The­ory of Is­lamic Phi­los­o­phy

Southasia - - Book Review - Dr. Omar Fa­rooq Khan is a free­lance writer with spe­cial in­ter­est in so­cial is­sues, na­tional her­itage and sports.

Crit­i­cal Mus­lim – Vol­ume 4 is an amal­gam of ar­ti­cles and features pro­vid­ing the reader with a va­ri­ety of styles and opin­ions on an im­por­tant is­sue. It is an achieve­ment on be­half of the edi­tors Zi­aud­din Sar­dar and Robin Yassin-Kassab to com­pile and present a com­pre­hen­sive book that makes for in­ter­est­ing read­ing.

The vol­ume ex­am­ines Mus­lim per­spec­tives on many great de­bates of our times and ac­cen­tu­ates “the plu­ral­ity and di­ver­sity of Is­lam and Mus­lims” in gen­eral. The book “crit­i­cally ex­am­ines es­tab­lished con­ven­tions” and its au­thors seek new read­ings of re­li­gion, cul­ture and pol­i­tics. The pur­pose of this ex­er­cise is stated as the “po­ten­tial to trans­form the Mus­lim world and be­yond” and pro­mote di­a­logue, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the Mus­lim world and West­ern cul­tures.

The ma­jor­ity of the ar­ti­cles con­cen­trate on the ori­gins and rea­sons for the re­cent Arab Re­volt termed as the ‘Arab Spring.’ The au­thors high- light how a sim­ple yet star­tling act of im­mo­la­tion by a Tu­nisian cit­i­zen sparked into a for­est fire of protest, spread­ing wildly through the Mid­dle East.

Some of the no­table features in this vol­ume in­clude ‘Tahrir Square’, ‘Gaddafi and Me’, ‘A Trans-Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion’ and ‘Fe­male and Fight­ing’ which trace the root causes of dis­sention in the Mus­lim world and ex­am­ine how it has com­pelled the peo­ple to de­mand accountability from the despotic rulers. Equally in­ter­est­ing is the ‘Arts and Let­ters’ sec­tion of the vol­ume; a col­lec­tion of beau­ti­ful po­ems along with a fea­ture on Na­jaf, the cul­tural cap­i­tal of the Is­lamic World. An­other in­ter­est­ing piece is the fea­ture on the Turk­ish model that dis­cusses how sec­u­lar­ism re­shaped Turkey’s role in the world. How­ever, the ic­ing on the cake comes at the con­clu­sion of the book in the fea­ture ‘Ten Tow­er­ing Fat­was’.

This shares a list on how the sup­posed wise and all know­ing ‘cler­ics/ bearded bri­gade’ are is­su­ing fat­was and di­rect­ing the Ummah (Mus­lim na­tions) on how to con­duct their lives.

Var­i­ous fat­was dis­cussed in­clude is­sues such as al­low­ing peo­ple to di­vorce via SMS (writ­ing di­vorce three times and send­ing it); the Earth be­ing flat and the sun ro­tat­ing around it; why women shouldn’t wear jeans, and a Coun­cil of Schol­ars work­ing on the con­cept of a ‘Ha­lal Yoga.’

The vol­ume ti­tled ‘The Idea of Is­lam’ con­cen­trates on the ju­ris­tic in­ter­pre­ta­tions (House of Is­lam) of the re­li­gion. The au­thors ar­gue that the bulk of clas­si­cal Is­lamic ju­rispru­dence aided Mus­lim rulers in de­vel­op­ing ef­fec­tive for­eign poli­cies in an age of popes and cru­sades.

The Idea of Is­lam high­lights that the “House of Is­lam” has numer­ous di­vi­sions. In fact, the con­trib­u­tors are per­sis­tent that clear ide­o­log­i­cal bi­ases ex­ist and, un­for­tu­nately, re­li­gious in­ter­pre­ta­tions are dated. Zi­aud­din Sar­dar fur­ther ce­ments the state­ment by stat­ing that the schol­ars have dis­cour­aged the no­tion to

think and for­mu­late opin­ions. Sar­dar refers to this group as “thieves of free will.” He fur­ther at­tacks the tra­di­tion­ally ap­pointed re­li­gious schol­ars and refers to them as “an­other prison” that re­strains the abil­ity to think and even to imag­ine re­li­gious is­sues with clar­ity. An­other con­trib­u­tor, Parvez Man­zoor, also chal­lenges the tra­di­tion of Is­lamic ju­rispru­dence, stat­ing that it is “de­vour­ing moral­ity and ethics and sti­fling spir­i­tu­al­ity.” In­ter­est­ingly, Su­fism (prob­a­bly due to its more tol­er­ant ap­proach) is hailed as the sav­ior of Is­lamic tra­di­tions. Man­zoor cites it as a voice of rea­son and tol­er­ance for Is­lam against the ju­rists.

The ma­jor­ity of features in this book high­light those who are dis­il­lu­sioned with the orthodoxy and dogma in the main­stream cur­rents of the Mus­lim world and are seek­ing alternative av­enues of re­li­gios­ity. The book is a must-read for its power of per­sonal re­flec­tion. More­over, it stresses upon the ‘need’ to hold a de­bate re­gard­ing Is­lamic le­gal tra­di­tion and the spir­i­tual cri­sis that cur­rently af­flicts the Mus­lim World. Is­lamic dis­course ob­sessed with power and emo­tion, gen­der in­equal­i­ties, in­tol­er­ance, and gen­eral in­tel­lec­tual im­ma­tu­rity needs to be re­solved, bring­ing prac­ti­cal and ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions to crip­pling is­sues fac­ing Mus­lims around the world.

De­spite a strong writ­ing style and ef­fec­tive frame of ref­er­ences, the book lacks in its abil­ity to in­tro­duce var­ied per­spec­tives. Per­haps in­clud­ing in­tel­li­gent voices amongst the class of ju­rists and for- mal schol­ars would have suc­cess­fully added to the book’s cred­i­bil­ity. It is true that the House of Is­lam re­mains di­vided along ide­o­log­i­cal lines, which is why the edi­tors in­cluded es­says from dif­fer­ent con­trib­u­tors (in­clud­ing more tra­di­tion­ally in­clined schol­ars) to the book’s con­tent.

Mus­lim in­tel­lec­tu­als need to en­gage with com­mu­ni­ties and it might be worth­while to en­ter into pro­duc­tive con­ver­sa­tions with Is­lamic schol­ars and tra­di­tion, since peo­ple are fol­low­ing tra­di­tions for cen­turies. To negate them en­tirely would re­sult in ex­clu­sion of one’s self from the de­bate.

Re­viewed By: Dr. Omar Fa­rooq Khan



Pub­lisher: Pages: ISBN: Price: Zi­aud­din Sar­dar and Robin Yassin-Kassab Crit­i­cal Mus­lim - Vol­ume 4 Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, 2013 274, Pa­per­back 9780199068500 PKR 595

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