PAKISTAN & THE CASE OF MODERATE ISLAM
The brutal assassination of 146 children in Peshawar on 16th December 2014, the attacks on the French newspaper on 7th January killing 11 people and injuring 10 and the flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has again generated a hard debate about moderate Islam and Islamic militancy.
The opinions vary widely among those who believe the issue is of the interpretation of Quranic verses and those who believe the divine source itself contains texts openly inviting Muslims to kill the apostates.
Soon after the Paris attack, the British evangelist Anjum Chaudhry was quoted by The Independent saying that ' Muslims don't believe in freedom of expression'. Similarly, after the attack on Army Public School-Peshawar, the Lal Masjid cleric openly refused to condemn the Taliban who claimed the responsibility of killing 146 children.
This is the lethal interpretation and mind set of Muslim clergies. Having numerical strength in almost 50 countries, Islam today is the second largest religion. Its growth is multiplying fast in Europe. How to understand it all? Rationalism defeated: The earliest Islamic tradition was based on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. It was a time when religion and government was under the command of the Prophet in a very traditional setting suited to the Arab world primarily based on Oral Culture that had still to witness the reading and writing system, according to Walter J. Ong. Ong has written in detail about aspects of oral cultures in his famous book Orality And Literacy.
The religious decrees were conceptualized and implemented by the Prophet. Richard Osborne notes that such teachings were not philosophical but 'a simple monotheism full of the chivalrous Bedouin sentiments of the desert - kindliness, generosity and brotherhood.'
After the demise of Prophet, the internal clashing among Muslims caused a heterogeneous Islamic society deriving its impulse from multiple interpretations of the holy text. Verses from Quran were interpreted on sectarian footings. Large Hadith corpuses were developed under various Islamic dynasties for their own political motives. Dr. Ghulam Jilani Barq has shown in a very detailed way the politics behind Hadith literature in his works.
Exposing prophetic orders and the Quranic text to multiple interpretations caused a huge fragmentation among Muslims. The emergence of Islamic orthodoxy: the Asharriats, and Islamic reformists: the Mu'tazilites, shaped the Muslim society's intellectual and traditional narratives both of which are equally appealing to the Islamic societies currently.
Both the Orthodox and Rationalist moment competed for survival. However, for a number of reasons, the rationalist movement that started with Kundi in 830 ended soon in 1100 with Averroes (Ibn-e-Rushd).
The philosophical world that emerged in Arab lands ended in Arab world. Unfortunately, the deep philosophical ideas emerging from Arab world could not get the attention they deserved in other Islamic countries.
On the other hand, the Orthodox interpretations also emerging from the Arab lands were accepted much rapidly by other Islamic countries. The most notable among were the ideas of Muhammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahab and Hassan-al-Banna. Both these thoughts - deeply orthodox in their manifestation -- deeply affected the social, religious and economic rubrics of the Islamic world. Moderate Islam was replaced by orthodox Islam, which further played a significant role in creating all the Islamic fundamentalist groups in Muslim countries like TTP, AlQaida, ISIS, Boko-Haram. They all have a global agenda of the Islamic Sharia system. There are also local militant outfits that have local agendas of uprooting Islamic minorities.
While the rationalist Muslim thoughts in the Islamic world survived for a very brief time period, the orthodox thoughts were successfully exported/imported among the Islamic countries enthusiastically for a greater time period.
Whereas the Greeks were formulating ways for a sustained democracy in the 6th century BC, the majority of Muslim societies are still governed through monarchic rule and limited democracies. Thus dealing with a wider society that lives in the 21st century but lacks the refine ideas of governance and democracy of the 6th century BC, needs a different approach towards reconciliation and accommodation.
Today, Muslim orthodox scholars are trying to control women. This could be witnessed in the case of Boko-Haram's kidnapping schoolgoing girls; Taliban's bombing girl schools, and Laal Masjid's attacks on 'sex workers' in Islamabad. Such teachings were frequent during the dark ages. Christian missionaries wrote similar treaties to force women. For example St. Jerome penned down detailed treatise about decent living of women.
Moderate Islam --- as argued by many scholars--- in fact is either the individual quest of a few rationalist Muslim individuals who paid the highest price for their progressive attitudes or dynastic patronage of intellectual traditions in Islamic societies. The two important factors that led to fall of this intellectual tradition were the gradual decline of Islamic ruling dynasties and the persecutions of Muslim intellectuals.
Many of the Muslim scientists and rationalist thinkers were declared heretics and they were punished accordingly. Just imagine in the context of Pakistan the case of Syed Sibt-e-Hassan, who spent most of his life in jail under the Zia regime. Likewise, Dr. Fazl-ur-Rehman and Dr. Abdus Salam were forced to leave the country. In more recent times, people like Jibran Nasir demanding Madressah reforms are being declared western stooges and Ahmadi agents. Such is the price for taking steps to promote rationality and moderation. It is not only in Pakistan, but the case of Muslims who stand and speak for modernity, liberty and separation of state and religion is the same all over the Muslim world: intimidations, threats, persecution and what not! Blurred case: The case of moderate Islam is blurred. The Quran is interpreted in line with sectarian, political and personal attachments. Ahadith are controversial, each Islamic sect believing in a different version of them. Minute details of prayer methods, fasting times, Azans wordings are creating greater controversies. Acceptance of each other is eroding and license to kill the lesser Muslim is getting dramatic popularity.
The scholars who have written extensively on reformation and enlightenment attribute four main factors to its origination: (a) gradual erosion of the church and monarchial power-relation, (b) North European Christian's agitation against church exploitation, (c) the rise of humanism in Italy, and (d) scientific discoveries and philosophical debates against the Christian teachings.
Can these four conditions apply to Islamic countries today? The answer is a simple 'No'. The power nexus between states and religious clergies is stronger. In certain Islamic countries, in fact, state affairs are dictated by religious clergies. Their power is maximizing with the passage of time. Challenging their monopoly leads to death. As far as challenging the indoctrinated false teaching is concerned, even a modest demand of curriculum reform in seminaries creates a storm. The recent 'Reclaim Your Mosque' campaign in Pakistan shows the dangerous consequence of such demands. A recent report in Pakistan's leading newspaper Dwan notes that even the seminary teachers confess their graduates' involvement with terrorist outfits, yet the reform is unacceptable to the majority of these teachers.
On a parallel side, we have the most dangerous fatwas coming from the noted Muslim scholars having a large following. The fatwas include Saudi Grand Mufti's concept of 'The Sun revolving around the Earth', Convicting 15 Men, Women for Mingling at Party, breast feeding the co-workers, 'Necrophilia to be Halal', and the Iranian fatwa blaming 'scantily clad women for earthquakes'.
The scholars commenting on renaissance and reformation, however, ignore the common people in this intellectual process. Without their acceptance of the philosophical debates; the reformation would have perished away. The common masses in the West also disposed of their mediaeval thoughts and accommodated the ongoing philosophical debates. The western educational institutes highly appreciated teaching philosophy as a subject. These two factors are also missing in Islamic societies where a majority of people still believe their religious ideas to be the final source of truth. Philosophy is a highly ignored subject in Islamic countries. In the case of Pakistan, philosophy is taught in 9 out of 49 universities in which social sciences and humanities is being taught. Islamic studies is taught in 29 universities, by contrast.
Today, the glorious Islamic period of scientific revolution has been replaced with the organizations that promote a myopic and tunnel vision of both Islam and the world. Hope for a moderate, reformed Islam is hard to entertain. - Courtesy: Viewpoint.