By Adil Rasheed
28 September 2018
It might seem ironic but religious
fundamentalism is quite a modern, sui generis phenomenon. As its quest for
truth is driven more by casuistry than spirituality, it strives to confute the
orthodox and traditional practices of various faiths, polities and cultures.
Thus, fundamentalism is modern not merely
because of its emergence in relatively recent times, but because it attempts to
impose a systematic structure to dogma and is generally averse towards
religion’s essentially metaphysical and esoteric dimensions.
By discarding the intricacies of the
metaphorical, fundamentalism clings to a literalist defence of scripture that
invariably gives its arguments a reductionist, absolutist and intolerant
In its pursuance of minimalism to
ostensibly achieve pristine purity of faith, it sets itself up against
intellectualism, aestheticism and mysticism, and so it finds few scholars,
thinkers or artists among its obscurantist following.
The term fundamentalism originated in late
19th century when it referred to the extremist beliefs of certain Protestant
sects in Britain and the US, which insisted on the literal inerrancy of the
However, this mimetic threat soon spread to
other religions including some segments of Islam, even though this trend has
arguably shown signs of general regress in recent times.
Although simplistic in its vehement
adherence to “the inviolable basic principles”, fundamentalism in our times is
remarkably innovative in that it has transported religion out of its spiritual
realm and brought its distorted version into the socio-cultural, political and
even economic domains.
Surprisingly like neo-liberalism,
fundamentalism rejects tradition and “cultural specificity in favor of abstract
universalism”. Thus, Muslim fundamentalist movements generally reject all the
orthodox schools of religious jurisprudence or doctrines. In this, they are
remarkably anarchist, even post-modern.
In an article titled “Post-Modern Jihad”,
published in The Weekly Standard soon after the September 11 attacks in 2001,
Waller Newell (Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Carleton
University) wrote “the ideology by which al-Qaeda justifies its acts of terror
owes as much to baleful trends in Western thoughts as it does to a perversion
of religious beliefs. Osama’s doctrine of terror is partly a Western export.”
In the article, the scholar traces the
influences of Nazi philosopher Heidegger and post-modern ideologues like
Foucault on the Iranian Revolution and al-Qaeda.
He writes: “The relationship between
postmodernist European leftism and Islamist radicalism is a two-way street: Not
only have Islamists drawn on the legacy of European left, but European Marxists
have taken heart from Islamist terrorists who seemed close to achieving the
longed for revolution against American hegemony.”
According to noted expert on Islamist
terrorism Olivier Roy, “In the 1960s, in Western Europe we had a tradition of
youth radicalization from the Marxist revolution. Suddenly around the 1990s,
the dream of the Marxist revolution disappeared and al-Qaeda and ISIS filled
Similarly Ofri Ilani writes:
“Individualism, hatred of the establishment and a cult of emotion activate the
jihadists, just as they activated the anarchist assassins in the 19th century
or the Red Brigades in the 1970s”.
The Loss of Meaning
Since ancient times, religion instituted
meaning in human consciousness through its spiritual injunctions, ethical
distinction of right from wrong as well as restrictions on the bestial and
carnal instincts. With the coming of European enlightenment, rationalism and
science set new standards of personal, societal and universal values.
However, with the rise of post-modern
philosophies, certitude in established institutions of faith, ethics and even
reason started to crumble and thereby the very construct of meaning began to
blur. A similar trend is perceptible in the descent of militant fundamentalism
from its avowed pursuance of essential religious truths to a near complete
breakdown of any ethical construct it claimed to cling to.
Like post-modern Marxist revolutionaries,
the bestial has gained pre-eminence over both the spiritual and the rational,
leading to a near collapse of faith and any semblance of good sense. Borrowing
ideas from their post-modern ideological mentors, groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS
have violated the very basic injunctions of their avowed faith.
As Newell puts it: “For Foucault as for
Fanon, Hezbollah, and the rest down to Osama, the purpose of violence is not to
relieve poverty or adjust borders. Violence is an end in itself … That is how
al Qaeda can ignore mainstream Islam, which prohibits the deliberate killing of
non-combatants, and slaughter innocents in the name of creating a new world,
the latest in a long line of grimly punitive collectivist utopias.”
One could definitely add the name of ISIS
on the list of these post-modern, neo-fundamentalist purveyors of violence. Not
surprisingly, militant fundamentalism strives in places of utter chaos and
The remedy to clearly lies in restoring
religion to its rightful and exclusive preserve of spiritualism, while leaving
socio-political issues to institutions of national and international polity.
There can be no space for religion in the political domain.
Dr. Adil Rasheed is Research Fellow at the Institute for Defense and
Strategic Analyses (IDSA) based in New Delhi since August 2016. For over 20
years, he has been a journalist, researcher, political commentator for various
international think tanks and media organizations, both in the United Arab
Emirates and India. He was Senior Research Fellow at the United Services
Institution of India (USI) for two years from 2014 to 2016, where he still
holds the honorary title of Distinguished Fellow. He has also worked at the Abu
Dhabi-based think tank The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research
(ECSSR) for eight years (2006-14).
Verse 2:282 is not transactional, it is advisory. It is for
the creditor to decide who he will take as witnesses and in what manner and for
the women to decide if they will witness singly or jointly. This freedom to
choose will remain till doomsday. Have you done the experiment and proven
that the socio-cultural conditions today are different, and all women are
beyond such influence and on par with the men? Do that and then talk. And why
do you want to take away the freedom from the women?
The verse on punishment with 100 stripes for adultery proven by four
eye-witnesses does not allow any lee way and must be implemented if the rule is
Islamic. However, the conviction is impossible unless people indulge in the act
in public view for four witnesses to emerge. If there are only three
witnesses, the charge is unproved, and the witnesses are to be punished with 80
lashes. The law actively discourages the people from accusing anyone of
adultery even if it is true for fear of failing to establish the crime and
getting punished instead. So, be discreet if you must, and if you do not
believe in the Hereafter and therefore do not care, because proving the crime
against those who are discreet is impossible. The law is a strong deterrent for
those who believe in the Hereafter and for the remaining, it forces them only
to be discreet. Are you trying to propagate open adultery?
Aren't you the literalist Village Mullah here? This is what ails Islamic
scholarship in general. It is in the same stage as Biology was before Darwin. Even
an educated doctor like GM sb cannot make a distinction between verses that:
1. Lay down the law or rule which is to be strictly followed without
deviation (example, law covering adultery)
2. Lay down the law or rule that describes the maximum punishment with
complete leeway even for pardon (Every other hudud law)
3. The default rule in the absence of agreement (inheritance)
4. Transactional verses which applied to the Prophet and his people from
which the general principle maybe deduced
5. Advisory (eg 2:282)
If GM sb wishes to question the Quran's wisdom in advising taking two
women to jointly witness a document, all that he is required to do is to carry out a small experiment as follows to
confirm whether the Quran is right or in error:
Take a group of uneducated men and women and show them a small video clip
and then ask them questions individually and separately.
Two persons will ask questions, the first one merely to make them accurately
recall every detail of what they saw, and the second person will cross examine them trying to
make them go back on what they said in the first instance. See how they
perform. If it is confirmed that it is easier to confuse the women and make
them go back on what they previously said, then the wisdom of the Quran in its
advisory verse is proven.
Repeat the experiment with two women now joining together and giving the
evidence and facing the cross-examination. If they now perform as well as the
men, then you have the proof that the Quran's advisory is full of wisdom. If you
can prove that there is no difference between the men and women, then you are
free to reject the verse.
Till you have proven otherwise, do not let your inflated ego exceed your
limited wisdom, in questioning the wisdom of the Quran.
The fact is that there is no verse barring a woman signing in her
individual capacity any legal instrument as a debtor, creditor, seller or buyer
and therefore there cannot be a bar on her witnessing singly. Verse 2:282 is an advisory verse, that empowers every woman to participate at least as a witness in financial transactions when before, the uneducated housewives had no participation.
Gender unsameness is a fact of life that cannot be wished away. If there
is gender "inequality" in the West, it is not because their laws
discriminate against the women, but because the woman is more vulnerable. The
inequality exists even though the law positively discriminates in their favour.
The 'Me too' movement by the women and the fact that such a movement by
men is unimaginable, underlies the inherent inequality between the sexes, as it
relates to the vulnerability against coercive sex. Any laws in this regard,
will perforce favour the women, and such laws cannot themselves be made out to
be reinforcing or institutionalizing gender inequality. This is exactly
what GM sb is doing, when he decries the licence given by the Quran to only the
women, to jointly witness and testify, consulting each other in verse 2:182.
As far as the majesty of God is concerned and ensuring Gender Equality,
then I think Allah more than compensates the women for their pains. In every
culture and society, the women live longer than the men and must therefore be
also happier and healthier, although their bodies are far more complex, and
they bear and nurse children. Longevity is an excellent parameter to judge a
better, happier and more satisfying life.
His other comment shows that he believes that the Quran is only for the
village Mullah and not for everyone. He apparently considers himself above it
and therefore dismisses it and its verses as unworthy of his conception of God.
Irrespective of his attitude to the Quran, it is a Book of warnings, and I
would be failing in my duty, if I did not bring to his notice, what is
(2:85) Then is it only a part of the
Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? but what is the reward for
those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?- and on the Day
of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is
not unmindful of what ye do.
Apparently, the demand to change or give up a part of the Book was made
even to the Prophet! There is nothing new in any of the arguments and in the
types of people, and their behaviours.
(11:12) Perchance thou mayest (feel the
inclination) to give up a part of what is revealed unto thee, and thy heart
feeleth straitened lest they say, "Why is not a treasure sent down unto
him, or why does not an angel come down with him?" But thou art there only
to warn! It is Allah that arrangeth all affairs!
Every verse of the Quran, reflects Allah's infinite all-encompassing wisdom, and is in accordance with the principle of things and the most appropriate, right and just.
What is the Quran?
This Qur´an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; …..
Verily this Qur´an doth guide to that which is most right (suitable, stable,
We sent down the (Qur´an) in Truth, and in Truth has it descended:
Say: "The (Qur´an) was sent down by Him who knows the mystery (that is) in
the heavens and the earth…."
Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail;- a Qur´an in Arabic, for
people who understand;-
Those who understand
And that those on whom knowledge has been bestowed may learn that the (Qur´an)
is the Truth from thy Lord, and that they may believe therein, and their hearts
may be made humbly (open) to it: for verily Allah is the Guide of those who
believe, to the Straight Way.
Those who will not understand
When thou dost recite the Qur´an, We put, between thee and those who believe
not in the Hereafter, a veil invisible:
We put coverings over their hearts (and minds) lest they should understand the
Qur´an, and deafness into their ears: when thou dost commemorate thy Lord and
Him alone in the Qur´an, they turn on their backs, fleeing (from the Truth).
(25:30) Then the Messenger will say: "O
my Lord! Truly my people took this Qur´an for just foolish nonsense."
The Quran is protected from any
(This is) a Message sent down from the Lord of the Worlds.
if the messenger were to invent any sayings in Our name,
should certainly seize him by his right hand,
We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart:
could any of you withhold him (from Our wrath).
verily this is a Message for the Allah-fearing.
We certainly know that there are amongst you those that reject (it).
truly (Revelation) is a cause of sorrow for the Unbelievers.
verily it is Truth of assured certainty.
The following applies to those
who consider any part of it as false:
That this is indeed a qur´an Most Honourable,
Which none shall touch but those who are clean:
Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds.
it such a Message that ye would hold in light esteem?
have ye made it your livelihood that ye should declare it false?
Gender inequality exists because of which there are laws that positively
discriminate to protect the interests of the women. Verse 2:182 is
revealed in truth and guides to that which is most suitable, right and just as
fully explained in my article:
Is A Woman’s Testimony Worth Half That of A Man?
why men are not allowed to witness jointly consulting each other but only
women. Because only women in general (not all) need such positive