The Correct Version of Islam
Question: How can I be certain that I am following the right version of Islam. There are so many sects and diverse views that one tends to get confused and afraid also. The reason is that one might end up with the wrong version of Islam. What should one do then?
Answer: In my humble opinion, one basic thing needs to be understood: Human intellect, you would agree, has its own limitations. It can falter and err and of course be different in different scholars. Hence the different interpretations of certain directives of Islam are but a natural outcome of this premise. In this regard, the real thing is the arguments which are presented in support of a viewpoint. A person is required to weigh these arguments in the scales of sense and reason and decide which one appeals to his intellect the most. He should adopt that particular viewpoint, since he would be held accountable according to his own understanding of religion.
Furthermore, no one is guided by divine revelation after the termination of the institution of Prophethood with the departure of Muhammad (sws) and it is his or her judgement which must be exercised. Therefore, no one can be certain whether he has attained the absolute truth or not. He must keep his eyes and ears open to criticism and cling to whatever he thinks to be the truth till he has reason to abandon it and accept a new premise as truth. Moreover, in adopting or forming an opinion in religious matters, the real thing is sincerity of judgement. As long as a person is sincere in exercising his judgement, it does not matter what conclusion is reached. As the Prophet of Allah has put it: a person who strives to form an opinion can reach the right conclusion and he can also reach the wrong one; if he reaches the right conclusion he will be rewarded twice in magnitude and if he is lead to the wrong conclusion he shall still be rewarded though of single magnitude. This shows that the real thing in this regard is the sincerity of effort put in.
The Mission of "Renaissance"
Question: The title of your journal suggests that you are working for a Muslim revival. However, I would like to know more about the type of work you are doing and the chances of success it has. I would hate to join people who have little chances of success.
Answer: Yes, the team of "Renaissance" is working for a Muslim revival. Our diagnosis is that this revival cannot be achieved unless the ailment of intellectual stagnation so rampant among Muslim scholars is done away with. By this stagnation we mean absence of research and original thinking on religious issues.
Today, unfortunately, the prohibition against directly deliberating and interpreting from the sources of Islam has become no less than the prohibition against liquor. We, however, think that unless competent Muslim scholars are produced who have the ability to break the shackles of this intellectual stagnation very little can be done for the revival of the Muslims. These scholars should be groomed in a manner that they can face the challenge of the modern era. It is because of a paucity of such scholars that in the last few centuries the Muslim world has undergone a sharp decline in its individual as well as its collective affairs. All over the globe, Muslims seem to have lost their identity. They appear to be dispossessed of the real spirit of Islam, and have been stripped of the position of supremacy they once held in the comity of nations. Though they have with them the last and final word of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, yet it no longer plays a vibrant role in their lives.
At "Renaissance", our basic objective is to promote and patronize the work of scholars who have taken up the daunting task of carrying out original research within the ambit of the Qur'ān and Sunnah. We consider our endeavour to be a humble service to cause of truth.
As to the last part of your question, I can only say that we consider ourselves victors even if vanquished -- for to us success lies not in achieving the goal but in sincerely striving to achieve it.