The neo-Mods of Islam
The neo-cons of Christianity and ultra-mods of Islam have complementary objectives and activities. Devoted services of the former for the establishment of a Christian order are directly proportional to the latter's attempt at undermining Islam. With the increased intensity of their convoluted philosophy, the ultra-mods are confusing ever more ignorant-of -Qur'an Muslims and non-Muslims.
Turning some Muslims into monsters, bringing others into the fold of their Northern Alliance of Islam and making the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims unbridgeable are the main fruits of their renewed attempts at re-defining Islam.
A quick review of the emerging tenets of "modernist tendency," identified by the ultra-mods, shows that they are matching the physical horrors of a war on Islam with their intellectual horror of inflaming a "war within Islam." Out to save the West from the scourge of "Islamic fundamentalism," the ultra-mods are in for burning it with the same flames of its creation.
Among those usually called "moderates," the starting point of the argument is taking history and religious precepts out before explaining a contemporary phenomenon. They blame "fundamentalist" Muslims for raising "historical contingencies about Islam to the status of authority and normative models."(2) This approach will never do justice to an issue because it only paves the way for twisting an argument in favour of the ultra-mods' preconceived ideas. If a contemporary issue is related to religion, there is no other option but to refer to religious precepts.
"Extremist" Muslims are blamed for invoking "the 'real' or 'underlying' or 'inside' explanation for this or that action or event." We must not forget that due to the supremacy and pivotal role of the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah in Islamic faith, if an argument involves a reference from these sources, it matters little if it is referred to as the "real" or "underlying" or "inside" explanation.
Moreover, these sources are enough to explain and provide guidance on any issue, whether contemporary, future or related to the past. Rejecting this guidance with the label of "essentialism," is, in fact, the real problem for the ever-increasing confusion spread by the ultra-mods. Such rejection amounts to repudiation of the completeness of Qur'anic message and Islam as a complete code.
The message of Qur'an and Sunnah is very simple and straightforward. It is not "assumption of essentialism" that reinforces confusion among Muslims. It is rather the big words, ambiguously described incomprehensible phrases and discretely disguised agenda of the ultra-mods that attempts to give overlapping meanings. Creating doubts about the sources of Islamic message and guidance of the humanity as a whole are, in fact, rejecting the following words from Allah:
"O you who believe! obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those in authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Apostle, if you believe in Allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end."
The argument in favour or against "moderate" Muslims and Islam finishes the moment the ultra-mods admit that they are linking Islam to "secular attitudes."(3) The simple most dictionary definition of "secular" is: "not bound by a religious rule." The Muslims do not see any part of their life that is not bound by a religious rule. For being a Deen, Islam is one step ahead of religion. So, a philosophy, whether "moderate," "liberal" or any of the other kinds that rejects Islam as a Deen that encompasses all aspects of our life could be anything but Islam in the first place.
Highlighting the need of a "moderate" Islam, the ultra-mods go into history and claim that the term "initially proposed" for "moderate Islam" was "Islah." Those who are aware of concerned languages know that Islah (correction) and innovation are poles asunder. Secularising Islam or mutating its message does not fit into the category of Islah. There is also a difference between Islah of Ummah and Islah of the message of Islam. Those who are doing Islah of Muslims do not feel the need to cross the limits of Qur'an and make innovations for "enlightenment." Critical thinking and Islah are very different than what is being invented under the banner of "liberal" Islam.
The ultra-mods admit that until the 1920s, Islah "referred to the need for redressing the then-current state of affairs among Muslims, an idea that had more to do with curing social ills or reforming society than with reformulating religious dogmas." Also note the phrase "religious dogmas," which is used for nothing more than the common Muslim belief that hanging on to Qur'an and Sunnah is the root of their faith.
Rejecting the core
The Muslims who believe their "beliefs are valid for all eternity" are called "protectors of orthodoxy." Of course, if such beliefs are based on Qur'an and Hadith, they are definitely for all eternity and beyond the ambit of human criticism. It is impossible for the ultra-mods to "reform the popular religiosity" without referring to changing the religious beliefs of the masses.
The recent paper by Abdou Filali-Ansary is an excellent example of ultra-mods rejecting the core of Islamic beliefs with the label of "pre-modern ideas." He writes: "These protectors continued to hold their beliefs to be valid for all eternity and beyond the ambit of human criticism. In these views, a pre-modern idea of absolute truth prevailed…"
Any belief in the Qur'an is valid for all eternity no matter how we may downplay it by calling it "pre-modern." According to the Holy Qur'an:
"This is because Allah has revealed the Book with the truth; and surely those who go against the Book are in a great opposition."
Seeking reinterpretation of Qur'an
Stressing the inherent relativity of human interpretations, the ultra-mods are striving to make a case of reinterpretation of Islam. It seems as if Allah didn't know the "intrinsic limitations of human mind" or He didn't know that different individuals have different levels of understandings, and the various ways in which the message of Islam would be transferred to them.
It is, in fact, one of the ruses for promoting more and more divisions within Islam and rejecting the core of Islam in phases: first by rejecting interpretations of great scholars such as Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, and others under the notion of different levels of human understanding and new interpretation for modern times; then rejecting Ahadis for being unauthentic and finally diluting the Qur'an by removing portions which are considered as "not relevant" to the contemporary realities.
Despite the unimaginable depth of the Holy Qur'an, neither is the absolute truth "inaccessible" nor the "literal interpretation" wrong. Allah swears by the Qur'an and says:
"I swear by the Book that makes things clear. Surely We have made it an Arabic Qur'an that you may understand. And indeed it is, in the Mother of the Book with Us, exalted and full of wisdom,"
Those accuse Muslims for literal interpretation of the Qur'an, in fact, attempt to extract preconceived meanings which have no basis in the actual text.
Pick up any piece of writing or listen to any ultra-mod and you will find no word about the value of faith and its basic ingredients that bind Muslims together. The whole discussion only attempts to highlight differences and isolate positions. Instead of rushing into putting words in Allah's mouth, the ultra-mods need to pause and ponder as to why we receive calls from outside Muslims societies for reinterpretation of our faith.
This approach only serves to repel Muslims from the Divine Guidance by displaying a distorted image of it. This is what the moderates are displaying - repelling Muslims away from the divine guidance and believing only in parts of the Message. Qur'an says:
"Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in the other? What then is the re ward of such among you as do this but disgrace in the life of this world, and on the day of resurrection they shall be sent back to the most grievous chastisement, and Allah is not at all heedless of what you do."
Al Baqarah (2:85)
The theme of "Islamic backwardness" has been blown out of proportion despite the so visible signs of barbarism and inhumanity of the "civilised world." The situation in the world of Islam today is far different than the situation in European intellectual and political circles in the nineteenth and early 20th centuries. Instead the reality is that the Christian world that fought among themselves at that stage is gradually re-uniting against Islam. The signs are so obviously visible all around us that even a blind would deny.
The non-Muslim scholars, journalists, and political leaders proclaim the need for the aggiornamento (updating) Islam is for no reason at all. Anyone who knows the basic difference between Christianity and Islam would agree that Islam is standing on solid footings in the form of Holy Qur'an - the word of Allah -- and the human model that practiced this Qur'an in the form of life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Equating the inflated need for reformation in Islam with the history of Christianity, which had a Paul-written Bible and which too had at one time 24,000 different manuscripts.
For Christianity "reformation necessarily meant revolution, with traditional religious doctrines being discarded and novel ones adopted." It is, however, impossible to do the same with Islam. If you discard any part of the Qur'an, you are discarding your faith - you are Muslim no more, irrespective of any fatwa from any Mufti. Doesn't the Qur'an say:
"So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part? So what is the recompense for those who do that among you except disgrace in worldly life; and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent back to the severest of punishment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do,"
Calls for the emergence of a "Muslim Luther" or the convening of a "Muslim Vatican II," are part of the mischievous propaganda which the ultra-mods have embraced for various reasons. Muslims Luthers can never come into existence until we reject and confuse the clear message from Allah as the ultra-mods of Islam are doing. Qur'an has indicated and warned against this trend 1500 years ago:
"And be not like those who became divided and disagreed after clear arguments had come to them, and these it is that shall have a grievous chastisement."
The liberal discourse revolves around enlightening Islam by "enlightened Muslims" through reformation on the pattern of Christianity. The "enlightened" ultra-mods forget that Qur'an alone is the source of enlightenment, provided we understand and stick to every word of it. Allah says:
"Alif Laam Raa. A book which we have revealed to you [Muhammad] so that you may lead people from out of the darkness into the light by their Lord's leave to the path of the All-Mighty, the Praiseworthy."
Those who are looking for enlightenment in secular traditions and attitude must have a look at the history to see how the Qur'an brought a people out of darkness and made the most enlightened generation of the human history.
A question is raised: How should Muslims face the challenges of modernity? Making it a point of contention is one thing, dealing this issue fairly is quite another. There is no need for long speeches and unending contention. We have our touchstones. Anything primitive, modern or ultra-modern, which is against the teachings of Qur'an and Sunnah is haram - a thumb rule that ends all confusion and all debate and the so-exaggerated need for reformation. Anyone who needs standards other than these is only looking for trouble and discard in the Muslim world.
It is we, who are making contemporary conditions as hurdles for implementing religious traditions with the kind of questions that what ways should ethical principles be conveyed and religious traditions implemented under contemporary conditions? Where there is a will there is a way is the simple answer. The basic questions should rather be: Do we have enough faith in our religious tradition? Do we consider them worthy of implementation? If we do, only then the secondary issue of implementation follows. However, with the glasses of faith firmly on our eyes, we don't see any of the obstacles which scare the sceptical minds.
If we rely on non-believers such as Ernest Gellner or Charles Kurzman to answer these questions for us, we will definitely bag a lot of confusion than solutions. Ernst Gellner, like his companions, believes that "relaxed" moment of the Muslim existence tends to be characterized by fascination with Western, secular, modern forms of social and political life.(4)
It is believed that "liberal strain" of Islam "can be understood as the only one that genuinely accommodates the fruits of modernity." It only depends on which fruit one is talking about and what is the Qur'anic perspective about it. For instance, having opposite sex friends, same sex marriages and having children out of wedlock are some of the fruits of modernity. Accommodating such fruits and then calling it a brand - the "liberal brand" - of Islam is hypocrisy at its extreme. Failing to resist temptations for the "fruits" is one thing, associating them with Islam is quite another. This is nothing less than undermining Islam and putting Muslims on each others throat.
The ultra-mods believe that "liberal Islam" is "ready to make partial, and more or less consistent, concessions to modern ideas and ways of doing things." A careful understanding, nevertheless, reveals that what is considered as making "partial concessions," is, in fact, a war against the core principles of faith and the teachings of Qur'an and Sunnah.
Ultra-mods critique of "traditional," "fundamentalist" Islam has so far failed to establish tangible link of Islam's "backwardness" to the lack of willingness to accept "fruits of modernity," "democracy," and "legal rights." The "civilised" world's full support to Israel; double standards in dealing with dictators such as Musharraf, Mubarak, Saddam, other juntas such as in Algeria; multiple standards of human rights violations, and exoneration from war crimes - as we lately witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan - have clearly proved the much vaunted claims of rationality, modernity, democracy, human and legal rights as hallow as they could be. There is no need to turn Islam upside down for making it acceptable to the fake champions of civilisation or enjoying the rotten fruits of liberalism.
The ultra-mods reject the argument that Islam contains all of the positive "fruits of modernity" as "apologetic mode" of "Islamic modernism." Believing that Islam has "the best answers to all problems of modern social and political organisation…principles of social justice and human rights," is "anything but liberal" to them. According to ultra-mods, Islam doesn't provide any blue-print for the social order. To them this is no more than "a notion that is clearly dear to 'fundamentalists' and other radical opponents of liberalism."
Furthermore, the ultra-mods believe that sacred texts provide nothing more than "moral injunctions." The existing legal systems or methodologies are redundant because it's the later Muslim generations who build legal systems and ruling from "scriptural prescriptions." In this discussion, role of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is totally ignored. They ignore what the Holy Qur'an says about the model he presented for later generations to follow.
Support to Ahmadi's perspective
The self-labelled "moderates" lend full support to ideas of persons, such as Abdelmajid Charfi (b. 1944) of Tunis. Abdou Filali-Ansary considers him an "enlightened Muslim intellectual" who "proposes a comprehensive alternative to the views held by Islamists and ultra-conservatives" in his Islam Between Message and History. While paying tribute to Charfi's views, Abdou Filal-Ansary writes in his recent paper that Charfi "offers a new reading of one of the basic dogmas held by Muslims - namely, that of the end (or "sealing") of revelation." This clearly proves that "liberal" or "moderate" Muslims consider sealing of prophethood as a "dogma" held by "extremists."
According to Abdelwahab El-Affendi, the ultra-mods "have gone the furthest in promoting 'liberal' theologies within Islam (like the Ahmadis in Pakistan, the Bahais in Iran, or the Republican Brothers in Sudan)." It is yet another stamp of approval to show that Ahmadis are "liberal" Muslims.(5) Such views expressed by Ahmadis and fully supported and promoted by ultra-mods in their blind rush is an extremely dangerous trend that not only paves the way for pitting Muslims against Islam but also makes the situation worse for Muslims peaceful coexistence with the West.
The above argument by the ultra-mods, or any support lend to such an argument, clearly amounts to rejecting the following verse of the Holy Qur'an:
"Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Last of the prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things."
Undermining Islamic Identity
The ultra-moderate limit Islam to individuals and reject the idea of a collective Muslim identity, such as the concept of Ummah. They call it one of the "most important consequences of the enlightened tendency." Since Islam is not considered a complete code of life, freeing it up of its identity is considered as a step towards all cultures and nations to "lay the foundation of collective identity" and to the "acceptance of a convergence with other religious traditions. The ultra-mods believe that only such an amalgamation of Islam with other religions will enable Muslims to "co-exist as equal citizens with non-Muslims." Not an easy proposition for the survival of Islam and its believers.
Although Muslims were never a single entity after the decline of the Umayyads, they still remained thoroughly connected and unified because of their common beliefs and life-style. In the beginning of 20th century seeds of racial prejudice and nationalistic chauvinism were planted to weaken that sense of brotherhood and winding up Khilafah. At the end of 20th century, these seeds were replaced by rancid notions of "fundamentalist," "moderate," "extremist," and many other kinds of Muslims, which are fast producing their bitter fruits in the form of growing disharmony.
The insanity of fratricide that we witnessed in Afghanistan and the Arab support to US in turning Iraq upside down are examples of one of the manifestations of Divine punishment which clearly warned of confounding us with divisions if we left the basics of Islam. Allah says:
"Say: He has the power that He should send on you a chastisement from above you or from beneath your feet, or that He should throw you into confusion, (making you) of different parties; and make some of you taste the fighting of others. See how We repeat the communications that they may understand."
Al An'aam (6:65)
Sura-e-Room clearly indicates that splitting into groups and disagreements leads on to shirk - not in itself being that, but because of the resemblance to its people, and having the same appearance as them, as the result of disagreement between the Muslims is the same as that between mushrikeen.(6)
Indeed this is what the enemies of Islam want. They, such as Pipes and Friedman, chant words which the ear accept willingly and find pleasing: Freedom, democracy, liberation and so on, but all they want from groups within Muslims is disunity of the Ummah and worsening of its differences.
I believe there are no appropriate words to close this argument than the words of Allah. He says:
"Surely they who divided their religion into parts and became sects, you have no concern with them; their affair is only with Allah, then He will inform them of what they did."
A response to "What is Liberal Islam," Journal of Democracy, Volume 14, Number 2 April 2003.
2 Abdou Filali-Ansary, "The sources of enlightened Muslim thought," Journal of Democracy Volume 14, Number 2 April 2003
3 Abdou Filali-Ansary, "The sources of enlightened Muslim thought," Journal of Democracy Volume 14, Number 2 April 2003
4 Ernest Gellner, "Flux and Reflux in the Faith of Men," Muslim Society (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1981).
5 Abdelwahab El-Affendi, "The Illusive Reformation," Journal of Democracy, Volume 14, Number 2 April 2003
6 "30.31": Turning to Him, and be careful of (your duty to) Him and keep up prayer and be not of the polytheists. "30.32": Of those who divided their religion and became schismatics, each sect exulting in its tenets.
The Neo-mods Of Islam
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