9th June 2014
A perspective on Reconstruction of Muslim Thought (with deference to Allama Iqbal)
By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
Yesterday’s Karachi Airport attack, the slaughter of innocent people in the sectarian madness which has gripped Pakistan, as in Quetta yesterday, the horrifying beheading of soldiers by the TTP, the fratricidal bloodbaths in Syria and Iraq,. What is going on? And why? Here’s a perspective.
It starts with the fossilization and complete absence of any form of creative reflective thought in the Muslim world. And I deliberately use the phrase Muslim world and not Islamic world, for they represent two very different perspectives. The former is the perspective adopted by Muslims, very dogmatic, entrenched and narrow, while the latter would be, a perspective based on rationale, logic and laws, which represent evolved thinking, societal development, scientific and technological discoveries ( not “Islamic” science and discoveries).
I say not Islamic discoveries, for the entire nature of the Universe and Creation, for a believer in ‘Creationism” as we Muslims are, is the Work of the One Supreme Creator. He Existed Before Everything and After Everything. Quantum Physics proves the Universality of “energy” as the only source of everything.
Muslim thought, has unfortunately remained frozen, at a point in time in the 11th and 12th Century, based on an understanding and interpretation of Islam, Quran, Hadith, Shariah and defined quite differently by 5 very eminent theologians; ; Imams Malik, Hanbal, Shafei, Hanifa and Jafar, with each school claiming its way as the “right way”
Since then the Muslim World has failed to re-interpret and redefine their code of conduct based on very different individual, societal, scientific, technological developments and challenges. The 5 theologians were certainly great, eminent and well versed theologians, perhaps the leading scholars of the Quran, Hadith, Jurisprudence, Shariah etc, of their times, but we must not forget that they lived several hundred years ago, were not God Ordained Prophets and were only able to do what they did, as best as they could, based on their personal abilities, readings, research, understanding and their views of what the Shariah Code should be for a society which existed in their times.
This is like using the scientific and technological formulas and knowledge of the 11th and 12th century scholars of medicine, science, astronomy, physics, chemistry, mathematics etc, in fact every aspect of life( all God’s Rules) to develop things for today’s needs.
For the Muslim world, to become truly “Islamic” which means being a humane, gentle, inclusive, fair, tolerant faith, accepting the right of people to hold divergent and contrarian views and beliefs, as most powerfully and symbolically manifested in the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) Charter of Medina, must re-vitalize its strongest value, which gave its greatest strength, that of reflection, discussion, discourse, to find answers which today challenge the minds of 21st Century Muslims and Non-Muslims.
And a process which must continue to develop practical solutions, based on the eternal principles of Islam, which allows people to practice a faith in new and evolved environments, as society changes and morphs.
The Muslim society, as History proves, reached its earlier zenith and height, not because it was dogmatic, but dynamic, not exclusivist, but inclusivist, not fossilized and frozen, but phenomenally fresh and continuously challenging and coming up with answers and solutions for that day and age.
It certainly did not have a “my way or the highway” message for non-believers, or those of different sects or faiths but “I will fight to defend your highway”.
Unfortunately, the continuous downfall of Muslim societies and this great liberating faith, can be traced to the era of exclusivistic dogmatism following the interpretation by the five Imams, when it became a “sin” to challenge existing dogma, even as times and centuries passed. Unfortunately, this dogmatism has become even more tragically entrenched today.
Today Muslim Countries, collectively represent the worst forms and examples of terrible, cruel and corrupt governance. We see the unending exploitation of the weak and the poor, unbelievable poverty, non-existent health care, education, and job opportunities, discrimination of every sort, zero scientific and technological development, except for farces like the “water car” in Pakistan and other such nonsense.
We must reflect, deeply, dispassionately and objectively that something must be terribly terribly wrong in the manner in which we interpret and practice our great Faith with the result that today, we are at the bottom of pile. Our current state, certainly does not reflect the Great Teachings of the Quran and The “True Way: and “Sunnah” of the Prophet” PBUH.
Above all and foremost, Muslims of all pales and shades, will have to leave the “politics” of “right” and wrong”. WE will have to make our beliefs a private contract and not a public one. However difficult this may seem, we must do so. For this is the only way we will move away from the need and desire to declare the others as “Usurpers”, “non-Muslims” “unbelievers”, with no right to live, exist with different views and faiths. The collective society can and will be be Islamic if its individuals act, according to its values not its rituals only. The state has to be fair to all, Muslims and Non Muslims
We must learn to live in a world of divergent views and beliefs within and outside the pale of Islam. This is the true message of an enlightened Islam and an enlightened polity. We must reflect, challenge and come up with answers for today.
We must not blindly follow centuries old interpretations, by people who did the best that they could, given what they knew then and what they saw then. We must reflect, discuss, discourse, research, re-interpret and manifest codes which reflect our current states based on the Eternal principles as laid Down By The Creator.