scholarly literature in the Islamic world has always been a private enterprise.
Individual scholars quite early in the Islamic history span a web of
intellectual network. In conversation with each other through exchange of
ideas, these scholars by mid 8th century had established a firm ground for the
blossom of Islamic scholasticism in future. Amongst them, Malik Ibn Anas was
prominent for his dedication towards collecting the traditions of the Prophet.
Based in Madina, Malik founded a school of law to interpret the Quran and the
reports of the Prophet. Simultaneously in Kufa, another scholar Abu Hanifa was
also establishing his school of law. The great intellectual historian Shah
Wali-ullah in his work Al-Insaf maintained that the school of Abu Hanifa was
rationalist in its orientation, whereas Malik’s school was traditionalist in
its interpretive framework.
Interior of Mezquita de Córdoba, Spain
schools gravitated followers, Malik’s precocious student Al-Shafi came to the
forefront. The great Muslim scholar Dr Fazlur Rehman in his book Islamic
Methodology convincingly argued that al-Shafi combined the legal
rationalism of Abu Hanifa and the traditionalism of Malik to build a
comprehensive system of thought that eventually transformed itself into science
of Fiqh. Dr Fazlur Rehman maintained that this science of Fiqh, though
eclectic, was closer in orientation to that of Maliks’s conception of legalism.
Shafi’s analytical methodology of legal science became a reference point for
the successive Muslim scholars, to an extent that, he was considered to be the revivalist
(Mujaddid) almost unanimously by Muslims, including by Shah Wali-ullah.
traditionalist legal framework of Shafi remained uncontested for centuries.
Almost all the schools of law and theology extensively borrowed from the
writings of Shafi. It morphed into the cornerstone of Islamic orthodoxy that
had already spread all across the Islamic World. However, it was challenged by
a great Muslim scholar in Islamic Spain. Ibn-e-Hazm of Cordoba in 11th century
revolted against the classic Islamic orthodoxy that had already defined the
broader contours of Islamic scholasticism. Initially a student of literature,
Ibn-e-Hazm found in himself a growing penchant for the acquisition of Islamic
sciences. An autodidact, Ibn-e-Hazm was liberal in his approach to understand
maintained that legal conformism arrested the growth of Islamic sciences. In
his book multi-voluminous work Al-Muhalla, Ibn-e-Hazm systematically dismantled
the traditional architecture of Islamic sciences. Islam, in his ideation, had
its own philosophical spirit for the emancipation of human beings. This
philosophical spirit is wedded to the notion of renewal and reform. This reform
is only possible through constant engagement with forces of nature by
exercising rational faculties. The legal schools that continued to borrow from
earlier scholars did not develop answers to contemporary problems; as a result,
they were reduced to the relics of the past. The Shafite traditionalist school
did not incorporate in its analytic framework the sensibilities, norms, and the
behavioral tendencies of Islamic Spain. How could it be useful to those living
in this part of the world, Ibn-e-Hazm questioned?
that the origins of every Islamic legal school must be local so that they would
cater solutions to contemporary problems of that local population. This will
result in the growth of numerous legal systems and will help eventually
cultivate a vibrant Islamic society. Ibn-e-Hazm noted that most of the
inhabitants in Islamic Spain could not relate themselves to the legal systems
that sprang in the Middle East; as a result, could not find attraction in
Islam. Hence, Islam remained a minority in Islamic Spain.
a similar argument in a different setting was put forth by Sir Syed in the 19th
century. Sir Syed held that Islamic law and Islamic theology were imported to
India mostly from Central Asia. Those living in India could not find in them
solutions to their problems. In addition, Sir Syed posited that by the time
Islam arrived in India as a doctrinal system, it had already attained its definitive
shape. Muslims in India were left with no option but to give in to this
orthodoxy. Like Ibn-e-Hazm, Sir Syed also went a step further and argued that
Islam should have been re-interpreted constantly in order to align with
evolving needs and requirements.
concentrated his intellectual energy in developing a rationalist theology in
order to interpret Islamic principles in the light Western civilisational
progress. His project of renewal allowed for a wider of reason as an
epistemology to comprehend Islam. In his journal Tehzul-e-Ekhlaq, he
demonstrated that the traditional methods of reason were not sufficient to
develop sophisticated answers. Hence to Sir Syed, scientific rationalism was
the key to frame a rationalist approach to the principles of Islam. Bringing
into use his own frame of reasoning firmly rooted in scientific rationalism of
the West, Sir Syed re-defined traditional Islamic concepts of “Jinn”, “angels”,
“Jannah”, and various other Quranic episodes of history. His efforts gave birth
to a new rationalist interpretation of Islam that was both modern and liberal
in its philosophic vision.
innovative legalism in Islamic Spain and Sir Syed’s liberal theology in Muslim
India predicated on the need to allow for reason to play a major role in
defining Islam. Their radical views irked scholars who championed orthodoxy and
were mostly condemned as outright deviations. But their dissent generated fresh
waves of intellectual renewal in Islam. As the Sudanese Muslim scholar Naim Abdullahi
said, “heresy(dissent) must be celebrated, for there is no orthodoxy that was
not once a heresy(dissent) in history”. The dissent of Ibn-e-Hazm and Sir Syed
must be celebrated.
Headline: Ibn-e-Hazm To Sir Syed: Dissenting Voices In Islam
Source: The Eurasia Review