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Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam (12 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

On The Historical Approach to Reforming Islam

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

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/ijtihad,-rethinking-islam/naseer-ahmed,-new-age-islam/on-the-historical-approach-to-reforming-islam/d/112188

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  • Does Hats Off use logic? Does he use his reason? No, he uses what may be called "common sense".
    But common sense can often be wrong and proved wrong using logic and reasoning. But logic and reasoning is beyond Hats Off and perhaps does not suit his objective.
    If the Quran explicitly uses kafaru for Muslims also, how can it mean non-Muslim? If the Quran never uses kafaru for all the polytheists but only for those who violently opposed Islam, then how can it mean all non-Muslims? This argument is based on reason and logic. If the argument is based purely on reason and logic applied to the Quran, then there is no need to bring in what others say to refute it, but to prove the contrary using reason and logic.
    The common-sense argument of Hats Off is "if in Islamic theology, kafir means non-Muslim and the same is supported by the ijma of scholars, past and present, how can all of them be wrong?" It is an excellent common sensical argument but totally devoid of reason and logic. He is not using his reason because he may never have used it in his life and gone by his common sense always and mistaken it for reason and logic.
    Each of my articles - and there are more than 50 of them, is based on reason and logic applied to the Quran and goes against Islamic theology or against the consensus of scholars and imams, past and present. If I agree with what others say, then I feel no need to write on such a topic since that is anyway common sense to all.
    Only a person who can use his reason and think logically, will be able to accept my articles. Those who trust only their common sense are from the cattle class and will move with the rest of the cattle. What I say, will have to become "common sense" before the likes of these people belonging to the cattle class will accept it.
    One of the common logical fallacies is to invoke authority to counter reason and logic which is what illogical people do. In their small minds, they confuse common-sense with reason which serves them well most of the time but not always. Faced with a person who writes articles based on reason alone and going against the “common-sense” view, they are totally lost and confused. I pity them.
    These people who do not accept what I write in my articles are not necessarily wilful rejecters of the truth and therefore not kafir. Many of the Mushrikin of Mecca were likewise rejecters of Islam based on their common sense and although the Message was communicated to them directly by the Prophet, they are not considered kafir. The wilful rejecters exhibit other behaviours such as violent opposition and only such people are considered kafir.
    The scholars who argue “How can the polytheists of Mecca to whom the Prophet (pbuh) had preached directly and not accepted Islam be considered as not kafir?” are using their common sense and therefore their argument appeals to people with similar common sense. The fact which is proved from the Quranic verses, is that even in Surah Taubah, the Quran does not treat all the Mushrikin as Kafir. Some are kafir and others are merely “la yuminun” or disbelivers. Another proof that the Quran does not use kafir to mean a disbeliever but uses “la yuminun”. The Quran grants complete freedom of conscience to the disbelievers. The war is against only those who violently oppose Islam.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/20/2017 11:32:42 PM

  • @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.

    By Shadaab Saaquib - 8/20/2017 10:07:46 PM

  • i thought someone was going to make his last comment on this thread. no?
    By hats off! - 8/20/2017 6:51:33 PM

  • If Naseersaab wants to base his discussion on the Quran only and Hats Off wants to base his discussion on logic, the two should have nothing to say to each other. So why are they wasting so much space and time?

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/20/2017 12:54:37 PM

  • If two Muslims do not agree on something, that is hardly a reason to attack the Quran, but nothing can stop Hats Off from carrying on his nefarious war of hate against Islam! That has become his life's wretched mission.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/20/2017 12:36:01 PM

  • let me put it like this.

    the Qur'an says it is a clear book.

    mr. naseer ahmed reads it and concludes that sunnah is optional.

    mr. ali goma reads the same book and concludes that islam cannot be practiced without the sunnah and that sunnah is mandatory.

    both claim to understand the book correctly.

    obviously the Qur'ann is not clear to at least one of the two. mr. goma or mr ahmed. for both cannot be true or false simultaneously. only one of them could be true or false at any given time.

    this proves that at least one self proclaimed islamic scholar is not able to understand a clear book.


    both of these are not lay men. each is a self proclaimed "understander" of the clear book. one depends upon a Qur'an analysis software and another depends upon the Qur'an and his native knowledge of arabic.

    but they simply disagree even on the most basic aspect of such a clear and unambiguous text.

    something gives.

    By hats off! - 8/20/2017 9:26:54 AM

  • talk about the arabic word "kafir" or "kufr".

    does mr. ali goma understand the meaning of this word just as mr. naseer ahmed would have us believe and is trying to bulldoze?

    not at all. most of the islamic scholars who are native arabic speakers have asserted and continue to assert that a "kafir" one is not of the ummah. one who is not a momeen is a kafir. mr. ali goma is one such scholar.

    they are all reading the same Qur'an as mr. naseer ahmed is reading. or what?

    so what gives?

    By hats off! - 8/20/2017 8:52:33 AM

  • People can debate endlessly about names appearing in the Quran such as Zul Qarnain and try to match them with historical characters. 

    The moral of the story related is important and not who Zul Qarnain was and whether he is a historical or a pre-historical figure.

    If Zul Qarnain is not found in our history books, does that make the Quran a Book that is not clear?

    For all we know, the story may be pure allegory to drive home some points. The simple point that I get from the story is that religion is not for very simple primitive people and they can be left alone. Show me another book of scriptures that says the same thing and how true that is. For primitive people living harmoniously, religion will only complicate their lives.

    Now tell me whether it is still important to know who Zul Qarnain was?

    The subtlety and the beauty of the Quranic message is not for the beasts is what the Quran also says which is evident. 

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/20/2017 7:46:33 AM

  • what i say is based on logic and you may discuss with me based on logic. i reject scriptures, fables, myths, prophecy, hell or heaven or highwater.

    By hats off! - 8/20/2017 7:40:39 AM

  • 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

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/20/2017 4:12:29 AM

  • i knew this was going to be tough for your engineering education.

    the Qur'an says it is a clear text. but every two and half muslims have eighteen opinions on a single word "kaffir", "idribihunna" and "yajuj and majuj". search. there are plenty. "zulqarnain" is another.

    no two and a half islamic scholars can ever agree on what these mean. so the Qur'an is obviously a dense book because no one seems to be agreeing on anything. you say sunnah is not necessary by reading it. ali goma reads the same Qur'an and says sunnah is indispensibel. he quoytes verses in his favor and you quote verses until you are blue in the gills.

    it does not seem that the Qur'an is such a clear book. but yet it says it is a clear book.

    THAT is the contradiction staring you in your face.

    By hats off! - 8/20/2017 4:08:38 AM

  • Hats Off,

    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?

    argument proved.”

    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.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/19/2017 10:29:50 PM

  • "a fool will find contradictions everywhere."

    another fool will not accept a contradiction even when it hits him in the face.

    i am the first fool. you are the second fool. but you are IIT.

    almost all of the islamic scholars with knowledge of arabic and doctorate degrees in islamic studies agree with the definition of kaffir as one who wilfully "covers" the truth - the "truth" being the Qur'an and the last prophet. once a person gets knowledge of this and he refuses to submit himself to allah and his last messenger he is supposed to have "covered" the truth which was told to him. so most of those who were given dawah and did not heed to the call are the kaffirs. shariah permits war against them.

    if you are still so damn sure, ask al azhar university scholars.

    they will tell you 1) you have no idea of what you are talking about. 2) your definition of kufr and kaffir are just whitewashed for western approval.

    By hats off! - 8/19/2017 7:34:21 PM

  • your god just does not measure up to your own expectations. find someone else.
    By hats off! - 8/19/2017 6:22:44 AM

  • You have said "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?"

    Your admission of your inability to judge who is right shows that you do not possess the ability to judge based on the evidence that is available. The question of whether kafir means non-Muslim or not is a very simple one. If kafir has been used by the Quran for Muslims also, it cannot then logically mean non-Muslim. It then has a different meaning not connected with a person's faith. Is that so difficult to understand?

    Two people taking a different meaning does not mean the contradiction is in the Book. It only means one of them could be right. If you think one person taking a contrary view proves contradiction in the Book and if that is your proof of contradictions in the Book, then you prove yourself to be a fool.

    Now if your difficulty is of this nature, I cannot help you. It is not possible for me to understand for you.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/19/2017 6:10:16 AM

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