Rethinking Islam

Category: Africa, Faith & Spirituality Topics: Islam, Islamic Law (Sharia) Views: 9049

Serious rethinking within Islam is long overdue. Muslims have been comfortably relying, or rather falling back, on age-old interpretations for much too long. This is why we feel so painful in the contemporary world, so uncomfortable with modernity. Scholars and thinkers have been suggesting for well over a century that we need to make a serious attempt at ijtihad, at reasoned struggle and rethinking, to reform Islam. At the beginning of the last century, Jamaluddin Afghani and Mohammad Abduh led the call for a new ijtihad; and along the way many notable intellectuals, academics and sages have added to this plea - not least Mohammad Iqbal, Malik bin Nabbi and Abdul Qadir Audah. Yet, ijtihad is one thing Muslim societies have singularly failed to undertake. Why?

The why has acquired an added urgency after September 11. What the fateful events of that day reveal, more than anything else, is the distance we have travelled away from the spirit and import of Islam. Far from being a liberating force, a kinetic social, cultural and intellectual dynamics for equality, justice and humane values, Islam seems to have acquired a pathological strain. Indeed, it seems to me that we have internalised all those historic and contemporary western representations of Islam and Muslims that have been demonising us for centuries. We now actually wear the garb, I have to confess, of the very demons that the West has been projecting on our collective personality. 

But to blame the West, or a notion of instrumental modernity that is all but alien to us, would be a lazy option. True, the West, and particularly America, has a great deal to answer for. And Muslims are quick to point a finger at the injustices committed by American and European foreign policies and hegemonic tendencies. However, that is only a part, and in my opinion not an insurmountable part, of the malaise. Hegemony is not always imposed; sometimes, it is invited. The internal situation within Islam is an open invitation. 

Islam is not so much a religion but an integrative worldview: that is to say, it integrates all aspects of reality by providing a moral perspective on every aspect of human endeavour.

We have failed to respond to the summons to ijtihad for some very profound reasons. Prime amongst these is the fact that the context of our sacred texts the Quran and the examples of the Prophet Muhammad, our absolute frame of reference has been frozen in history. One can only have an interpretative relationship with a text even more so if the text is perceived to be eternal. But if the interpretative context of the text is never our context, not our own time, then its interpretation can hardly have any real meaning or significance for us as we are now. Historic interpretations constantly drag us back to history, to frozen and ossified context of long ago; worse, to perceived and romanticised contexts that have not even existed in history. This is why while Muslims have a strong emotional attachment to Islam, Islam per se, as a worldview and system of ethics, has little or no direct relevance to their daily lives apart from the obvious concerns of rituals and worship. Ijtihad and fresh thinking have not been possible because there is no context within which they can actually take place.

The freezing of interpretation, the closure of the gates of ijtihad, has had a devastating effect on Muslim thought and action. In particular, it has produced what I can only describe as three metaphysical catastrophes: the elevation of the Shariah to the level of the Divine, with the consequent removal of agency from the believers, and the equation of Islam with the State. Let me elaborate.

Most Muslims consider the Shariah, commonly translated as Islamic law, to be divine. Yet, there is nothing divine about the Shariah. The only thing that can legitimately be describes as divine in Islam is the Quran. The Shariah is a human construction; an attempt to understand the divine will in a particular context. This is why the bulk of the Shariah actually consists of fiqh or jurisprudence, which is nothing more than legal opinion of classical jurists. The very term fiqh was not in vogue before the Abbasid period when it was actually formulated and codified. But when fiqh assumed its systematic legal form, it incorporated three vital aspects of Muslim society of the Abbasid period. At that juncture, Muslim history was in its expansionist phase, and fiqh incorporated the logic of Muslim imperialism of that time. The fiqh rulings on apostasy, for example, derive not from the Qur'an but from this logic. Moreover, the world was simple and could easily be divided into black and white: hence, the division of the world into Daral Islam and Daral Harb. Furthermore, as the framers of law were not by this stage managers of society, the law became merely theory which could not be modified - the framers of the law were unable to see where the faults lay and what aspect of the law needed fresh thinking and reformulation. Thus fiqh, as we know it today, evolved on the basis of a division between those who were governing and set themselves apart from society and those who were framing the law; the epistemological assumptions of a golden phase of Muslim history also came into play. When we describe the Shariah as divine, we actually provide divine sanctions for the rulings of by-gone fiqh. 

What this means in reality is that when Muslim countries apply or impose the Shariah the demands of Muslims from Indonesia to Nigeria - the contradictions that were inherent in the formulation and evolution of fiqh come to the fore. That is why wherever the Shariah is imposed that is, fiqhi legislation is applied, out of context from the time when it was formulated and out of step with ours - Muslim societies acquire a medieval feel. We can see that in Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and the Taliban Afghanistan. When narrow adherence to fiqh, to the dictates of this or that school of thought, whether it has any relevance to real world or not, becomes the norm, ossification sets in. The Shariah will solve all our problems becomes the common sentiment; and it becomes necessary for a group with vested interest in this notion of the Shariah to preserve its territory, the source of its power and prestige, at all costs. An outmoded body of law is thus equated with the Shariah, and criticism is shunned and outlawed by appealing to its divine nature. 

The elevation of the Shariah to the divine level also means the believers themselves have no agency: since The Law is a priori given people themselves have nothing to do expect to follow it. Believers thus become passive receivers rather than active seekers of truth. In reality, the Shariah is nothing more than a set of principle, a framework of values, that provide Muslim societies with guidance. But these sets of principles and values are not a static given but are dynamically derived within changing contexts. As such, the Shariah is a problem-solving methodology rather than law (1). It requires the believers to exert themselves and constantly reinterpret the Quran and look at the life of the Prophet Muhammad with ever changing fresh eyes. Indeed, the Quran has to be reinterpreted from epoch to epoch which means the Shariah, and by extension Islam itself, has to be reformulated with changing contexts (2). The only thing that remains constant in Islam is the text of the Quran itself its concepts providing the anchor for ever changing interpretations. 

Islam is not so much a religion but an integrative worldview: that is to say, it integrates all aspects of reality by providing a moral perspective on every aspect of human endeavour. Islam does not provide ready-made answers to all human problems; it provides a moral and just perspective within which Muslims must endeavour to find answers to all human problems. But if everything is a priori given, in the shape of a divine Shariah, than Islam is reduced to a totalistic ideology. Indeed, this is exactly what the Islamic movements in particularly Jamaat-e-Islami (both Pakistani and Indian varieties) and the Muslim Brotherhood have reduced Islam to. Which brings me to the third metaphysical catastrophe. Place this ideology within a nation state, with divinely attributed Shariah at its centre, and you have an Islamic state. All contemporary Islamic states, from Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan to aspiring Pakistan, are based on this ridiculous assumption. But once Islam, as an ideology, becomes a programme of action of a vested group, it looses its humanity and becomes a battlefield where morality, reason and justice are readily sacrificed at the alter of emotions. Moreover, the step from a totalistic ideology to a totalitarian order where every human-situation is open to state-arbitration is a small one. The transformation of Islam into a state-based political ideology not only deprives it of its all moral and ethical content, it also debunks most of Muslim history as un-Islamic. Invariably, when Islamists rediscover a golden past, they do so only in order to disdain the present and mock the future. All we are left with is messianic chaos, as we saw so vividly in the Taliban regime, where all politics as the domain of action is paralysed and meaningless pieties become the foundational truth of the state.

The totalitarian vision of Islam as a State thus transforms Muslim politics into a metaphysics: in such an enterprise, every action can be justified as Islamic by the dictates of political expediency as we witnessed in revolutionary Iran. 

The three metaphysical catastrophes are accentuated by an overall process of reduction that has become the norm in Muslim societies. The reductive process itself is also not new; but now it has reached such an absurd state that the very ideas that are supposed to take Muslims societies towards humane values now actually take them in the opposite direction. From the subtle beauty of a perennial challenge to construct justice through mercy and compassion, we get mechanistic formulae fixated with the extremes repeated by people convinced they have no duty to think for themselves because all questions have been answered for them by the classical ulamas, far better men long dead. And because everything carries the brand name of Islam, to question it, or argue against it, is tantamount to voting for sin. 

The process of reduction started with the very notion of alim (scholar) itself. Just who is an alim; what makes him an authority? In early Islam, an alim was anyone who acquired ilm, or knowledge, which was itself described in a broad sense. We can see that in the early classifications of knowledge by such scholars as al-Kindi, al-Farabi, ibn Sina, al-Ghazzali and ibn Khauldun. Indeed, both the definition of knowledge and its classification was a major intellectual activity in classical Islam (3). So all learned men, scientists as well as philosophers, scholars as well as theologians, constituted the ulama. But after the gates of ijtihad were closed during the Abbasid era, ilm was increasing reduced to religious knowledge and the ulama came to constitute only religious scholars. 

Similarly, the idea of ijma, the central notion of communal life in Islam, has been reduced to the consensus of a select few. Ijma literally means consensus of the people. The concept dates back to the practice of Prophet Muhammad himself as leader of the original polity of Muslims. When the Prophet Muhammad wanted to reach a decision, he would call the whole Muslim community then, admittedly not very large to the mosque. A discussion would ensue; arguments for and against would be presented. Finally, the entire gathering would reach a consensus. Thus, a democratic spirit was central to communal and political life in early Islam. But over time the clerics and religious scholars have removed the people from the equation and reduced ijma to the consensus of the religious scholars. Not surprisingly, authoritarianism, theocracy and despotism reigns supreme in the Muslim world. The political domain finds its model in what has become the accepted practice and metier of the authoritatively religious adepts, those who claim the monopoly of exposition of Islam. Obscurantist Mullahs, in the guise of the ulama, dominate Muslim societies and circumscribe them with fanaticism and absurdly reductive logic. 

Numerous other concepts have gone through similar process of reduction. The concept of ummah, the global spiritual community of Muslims, has been reduced to the ideals of a nation state: my country right or wrong has been transpose to read my ummah right or wrong. So even despots like Saddam Hussein are now defended on the basis of ummah consciousness and unity of the ummah. Jihad has now been reduced to the single meaning of Holy War. This translation is perverse not only because the concepts spiritual, intellectual and social components have been stripped away, but it has been reduced to war by any means, including terrorism. So anyone can now declare jihad on anyone, without any ethical or moral rhyme or reason. Nothing could be more perverted, or pathologically more distant from the initial meaning of jihad. Its other connotations, including personal struggle, intellectual endeavour, and social construction have all but evaporated. Istislah, normally rendered as public interest and a major source of Islamic law, has all but disappeared from Muslim consciousness. And ijtihad, as I have suggested, has now been reduced to little more than a pious desire.

But the violence performed to sacred Muslim concepts is insignificant compared to the reductive way the Quran and the sayings and examples of the Prophet Muhammad are brandied about. What the late Muslim scholar, Fazlur Rahman called the atomistic treatment of the Quran is now the norm: almost anything and everything is justified by quoting individual bits of verses out of context (4). After the September 11 event, for example, a number of Taliban supporters, including a few in Britain, justified their actions by quoting the following verse: We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. They serve other gods for whom no sanction has been revealed. Hell shall be their home (3: 149). Yet, the apparent meaning attributed to this verse could not be further from the true spirit of the Quran. In this particular verse, the Quran is addressing Prophet Muhammad himself. It was revealed during the battle of Uhad, when the small and ill equipped army of the Prophet, faced a much larger and well-equipped enemy. He was concerned about the outcome of the battle. The Quran reassures him and promises the enemy will be terrified with the Prophets unprofessional army. Seen in its context, it is not a general instruction to all Muslims; but a commentary on what was happening at that time. Similarly hadith are quoted to justify the most extremes of behaviour. And the Prophets own appearance, his beard and cloths, have been turned into a fetish: so now it is not just obligatory for a good Muslim to have a beard, but its length and shape must also conform to dictates! The Prophet has been reduced to signs and symbols the spirit of his behaviour, the moral and ethical dimensions of his actions, his humility and compassion, the general principles he advocated have all been subsumed by the logic of absurd reduction. 

The accumulative effect of the metaphysical catastrophes and endless reduction has transformed the cherished tenants of Islam into instruments of militant expediency and moral bankruptcy. For over two decades, I have been arguing that Muslim civilisation is now so fragmented and shattered that we have to rebuild it, brick by brick (5). It is now obvious that Islam itself has to be rethought, idea by idea. We need to begin with the simple fact that Muslims have no monopoly on truth, on what is right, on what is good, on justice, nor the intellectual and moral reflexes that promote these necessities. Like the rest of humanity, we have to struggle to achieve them using our own sacred notions and concepts as tools for understanding and reshaping contemporary reality. 

The way to a fresh, contemporary appreciation of Islam requires confronting the metaphysical catastrophes and moving away from reduction to synthesis. Primarily, this requires Muslims, as individuals and communities, to reclaim agency: to insist on their right and duty, as believers and knowledgeable people, to interpret and reinterpret the basic sources of Islam: to question what now goes under the general rubric of Shariah, to declare that much of fiqh is now dangerously obsolete, to stand up to the absurd notion of an Islam confined by a geographically bound state. We cannot, if we really value our faith, leave its exposition in the hands of under educated elites, religious scholars whose lack of comprehension of the contemporary world is usually matched only by their disdain and contempt for all its ideas and cultural products. Islam has been permitted to languish as the professional domain of people more familiar with the world of the eleventh century than the twenty-first century we now inhabit. And we cannot allow this class to bury the noble idea of ijtihad into frozen and distant history. 

Ordinary Muslims around the world who have concerns, questions and considerable moral dilemmas about the current state of affairs of Islam must reclaim the basic concepts of Islam and reframe them in a broader context. Ijma must mean consensus of all citizens leading to participatory and accountable governance. Jihad must be understood in its complete spiritual meaning as the struggle for peace and justice as a lived reality for all people everywhere. And the notion of the ummah must be refined so it becomes something more than a mere reductive abstraction. As Anwar Ibrahim has argued, the ummah is not merely the community of all those who profess to be Muslims; rather, it is a moral conception of how Muslims should become a community in relation to each other, other communities and the natural world. Which means ummah incorporates not just the Muslims, but justice seeking and oppressed people everywhere (6). In a sense, the movement towards synthesis is an advance towards the primary meaning and message of Islam as a moral and ethical way of looking and shaping the world, as a domain of peaceful civic culture, a participatory endeavour, and a holistic mode of knowing, being and doing. 

If the events of September 11 unleash the best intentions, the essential values of Islam, the phoenix would truly have risen from the ashes of twin towers. 

1. For a more elaborate exposition The Shariah as Problem-Solving Methodology chapter 5 of Ziauddin Sardar, Islamic Futures: The Shape of Ideas to Come, Mansell, London, 1985.
2. I first argued this theses in The Future of Muslim Civilisation, Croom Helm, London, 1979; second edition, Mansell, London, 1987.
3. See Franz Rosenthal, Knowledge Triumphant, Brill, Leiden, 1970.
4. Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Quran, Biblioteca Islamica, Chicago, 1980.
5. Ziuaddin Sardar, The Future of Muslim Civilisation, op cit.
6. Anwar Ibrahim, The Ummah and Tomorrows World Futures 23 (3) 302-310 (April 1991). 

This article appeared in the Indian journal Seminar, 509 January 2002 48-51


  Category: Africa, Faith & Spirituality
  Topics: Islam, Islamic Law (Sharia)
Views: 9049

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Older Comments:
The Article is grammatically perfect. But I think the writer is misleading the young professional Muslims. First, He want to REFORM Islam. I am not expert on the ramification of Islamic laws but I think any attempt to innovate new ideas to change the basic tenets of Islam or interpret Qur'an in such a manner as to accommodate your desire, is a sign of Kufr. The writer thinks that Islamic doctrines in Qur'an are irrelevant now. It's an absurd idea. The world is now in a chaotic situation not because the Qur'an is absbolete but because people has transgressed the Qur'an. And the writer is trying to inject a new interpretation of Qur'an to legalize the act of transgressors. Masha Allah, I believed that knowledge without Iman makes man a clever devil.

I agree to most of the things that the author has mentioned, it is difficult and easier said than done , but things are still very much unfavorable especially for women considering the banning of burqa in european countries.

The title 'Rethinking of Islam ' is absurd. However, rethinking (unification to avoid chaos) of shariah at the approriate levels only by the eminent scholars)may be possible, with a word of caution;

(1) Fiqh only at the international level
(2) Ijmah at the continental / national level (3)qiyas at the national / institutional level
(4) Ijtihad (mainly fatwas) at the institutional level.

This concept of standardization may be feasible, Insha Allah. Almighty Allah knows best.

I stand to be corrected, this article has an orientalist undertune in all ramification.

Mr. Ziauddin has not given any concrete instances from Islamic shariah which are incompatible with present-day situations. He has just generalized the whole issue. He says that Shariah (Fiqh) is not divine because it is nothing but legal opinions of Islamic jurists, and that only the Quran is divine. He is of the opinion that the Fiqh started only during the Abbasid period and that it was unknown during the time of the Prophet. This is wrong.

Shariah is divine because it is based on the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet. The meaning of Fiqh is nothing but deriving the laws from the Quran, and this process was there during the life-time of the Prophet. He was the first Faqeeh and he used to issue verdicts, laws, etc. according to the situations and problems presented before him and these became the basis for the future formation of law and jurisprudence. He was the sole authority on earth to explain the Quran, and it was his responsibility too. Quran says:

"Allah did confer a great favour on the Believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs of Allah, purifying them, and instructing them in Scripture and Wisdom, while, before that, they had been in manifest error." (The Quran, 3:164)

This interpretation of the Quran was not the personal opinion of the Prophet but was revealed to him by Allah Himself as testified by the Quran (See 75:16-19)

The whole trouble with people like Mr. Ziauddin is that they do not want to accept the traditions and sayings of the Prophet as the final interpretation of the Quran and want to interpret it themselves according to their own whims and fancies.

In fact, every point raised by Mr. Ziauddin can be countered with sound arguments and I am sure IslamiCity has the potential to do it, and hope that they would do so sooner than later. If for any reason, they are not able to do so, then allow me to counter this in detail.

I have observed that a tremendous emphassis is focused on rituals but not enough on respect care and compassion.The remedy is in Sura 2:177.This article has relevance.May Allah guide us

Our attitude should be - 'Don't show me your camera, show me your picture'. I strongly believe ijtehad does that in a very positive way. I would like to give you a case study. I immigrated from South India to USA. My older talked to me about this one case of ijtehad in a South Indian city.
" A young Muslim man who got married three months ago got involved in an accident. He ended up in the hospital in a state of coma. One year later, he was still in coma.
The doctros informed the families that the recovery of the young man was less than 2%; he was in a vegitative state.
The family of the young bride and the family of young man in coma, brought six ulema (scholars) together and presented their case; young bride, no chance of coming out of coma; lives wasted, etc.
Throuhg ijtehad, the ulema gave the verdict that the Nikaah should be made null and void. The ulema gave the verdict based on the Qur'an and Sunnah.
The girl was free to get married. Both families accepted the verdict. The young girl got remarried.
The young man stayed in the state of coma for another six years - a total of seven years - and passed away.

I believe ijtehad is important.

Mohammad Yacoob

assalam wa alykum brother
sorry to say it seems from your article that may be u lack in islamic knowledge or you could not explain yourself clearly. The tafasirs and the translations which is making it easy for us now is sheer hard work of the early scholars and still many are working on it to make it easy for us. just reading a bunch of books is not enough to understand the Holy Quran it needs a full time devotion which these scholars are doing for us to understand. you are right in saying Islam is not a religion better explain it further (islam is not a religion but a complete way of living that pleases Allah) which today we are able to understand through the scholars who spent their lives penning down the hadiths for us. people around the world have lifted only a single word from the Holy Quran (jihad) and are exploiting the followers of Islam over it and educated muslims like you are falling pray. when we who have the whole of Quran on our side why fall pray to such gimmics. let the ullemas do their work and we do ours else we all know the story of spain once a Islamic center known world wide which now lacks followers of islam.

For Abu-Bakar Kamara, the meaning of ijtihad is:

It comes from the Arabic Root Verb : Jahada : meaning exerting effort. In general when effort is applied to a text, it is Ijtihad. When applied in the Islamic context it usually means the attempt of Muslim scholars to interpret the Sacred Texts, The Quran and Hadith.

The endeavor of Moslem scholars to derive a rule of divine law that not exactly mentioned in the Koran and Hadith.

I am for this article, but one I did not understand is the term Ijitihad What is it? Please explain.

Islam cannot be "rethought"; Islam is the Straight Way to a Peace achievable in supreme felicity with God, as revealed by a "Qaida" (i.e., a "Grammar") that is unchanging and unchangeable. "Peace" is the Word of greeting between God and the Foremost, ringing eternally over the Hereafter and the Companions of God selected on the Day of Sorting Out. Change as "rethinking" is the entropic way of the dissolving world.

Excellent article. I have one little problem with it - the following quote 'at reasoned struggle and rethinking, to reform Islam.' Islam means submission to the will of God what needs reformation could be interpretations, Muslims, Ummah, etc etc , not Islam per se. This comment
will have disasterous effects I think. But apart from that it was extremly thought provoking -

Thank you.

The article is correct in saying that Islam is not a religion, for religions are group efforts to survive existentially. Religions, as Nietzsche noted, are herds that congregate for mutual security and the pursuit of existential freedom and happiness.

As the Koran notes, God created the world as a place of exile for humans to test their willingness to submit to His Will; and it is by this submission that humans choose the right way of exodus to the hereafter--an exodus that strives against the evil those do in choosing the errant and astray exodus to the world of existential appetite fulfillment.

The article is a compromise that leads to wrong exodus and the eventual chaos of the entropic ending of the world. What believers keep constantly in mind is that the world was created to end; and that only by submitting to God's Will can the believer qualify for selection on the Day of Sorting Out as a Companion of God. "Qaida" is the grammar of God's unchanging Word; "Qaida" is the supreme felicity of God's Word (Surah 10:64); and today the Foremost among believers are striving along the Straight Way of the "Qaida", guarding that Way constantly against the astray human herd's propensity to compete for material resources which are dissolving entropically even as they are pre-empted by human competition and conflict.

As the Koran notes, there is no compromise in choosing the Straight Way, but humans today are confused by their own ability to communicate--ironically, a confusion abetted by the technological means for communicating, so-called advancements which as the Koran also notes are the self-defeating means evil begets for its own decline toward chaos, due to the choice of wrong exodus. There is no compromise, for the "Qaida" (i.e., the "Grammar") itself is straight and clear, for those who choose to recite and tell it by living it. Today the "Qaida" Foremost are striving for the Supreme Felicity of God's "Peace", where the "Grammar" leads eternally hereafter.

Wonderful, insightful article that will resonate with everyone who wants to live Islam compehensively in contemporary times, and to be true heirs of Prophet SAW.

Assalamu alaikum,
Dear brother, a word of advice. Fear Allah and be very careful when you send mass emails to people with such words that sound exactly like they came from a non muslim critic of Islam and muslims.

Your article tried to prove a perverted point with absolutely no evidence from the quran or the authentic ahadeeth of the prophet SAW. One ayah in the book of Allah abolishes your entire argument. This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (5:3).

My dear Brother it is not the religion of Islam that needs to change or be modified to suit our whims and desires but it is us who need submit and conform to this deen. Getting pressured from the west with all kinds of false labels and accusations is not an excuse to waterdown our religion.

Our ultimate goal should be to please Allah and not to please those who make their awliya Satan and his army. Your article was shocking and very bitter to read and I sincerely believe that you need take a step back and seriously rethink what you have conveyed to your readers.

As-Salaam O Alaykum,
Expressing such a view seems to be the results of either partial study of Islam or not practicing Islam in the way Qur'an and Sunnah demands from the followers of Islam.
The author instead should have raised the issue of not practicing Islam by the contemporary Muslim population. The design of Qur'an and the Hadiths are strong enough to sustain in any condition.
Readers may please excuse me when I say that the present terrorism attributed to Islam is no way connected with Islam. Pakistan's ISI, Mosad, India's RSS and CIA are hand in gloves to defame Islam. Pakistan has been so deeply penetrated into that vicious circle that she cannot come out of it even if she wants.

Salam and JZAK to the author. This is long overdue.

Bismillah. AlhamduilAllah. As salaam alaikum wa rahmatullah. I bare witness that there is nothing worthy of worship but Allah subhanna wa t'ala. And I bare witness that Muhammad ibn Abdullah is the servant & messenger of Allah & seal of the prophets sal Allahu alyhee wa salaam. May Allah azza wa jal protect the striving muslims & believers... and obliterate the fallacy propogated by the fasiqoon, munafiqoon, mushrikoon, zalimoon, & kafiroon. Ameen. Ameen. Ameen.

Assalaam alaikum, Great great article. I totally agree with the fact that there is no ijtihad anymore. This article is so deep that it is normal for some Muslims not to understand its content, and this is why some disagree with it. I tell them to busy themselves with doing a lot of reading before judging. The first thing to read is the Quran to understand it and live it, then they will begin to understand what this article is talking about. The Quran is the Noor that will make things/everything clear/tibyaan for us. But, who reads the Quran to understand it today????

El hamdu'lillah. I think this article is well overdue. It does not challenge the authority of the Qur'an and Sunnah, as some who responded seem to think. It merely asks us to THINK, and what is so wrong with that? Why are we willing to engage in blindly following a specific so-called scholar, to the exclusion of others? Why are we so quick to rely, almost exclusively, on the sentiments and understandings of a select few scholars from the past, and reject others? Islam is an action verb, why are so many of us stuck, not willing to confront a misguided or elitist group? There are some among us who remind me of the Khawarij, people who thought THEY have it right, and everyone else i wrong!!! Yet, these same individuals/groups claim a monopoly on Islamic understanding! And actually shut out ALL discussion, and, in their arrogance REFUSE to entertain any discussion that is opposed to their narrow interpretation!

Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem
An article lacking credibility due to the lack of understanding the author has demonstrated about Islam in just about every point he made.
It would require a separate article to point out all the shortcomings of this article but in a nutshell, the author is a critic in his own words. A critic's job is to do nothing except critique and in response have no real meaningful answers.
The author seems to champion the concept of ijtihad but has failed to be specific on what matters ijtihad needs to be made? He has also failed to mention what are the prerequisites for ijtihad and when is ijtihad necessary and applicable!
Articles such as this only serve to cause ambiguity in the minds of people; hence, one should be careful where they take their information from.
There is nothing new that the author has stated, rather it is recycled rhetoric. Having read the essay, I could not help but notice that it has an undertone of a veiled apologist. Sadly, there is no shortage of them in these times.
Wallaho A'alam bis-Sawaab.

I do not agree or like this article for seveeral reasons, first of all, the title is in itself very disrespectful and i know this wasn't the author's intention however, the author has indirectly given Islam a lower image, second, like other readers have said, I do not agree that we should not listen or pay attention to shariah because Mr. like every profession has its experts, certain scholars are experts of Islam and know better than me and you and have dedicated their lives to studying the Quran and Sunnah, so how can you in an hour type up an article that disregards their efforts and 'Ilm' and knowledge? this is like going to a doctor and claiming that you know whats wrong with yourself better than he does?!! or arguing with an architect on how a building was built when he was the one who designed it or incorporated his ideas into it?!! very strange...Yes Muslims should incorporate Ijtihad a lot more in their political and social systems, this is true, because the Prophet before the West introduced democracy was the first to incorporate this into society and with his Companions..In conclusion, this author needs to be fair, he needs to have an abilibity as a muslim to apply constructive critisim however, not on the Quran or Sunnah because as a Muslim you would be tarnishing your faith but rather on muslims actions, forgein policies, outlook, social development, e.t.c not the core of the religion or Shariah.

I totally agree with this article. It summaries what Islam we need to look like: a human and relevant Islam not only transforming us into tenth century Muslims, but moder Muslims rooted to the core principles of Islam.

In as much as I like intellectual discourse, I do not seem to understand the author of this article on "Rethinking Islam" especially when he says that "Muslims consider the Shariah ... to be divine". He further says that "the only thing that can legitimately described as divine in Islam is the Quran. The Shariah is human construction". This simply means that the author does not know much about Islam, the Quran and Shariah. Please try to understnd the relatioship between Quran and Shariah before engaging in a serious discussion like this one. It is shameful for a Muslim to make some assertions. May The Almighty Guide him/her.

Re-thinking ISLAM....the very phrase is that of one who have lost all. The article even insinuates that the Shariah is a mere mortal interpretation is that he has lost his senses or himself. He seeks ISLAM to comply to Western philosophies and conformities.
He denies categorically Islam's direction and objectives which is clear set. Islam, a heavenly revelation, even in the midst of a desert environment gave birth to countless scholars, technologies, scientist, mathematicians, biologist and lays the basis of an entire civilisation, empire have always been conforming to ages of human cultures yet these have all being dismissed by the Ziauddin Sardar of IslamiCity.
Ziauddin Sardar IslamiCity, I believes require re-thinking.

Salaam alaikum wa rahmatallah. It is an
unfortunate political reality, but ironically a
welcome one, that this brother has moved Islamic
Political Theory and its practice too far to the
Muslim Left. Ijtihad is important, but it is
important only after the other standards of fiqh
have been met. There are things about Islam that
can never, should never be altered: for if they
do, we will move outside the pale of Islam as a
people. This is a move I can never advocate as a
Muslim. However, in relation to our politics and
our efforts on an Ummah-based, 'international'
body must be fundamentally altered. However this
has nothing to do with our Shari'ah, which is
based on The Holy Qur'an and the Sunna of the
prophet (SAAW), not merely The Holy Qur'an, as the
author seems to imply. Moreover, to ignore the
1400 years of scholarship, political, legal,
jurisprudential, and social efforts of countless
of Muslims is pure idiocy. Islam does not-I say
again-does not need to be reformed, as much as it
needs to be returned to its epistemological and
spiritual center, with admittedly, answers within
a modern framework. In short, the dialectical
theologian needs to answer a simple, yet
ironically, arduously complex question: why is an
Islamic system of government superior to the
systems of our Western brothers and sisters in
humanity, in particular the United States?

There are many sound issues which the author has
raised, but the overall direction of this article
is too close to bid'a and shirk for my liking.
Thus I cannot support his claims and thesis. It is
a great starting point for others to begin to
think: to ponder about what is good and reject
that which is bad. Yet, this remains another
direction from which Muslims should steer clear.


I totally agree with this article. Muslims continue to see the world based on interpretations of Quran from scholars who lived in world very different from our own, that is not to say that we should dismiss their work, but rather update their work and revisit it with a 'fresh' set of eyes based on our experiences of today. The Quran is a 'living' book and I believe it speaks to our current condition, if we would only unlock our minds from rigidity. We have made the mistake of making the early scholars infallible, their vision was limited and they could not imagine the complex world we live in today. We have allowed ourselves to become stale, very much unlike the Moors who took science and culture to Spain. The Shariah is the work of men and is therefore, subject to flaws and stagnation. This article is a must read!!

The author is obsessed with the idea that the Quran has become anachronistic and outdated today!Age has not withered it, nor its relevance to contemporary matters is subject to any doubt!It will remain so till the last day!
Ijtehad is a social mechanism to see through the tangled woods.And it has many limitations.
Innumerable times the Quran repeats that it is a reminder not oly for muslims but to the entire humankind!

I'm against this article for two reasons i) its evident contradiction when the author says we don't have context to make ijtihad while maintaining at the onset that ijtihad in islam has been abolished by the scholars. ii) his complete denial or ignorance about the meaning of shari'a. Allah uses the word sharia in the Quran that the author denies its importance; when Allah says (paraphrasing) "sharia lakum minaddin....." We (Allah) have established for you of the deen...."(Q42:13).

So the concept of sharia are all those rulings "ahkam" of Allah in the Quran and Sunna of His Messenger that WERE well established upon us the MUSLIMS to follow, period. And these rulings which are synnonimous with islam are not as ziurdin or anybody so wishes to make ijtihad but as Allah and His Messenger wish.

The author claimed that ijma (concensus of the Sahabas and other scholars are not been practiced. I challenge him to give an example of any writeup or saying of any authentic scholaer that claim such. He said a lot of rubbish without substantiating them with evidences, "Hatu burhanakum..." brother that is the base. The only example you quote was the use of a verse by taliban to back their actions. How can you generalise this upon all muslims. If ijtihad has been abolished the writeings of the "scholars" you mentioned like Muhammad Abduhu will not reach you even to read and make your baseless assumptions, they will have long been gone into the anals of history like those of (to give you examples) Musailatul kazzab or Abu jaham of the time of the Prophet and ibn arabi or even the quraniun leader of recent. Ijtihad is allowed but ijtihad that is in accordance with the Quran and sunna; and it is for the maker; if he is right he gets two rewards if not one reward, and those that followed him gets similar rewards, but a GENUINE reason must exist for any ijtihad to be established. Note the emphasis reasons like the alcoholism, nudity in the form of mordernity could not fall.

The article as a whole carries a message that
every non-muslim, and in particular, every muslim
should know about and truly consider.
This article well-articulates a problem that I
have only been trying to understand. This article
has helped me have a more concise viewpoint of
scattered feelings.
I do however disagree with perhaps some points,
and the suggestion that Muslims are entirely
responsible for the attack on the World Trade
Center buildings.
It is good that the article focused on general
ideas, rather than trying to be too-specific
about examples within the Shariah (for example).
It is human nature that when one approaches
information with a scornful eye, that as soon
as there is but one thing concrete he or she
disagrees with, even among many valid and
indisputable points, he or she will latch onto
the disagreement of the one example. It makes it
easier to disregard the whole.
By being general, this problem is less likely to

Jazak'Allah Khair

The articles main points are in the right direction, however the brother does make it seem all
dark and gloomy.

Alhamdulil-lah ALLAH has always sent a guide at all times and so Islam has never been lost and would never be, it is the Muslims that can get lost.

Even with the attempt to close the door to Ijtihad, there is evidence that the attempt was not successful.

Also I do not agree with the heading - Rethinking Islam. We rather have to retrace Islamic ways. We cannot add to Islam but we can innovate within is broad wings as the author has said the Qur'an is divine and this divine text says nothing is missing from within its teaching. So we simply need to understand and work within a system that is complete.

may ALLAH guide us always

Vow. Vow. Alhamdulillah. Today the likes of Imam Abu Haneefah have become superhumans for us. Our ulema has done so much damage to us. What the four fuqhahas have told us 1200 years ago cannot be changed today. My goodness. Friends, we have no connection with the Quran today. The superhumans used to pray for 50 years whole night until Fajr with Isha prayers. Only fools can accept that. We need Islamic-Middle-Class to take Islam back to the Quranic level. This is the time that we have to revamp the whole interpretation releasing oursleves from the forced bondage of somebody's interpretation of 1200 years ago. This article is amazing. I have immense respect for all our past fuqhaha, but many of their rulings are just not applicable today. We have immense respect for them, but we refuse to worship them. We refuse to elevate their position to the level of prophethood. Sorry. We need to shun our perception of our fuqhaha to the level of what Bani-Israel was doing. Our ulema are the greatest copiers of Bani Israel. They are trying to impose an Islam that is part and parcel of the trade unionionst mentality. Go to medrassa, and then get a well paid job at the masjid. Is this not trade union? The medrassas like deboand is not only irrelevant here in North America, but they were irrelevant in even Indian today. No wonder the attacks on Zakir Naik is accelerating. My shop is getting closed man. I am getting out of business. Sir, you were out of business 500 years ago.

Beautiful article, I absolutely agree.