A Global Networking for Muslim Intellectuals & Activists

Issue No. 19, October 1999

Islam21 P.O. Box 21272 London W9 3YN, UK Tel/Fax: (+44) 870 0130286 Email: inquiry@islam21.org Homepage: http://islam21.org

The International Forum for Islamic Dialogue (IFID) Editor: Dr. Mansoor Al-Jamri

Shaping the future, not yearning for the past
Islamists are sometimes accused of being utopian in their approach. Critics point out that what Islamists tend to do is to create a picture of an "Islam" that had rarely, if ever, existed in the past 1400 years or so. Such an ideal picture vary according to the mind-set of its imaginers. Thenceforward, followers are motivated to "yearn" for the glory of the past and to embark on a "defensive", mostly futile, approach in the face of an advancing modernisation process. "Muslim Mind" and the "Arab Mind", but most of the critical assessments came from outsiders, rather than insiders. Many Islamist insiders opted for selfglorification and expression of satisfaction with the available packages of tradition (turath) and practices (seerah), thus losing the opportunity to criticise the inherited mind-sets which limited the vision and saturated the thinking process. This approach prevented the imagining of a better future.

Self-criticismisafirststep Successful mobilisation
Islamist have proved to be effective and powerful mobilisers of the masses. The vast majority of the Muslim populations are disgruntled with the failure of post-colonial secularists or traditional monarchs who imported means of power and control but neglected basic rights of their people. The Islamists are viewed as authentic and indigenously-rooted populist leaders for the their communities and many of them have not been stained by corrupting materialism. Islamists have by now experienced opposition and some of them achieved power. Such experiences were all based on the images created of a glory once achieved. The vast majority of Muslim countries are yet to start developing. The culture of the people is pre-industrial in nature, while most Western countries are going through a post-industrial, or postmodern, era. Many parts of the inherited culture is austere and is incapable of producing solutions for complex environments. The inherited masculinity, for instance, blocks the emergence of a superior role for Muslim women. The inherited tradition does not provide guidelines for a multi-dimensional age similar to the one we live in. This has nothing to do with the completeness of the message of Islam. This is not a point of difference amongst Islamists. What they differ on is the way to understand and interpret the scripture. Static understanding prevails in most traditional circles. The revival of Islam in the modern age can not be successful so long as the need for dynamism is neglected. And a dynamic understanding starts with self-criticism. There is a view that ideology is dead and more interaction is taking place across nations and cultures. If this is so, then Islam can fill the gaps that exist in many of the global trends. But to play this role, Islamists ought to start shaping the future instead of yearning fort her past.

Less successful statesmen
Once in power, the Islamists are faced with the harsh realities of today's world and the population is more interested in the present rather than the glory of the past, whether such a past existed or not. The issues relating to social development and the economy, political stewardship and plurality, international relations, justice and human rights, etc., are real and critical ones requiring vision and capabilities that match the challenges of the present.

While the yearning for the past proved its success in mobilising the masses, it lacked the richness of vision that is needed for creating a better future. Much research has been accomplished about the

Modernity and adherents of secularism may. public and private. there cannot be any meaningful probing of the theme of 'Freedom of expression in Islam. State laws are thus not laws of conscience but those of coercion. there's no escaping its polemics and criticism of 'traditional' worldviews. The Islamic Text Society. only with the legal aspect of public expression and not with the moral content of private conscience. paradoxically. October1999 'Freedom of Expression' and Islam Dr. For to launch a project of delineating the parameters of 'Freedom of expression in Islam' is tantamount to acquiescing in to the moral validity of the modernist claims. freedom of expression. an inquiry into this subject is worth a sizeable volume and may . or rejecting these dichotomies on normative grounds. only on the pre-condition of acknowledging the possibility of transcendence in human affair. it is far from satisfactory. To define freedom as 'the ability of the individual to do or say what he or she wishes. One may. retain only that of law and not a whit need be modified of the moral discourse! Little wonder that prior to the advent of modernity. albeit in modern times. for it announces that the work is about 'Freedom of Expression'. or the limits set by the law' (p 7) is to turn it into an empty tautology. it insists that religious and transcendent tenets be banished from politics. in short. the author may not have envisaged and planned entering into polemics with modernity but such is its sway over the moral and intellectual clime today that no contemporary discourse may claim authenticity if it ignores the modernist context of our world. approach and method. sovereign. the introduction of the expression 'Freedom of Expression' into the political vocabulary of Arabic is of recent origin.' If so. Sure enough. it claims. sober and scholarly and has won the 'Isma´il alFaruqi Award for Academic Excellence'. space. Fulfilling a genuine need and initiating an authentic discourse. a normative study in the 'traditional' mould that consciously strives to remain within the indigenous paradigm of fiqh. In dealing with an uncompromisingly modern subject. rights and liberties did not form the stock motives of the politico-religious discourse and. side of the inward. public. enter into dialogue with Islam.' Without any delineation of the Islamic vision of the state. It is this very neutrality that stipulates. (However. Freedom of expression is the outward. pertains not to truth but to the logistics of its 'self-disclosure': it is not an individual issue but an 'affair of the state'. property. not only is the definition of what constitutes a private act of conscience. However. Or. for the purpose of managing them within a pragmatic discourse. if freedom is simply identical with the licit. always historically conditioned and dependent upon the prevailing societal consensus. Here the state has the right to use force to secure compliance. the state also insists that there are other issues. and other similar 'metaphysical' issues. to use a modern metaphor. of course. Such a stance. which is the gift. And yet. For. But. of modernist consciousness. that all individual consciences have the right to free expression in the public sphere and that guaranteeing that right is a state obligation. assumes certain attributes that theistic religions ascribe to the Transcendent God. in its perception and response to the polemics of secular modernism. conscience and society. Islam21. Kamali. in contradistinction to a public act of politics. system that is in no need of corroboration or correction from other worldviews and philosophies. belong to individual conscience with respect to which the state and its legal order must remain neutral. if not accepting them as the yardstick of Islamic theopolity. in other words. Pp 349. matrimony etc. is a contested claim of secular modernity and not a given fact of human existence. or to avoid doing so.PAGE 2. Again. one may dispense with the concept of freedom altogether. gets involved in ideological polemics with modernity. Then there are the notorious conundrums of the concept of freedom that are logically and metaphysically intractable. but not with respect to civil matters such as taxation. where it is the highest. And yet. i. Parvez Manzoor Perhaps the best point of entry in this highly seminal field is Mohammad Hashim Kamali's original contribution to the debate over 'Freedom of Expression in Islam' that is truly a labour of love and a work of devotion and piety. in such a case. had it been adopted in this study. as Kamali himself realizes. authority and that these constitute the crux of politics and statecraft. regard Islam as an autonomous. absence of legal and practical constraints from the authority and power of the state.) Without taking full cognizance of these dialectics. Nevertheless. without violating the rights of others. the title of the book fails to pay tribute to his intellectual labour. the project of discovering (the dialectic of?) 'Freedom of Expression in Islam' cannot even be launched: it does not even lift off the ground. it is argued. in its dialogue with modernity. even the distinction itself. would have entailed the task of deconstructing modernity. individual. By Mohammad Hashim Kamali. or existential body-politic. 1994. the state does get involved in the issue of their 'expression'. however. public. Least justifiable is this negligence in a study that deals with a theme. It would have certainly not required the borrowing of a patently and self-consciously polemical topos of modernity and transplanting it in the Islamic intellectual and moral landscape as has been done here. Kamali is not totally insensitive to the modernist context and subtext of his work and his diffidence and humility at the treading of this virgin territory are quite genuine and touching. Any discussion of 'freedom of expression'. though secular modernity (ostensibly) passes no judgement on the question of God's existence. Cambridge. willy-nilly. The state is concerned. it ought to be underlined. S. differently expressed. despite its neutrality with regard to questions of conscience. selfreferential. who has been forced to approach this subject without the benefit of any precedent or prior model of reflection. it is also quite radical and original in that it treats a thoroughly 'modern' theme and by so doing. As a pioneering effort. it is my conviction that a sharper intellectual vision of modernity and a more vigorous encounter with its polemics would have enhanced the already considerable worth of this work. Modernity espouses a metaphysics of immanentism within which the state. The few following remarks. The individual is free with respect to religious and metaphysical 'beliefs'. religion and politics that are all peculiar to secular modernity. declares in the beginning that the principal question that he addresses in the study is 'whether or not the Shari´ah subscribes to freedom of conscience. In reflecting over the problem of 'freedom of expression in Islam'. True enough. as it were.) It is uncompromisingly 'Islamic' in temperament. their manifestation in the common. it is hoped. and the two are by no means identical. the legally valid. exposing its metaphysical foundations and charting the moral parameters of its secular project. would put the polemical subtext of 'freedom of expression' in sharper focus. is contingent upon the dialectics of individual and state. However. it is both daring and imaginative. (Freedom of Expression in Islam. from the governance of the state. Freedom of expression. freedom of conscience. not pertaining to conscience. namely between private conscience and public politics. but only on Islamic terms. ISBN 0-94662160-8. questions of God's existence or nonexistence.e. modern theory reduces their scope to certain civil and political 'liberties'. its merits have been duly recognized by the scholarly community.

the historical fact that the modern. Baltimore. Italics added). 1993)). That any actualization of 'freedom' enjoins a counter-balancing of its effects by the equally obligatory quest for justice. a receiving of God in the soul as it were. Despite all these reservations. even within the provision of such a concrete objective. which modernity regards as synonymous with private conscience. (All this is of course disingenuous and misleading. to take a direct approach to the source materials of Shari´ah in the quest for an alternative solution. 6. Islam. Islam'. Talal Asad. but especially within a public realm that does not claim to 'incarnate' any 'transcendental truth'. that makes no effort toward the 'salvation' of its citizens. or Iran. is seldom enlightening or capable of unambiguous guidance. state arose as a consequence of the internecine sectarian wars of premodern Europe. Nevertheless. it has been cogently demonstrated. is counter-productive in a world of competing civilizations and contending moralities. This reviewer couldn't agree more but would also like to add that in this search the philosophical and conceptual analysis of the key Qur'anic terms be given priority over the atomistic and literal approach of fiqh. 4. the rich and the dominant! 7. or does not. However. or of 'conscience' . the mot paramount freedom is the freedom of 'religion'. Freedom of Expression is a problem that demands attention and resolution within the public realm. secular. a doctrine of truth. or equality. Nor is Kamali's disregard of the modern distinction between the legal and the moral going to cut much ice with the critics of the tradition for whom it merely represents the obsolete and the archaic. October1999 demand a close examination of the traditional sources of fiqh. 3. sign of this is Kamali's indiscriminate use of the prejudicial term. the secularity of its constitution is not the only guarantee for the freedom of conscience and expression. For the secular modern state. and 'to develop further the existing positions in the light of prevailing conditions. 'religion'. which transcends the Public-Private divide. And let us not transform Islam. something that Kamali does quite judiciously before saying 'yes'. should make us sensitive to the sustaining ethos and moral pathos of the modern longing for freedom. if we confine our attention to the purely functional and logistic aspects of Freedom of Expression. but also. which are assumed to provide yardsticks for such liberties. and the genuine intellectual. say Turkey. but the nature and scope of that freedom in a concrete historical polity. says Kamali. as found in the Qur'an. Despite this. insult and blasphemy are part of the modern political discourse. strive. Another. . Such a 'fundamentalist' epistemology. modernism cannot claim to possess any ultimate truth. just as it espouses a metaphysics of immanentism. "This work is a an attempt to explore some of the Islamic responses to issues of contemporary concern'.which does not entail. regardless of Kamali's commendable effort. Little wonder that the problem is intimately related to the constitution of the (modern) state (political and existential community) and 'the ultimate ends' toward which it does. philosophical and moral quandaries that. He is least likely to convince modernists like Habermas with his contentions that actions like slander. the beneficiaries of freedom are not always the week and the oppressed. To pose the problem of the freedom of expression in its ultimate. as Islamically committed thinkers. the question admits of only one.cares nothing about . Needless to say that in this regard. there are very convincing arguments for keeping the transcendent vision of the Shari´a distinct from its fallible appropriation in the juridic tradition. its commitment to the. denotes an act of voluntary assent. and for this critic quite distressing. to ordinary believers like this writer. (Genealogies of Religion. however. Let us not produce any apology for the corrupt and oppressive order of the Muslim regimes that seeks legitimacy by exploiting the name of Islam. or Kuwait.' (p 5. 2. and indeed pre-eminently so. For it. since the modern state pretends to be neutral towards . Only a jurisitic intellect. context (and then transpose it to the contrasting metaphysics of Islamic transcendentalism) also renders it intractable and beyond the kin of any pragmatic solution.PAGE 3. the debate in modern Western societies. freedom from taxes or laws! That such a scale of values establishes the sovereignty of the political over the religious is beyond doubt.socio-political and local but also neo-imperialist and global . then the theme that would merit further exploration and reflection would not be 'Freedom vs. nevertheless. 5. A clear. Needless to say that from the Islamic point of view. 'Freedom of Expression' is a problem bestowed to us by modernist consciousness which makes a pragmatic distinction between public and private. is part of the polemical repertoire of modernity and a historical construct of secular forces (Cf. Let me recapitulate the main insights of this review: 1. sign of jurisitc positivism comes from the reified perception of the pivotal concept Shar´iah: it is used such that it can be totally identified with the extant corpus of fiqh. far more grievous. the theme of Freedom of Expression gives rise to in a cross-civilizational context.meliorism. shirk our responsibility of exposing all the hurdles . and. Islam21. answer . and moral. non-confessional. however. for the modern state does have its agenda. does not confront the problem of the freedom of expression in a purely pragmatic spirit. foregone conclusion as the very concept of submission (Islam). the task is yet to begin. (The concept of a universal and essential 'religion'. for keeping the text of the law separate from its interpretations. Nevertheless. it is not merely a formal and instrumental entity but does have a substantive commitment to the values of this worldly. is an instrumental value. tension between the ultimate value of 'freedom' and that of 'equality' (or 'justice') has been the cause of much philosophical and moral distress. or failing that. which identifies Islamic reason with raison d'état. the religious faith which for the recognition of its truth accepts no constraints on the conscience of man. Islam and fettered conscience are contradictions in terms. affirmative. or Pakistan. could be so befuddled as to regard 'freedom of conscience' an original fact of modernist consciousness that needs authentication from indigenous legal sources! Though Kamali remains firmly anchored in the fiqhi tradition. wellbeing of its citizen. like everything else in modernity. let's not. the content and ethic of freedom are more paramount than its form and logistics. etc. A logical corollary of the above argument is that Freedom of Expression is essentially a matter of the presence or absence of 'civil and political liberties' and that it should be problematized as such.that prevent the emergence of a humane regime of civil and political liberties in the lands of the Muslims.the final goal of the human existence. metaphysical and moral. his perception and conceptual schemes show unmistakable signs of having acquired modernist influences. 'The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category'. renders the issue of 'Freedom of Expression' far more problematical than a glib slogan of civilizational polemics! Nor must we forget the uncomfortable fact that in a hierarchical and hegemonic world.with or without the ransacking of the brains of our illustrious fuqaha! The modern query leads to a single. though indispensable for a correct understanding of the problem. into a political ideology that for the glories of this world would establish a regime of coercion and force. nay prejudices. Freedom of Expression. hence. That there is a logical.

call Muslims to prayer). The other area of information they were proud of was what they called ansab i. For the masses. It encouraged people to rethink the beliefs of their ancestors.PAGE 4. In a dynamic society . The practice. dogmas and institutions? Or as values and thought system? Some emphasise the former and others the latter. They were greatly proud of their ancestry.e. It was nothing short of a total break from the past. it should not only advance the state of information about the universe but should also serve the humanity. But the Prophet accorded this distinction to a black slave to emphasise the importance of equality of all human beings. Islam was a great revolution. Knowledge must not only be true but should also be based on conviction. And this made all the difference. particulary on the thought system. Generally the masses of people are more concerned with rituals. It is also very interesting to note that the Arab world which had never known beyond tribal customs and traditions. But how justice was understood to have been done has of course been debatable. dogmas and institutions whereas the intellectuals lay more emphasis on thought system and values. Thus the term 'ilm is not only comprehensive but also value-oriented. The early Islamic society was highly dynamic and full of vitalities. Any other knowledge which is not related to the tribe is totally meaningless. tribe. It brought about complete revolution in the Arab mind set which spread to other areas conquered by the Arabs. intensely desired. The Qur'an laid great emphasis on 'ilm as well as 'amal (knowledge and practice).e. As anthropologists tell us. the family tree.was also not devoid of value-system. language. has to be nothing but salih (healthy). Islam. in other words. Islam does not accord any priority whatsoever to race. however. Only poetry was their passion. All that ancestors believed in was not necessarily right and beneficial. many Arabs close to the Prophet. The ritual system of Islam . It gave human society a new value system and heightened the human sensitivity for change for the better. For them anyone who deviates from performance of these rituals or questions any of these dogmas is a 'heretic' worthy of condemnation. appointed a black liberated slave from Ethiopia. there are much greater possibilities of rethinking the thought system. Modern science is based on induction rather than deduction. The Qur'anic notion of justice is so universal that it laid down that even the enmity with any one else should not come in the way of dispensing . 'Ilm without 'amal was projected as bereft of any benefit to humanity. creation and all related notions originate from the tribal practices. The relativity of medieval notion of justice and its modern notion is understandable. Qur'an has been described as hudan lil muttaqin i. knowledge with conviction) is of great value. the plants and the animals. to brood and to reflect on the whole universe. The Prophet. The Arab peninsula was an area of darkness in many ways. The Qur'anic notion of justice is quite comprehensive. It is thus clear that the Qur'an neither encourages superficial knowledge nor allows its instrumentalisation. Asghar Ali Engineer How do we look at a religion? As a set of rituals. The ideas of cosmos. Knowledge and practice: There was no quest for knowledge in the pre-Islamic Arabia. to give azan ( i. Also. the entire creation of Allah. The Qur'anic notion of justice was not tribal but universal. But. Similarly 'amal (practice) as pointed out above. The intellectuals may lay more emphasis on the thought system of a religion but there are those who accept the thought system as inherited and there are those who are intellectually quite active and consider it necessary to rethink the thought system of the religion they have inherited.e. was a highly progressive body of laws in those days. a break which changed the whole quality of social life and brought about tremendous advancement in knowledge. 'Ilm is used for science as well.e. a distinction. the stars. In fact any knowledge except that of ones tribal ancestry was derided upon. The Qur'an makes categorical statement to this effect (see 49:13 and 30:22). Islam21. No Muslim jurist could ever ignore the significance of justice in his legal formulations. not the tribe. The Qur'an. not only religious but also social and economic. It had upturned all old ideas and ideologies. based on knowledge and conviction. It includes knowledge of everything created by Allah including the knowledge of creator himself. Correct knowledge ('ilm al-yaqin) and healthy practice ('amal salih) is the most desirable synthesis. in order to effectively demolish any such hierarchical distinctions.'ibadat . Bilal Habshi. October1999 Reconstruction of Islamic Political Thought Dr. not on the past. must promote the health of society. broke these tribal boundaries and made knowledge coterminous with the universe i. The Individual was brought at the centre. The frontiers of knowledge. Allah invites human beings to think. Islam put greater emphasis on change and called everything old into question. We may have several problems today with the Shari'ah formulations. became the fore-runner in the world of jurisprudence. Thus in early Islam change was never thought to be a 'sin'. For them the nobility (sharf) of ancestors was more important than their own. But that does not reduce the significance of justice as a Qur'anic doctrine. the earth. In a stagnant or a closed society such possibilities are smothered. put all the emphasis on 'ilm (knowledge) which is a very comprehensive word in Arabic. a guide for the God fearing or the pious. creed or colour. Also. on the other hand. The individual was made responsible for everything. It also strictly forbade the Muslims from making any distinction between an Arab and non-Arab and a white and a black. the juris corpus of Islam. There may be arguments about how justice was thought to have been done in medieval ages and what is modern notion of justice. Islam changed all this. cannot transcend the boundaries of the tribal universe. And it is justice in its absolute and varied sense. on the creation of Allah. The former leads to objective knowledge of the universe and latter to speculation. in a tribal society the main fulcrum of knowledge is knowledge of received traditions and tribal customs. The emphasis was on present and future. knowledge was given further practical orientation by laying equal emphasis on 'amal (practice).e. What kind of revolution it was in a stagnant society of Arabian peninsula whose whole universe was its own tribe cannot be easily imagined by us today. Justice: The notion of justice is very central to Islam (5:8). The word 'ilm al-yaqin (i. not the tribe one belonged to. the Qur'an lays great emphasis on induction rather than deduction. religion is nothing but performance of certain rituals as laid down and to have belief in certain dogmas formulated by the learned scholars.

This had both positive and negative impact on Islamic thought. There was no question of justice vis a vis other tribes. The centrality of justice must be asserted. as pointed out in some of my books (Rights of Women in Islam. Their own contribution in enriching the Greek knowledge acquired by them was no mean contribution. this is what the modern rationalists also plead. like Imam Abu Hanifa. The spirit of the Qur'an is more important than the opinions of medieval legal doctors and hence entire corpus of Shari'ah laws in this regard should be re-examined and rethought. The entire corpus of Greek knowledge in various sciences. however.e. it was confronted with entirely different mind set. Thus Mu'tazilah were essentially theists but also rationalists. the noted British historian. on speculative reason and sophisticated intellectual achievements. The Qur'an gives the principle of justice as a norm. October1999 justice (5:8). they tried to confine knowledge to theological issues alone. Certain verses (like 4:34) are used selectively. as all of us know. to project subordination of woman to man ignoring several other verses (like 2:228. maintain that a woman can even become qadi on the basis of verse 9:71. Also. they imbibed knowledge from other sources as well i.e. according to their own ability. lost in its sweep. The Mu'tazila also gave primacy to justice along with reason. on the other hand. confined knowledge to knowledge of din (i. Practical rationality remained quite central to it. The Qur'an. and out of context. let alone holding property in her own right. 9:71. Women and Modern Society and Status of Women in Islam) there never was unanimity on these issues among the legal doctors themselves. as pointed out before. The earlier critical faculty and concern for justice was totally lost. But when it spread to the ancient centres of great cultures like parts of Eastern Byzantian empire. or Persian empire and India. is Islamic theological thought. Monarchy became an acceptable institution and blind and uncritical obedience to the ruling monarch on one hand. Some of the 'ulama. Since theologians were primarily concerned with religious or theological matters. as pointed out above. In fact this view that knowledge in the Qur'an is confined to the knowledge of din did not go uncontested even in the early history of Islam. Shari'ah will also hold it good. Persian and Indian sources. Imitating these theologians many people still argue that 'ilm should be confined to the 'ilm al-din and reject other spheres of knowledge. It is product of theologians' own mind. These centres of civilization were centres of feudal culture and along with feudal sophistication. Women could not inherit. There is great need to recapture its earlier vitality. The House of Wisdom (Dar al-Hikmah) established by the Abbasids fulfilled this task. In verse 9:71 men and women are not only shown each others friends but also charged with equal responsibilities of enjoining good and forbidding evil. became a target for exercises in sophisticated inner meanings justifying hierarchical values which came to be acquired through feudal cultures of Roman and Persian empires. Women: Here we would like to point out that the position of women in the Qur'an is not subordinate to that of man. It is more central than the corpus of laws inherited by us. had arisen in Arabian peninsula and had its vitality and practicability. Prior to Islam even great Greek philosophers thought that animal and women have no soul and hence women deserve no legal rights. dynamism and sensitivity. from different sources and from different fields was not only accepted by early Muslims but was also creatively advanced by them. Mu'tazilah were also known as the party of tawhid wa al-'adl i. It is necessary to understand that it is justice which has to be rigorously applied to all the issues in framing laws. It is the very foundation of the juris corpus of Islam. Islam. Thus the Mu'tazilah were as fervent advocates of reason and justice as the modern rationalists are. on the other. The Mu'tazila were a party of rationalists who gave primacy to reason. The Asha'irah. held something good because Shari'ah held it good even if reason contradicted it. even in Roman law. The Europe had lost contact with the Greek treasure of knowledge and they reestablished contact with it only through the agency of Arabs. besides their own Islamic sources. mathematics and philosophy was transferred into Arabic language and passed on to Europe. however. and. But the modern rationalists tend to be atheists which Mu'tazilah were not. Islam spread with great rapidity because of its great concern with justice for weaker sections of society but now it became an integral part of a huge Islamic empire and nearly lost its sensitivity towards suffering of the downtrodden of the society. lays down that justice be done even to an enemy. Knowledge . Disobedience to them was construed to be disobedience to Allah and His Book. legal doctors) need to be thoroughly reviewed. The opinions differed from one legal doctor to another and on several issues even the disciples differed from their masters. As the legal doctors applied the notion of justice in keeping with their own circumstances we must rethink the issues in Shari'ah laws based on the notion of centrality of justice particularly in the sphere of family laws. understanding and socio-cultural background. It was in this atmosphere that Islamic thought became totally stagnant and part of oppressive establishment. These great civilizations were based. on one hand. How could then women be inferior to men? Thus we should not hesitate in having a second look at the Shari'ah laws which have in built medieval biases towards women. The Qur'an was the first scripture in the world to accord equal dignity to man and woman. 33:35 and others) which clearly indicate equality of man and woman. religion of Islam). Thus if reason holds something good. The verses 9:71 and 33:35 are quite central in this respect. Critical evaluation and not blind obedience. became very common. prior to Islam. Thus what Islamic thought gained in swing. the legal doctors applied it to various issues which arose from time to time.Wells. feudal values were also imbibed. Islam21. Islam. was quite central to Islam. The Muslims assimilated this knowledge and also enriched it immensely. others. The Shari'ah laws as formulated by early Muslim fuqaha' (i. While some legal doctors do not even admit women's evidence on hudud matters. In a tribal society justice was confined to within the tribal limits. What predominates today. But this view is no more a central view in the world of Islam today. Also.e. Rationality: Knowledge. party of unity of Godhood and justice. For them reason was the test of faith and not vice versa. has described Arabs as foster father of knowledge. keeping up prayer and paying the poor-rate (zakat). No wonder than that H. lost some of its most fundamental concerns like justice for weaker sections of society.G. But there is no strong evidence in the Qur'an or sunna in this respect. on the other hand.e.PAGE 5. is closer to the Islamic spirit. Resisting outdated cultures: The Islamic thought became inward looking on one hand. and religious establishment of the time. The Qur'an which was so direct and simple in its teachings.

but Islamic scholars are also required to know the realities of life . provide greater vigour to human thought. The knowledge of related Islamic disciplines and methodologies is a must. along with a profound updated knowledge of the social and political contexts. and if not…can we initiate one in the future? These questions have appeared on the agenda of women’s debates in the Muslim world in the past two decades…stressing the “feminist” as different…currently absent and …urgently needed.the leading Egyptian .system are permanent and cannot be changed under any circumstances. its origin . These differences. contributed to the knowledge and Ijtihad. if honest and sincere. Naturally there will be differences in opinion while bringing about these changes. All Divine commands are sought to be understood by human agents under certain socio-cultural influences and these influences are reflected in the religious-thought system. There is misconception among Muslims about the Qur'anic verse 5:3 (i. institutional system (like zakat. rape. It has made Islamic thought totally stagnant.The text dealt with in Christianity (the Bible) differs substantially from the Book (Quran) in Islam regarding the status of the text . This became an integral part of Islamic theology. This is important to clarify that the liberating potential of Islam is inherent in Islam itself and its history and is not a result of forces outside the culture and civilisation of Islam or a result of the contact with the West in the colonial era.. its thought system should change. The founders of the different schools of jurisprudence during the second and third centuries of Islam were not afraid of differences. a thorough understanding and critical reading of the fiqh . and a continuous process of Ijtihad and Tajdid to place the divine and absolute within the relative and present.).Women’s contribution to Islamic sciences dates back to early Islam. its legacy . and has not seized through the centuries. yet forgot Zainab A-Ghazali . 3-While in the back of mind of the Western discourse of the matter is only related to the text . too. This gives the text . Our din is perfect. with interruptions here and there in history due to different reasons in each case. nature of evidence. in din. There is urgent need for a new ilm al-kalam in the light of modern corpus of scientific knowledge. This history of women’s involvement in ‘Ilm and Fiqh was recorded by male scholars themselves in books of history of Islamic sciences. But now Kalam cannot be treated as unchangeable. This attempt to approach these issues in the light of Islamic values and divine commands was also influenced by the socio-cultural circumstances of the time. What is to be noted is that what goes in the name of theology is human construct and divine commandments as understood by human agency under a set of socio-cultural influences. Why should we be? Introductory issues: 1. in Islam the interpretation can not be completed without the a complex interaction with the Sunna . etc. Not only average Muslims are required to study carefully the Islamic sciences. but the revelation…the Book…the Quran. as well as many female professors at Al-Azhar and in all Islamic Universities. October1999 and. 'Ilm al-Kalam (Islamic dialectics) came into existence as a reaction to the widening influence of Greek philosophy and Greek sciences during the Abbasid period. We should not be afraid of differences. division of property etc. justice. They could not have applied Islamic values and divine commands to these issues in vacuum. and its position in the religion. crimes like theft. But the thought system could and must change. One cannot include the kalam. Islam21.e. It has been neglected in recent writings that started giving attention to the role of women within the Islamic movements in transmitting and studying the Islamic sources that they. for example. 4-Contemporary Muslim women have been involved in studying and teaching the Islamic sources. and Islamic Universities have distinguished women scholars…the most prominent Bint Al-Shati -the professor of Tafsir in Egypt and Morocco who died recently.a strict condition of Fatwa and Ijtihad that is known to everyone.PAGE 6. divorce. Human beings think under certain influences which they cannot transcend as human beings. unified or common agenda for women in this matter. thought system and value system (like equality. Ann Sophie Roald (In K. age-old shari'ah formulation. The issue is not initiated by contemporary Western feminism but has its roots in our culture. They think that now what we have inherited is perfect in every respect and there is no need for re-thinking in any sense at all. This raises the question whether one can talk about an international cross-cultural and cross religious. There is great deal of change in these external influences and hence many of these shari'ah formulations stand in need of change. This change does not amount to tempering with the divine commands but making yet another human attempt in the light of our own experiences and our own circumstances. undoubtedly influenced the great minds of Islamic world of the time and also the succeeding generation for several centuries. 2. Once we understand this there will be no resistance to change in the thought system.as well the Sunna that put it into action .. inheritance. While Jesus is the logos of the Christian faith . Kalam. For example. Muhammad is not the logos in Islam. The issue is not necessarily “feminist” and other terminology can –and sometimes should. The Islamic thought system has been evolved by theologians who are human beings and no human person can ever be perfect.Tjomsland 1998 ) for example studied Bint AlShati.a centrality in the process of jurisprudence and legislation that is quite unique.). Women and the Can a feminist reinterpretation of Islamic sources be set in the context of Islamic theology? In other words: Can there be a feminist interpretation of Quran and Sunna? Was there one in the past. if religion has to keep pace with time. The Islamic Shari'ah is also an embodiment of Islamic values. This will bring about a great revolution. This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favour to you. Of these ritual and value. adultery. If we evolve this understanding of religion the dynamics of problem changes and religion will be even greater force to bring about spiritual transformation for the better.Ask & M. on the other. The din is undoubtedly perfect but the meaning and significance of din should be understood properly. Advocating a change culture: A religion consists of several sub-systems like ritual system ('ibadat). compassion etc.be used instead of the confusion and the enforcement of the concept “feminist” on the Islamic concepts and their semantic field as a key concept. Islamic Shari'ah is nothing but a sincere attempt by the fuqaha' (Islamic jurists) to apply divine commands and the Islamic values to a number of issues like marriage.).

" 12:111. Following you will find two different ones. Others such as Nawal Saadawi (Egypt) or Farida Banani (Morocco) are more general in their arguments. can take many forms. or if you look at the the Hadiths. not serious. The lack The selective anti-Sunna method: “Can a woman take the leadership role? Is it prohibited? The answer will be different if you look at the Quran. October1999 interpretation of Islamic Sources Heba Raouf Ezzat Muslim activist of the Muslim Brotherhood . These writings state that Ijtihad is needed to initiate new ideas and perspective that are more compatible with the modern notions of human rights. of a real intellectual environment for dialogue blocks change on the grass root level for the best of the majority of women. "We narrate to you the most accurate history through the revelation of this Quran. but a vriety of forms for political governance that are definetly NOT the simple non-sophisticated talk about an “Islamic State” that is always more of a State than it is …Islamic. “just". The role of an important woman in the history of the old world.the compatibility of some narrators of the Hadith and their hostile position towards women that affected their integrity and credibility. Especially in the issues of women the political is very much linked with the methodology. as people have to be constantly reminded.. When God tells us a story in he Quran.1996) . Discussing the issue of women and politics one finds different approaches. Karam did not even refer to that volume when studying Ghazali’s “feminist” ideas. 5-Taking the awareness about women’s problems and the unjust treatment of women in Islamic societies with different Islamic pretexts as the criteria according to which one classifies writings as “feminist” or not (sometimes regardless of the sex/gender of the author]. Though published by the famous Dar Al Shorouk publishers. not necessarily representative democracy. The arguments of secularisits are not read and understood by Islamic scholars. widely accepted. denying and refusing the whole of Sunna and Hadith. made decisions for herself and her people. Her work was attacked by many Islamic scholars. Any contribution will always be classified as a secular critique to the transcendental and will hence be rejected and refuted by the mainstream Islamic schools of thought and jurisprudence . the Queen of Sheba. In this respecr Fatima Mernissi (Morocco) can be considered to be the most sophisticated one.. After witnessing what God .even if insightful and worth discussing. Before this. The political situation and polarization is dominant in a lot of discussion spaces. while at the same time accepting and advocating intellectually Western notions and concepts on “gender” and “patriarchy” without much revision or criticism. A second point is that attempts to bridge the gap between social sciences and Islamic sciences have been going on in many academic circles in the Muslim world. otherwise one will end up defending just and equal women participation in a political system that is not just nor fair or equal itself – structurally speaking .PAGE 7. A researcher with a secular paradigm when dealing with the Islamic sources rejects established Islamic sciences’ methodology and usually bases his/her analysis on approaches that deal with “texts” regardless of the origin of these texts . the selection of topics and the way these are addressed from both sides according to the hot issues on the political agenda.. (A. not hiding behind walls. that most of them were written about 200 years after the Prophet's death. She visited Solomon. It is short and brief as it saves itself the path of Ijtihad and argumentation. Islam21." 12:3. one can find indeed that male scholars have been more outspoken and “revolutionary” than women scholars. God mentioned her history in the Quran to let us know that a woman in a ruling position is not offensive as far as God is concerned. Within the Islamic circle adjectives such as : “fair” . 1998) Women’s reading and interpretation of the Islamic sources is then an ongoing process in the Islamic as well as Islamist circles. (Merrnissi. "In their history. but to teach us a lesson. and not necessarily in a party system. deconstructing by that some crucial Hadith on women that were narrated in Al-Bukhari and accepted as authentic Hadith. talked to him . The first is called here the selective anti-Sunna method as it is based on the selection of the source (reference). Authoritarianism or totalitarianism are not the only option to the former statement. Till now only attempts to reform the reading of the text have been in process. She represented a democratic ruler who consulted with her people before making important decisions. Methodological reflections: Established Islamic methodology to approach the Islamic sources has been challenged lately by secularist writings.. Hence insisting on “feminist” as description for the reading or interpretation. and forwarded by a praise by a (male) professor of Tafsir at Al-Azhar University. Little has been done to introduce a new political theory that would revise the centrality of the state major actor. you were totally unaware. while any effort or new Ijtihad on the Islamic side is usually accused of being for propagandist. for political purposes and temporary. while the Ijtihad on the social sciences level has been almost non-existant.revealed or human. See 27:22-44. there is a lesson for those who possess intelligence. methodology. The Ijtihad has to be on all tracks. It is very important to realize that any reform in women issues by combining a contemporary reading of the sources with a knowledge of social sciences requires Ijtihad on both sides. or revise the whole issue of ploitical representation and its problems. as much as Muslims are concerned. places feminism as a frame of reference and a basically secular paradigm to be the point of reference. Democracy . He does not do so just for entertaining us. Disciplines like economy were given more attention than other disciplines such as political science and sociology. or shying behind another man. either generally as a whole. not because of its feminist nature but because it challenges the established. is shown in the story of Belquees..Karam . A simple example for that is the attempt to seek new fatwas allowing women to participate in politics by voting as well as become political representatives. See 27:29.who published an interpretation of the Quran 1994. “methodologically correct” and “nearer to the general aims of Islam (Maqasid)” are more accurate. Her work discusses –among other things. or focusing mainly on the issue of women.

because of what God has graced some of them over the others and because they spend of their property (for the support of . In one of the most famous Hadiths that is often raised in the face of any Muslim woman seeking higher education or higher position in her career is one by a man called Abu Bakra who narrated a Hadith reported in Bukhary that states that any community ruled by a woman will never succeed. but rather suggests the more appropriate party who can be replaced by the other if necessary in cases of the absence of the father due to any reason. Bukhary did not remove his Hadith from among his collected Hadiths according to the rules that Bukhary himself claimed to follow. the argument is still valid. This book discuses the process whereby political Islam has been identified as one of the major security threats to the new international order. Other scholars maintain that the relationship between men and women in general is based on equality and that the Qur’an here only refers to the family in a regulative manner not to the human nature or the competence of women in general. according to Ibn Taymiyya. since a woman is necessarily then incompetent in managing wider public affairs. The fallacy of this Hadith is not only proven in history but in the fact that Abu Bakra himself was reported in the Muslim history books to be punished publicly for bearing false witness. ruling them as a queen of Sheba. They necessitate specific competence which. I now submit with Solomon to God. this is exclusive to the caliphate -the highest position in an Islamic political system. A Study of US Policy towards Islamist Movements in the Middle East. while still the Queen of Sheba. Of course the reason is that. Other opinions see that. It then goes on to look as the cases where political Islam poses a series of challenges under different guises to the United States: terrorist acts against the US. or the other Prophetic tradition on the issue. Lord of the universe". a woman in a leading political position is not against God's system or against the Quran. otherwise. “Men are in charge (qawwamun) of women. the Hadith books . The lesson is that. and the Islamist political movements that challenge the regimes. It might be against the chauvinistic views of the men who wrote the corrupted history of Hadiths. "Go inside the palace. The first party have done no attempt to interpret the above-mentioned Hadith in the light of the other relevant Qur’anic verses (the simple next step in interpretation that is usually forgotten here!). is based on two factors: strength and integrity.PAGE 8. the daughter of the King (Kisra) succeeded to the throne.be that person a man or a woman. The political Islam debate in the United States has become one of the most controversial debates in academic circles.teach about women in leadership positions? Completely the opposite. is anti-democratic and a source of terrorist activity. ISBN 0 86372 245 8. “When the Prophet was informed that in Persia. Views are at variance concerning the Prophet’s Hadith narrated by al-Bukhari in the authority of Abu Bakra who said. she became a submitter (Muslim)." When she saw its interior. describing it as “fake”. this makes it unfeasible that a woman takes over any public jurisdiction that can make her “in charge” or even let her share such responsibility. the text states explicitly that responsibility is given to men. attempts to derail the Middle East peace process. To them. Here we witness one of the first Muslim women in charge of a nation. "She was told. Strength in judgments is based on the knowledge about the Qur’an and the Hadith and the ability to implement them. The second group basically adhered to the same approach except that they made it specific and have not associated it with competence but with certain positions. Their decisions concerning the public law and the codes of ethics should be issued through the mechanisms of Shura. Pinto depicts the two major schools of thought on political Islam that have emerged. a case which excludes it as a source of Sharia’ in serious matters of legislation and constitution. “Power” is also the reason why Islamists deny them that right so they would have no authority over the supposedly wiser males. 1999. I have wronged my soul. Strength is dependent on the nature of the jurisdiction. Personal integrity all depends on the fear of God. "This interior is now paved with crystal. One considers the Islamist movement to be a healthy grassroots response to the failure of Arab governments to tackle growing soci-economic problems. In this book. but those who invented these stories about him did. Such a bearer of false witness should never be allowed or accepted as a witness ever. which goes. Contrary to what the traditional Muslim scholars and Hadiths teach. the Prophet Muhammed would have never contradicted the Quran. Some contemporary scholars deny the authenticity of the hadith altogether.a Hadith narrated by a sole narrator-.. Despite this known story of his bearing false witness. the physical and psychological strengths. The other argues that political Islam is inherently hostile to the western world that Islamists are only rhetorically committed to democracy and pluralism but that their real aim is the establishment of a religious dictatorship. there is no obedience to those who disobey God and “Obedience is conditioned by the virtues” and “If the ruler judges unfairly or in contradiction to the established rules. his judement is rejected. and then they claim that Hadiths do not contradict the Quran. in general. It is usually forgotten that political positions are not gains to be sought but rather responsibilities to be carried. Ithaca Press. he said. It is also argued that even if the responsibility stated in the above-mentioned verse is meant to be in the specific family context. Book Review Political Islam and the United States. 'My Lord. This does not indicate that women are less competent.” (IV:34). Some interpretations argue that being “in charge” is exclusive for men since they possess superior attributes over women with respect to the management of affairs." She said. maintaining that it is at best a “Hadith Ahad” . God in the Quran never put restrictions on a woman in a ruling position. They are obeyed in as far as they do. He said. ‘No success is destined for a folk whose ruler is a woman’. Attacks against foreign tourists in Egypt and the savage events in Algeria have added fuel to these feelings. In the West and particularly in the United States. The Tajdid method: Access to political positions is dealt with in the dominant feminist discource as a gain that women should target for power and influence. and brings to light the vested interests if certain political groups within the United States in disseminating this idea. etc. Islam21. has a strong anti-Western bias. The statement is seperated from its context and taken as a divine rule. she thought it was a pool of water. It is also neglected that whoever takes that power is obliged to abide by the laws of the Shari’a .” Some literature debate that this includes all women in all public jurisdiction. In their view. women). according to the Quran (24:4). Islamism has come to be seen as a disruptive force that threatens friendly Arab regimes. and she (pulled up her dress) exposing her legs.” Reading literature on the topic reveals that the disagreement arises in Fiqh from the different readings and interpretation of the Islamic sources that we can discuss as following: Scholars disagree on the possible meaning of the verse. Dr. Can we learn a lesson from the Quran? we should. What did the books of man. October1999 gave Solomon. By: Maria do Ceu Pinto. the Islamist states in Sudan and Iran.

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