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Is the Law of Islam capable of evolution?

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    Is the Law of Islam capable of evolution?

    Sorry about the cut and paste!!! But articles in Jang don't last more than a day. Apparently the site does not archive.

    A personal veiw

    The great debate


    Bernard Lewis, for many years a professor of Near East studies at Princeton University, is well known for his analysis of conditions in the Arab and Islamic worlds. His treatise on the Roots of Rage published a few years ago caused quite a stir. He now has come up with a new book titled "What Went Wrong - Western Impact and Eastern Response". It precisely deals with the Muslim world's responses to the West and "its long sad decline", as Paul Kennedy another American scholar puts it in his review of the publication. It is, he makes the telling observation, not just another case of traditional societies having to come to terms with the forces of modernisation. There is a different order of magnitude involved here. A badly damaged religiously driven order is "locked in confrontation with global trends more penetrating and unsettling than could ever have been imagined". What Went Wrong is about a great cultural and political divide in modern history.

    The west for the last 400 years, has been marching ahead in various fields. All these years it underwent great changes sparked by Reformation, Renaissance and industrial revolution. Great strides were made and are still going on in science and technology as well as in the evolution of political institutions and military power. While Europe rose as Kennedy says, the Muslim world "rested on its laurels until it was besieged by western ships, armaments, cheap textiles to all of which it became harder and harder to respond". We are all familiar with the colonisation of what is now called the Third World and the White Man's Burden carried for centuries by the European powers. It was the "cultural messages" including democracy which the Muslim states found most difficult to relate to.

    Not that Islamic scholars and thinkers over the years failed to recognise the daunting challenges faced by the Muslims and that there were no attempts to review, renew and reform. A number of outstanding intellectuals and activists were seized of the realisation that there was need for a thorough overhauling of the traditional ways of doing things and managing affairs. A great puritan reformer Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab rose in Arabia in the 18th century. There also were the stirrings of new thinking in Egypt. Jamaluddin Afghani a restless soul marched up and down the Muslim lands and tried to awaken the people to the dangers they faced and how these could be met by uniting and re-evaluating their intellectual and political inheritance.

    It was the Turks who facing the western military threat were forced to take to westernisation as a recipe for survival and development. Ataturk, the hero of the day, could drastically change the political order and relegate religion to the sidelines. Iqbal initially lauded Ataturk's bold moves and especially the ijtihad to replace Khilafat with the Grand National Assembly. The republican form of government, he found consistent with the spirit of Islam. Later, Iqbal reviewed his appreciation of Ataturk's initiatives and expressed the view that Mustafa Kemal had gone too far. In an Urdu couplet he wistfully observed that the body politic of the Muslim world was yet to find a visionary Islamic leader as Ataturk and Reza Shah Pahlavi had been found wanting.

    In the sub-continent three men stand out amongst the Muslims who not only realised the need for change but also suggested how to deal with it and face the new challenges. These were Sir Sayyed, Iqbal and Jinnah. We owe the emergence of Pakistan to their thinking and strivings.

    A lot is being said and written these days as to what kind of Pakistan did Iqbal and Jinnah envisage. Intellectuals and columnists are talking about the nature and character of the Islamic state and to Musharraf has been attributed a statement published in the Newsweek that Pakistan has to be a modern democratic and secular state. According to an official clarification, the good General did not utter the word "secular" in his interview. While a speech by Quaid-i-Azam is often cited to establish that he wanted a secular state for Pakistan, there are many articulations of his which are referred to by others to prove that he was in favour of an Islamic state in accordance with the Qur'aan and the Prophet's Sunnah. A scholar who compiled Quaid's speeches and statements made between 1911 and 1948 in a letter to an English language daily has quoted chapter and verse to suggest that while Mr Jinnah was against theocracy he favoured an Islamic state in letter and spirit. In an article in the same newspaper a columnist has sought to conclude that even Iqbal wanted a secular dispensation. Friday Times too has been making a significant contribution on the subject. The monthly Herald in its January issue has dealt with the issue by projecting interviews of an Indian Nobel laureate and three Muslim scholars.

    It is time the world of Islam and Pakistan in particular, seriously address the overwhelmingly important question as to what kind of Islam do we want or need. It is indeed time for a great debate as short pieces or eloquent articulations based on selected quotations to prove or score a point may only add to confusion which presently prevails on the subject. Perhaps more than the Quaid, it is Iqbal who might provide guidelines for our search for the answers. I may here refer to some of his remarks (from his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam):

    1. "The only alternative open to us, then, is to tear off from Islam the hard crust which has immobilised an essentially dynamic outlook on life, and to rediscover the original verities of freedom, equality, and solidarity with a view to rebuild our moral, social, and political ideals out of their original simplicity and universality.

    2. The question which confronts (the Turks) today, and which is likely to confront other Muslim countries in the near future is whether the Law of Islam is capable of evolution - a question which will require great intellectual effort, and is sure to be answered in the affirmative, provided the world of Islam approaches it in the spirit of Umar - the first critical and independent mind in Islam.

    3. The Qur'aan considers it necessary to unite religion and state, ethics and politics in a single revelation much in the same way as Plato does in his Republic.

    4. The teaching of the Qur'aan that life is a process of progressive creation necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessors, should be permitted to solve its own problems.

    Let the great debate begin. What for is the Iqbal Academy and institutions like the International Islamic University and the Islamic Research Institute if they remain occupied with the traditional routine and continue to be deficient in coming to grips with the challenges of the times to forge models of political institutions, economic structures and social configurations. The Council of Islamic Ideology too should be recast bringing in men of the calibre of Javid Iqbal, Javed Ahmad Alghamdi and Saroosh Irfani. A considerable time should be set apart, two or three times a week, on one of the TV channels for this purpose to widen the scope of the debate purposed. It is time to wake up, review and renew our commitments to rebuild our political economic and cultural systems and institutions.

    The writer is a Lahore-based columnist

    [email protected]

    As stated by Iqbal... and stated by me previously in gupshup.. Islam is fully supportive of an elected form of government.. leadership which is acceptable to the masses.. provided it passes the "morality and ethics" tests.

    The election and nomination of Khalifah-e-rashideen was enactment of this.

    The reason for progressive islamic thought in Muslim governments (which i do not like to call Khilafahs) or faux Khailafah (taking on Mushi's lingo) was that they were not theocracies. Relgious thought was looked into from all angles and aptitudes - science to astronomy.

    Pakistan is the place where the decision will be made to which directions muslims will be headed in the next 100 years.. why.. just because of the diversity of cultures and "sects" present in Pakistan.. is greater than anywhere else in Muslim world.. which are quite monolithic in culture and belief.

    In pakistan the decision for the future of Muslim world will be made.. whether we will be going to more progressive thought.. or "theocratic nightmare".

    Pakistan creates waves within the Muslim world and whenever Pakistan does something rest of the Muslim world sits up and listen (even though they may end up doing nothing).. it has a certain momentum about it which can take other countries along with it in whatever direction it heads.

    another reason is the pakistani expats.. they are everywhere in the muslim world.. compared to number of muslims from other countries in Pakistan.. and they are quite active overall within the societies where they reside..

    Malaysia is a good example where religion is an integral part of people's life.. but it does not impede them as malaysia is not a theocracy.. compare that to Iran - a theocracy.. a oil giant - and you will see that theocracy just does not work.

    whenever you have self regulation compared to imposed regulation with strict control.. self regulation plays out better control.. as when people's lives are controlled (ala "1984") they try to break those rules or try to find "get-out" clauses.

    just look at the newspapers in UK.. they have self regulation.. on guidelines discussed with the govt related parties.. and they try to stick to it. freer speach say compared to US where the newspapers are "massively regulated".


      Could not the madrassas become a progressive,
      innovative institution in Pakistan? They, of
      course, should not become too much so. But
      the thought intriques the imagination. I am
      quite impressed with the intellect I have
      seen manifest in the many Muslims on US TV
      and editorials from the Mid-East, not to
      mention South Asia. That intellect; use it,
      don't lose it, and above all, don't abuse it.
      Could you explain in what manner the US media
      is massively regulated?

      [This message has been edited by TOMASSO (edited February 04, 2002).]


        madrassahs are the most philanthropic institution in the country.
        You are talking ion a country where even non religious schools dont have any funding, much less the madrassas. Despite of that they have done well for Pakistan thus far and will continue to do so...
        Madrassas are one of the best and succesful examples of private philanthropy in the country. And one which whose fundas dont come from the govt. I personbally think they should be given more funds so that they can better themselves and have further growth and so that PhDs and doctorates also find their teaching future in them....


          here is some productive interaction:

          Efforts on to bridge gap between govt, madressahs: Moin at Jamia Binnori, SSUET

          KARACHI, Feb 4: Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said on Monday that efforts are on to bridge the gap between the government and the Madressahs (religious schools) operating in the country.

          "It would be a misconception that the government by means of its policies is posing a harm to their working," he said, adding, on the contrary, it is sincerely seeking measures to enhance and upgrade their performance through consultation with Ulema.

          Speaking at the Jamia Binnori Town Madressah, SITE area, the minister referred to a number of reformative measures undertaken by the government to streamline the working of different government institutions and departments, including economic situation, education field and unprecedented police reforms, and said the measures announced by the government regarding madressahs were also a part of this whole package which would raise their overall standard.

          "It would be unjustified to assumes that the present system of madressahs is flawless and that there is no room for reformation," he added.

          According to him, mosques and madressahs are always held in high esteem in an Islamic country, especially in our society. "They are primarily responsible for harnessing Ulema and Khateebs to guide people as to how to pass life in accordance with the teachings of Islam and spread its message in every nook and corner of the world," he stressed.

          He said many ambassadors from different countries always lodge complaints with him that students from their countries in search of Islamic education come to Pakistan without acquiring proper visas.

          "We must undertake steps to discourage those elements who are seeking to come to Pakistan in an improper manner as this is undermining country's relations with other countries," he said.

          In the context of recent ban imposed by the government on arbitrary use of loudspeaker in the country, he said that a law was promulgated in 1965 which clearly restrains its utilization other than delivering Friday sermon and for five-time Azan. "This law was squarely violated since then and no cognizance was taken by any government as its unnecessary and relentless use had posed severe problem for masses".

          While appreciating the establishment of Jamia Binnori Town some 20 years ago, the minister said it is serving sincerely for the cause of religious education in the country without any government help.

          To dispense religious education to more than 5,000 students speaks volume of sincere devotion of its administration who have undertaken a gigantic responsibility. "The government would extend all possible help to them for smooth running of their working" he added.

          Speaking on the occasion, Mufti Atiq ur Rahman, Senior Hadith Teacher, said that religious schools are an integral part of our society as against all odds they are serving to dispense Islamic education to large number of students.

          SSUET: Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider has asked the educational institutions to play due role in accordance with the Islamic education system that ensures provision of both religious as well as modern knowledge and education.

          Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of Sir Syed Literary Forum and a reception in honour of the winners of PTV's Quaid-i-Azam Quiz Programme at Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi, he said the 700-year old curriculum of "Madaris" was being streamlined by inducting subjects of science and technology.

          "We are asking Ulema as well as administrations of educational institutions imparting latest education of science and technology to come closer and jointly create a conducive environment for learning as promised by Islam".

          Lauding the services of SSUET for the promotion of Science, Technology and IT, he asked its administration to induct subjects of humanities, social sciences and literature in their curricula. "Social Sciences, humanities and literature besides Islamic knowledge help in learning values, civilisation and morality," he added.

          Later, the Minister awarded mementos to winning team of Brain of Pakistan Trophy in PTV's Quaid-i-Azam Quiz Competition.

          Chancellor SSUET Z.A. Nizami, Vice Chancellor S. Nazeer Ahmed, director programmes PTV Ather Waqar Azeem, Member Sir Syed Literary Forum Mazhar Arif and secretary Sir Syed Literary Forum Farrukh Tariq also spoke.-PPI

          [This message has been edited by Sultan Toora (edited February 05, 2002).]