Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The mirror to the soul

Religion, that is. That's why Desmond Tutu and Ian Paisley both think of themselves as Christians. Politics can be pragmatic; we can reach conclusions we dislike, based on evidence (though that's rare). It's not really a noticeable phenomenon in religion at all. People find the version they like of the religion they were born into, or convert to a version of another religion they like even more. It's their inclinations that drive them, not the religion.

For an explanation of how true this is of Islam, see this post. Muslims can find any justification for any way of thinking in the traditions of greater Islam. That's why they as individuals, and they alone, are responsible for their views. It's why people who support, say, the execution of apostates are disgusting. And it's why there's no refuge in their belief system from this verdict.

UPDATE: Ismaeel offers an alternative view in the comments.


Ismaeel said...

Ramadhan Mubarak Peter,

sadly the article just rehashed alot of orientalist rubbish about the origins, methodology and conclusions of the 4 Sunni schools which has been repackaged and redistributed first by Salafys and Wahabbis and now by the neo-con/Israeli/Christian Fundamentalist unholy trinity in their attacks on Islam and might i mention have been thoroughly trashed and refuted by numerous scholars most notably M.M. Azami in his various works.

All 4 Schools agree on about 70% of the rulings in Islam and differ in the other 30% based on extremely exacting methodologies of which there is no parallel in western legal systems. These were not based on merely ideas like Imam Abu Hanifah just employing analogical reasoning and Imam Malik using the practice of the people of Madinah and Imam Shafi using Hadith.

All the 4 Imams used the Qur'an, the Hadith, Analogical reasoning, the consensus of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH) and the fatawa of individual companions and their students. The differences were in the priority they gave to each source and that priority was based on the sources themselves.

For the majority of Islamic history the vast majority of Sunni Muslims have submitted themselves to the conclusions of these four schools which have been reviewed and updated where necessary by the relevant legal experts.

The Salafys/Wahabis are an independent sect and represent a minority just as Shi'ism does.

The vast majority of Sunni Muslims however hold fast to the four schools usually following the school they were born into or whose followers make up a majority in the country in which they convert. It is not to do with inclination- but submission to Allah(SWT) by following his Prophet (SAAWS)through the legal expertise of the schools.

I know you are an atheist and a humanist but please avoid using arguments that are of little substance.

Peter Risdon said...

Ramadhan Mubarak Ismaeel,

I've asked Ali Eteraz if he'd care to respond. I know more about Islam now than I set out to, but am in no position to argue this with you in such detail. The fact that other Muslims hold contrary views to you might be sufficient to make my point, however.

I am similarly ill-equipped to argue Christian theology in equal detail. The point is, I think, that people do find their own expression of any given religion. So I am judging from the results rather than the details of their internal debates.

Ismaeel said...

The point you do make and i agree with you is that many Muslims (and people of other faiths i'm sure) prefer to follow their own egos and desires and pick and choose from the religion.

However Islam teaches peace through submission to Allah (SWT)'s will and therefore it is the aim of every true believer to struggle (jihad-e-akbar) with his ego to bring it into line with Allah (SWT)'s will, this is especially true of those following Sufi spiritual paths.

In other words true Islam is about fighting against your inclinations so that your head is no longer filled with the chattering of your desires but is open to truly hear and accept the word of Allah (SWT).

In summary i agree with you partially- but the original article you quoted is still nonsense.

Peter Risdon said...

Eteraz responded:

I'm just going to say what I've got on one go as I can't be affording to get into these debates right now.

First of all, it says in my article that the discussion is about what is normative based on power, not based on merely being the most popular (the two are not one and the same). Anyone who denies that Wahhabis and Salafis have a lot of power today really is pulling wool over his own eyes. Incidentally, I, like many madhab-traditionalists like this individual, dislike the Wahhabi umbrella equally. But I try to operate in the realm of realism.

Second, I have read his reference -- to MM Azami -- and I wonder whether his real issue is with my critical approach to the hadith. While I have no problem with relying on Azami to define what a hadith is, there is no reason to accept that the hadith constitute the entirety of the Sunnah. On the authority of the Quran, I accept the Sunnah, but not the usuli's definition that Sunnah comes to us from the hadith. I opt for the view of Imam Malik (and not that of his later followers) and Ibn Rushd vis a vis the hadith. As such, I am not in agreement with the views of the four schools of law. The usual rejoinder that is given to us is that with this view I am defying the consensus of the schools. It is true, I am. However, defying the consensus of the four schools has been going on for a long time. Here are some notable personalities who did it: Ibn Taymiya (a Hanbalite), Ibn Qayim (same), Shah Waliullah (Hanafi), Rashid Rida (Shafi')and Muhammad Iqbal (Hanafi). In other words, one can give some deference to the four schools while having different views from them. That is what make Islamic Law so unique.

Ismaeel said...

I'm not sure what Ali means by following Imam Malik's understanding of sunnah, because Imam Malik took from both the Sunnah and the way of the people of Madinah- i.e. the people who had lived with the Prophet (PBUH) their children and students. This was appropriate at his time because of his closeness of time and locality to these people.

To follow the unwritten sunnah- i.e. not the written hadith but the practice of the Prophet (PBUH) as embodied by the community you would have to be following one of the four schools as they are the overwhelming majority.

To defy the ijma has always subjected the defiers to censure as Ibn Taymiiay and Rashid Rida, Shah Waliullah didn't defy ijma whatever certain people have written about him and Muhammad Iqbal was not an alim, he was a layman, a brilliant one nonetheless.

The problem Ali faces is that if he is not following the hadith (the written sunnah) then he must follow the ijma- the consensus of the community because this embodies the unwitten sunnah.

As i said before Islam is about submitting oneself to Allah (SWT) not submitting the means to him (the religion of Islam) to your desires.

Ismaeel said...

Just reread Ali's article, he also seems to have a real misunderstanding of the nature of hadith in the use of the four madhabbs. Both Imam Abu Hanfiah and Imam Malik used the vast corpus of hadith that Imam Shafi later emphasised upon.

As i said in my original post each Imam had a different emphasis, so although Imam Malik did indeed prefer the way of the people of Madinah he was fully aware of the vast corpus of hadith and he judged them in light of the Madinan way not in ignorance of them.

Similarly Imam Abu Hanifah knew the vast corpus of hadith but judged them in light of the Fatawa of certain of the Sahaba (RAA): Hadrat Umar (RAA), Hadrat Ali (RAA) and Hadrat Abdullah bin Masood (RAA)

Imam Shafi had a different emphasis in that he felt the hadith were superior to these two other sources and judged them in the light of the hadith rather than vice-versa.

It should be remembered that Imam Malik and Imam Abu Hanifah met and debated often while the latter was in Madinah, that Imam Muhammad as-Shaybani was student to both of them and was the teacher of Imam Sha'fi. Imam Abu Hanifah's other star pupil Qadi Abu Yusuf was also Imam Ahmed bin Hambal's first teacher in hadith.

These bare facts alone are enough to refute a very dangerous path brother Ali has taken.

Anonymous said...

A few points:

Regardless of your atheism, you come from a Christian culture that has experienced numerous religious schisms over the millenium; notably east vs west, protestant vs catholic, conformist vs. non-conformist etc. That you can propose religion as a personal choice must surely be connected with the development of Christianity towards such an individualist interpretation. I think you (along with Ali Eteraz) are displaying wishful thinking if you imagine that the Middle East is anyway near that approach.

I think the tenure and content of your critic Ismaeel's comments rather unline my point.

Incidentally you might note that Ismaeel is connected to the extremist MAC. For a taste of his views go here. The MAC was set up in response to the Danish cartoons. I think therefore you are free to judge how much he believes in the testing of ideas. David T gives a good opinion at Harry's Place

Ismaeel said...

"the extremist MAC" LOL and the post you chose to demonstrate our "extremism".
According to you extremism = people exercising their right to issue a response to a publicised event.

Peter Risdon said...

Perhaps the extremism lay in the nature of the response, rather than the fact of the response, Ismaeel. But I would not personally have used that word about your organisation's response to the Pope's speech, although I do think your organisation is extremist, for reasons I'd be happy to explain.

In fact, in his quoted remarks, Faiz Siddiqi was disingenuous and misleading. Criticising the Pope for remarks he quoted, as though he made them himself, is misleading. Speaking of Jihad as peaceful in this context, when the rather tetchy comments in question were made by a man actually beseiged at the very moment of his speech by a Muslim army was disingenuous.

As you know, some years later Byzantium was successfully conquered by a Muslim army who were not at that time engaged in peaceful internal dialogue. A four day orgy of sodomy, beheading and looting followed. Then the Christian Churches were turned into Mosques.

Even Mecca was converted to Islam by the sword, even Saudi Arabia, even the land crusaders later tried to win back for Christianity. Muslim armies first crossed into Europe in the early eighth century; eight hundred years later they were beseiging Vienna. In the centuries between those dates, they continually attacked Europe, just as Jihadists are attacking Europe today.

We have had a couple of centuries free from attack by Muslims, that's all. It was won by the scientific progress we were able to make as we pursued genuine knwledge after the Reformation and the Enlightenment pushed back religion. Apart from that, it has been nearly one and a half millennia of violence, conquest, aggression, slavery and supremacism - NOT peaceful meditiation - from Muslims.

In this context it is not Ali who is expounding a dangerous philosophy; it is you. Islamic tradition, as opposed to the Koran (with which there is also considerable fault), is what has given the Islamic world five centuries of underachievement and brutality. It is something to be contextualised and reformed, not perpetuated with absolutist and fundamentalist fervour.

Anonymous said...

When I wrote my original comment, I was unaware of two things: Peter Risdon's connection with MFFE and the history of dialogue between Peter and the MAC.


I do think the MAC is extremist. Ismaeel assumes that I wish to deny him a right to reply to the Pope. This from an organisation that does seek censorship - a better example of projection I doubt you will find.

My extremist accusation was general, rather than related to the specific article and Peter, your response covers most of the ground that I would of done. Let me add one point.

Both Christianity and Islam, despite claims to contrary, have a history of violence. It is perfectly legitimate to discuss that issue and to quote from the past. The Pope is entitled to discuss the violence of Islam. Ismaeel is perfectly entitled to respond, but I note that his response is short on facts and long on ad-hominem. For example Shaykh Faiz Siddiqi claims the pope was being racist. Apparently he cannot distinguish between an ideology (or belief system) and a racial group. Progress in civility will not be helped by such an egregious category error designed to misinform readers.

But I don't want to focus on that article. Ismaeel rejects Ali Eteraz. Let me comment on that rejection.

It is not uncommon to to see such a response to internal criticism. As in this case the remarks are dismissed as being the result of ignorance. It's patently obvious that the amount of "ignorance" is directly correlated to the amount of disagreement with the person making the claim. In other words Ismaeel is qualified to critique Islam because he agrees with the fundamentalists, Ali is unqualified because he challenges them. This "arguing from authority" must be broken if Islam is ever to reform.

Jeff at Protein Wisdom made an appropriate comment:

Make you a deal, though: the minute an Islamic fundamentalist criticizes his Islamic fundamentalism, we will construe that as a valid criticism. Before we dismiss it as the criticism of one who, by virtue of that criticism, is no longer an authentic Islamic fundamentalist, and so is no longer granted the kind of authenticity necessary to level a legitimate critique of Islamic fundamentalism.