The Sharing Group Discussion: The Development & Application of Fiqh in the Current Age

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following are three threads, on The Sharing Group, discussing the development and application of fiqh in the current age.

Brother Tim asked, on The Sharing Group, on the 26th March, 2015, “Is the biggest heresy in Islam not, in fact, the clericalising of prophesy and, with it, the commodification of spiritual knowledge by an elite political class of scholars?”

Brother David Rosser Owen: Or ‘pseudo-scholars’, perhaps?

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: If Islam is something real and objective and not just an imaginary game, then there is such a thing as a right way and a wrong way.  And if you are not sure about the right way, then you go to experts.  I can object to the commodification of automotive knowledge, but unless I go to the mechanic, my car might stop running.  I can object to the commodification of medical knowledge but unless I go to the doctor, I might not get better when I am sick.  Now, I definitely think there should be greater transparency.  Scholarly interpretations should not be imposed.  We should be able to question and criticise and discuss.  But I actually think it is important to recognise and respect actual scholars.  In a lot of ways, the Reformation was a disaster for Christianity so that now there literally hundreds if not thousands of different Christian denominations, not just seventy-something, because of a flattening of authority and that is also part the rise of Wahhabism.

Brother David W Roesler: Agreed when it stifles new insight and positive change.  The Reformation came about because of the refusal of the Catholic Church to change with the times and allow other points of view to be heard.  I have always thought the Catholic Church missed a chance to be the tent pole encompassing a variety of different interpretations of Christianity.  Only God Knows Absolute Truth and to argue over dogma especially arcane hair splitting over minute differences of theology is insane.

Brother Tim: Being dependant on an expert begs the question if the experts are serving their self-interest as experts in a way which is disabling of others.  What safeguards are there to prevent a political class of religious experts elevating themselves above a servile class of ordinary incompetent Muslims?  Is this not just a perverse doctrine of Muslim priestcraft similar to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church?  How can a prophetic Divine Revelation accessible to all of us without human mediation be so reduced to a theocratic form of technocracy?  When did technique equal shirk?

Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: I have a problem with assuming that everyone can be an appropriate authority on a subject, because they cannot.  Not everyone knows the same amount as someone else; and we are seeing just what happens when someone who has barely read and understood even one hadits, thinks that they are an authority on Islam, and is articulate enough to gather a following.  I agree that when it becomes incestuous, then this can lead to stagnation.  But I would not let my children learn mathematics from someone who had not appropriately studied the subject, so why would I take seriously anyone who has not studied Islam appropriately?  We do desperately need more Western-born scholars rather than the imported variety; but as long as all of the best seats of learning remain open to the best from each social group so that anyone can rise to the top no matter what their social background, rather than because their parents were able to pay to get them there, then we still have hope.

Brother Joel Troxell: The comparison to expertise in a particular vocation is a bit apples to oranges, in my honest opinion.  The vast majority of us are not faced with moral and ethical dilemmas of such complexity that require an expert.  And even then, no one knows each individual situation as well as the person in it.  We also believe that God is Closer to the heart of each person than their own jugular vein.  No one has a medical manual for their illness sown to their body or the one who wrote it occupying their minds, and that is why we have doctors.  But matters of guidance are completely different.  If anything, we need a lot more guides who know how to facilitate Muslims into understanding how to think and how to connect with God through Revelation and tradition.  Does that mean a certain level of proficiency in these things?  Of course.  But the difference is understanding that ultimately the power to do what is right, and to choose truth over error is not in the pen of the scholar, but in the heart of each person.

Brother Tim: Yes, I think I am also grappling with the notion that the only leadership in Islam is scholarly so the unlearned become inferior followers.  The early Christian church for example had a variety of leadership functions and I do not see this balance in Islam unless it is more subtle and I'm missing something?

Ephesians 4:11
11 Some he has appointed to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, or pastors, or teachers.

Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: I do not believe that the only leadership is scholarly.  But I also do not believe that anyone who has not appropriately studied the Islamic and spiritual sciences can legitimately claim to be an authority on such, any more than a layman claiming knowledge of medicine based on nothing more than a rudimentary knowledge of human biology.  Not having knowledge of the shari’ah is not an inferiority; knowledge like everything is rizq hence why we ask Allah (s.w.t.) to Increase us in knowledge, a du’a that He Grants by His Will.  To consider myself inferior to a scholar, to me, would be immensely ungrateful to the One Who has Given me other skills with which I am earning a comfortable living, al-Hamdulillah.  Would I have liked to have been an Islamic scholar?  Sure, but ar-Razzaq had other plans for me.

We are living in a time when the blood of a martyr is considered more sacred than the ink of a scholar; we see the results of this every day on our television screens with ignorant fools thinking they are scholars and thus able to make their own rulings.  Opening up knowledge to everyone regardless of social background is of course important, but this does not mean that everyone deserves to have their opinions taken equally seriously - some people know more than others on any given subject and this is just reality.  Only when we have reversed this back to what it should be, and thus give to our appropriately trained scholars their rightful due, will our state begin to change.

Brother Tim: As a school teacher, I have followed a vocation dedicated to academic learning.  But the Christian idea of leadership being a spiritual gift also indicates that God is instrumental in selecting spiritual leaders who are not self-selecting by virtue of their cognitive intelligence and academic aptitude.  After all, that is how prophets are selected according to Islam too.

Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Of course, Brother Tim; but Islam is a religion of the law and so for our appropriately trained scholarship, cognitive intelligence and academic aptitude are a pre-requisite given the immense amounts of information that they have to study, analyse, and internalise.  That is not to denigrate Christian leaders - Archbishop Rowan for example is an extremely learned and spiritual man who I met only once but with whom I was very impressed.  But the knowledge of the scholars acquired through years of dedicated study of the field therefore makes them more appropriate to approach for an opinion than someone who does not have this.  The scholars I have found have often also given bay’ah to other spiritual leaders too, so there are different levels of leadership at play.

Brother Joel Troxell: Brother Hamayoon, you said Islam is a religion of the law.  I sure hope not.  Maybe I still cling to certain vestiges of Christian thought, but I always understood law to be for the lawless.  Those whose conduct is in accordance with the Divine will do not need law.

Brother Tim: A religion of the law?  Maybe that is what I find so alienating, as in my mind the law is all too easily opposed to spirit.  But it is not in balance if there has been an institutionalised fixation with ‘the law’ throughout the bulk of Islamic history.

Brother Joel Troxell: My understanding is that Islam is supposed to be a middle path, one that balances the sunnah of Moses (a.s.), which is one of law and justice, with the sunnah of Jesus (a.s.), which is one of spirit, love, and mercy.  One is a path of the head, and the other the path of the heart.  You need a little of both, I think.

Brother Tim: This is the point I am making; that the prophetic spirit which Islam epitomises has been captured and neutralised by lawyers.

Brother Joel, are you suggesting that the more Muslims think of themselves as separate from the Jewish and Christian paths and possessing a complete self-contained final Revelation they are in error?  So Islam may be a balancing middle way but not if it sheds the two earlier ways?  That the Prophet (s.a.w.) came to unite all believers but not to found a distinct religion?  That is close to my understanding, I am bound to say.

Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Islam is a religion of balance and I agree completely that this balance has been disturbed too far down the path of mindless legalism without spirituality, but the law is a vital component, and for which we need scholarship.  Perhaps it is my own instinctive opposition to anything anti-intellectual however, but I just do not believe that the solution is therefore to neuter the integrity of the scholarly process by dumbing it down.  The scholars should have their authority as the inheritors of the Prophet (s.a.w.), whilst the spirituality needs to be brought back in.

Brother Tim: I am not denigrating scholarship, Brother Hamayoon, but seeking to understand why it is scholars who are inheritors of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) authority and nobody else.  He did not found a school as far as I am aware?  So how come the shift from immediate Revelation to bureaucratic control?

Brother Joel Troxell: Brother Tim, I would agree.  I think there are portions of the Qur’an that are largely unintelligible without a good understanding of prior Revelation.  I think a lot of Islamic exegetes have arrogantly assumed otherwise.

Brother Hamayoon, I am also against anti-intellectual approaches, but I do not see the task of scholars as one of intellect.  Taking a bit of direction from Plato’s philosophy of psychology and politics in the Republic, I see humans as a composite of three things: will, intellect, and soul.  Islam, in order to meet the needs of Muslims, should have those who embody duties based on each of these.  Scholars form a type of the will.  Philosophers are a type of the intellect, and mystics are a type of the soul.  Take one away, or make one a complete authority over all others, and you lose a sense of completeness.  No human can survive without a balance of those three things.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Agreed, Brother Tim, and, “‘A religion of the law” is all too easily opposed to spirit.”  Also mathematics or auto mechanics or software development is just not the same as religious knowledge.  The bureaucratic control of spiritual Revelation has denuded Islam of a great deal of its spontaneous beauty and turned it into a priestcraft as you so aptly coined the word.  But the devotion to scholarship of an intellectual class has been the case with every major world religion.  So perhaps it is inevitable.  This stifling of the original beauty of religion is the reason why the spiritually minded have sought to regain the original impulse through spiritual movements such as Sufism, Hesychasm, Gnosticism and the Kabbalah to name but a few.

Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: I am guessing, Brother Tim, that as systems become big enough, there needs to be some element of bureaucratic control to maintain the integrity of the whole; Islam did spread very quickly and so it was necessary to manage.  Out of this though did emerge some fantastically vibrant cultures - Baghdad, Andalucia, and others, which were very different from each other but which still conformed to the principles of Islam.  We are too obsessed with Pakistan, Saudi, and elsewhere nowadays and need to allow such to develop again - but for the principles to remain adhered to, scholarship is needed, otherwise it will be chaos.  I would also assume the inheritors are such of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) religious authority and legitimacy, as people who studied with teachers, who had teachers, who had teachers going back to the Prophet (s.a.w.) himself.  I was not trying to argue that the appropriately trained scholars were the only authority in Islam - just the authority as far as the law was concerned.

Brother Jak Kilby: But Brother Tim, if we are “being dependant on an expert”, surely that would mean we actually listen to what they say and follow this.  I thought that today nobody did actually listen to these people, or anyone else for that matter.  We are all full of our own opinions in any case which, as we know full well, are the only ‘correct’ ones.  Or was I talking just about myself?

Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: I agree, Brother Hajj Ahmad, though we have seen how individual groups within some of these spiritual movements have morphed into ignorance.  Even within Sufism, we have some groups who claim spirituality, but who have almost completely abandoned the shari’ah in favour of their own whims and desires.  We also see the excessively legalistic who abandon all context and spirituality in favour of literal interpretations of the law.  It is a balance.  The advent of Musaylimah the Liar so soon after the return of the Prophet (s.a.w.) to Allah (s.w.t.) was a sign of just how challenging this would become.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother David W Roesler, you said, “I have always thought the Catholic Church missed a chance to be the tent pole encompassing a variety of different interpretations of Christianity.  Only God knows absolute truth and to argue over dogma especially arcane hair splitting over minute differences of theology is insane.”  Agreed.  They seem to be slowly trying to do that now by creating different Rites.  They apparently created a new one tailored for refugees from the Anglican Church.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The issue with the Catholic Church is a false dichotomy.  The various Crusades, the Inquisitions, the purges; they had very little to do with doctrine and more to do with political control.  When the Arians, Monophysites and Nestorians diverged from Roman Catholicism, the Church used the bludgeon of the Roman military before the emphasis on dialogue.  All that we have in terms of major refutations came after the fact.  When the Cathars diverged from the Church, the root cause was socio-political first and then it evolved into a divergent creed.  It was crushed militarily, but the issues were never addressed.  The Ninety-Five theses of Martin Luther did not significantly diverge from the Church.  It was again, about political control.  And the rest is the result of a failed attempt to control everything.

Will this be the future of the ummah?  I do not know.  But the issue we face is far more subtle.  What you are highlighting is the symptom, not the problem.  The problem we have is Muslims who have lave of their trust in God and availed themselves solely to the law, and even then, at a textual level with no concern for depth and nuance.  We get the leaders and scholars we deserve.  Consider this, if Muslim needs a fatwa to be kind, then he does not know his religion.  If the opinion of a scholar is needed to wish someone on an occasion, to celebrate a birthday, to show bereavement, then the problem is the people, not shari’ah.  Shari’ah is a tool.  If praying for the non-Muslim deceased is a controversy, if attending a non-Muslim wedding arouses questions of iman, then these so-called scholars we have, have failed.  That is our problem.

Brother Tim: I still suspect that Islam was hijacked at an early stage of formation by violent and murderous political leaders; and legalists who gained a bureaucratic scholarly monopoly over the prophetic spirit.  It was these people that defined orthodoxy and created a separate religion called Islam when it was never meant to be so.  This is not in the least a symptom but more a fatal flaw built into what most Muslims regard as the very foundations of Islam.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother Tim, I think you are really giving fanatics too much symbolic power over what defines Islam and orthodoxy in a big way.

Brother Tim: The spirit and truth of Islam is surely an open source that does not suddenly require me to act as a guardian of orthodoxy.  The fanatics, you will have with you always, to paraphrase ‘Isa (a.s.).

Brother Hajj Ahmad: I cannot argue with you, Brother Tim.  That is my suspicion as well.  Especially the violent and murderous political leaders.  And legalists fell in line to serve the ends of the former or followed their own personal designs for power via the monopolisation of knowledge.  There were of course scholars of integrity, and perhaps a very few rulers of integrity, but for the most part history does reek of suspicion.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: If we consider the early history of Islam, the Salaf, they were truly the best generation.  We must consider them against their contemporaries and civilisations that came earlier.  We may seem enlightened in some areas compared to them, but it is only because we built on the foundation they laid for us.  Islam was not hijacked.  It was never hijacked.  I cannot be because Allah (s.w.t.) Himself Protects it.  What has happened, is that the ummah has atrophied.

Brother Tim: Does the regicidal and fratricidal strife and civil wars amongst the Salaf generation not tell a different story?  Why must a generation be held in such esteem when their conduct did not even come close to that modelled by the Prophet (s.a.w.) in Makkah?  Now I am much more likely to accept the Sufi notion that the esoteric truth of Islam was preserved and channelled in particular lineages but not that the rank and file of any Muslim that happened to be alive are spiritually or morally better because of their chronological birth and proximity to events.  With respect, venerating the first three generations per se is yet another form of fundamentalism which creates a sense of inferiority in later generations and enables the political control of ‘followers’ by those who master the externals of the first generation's apparent historic practice.  Indeed is this not the ideology of Salafism itself?

Brother David W Roesler: I do not believe God directs human behaviour or intervenes directly in human affairs except of course through inspiration of through prophets.  The proof is shown anytime someone destroys a Bible or Qur’an, no divine agency prevents sacred text from destruction neither does God strike down the perpetrator.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The Salaf does not refer automatically to every Muslim born in the first three generations.  That may be the impression that most Muslims have, but like any label, there are qualifiers.  Yazid ibn Mu’awiyyah was born in that time.  He was a tyrant and a murderer, who apostatised from the religion.  So were the Salaf Guided, certainly.  The how do we explain the strife?  A man asked ‘Ali ibn Abu Thalib (k.w.) exactly that.  He said, “When Abu Bakr was the caliph, ‘Umar, ‘Utsman and I were the followers.  When ‘Umar was the caliph, ‘Utsman and I were the followers.  When ‘Utsman was the caliph, I was his follower.  Now that I am the caliph, you are the follower.”  When cannot extrapolate the actions of the masses and apply them to the spiritual elite.  That is a misreading of history.

Brother Tim: I remain unconvinced about this issue - call me agnostic rather than kafir.  If Sunnis and Shi’ah cannot be reconciled on this point, why should I have to take sides myself?  My preference is to transcend them without ignoring them and whilst that may appear arrogant the spirit is peaceable.  At its least charitable interpretation, I see those very ‘spiritual elites’ squabbling among themselves and setting a very bad, albeit human example.  This is why I have dared call it a fatal flaw in the earliest formation of Islam when we were supposed to believe faith was strongest and purest.

It could just simply be a fact that there was no adequate political succession planned at all. Was it deliberately?  And the true spiritual elite, without advertising the fact to history, made the best of a bungled job; I think mainly of the legacy bequeathed to Abu Bakr (r.a.) and ‘Ali (k.w.) and through them the seeding of manifold Sufi paths.  Politically all I see is a group of tribal Arab chieftains wrestling between the principle of consensual election by the elders and the impetus towards hereditary monarchy, which eventually took over Sunni Islam too but devoid of spiritual lineage.  That may be interesting politically but why on earth should this chaos determine the subsequent spiritual control of Islam throughout the ages?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I think we have a different understanding of elites here.  After the Khulafah ar-Rashidin, the only righteous caliph was Hadhrat ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (r.a.).  There is nothing much to say about the rest.  And there has always been a schism between the gnostics and the political elite.  I took a lot of time reading up the manaqib of the various scholars, and some of them, I wrote out and put on my blog.  Even at their worst, they are superior specimens.  But they were, for the most part, people divorced from the world.  We are not.  Mind you, Brother Tim, I agree with your assessment of the Muslims in general.

Brother David W Roesler: Unfortunately, once governments get their grubby hands on religions they distort and alter them to facilitate their rule and augment their power.  Rome did it to Christianity, expunging its philosophical and mystical aspects and I believe the early caliphs did a similar job on Islam.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I have to admit though, that the more I learn, the more I have a certain disdain for dry fiqh.  There are a lot of fatawa that seem very archaic, which I mentioned on the other thread with Brother James Harris, which I will tag you in.  I find a lot of rulings are quite ethno-centric, or bigoted.  The defense that there was an ijma’ does not hold much water for me.  There was ijma’ on slavery being acceptable.  That does not make it so.  But I took a close look at the methodology.  I had eight years of study in that.  The methodology of all madzahib are sound, although I partial to the Hanafi more, and tend to discard the Shafi’i.  It is a personal bias.  The uswul is flexible.  The fuqaha’ of succeeding generations have been less able to address the changing face of society and advances in science.  They make a hollow claim for the religion being for all time.

Brother Joel Troxell: I tend to hold to the Jewish view that there were people that were righteous within their generation, in their time, culture and place.  For instance, Noah (a.s.) was considered righteous in his time of great evil, but he would not have compared to Abraham (a.s.) or Moses (a.s.) or Enoch (a.s.) for example.  To be honest, I think from a leadership vantage point, the rightly-guided caliphs were ineffective.  In one generation, you have a 75% assassination rate and a coup d’état resulting in a hereditary monarchy.  I think the reason for their ineffectiveness is their spiritual idealism combined with their elitism - succession was only by a consensus of the few.  While those few may have been the most spiritual, you still have to reckon with raising the standards and spirituality and responsibility of the hoi polloi.  And I think that has ultimately been the problem with Islamic societies: they tend to be spiritually and politically top-down societies.  Societies of leaders and scholars, for good or bad, and not societies of the people.

Brother Terence, you are suggesting that the methodology in general of the madzahib are sound, but there is a body of archaic and ethno-centric rulings.  What do you think the solution is?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The solution is that we should not be regurgitating fatawa and accepting some ruling a thousand years ago because a brand name scholar gave it.  We have to look at conditions now and make new ones.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Which rulings of the madzahib are you calling archaic and ethnocentric?  Are they a few isolated rulings or are they widespread?  Initially, I had the sense of the madzahib as these closed body of rulings which were made by the scholars who gave the schools their names.  But now I think of the schools as, at their best, living juristic traditions.  They have certain methodological principles and their accepted rulings, but the rulings are revised over time and that's a part of the madhab too.

Brother Tim, do you want to be excommunicated?

Brother Tim: No, not really, I want people to see through the pretensions of religious authorities that arrogate the power to do so

Brother Mingda Sun: The definition of swahabah is unclear.  One of the concerns I raised was that we apply, in Sunni quarters at least, the term swahabah too liberally.  Maybe there were not as many as we think.

Brother Jon Beatty: I think you are missing a few points in the big picture.  One, we do not take from everybody in those generations; we only take from those who are reliable and in those hadits; we look not only at the individual narrator, we look at the text, the context, the chain of narrators and we do not take from anyone who does not meet the criteria set forth in the principles of ahadits evaluation.  Some schools are stricter than others in this regard.

Brother Mingda Sun: Narrations differ drastically.  As Brother Tim put it, the Sunnis and Shi’ah cannot even agree.  But must we choose sides?  How can we decisively prove which side has the more authentic ahadits if they all are traceable back to the swahabah?  And they paint such different pictures of the whole thing.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The definition of a swahabah is someone who converted to Islam at the hand of the Prophet (s.a.w.), or at least met him; someone who spent some time with the Prophet (s.a.w.) after the conversion; and who died a Muslim.  There were about 100,000 of them.  Within the swahabah, there are groups: Answar, Muhajirun, Ahl-asw-Swafa’ and ‘Asharat Mubashirin bi al-Jannah, in that order, from lowest to highest.  They are all not the same, and they did not have the same calibre.  We did not take the narrations from all of them, and we did not grade them the same.  Those who converted after al-Fath al-Makkah, who were neither Muhajirun nor Answar, had the lowest rank.

Brother Colin Turner: There should be no professional ‘ulama in Islam; this is quite clear.  The hierarchisation of knowledge has been detrimental to our scholarly development on a number of levels, not least in the area of jurisprudence, which is our discipline par excellence, while at the same time being excessively ‘flabby’ and, in many ways, redundant.  In Christianity, theology was the queen of sciences for many centuries.  In Islam, theology has never been an attendant at the wedding, let alone a bridesmaid.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I consider one of the reason why we have stupid fatawa such as the prohibition on praying for deceased non-Muslims is because there is no consideration on ‘aqidah.  I am quite dissatisfied at the standard of fiqh, and the cluelessness of our younger asatidzah.

Brother Colin Turner: I think you're absolutely right, Brother Terence.  Understanding of legal theory and jurisprudence is at an all time low, while the number of ‘experts’ and ‘asatidzah’ is at an all-time high.  There is a glut of jurists, while jurisprudence itself is stagnant.  And when things turn stagnant, they tend to stink.  We have been suffering from the stench of ossified and retrogressive fiqh for centuries.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother Colin, you said, “In Christianity, theology was the queen of sciences for many centuries.  In Islam, theology has never been an attendant at the wedding, let alone a bridesmaid.”  I actually like the differences between Christianity and Islam.  I was raised Christian.  If Christianity was the way to go I, and many of us, could have stayed Christian.  This emphasis on theology meant arguing and anathemising over different Christologies and different models of the Trinity and literally discussing the number of angels that can fit on a pin.  There is something to be said for the simplicity of the main principles of Islamic theology.  And yes, for the philosophically inclined people can talk about wahdat al-wujud versus wahdat ash-shudud or the nature of Allah’s Names and Attributes; but those things are not at the forefront.  The emphasis is on the real world.  How to put together a just society, matters of law - not that this side is by any means perfect.

Brother Colin Turner: Agreed, Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez.  However, speculative theology is the basis for pastoral theology, the absence of which in our communities has appalling consequences.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: To be honest, I never really got the really broad and inclusive use for the term ‘theology’.  But yes, we need a more effective praxis in terms of Muslim institutions serving our communities.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: A better understanding of theology would mean a more inclusive jurisprudence since there is a closer understanding of the Divine Intent.  Otherwise, we have Muslims reading our books of fiqh from a different age and without consideration of the political realities of that time, importing fatawa that are inclement for Muslims struggling with faith in a multi-polar world.  We are no longer living in a time of a defined Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam.  We have significant Muslim minorities in a non-Muslim context, and vice versa.  Why do we still have fatawa such as wishing ‘Merry Christmas’ is haram?  If people understood ‘aqidah, they would know that the reason behind their prohibition is untenable.  If wishing them makes us part of their religion, does them wishing us make them Muslim as well?  Obviously not.  So that is a stupid fatwa.

Whilst we have too many such fatawa that are supposedly about protecting the Diyn, we do not have enough emphasis on ‘Muslims’ who have become enamoured with ideas that are actually out of the religion.  In this area, we are too permissive.  Muslims say everyone is a Muslim as long they have said the shahadah even if they believe the most outrageous things such as the permissibility of killing non-Muslims simply because they are non-Muslims, or that God has a form, or that it is acceptable to believe other Muslims who do not believe as they do although they fall very much within orthodoxy are kafirun.  All this is acceptable, but attending the funeral of a non-Muslim relative and praying for them is suddenly a matter of ‘aqidah, not adab.

Brother Tim: I also think that ironically the more Muslims focus exclusively on religiously defined Islamic sciences as opposed to secular domains of learning, the less inclusive and universalist Islam becomes.  The clericalisation of religion takes on the appearance of a self-contained cult which prevents the prophetic and philosophical meeting in theology.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Consider what we have right now across the Muslim world.  We have students in these religious schools, these madaris.  Every day, they memorise Qur’an and books of fiqh and ahadits.  They might practice taswawwuf, and be taught a bit of ‘aqidah, but they never touch kalam.  Because kalam involves thinking.  They do not learn much in terms of mathematics, science, history, literature, geography or anything about the world around them.  Even in Singapore, we have in two of our madaris, entire batches where the students are behind secular schools in mathematics and science.  And they are in an environment where they never interact with non-Muslims.

Are these supposed to be our clerical elite?  They may have memorised the Qur’an and ten thousand ahadits, but they do not know the world.  How are they going to apply it?  What sort of Islam is divorced from the world, when the Prophet (s.a.w.) walked amongst us?  How are they going to address issues of advances in science and changes on culture?  How are they going to tell us how to address non-Muslims or new Muslims in a multi-cultural context?  A madrasah that cannot equip people for that is essentially creating a beggar class.  These people have no prospects aside from begging us to subsidise them.  They blackmail us to learn from them to perpetuate their closeted view and spawn a new generation of parasites.  They are nothing.

Our ‘ulama were never like that.  They were scientists, mathematicians, doctors, lawyers, traders, diplomats, fishermen and rulers in addition to being scholars.  That was the foundation of our religion.  Nobody reads their manaqib.  Imam Abu Hanifa (r.a.) was trader once.  Imam al-Khwarizmi (r.a.) was a celebrated astronomer mathematician who invented algebra.  Now, we have madrasah students in Singapore, in secondary school, who cannot even do algebra.  That is unfortunate.  That is our legacy, and our next generation of asatidzah are being bred as misogynistic, racist, Muslim-chauvinist idiots.  But they can recite the Qur'an beautifully.  We can teach a parrot to do the same.

Brother Tim: I would like to enrol on a course with Imam al-Farabi (r.a.), but he does not advertise on the Internet: An Islamic Philosophy of Virtuous Religions: Introducing al-Farabi.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: I have actually wondered if there are other Islamically-grounded ways to think about other religions.  The emphasis is put on the concept of People of the Book which has to do with those who have received revelation in the past, but then also excludes newer religions.  But the Qur’an also uses the phrase, “Those who believe in God and the Last Day,” which would probably include not only the People of the Book, but also newer religions such as Sikhism, Mormonism, and Baha’ism.

Those who believe (in the Qur'an) and those who follow the Jewish (Scriptures) and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in Allah and the Last Day and work righteousness, shall have their Reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Surah al-Baqarah:62)

Brother Jak Kilby: Regarding your diatribe against madaris and such, the quality of Islamic learning and what have you, Brother Terence, at least you qualified it by pointing the finger at your own nation.  But as a generalisation, it is not the whole story.  There are traditions to be sought out like needles in haystacks.  And there is also the more modernist approach which should not be totally dismissed - many who study aspects of Islam in universities are also doing so with roles and contact in the community.  And are often supporting themselves in ways they get insight via contact.  You can definitely find that by venturing further north across the Causeway.  But a problem exists in terms of what becomes of those of knowledge.  They are normally forced to toe a government line and quickly lose all integrity and therefore insight.  Those who do not, become side-lined and marginalised, but they exist, and are often very popular with the ordinary people despite this official' isolation.  Some also go into exile, where they rally and teach from afar as well as to those near to them.  And in some parts of the Muslim world they also get seriously marginalised, as in, put in prison and such - well, at least this seems to be within historical traditions ever since the Khulafa’ ar-Rashidin.

Breaking with my out of the box experiences, the only formal Islamic education I had was in Sudan.  It was so regimented I had to frequently go over the wall.  But, I was ever impressed by the courses set for the mass of ordinary full time students, several thousand for most countries of Black Africa.  Because, not only did they teach Qur’an and ahadits, Islamic sciences and history, but also general secular subjects and practical knowledge aimed at insuring their ordinary folk students could support and feed themselves and family, and most of all be within the general society, ready to live as ambassadors for Islam while living from these taught trades - welder, car mechanic, butcher, farmer…

Brother David W Roesler: The Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel also do that, Brother Terence.  They devote their lives to religious studies marry and produce large families while living on state welfare.  Their population explosion is causing a problem since they are exempt from military obligation and many other things.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I am aware of that, Brother David W Roesler.  It has become a major political problem in Israel.

I posted this question on the 28th March, 2015, which is the other thread mentioned above: “I have been editing the previous threads to be posted up.  It is a long painful read sometimes.  Based on the discussion, either our fiqh is obsolete, or our students of jurisprudence are inadequate.”

Sister San Yee: I have found that the Sunnis have stopped thinking for themselves for fear of being accused of doing bid’ah.

Brother James Harris: Fiqh originally combined zhahiri, external, and bathini, internal knowledge.  The problems as I see it nowadays is that the bathini factors are neglected, often entirely.  The fiqh we follow is impoverished as a result.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Absolutely, Brother James.  Until inward knowledge is fully integrated into the core of Islamic knowledge, our fiqh will continue to remain impoverished.

Brother James Harris: Could this also be an issue of methodology as well?  It has been said that methodology of Shafi’i reduced the scope for ijtihad by narrowing the scope of interpretation, in particular the more text-based literal interpretation of the law he established.  I would be interested to hear what others say on this.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The Shafi’i and the Hanbali, because of their emphasis of historical readings of ijma’ and narrow interpretation of ahadits, do not respond well to changes in society.  That is why we have, in the Hanafi madzhab, the collection of zakat in currency, whist the Shafi’i insist on commodities, for example.  And my greatest criticism of the Shafi’i madzhab is their archaic rulings in Christians as Ahl al-Kitab.  Whilst I respect the scholars, I am absolutely not a fan of their fiqh.

The following is taken from The History & Sources of Islamic Law by Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah: A Muslim Convert Once More: The History & Sources of Islamic Law.  As a religion which includes doctrine, law and ethics, Islam forms a complete and comprehensive worldview for human life.  Islamic law, fiqh, for its part, is the means by which we are capable of producing appropriate rulings through derivation from the Revelatory foundational texts.  Such foundational texts come in two forms: ‘recited,’ the Holy Qur’an; and ‘not recited,’ the pure Prophetic sunnah.  After its initial period of direct legislation in the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), Islamic law has undergone many stages, each of which has its own distinctive features and impact on its current form. It is appropriate, then, that there be a study of these stages, which is not simply a description and explanation of the past, but which also serves the present by contributing to greater expertise and depth in understanding the shari’ah.

Our decline began at the period of taqlid.  This is an extension of that period.  This period began midway through the fourth century and continued until the fall of Baghdad in 656 AH.  This is the period of the stagnation of fiqh, for the jurists tended towards taqlid although the standard until then was that there be an independent mujtahid not bound to a specific madzhab, juristic school of thought, but rather restricted only by the texts of the Qur’an and sunnah and that which acceptable ijtihad leads him to – acceptable ijtihad being an extraction of legal rulings from the two great sources, the Qur’an and the sunnah, and from those indicated by these two.

In this period, the ambitions of the jurists were weak.  They considered themselves deficient, and incapable of following in the footsteps of previous mujtahidun.  This, despite their mastery in fiqh, and the ease with which they could now access the sunnah source material.  Among the reasons for the prevalence of taqlid among all but a rare few of the jurists were the weakness of the political power wielded by the Abbasids.  The Islamic empire was no longer what it had been – it had now been split up into portions with small states governing the many fractured areas.  This has a serious impact on the lives of jurists, and the development of law.

The various schools of thought had now been codified in a comprehensive manner, after a refining of its major issues and concerns, and the organisation of its content.  This led to a certain contentment with this juristic heritage, and a feeling of being able to dispense with further investigation and derivation of rulings.  There was a lack of confidence in oneself, and a fear of ijtihad.  The jurists accused themselves of weakness and deficiency, and considered themselves incapable of taking the rulings directly from the original sources.  They thought it best and most suitable that they restrict themselves to a well-known madzhab, to stick and abide by to its rulings, and to learn its uswul without diverging from them.

In this period, the gate of ijtihad was closed.  For when the jurists saw that the claims to ijtihad were being made only by those who were incapable of it, they feared that the religion of the people would be corrupted by inferior fatawa based on neither knowledge nor understanding.  So, they pronounced on the closing of the gate of ijtihad, to safeguard from this corruption and to protect the people.  But, the truth is that ijtihad persisted and did not disappear entirely.  It was simply that ijtihad had to be preceded by the fulfilment of certain conditions – whoever possessed the requisite capacities was entitled to perform ijtihad; whoever did not, it was prohibited for him to issue fatawa without knowledge.
Another reason for the degradation of our jurisprudence is the loss of knowledge of kalam.  The following is taken from An Introduction to Kalam, Islamic Theology by Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah: A Muslim Convert Once More: An Introduction to Kalam, Islamic Theology.  This brief treatise comprises an introduction to the study of the science of kalam, one of the most important disciplines of Islamic knowledge.  It will suffice to introduce its major branches and comprehend some of the problems it seeks to address, and then note the positions of certain scholars and schools on these problems.

Brother Jon Beatty: I was initially drawn to the Shafi’i madzhab in my early studies because I liked the detailed idea and explanations in the fiqh texts I had read.  The drawback of the Hanafi on that area is that it is very generalised until you get to more advanced texts and while I understand the reason that some are not ready for that much detail early in their studies, I prefer the references being included, that being said my reason for being Hanafi in fiqh are because they are extremely picky about ahadits and do not refer to every ahad hadits they can to justify a legal ruling.  The Shafi’i, from what I have learned, have no grading difference between mutawatir and ahad; in other words, they are the same in terms of being used in fiqh and I think it leads to all kinds of misunderstandings and complications, as we see in some Salafi groups that cherry pick between Hanbali and Shafi’i muswthalah in fiqh rulings

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I found that the Hanafi fiqh was always more flexible.  The Shafi’i had the handicap of never being the madzhab of an extent polity.  That means that its strength always lay in fiqh al-‘ibadat, not fiqh al-mu’amalat.

Brother Colin Turner: With respect to Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.), it really does seem that his limitation of sunnah to the sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w.) really did prevent any creative futureproofing of fiqh and ahadits.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I remember an appropriate quote from the Maliki mujaddid, Shaykh Ibrahim Inyas (q.s.), from his Jawahir ar-Rasa’il: “The gnostic does not bring a new law, only a new understanding.”  We are missing scholars of his calibre.

Brother James Harris posted this on The Sharing Group on the 22nd March, 2015: “When learning how to practice Islam, we study authoritative texts that have guided adherents to our school often over centuries.  Nevertheless, the canonical fiqh texts were written for a very different audience who lived at a very different time.  For us, it is a big task determining what to make of the teachings of different scholars from centuries ago, and how we should apply these things to our lives.  I have found this to be the case with discussion of transactions, mu’amalat, attitudes to non-Muslims, issues related to politics, and so forth.  The canonical texts were written for societies at a different time and place, with very different economic, political and social structures.

When studying some of these texts it is very difficult for students living in a modern society to understand the relevance of the fiqh and what it aimed to achieve.  Sometimes they end up memorising and discussing problems and solutions that are irrelevant to the problems we face in the current age, and so many people see the ideas of Muslim scholars as irrelevant to them.  In some cases this leads to Muslims exerting effort in recreating societies that disappeared long ago, sometimes by force, such as ‘political Islam’.  This seems to be in order to ‘make Islam relevant’, but ends up creating massive problems and solving nothing.

In the light of these things, I have a couple of separate but related questions: To what extent is the established fiqh of the madzahib timeless and relevant to all times and places?  Can the fiqh of the established madzahib be taught through new scholarship that deals with modern problems, and reflects modern sensitivities such as the death penalty, for example, or is a major rethinking in order?  Finally, to what extent is it possible, or desirable, to leave the position of the imam who established the particular madzhab to which we adhere?”

Brother Khalid Yaqub: The answer to your questions depend on which issues are at hand, and the particular context.  There is this paragraph from Shaykh Murad’s essay on the topic: “The evolution of the Four Schools did not stifle, as some Orientalists have suggested, the capacity for the refinement or extension of positive law.  On the contrary, sophisticated mechanisms were available which not only permitted qualified individuals to derive the shari’ah from the Qur’an and sunnah on their own authority, but actually obliged them to do this.  According to most scholars, an expert who has fully mastered the sources and fulfilled a variety of necessary scholarly conditions is not permitted to follow the prevalent rulings of his School, but must derive the rulings himself from the revealed sources.”  It seems there is a lot of room for positive development, but that there is a dearth of scholars who are really up to the task.

Brother James Harris: Thanks, Brother Khalid.  Very interesting.

Brother Colin Turner: Contemporary ijtihad has to be a collective endeavour, I believe.  It can't be left to just one person.

Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: I have generally believed that studying these classical problems and the rulings is useful to learn the thought processes behind making appropriate rulings - so it is about the skills or should be; but our fuqaha’ must then take these skills to derive equally appropriate rulings for our times, something that they have largely failed to do unfortunately.  So we are faced today with the ridiculously conservative to the ridiculously liberal with little in between.

Brother Fatima Ali Elsanousi: Also, Brother James, the old fatawa have to be understood within its political context, and how convenient it was for some khulafa’ to support scholars who spread ideas that would support their political regimes.  As I know you read Arabic, I thought this article might be related to your status, by Brother Mohammed Abdeen:

الضغط السياسي الاجتماعي .. وولادة منظومة الاستسلام

ضغوط رهيبة هي التي عاشها الفرد المسلم منذ تغير منظومة السياسة والسيادة المجتمعية ، من منظومتها الراشدة في الاختيار والامر والنهي، الي منظومة الملك  العضوض، والتي تخلت عن قيم الاسلام الرشيد ، في العدالة والحرية والاحسان ، وطلبت السلطة بقوة السلاح وقوة تغير الفقة ، متخلصةً من قوة المجتمع شعرة شعرة ، ومثبتةً للخلافة والملك . فالخيارات للفرد كانت ولا شك تتمحور حول التخلي عن القيم التي يؤمن بها، او حمل السلاح والقتال ، تاركا حياتة وراء ظهره. والاخير هو الخيار الذي شكل المشهد بامتياز في عشرات الثورات التي ولدت في عهد الامويين ، لتغير الواقع والوصول الي منظومة متوازنة جديدة. لكن حتي هذا الخيار فشل في تحقيق واقع جديد، فامكانيات الخلفاء المادية، وقوتهم العسكرية الضخمة المتولدة من الفتوحات والغنائم حالت دون التغيير، مبقية بالسلطة في منظومتها المتوارثة الجدية دون تزحزح. وهوما جعل من ولادة منظومة عقدية جدية لابد منه،منظومة جديدة تتوائم مع الواقع ، وتعطي الفرد الاعذار للواقع الذي يعيش. وهو ما حدث فعلا مع نهايات القرن الهجري الاول .، تلك السنين التي عاش فيها الثوار اكبر الهزائم ، واعمق الاحباطات. 

مع تلاحق الهزائم علي الثورات ، واحساس الفرد بضعفة امام جبروت الخلافة ، بدأت العقائد الجديدة في الولادة ، عقائد الجبر والارجاء والاستسلام و طلب التغيير بالدعاء، الافكار والعقائد التي مازالت تسيطر علي الواقع حتي اليوم . اما البداية لهذا الانهيار العقدي في المنظور المسلم، في راي عدد من المأرخين والفقهاء، فقد كانت بدايتها بنهاية ثورة القراء ، بقيادة ابن الاشعث وابن جبير وغيرهم من القراء العراق وفارس، الثورة التي قال الشافعي عنها :" ظهر الارجاء بعد هزيمة القراء" . وهو الاحساس الطبيعي للناس حين ينهزم انقي الناس في نظرهم ، فالقراء كانوا اتقي الناس واورعهم عن اموال الخلفاء، ليسوا مثل الفقهاء المقربيين الذين كان بعضهم يتملق السلاطين نظير المكانة والدخل المادي. وهو الياس الذي لم يكن مبررا وقتها، لان الهزيمة لم تكن نتيجة تقوي القراء او فجرهم بل كانت نتيجة لضعف التخطيط والاعداد للثورة ، فالقراء طبعا ليسوا اهل سياسة وتعمق في الواقع، او حتي اهل حرب وقوة وسلاح. واقويالدلالات علي ذلك ولاشك  الثورة التي اقامها العباسيين بعدهم، حيث بدأ التخطيط لها عام 102 للهجرة ، ولم تنجح الا بعد 30 عام من العمل المتواصل. 

وعقيدة الارجاء ، وقال الشافعي بانتشارها بعد هزيمة القراء، عقيدة قديمة بدأت بعد الخلاف الشهير بين علي ومعاوية بعد مقتل عثمان بن عفان ، حيث قاتل الخوارج الفريقين وكفروهما ، فظهرت فكرة الارجاء ، والتي تقول ان الإيمان لا تضر معه معصية، كما لا ينفع مع الكفر طاعة. وبطبيعة الحال، فهذه العقيدة كانت منبوذة قبل انتشارها ابن العصر الاموي ، لانها معارض رئيسي لمنظومة الامر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر ، التي يتخذها الاسلام كحجر زاوية في تطوير المجتمعات ، اي كمنظمة للتغزية الراجعة داخل المجتمعات. لكن بعد هزيمة القراء توضح للانسان المسلم وقتها الصعوبة الكبيرة التي يجدها في واقعة ليحض علي المعروف وينهي عن المنكر، فكان لابد ان يجد الاعذار لنفسة في القعود ، ولذلك وجد الكثيرين ضالتهم في هذه العقيدة. كما ان الخلفاء دعموا الفكرة وساهموا في نشرها وعاقبوا من يخالفها ، فهي تساهم في قتل المجتمع، وتثبيت ملكهم، وتثبيت مكانتهم، خلفاء في الدنيا ، واصحاب جنة في الاخرة !

لكن رغم تفشي الارجاء، وقلة تفكير الناس في التغيير، كانت الدافعية الداخلية والقيم العليا للاسلام تحكم، فان كان الخلفاء داخلين الي الجنة، فكيف ادخل انا؟ وانا اري الظلم واعيش مغلول اليدين دون فعل يساهم في قتل الظلم ونصرة المظلوم ؟ وهنا بدأ مد فكر اعزال الواقع بالظهور، الفكر الطالب للتغيير بالدعاء ، والذي كان قائدة بلا منازع المتصوف التابعي الشهير الحسن البصري.  والحسن البصري كان من اكبر الواقفين ضد ثورة القراء من العامةفكر غريب جديد تماما عن لاسلام، حيث كانت من اكبر فتاوية عن الثورات علي الامويين قولة الشهير بان التغيير لا يتم بالفعل ولكن بتنقية الذات الفردية ، فحين كان يسأل : الا تخرج فتغير ؟ فكان يقول : انما يغير الله بالتوبة ولا يغيربالسيف !  وسئل ايضا مرة عن قتال الحجاج فقال: أرى أن لا تقاتلوا، فإنها إن تكن عقوبة من الله فما أنتم برادّي عقوبة الله بأسيافكم، وإن يكن بلاء فاصبروا حتى يحكم الله وهو خير الحاكمين. . او يقول: إن الحجاج  عذاب الله فلا تدافعوا عذاب الله بأيديكم ولكن عليكم الإستكانة والتضرع فإن الله تعالى يقول: وَلَقَدْ أَخَذْنَاهُم بِالْعَذَابِ فَمَا اسْتَكَانُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَمَا يَتَضَرَّعُونَ! منظور غريب للحياة يدعو للركون ، بدأ في القرن الاول ولكنا لم نتخلص منه حتي اليوم! منظور جديد ولد من رحمة تحريمات الخروج علي الحاكم ومنظومة الجبر ، كما وولد من رحم أيضا الاستسلام للواقع بشكل عام ، فالدافع للتطور نفسة مات ، فالانسان المستسلم لا يسعي للتطور وتحسين ظروف حياتة، وهو ما يجعلنا في قاع المجتمعات، بالنسبة لحياة الانسان المادية علي الاقل. 

كل هذه العقائد ورغم انتشارها لم تكن من القوة بمكان لقتل الروح القيمية التي انشأها الوحي ، فمنظور التكليف لتغير الواقع فعلا كان مازال حيا في اعماق الناس، وقيم الرسالة مازالت تعمل بقوة كدافعية للتغير . لذلك فعقيد كعقيدة الجبر، والتي مازلت حية عبر العصور، كانت مهمة جدا للخلفاء ليخرجوا المجتمع من معادلة الصراع وتبقي لهم سلطتهم المطلقة. وعقيدة الجبر هي القول ان العباد لاخيار لهم في افعالهم وخياراتهم في الحياة ، حيث كل الافعال جزء من مشيئة الله وعلمة وارادتة، ولا يمكن ان يفعل العبد شيء بخيارة وتصورة. وهو ما يجعل كل الاحداث في الدنيا من صنع الخالق دون تدخل من الانسان، محكمة بذلك السياج علي مفهوم التغير الفردي الاجتماعي والسياسي. فالفرد عندما يشرب الخمر فإن الله كتب شربها عليه ! وعندما يفكر ان يأمر بالمعروف او ينهي عن منكر فان فعلة لا معني له لان الله اراد نتيجة معينة لفعلة، لن يؤثر فيها فعلة ، بل لن يؤثر وجودة من عدمة فيها. اما في المنظور السياسي ، الخلفاء وظلمهم قدر من الله لا يملك الانسان تغييرة، بل لا يملك الا الصبر عليه ، وهو مسار عقدي قلل الضغط علي الخلفاء وقوي موقفهم ضد الثورات،  وجعلهم يحاربون من يخالفة ويدعمون من قال به . ومن اشهر المواقف التاريخية ذات الدلالة علي هذا الموقف الذي قتل فيه غيلان الدمشقي،في محاولة لتكيف لفقه والعقيدة لتثبيت الملك. وغيلان الدمشقي كان من اول من تحدث عن فساد مفهوم الجبرية ، فكان يسير في الاسواق ويقول "والله لا قدر ، ولكن ظلم العباد للعباد ". وكان مطاردا وممنوعا ، وظل مبعدا حتي وفاة سلمان بن عبد الملك ، ووصول عمر بن عبد العزيز للسلطة. كان لغيلان علاقة قوية مع عمر بن عبدالعزيز حيث كان يعرفة ورعا وعالما مدافعا عن المظالم والحقوق ، فاتي به الي ديوان رد المظالم كرجل اعترف لة بالبفضل والزهد والحكمة ، فكان يقول فيه "من سره أن ينظر إلى رجل وهب نفسه لله ، ليس فيه عضو إلا ينطق بحكمة فلينظر إلى هذا". فامسك غيلن بديوان رد مظالم من سبقه من أمراء بني أمية، فكان غيلان ينادي لبيعها للناس في المدينة و يقول: تعالوا إلى اموال الظلمة، تعالوا إلى أموال الخونة! وقد وصلت هذه الكلمات العنيفة إلى مسامع هشام بن عبد الملك - الذي سيصبح خليفة فيما بعد - فقال: هذا يعيبني ويعيب آبائي، والله إن ظفرت به لأقطعن يديه ورجليه. وهو ما حدث فعلابعد وفاة عمر  بن عبد العزيز، حيث استعان هشام بن عبد الملك بالاوزاعي ليحاور غيلان ، مثبتا ان الله جبر علي الناس افعالهم ، وان الاحداث ووجود الخلفاء  الجبارين من فعل الله، ليتخلص من فكر جديد يحض علي الثورة وايقاظ الناس سعيا للتخلص من الخلفاء وظلمهم وجبروتهم.

وقد يقول احدهم ان هذا الفكر قد اندثر ، وغاب في التاريخ ، فمنذا الذي يتحدث عن ان الاحداث لا يمكن تغييرها بالفعل ؟ ومن اليوم يتحدث عن التغير بالدعاء فقط ؟ ولكن الحقيقة وان كانت هذه الافكار غير متداولة بكثافة فهي باقية في العقل الجمعي . فالطبيب المخطئ يقول عن من قتلة "هذا يومة، وانا لم افعل له شيئا !!". والمهمل في عملة يقول "اذا كان الله قد كتب لي هذا الرزق وهذا العمل فساحصل عليه " . والامام في المنبر يقول للناس اعبدوا الله وسيرزقكم من حيث لا تعلمون ! وهكذا ! . فالحبر السري الذي يكتب به فكرنا مازال حيا في كل افعالينا وتصوراتنا. بل وحتي رجال الدين عندما يعرفون مفهوم القضاء والقدر يتكلمون بنفس ذاك المفهوم، فنجد تعرريفات مثل تعريف ابن حجر يقول "القضاء هو الحكم الكلي في الأزل ( الحكم السابق)والقدر هو جزئياته وتفصيلاته(الخلق)" ، فنجد انه لم يترك للعباد مشيئة حتي في دقائق افعالهم ! . وفي ذلك ايضا يقول ابن تيمية قولا غير زي جزم ، فهو لا يقول ان الله جبر العباد علي افعالهم ، ولا يقول ان العبد له قدرة علي الفعل بل يقول كلاما لا منطق فيه ولا انسجام ، فيقول "ومما اتفق عليه سلف الأمة وأئمتها مع إيمانهمبالقضاء والقدر وأن الله خالق كل شيء ، وأنه ما شاء كان ، وما لم يشأ لم يكن ، وأنالله يضل من يشاء ويهدي من يشاء ، وأن العباد لهم مشيئة وقدرة ، يفعلون بقدرتهمومشيئتهم ما أقدرهم الله عليه". وهو قول لا وضوح فيه هل العبد مخير ام مسير ؟ واين تبدأ مشيئة العبد واين تنتهي ؟ وهل يعني هذا ان العبد له مشيئة اصلا ؟ فهو قول مبهم يخاف من الخلاف كما يتضح ، ويدعو الي الحفظ والترديد وليس الي الفهم والتعمق ومنطق الاشياء. اما الاكثر ادهاشا فمنظور خلق بعض البشر للنار وبعضهم للجنة ابتداءا ، حيث يقول أبي بكر محمد الحسين الآجُرِّي :"إن الله عز وجل خلق الجنة وخلق النار ، ولكل واحدةمنهما أهل  ، وأقسم بعزته أنه يملأ جهنم من الجِنَّة والناس أجمعين. ثم خلقآدم عليه السلام ،واستخرج من ظهره كل ذرية هو خالقها إلى يوم القيامة . ثم جعلهمفريقين : فريق في الجنة وفريق في السعير"  وهو ما جعل امر القضاء والقدر امر مبهم غريب غير مفهوم ، خصوصا بالنظر الي  مفهوم العدالة الالهية ومفهوم الحساب، وهو ما ساقف عليه بالتفصيل في مقال لاحق في مقبل الايام. 

وهنا نري كيف ان السلطة السياسية، في عصور التاريخ الاسلامي الاول، بدأت من الصراع علي السلطة ، ثم الحصول عليها وتحويلها الي ملك عضوض، ثم اتجهت الي تدعيم سلطتها علي مراحل طوال. فكانت مرحلةُ اولي فيها صراعٌ بالقوة، فاخمدت الثورات وقتل المخالفين ، ثم كان الصراع علي مستوي ايواء المخالفين والتخلص من سلطتهم ، وهي مرحلة صناعة منظومة الفقهاء الموالين لسلطة الخلفاء، وامرهم بالافتاء لايقاف الثورات. ثم كانت اخيرا مرحلة التغيير الفكري والمعتقدي في المجتمع، والتي قامت علي تكريس عقائد الجبر والارجاء والاستسلام، العقائد التي مازلنا نعاني من وجدها واعتناق الملايين لها ، بعد 13 قرن من اختراعها وتدنيس وتحوير الاسلام بها. 

Brother James Harris: Many thanks, Sister Fatima.  This is an excellent point. I will read through this.

Brother Imran Price: Brother James, this is what Prof. Tariq Ramadan has been calling for and working on for many years: Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics & Liberation.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad at-Tijani (q.s.), the Quthb al-Awliya’ and mujaddid, said that fiqh has a makan and a zaman.  When we take it out of that context, it has no meaning.  It might even become zhulm, and that zhulm in the name of shari’ah is a fitnah against Allah (s.w.t.).  When we look at the books of fiqh, and consider the rulings of the scholars, it does us no benefit to reproduce them verbatim.  Those rulings, just like ahadits in a jami’, have no meaning without that context.  What we are supposed to understand is the circumstances that caused the ‘ulama to arrive at these conclusions.  What is unchanged is the uswul and the ifta’.  These are principles of fiqh, and they are as relevant today as they were in the time of the Salaf.  It will not do to discard the uswul and arrive immediately at the hukm.  Whilst the situation may look the same superficially, it could be fundamentally different.

Brother James Harris: We see an awful lot of Muslims reproducing rulings verbatim in the modern context, resulting in, what I would consider to be, inappropriate or unjust practices.  The implementation of different penalties for apostasy such as in Kelantan is an example, as we discussed recently.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: And we had that recent thread about the exclusivity of Salvation, for example.  The current situation with fara’idh is another example.  We also need to relook the many areas of medical practise, social media and culture for example.  Instead of adapting extent rulings from an earlier period covering things seemingly familiar, we need to go back to the uswul and re-examine a lot of things.

Brother William Voller: Here are some of my thoughts.  I think Brother Khalid Yaqub brings an important point: books of fiqh are books of fiqh, not books of fatwa; they actively encourage thinking.  Repeating fatawa verbatim is not fiqh by definition.  Uswul al-fiqh in the sense of deriving rulings from text and companions is pretty sophisticated, as Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis said, but there is room to include empirical evidence explicitly including historical analysis as Sister Fatima alludes.

The Ottomans in the Mejelle went down the maxims of law road as did the master, Imam ibn Ashur (r.a.) - if you have not read his Maqaswid ash-Shari’ah, order it now.  It is simply amazing!  There are all kinds of problems, such as repaying a loan of £1,000 a year later with £1,000 is unjust due to them not being of the same value yet charging gets called riba’.  They say a woman must have a wali, but a previously married woman has no wali due to experience not the act of sex, so is a wali necessary for a virgin university graduate.  Jihad as-Sayf is only permissible war, but only ordered by khalif; there is no khalif, so are Muslims not permitted to fight?  Or can a government stand in his place or is that whole concept obsolete?  Are piecemeal approaches acceptable?  One fatwa at a time?  Surely it needs a holistic philosophy?  We are entering an age of fiqh as ethics, I think, as opposed fiqh as law.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Rulings have, since the earliest days of Islam, varied from place to place.  The way Islam had to be taught to non-Arabs entrenched in a different culture and philosophy was certainly one of the greatest triumphs of Islam.  It is not surprising that the single individual with the greatest success in doing so was himself not an Arab: Imam al-A’azham, Imam Abu Hanifa’ (r.a.).  As Baghdad had become the pivotal centre of political and economic Islam, there is no surprise that the anhaf the Hanafiyyah are the largest of all the madzahib.

Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.), however, realised that for the essential unity of the ummah, it had to be linked to its real markaz, its heart at Madinah.  Madinah had preserved what the Prophet (s.a.w.) had left them.  There were no other influences and the culture was very different as each of its inhabitants were fully imbued in the ways of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  A small number of swahabah had left to teach in other regions but the vast majority remained.  Imam Malik (r.a.) codified and understood the width and depth of the consensus of Madinah.  But many ruling were different from that of Baghdad and the other mazhahib in various places.  Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) tried to tie all these rulings to text and in many ways, saved Islam from rapid disintegration.

However, it must be understood that the variance that occurred through different place in the ummah was not necessarily a bad thing but a trend that had drifted to far.  Of course, Imam Abu Hanifa (r.a.) and his swahibayn made rulings different from Imam Malik (r.a.) as they were dealing with a very different set of people.  It had to happen.  But as with trends, they all tend to excess and currently we are suffering from a disunity, so assume we have to unite upon texts, as that is what Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) did.  But the disunity seems to be caused by the lack of independent thinking which characterised the early period.

Brother James Harris: An excellent comment, Brother Abdulkareem.  What, in your view, is the reason for this lack of independent thinking we see now?

Brother William Voller: These days there does just, generally speaking, seem to be a comfort amongst Muslims to stick with literal interpretations of fatawa.  Yet doing so can be the absolute opposite of what is meant – ironic, huh?

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: A lack of confidence is due to an almost complete destruction of authority of a qadhi.  There are no government that will up hold the rulings of the ‘ulama, which essentially leaves them navel gazing.  In a state of impotence, their rulings become irrelevant.  They then invent personal codes governing the external appearances of Muslim in order to justify their years of learning.

Brother James Harris: Their years of learning need not go to waste if they thought of a considered response to their predicament, and the predicament of the people around them.  Expecting respect and authority to be served on a platter will not achieve much.

Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Our scholars need to understand that as much as certain things ideally should be taken on faith by the faithful, we are living in times when everyone considers themselves an expert on everything.  It takes a certain level of learning and understanding to realise that we actually know very little if anything, until then there are many questions to which they must provide appropriate answers.

Brother William Voller: Maybe it is a fear thing?  As alluded, I remember my teacher when commenting on the hadits about jurist who strives getting it wrong is still rewarded is to encourage people to make judgements.  Often people seem to think remaining silent is best, but actually, nothing is worse when something that is wrong; at least we have something to work on.  The worst design brief is do whatever you want – there is no inspiration.

Brother Jon Beatty: Fiqh, as I was taught, is not rigid but is flexible.  But to apply it to the modern context, understanding its past and understanding the modern interpretation of whatever social issue is important as well, I am a big believer in scholars achieving an education in secular studies, and then letting those who have that background help develop the fiqh that is applicable today.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: There is a vast chasm between the Islamic cultures of the past and modern western culture.  We can no longer live with the idea of being held in thrall by the minutiae of Islamic fiqh that scholars of yore developed.  The haram is clear and the halal is clear.  I do not believe that the prophetic intent was to create an Islam denuded of its spiritual vibrancy by an overarching legal system that can stifle life itself.  In the older Muslim societies, the legal system was necessary to provide rules for economics and social conduct.  We are far beyond that now, and an attempt to bring forth into our world, fiqh based on ancient times that is irrelevant to how we live today is not only a waste of time, but a diversion from the original intent of Islam which was to create a moral and virtuous social order that could also serve as the foundation for personal spiritual endeavour.

Brother Khalid Yaqub: The main problem is not a stifling legal system, at least for Western Muslims.  As it is, most of us are ignorant of past fiqh, let alone its subtleties.  The main problem facing all traditional ways of life is the breakdown of the extended family, which is, as Shaykh Murad has said, what much of the shari’ah presumes to exist.  Some people are either forced to trade-off career for family, and many others prefer to embark on the modern quest of ‘finding oneself’, often recruiting religion into this effort, rather than paying attention to the people around them.  These forces play a far larger role in dissolution of culture and community than legalities do.  So, from a fiqh perspective, what can be done to strengthen extended families?  It seems the pressing question.

Brother James Harris: Brother William said, “We are entering an age of fiqh as ethics, I think, as opposed to fiqh as law.”  A very interesting thought, Brother William.  Was this ever not the case?  Could we perhaps flesh this idea out a bit more?


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