By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
12 August 2017
This article is a response to Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi’s article “Historicism or Historical Methodology Is Vital to the Evolution of Progressive Islamic Theology”. I had asked him a question on what his position is on the Quran. Is it the infallible word of God and is the Book Kitabum Mubeen? He answered that it is. He reconfirmed the same while responding to another commentator.
His article however, unfortunately gave the opposite impression. If the Quran is the perfect, infallible word of God, then we need to review what the scholars and the Ulema have made of it in our theology using the historical approach, and get rid of all that is undesirable that has got into it. The process of reform is then not evolutionary but a resetting of our theology to the Quran’s ideal in the light of our understanding of the Book today. The understanding of the Quran could be evolutionary since we understand many of its verses better today because we have grown in our knowledge about the world and human nature. In this limited sense, the process may be called evolutionary.
On the question of taking the historical approach to reform, he has quoted Prof. Mohammad Fadel (Research Chair for the Law and Economics of Islamic Law at the University of Toronto). The academics are rarely themselves reformers and reform is never their primary goal although their studies may come in useful. They pursue whatever gives them ample scope for academic research so that they may publish papers and churn out PhDs. The historical approach presents a vast field for research and for getting research grants for their department. Historical research is required to establish how our theology became what it has become today. If we find that the motivations were unholy and purely political, then it is so much easier to scrap it. It has limited use. The use of the historical approach is to convince others on the need to reform and the need to jettison the theology of Kufr that Islam has become. It is a weapon to use against the entrenched Ulema. I believe that we already possess historical information on how and why our theology has become what it has become. The efforts of the academics are welcome, but let not their academic interests make us believe that these are key to what we want to achieve and distract us from the main task.
GRD sb quotes Arshad Alam “Unlike other religions, Islam is supposed to have been born in the full light of history. Then why is it that there is so little material on the origins and the early days of this religion? What we have in the name of historical sources is largely hagiographical material written by Muslims themselves. Why is it that this material hardly gets corroborated by materials from non-Islamic sources? It should be a cause of worry for Muslims themselves and they should be at the forefront of this search. And yet we see that because of this fallacious reading of Islam and Quran being of divine origin, there is very little effort on the part of Muslims themselves to try and research Islam also as a historical artefact”.
Is that an endorsement of what Arshad said? Maybe GRD sb misunderstood what Arshad is saying. As far as Arshad is concerned, Islam is a man-made religion and is best understood in its historical setting as a response to the social, political and economic conditions that prevailed. The conditions being quite different today, the Quran has outlived its utility and we need to change based on appreciation of how different our world is from the world of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the 7th century. He considers it a fallacy to treat the Quran as of divine origin. Islam was simply a “social project” of its time made into a religion that has outlived its utility. Arshad takes an extremely dogmatic view of Islam without the need to offer any evidence, since for people such as him; this is either self-evident, or already proved and well-accepted.
History is important to him and his community of academics. Historians are still trying to figure out how could Muhammad (pbuh) achieve so much in so little a time and with such poor resources. History is still trying to figure out how Hejaz that mattered very little and was a tribal society without a central authority could suddenly overwhelm the two imperial powers of the day. Never in history have forces greatly outnumbered achieved such swift and relatively bloodless victories. The Roman Empire took a thousand years to grow to its size and then collapsed suddenly in about a 100 years. The Islamic empire took 100 years to grow to a size greater than the Roman Empire at its peak, and lasted more than a thousand years showing the stability and strength of its system. There is plenty of work for the historians and the social scientists but not for you and me. Let him bother about it and tell us why he does not have any explanation.
GRD Sb further says: To put it simply, Historicism in Islamic studies connotes an intellectual approach for the contextualisation of the Qur’anic texts in order to produce accurate explanations.
All my articles on the Quran are without reference to any context outside of what is given in the Quran with a few exceptions where the contextual information included is not essential but completes the story. To import context from outside is to influence its meaning. You don’t do that to what is Kitabum Mubeen. You do that only when you want to take a meaning other than its straight forward meaning. The Quran itself says that it is a Book of guidance for those with certain attributes and a Book that misleads others with certain attributes. Those attributes that the Quran mentions are necessary and sufficient. An intelligent reading, yes, but what is Intellectualism? I am afraid that the aims of intellectualism and contextualization are to take meanings that we would like to take and the opposite of one who bows to Allah in Islam whose aim is to understand God’s word as intended by God.
GRD Sb says: “the progressive Islamic scholars will have to acquire the authoritative power by replacing the Ulema tradition. This will greatly help the global Ummah in reopening the doors of Ijtihad that the clergymen have closed for centuries.”
I fully agree with him.
However, he further says: “This is, perhaps, also implied in the line of thinking by Arshad Alam where he calls for the re-interpretation of the Quran as “much- needed political project which Muslims must take seriously”. But this ‘political project’ is too gigantic a task to achieve without the vital support of the young progressive Muslim thinkers like Arshad Alam.”
Islam is a religion as long as the Quran is considered the word of God or at the very least, the word of the Messenger of God. To Arshad Alam, Islam was a political/social project of the 7th century and nothing more. Is GRD sb then happy to see Islam become an evolving political project? If there is nothing divine about it, why even bother? Simply abandon it and pursue history, political, economic, and social sciences and find all our answers to our problems in these disciplines.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to www.NewAgeIslam.com
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@hats off, perhaps they have been reminded that "Jawab e Jahilan Bashad Khamoshi"
Thanks anyway as I come to know many such things which are not even related to the concerned article ONLY because of you. Keep it up until NAI keeps you up.
What I say is based on
the Quran and you may discuss with me based on the Quran only. I reject the Shariah,
the ahadith, the theology, Al-Azhar, Deoband etc
Speaking of logic you are the pits!
You say “as for the contradictions in the Qur'an go to any number of
christian apologetic sites.
so your criteria have been satisfied. any number of contradictions
in any holy text can be found by browsing the sites of the competing religions.”
Only an idiot would say that if somebody says there is a
contradiction the contradiction is proved!
You say “right under your nose there is a contradiction. you claim that you
understand it best. ditto others. but between such 'understanders' there is no
common ground. that is the contradiction you are searching for. you say kaffir
does not mean non-muslims. all others (who also claim a perfect understanding
of the Qur'an) assert that kaffirs are non muslims. mybe they are right. maybe
you are right. but who is to judge?
If two people take contrary views, does that prove a
contradiction? It only means that only one of them could be right. You cannot
even reach the right conclusion from your own arguments and you have the gall
to talk about logic!
Neither can you judge who is right when the same is crystal clear when there are verses in the Quran that speak of the kufr of the Muslims and refers to them as kafaru which proves that kafir cannot mean non-Muslim since it could mean Muslims as well.
You provide proof that you
are merely a cheap heckler on this website without substance whose sole
objective is to troll and create mischief.