The Continuous Revisit of Islamic Thought is A Must

December 29, 2015

The Continuous Revisit of Islamic Thought is A Must

By Anas Alam Faizli

Anas Alam FaizliThirteen years ago, my brother, Dr Afif completed the monumental task of memorizing the Holy Quran within a short period of no more than 18 weeks. Instead of pursuing Form 4, he took a break after PMR and chose to become al-Hafiz.

Alhamdulillah, I was proud of my sibling’s genius! Ideas gushed to my mind as to ways to expand his potential. Imagine the lethal combination of excelling both in the knowledge of the revelation and science. I recall having shared such suggestions with him when asked what he should pursue for his upper secondary.

I then had this notion considering his ability to memorize the Holy Book, he should pursue the Science Stream and continue with Medicine. After all, my maternal grandfather had always wanted a grandchild to be a medical doctor.

I thought by doing so he would be more respected than your ordinary Ustaz. Looking back, what caused my perception? Perhaps, back then the idea of an Ustaz not mastering Science was seen by me as less credible. Many years after that I thought maybe I should have suggested him to pursue Hadeeth as we are severely lacking in Hadeeth experts.

Muhammad Iqbal

Muhammad Iqbal

Allama Iqbal (1877-1938) in his Lectures compiled as “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” addressed such pertinent questions. Is science compatible with religion? The renaissance man of Islam has been trying to separate faith from science and history.  To him, secularism is progress. For Iqbal, ultimately there can only be one truth. The truth that faith discovers cannot be different from the truth discovered by science or history.

In the same compilation, he argued that, “To have a succession of identical thoughts and feelings is to have no thoughts and feelings at all. Such is the lot of most Muslim countries today. They are mechanically repeating old values…”

The frustration that was felt by Iqbal is not new. Some might argue that he went too far in his ideas. Others were inspired like the modernist reformer Tariq Ramadan. Iqbal’s frustrations reappears from time to time from the birth of Islam until today. An example is of Ibn al-Qayyim, one of Ibn Taymiyya’s most “passionate advocate” who had repeatedly sought new methods to deal with the problems of the 13th century.

a-l Qayyim gave more weight to “formulated evidential theories” more than oral testimony. He sought scientific method on how to prove a child and its alleged father by using experts to identify facial similarities. He also opined that a judge can obtain a sample of a husband’s ejaculate for lab tests to measure his impotence when woman sought divorce using that ground.

Today, these examples sounds backward but back in the 13th century that was progress–a marriage of science and faith. At that time, the Imams of the day kept to the old ways of their ancestors when the problems that was facing and plaguing the Ummah has changed tremendously in all fields, be it science, economics, medicine and every other aspects of human and societal life.

Iqbal, Qayyim and Tariq obviously have disagreements with each other, as an example onTariq Ramadan innovation (bid’a) but essentially we can agree that we need constant revisit to changing circumstances.

The revisiting and reconstruction of Islamic position is a continuous process that can change over time according to circumstances. Perhaps we need to be reminded that Imam As-Shafie himself had changed his opinion in a certain matter in a short span of time.

The followers of Imam Abu Hanifah have also had different opinions with his earlier followers and remarked that if Abu Hanifah was still alive he might have adopted their new position due to the changes that have taken place. Abu Hanifah himself had made seven different opinions with regards to an issue which had change due to changing circumstances.

Such is the fact that there is room for continuous change in opinion in Islam. Whilst many areas of Islam is straightforward and there’s no room for change; mostly in the realm of creed (aqidah), there are other areas where pressing change is required. There are areas where evolution of thoughts are necessary. Continuous reconstruction of religious thought must be allowed.

We have to say no to dogmatism and stop refusing to see things any other way, and be open to the possibility that we might be wrong. We need solutions for new problems that come with changing times or in different geographical locations, or due to different racial or religious composition of a country. Some has become dogmatic that they have forgotten the basic foundation of legal theory (Usul al-Fiqh) that everything is permissible until proven wrong and not the other way around.

Islam is a religion that inculcates rational thinking and discourse. If we encourage thinking, and if we allow continuous discussions and debates, we will nurture intellectualism and promote progress. We need to question first, in order to understand the purpose of certain jurisdictions, rulings or systems. On the surface, this may seem like encouragement to partake in unnecessary rebellious activities questioning or threatening the religion. But it should not be the case.

Throughout history we have seen how new ideas are often rejected without proper deliberation. We have seen how the ideas of democracy was initially out rightly rejected as haram and must be fought against. We have seen how the idea of woman being allowed to vote was rejected as haram. As we have allowed a revisit, we find today that democracy is although not perfect but is consistent with the spirit of Islam and we have now supported woman leaders among many other issues.

I have no authority to speak in this subject matter but I fear of what is currently happening. I fear of the ongoing ruckus and the continuous blackening of Islam’s name when most of the time we are partly to be blamed. I fear how people are shying away from Islam in crafting solutions to problems that is plaguing the Ummah. Problems ranging from policy making, health, environment, economy, security, national harmony and many others.

If the intellectuals do not continuously revisit to changing circumstances and their best to provide answers and solution to the people, the concept that Islam is Syumul (complete) and covers every aspect of life will not be felt by ordinary Muslims. They will not feel it as they see that Islam cannot provide a comprehensive answer for their life’s or societal problems.

If the intellectuals fail to deliberate and adapt to changing circumstances, the people will shy away from following the guidance of the religion and the concept that Islam is Syumul will not weigh any bearing. The concept that Islam is Rahmatan Lil Alamin (blessing to all universe) will not be felt by mankind.

Islam is a religion of love, compassion, forgiveness and peace. A religion that inculcates and nurtures mental spiritual strength in its followers. Islam is not a religion that punishes and instils fear.I quote Ahmed Deedat, “Imagine Islam as a perfect Car and the Muslims are the Driver, blame the Driver not the Car.”

There is no escape from continuous learning, unlearning and then relearning.In that we remain relevant and can move forward in the journey of personal enlightenment.

17 thoughts on “The Continuous Revisit of Islamic Thought is A Must

  1. “I have no authority to speak in this subject matter but I fear of what is currently happening.”

    Who says you have no authority and who gave them such authority ?

    “Islam is a religion that inculcates rational thinking and discourse”

    I see no evidence of this and it would seem neither do you.

  2. What many Islamic scholars never address is the dichotomy in Islamic thought: ISLAM according to the Quran and Islam according to the Hadiths.

    It is not good enough to keep saying Islam is a religion of peace and compassion, love etc when what is happening caused by muslims in the name of Islam or with Islam as context, generates an unfortunate perception of Islam as a religion that either condones violence and murder or encurages so.

    Much of the negative attributes of Islam come from the hadiths.

    So memorising the Quran or pontificating on the beauty of Islam by Quran fails to address the negative imfluence on muslims of Islam according to the hadiths.

    It is like asking the Jews whether Judaism should be practised according to the Torah or acording to the Talmud.

    Islamic scholars worth their salt avoid addressing this dichotomy in Islam. When they do, the Islamic fundamentalists who hold office as religious leaders go after them, demonise them, intimidate them, and even call fatwa against them. ( read the harrassment of Kassim Ahmad case Malaysia).

    ISLAM does not the critical mass of muslim to rail against Islam according to the hadith.

    Personally, the comtinued parroting about Islam as religion of peace and love once too often by Islamic scholars has become nauseating,( just ask many non muskims in the West) when they don’t confront up front and condemn the Hadiths for the destruction of all that is good in Islam as per the Quran. WHERE DOES ISIS GET ITS INSPIRATION FROM FOR THEIR MURDEROUS ADVENTURES AND KILLINGS OF INNOCENT… IS IT FROM THE QURAN OR FROM THE HADITH ?

    Anas Alam Faizli,and his sibling would do well tackling this problem instead of telling the worlld how smart he is in memorising the Quran in Arabic( is it his mother tongue?) or writing a thousand words about Islam as a “religion of peace, love and what-not.”

    Islam has a perception problem and only Muslims can solve Islam’s problem. Asking NON muslim to believe Islam is a religion is NOT addressing Islam’s fundamental problem it has with the Hadiths, the main source of inspiration of murderers in ISIS, muslim terrorists and the Taliban.

  3. Correction…

    Asking NON muslim to believe Islam is a religion OF PEACE AND LOVE is NOT addressing Islam’s fundamental problem it has with the Hadiths, the main source of inspiration of murderers in ISIS, muslim terrorists and the Taliban and nitwits in JAKIM.

  4. There is this idea especially of Islamist reformist within that the best and even only viable path of reform for Islam is for them to change it through their internal process, to look within Islam rather than without..On the other hand Western critics (and liberal Muslims), going by their own experience and common intellectual practice, believe that there should not be any boundary – that the only boundary is reason. logic and facts. This big difference, and its big given there are a few times more non-Muslim than there are Muslim and most and best developed intellectual and scientific institutions are non-Muslim, is based on a fact – a key tenet at least a pillar of believe in Islam is that its “a/the perfect religion” and adjunct to it, “its a way of life” – the answers to everything can be found, nothing cannot be explained or be dealt with – the very foundation of the fervent believers of Islamic statism.

    If you go by history, even the most successful, great change and the greatest progress cannot be achieved just within. It must be also without. The struggle to make the compromise or bridge the difference, is always difficult but its clear cannot be without. Like it or not, internal continous revisit from just within is not enough, in fact will not go fast enough and more than likely not far enough.. And there goes the problem – Islam do not play well with others – it is structured to leans to expand and hegemonize – not unusual for any religion. Push comes to shove, Islam, like all religion, says it is right and you are wrong, no ifs and buts, it never admits it does not know, it never admit it does not have the answer, it is not made up for change.

    Less radical Islam reformist have argued that telling 1.5billion Muslims that what they believe in has bad ideas, some say “motherlode of bad ideas” is itself a bad idea. The problem is that Western tradition and progress for the last few centuries has shown it is a good idea, even a necessary idea.

  5. I would say we already have a huge number of ‘intelligent and moderate’ Muslims who air their thoughts eloquently on faith and science.
    All these will fall on deaf ears if the government chooses to use race and religion to cling on to power. It will pander to those who prefer ..“To have a succession of identical thoughts and feelings….”.
    They will continue to protest against crosses, snatch of dead bodies, seize Bibles, ban the use of the term Allah, criticise girls who dress ‘improperly’, condemn those who hug pop star and dogs. This will be the demands of their shallow faith. Their faith will be expressed through hate. This country is damned!!

  6. All ideologies wether political or theological fail because most leaders in both of them tend to be sociopaths/psychopaths.In pursuit of power people with this type of personality are more likely to succeed.Hence we find alot of political leaders and religous leaders lack conscience and empathy resulting sooner or later to tyrannical rule ,corruption and wars.Seldom we see that enlightening religions or polical ideologies imbued with justice and rightiousness survived for prolonged period.Sooner than later the leadership of both systems fell and replaced the rule of darkness where corruption,injustice and wars prevailed when the power fell on the palms of those with this type of personality.

  7. 1. This article fails to distinguish between principles and methodologies. Principles do not change; methodologies do.
    2. I have addressed the questions of Hadiths in my book “Hadis — Satu Penilaian Semula” published in 1986 and translated into Arabic and English. The effects of this book can be seen in the present Turkish Government’s re-evaluating the Hadiths in an Arab scholar’s (Sheikh Hasan Farhan Al-Maliki’s) recent statement denouncing the culture of false Hadiths corrupting the name of Islam, and in an UIA pfofessor’s recent statement to the same effect.
    3. I have also written a long commentary on the Medina Charter promulgated by Prophet Muhammad himself. In this commentary, I reproduced the Medina Charter in whole. I called upon our jurists to study this great historical document.
    4. I have also called upon progressive Muslim scholars to critisize Imam Shafie who first introduced the false doctrine of TWO PRINCIPAL SOURCES in his book “Al-Risalah”
    5. We cannot expect “Islamic” officialdom, the likes of state mufties and Jawi/Jakim to undertake this criticism, since it is their bread and butter!
    — Kassim Ahmad

  8. ! would add further that withing us two forces of rejuvenation and deterioration are working simultaneously. In this sense, the fight for rejuvenation is ongoing. There is no holiday in life. You either fight for rejuvenation and live, or your deteriorate and die! — Kassim Ahmad

    I am still reading the book. Would encourage more to read it, esp since Malaysia is the core of Islamic finance. To undetstand 1MDB, to understand Razak Exchange, we do need to understand high street finance.

    Will try to blog about it after reading. I am optimistic about the youth and energy within Islamic financing, even it has failed miserably in recent attempt. Would appreciate thoughts from Muslims to examine the fascination of building tall buildings, to be financed by sukuk bonds.

    I have written my blog after reading Fawcett’s Liberalism: Life of an idea, which essentially attempts to summarized entire western thoughts and civilization.

  10. Many of us non-Muslims in Malaysia have never read/heard Prophet’s Last Sermon. Maka Kami need to know this. Both BN and Harapan trust in this in economics policy with our Islamic Finance. Our Prophet gave us an exhortation but not the know how. That gave us a lot of re-reading what it meant to function in a world without interests (riba). It is progressive.
    It is not new. Torah has it. Jesus has a little vision of it, though it could be overwritten with some of other sayings. Prophet’s Farewell Sermon …

  11. This is a new year, but let me say this again – the world would be a better place if there are no organized religions, especially the Abrahamiac religions which demands exclusivity. Religion and politics are the cause of so much of the world’s woes.
    No problem if religion is read as philosophy. Dogma is dangerous. –Din Merican

  12. In the PERENNIAL BOOKS series ( Studies in Comparative Religion ) the Group that undertakes to study Sufism is large. Included are some great philosophers, lead by Martin Lings, a few others like German philosopher Frithjof Schuon , Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Henry Corbin , Alfred Graham , Thomas Merton, Lord Northbourne, Lama Chogyam Trungpa , and the list goes on….
    In the Muslim world, the Syariah dominated people suppress & even oppress , those indulging in Sufism . Not truly understanding Sufi doctrines, here in our Country , the Syariah immediately brand Sufism as a deviant study, by calling the Syi’ah doctrine , as against the tenets of Islam….

    Martin Lings writes : ‘ …..The soul is an immense thing ; it is the whole cosmos , since it is the copy of it . Everything which is in the cosmos is to be found in the soul ; equally everything in the soul is in the cosmos ….’

    ‘ …..We see besides that the spiritual aim is reached neither by many works , nor by few. but by Grace alone. If you were destined to reach Him only after the destruction of your faults and the abandonment of all your claims , you would never reach Him. But when He wishes to bring you back towards Him, He absorbs your quality into His ….and thus brings you back by means of what comes to you from Him, not by means of what comes to Him from you….’
    (Martin Lings traveled widely to come into contact the Sufi Masters in the Middle East ) –

    No one, not anybody , neither the greatest Scientists, nor the Religionists-spiritualist know what REALLY the soul is.. No one can prove nor disprove the existence or non-existence of the human soul.
    The Qura’n has some beautiful exegets concerning the soul, but chiefly , the Lord says : IF ANYONE ASK THEE CONCERNING THE SOUL, TELL THEM THAT IT IS THE COMMAND FROM THE LORD….

    In the Wisdom of Muhammad series by Sir Allama Abdullah al’ Suhrawardy # page 69 :

    ” God saith : ” I was a hidden treasure, I would fain be known. So created Man ” –

    Why suppress Knowledge, true knowledge ….? ( Haqiqat Ilmu ‘ )

  13. Dato’ Din, Lest what I’ve stated herein, and the thread about Seperating Violent and Peaceful Islam dated 12 Dec 2015 ( re Prof Clive Kessler ) , are misconstrued or misunderstood , allow me to make a Qualification in Bahasa Malaysia as follows :



    Lebih penting kepada mereka, ada lah perkara2 yang Tersirat…..

    Harap ma’af …..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s