Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
In 1989 I moved to USA. I had been raised as a Sunni Muslim and joined Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in 1984, but it had not been advertised in all circles. I remember at a family dinner at my uncle’s house a very learned and well respected physician, who was considered an Imam and a religious scholar, who will go nameless, during the small talk started elaborating the merits of religious freedom. He highlighted the history of Russia and communism and how it failed to suppress both Christianity and Islam. I was impressed by his eloquence.
A few minutes later discussion shifted to Pakistan and the same physician was full of praise for General Zia ul Haq, for his introduction of a dictatorial ordinance of 1984 to take away the religious freedoms of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
I was taken aback! Does the learned physician believe in religious freedom or not? Is the freedom only for his religion and sect and not for others? In the last 30 years I have come to know that such myopia is common place and was not only his short coming but of most religious scholars, regardless of their creed, religion or sect.
Ahmet T. Kuru, who is professor of political science at San Diego State University and author of a few books on the theme of Islam and politics, wrote, “Islam is neither an instrument of identity politics, nor an ideology offering political solutions.”
For the first half of the title of my article, Some Argue Islamism from the Quran and others Secularism, let me suggest: Urdu Videos: Dr. Israr Ahmad Versus Ghamdi: Islamism Versus Secularism.
Moving on to the second half of my title, invariably all scholars of Islam regardless of the denomination realize and acknowledge that the Quranic teachings are to be read in our present day circumstances. In other words they know that they have to read the Quran as an alive document and not as a dead one, which is written in stone and does not cater for changing needs. But, they pick and choose and allow this flexibility only when they want to and withdraw it and present black and white, binary, choices on other issues of their liking.
There are several verses in the Quran that have discussed marriage without consent with the female slaves under certain circumstances. However, no reputable scholar today would suggest that those verses are applicable to the present day circumstances. Suggested reading: A Sexual Offender from ISIS: Is the Quran to Blame?
Polygamy is discussed in many places in the holy Quran and most scholars would think that it is permissible at least in some circumstances, but authors do make a case for monogamy from the holy scripture also: The sunnah of monogamy and Polygamy in Islam: What It Means?
Many understand that the cutting of hands of thieves is not to be taken literally in our contemporary times and can be implemented metaphorically with prison sentences: Benjamin Franklin: ‘Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed!’
All scholars agree that different waiting periods prescribed for remarriages of the divorced or widowed women is to settle the paternity issues: Video: What are cryptic pregnancies and why do they matter in Islam? I know of no scholar of good repute who have opined on the use of pregnancy and other tests that are now becoming 100% accurate for these purposes, in place of the waiting periods when necessary.
The debate between Islamism and secularism shows no sign of abating after 1400 years is because many a scholars speak from the both sides of the mouth. They are for human rights but at the same time they are also for Shariah Law, even when they are shown that some of their understanding of the Shariah Law is clearly violating human rights as we best understand them in this day and age.
It seems most scholars and religious leaders want to insist on conservative approach, as much as they can, perhaps for their personal zeal or not to test the loyalty of their followers. May, I suggest for them, Do Muslims Prefer Camels Over Modern Cars? and Is God Alive or Dead: A Metaphor for the Scriptures from the US Constitution?
A verbal duel between al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb and Cairo University President Mohamed al-Khosht overshadowed discussions at a recent international conference on religious renewal.
Khosht, one of the few non-al-Azhar scholars invited to the conference, called for scrapping Islamic heritage and forming a new kind of religious thought. He said it was impossible to renew current religious discourse because it “was made to suit a different age.”
“Creating a new discourse cannot happen without creating a new religious thought,” Khosht said.
Khosht said Muslims are held hostage by the thoughts of people who lived a long time ago and that “renewal makes it necessary for us to change our way of thinking and the way we see the world.”
I want to conclude with highlighting that I by no means am minimizing the importance of the holy Quran. To the contrary, I am constantly applauding and apologizing for the literal word of God: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran, The Quran Applauded as a Landmark Contribution to ‘Words of Justice’ by Harvard and The Holy Quran as the Miracle of the Holy Prophet.
But, I want to constantly emphasize the truth and not indulge in misplaced zeal. For after all Islam and the Quran are the sum total of the most important theological and moral truths and goodness for the human family, nothing more and nothing less!