Moderate Islam

Question

I am a Pakistani student currently perusing my Engineering in Italy. During the last decade out nation has been introduced to a new term "Moderate Islam". I want to know if as a Muslim, we are so confident about the brilliance and comprehensive nature of Islam as a religion, why do we have to look for such terms as "moderate" to save our face? Is it because the real "brilliant Islam" never existed in us and we have been following something else. And now that this "something else" is looking bad, we want to amend it thinking that we are amending Islam? If you agree with the idea that we have been following "something else", don't you think we are a nation as lost as other ummahs like Jews and christens. These ummahs got lost because they lost their books, we got lost because we lost the sense to comprehend our book even though the book is still the same. Please note that when I say "WE", I mean in both context the Muslims of INDO-PAK and Muslims in general.


Answer

Yes indeed your observation seems correct. We Muslims are like a nation who has lost its soul. Terms such a "moderate Islam" or "fundamental Islam" or "radical Islam" all seem to be misnomers and reflect how much such labels bring us far away from the Islam found in the original sources of Islam. We do not need such labels as long as we have the book of God and the sunnah of the prophet (sws) with us.

It is more a question of letting scholars contribute what they can to interpret Islam because this interpretation needs is a human endeavor and is as such prone to error.

Actually, the last few centuries bear witness to a sharp decline in the individual as well as the collective affairs of the Muslims. All over the globe, they 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.

One very significant reason for this sorry state of affairs is the intellectual stagnation which generally exists about religion. Two root causes of this intellectual decadence and backwardness are apparent to every keen eye:

1) The ailment of Taqlid (blind following), both at the level of the religious scholars as well as at that of the masses.

2) A complete disregard of the role of human intellect in matters of religion.

An elaboration of these two points, which are actually the two sides of the same coin, follows:

Our religious institutes all over the Ummah, which produce religious scholars, are actually the source of this Taqlid syndrome. Here, a student from the very first day is labeled as an orthodox follower of a particular sect. His destiny seems to be carved out beforehand as a devout denouncer of every other sect and an ardent acclaimer of his own. He is made to believe that only his brand of beliefs is in direct conformity with the Qur'ān and Sunnah. He is brainwashed with the notion that only his sect has been divinely blessed with the true version of Islam. An inference attributed to a highly revered scholar of his sect stands supreme until the Day of Judgment. That it can be challenged by explicit reasoning derived from the Qur'ān and Sunnah cannot be dared thought of. On the contrary, it becomes part of his faith that such a scholar cannot falter.

It is this superhuman veneration that has actually given rise to the menace of religious sectarianism. Differences in opinion have often developed into severe conflicts. An atmosphere charged with lightning and resounding with thunder prevails amongst the religious circles. Every now and then, a new episode of defamation erupts form our mosques, which are unfortunately being used for these malignant offensives. The intense disregard the various sects have for one another has led them to violate all norms of decency. Even unethical tactics are employed to safeguard their own views and interests. Like nations at war, they continue their crusades against each other -- while, very close to them, the forces of evil mock at them and continue to flourish.

With this concept of Taqlid prevailing among the religious scholars, the common man also has been led to associate himself with the scholars of a particular sect. Instead of weighing the opinions of various scholars and accepting the one which is the most convincing to their intellect they blindly follow an imam's directive however much they may be convinced against it. The greatest ill effect of this approach is that following religion becomes a mechanical process – it does not flow out from one's heart and does not bring about a change in one's character and behavior. Since using one's intellect in understanding religion has long been done away with, the Qur'ān is read but not understood. Its greatest utility was providing guidance to mankind; now it is mainly used for reciting for the dead.

If the above mentioned thesis is correct, then there is a need to bring about an intellectual awakening in the Muslims. The most effective way to do this perhaps is to produce highly competent scholars of Islam who are able to directly access and interpret the sources of Islam and thus are able to break the shackles of Taqlid. They should be groomed in a manner that they can face the challenge of the modern era.

Until and unless efforts are made to produce such scholars, there is a very little chance that the Ummah can come out of its current state of deterioration.

About the Author

Dr. Shehzad Saleem


Born in 1966 Shehzad Saleem has been under the tutelage of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi since 1988 and is currently a Research Fellow and one of the Vice Presidents of Al-Mawrid. He has a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from UET Lahore, Pakistan and holds a PhD in the History of the Qur’an from the University of Wales, UK.

Special Area of Interest
  He recently (2014) completed a fifteen year research work on the History of the Qur’an, a part of which constituted his doctoral thesis (the thesis portion is available at: http://www.al-mawrid.org/index.php/books/view/collection-of-the-quran-a-critical-and-historical-study-of-al-farahis-view).  The work addresses some nagging questions related to the revelation, collection and transmission of the Qur’an. These questions include narratives found in our legacy on the alleged incompleteness of the Qur’an, scribal errors found in it,  its variant readings, chronology of its compilation, order of the surahs, and manuscript studies.

Books Authored
  1. Common Misconceptions about Islam
  2. Playing God: Misreading a Divine Practice
  3. Islam and Women: Misconceptions and Misperceptions
  4. Essays on Character Building, Lessons on Character Building
  5. Qur’an Workshops on Character Building (including a separate Teacher’s Guide)
  6. Lessons on Character Building
  7. Selections from the Qur’an
  8. Selections from the Bible
  9. Selections from the Hadith

He has also compiled a modular textbook on Qur’anic Studies, which was taught by him to graduate students (1999-2001). The textbook is available in course format at
  www.studying-islam.org. It comprises course topics as: Revelation of the Qur’an, Theme of the Qur’an, History of the Qur’an, Arrangement of the Qur’an, Language of the Qur’an, Interpreting the Qur’an.

Translations
  He has translated some works of Amin Ahsan Islahi (d. 1997) and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi into English. These include:

1. Volumes 6, 7,  8 and 9 of Tadabbur Qur’an 
  2. Mizan (Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction)
  3. Al-Islam (Islam: A Concise Introduction)
  4. Selected Essays of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
  5. Volumes 1 and 5 of Al-Bayan 

QnAs
His answers to various questions received about Islam can also be accessed at the Renaissance website at: http://monthly-renaissance.com/issue/writers.aspx?option=queries&id=1

Websites
He is the Founding Editor of the monthly research journal, Renaissance which was initiated in 1991. In 1999, its website www.monthly-renaissance.com was launched.

He launched the Studying Islam www.studying-islam.org website in 2003, which offers online courses on Islam. Through technical help, he has developed an online software (Qur’an for All) at the Studying Islam website to teach the translation of the Qur’an to those who can read the Arabic text but cannot comprehend its meaning.

He also set up websites about the life and works of the Qur’anic scholars Hamid Uddin Farahi (www.hamid-uddin-farahi.org)  and Amin Ahsan Islahi (www.amin-ahsan-islahi.org)  in 2010 and 2013 respectively

He has also built a text based website on the exegesis Tadabbur i Qur’an (www.tadabbur-i-quran.org)  in 2013.

He also founded a website on the life and works of the biblical scholar Abdus Sattar Ghauri (www.abdus-sattar-ghauri.org)  in 2014

He uses his personal facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562019607)  to write on personality development issues.

Lectures
  He is a guest speaker at various public forums. Some of the topics he regularly speaks on include:

1. Misconceptions about Women in Islam
  2. Pardah and Gender Interaction
  3. Non-Muslims and the Qur’an
  4. Question on the Qur’an by Serious
  5. Misconceptions about Islam
  6. Muhammad (sws): The Misunderstood Prophet of Islam
  7. Marriage and Married Life
  8. Fast and Fasting
  9. Basic Morality
  10. Islam and Islamic Welfare State
  11. Misconceptions about Divorce in Islam
  12. Misconceptions regarding Jihad of the Companions of the Prophet (sws)
  13 Imbalanced Religious Attitudes

He conducts activity-based Qur’anic Workshops for adults and sessions on Character Building and Personality Development for teenagers. Topics include:

1. Spending in the Way of God 
  2. Pride and Arrogance
  3. Remembering God  
  4. Civic Sense
  5. Kindness to Parents
  6. Gratitude
  7. Forgiveness
  8. Moral Courage
  9. Truthfulness 
  10. Showing Off
  11. Humility
  12. Sympathy
  13. Sinful Speech 
  14. Honesty
  15. Justice

Some of his talks and lectures on or about Islam can be viewed at:
  www.youtube.com/shehzadsaleem         www.dailymotion.com/drshehzadsaleem
  www.youtube.com/shehzadsaleemurdu, www.dailymotion.com/drshehzadsaleemurdu

A facebook page, Dr Shehzad Saleem’s Video Talks (https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Shehzad-Saleems-Video-Talks-309627932402929/?ref=br_rs)  also displays his talks

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