Reshaping Islam for the modern age

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by ajtr, May 18, 2012.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Reshaping Islam for the modern age

    Concerned British Muslims, mostly of South Asian origin, want to open their religion to critical enquiry and debate

    “Let's be honest. There's a clear link with Islam.”

    This was heading of a Times opinion piece on the controversial case of a group of Muslim men jailed last week for sexually abusing young and vulnerable white girls. The writer, David Aaronovitch — a social liberal and ex-communist to boot — suggested that Islam was inherently misogynist: a culture that treated its women as “red meat.” But here's the irony: it was a Muslim Chief Crown Prosecutor who paved the way for their conviction by insisting on reopening the case after it had been closed. This, of course, in no way diminishes the shame that the Muslim community ought to feel over the criminality of these men, but where Mr. Aaronovitch appeared to go off at a tangent was in linking a vile criminal act with a specific community and culture. After all, nobody (and rightly so) has blamed Christianity for the conduct of hundreds of priests found involved in child abuse scandals around the world.

    So, what is it that allows such glib assumptions about Islam?

    Echoing a perception

    To be fair, The Times writer was simply echoing a widely-held perception of Islam: inherently violent and intolerant. The idea of Islam as a set of strict taboos and pieties in which everything is a “given” and there is no room for ifs and buts — let alone serious critical thinking — has become deeply embedded in the public mind.

    It is easy to blame it on anti-Muslim prejudice and accuse critics of Islamophobia. But the truth is that a great deal of public misreading of Islam is down to Muslims themselves. From the neighbourhood maulvi dispensing forbidding fatwas on everything in sight, to hard-line scholars with their self-serving interpretation of Islamic scriptures, they all have contributed to the notion of a good Muslim that is akin to Tennyson's caricature of British soldiers who led the catastrophic Charge of the Light Brigade: theirs is “not to make reply,…not to reason why… but to do and die” in the name of supposedly divine injunctions.

    But now a group of concerned British Muslims, mostly from South Asia, has set out to put this idea of Islam on its head by stimulating debate around the very issues that “good” Muslims are forbidden to explore. Importantly, the men and women behind this initiative are no airy-fairy left-wing liberals — a label routinely hurled at Muslims seen to be “out of line” — but practising believers with deeply held Islamic beliefs. These are very much the voices from “within” and many sufficiently well-versed in theology to be able to back their argument with chapter and verse from Islamic texts.

    The Critical Muslim, a new international quarterly from the London-based Muslim Institute, is as much an attempt to intellectually reclaim Islam from fundamentalists and reshape it for a modern age as it is a response to those who believe that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim or moderate Muslim viewpoint. It promises to provide a “Muslim perspective on the great debates of contemporary times” through “open and critical engagement in the best tradition of Muslim intellectual inquiry.” Ziauddin Sardar, Professor of Law and Society, Middlesex University, and a co-Editor of Critical Muslim, believes that there is an urgent need for Muslims, particularly in India and Pakistan, to think critically.

    “Lack of critical thought, over centuries, has allowed extremism and obscurantism to become intrinsic in our societies. Without criticism, and an openness to embrace the wider world, Islam and Muslims are reduced to ciphers — incapable of generating new and original ideas, solving the pressing problems of our societies, and making their mark on the world,” he says.

    The theme of the latest issue is The Idea of Islam which, the contributors argue, needs to be revisited with a bold re-reading of the more contentious interpretations of Islamic scriptures currently presented as something divine that cannot be questioned. Islam, they lament, has been reduced to a series of “no-go” areas which, let alone Muslims, even non-Muslims are prohibited from exploring.

    Held captive

    “The idea of Islam is incarcerated, not in one, but many prisons,” argues Mr. Sardar. And the biggest of these “prisons,” according to him, is Shariah or Islamic Law which has been used to justify “almost any injustice on God's bountiful earth,” including xenophobia, misogyny and homophobia.

    Samia Rahman, a writer and daughter of Pakistani immigrants, writes about misogyny in Islam — how an all-male cast of clerics and scholars have selectively plucked out bits from Islamic texts to justify the inferior status accorded to women in patriarchal Muslim societies. The idea that Islam does not give women the same rights as men has become so institutionalised, she points out, that even young and educated women born and brought up in the liberal West have come to believe it — much like victims of the so-called Stockholm Syndrome where the hostage starts to identify with the captor.

    “Most of this misogyny is justified on the basis of the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad…The question is how to pull Islam out of the quagmire of misogynist practice and interpretation and revive its pro-woman ethos,” she writes.

    Other issues that the journal debates include the notion of jihad in Islam, questions about Muslim orthodoxy, the idea of Muslim cosmopolitanism that many believe doesn't exist, and the “state of enmity” between Muslims and Jews despite being the “closest of cousins.” And if you thought jazz was an all-American thing, read Andy Simons who insists that jazz is just as Muslim as it is American.

    The upshot of the Critical Muslim debate is that what Islam needs is a renaissance to recast it for a modern age.

    “It is time to leave the prisons of shariah…break free from the traditionalist thought and bury the notion of the ‘Islamic state' ….,” says Mr. Sardar.

    Whether or not it happens, at least a debate has started and it would be interesting to see where it goes from here. The next issue is on Pakistan. Will moderate Pakistanis join the debate?
     
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  3. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    Islam as it is right now is backward.
     
  4. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    That is if you take the Wahabi ideology to represent Islam.
     
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  5. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    Read ' modernising Islam' by sushmit kumar.
     
  6. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    You have read it I take it.

    Perhaps summarize a few points that you found the most relevant for us?
     
  7. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    I wonder if one can 'modernise' Islam.

    Technically, I think it is not feasible.

    Critical thinking is only feasible if there is Ijtihad.

    But that was stopped after the 10th Century since it was felt no human is that qualified to undertake critical analysis of the word of God as is given in the Koran.
     
  8. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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  9. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    he closing of the gate of independent Ijtihad


    Towards the tenth century some wanted to put a stop to further eleboration and controversies that were becoming prevalent, some claimed that the need for Ijtihad and Tafsir had been exhausted. Around 1305 some jurists in Iraq even decided to close the door of Ijtihad.11 Although the power of absolute Ijtihad was completely abolished, a relative Ijtihad was allowed, giving a scope for limited expansion in details. There are others who accept that direct Ijtihad on the matters which are not touched upon by earlier Mujtahidun can still be considered by a Muslim who has all the qualifications of a Mujtahid. Thus within the Sunni world of Islam the decisions of Judges in certain domains over the years represent small increments of Ijtihad in the body of knowledge held by the Schools of Law.12

    Ijtihad was further restricted to exclude those cases that had become the subject of consensus, Ijma. Such cases were not subject to further juristic interpretation. Thus Ijtihad in legal matters was confined to the grey areas of the law, where textual certainty was absent but where human reasoning on the basis of the texts might uncover the law as intended by God.

    Some believe that restriction was needed to put a stop to the 'conflicts of opinions and doctrines' through which Islam had passed during the preceding three centuries and 'had finally attained stability, through the emergence of an orthodoxy, only towards the beginning of the 10th century (CE).'13 However, nowadays some say that such a decision pushed Muslim intellectual activity 'towards stagnation.'14 Others believe that the reason for the curtailment of Ijtihad was 'the difficulty which occurred in practice: for if such a right were to continue [for any great length of time], especially if ta'awwul and the precedence of something over the texts were to be permitted, and everyone were permitted to change or interpret according to his own opinion, nothing would remain of the way of Islam.'15 Perhaps it was for this reason that the right of independent Ijtihad was gradually withdrawn, and people were instructed to practice only taqlid of the four schools.

    The Qualification of a Mujtahid (jurist)

    To protect Islamic law from the dangers of innovation and distortion the great scholars of usul laid down rigorous conditions to be fulfilled by anyone wishing to claim the right of Ijtihad for himself. A jurist must be a master of the Arabic language. He must have proficient knowledge of theology, the revealed texts and the four schools of thought. A jurist must have a comprehensive knowledge of legal theory, usul al-fiqh, which governs the interpretative principles of legal language and the method of investigating the texts, the asbab al-Nuzul and the asbab alwarud, the naskh wal mansukh etc. He should have thorough knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadith and in the exegesis. He must know what parts of the law have become subject to consensus. He must be a pious and practising Muslim. He should first seek the solution of a legal problem in the specific terms of the Qur'an and the Sunna, applying the accepted methods of interpretations and construction, including, the doctrine of Naskh, asbab etc., before considering Ijtihad.16

    Conditions of Ijtihad

    A Mujtahid must not seek for Ijtihad about the existence of God, the prophethood of Muhammad and the authenticity of the Qur'an.17 Ijtihad does not arise in respect of matters that have already been dealt with in the Qur'an and the Traditions. However, sometimes, there occur situations which have been left undetermined by the first two sources, when jurists are called upon to make use of Ijtihad and determine laws applicable to them, or formulate new ones if necessary, in the light of the fundamental principles of Islamic jurisprudence and legislation.

    Ranks of Mujtahids and categories of Ijtihad

    Study shows that by eleventh and twelfth century Sunni legal practice had evolved to the point at which jurists were ranked according to their ability to practice Ijtihad. To make the matter simple we may say that both the Mujtahid and their Ijtihad are of three kinds.

    1. Mujtahid mutlaq: This category is also known as Ijtihad fi'sh-Shar, absolute independence in legislation.18 The first four caliphs are considered to be in this category but it is principally the great masters of the four schools who are recognised as the Mujtahidun Mutlaq.19 They are known as such because of their laying down a methodology of the law and deriving from it doctrines that were to dominate their respective schools. Of course, the founders of these schools were not the only workers in this field. There were others like the Zaahiri school who held their own legal opinions and were not dependent on anyone. Apparently, the last person to have been an independent Mujtahid with his own independent approach in legal issues was the well-known historian and exegete Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d. 922), who although famous for his work on history, is considered by some a Mujtahid of the first rank.



    2. Mujtahid muntasib: A jurist who operates within each school following its methodology but producing new solutions for new legal cases. Such a jurist is also known as Mujtahid fi al-madhab. The work of a Mujtahid in this category is known as Ijtihad fil Madhab. Such a Mujtahid who is attached to one of the well-known schools and follows its juristic approach, may formulate his own independent legal opinions which may be different from the legal opinions of the founder. This degree has been granted to the immediate disciples of the great Imams who elaborated the systems of their Imams and added their own opinions. The most famous of these, for example in Hanafi fiqh, are the two disciples of Abu Hanifah, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Ibn al-Hassan. In secondary matters their opinion carries great weight. "It is laid down as a rule that a Mufti may follow the unanimous opinion of these two even when it goes against that of Abu Hanifah."20 Others that one may add to this class are: Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwaym, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali21 and Ibn al-Sabbagh.



    3. Mujtahid muqallid:22 A jurist who merely follows the rulings arrived at by the mujtahids previously. However in issues in which he does not find an opinion of the founder, he exercises his own Ijtihad and issues a judgement. Such a Mujtahid must have a perfect knowledge of all the branches of jurisprudence according to the four schools and of the rulings that followed. His decision must always be in uniformity with the Mujtahadun of first and second classes and with the principles which guided them. Such an Ijtihad within the framework of the juristic and legal positions of a school is known as Ijtihad al-fatwa.



    Between the ranks of Mujtahids and muqallids there are other levels of jurists who have combined Ijtihad with taqlid and while it is acknowledged that the absolute Mujtahid is something that cannot be attained now, other levels are probably attainable.23 Countless jurists from the tenth century to the early nineteenth century have been considered to have attained the rank of Mujtahid within their own schools. In later years all that the highest in rank have done is to explain obscure passages in the writings of the older jurists. If they found several conflicting opinions on any point, they selected one opinion on which to base their own opinion. Many of these have written commentaries on the legal systems without originating anything new. The author of the Al-Hidayah, who lived at the end of the sixth century is one example of a Mujtahid Muqallid.

    Neo ijtihadism

    The discussion above shows that when we talk of the closure of the door of Ijtihad, we refer to the Ijtihad of the first kind, i.e. Independent Ijtihad. As to the other two their doors have remained open. There are, as ever, Muslims who ask: Why should the doors of independent Ijtihad have been closed after the fourth century? Does no one have the right to complete independence, rather than be bound to follow one of the Imams in jurisprudence? Why and for what reason is it not permissible today to follow any one except the four Imams? Why should one who follows any one of the Imams follow him in all issues and have no right to follow the other three, exercising his own discretion in some issues? Scholars have given various answers to these questions.

    Strangely to some, one of the response is that' it was God Almighty who inspired the scholars to close the door of Ijtihad to safeguard Islam and protect the religion from disintegration.24 On the other hand there are others who have stressed again and again the need to reopen this practice. In the late nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth, some individuals and reformist religious movements were stimulated to reconsider Ijtihad by the massive introduction of European codes in place of Shariah.25 New ideas from the West, new educational systems and the Salafi movement for example stressed the need to reinterpret Islamic teachings with direct reference to the Qur'an and Ahadith leaving aside the accumulated scholarship of the Mujtahids through centuries. They particularly called for abandoning taqlid in favour of Ijtihad.

    From the 17th century on wards, discourses on Ijtihad versus Ijtihad taqlidi gained notable significance in Sunni Islam. Among the traditional reformers who argued to renew Ijtihad were Shah Wali Allah (d. 1765), Ibn Mu'mar (d. 1810), Muhammad ibn Ali al-Shawkani (d. 1832), and Muhammad ibn Ali al-Sanusi (d. 1859). Their emphasis on the centrality of Ijtihad amounted to a criticism of taqlid. They maintained that taqlid "is lawful only when applied on behalf of laymen who need the guidance of legal scholars in running their mundane and religious affairs."26 They argued that for the learned jurists the ultimate authorities did not lie in the doctrines of past masters but rather in the Qur'an and the Sunnah.

    Muslim scholars like Jamal al-Din Afghani (d. 1893) and his disciple Shaykh Muhammad Abduh27 (d. 1905) wrote about reopening of the door of Ijtihad.28 A similar stance was adopted by Shaykh Rashid Ridda (d. 1935). They claimed that to perceive the true essence of Islam one must free oneself from taqlid and blind dependence on the traditional interpretations of the four classical schools of thought and return to the religion of the forefathers (Salaf). 29It was argued that the Ijma of a few scholars to close the gate of Ijtihad was merely the result of fear of disunity among Muslims in a period of political instability and above all the decision was made in a period of 'intellectual stagnation' and now fresh Ijtihad is needed. There are other Muslims who ask: Was the door of Ijtihad ever closed? Allama Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut (d. 1963), the mufti and rector of Al-Azhar University claimed that the door of Ijtihad 'is open and that there is nothing objectionable about a follower of one school referring to the judgements of another school.' In one of his fatwa he went so far as to say that it 'is correct to follow the Ja'fari school of fiqh, just like the other schools.'30 Subsequently, a chair of comparative legal studies was established at Al-Azhar.

    Some of the advocates of neo-Ijtihadism reinterpret some of the key terms and concepts like taqlid,31 talfiq32 and takhayyur. 33However those who reject the modern view of Ijtihad say: 'Any attempt of Ijtihad to re-interpret Islamic legal principles with the use of takhayyur and talfiq to suit the changed social conditions of our time will not be objected to, but mere change and departure from the Qur'an and Sunnah in order to import French, English or Italian law and call it Neo-Ijtihad will amount to disbelief.'34

    During the past decade a number of voices calling for a reformation of usul al-fiqh with a view toward fashioning a neo-ijtihad methodology have been raised. These include the Salafiah movement(s) which started in the 18-19th century. However, such movements and reformers still remain without methodological and philosophical foundations. Those who oppose neo Ijtihadism conclude that there 'only exists the process of Ijtihad which was employed by the Sahabah, Tabiun and Tab'Tabiun35 who solely depended on the exercise based on the Qur'an, Sunnah and the Conduct of the Prophet.'36 In their view it is not appropriate to throw away a thousand years of scholarship.

    Ijtihad in the history
     
  10. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    There is a section of Muslims who want to 'modernise' Islam, but then it is difficult since the Mullahs will oppose it because it will impinge of their absolute authority over the Muslim people.
     
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  11. Sabir

    Sabir DFI TEAM Senior Member

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    Condition of Islam is similar to that of Christianity in middle age or that of Hindu society pre-Ram Mohan era where few people used distorted version to fool people. Even then I think it looked impossible to clean up.
     
  12. drkrn

    drkrn Senior Member Senior Member

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    in medical history we have names like father of medicine,father of modern medicine etc..

    like that now there should come another Muhammad prophet to reshape Islam..

    actually what's the thing you want to reshape?? ethics ,morals ,values, equality everything it said the best.indeed no religion in world teaches bad.

    Islam teaches equal rights in everything for woman.but not being practised any where.

    problem lies with persons following Islam not Islam.

    if something has to change its the people..
    the place where change should begin is their respective homes.
     
  13. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    There is problem with ALL religions not only Islam [Buddhism in my mind is a very enlightened faith; Jainism too passive.]. Christianity had its dark days when the church/priests became all powerful and tried to control everything even the growth of knowledge where we had the church insisting the sun revloved around the earth etc and charging of heresy Galileo for his theory. Islam IMO has not been an impediment to science that way. Hinduism has its black spot in the form of caste system. Problem is all major religions had rules that were formulated in their historical context, just as we cannot judge the heroes and gurus of anicent time we also cannot practically apply many rules that were put down in the ancient holy books.

    Christianity also has stoning of women and other gory customs in Old Testament but Christians do not follow Old Testament. Similarly I wish some holy men of standing in Islam should stand up and say even though it is in the book it is in the context of 6th-7th century Arabia not 21st century world. Extremists in places like Somalia and Afghanistan have tried to literally apply what is written in the holy book and see what happened.

    [Above written by person ignorant of Hinduism/Islam/Christianity/etc etc; whose source of knowledge is Google maharaj most of the time...]
     
  14. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    Excuse me but what Modernity are we talking about

    Islam has NOT even had a RENAISSANCE which cured medieval Christian Europe's
    religious dogmas
     
  15. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    Why Do They Hate Us? - By Mona Eltahawy | Foreign Policy

    This has been the hottest topic on a very prestigious magazine " Foreign Policy "
    for a few weeks now

    It shows the sad fate of Muslim women in the Middle East

    And Mind you Medieval Europe was better for women than Today's Islamic countries

    Atleast they could breathe fresh air without being suffocated by the burqas
     
  16. A chauhan

    A chauhan "अहिंसा परमो धर्मः धर्म हिंसा तथैव च: l" Senior Member

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    Yes! reshaping Islam is possible.
    Some suggestions:-
    1. Reject 'external Jihad' and issue fatwa against it,
    2. Forget Shariah have faith in modern legal system and laws,
    3. Reject the terms like 'Kafir' take non-Muslims as equals,
    4. oh most important thing - slowly replace madarasas with modern schools and colleges,do not allow too much of religious teachings.
    5. Allow inter community marriages, etc.

    One more thing annihilate Pakistan completely the biggest problem for Islam and Muslims :thumb:
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  17. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    Famous iqbal quote that hasan nisar uses many times springs to mind after reading the title "khud badalte nahi quran ko badal dete hain"

    :)
     
  18. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    Hope this helps;
    Robert Kaplan once said, future wars will be those of communal survival, aggravated or, in many cases, caused by environmental scarcity. These wars will be sub national, meaning that it will be hard for states and local government to protect their own citizens physically. This is how many states will ultimately die. As the power of the states fades - and with it the ability of the state to protect its weak and the other weaker states - people around the world will be thrown back upon their own strengths and weaknesses, with fewer equalising mechanisms to protect them.

    I still believe we are standing at the very edge of precipice. However, the fall will never come. We will see mankind rise to dizzying heights of achievements.

    There will be a complete loss of islamophobia as a normal muslim will start accepting the world is for others as much it is for them. It will start will the fall of the US dollar and the end of the American war machine.
     
  19. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    Spot on. Very close to the truth.
     
  20. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    And that is exactly in the pipeline. Modernization. Its inevitable.

    A bacterium in a petri dish in a lab follows the exponential curve; Its got 4 stages

    lag, exponential, plateau, decline.

    It is as applicable to bacterium as its to islamic fundamentalism.
     
  21. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    Kemal Ataturk did that in Turkey. And turkey is a very tolerant society. Even the common man came on the street in 2008 to protest against military diktat to promote islam.
     
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