By Hassan Al Mustafa
19 July 2018
In 2004, King Abdulaziz Library held a
seminar under the name Islam and the Dialogue between Civilizations, which drew
the participation of 120 cultural and religious figures from various countries
and diverse political and intellectual streams.
I had the opportunity to attend the
seminar, which held many discussions and included several advanced ideas for its
time. I participated in several discussions and one of my interventions focused
on the fiqh (jurisprudential) position of the status of the “non-Muslim,” and
the dilemma of being open to him/her and on the Islamic movements’ dual
rhetoric in this regards.
I discussed how many scholars consider
non-Muslims as “impure” beings, either physical or spiritual. I deemed that
this Fiqh position poses a real problem in our relations with others whom we
look at as “inferior” whereas we are the “pure” and they are the “impure.”
My intervention provoked a response from
Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayah, who refuted the notion of physical “impurity” of any
human being. He strongly defended his point of view, which was quite
progressive compared to many of the traditional peers and scholars.
This story can be read within the context
of the contemporary understanding of texts, consequently, this understanding
changes the way we look at non-Muslims, alters the way we deal with texts, and
transforms them from being the erstwhile repositories of infinite permanence or
having undisputed and abiding determinants into historical references related
to circumstances and specific to their time of issuance.
To consider texts as only one of the many
sources of knowledge and fatwas, and not the only basis and the only
cornerstone, results in interpretations that are completely different than past
interpretations that date back to centuries ago when texts were treated by many
scholars as holy and rigid and when only a few dared to question and challenge
Human Rights Charter
Nowadays, human being is treated with
outmost respect. They are dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the
human rights charter. The modern state has regulated laws to organize the
public space to preserve human rights, freedom and individuality and to prevent
This centralization, which was formed in
the mind and in the social, philosophical and even political reality of men,
makes the contemporary modernist jurists adopt a different mentality.
Thus, they see provisions such as slavery,
which were accepted in previous times as no longer acceptable as was discussed
by Dr. Tawfiq Alsaif in his article, entitled “The constant and the variable,
once again,” published in Asharq Al-Awsat daily.
Man’s self-consciousness currently makes
the duty of scholars even more difficult because they have to reflect upon the
doctrinal system via a different mechanism and a new mindset to establish a
modern code of provisions that provide solutions to the fiqh and legal problems
faced by Muslims today – solutions which old texts do not provide despite their
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in Middle East and
Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and
Middle Eastern societal matters.