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Moderate Islam: the Growing Sentiment Against Liberalism

Increasingly, Muslims nationwide are bombarded with the media’s adaptation of Islam and its principles. Consequently, the West is fed a misrepresentation of what a moderate Muslim should be. However, is it the West or Muslims themselves who hold control over the definition of ‘moderate’ Islam? Is Islam an autonomous entity free from the clutches of the West, or have we once again been subjugated to colonialisation and deceived into believing that the West ultimately knows what is best for us? The aim of this article is to redefine the Western notion of Islamic ‘moderatism’, and analyse the methods by which the government and its politicians have sought to redefine ‘mainstream Islam’.

The term moderate is a fair one in which to describe adherents of the Islamic faith who practice their religion. However, the point of contention seems to be the methodology of adherence and the degree of conformity to Islamic norms. So what is true Islamic ‘moderatism’? Theologically, Muslims are required to follow the Qur’an (word of God) and the Sunnah (prophetic traditions) in their doctrinal beliefs and actions, while establishing these two sources as an authority within law. Allah states in the Qur’an that Islam is a way of life, a deen, which has been selected for mankind in order that they attain felicity, ‘This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your deen’1. Thus there are beliefs and actions which are indubitably considered core principles of Islamic doctrine such as believing in the monotheistic nature of God, accepting the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), believing in the divine inimitability of the Qur’an, observing salah (prayer) five times daily etc. Failure to accept any of the core principles of Islam levels a charge of disbelief, just as rejection of doctrinal catechisms result in excommunication from the Church. Muslims believe Islam is a perfect way of life, and thus, religious observance is not regarded as rigid orthodoxy, but as submission to every decree of the Creator. Furthermore, in order for an act of worship to be accepted by God, there are two basic conditions; The action should be underlined with a pure intention to seek the pleasure of Allah, and it should be performed in conformity with the sunnah (method) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which is the most noble method, ‘And thou (Muhammad) standest on an exalted standard of character’2 and, ‘Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day’3. Thus, theologically, those who adhere to the Qur’an and Sunnah have merely acted upon that which was commanded, ‘O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger’4. To claim that such adherence is ‘radical’ is to foolishly imply that Islam in itself is a radical religion, as the deen itself is an epitome of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Islamic law also allows for ‘urf (customs) which are specific to a certain area or people and facilitates ease for non-Muslims who wish to convert. For example, we see this is apparent from clothing worn by Muslims globally. In Malaysia and Indonesia, Muslim men don sarongs with kaftan shirts, whereas Muslim men in the Middle East tend to don thawbs (long robe like garment) which are usually white due to the intense heat from the sun. Thus, to wear clothes other than the thawb is perfectly permissible, as long the Islamic principle is adhered to whereby the garment must cover one’s awrah (private parts/areas). Similarly, mosques differ in design, which are usually based upon the aesthetic preference of a certain culture, but still include the pulpit, a mihrab (a niche indicating the direction of prayer) and a minaret.

Muslims to the ‘left’ of the mainstream, on the other hand seek to modernise Islam, and ensure its progression through a process of ‘contamination’ and ‘watering-down’. Increasingly, ‘house-Muslims’ such as this are given the honour of being ‘upholders of true Islam’ by the media and government, much to the despair of many moderate Muslims. It is these very same moderate Muslims that perceive these ‘liberals’ to be an increasing threat to Islam. To many Muslims, people such as this are considered to be extremists. The ‘house- Muslims’ impertinently assert that many authentic practices found within the Qur’an and Sunnah are archaic and need to be revised, holding the view that things such as the beard and veil are mere Arab customs and they also seek to replace Islamic law with democracy. To that extent, liberal Muslims have increasingly aligned with western norms disregarding Islam and have sought to secularise the Islamic faith which they increasingly believe is a legitimate cause due to support from the government. However, recent calls for a ‘progressive’ British Islam prove to be completely contradictory to the Islamic faith. Which part of Islam are we seeking to progress? Is it the commandments of God? If one believes that Allah is all knowing, then which aspect of His knowledge do we believe we can improve upon? Furthermore, in asserting the expediency to re-evaluate Islamic belief and law due to modernity, liberal Muslims imply that Islam lacks universality and is not applicable in the contemporary age. However, Islamic law is practical in any realm and era. Elements of Shari’ah have always been fluid to social customs and norms and will continue to do so, as long as such fluidity remains within the confines of Islamic legal principles.

To attempt to secularise the Islamic faith is to claim that the law of God is not the most supreme system of governance. Allah states, ‘…The command rests with none but Allah. He declares the truth, and He is the best of judges’5, and we as Muslims are obliged to believed this. There has never been a Muslim in a position of authority who has called for the establishment of shari’ah in its entirety within the UK. Instead, this has been a form of scaremongering by the media, government, and many liberal Muslims.

Despite there being a strong presence of liberal Muslims, there are also those that are extreme but in a different manner. They are those Muslims who effortlessly call for the takfir (declaration of disbelief) of those who oppose their ideology, and are driven by contempt towards the West. Extremism in Islam is to take a course adverse to that of the middle way, and thus there are two types of extremism; to fall short of the deen, or to exceed its boundaries.

Moderate Muslims do not seek to establish Islam as a juxtaposition of the west; rather, Islam is a way of life which transcends all political boundaries and cultures. Muslims adhere to Islamic principles regardless of governmental alignment or lack thereof, as the purpose of observance is solely to seek the majestic pleasure of Allah.

The government has perpetuated its own version of Islam and called it moderate, aligning themselves with outspoken Muslim liberalists in an attempt to ensure the secularisation of the Muslim masses. Evidently, the government has successfully managed to do so with the Church, whereby many Christians do not hold firm convictions in their faith but acknowledge it as a cultural heritage. However, a report entitled ‘Living Together Apart’ which was researched on behalf of Policy Exchange, a conservative think tank which claims that, ‘Our research into the attitudes of Muslims in Britain showed that there is a growing religiosity amongst the younger generation of Muslims. They feel that they have less in common with non-Muslims than do their parents and they show a stronger preference for Islamic schools and sharia law. Religiosity amongst younger Muslims is not about following their parents’ cultural traditions, but rather, their interest in religion is more politicised. There is a greater stress on asserting one’s identity in the public space, for example, by wearing the hijab’6. The report emphasises that the real moderate Islam (the version demonized by the liberal Muslims) is the growing and dominant Muslim sentiment whereby younger Muslims are opting for an Islamic approach to the personal and public realm. Younger generations are opting for an observant Islamic methodology, as opposed to their elders due to a number of factors such as education and an increased sense of Islamic identity. Ms Munira Mirza, the chief author of ‘Living Together Apart has also failed to acknowledge the fact that most young Muslims are of Asian descent and are educated to a much higher standard than that of their parents. Consequently, they have also studied Islam to a level by which they have acquired a greater understanding and are not easily influenced by fictitious theology propagated by liberalists who implement governmental agendas. Furthermore, ‘Government policies to improve engagement with Muslims make things worse. By treating Muslims as a homogenous group, the Government fails to see the diversity of opinions amongst Muslims, so that they feel more ignored and excluded’7. Moderate Muslims who are observant of Islamic norms should be recognised and not demonised for their beliefs, and every attempt should be made by the government to accept the legitimacy of a growing sentiment in order to allow its voice to be heard, and in effect, lessen widespread antagonism between moderate Muslims and the government.

 

 

Notes:
Source: www.islam21c.com

1. al-Ma’idah 5:3
2. al-Qalam 68:4
3. al-Ahzab 33: 21
4. al-Nisa’ 4:59
5. al-An’am 6:57
6. http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/246.pdf p.5
7. Ibid p.6

About Ahmed Ali

31 comments

  1. Farouk Michaels

    good article – should be posted in a major newspaper.

  2. A really good debate – However, I do believe that the West as well as those Muslims living there need to possibly study and understand Islamic Theology more deeply instead of ‘naming’ different peoples.

  3. Bintus Sabeel

    MashAllah
    very interesting read.

  4. goody
    Really good article, and I loved the debate!! I would really like to know what ‘political Islam’ is!

  5. Wondering
    are muslims asking for too much from the west? would we get the same (good) treatment in the east?

  6. A guy from around here

    Higher learning…
    Brilliant article. It made me contemplate our understanding of different aspects of the British community and the inherent racism instilled within us. It seems that we still have much to learn.

    Muhammad said “Moderate Muslims do not seek to establish Islam as a juxtaposition of the west; rather, Islam is a way of life which transcends all political boundaries and cultures. Muslims adhere to Islamic principles regardless of governmental alignment or lack thereof, as the purpose of observance is solely to seek the majestic pleasure of Allah.”

    It seems non-Muslims have politicised Islam (something we claim Muslims have done), whereas we really need to educate ourselves about the theological aspects of Islam – understand what ‘pleases Allah’ acording to Muslims.

  7. Encore
    Assalaamualaykum, MashAllah an excellent article and a refreshing debate…

  8. Good stuff
    This site has some decent but very limited stuff. The article by Mr Nizami instigated much debate which I must say I found quite enlightening! Look forward to an info packed website were we learn about Islam from perspectives alien to the West.

  9. pauly’s points
    I don’t understand how you managed to jump from democracy to extremism. You asked about the roots of resentment for western democracy and I gave what I thought was a possible answer.

    The reason why I used iraq as an example is because it’s the freshest in everyone’s mind and one of the most explicit examples of a complete hash that has been made of it. I could have used the example of afghanistan before it, turkey, algeria, egypt, most muslim countries where democracy has been brought in at the expense of shariah, muslims living there and everywhere else don’t like and so resentment arises, pretty simple really.

    As for the extremism issue,very complex as you can appreciate, but whether it’s yourself, the sun, the government or anyone else who’s telling muslims how to sort themselves out, regardless, dedicated members of the muslims are exerting themselves to improve things, there is no magical answer. However if the government comes to muslim community asking, ‘whats the problem and how can it be solved?’ the first thing that can be said to them is how they personally can help solve things without having to ask others-change your foreign policy.
    This doesn’t mean we’re not doing anything on our side in the meanwhile.

  10. Terms
    It is plainly incorrect to equate the notion of a ‘middle nation’ with being moderate in any Western sense. Islam is the ‘middle nation’ in its own terms and is as such moderate in and of itself. It IS the criterion of moderation as Muslms see it and that every other position is measured against it and not the other way around as some involved in the discussion would have it.

    Further, it is only a half step away from foolishness to suggest we can discuss Islam using the Western notion of right-left dichotomy! I do not accept that Muslim scholars use this exact terminology with the ideologcal underpinnings as at least one discussant has suggested. What is ‘left’ or ‘right’-wing Islam? It is non-sensical – indeed it is a nonsense! If you want to insist on using such terms ten they must be thoroughly defined in the context of the discussion, not left open as if we all understand what a liberal Muslim is. Indeed, what does a liberal Muslim look like? Is t someone who is lax or is it someone who invokes the liberal (political/ philosophical) tradition? Is it a pro-democracy advocate, or a womens rights activist? These terms are not fr flinging around in the expectation that a single meaning is understood by them or even possible! How many liberalisms are there!? Are Tariq Ramadan, Hasan Al-Turabi, Fatima Mernissi to be banded together as liberals? Are they all after some form of secularism? How many moderate Islams are there? Is doing the 5 pillars m oderate or is standing in the night extremism? There are of course the minimum sets of belief and actions etc that are essential to attain for the ascription of Islam to be authentically applied to a person, but beyond that things become far more relative. There was an Arab who said he’d do only the 5 pillars and was approved by the Prophet (saw) and yet another was scolded for not standing in the night a alluded above. So which is it? This is why we should stick to the terms that Allah gave us as much as possible and it is why we do not say without serious qualification things like ‘middle nation’ = moderation.

    The author failed to properly define ‘moderatism’ as such and explained only that the government and the media and some ‘house Muslims’ are trying to define and impose their idea of a moderate Islam. This is quite different from ‘moderatism’ which is an unfamiliar term used to denote a very ambiguous ‘moderate’ position, a position that is entirely reliant upo its determinants, i.e., what is extreme and what is laxity – a characterisation that cannot realistically be applied to Islam. We could find 5 groups of ‘jihadis’ and of them some would be moderate in terms of ‘jihadism’ and so on. The author has not explained exactly what moderatism is, how this differs (if it does) from Islamic moderatism, or how this differs from the Western notion of Islamic moderatism, and indeed does not tell us with any detail or analytic force how this is supposedly become and is being inculcated by the government and media to be ‘the norm’. We are left to assume an understanding but there is nothing by which we can test our assumptions to see if they are either correct and/ or what the author had in mind – just look at the different uses of the word liberal and we cannot pin down a single meaning but are thrown around between an everyday use, a philosophical use and a political use, none of which are exact synonyms as such!

    The article promised in its opening paragraph to undertake these definitional activities and also to undertake a sweep of analysis, it does not deliver. It is still an interestng enough piece to be sure, and the number of respodants is testiment to this, but the article itself does not fulfil its own promise and all good is from Allah alone. Even the title relies on a single report mentioned only briefly to suggest ‘growing sentiment against Liberalism’, there is no real analysis or further explanation to back up the assertion. Allah knows best.

  11. Points of origin: A reply to Pauly
    Hi Pauly,

    Nice point; and I don’t mean that patronizingly, I think it evokes exactly how a lot of non-Muslims think. But you see the problem is a little intractable. Since you are forwarding an origin debate, could it not be equally true that the present discord amongst the Muslim community* is the out come of these arenas of injustices.

    You see, if there is recruiting going on, if there is a process of radicalization, then what is fuelling this? I suggest it is an accumulative (and equally selective) catalogue of Western mishap in foreign expeditions. Because the question is, why did this “threat” not come into existence 20, 30, 40 years ago?

    Look, there is a problem, and the Muslim community is doing something about it, but in an age where I am afraid to even say the word “terrorism” openly in a coffee shop and discuss the true sense of “shariah”, for fear of being picked up by anti-terrorist guys (a fear which is very real in the Muslim community, because so many people have been picked up) doing anything is going to be tricky. Secondly, the government has dropped an agency like MCB (which had its problems no doubt) in favor of new-government-created groups (Sufi Council of Britain) because MCB chose to speak against the Iraq war, which suggests that there is a culture of manufacturing Muslim views which breeds further distrust and discord.

    Lastly, I want you to consider the argument that one of the reasons we do not see the threat 20, 30 years ago is because western ideologues have helped construct and shape this new menace. A series of images and a consistent evocation of age old exoticism (both alluring and threatening) relating to Muslims has bred a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. This does not mean that there is no blame to the “Muslims” who commit atrocities – criminals are criminals – but to not take into account structural factors which produced conditions in which such crimes could occur, will not solve the problems. The IRA were not pathological criminals – the treatment meted to them was a factor in their choosing to undertake such action. People are not born bad apples. And even if we have some bad apples, we cannot change them, but we can change ourselves and our social surroundings in such a way so as to minimize the impact such people can make.

    Finally, it is important to understand two things. As the Muslim voice increases in our current political discourse, we will find a greater movement away from out and out politicized discussions to discussions about aesthetics, philosophy, and such presently less discussed topics. It is because the current climate is so heavily politicized that everything that seems to come out of the Muslim “community” seems a political rant. The second thing to take into account is that what seems a rant is just a balancing of views. Muslims in the West are by and large happy, peaceful, and grateful – at least I am. As someone interested in intellectual activity, I have learnt from history that any time a society is in political and social upheaval, intellectual activity is ground to a halt. Thus for that reason, the relative harmony in Britain – plus an overall good spirit of toleration unlike in France – is what I favor to develop my intellectual thoughts. My sadness is only that I see the west in which I am lucky enough to reside as not assisting but fostering a condition of chaos in other countries, thus preventing true intellectual growth in those nations.

    I pray for a little more wisdom, for all of us.

    *if there is one – and the only reason I add this footnote of caution is because, being under media scrutiny it seems like there’s something huge going on in “our” community (even though to what extent we are a community in the true sense of that word is questionable) when truthfully while the Muslim community was under scrutiny the “black” community had its own on going problems which only came to light when something dramatic got picked up by a sensationalizing media.

  12. This has turned into quite an engaging exchange of ideas!
    This is great. The individual voices here expressed are fantastic. What’s even better is that, unlike many message boards after an article, the one here is polite but firm instead of being unnecessarily rude, which in general I find very offensive and distasteful.

    A few points.

    I see what Abu Mustapha means, and within his defined terms yes I see the analogy working. So I agree with it to that extent. But I find it nonetheless a little reductive. I really do think one of the issues is to try to comprehend what “religion” is. Don’t get me wrong I don’t have an answer (though I do have an opinion) but I see this to be one of the crucial arena’s of contention. A proper (in depth) operationalisation of this term is needed. We can all believe in a God – even a self confessed Atheist may acknowledge, when pressed, that there is a possibility/probability of there being a God, and in so far as that is the case every disbeliever is essentially a species of agnostic. But it is on the issue of religion as a personal, social, intellectual, and political organizational factor that true debate really exists. Humanists (in a broad sense) and cultural theorists (specifically) have done a thorough job in changing the frames of references to show culture as the matrix within which religion exists. Located here, religion as an organizational body is deduced as a social construction liable to change (as a category, so that nationalism, secularism, etc. can replace it) or be done away with (as in communism and certain strains of socialism) over time. God remains because even after the ascendancy of empiricism and sociology in the climate of opinion, there is an individual intuition (due to the confrontation between the individual and the world) that echoes very faintly a consciousness of there being an originator. We may term this the fitrah.

    This alone does not lead one to “religion” and even less to “Islam”.

    What is needed, in my humble opinion, is an addressing of the frame of references. Sadly, this message board is not the right vehicle for that, but this website may well be.

    Keep it up.

  13. I don’t get it
    Everytime Muslims are asked about a question, they bring up the Iraq issue. I’m not saying I agree with the war, but Terrorism is something everybody must fight. If we want to analyse the root of extremism we can’t blame Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine, we have to start at home. Yesterday, it was in the papers that loads of uni’s are being infiltrated by extremist groups who are ‘converting’ moderates (they’re probably liberals according to Muhammad!). This is proof that such conversions are on the behalf of extremist groups brainwashing individuals, not the war in Iraq. I’m not proposing that we go in to uni’s to hunt them down (inevitably this will cause dissention among students), but what are you as the Muslim community doing to counteract this? How are YOU as a Muslim community going to counteract preachers of hate? How are YOU the Muslim community going to counteract suicide bombings?

    I’ve heard many times the Muslim’s saying that its not them and they have nothing to do with it, but I say you do. If anything, its more your mess than the British government. I’m not saying its the community’s fault, but it is from those among you (every group has rotten apples). When the IRA were conducting their bombing campaign, I didn’t hear the Muslims joining in and attempting to pro actively stop it (or do what they could), they left it to the British government – so now its your turn. You cannot pick and choose when you seek separatism – its all or nothing.

  14. peter’s points
    Democracy isn’t that straight forward, the governments in the west are not all practicing the same thing, and even here the libdems want a change to see ‘fairer’ democracy.

    I don’t think muslims hate democracy in and of itself, although we dont endorse its prevalent form, and as you put it well, you understand that muslims feel the Shariah is the best option. However I think the problems arise when the US and its allies put their hands in other peoples’ countries causing mischief and over 100,000 deaths in the false cause of uncovering nonexistent weapons, then use the excuse of removal of saddam, and also justify this bloodbath by saying we’re establishing ‘democracy’. I don’t think the problems are about democracy in the west, the problem arises when democracy is forced down muslims’ throats in the middle east and beyond, not by the ballet but by the bullet. It may be easier to see now why there is such resentment for it, and on top of that it seeks the removal of the Shariah in Islamic countries.

    On this note, I think another misconception needs to be cleared. Muslims do not seek to establish the sharia over others in the uk, rather we seek that specific and simple aspects of the shariah be allowed in cases where muslims agree to its use, like some jews in the uk can use parts of jewish law to deal with certain aspects of their lives. This is only used by muslims and by choice and is not forced on others. And upon being asked what we prefer, Shariah is the most obvious answer, it’s an opinion, it doesn’t mean anyone’s going to topple parliament for it, this is just media scaremongering.

  15. Very…
    Very informative. This is the first time I’ve actually sat and thought about this whole ‘intergration’ and ‘identity’ issue, and I must say, I kind of understand where M Nizami is coming from.

  16. Ataullah Parkar

    Assalaam walaikum

    Mashallah a really interesting discussion on a sensitive topic of the left and right divide within the Muslim community.

    I guess from the comments above, even an analysis of the analysis of the community causes differing interpretations. The use of moderate, middle-way and these kinds of terms incite differing concepts in various disciplines. The new ‘Muslim academics’/’englightenment Muslims’ have claimed the word to mean ‘hey look, Islam is so humanist like the green party!’ which is a dangerous approach.

    But then again, even the political divide has been fudged. Anything to do with social change is now right wing, and inherently dangerous for society and thus a necessary evil (perhaps for the ruling class it is anyway!).

    The left movement within British Muslims/Muslims living in Britain must be monitored. ‘Universalising’ Islam is a dangerous thing to do, especially while its happening alongside globalisation, that is, the universalising of the world through a homogenous culture vis-a-vis Americanisation.

    The values of Islam are timeless, but universal in the modern sense implies freedom of time and space and thus culture. The Qur’an and Sunnah though, is permeated within 6th century Arab culture as defined by the Prophet (as), and thus much of his culture (as) is an essential part of it. Continue universalising Islam (according to the current definition used by the majority) and we will end up with “The Nasheed Factor”, “Islam MTV”, “Urban Jilbaabs”, “Mohamed, Mercy to Mankind” showing in Odeon Cinema from 17th April and Islamic Bank of Britain patronising us when they equate the development of halaal banking with the picture of a ‘sheep bank’ instead of piggy bank. Oops we’re already there!

    Social change is through the permeation of culture in the modern world and not ideology. Invasions of countries are just a formality to close the matter.

  17. Sulaiman Rogers

    Mashallah…
    Asalamu alaykum

    Akhi Muhammad, Mashallah, it is a very good article and well overdue!

    I agree that it is more needed in nonMuslim newspapers, but to tell the truth, I’m simple happy that it has been posted. Maybe this is the voice we as ‘orthodox’ Muslims have been waiting for…
    Jazakallahu khair

  18. I don’t understand
    I am constantly plagued by Muslims who like to repeat their disgust for western democracy. I can’t fathom as to why Muslims see it as such a bad thing. Every person gets to vote for who they want, and the majority get there way, while the minority are also given the right to debate. Nobody is oppressed in the process – the greatest good for the greatest number of people. I recently read a book in which shari’ah was stated as being that which acrues most benefit. Isn’t that the same thing?

    I would love for the West and Muslims to get along, but I dont understand why Muslims are filled with so much anger and hate. I understand why you want sharia law, but honestly, if I went to Saudi Arabia and asked for a Ham sandwich, I’d be asking for a decking!!

  19. Human Rights?
    “We now have human rights whereby you cant simply cut off a persons hand or begin to stone fornicators!!”

    But it’s perfectly justifiable to incarcerate over 500 men for years on end in Guantanamo Bay, subjugate them to vicious acts of torture, render them as “illegal combatants” in order to deny them of their rights under the Geneva convention, hold them indefinitely without trial or charge and then insult their religion as a means of psychologically breaking them.

    My point here isn’t to make a comparison between human rights as viewed and implemented by Islam and the West, this I feel can be addressed by a separate article. However, it’s very clear that the “human rights” you so boldly proclaim distinguishing the Western law from the Sharia, is lacking when it comes to minorities – in this case the Muslim minority.

    Guantanamo Bay is simply the tip of a very vicious iceberg, thousands of other men and women are held in ghost prisons all across the world where one can only imagine what happens to them. Not to mention the the prisons right here on her majesty’s soil which have held men indefinitely for the past 10 years, and in some cases, even longer.

    I find it inconceivable that people can still use the vague term “human rights” to demonise and attack the Sharia and yet be completely oblivious to the constant human rights abuses which are taking place at this very moment in most Western countries.

    If you consider the Sharia to be devoid of any human rights then I would disagree but respect your point of view , but to attack the Sharia and purport the West’s view and implementation of human rights I find highly offensive and shows a complete lack of understanding of current world events and clearly demonstrates your liberal rhetoric.

  20. Just a few points
    Jzk for all the insightful comments.

    I just wanted to make a few points where I disagree.

    The first with regard to the analogy of exams. In my opinion it’s very simple and need not be complicated, the lessons from it are many. If I study hard and prepare for my exams I am considered a diligent and studious student. If I work hard in practicing Islam, I’m rigid and orthodox. If I follow the advice of my professors and teachers, I am sensible and wise and a rebel if I go against them. If I follow the advice of Allah (swt)I am considered as being ‘dogmatic’ and a ‘wahabi’, whilst if I rebel I am considered a ‘moderniser’ and a ‘liberal free thinker’.

    Allah (swt) has described this life as a test, to see who is better in deeds. Moreover Allah has said the one whose scales are heavy is successful and the one whose scales are light has failed. We know that there are levels in paradise, the one who does more in preparation for it has a higher grade than the one who does less, very simple. The equation is, if you meet Allah’s criteria you pass and if you don’t, you fail.

    In using this analogy I have not quantified eeman, Allah and his messenger quantify eeman, and Allah is the ultimate judge, using his own criteria, but essentially it’s pass or fail.

    I also think using the terms moderation or extremism is justified. Allah himself in the qur’an branded us the ‘middle nation’-ie.moderate, and has warned against extremism, where he addresses the people of the book telling them ‘do not be extreme in your deen’. The people of knowledge use these terms and are able to better explain their meaning, therefore essentially I don’t see a problem.

    I agree we should be careful with using the terms flippantly however, but with the correct etiquette and understanding should be ok.

    Some points I disagree with sister rahima on are the following:

    British values? Have you not been in on the latest debates in this country about precisely the lack of values in this country? And for all the positive values that I admit are in the UK, no one group in the world has a monopoly on them.

    Do you know that the British people are not even agreed about what they stand for. Research shows that English, Welsh, Scottish etc. are less accepting of britishness than the ethnic minorities who came here. It’s as though we’re bending over backwards to blindly follow a concept which the people who themselves come up with it are not sure of.

    Secondly, officially this country is not secular, it’s a christian country, not that it really matters in this context. The very values of this country allow all people to choose their way, unlike yourself who’s going against these values and forcing us to accept secularism. We are very accepting of this value and choose the truth which is Islam. It seems that we are more accepting of British values than you.

    We don’t impose Islam on anyone, however if a person accepts Islam then practice it, don’t change it to justify your own inclinations. It’s also unfair to use examples of bad drivers as a basis to criticise the vehicle.

    Side point – The UN has now implemented circumcision as one of the MOST EFFECTIVE ways of stopping the spread of AIDs, imagine if we had given up this practice upon your advice trying to follow others and modernising our complete deen.

    I don’t want to sound arrogant or rude to anyone, but rather wish to put forward an argument that makes more sense to me.

  21. Re:
    Interesting comments sister Rahmah. Your comments are almost if not equally dogmatic to those you seek to refute. Nevertheless, I would like to dissect your argument if you will indulge me.

    1. ‘Rigid orthodoxy has never been an aspect of Islam’. Bold statements which are made without any qualification (as yours is) are by virtue of their lack of qualification, highly contestable. A simple example would be when Abu Bakr (ra) wished to fight those people who witheld their Zakah – clearly not a ‘live and let live’ policy, I take it that you would consider this liberal orthodoxy?

    As far as the word orthodoxy is concerned, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it’s meaning includes: conforming to established doctrine especially in religion. I was unaware that you are able to conform to laws in a rigid or liberal fashion, I thought a person would simply conform…or not (but that is a whole different discussion).

    2. I imagine you would find (and I have no statistics to prove this, it is only a supposition) that the vast majority of Muslims are not oppressive towards women, nor do they wish to augment this in any way. To be fair, I am like yourself making a gross generalisation with regards to my supposition. I believe that this particular discussion will only be of benefit when we have surveyed the population. Isolated incidents do not make good statistics when they are magnified to national/global generalisations. I will say however, that it does occur and must be stamped out. The Prophet (saws) directed us to all of the etiquettes that we need for our social interaction and we should heed his advice (saws).

    3. Your point about living in a secular country and not wanting Shariah and then your point about Wahabis claiming that Islam is the only way forward, makes for very confusing reading. Taking your point about Wahabis saying that Islam is the only way forward for example, I would like to remind you from your own admission that you are a Muslim ‘I consider myself a moderate Muslim’. If you are a Muslim, that means that you are part of that fold of people whose religion is Islam. If Islam is not the way forward, i.e. a person can live their lives by following another faith, taking Christianity as an example, why then are you not a Christian?…but if you feel that you are a Muslim and cannot belong to any other faith, my supposition would be that by default you consider Islam to be the way forward – radical theology. So to sum up my proposal:

    You are a Muslim – therefore – you belong to the fold of Islam – therefore – you consider Islam to be the way forward – therefore – you are a Wahabi. QED.

    I am sure you will not agree with my supposition, but that is where unqualified statements will lead you.

    Also, I think that you will find, that many of these Wahabis that you allude to are of exactly the same opinion that you are upon with regards to accepting the laws of this country. I am a ‘Wahabi’ and I follow the laws of this country and I follow the laws of Islam (by the Grace of Allaah) and I find no problems in doing both. I am not an exception to the rule to pre-empt you, I am only one of many people upon this understanding.

    4. As far as opposing the Shariah is concerned, can I ask who the Shariah came from? I think that you will find that the Shariah came from Allah (swt), i.e. Allaah (swt) Legislated what we can and cannot do upon the tongue and actions of His Messenger Muhammad (saws). Using your superior Western intellect, can you honestly say, that the Being who created the universe, all that is in the Heavens and the Earth, right down to the fingerprint that identifies you uniquely, could do all of that and then not have known that Muslims would live in the West and would require a different Shariah to the one brought by the Prophet? (and Allaah is Free from all imperfections and the All-Aware). I think that you will find that the Shariah that was sent by Allaah (swt) vis-a-vis the Prophet (saws) is as applicable today as it was 1400 or so years ago. Whether we can implement it fully in the West is another matter – but the Shariah itself gives us this grace of not having to implement it if we are unable to do so – ergo we are actually still implementing it.

    I must say with all due respect to yourself that you are a student of the rhetoric of the media and have not understood your religion at all. Perhaps you should read a few more books about the reality of this religion which you are part of or consult a person who actually knows something about Islam, then you may find that your views are ‘radically’ different.

    Thank you for sharing.

  22. This is so tangled,
    I have to disagree with Sister Rahma and in some ways with Abu Mustapha.

    The analogy of exams etc. is credible only superficially, but is somewhat lacking in substance. Eemaan surely is not quantifiable in the way that passes and fails are. Submission even at the point of death may put a sinner in a favourable light. The analogy therefore at this point breaks down.

    I find this simplistic approach unsatisfactory.

    Similarly, sister Rahma’s response is inadequate. She argues her case poorly. This is because she has not articulated her view of “Religion” – it seems that the disagreement is fundamentally on understanding and expressing one’s view of religion, human beings, and the relationship between the physical and the metaphysical. If bringing Islam into the 21st century means equipping it with the proper attire, it is effectively like the colonised who dress to impress while forgetting that they are essentially bound in a system which has placed them in a position where they are made to feel less than they are (in and of themselves). Even a preliminary reading of Gandhi and Fanon would diagnose this as the psychological distempering of a colonised mind.

    The real debate lies not with the moderates or extremists, terms which are as helpful as “savage” and “noble savage” were. I mean, shame on us for using these terms of reference. This attests to our sapped imaginations (see Decolonising the Mind). “Moderate” in what? To what? Toward whom? Extreme in what sense? Extreme to whose measurement ? No, no, no, by using these words to identify ourselves (by affirmation or negation) is to be involved in a discourse that endorses a world view biased from the beginning.

    We must altogether, those who still value their identity as Muslims, look to address our problems (injustice toward women (which, yes, does exist), the qualitative measurements of justice etc.) from our own rich and abundant resources, supplementing with ideas from beyond our cultural remit with a degree of caution (not a open hearted embrace nor a rigid disregard).

    I think we all need to make fewer bold assertions and embrace a spirit of humility. Nothing is ever black and white, not even belief in Allah. For while we believe in Him, we acknowledge that this is a belief of will and not one that is had by direct contact. Here then is the grey, for herein lies my ability to deny His existence, for were he to make Himself manifest all would become black and white. This not being the case, there is still a degree of grey, which I believe He has chosen and by which He has instilled within us free will.

    And Allah knows best.

  23. Rigid orthodoxy has never been an aspect of Islam, it is a new phenomenon instigated by the likes of Muhammad Abdul Wahhab, Maududi, Abduh and Qutb. Before them, Islam enjoined a ‘live and let live’ policy whereby Muslims where left to strengthen their ties with God. Now it seems Muslims are much more concerned with who is in power and ‘how can we be that little more oppressive towards our women’!

    The point that Muslim women are oppressed is a fact that many Molvi types try to get away from. We can only rectify something when we accept that it exists. This also goes for those who want to establish a sharia state wherever they live. We must accept that this is a secular country and that we CHOSE to live here, nobody forced us to, and therefore we must be acceptent of those British values. This radicalised theology which is preached by Wahhabists that ‘we are the only people of God’ and that ‘Islam is the ONLY way forward’ is the type of theology that breeds extremism.

    As for sharia in the UK, I oppose it, this is not the East, and the western way is is different. We now have human rights whereby you cant simply cut off a persons hand or begin to stone fornicators!! I understand that in the Prophets time, these practices were seen as humane, however we have moved on from then. As this website implies, lets bring Islam into the 21st century.

  24. Not one bit of Shariah?
    Sister Rahmah, perhaps you should clarify why you disagree with certain points made. Blanket statements such as “I do not need to believe that sharia must be implemented, even minutely” could come across as confirmation of the colonised mindset we seem to have acquired from an inferiority complex. Does every society not impose laws on citizens of the state? Is it not true that minorities’ views are often not considered in drafting these laws? Why should I as a Muslim be forced to insure my car when my religion forbids any form of usury?

    It becomes problematic to deny that even a minute aspect of Shariah should be implemented, since there are probably quite a few minute aspects of the Shariah within British law (e.g. prosecution of criminals?)! So what exactly should be left and what exactly should be taken away? Anything that agrees with what is not taboo in the West? How is that using our intellect? At least if we are Muslims we have admitted that we have accepted that the basis of our religion is in harmony with our reason and intellect! Or is it that we still need to resolve that in our mind? That’s perhaps a separate issue requiring attention…

    Also, justification of liberalism by using isolated ahadith which favour ‘ease’ open up the doors to anything; such isolated statements are devoid of any meaning without an understanding of the context of those ahadith.

  25. i totally agree
    Dear sister,
    Contrary to your understanding, Islam is not about what suits the individual but rather what suits Allah the creator and surely he knows what’s best for his creation.

    I’m a student and I have exams in about 4 weeks time, I want to pass to get into my next year, I’m not kidding btw. I consider myself a good student, however I’m not so sure whether the heads of my year will allow me to pass without fulfilling the criteria for my examination and without handing in all of my assessments. Based on what you mentioned do you think it’s better that I tell them, come on ‘I consider myself a really good student, and I believe others are really good students, just let us off and accept us into the next year’, sounds really ideal doesn’t it. Something’s telling me they’re not going to listen. Do you think I should actually do as they advise and prepare for my exams?

  26. just another brother

    the so called tolerant moderates!
    Dear sister rahmah, if you think your moderate practice of Islam is not very rigid then I suggest you read your own comment again. You come accross as someone pretty dogmatic and rigid to me. perhaps you are accepting of views more liberal than your own, but anything more conservative and you expose your rhetoric to be nothing more than intolerance.

  27. I totally disagree
    I consider myself a moderate Muslim and I totally disagree with Mohammed’s article. This is the form of extreme dogmatism that we as Muslims need to get away from. It is written the ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ and therefore I do not need to believe that sharia must be implemented, even minutely. I dont wear a hijab and pray five times a day, but I still consider my self a good Muslim. This form of neo Wahhabism whereby we attempt to be dogmatic is not the essential Islamic spirit we should be preaching. Islam is a religion of peace and that is the core factor we should be promoting.

    Rigid interpretations of texts are just that, interpretaion. Mohammed has made a huge error in assuming that all forms of Islam are homogeneous, what is to say liberalism is disallowed. I have continously read in hadith that the prophet was a soft natured being whose aim it was to facilitate ease for the people. Where is that ease now?

  28. Abu Abdur Rahman

    ??
    I believe this article would have been better placed in a non Muslim newspaper…We all know the score but do they?

  29. mmm….
    Interesting article, surely, authoritative Muslims must gather to make a declaration similar to this article.

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