[Reader-list] Rethinking Islam

S. Jabbar sonia.jabbar at gmail.com
Mon Apr 28 09:11:21 IST 2008


I asked some perfectly serious questions and received an appropriate
response from Shuddha, to which I replied; and thus began, what I
considered, a very interesting discussion.  I have not been able to find
answers to my questions in the books I've been reading and so I put them up
to the Sarai list hoping someone would enlighten me.  Shuddha responded and
I had hoped that others might join in, at least to point me to some books.
I am grateful to Radhikrajen for suggesting a library in Bangalore.

How tiresome, then, to read your childish post.  You are on a flight between
Babylon and Ankara (how fascinating, thanks for letting us know as this has
everything to do with the subject under discussion) and so you don't have
the time or the wherewithal to send me references, but have energy enough to
throw e-spitballs at Shuddha.  How bizarre.  Does one charitably assume its
the airline food that's making you dyspeptic or are you congenitally prone
to making strange connections where none exist?

What does ijtehad— reasoned debate within Islam— have anything at all to do
with yogis? And I asked for 'Islamic scholars' as opposed to 'Muslim
scholars'. Some of the finest scholars on Islam are non-Muslim: Arberry,
Arnold,  Schimmel, Armstrong, Massignon and Hodgson to name a few.
Unfortunate that you think Shuddha, and by extension anyone else, must
necessarily become 'Maulvi Shuddh' to engage in the study and discussion of

If you had a problem with the content of Shuddha's response to me then it
would have been useful for all concerned if you'd posted your criticism
(even if barbed and loaded with insults), otherwise you only come across as
downright silly.

Ijtehad in Islam? I think we need it desperately within the Sarai List


On 4/27/08 8:50 PM, "kirdar singh" <kirdarsingh at gmail.com> wrote:

> Very interesting... S.Jabbar asked "if there are Islamic scholars who
> can guide me..." and quickly jumped in Maulvi Shuddhabrata Sengupta to
> guide her. I can very well see Maulvi Shuddh in the sorely needed role
> of a mujtahid in Islam in the times to come... Hail Mutazilites, Hail
> Farabites, move away you Yogis... Here comes the New Age Islamic
> Ijtehad, Sarai being the new Baghdad...
> (Sorry I'll give you the references later, since I am in a flight
> between Babylon and Ankara.)
> KS
> (sorry, just couldn't help break the serious silence on this issue
> from the other Sarai fellows who are as usual spellbound).
> On Sat, Apr 26, 2008 at 4:53 PM, Shuddhabrata Sengupta
> <shuddha at sarai.net> wrote:
>> Dear Sonia,
>> Thanks for your post. I have been studying Ibn Arabi, Ibn Rushd and
>> the Mutazila for quite some time now. And have always been struck by
>> the lucidity and the passion with which free thought, reason and a
>> robust universalist humanism finds its expression in Islam (at that
>> time, and in these hands). The only other comparable thread (to my
>> knowledge) is the core of the Madhyamika tradition centreing on
>> Nagarjuna in Mahayana Buddhism. And I take my comforts from somewhere
>> between Mutazila and Madhyamika (which resonates nicely when you
>> speak them as names), Incidentally, someone like Ram Mohan Roy's life
>> time's work of rethinking the corpus of Hinduism occurred as a result
>> of a very early exposure to Mutazila reason while in Patna (and his
>> earliers works which are in Persian, are actually commentaries on the
>> Mutazila tradition). However, the Mutazila, in their time, from what
>> I understand, also became a little rigid and intolerant (during their
>> brief ascendancy in Damascus).
>> But the crucial thing that happenned is as you rightly point out, to
>> do with the politics of the caliphates, different schools got aligned
>> with different aspirants to the different caliphatic expressions, and
>> got involved in secterian political conflict that had very little to
>> do with their original philosophical orientations. I still hold a
>> candle for the somewhat ruthless independence maintained by the
>> Ismaili Nizaris on Alamut, who steered clear of the politics of the
>> Caliphate. Perhaps the last and crucial factor that broke the back of
>> free thought was the sudden onslaught of the Mongols on the last
>> citadel of the Abbasids in Baghdad. Incidentally, the Mongols (at
>> least in a token manner, were flirting with Mahayana Buddhism at that
>> time, so that remains another enigma) on the one hand, and the
>> collapse of Moorish Spain on the west. These two developments, which
>> exhausted and scattered the Islamicate intelligentsia, led to the
>> 'closure of the gates of 'Itjehad' (interpretation) and the rise of
>> dogma and clerics, which Islam (which never had a centralized clergy
>> to speak of before) has not recovered from, not yet.
>> What it does make me think about is the fragility of thought as a
>> result of its contact with power. The most interesting trends in the
>> Islamic world, had they stuck out and remained autonomous (and those
>> that did, within heterodox, not orthodox Sufism, survived) could have
>> still flourished. Instead, they allied themselves to this or that
>> claimant to the Caliphate, (not unlike many of today's
>> intelligentsia) and when that centre of power was torn down, there
>> was little cover for them. They became vulnerable because they had
>> sought refuge in the powerful. The glorious and tragic history of
>> freedom and solidarity in the Muslim world is a kind of object lesson
>> for all of us today. We could all become like the Mutazila.
>> Remembered, because we are forgotten.
>> However, I do think interesting things are happenning now, and the
>> current turbulence in the Intellectual currents of the Muslim world,
>> which people like Ziauddin Sardar (whom you mention), Tariq Ramadan,
>> Fatima Mernissi and several others represent, points to a kind of re-
>> opening of the gates of Itjehad. I think that is as exciting a
>> development (though it doesnt get the press it deserves) as the
>> renewal of serious and rigorous debate within philosophical Buddhism
>> in the twentieth century.
>> I dont have my books around me at the moment as I am not in Delhi, so
>> I would hesitate to give you precise references, but I would be happy
>> to carry this conversation forward in the future (either on or off
>> the list)
>> regards
>> Shuddha
>> On 26-Apr-08, at 2:41 PM, S. Jabbar wrote:
>>> I¹ve been reading some of the works of philosophers like Al Farabi,
>>> Ibn
>>> Arabi and Ibn Rushd and the Mutazila movement of the 8th c. and
>>> have been
>>> amazed by two things: 1. The focus on reason in Islam and 2. Universal
>>> brotherhood.
>>> I wonder if there are Islamic scholars who can guide me through
>>> centuries of
>>> debate.  I¹d like to know when and why reason was trashed in favour of
>>> faith‹ I know something of the debates of the Asharites but how did
>>> their
>>> views come to eclipse the Muslim philosophers who took their cue
>>> from the
>>> Greek philosophers. And then why did the idea of an Islamic
>>> brotherhood
>>> eclipse the idea of universal brotherhood?  I imagine it had to do
>>> with the
>>> politics of the Caliphates, but can someone direct me to some
>>> resources
>>> please.
>>> Pasted below is an old but interesting essay by Ziauddin Sardar.  I
>>> found
>>> his book Desperately seeking Paradise quite wonderful.
>>> Thanks & regards
>>> Sj
>>> ------------------------
>>> Rethinking Islam
>>> By Professor Ziauddin Sardar
>>> Serious rethinking within Islam is long overdue. Muslims have been
>>> comfortably relying, or rather falling back, on age-old
>>> interpretations for
>>> much too long.
>>> This is why we feel so painful in the contemporary world, so
>>> uncomfortable
>>> with modernity. Scholars and thinkers have been suggesting for well
>>> over a
>>> century that we need to make a serious attempt at Ijtihad, at reasoned
>>> struggle and rethinking, to reform Islam. At the beginning of the last
>>> century, Jamaluddin Afghani and Mohammad Abduh led the call for a new
>>> Ijtihad; and along the way many notable intellectuals, academics
>>> and sages
>>> have added to this plea - not least Mohammad Iqbal, Malik bin Nabbi
>>> and
>>> Abdul Qadir Audah. Yet, ijtihad is one thing Muslim societies have
>>> singularly failed to undertake. Why?
>>> The why has now acquired an added urgency. Just look around the
>>> Muslim world
>>> and see how far we have travelled away from the ideals and spirit
>>> of Islam.
>>> Far from being a liberating force, a kinetic social, cultural and
>>> intellectual dynamics for equality, justice and humane values,
>>> Islam seems
>>> to have acquired a pathological strain. Indeed, it seems to me that
>>> we have
>>> internalised all those historic and contemporary western
>>> representations of
>>> Islam and Muslims that have been demonising us for centuries. We now
>>> actually wear the garb, I have to confess, of the very demons that
>>> the West
>>> has been projecting on our collective personality.
>>> But to blame the West, or a notion of instrumental modernity that
>>> is all but
>>> alien to us, would be a lazy option. True, the West, and particularly
>>> America, has a great deal to answer for. And Muslims are quick to
>>> point a
>>> finger at the injustices committed by American and European foreign
>>> policies
>>> and hegemonic tendencies. However, that is only a part, and in my
>>> opinion
>>> not an insurmountable part, of the malaise. Hegemony is not always
>>> imposed;
>>> sometimes, it is invited. The internal situation within Islam is an
>>> open
>>> invitation.
>>> We have failed to respond to the summons to Ijtihad for some very
>>> profound
>>> reasons. Prime amongst these is the fact that the context of our
>>> sacred
>>> texts  the Qur¹an and the examples of the Prophet Muhammad, our
>>> absolute
>>> frame of reference  has been frozen in history. One can only have an
>>> interpretative relationship with a text  even more so if the text is
>>> perceived to be eternal. But if the interpretative context of the
>>> text is
>>> never our context, not our own time, then its interpretation can
>>> hardly have
>>> any real meaning or significance for us as we are now. Historic
>>> interpretations constantly drag us back to history, to frozen and
>>> ossified
>>> context of long ago; worse, to perceived and romanticised contexts
>>> that have
>>> not even existed in history. This is why while Muslims have a strong
>>> emotional attachment to Islam, Islam per se, as a worldview and
>>> system of
>>> ethics, has little or no direct relevance to their daily lives
>>> apart from
>>> the obvious concerns of rituals and worship. Ijtihad and fresh
>>> thinking have
>>> not been possible because there is no context within which they can
>>> actually
>>> take place.
>>> The freezing of interpretation, the closure of Œthe gates of
>>> ijtihad¹, has
>>> had a devastating effect on Muslim thought and action. In
>>> particular, it has
>>> produced what I can only describe as three metaphysical
>>> catastrophes: the
>>> elevation of the Shari`ah to the level of the Divine, with the
>>> consequent
>>> removal of agency from the believers, and the equation of Islam
>>> with the
>>> State. Let me elaborate.
>>> Most Muslims consider the Shari`ah, commonly translated as ŒIslamic
>>> law¹, to
>>> be divine. Yet, there is nothing divine about the Shari`ah. The
>>> only thing
>>> that can legitimately be described as divine in Islam is the
>>> Qur¹an. The
>>> Shari`ah is a human construction; an attempt to understand the
>>> divine will
>>> in a particular context. This is why the bulk of the Shari`ah actually
>>> consists of fiqh or jurisprudence, which is nothing more than legal
>>> opinion
>>> of classical jurists. The very term fiqh was not in vogue before
>>> the Abbasid
>>> period when it was actually formulated and codified. But when fiqh
>>> assumed
>>> its systematic legal form, it incorporated three vital aspects of
>>> Muslim
>>> society of the Abbasid period. At that juncture, Muslim history was
>>> in its
>>> expansionist phase, and fiqh incorporated the logic of Muslim
>>> imperialism of
>>> that time. The fiqh rulings on apostasy, for example, derive not
>>> from the
>>> Qur'an but from this logic. Moreover, the world was simple and
>>> could easily
>>> be divided into black and white: hence, the division of the world
>>> into Daral
>>> Islam and Daral Harb. Furthermore, as the framers of law were not
>>> by this
>>> stage managers of society, the law became merely theory which could
>>> not be
>>> modified - the framers of the law were unable to see where the
>>> faults lay
>>> and what aspect of the law needed fresh thinking and reformulation.
>>> Thus
>>> fiqh, as we know it today, evolved on the basis of a division
>>> between those
>>> who were governing and set themselves apart from society and those
>>> who were
>>> framing the law; the epistemological assumptions of a Œgolden¹
>>> phase of
>>> Muslim history also came into play. When we describe the Shari`ah
>>> as divine,
>>> we actually provide divine sanctions for the rulings of by-gone fiqh.
>>> What this means in reality is that when Muslim countries apply or
>>> impose the
>>> Shari`ah  the demands of Muslims from Indonesia to Nigeria - the
>>> contradictions that were inherent in the formulation and evolution
>>> of fiqh
>>> come to the fore. That is why wherever the Shari`ah is imposed
>>> that is,
>>> fiqhi legislation is applied, out of context from the time when it was
>>> formulated and out of step with ours - Muslim societies acquire a
>>> medieval
>>> feel. We can see that in Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and the Taliban of
>>> Afghanistan. When narrow adherence to fiqh, to the dictates of this
>>> or that
>>> school of thought, whether it has any relevance to real world or not,
>>> becomes the norm, ossification sets in. The Shari`ah will solve all
>>> our
>>> problems becomes the common sentiment; and it becomes necessary for
>>> a group
>>> with vested interest in this notion of the Shari`ah to preserve its
>>> territory, the source of its power and prestige, at all costs. An
>>> outmoded
>>> body of law is thus equated with the Shari`ah, and criticism is
>>> shunned and
>>> outlawed by appealing to its divine nature.
>>> The elevation of the Shari`ah to the divine level also means the
>>> believers
>>> themselves have no agency: since The Law is a priori given people
>>> themselves
>>> have nothing to do expect to follow it. Believers thus become passive
>>> receivers rather than active seekers of truth. In reality, the
>>> Shari`ah is
>>> nothing more than a set of principles, a framework of values, that
>>> provide
>>> Muslim societies with guidance. But these sets of principles and
>>> values are
>>> not a static given but are dynamically derived within changing
>>> contexts. As
>>> such, the Shari`ah is a problem-solving methodology rather than
>>> law. It
>>> requires the believers to exert themselves and constantly
>>> reinterpret the
>>> Qur¹an and look at the life of the Prophet Muhammad with ever
>>> changing fresh
>>> eyes. Indeed, the Qur¹an has to be reinterpreted from epoch to
>>> epoch  which
>>> means the Shari`ah, and by extension Islam itself, has to be
>>> reformulated
>>> with changing contexts. The only thing that remains constant in
>>> Islam is the
>>> text of the Qur¹an itself  its concepts providing the anchor for ever
>>> changing interpretations.
>>> Islam is not so much a religion but an integrative worldview: that
>>> is to
>>> say, it integrates all aspects of reality by providing a moral
>>> perspective
>>> on every aspect of human endeavour. Islam does not provide ready-made
>>> answers to all human problems; it provides a moral and just
>>> perspective
>>> within which Muslims must endeavour to find answers to all human
>>> problems.
>>> But if everything is a priori given, in the shape of a divine
>>> Shari`ah, then
>>> Islam is reduced to a totalistic ideology. Indeed, this is exactly
>>> what the
>>> Islamic movements  in particularly Jamaat-e-Islami (both Pakistani and
>>> Indian varieties) and the Muslim Brotherhood  have reduced Islam
>>> to. Which
>>> brings me to the third metaphysical catastrophe. Place this
>>> ideology within
>>> a nation state, with divinely attributed Shari`ah at its centre,
>>> and you
>>> have an ŒIslamic state¹. All contemporary ŒIslamic states¹, from
>>> Iran, Saudi
>>> Arabia, the Sudan to aspiring Pakistan, are based on this ridiculous
>>> assumption. But once Islam, as an ideology, becomes a programme of
>>> action of
>>> a vested group, it looses its humanity and becomes a battlefield where
>>> morality, reason and justice are readily sacrificed at the alter of
>>> emotions. Moreover, the step from a totalistic ideology to a
>>> totalitarian
>>> order where every human-situation is open to state-arbitration is a
>>> small
>>> one. The transformation of Islam into a state-based political
>>> ideology not
>>> only deprives it of its all moral and ethical content, it also
>>> debunks most
>>> of Muslim history as un-Islamic. Invariably, when Islamists
>>> rediscover a
>>> Œgolden¹ past, they do so only in order to disdain the present and
>>> mock the
>>> future. All we are left with is messianic chaos, as we saw so
>>> vividly in the
>>> Taliban regime, where all politics as the domain of action is
>>> paralysed and
>>> meaningless pieties become the foundational truth of the state.
>>> The totalitarian vision of Islam as a State thus transforms Muslim
>>> politics
>>> into a metaphysics: in such an enterprise, every action can be
>>> justified as
>>> ŒIslamic¹ by the dictates of political expediency as we witnessed in
>>> revolutionary Iran.
>>> The three metaphysical catastrophes are accentuated by an overall
>>> process of
>>> reduction that has become the norm in Muslim societies. The reductive
>>> process itself is also not new; but now it has reached such an
>>> absurd state
>>> that the very ideas that are supposed to take Muslims societies
>>> towards
>>> humane values now actually take them in the opposite direction.
>>> From the
>>> subtle beauty of a perennial challenge to construct justice through
>>> mercy
>>> and compassion, we get mechanistic formulae fixated with the extremes
>>> repeated by people convinced they have no duty to think for themselves
>>> because all questions have been answered for them by the classical
>>> `ulamas,
>>> far better men long dead. And because everything carries the brand
>>> name of
>>> Islam, to question it, or argue against it, is tantamount to voting
>>> for sin.
>>> The process of reduction started with the very notion of `alim
>>> (scholar)
>>> itself. Just who is an `alim; what makes him an authority? In early
>>> Islam,
>>> an `alim was anyone who acquired `ilm, or knowledge, which was itself
>>> described in a broad sense. We can see that in the early
>>> classifications of
>>> knowledge by such scholars as al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, al-
>>> Ghazali and
>>> Ibn Khuldun. Indeed, both the definition of knowledge and its
>>> classification
>>> was a major intellectual activity in classical Islam. So all
>>> learned men,
>>> scientists as well as philosophers, scholars as well as theologians,
>>> constituted the `ulama. But after the Œgates of ijtihad¹ were
>>> closed during
>>> the Abbasid era, ilm was increasingly reduced to religious
>>> knowledge and the
>>> `ulama came to constitute only religious scholars.
>>> Similarly, the idea of ijma, the central notion of communal life in
>>> Islam,
>>> has been reduced to the consensus of a select few. Ijma literally
>>> means
>>> consensus of the people. The concept dates back to the practice of
>>> Prophet
>>> Muhammad himself as leader of the original polity of Muslims. When the
>>> Prophet Muhammad wanted to reach a decision, he would call the
>>> whole Muslim
>>> community  then, admittedly not very large  to the mosque. A
>>> discussion
>>> would ensue; arguments for and against would be presented. Finally,
>>> the
>>> entire gathering would reach a consensus. Thus, a democratic spirit
>>> was
>>> central to communal and political life in early Islam. But over
>>> time the
>>> clerics and religious scholars have removed the people from the
>>> equation
>>> and reduced ijma to Œthe consensus of the religious scholars¹. Not
>>> surprisingly, authoritarianism, theocracy and despotism reigns
>>> supreme in
>>> the Muslim world. The political domain finds its model in what has
>>> become
>>> the accepted practice and metier of the authoritatively Œreligious¹
>>> adepts,
>>> those who claim the monopoly of exposition of Islam. Obscurantist
>>> Mullahs,
>>> in the guise of the `ulama, dominate Muslim societies and
>>> circumscribe them
>>> with fanaticism and absurdly reductive logic.
>>> Numerous other concepts have gone through similar process of
>>> reduction. The
>>> concept of Ummah, the global spiritual community of Muslims, has been
>>> reduced to the ideals of a nation state: Œmy country right or
>>> wrong¹ has
>>> been transpose to read Œmy Ummah right or wrong¹. So even despots like
>>> Saddam Hussein are now defended on the basis of ŒUmmah
>>> consciousness¹ and
>>> Œunity of the Ummah¹. Jihad has now been reduced to the single
>>> meaning of
>>> ŒHoly War¹. This translation is perverse not only because the
>>> concept¹s
>>> spiritual, intellectual and social components have been stripped
>>> away, but
>>> it has been reduced to war by any means, including terrorism. So
>>> anyone can
>>> now declare jihad on anyone, without any ethical or moral rhyme or
>>> reason.
>>> Nothing could be more perverted, or pathologically more distant
>>> from the
>>> initial meaning of jihad. It¹s other connotations, including personal
>>> struggle, intellectual endeavour, and social construction have all but
>>> evaporated. Istislah, normally rendered as Œpublic interest¹ and a
>>> major
>>> source of Islamic law, has all but disappeared from Muslim
>>> consciousness.
>>> And Ijtihad, as I have suggested, has now been reduced to little
>>> more than a
>>> pious desire.
>>> But the violence performed to sacred Muslim concepts is insignificant
>>> compared to the reductive way the Qur¹an and the sayings and
>>> examples of the
>>> Prophet Muhammad are brandied about. What the late Muslim scholar,
>>> Fazlur
>>> Rahman called the Œatomistic¹ treatment of the Qur¹an is now the norm:
>>> almost anything and everything is justified by quoting individual
>>> bits of
>>> verses out of context. After the September 11 event, for example, a
>>> number
>>> of Taliban supporters, including a few in Britain, justified their
>>> actions
>>> by quoting the following verse: ŒWe will put terror into the hearts
>>> of the
>>> unbelievers. They serve other gods for whom no sanction has been
>>> revealed.
>>> Hell shall be their home¹ (3: 149). Yet, the apparent meaning
>>> attributed to
>>> this verse could not be further from the true spirit of the Qur¹an.
>>> In this
>>> particular verse, the Qur¹an is addressing Prophet Muhammad
>>> himself. It was
>>> revealed during the battle of Uhud, when the small and ill equipped
>>> army of
>>> the Prophet, faced a much larger and well-equipped enemy. He was
>>> concerned
>>> about the outcome of the battle. The Qur¹an reassures him and
>>> promises the
>>> enemy will be terrified with the Prophet¹s unprofessional army.
>>> Seen in its
>>> context, it is not a general instruction to all Muslims; but a
>>> commentary on
>>> what was happening at that time. Similarly hadiths are quoted to
>>> justify the
>>> most extremes of behaviour. And the Prophet¹s own appearance, his
>>> beard and
>>> cloths, have been turned into a fetish: so now it is not just
>>> obligatory for
>>> a Œgood Muslim¹ to have a beard, but its length and shape must also
>>> conform
>>> to dictates! The Prophet has been reduced to signs and symbols  the
>>> spirit
>>> of his behaviour, the moral and ethical dimensions of his actions, his
>>> humility and compassion, the general principles he advocated have
>>> all been
>>> subsumed by the logic of absurd reduction.
>>> The accumulative effect of the metaphysical catastrophes and endless
>>> reduction has transformed the cherished tenants of Islam into
>>> instruments of
>>> militant expediency and moral bankruptcy. For over two decades, in
>>> books
>>> like The Future of Muslim Civilisation (1979) and Islamic Futures:
>>> The Shape
>>> of Ideas to Come (1985), I have been arguing that Muslim
>>> civilisation is now
>>> so fragmented and shattered that we have to rebuild it, Œbrick by
>>> brick¹. It
>>> is now obvious that Islam itself has to be rethought, idea by idea.
>>> We need
>>> to begin with the simple fact that Muslims have no monopoly on
>>> truth, on
>>> what is right, on what is good, on justice, nor the intellectual
>>> and moral
>>> reflexes that promote these necessities. Like the rest of humanity,
>>> we have
>>> to struggle to achieve them using our own sacred notions and
>>> concepts as
>>> tools for understanding and reshaping contemporary reality.
>>> The way to a fresh, contemporary appreciation of Islam requires
>>> confronting
>>> the metaphysical catastrophes and moving away from reduction to
>>> synthesis.
>>> Primarily, this requires Muslims, as individuals and communities,
>>> to reclaim
>>> agency: to insist on their right and duty, as believers and
>>> knowledgeable
>>> people, to interpret and reinterpret the basic sources of Islam: to
>>> question
>>> what now goes under the general rubric of Shari`ah, to declare that
>>> much of
>>> fiqh is now dangerously obsolete, to stand up to the absurd notion
>>> of an
>>> Islam confined by a geographically bound state. We cannot, if we
>>> really
>>> value our faith, leave its exposition in the hands of under
>>> educated elites,
>>> religious scholars whose lack of comprehension of the contemporary
>>> world is
>>> usually matched only by their disdain and contempt for all its
>>> ideas and
>>> cultural products. Islam has been permitted to languish as the
>>> professional
>>> domain of people more familiar with the world of the eleventh
>>> century than
>>> the twenty-first century we now inhabit. And we cannot allow this
>>> class to
>>> bury the noble idea of Ijtihad into frozen and distant history.
>>> Ordinary Muslims around the world who have concerns, questions and
>>> considerable moral dilemmas about the current state of affairs of
>>> Islam must
>>> reclaim the basic concepts of Islam and reframe them in a broader
>>> context.
>>> Ijma must mean consensus of all citizens leading to participatory and
>>> accountable governance. Jihad must be understood in its complete
>>> spiritual
>>> meaning as the struggle for peace and justice as a lived reality
>>> for all
>>> people everywhere. And the notion of the Ummah must be refined so
>>> it becomes
>>> something more than a mere reductive abstraction. As Anwar Ibrahim has
>>> argued, the Ummah is not Œmerely the community of all those who
>>> profess to
>>> be Muslims¹; rather, it is a Œmoral conception of how Muslims
>>> should become
>>> a community in relation to each other, other communities and the
>>> natural
>>> world¹. Which means Ummah incorporates not just the Muslims, but
>>> justice
>>> seeking and oppressed people everywhere. In a sense, the movement
>>> towards
>>> synthesis is an advance towards the primary meaning and message of
>>> Islam
>>> as a moral and ethical way of looking and shaping the world, as a
>>> domain of
>>> peaceful civic culture, a participatory endeavour, and a holistic
>>> mode of
>>> knowing, being and doing.
>>> June 2002
>>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> ------
>>> ----
>>> Ziauddin Sardar: A cultural critic, Muslim scholar, author of many
>>> books,
>>> and editor of Futures: The Journal of Planning, Policy, and Futures
>>> Studies.
>>> His newest book is Ziauddin Sardar's A-Z of Postmodern Life (Visions
>>> Publications, Feb 2002). He is based in London.
>>> _________________________________________
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>> Shuddhabrata Sengupta
>> The Sarai Programme at CSDS
>> Raqs Media Collective
>> shuddha at sarai.net
>> www.sarai.net
>> www.raqsmediacollective.net
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