all other hudud crimes (mentioned in the Quran, considered crimes against God) are to be amputation, flogging and beheading. One would have thought that at least those Muslims who are so particular about following Sharia, and, of course, all ulema who consider Sharia divine would demand the implementation of the entire Sharia. Why follow only the part that helps keep women subjugated and avoid those that may lead to severe medieval punishments specified by Quran and Hadees....

    Islamic Society
    Don’t Let Baqr Eid Qurbani Descend Into Blood Orgy
    Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

    Don’t Let Baqr Eid Qurbani Descend Into Blood Orgy
    Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

    Prophet Mohammad was very emphatic in his views on animal sacrifice: “if you MUST kill, kill without torture.” Unfortunately, this admonition is also ignored. The two million animals that were sacrificed in Saudi Arabia at the end of Hajj yesterday had been brought to the country in most horrible conditions, many of them dying en route.

     I personally witnessed the torture animals go through when I was in Karachi on Baqr Eid, a few years ago. The whole city appeared to have turned into a slaughter house. One could hear the cries of goats and sheep for days before Eid, while they were still being traded in city squares and even in roundabouts on major arterial roads. The animals apparently knew what fate was awaiting them. It was the obscenity of the whole scene that I cannot forget. Baqr Eid, the holiest of days, had descended into an orgy of blood-letting, with the “devotion” that God requires completely missing.

    The callousness we Muslims display towards animals would give the impression that the religion of Islam is indifferent to the fate of animals. In fact, Islam requires Muslims to protect, not just Human Rights, but HuqooqulIbaad or the rights of all creations of God.

    HuqooqulIbaad is considered so important that it is given primacy even over Huqooq Allah or our duties towards God. While God may forgive us for our transgressions, given his Benevolent and Merciful nature, His creations will not even recognise us on the Day of Judgement. So we must fulfil our duties towards creations of God in this very world, since we cannot hope for forgiveness from them on the Day of Judgement.

    Muslims should also remember the conduct of the Prophet in treating animals with kindness. On many occasions, during his journeys, he delayed prayers for the sake of first relieving the animals of their burden, and giving them food and water. He would refuse to lead prayers until animals were looked after first. He told several stories of people being forgiven all their sins for having shown consideration for a dog or a cat. According to Imam Abu Dawud, the Prophet forbade the hitting of animals on their faces and branding them. He also forbade sports based on animal fights.

    Radical Islamism and Jihad

    Open Letter to Maulana Firangimahali: Why Do Moderate Ulema Stay Silent When Terrorists Claim - 'Islam Has Never Been A Religion Of Peace, Not Even For A Day'?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    I didn’t see you questioning the notorious tele-evangelist Dr. Zakir Naik when he said: “all Muslims should be terrorists” or when he said: “Quran allows Muslims to have sex with female slaves.” Indeed, you all kept quiet when Naik made hateful remarks like the following: “People in the west eat pork and hence behave like pigs. Pigs are the only animals in the world that invite their friends to have sex with their partners. Westerners also do the same.” Naik has made insulting other religions in the guise of comparative study or interfaith dialogue his speciality. But I find almost the entire fraternity of Muslim ulema coming out in his defence when it was discovered that his discourse inevitably inspired several people around the world who took to the path of terrorism.

    Worst of all, you and all other ulema kept quiet when Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi of Hyderabad asked Muslims to pray for the Islamic State. In a press release available online he said: “Condemnation of their (Islamic State’s) action may not be called sagacity and will be considered against the spirit of Islam. … they have tried to fulfil the dream of a large section of Muslims and their determination has infused a new life into the concept of Caliphate. Their announcement (of caliphate) has surpassed Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Abul Ala Maududi’s powerful writings and speeches about Caliphate and has realized the concept practically. …..

    Radical Islamism and Jihad

    Why Muslim Ulema Should Confront Zakir Naik? How Does He Encourage Islamist Terrorism?
    Sultan Shahin, Founder Editor, New Age Islam

    Our focus should not be so much on Zakir Naik as on the question: why and how has he so easily succeeded in radicalising millions. Only a few of these millions may go on to join terrorism, but radicalisation of the millions is the real problem. … In my view the reason he has succeeded is that he is not saying anything new, or vastly different from what other clerics say. He is using the theology of consensus, the same theology that is taught in universities and madrasas. … That is why ulema cannot oppose him in a meaningful way. …

    You cannot say in the same breath that instructions in all verses of Quran and narrations of Hadees are applicable to us Muslims even today in the 21st century and that those who are following these 7th century war-time contextual instructions in Quran and Hadees to fight and kill the combatants as well as civilians are wrong. If ulema indeed want to save the community from further radicalisation, they just have to introspect on their own hypocrisy and help evolve a new and coherent theology of peace and pluralism based on the foundational, universal verses of Quran. We will have to come out and say clearly and repeatedly that contextual verses meant for war in the seventh century are no longer applicable to us today. They have merely historical value and tell us the story of what nearly insurmountable difficulties our prophet (pbuh) had to face to safeguard the nascent religion of Islam then. Islam is no longer an infant today. It ahs grown up and found space in 1.6 billion hearts. It can very well take care of itself. Muslims n longer need to fight and kill and put terror in the hearts of so-called kuffar and mushrikeen for Islam to survive as was the case in the 7th century (C.E).

    Radical Islamism and Jihad

    Dhaka Attack: Facing The Challenge Of Zakir Naik, Will Ulema Rise To The Occasion?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Our focus should not be so much on Zakir Naik as on the question: why and how he has so easily succeeded in radicalising millions. Saudis and ahl-e-hadithis have only provided him logistical support. In my view the reason he has succeeded is that he is not saying anything new. He is using the theology of consensus, the same theology that is taught in universities and madrasas of all schools of thought.

    His distinction is in the presentation, using modern means of communication. He is reaching those who did not have access to this theology before.

    That is why ulema cannot oppose him or other militant Islamic preachers. Sufi-Barailvis and even Deobandis have tried. They are angry because he has exposed their hypocrisy. ...

    The War Within Islam

    Why Are Indian Ulema Silent Over Islamic State’s Challenge:  Unwillingness Or Inability?
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Ulema wield considerable influence. Their silences matter as much as their statements. Those who expect help from them in fighting Islamist terrorism are mistaken. The contempt with which neo-Salafists treat our ulema is well-deserved. Nor can one expect much from secular, liberal moderates. While they are implacably opposed to terrorism, and wary of living as a suspect as every Muslim is today, they are not willing to engage with the Islamist theology. This requires them to overcome the inevitable fear of violent death. Ask liberals of neighbouring Bangladesh. Not many have this level of motivation in spite of the chaos all around. As for political leaders, Muslim and non-Muslim, the less said the better. Politicians are called leaders but they actually follow the herd. Hardly any ‘leader’ is in sight.

    However, one must take hope from history. Extremism has always been a part of Islamic history. But Muslims have managed to defeat it. At the moment, extremism is particularly influential, radicalising almost the entire society, largely as a result of tens of billions of petrodollars having been invested in this project over the last four decades. But the essence of Islamic spirituality, peace and pluralism, will find a way of bouncing back. To help this process, concerned Muslims will have to evolve a new theology, a theology of peace and pluralism and reach the Muslim ummah directly, over the heads of the ulema. This pluralistic theology must be based on Islam as a spiritual path to salvation, rather than a totalitarian ideology of world domination, as the current consensus dictates. Merely focusing on positive features of Islam, as some suggest, will not help. This is the age of internet. Nothing can be hidden. We will have to engage with the Islamist and neo-Salafist theology, taking, as it were, the bull by its horns. There are no soft options.

    Debating Islam

    Reform Muslim Personal Law, Use Debate on Triple Talaq as an opportunity to Breach the Stagnation in Muslim Religious Thought
    Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

    Reform of Muslim personal law is the need of the hour. A demand for this has been made for decades in conferences, seminars and marches, organised by several progressive Islamic organisations including New Age Islam Foundation. These demands need to be intensified and peaceful demonstrations organised on a large scale, demanding that the government reform these laws. It will inevitably be opposed and equally inevitably expose the two-facedness of Islamic fundamentalists in the country. This would lead to a much needed debate on the hypocrisy of our ulema.

    Faced with a barrage of questions, the ulema have now decided to challenge the progressive Muslims on their theological knowledge and more importantly, the courage, to stand up to their beliefs. At the same time, they are blaming them for encouraging courts to intervene, while taking their regular subversive position that courts and government should not intervene in matters of Muslim Personal Law as it is a matter of faith.

    Rather than being cowed into silence or even dismiss this challenge as an effort to obfuscate matters, progressive Muslims should pick up the gauntlet and battle it out. This should be used as a great opportunity to breach the total stagnation that has prevailed in Islamic theological debates in the country. This will not only help the victims of our Anglo-Mohammedan Personal Law but also help open up issues related to violent extremism that is attracting our youth more and more in the absence of debate. For instance, accepting that triple talaq is not a part of Quranic teachings or even Hadith (sayings of the Prophet). A classical Muslim scholar, Hafeez Nomani, has asked if Quran alone is legitimate Islamic scripture and whether a bid’at (innovation) like triple talaq ordered by the second Caliph Hazrat Umar cannot be considered legitimate. He then goes on to ask that if triple talaq cannot be accepted, as it is a bid’at, then what about Quran, which in its present form is itself an innovation ordered by the same caliph and completed by the third Caliph Hazrat Usman.

    These are among the issues that Muslims need to debate urgently for the wider good of the community as well as the nation and the world. We must never forget the solemn warning issued by Canadian scholar Winfred Cantwell Smith in mid-20th century that a healthy, functioning Islam is crucial for world peace. Clearly, the Islam today is not healthy and functioning. So it is not only the Muslims but the nation at large that should welcome an opportunity to debate and understand Islamic theological issues.

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    Radical Islamism and Jihad
    'Make Revolutionary Changes in the Islamic Theology of Consensus to Fight Jihadism': Sultan Shahin Asks Muslim Nations at UNHRC in Geneva
    Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

    Sixteen years after 9/11, the issue of Jihadi terrorism has become even more complex and widespread.

    First, though Jihadism is a violent offshoot of Wahhabism and Salafism, the international community has allowed the fountainhead of Wahhabi/Salafi ideology to continue to spend tens of billions of dollars to Wahhabise the world Muslim community.

    Second, we recently saw with horror, but without any protest from the international community, the sight of a UN-designated terrorist, with a ten-million-dollar bounty on his head, launch a political party and nominate another US-designated terrorist to contest democratic elections in Pakistan. Apparently, some countries can ignore UN directives with impunity.

    Third, the Muslim community has failed to grasp that Jihadism spread so rapidly around the world because at its core it is not very different from the theology of consensus that informs the religious beliefs and practices of all Muslim sects. That is why Jihadis are not impressed when we Muslims either proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace and pluralism or when we try to wash our hands off Jihadism by claiming that it has nothing to do with Islam. If we Muslims want to live as honourable citizens in the 21st century’s globalised world, we must rethink our consensus theology in all its dimensions and make revolutionary changes to bring it in line with the needs of present times....

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