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Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam

Note: This is the story of Imtiaz Shams who says he has left Islam and is now helping others do the same. This young man has been a devout Muslim since his childhood. But now, an ex-Muslim. Having grown up in Saudi Arabia, he is like many other young Muslims, particularly in Turkey, who are leaving Islam, some to become Atheist or Christian, but mostly to become Deist, who believe in God but not in any religion. I think we Muslims should seek to understand this phenomenon as much as that of radical Islamism which is attracting tens of thousands of our children. Merely castigating them as crazy or apostate is not enough. This approach is not helpful at all. We should try to explore the roots of the problem. What is attracting some of our most intelligent, well-educated, youth, who are also well-versed in Islamic theology to violent extremism and some to altogether leaving the religion. Let us listen to Imtiaz Shams’s story and ponder. This might do us some good. – Editor

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....

It must always be kept in mind that Islam although is a religion, is divided into four aspects: values, rituals, legislation and politics. Thus, it is wrong for reformists to focus on political reform while ignoring the need for intellectual and cultural reforms. Reforms must take place together, and at the same time....

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.....

In such an era, Muslim communities need more—not less—accountability, and a freer public arena to discuss and debate. If Muslim religious scholars today seek to revive and rejuvenate religious discourse, they urgently need environments of creative and open enquiry.....

 

Since religion is strongly connected with revelation, there is a general inclination among youths to look at reason or rational inquiry as a single sufficient source of guidance for their life, including their normative and epistemological values....

The emerging criticisms of the Muslim reform process in Kerala that there was “near complete absence of engagement with the enlightenment paradigm” or “a realistic engagement with modernity” are not only exaggerated but they tend to dampen our intellectual propensity to study social reform process...

 
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
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....

My point is we may speak of  essential agreement between philosophers and religions on points that ultimately matter ...

...Quran has some rather difficult verses. But rather than throwing them out, I was fortunate enough to discover that the arguments Islamofascists used to justify their interpretations were non-existent. They did not even quote the verses in full, let alone pay attention to context or even connect this to the theme of the entire text. Why anyone would give them default authority and deem other interpretations as “forced” is beyond me. The answer lies in reading the Quran as a whole. When one does this, one can clearly see that there are rules for conflict, and these rules are very fair....

Related Articles:

Quran is Not the Source of All Problems but It Must Be Brought within the Ambit of History

Is Islamic Reform Possible? 'Should We Just Accept That Quran Is Not Perfect, Infallible Word of God, If Nearly All Muslims Misundetstand It?'

The Quran Is the Perfect, Infallible Word of God, Even If All the Muslims Misunderstand It

Some Muslim Intellectuals of This Era Cry Lies or Half-Truths against Islam Creating Doubts and Suspicions against It – Ignorantly or Fraudulently - God Knows Best

Yet it has to be asked if Islam is perfect and has absolutely nothing to do with the actions of extremists like ISIS or regimes like Saudi Arabia - then why is it that these Muslims have so grossly misunderstood their religion? When one points out actions such as execution of apostates and gays they tell us this is completely against Islam and Islam is very clear about it. But then why don’t these groups and regimes realise they are going completely against Islam. Don’t they realise the terrible mistake they are making when it is all so clear and obvious? The truth is that it is not as clear and obvious as they claim....

Related Articles:

Is Islamic Reform Possible? 'Should We Just Accept That Quran Is Not Perfect, Infallible Word of God, If Nearly All Muslims Misundetstand It?'

The Quran Is the Perfect, Infallible Word of God, Even If All the Muslims Misunderstand It

Some Muslim Intellectuals of This Era Cry Lies or Half-Truths against Islam Creating Doubts and Suspicions against It – Ignorantly or Fraudulently - God Knows Best

Quran is Not the Source of All Problems but It Must Be Brought within the Ambit of History

The powerful Indonesian conservative and nationalist group that operates madrassahs or religious seminaries across the archipelago has taken on the ambitious task of reintroducing ijtihad or legal interpretation to Islam as it stands to enhance its political clout with its spiritual leader, Ma’ruf Amin, slated to become vice president as the running mate of incumbent President Joko Widodo in elections scheduled for next April.

 

From Islamic point of view men and women are a single entity as a woman was created out of a man’s rib and then, humanity was created with combination of a man and woman. They are two equal parts of a single unit, which is differentiated into nations and tribes only for the sake of recognition and nothing else. In the sight of Allah, honour is not related to color creed or gender; it is the righteousness of a person which elevates a person in hereafter......

 

At the time when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had migrated to Madinah and many people were entering the folds of Islam, Heraclius was the Emperor of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. Heraclius heard of the Prophet from Arabia, and he wanted to collect more information about this Prophet. At the time, Aby Sufyan was still not Muslim. Abu Sufyan’s name was Sakhr bin Harb and he was a prominent leader of Quraish in Makkah. Abu Sufyan was powerful, influential, and wealthy. He led business caravans for trade between Makkah and the area of Syria and Palestine. ...

It is the third finding which is devastating to swallow. Intergenerational mobility has been negligible for Muslims. It is as if democracy in an electoral sense has worked more for OBCs and SC/STs but not for Muslims. Neither liberalisation nor democracy has offered much to Muslims in terms of opportunity....

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

There are currently, around the world, atrocities being committed every moment of every day in the name of Islam; your goal should not be to be politically correct or fiercely protect this religion, but to heal its wounded and offer support to those that want to eliminate the abuses. Glossing over the often unspeakable acts to which sharia can lead will only empower those individuals who have malevolent intentions, while subjugating the most vulnerable to their cruelty....

The Quran doesn’t settle issues; it unsettles our complacency and asks us to think over issues, have a consultation or dialogue on the same and always consider the best amongst knowledgeable. In fact the Quran as discourse invites us to have a sort of Socratic dialogue with ourselves/others so that what is to be truly honoured or is just or beautiful comes to focus. We usually fail to notice why the Word or Revelation necessarily means renouncing the very desire to interpret on our part. A look at the theory of Revelation across religions clarifies the key question so that we don’t hanker after meanings but prepare for receiving all meanings that there are or become receptive to that which is – pre-linguistic suchness – and one transcends all interpretative framing.....

 

Qawwali/Sama is yet more proof of the power of cultural transmission of spirituality and ethical life by means of organised listening. Rauscher and colleagues have reported in Neuroscience Letters that listening to Mozart’s music enhances spatial-temporal reasoning by the brain. Voisin, for example has discovered in his research that listening in silence activates auditory areas in brain. According to French psychologist Jean Piaget, active listening plays a basic role in the construction of our mental models of reality and knowledge....

 
Why the Reformist Scholars Cannot Make a Difference
Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
Why the Reformist Scholars Cannot Make a Difference
Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

The misinterpretations of the traditionalists cannot be countered by an appeal to modernity. If we need to change the religion with the times, then the religion is man-made and if so, why do we need the Quran at all? We can go wherever our reason leads us. We have a case against the traditionalists only if we can show them to be in gross error or by showing that their Islam is a caricature of the real Islam of the Quran if not a complete anti-thesis of it. If not, then the traditionalists are right and we either accept their Islam or go our own ways. Why should we hang around Islam if we disagree with what we believe to be the authentic Islam? What we need to become is a person of integrity and not a hypocrite.

The fact is that the Islam of the traditionalists is a gross misrepresentation of the true Islam of the Quran as brought out by the clear meaning of the verses shorn of all interpretations.....

As a matter of fact, Islamic dogmatism, orthodoxy and fundamentalism as subscribed to by many Muslim scholars, politicians, preachers and disciples of today are a fallacy bringing about a fixated culture in society. The absence of reasoning and inquiry has stagnated their minds and this has become an anathema to their progress. Preachers delving into this dogmatic approach to Islam should not be allowed to spread their influence, as this will muddle Muslim minds more and cause them to return to the obscure ages of the past....

For too long, Muslims have been imprisoned by the idea that their Present is simply the West’s Past, and that their Future can only lead to the West’s Present. To actually fulfil Tahtawi’s real vision, we must tap into the deep, rich bodies of knowledge produced by Muslims over the centuries, and unchain ourselves from Western hegemonising categories of understanding. This is how we can produce a fresh and liberating engagement with Western traditions of knowledge....

 

I believe that Islam has that progressive spirit within. We just need to emphasise on it, so that we can come out of the current situation we are time-trapped in. I hope that this debate, which has been kicked off by this act of bravery on Beevi’s part, sets a good precedent and continues to take place. Only by debating these issues can we move forward in the right direction. For now, good luck to Jamida Beevi, and all the other valiant women who are supporting her!...

While this may seem like a huge departure from traditional theology and jurisprudence, the companions of the Prophet clearly saw the Qur’an and its teachings in this manner. For instance, Omar suspended punishments for theft mentioned in the Qur’an during a famine. Obviously, he understood that as circumstances change, so too should our understanding of the Qur’an. I am suggesting nothing more and nothing less....

The Islam we have today, he says, is not what God intended for us in the 21st century but rather a frozen version from more than 1,000 years ago. This heritage is often backward, irrational and certainly not sacred, according to his views. He contends that even the Hadiths of Prophet Mohammed are not revelations nor sacred, and that we should follow the Quran alone. This view of Hadiths is the same as that of the Quraniyoon who, as the name suggests, limit themselves to following the Quran only. But he is not considered part of this group because he has his own wide-ranging and unconventional interpretation of the Quran....

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