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Revisiting Fazlur Rahman’s Ordeal

An anonymous commentator has inquired about the ‘backstory’ of banning of Fazlur Rahman’sIslam‘ and forced me to terminate my prolonged hiatus from blogging.

Dr Fazlur Rahman Anyone examining the newspapers of second half of 68′ would know with ease that the whole episode was one of the earliest and most unfortunate sagas of political hijacking of Islam. It is immaterial whether Fazlur Rahman was labeled a kaafir, an apostate or a religious hypocrite and how the political environment at that time overshadowed an otherwise academic issue; what is important however, that Fazlur Rahman proved to be a victim of misdirected traditionalist emotionalism and paid the heavy price of abandoning his cherished goal of transforming intellectual heritage of Muslims and deploying a modern religious education policy in Pakistan.

Tragically, he suffered a lot due to peculiarity of his dual associations; wherein he was an active proponent of reforming traditional understanding of primary religious sources while being an academic chairing a prestigious national institution (Central Institute of Islamic Research) at the same time. The tradionalist circles, in their blinded zeal to safeguard Islamic tradition, targeted him in person by unjustly questioning his intentions rather than postulating a fair and academic rebuttal to his thought and works. Additionally, he was misquoted by way of limiting his statements (made in his book) to specific meanings. Whereas these were deep philosophical assertions directed only to academics and students who were presumed to be technically familiar with that kind of discourse. It is also important to understand that Rahman was primarily trained in philosophy and two specific angles from which he analysed and re-evaluated the historical development of Islam are philosophy and education. He dealt with both these aspects throughout his writings and proved himself as one of the most important contemporary proponents of Islamic modernity.

Purposefully searching his works to find controversial parts is an intellectually trying experience and most of the times it is obvious that scholars who vociferously spoke against him did not take enough pain to read and understand him at all. For instance the objectionable parts in ‘Islam’ where Fazlur Rahman allegedly denied the physical existence of angels or doctrine of locomotive mir’aj are basically pointers towards the intellectual immaturity (according to Rahman) of orthodoxy and possiblities of better philosophical expositions of nature of Prophetic religious experiences. Moreover, all these arguments are rooted in the language of Quran and doubting his intentions is nothing but religious bigotry. Rahman’s assertions against the externality of revelation vis-à-vis the person of Prophet instigated most of the clamoring in traditional circles. Albeit, no direct denial of objectivity and verbal character of revelation came from him and he explicitly explained his views afterwards, controversialists argued incessantly that he has questioned the divine nature of revelation. Even if we suppose, for the sake of argument, that Rahman actually believed in divine revelation of meanings and Prophetic transmission of words, he would not have been the first one to contend so. Years before him Jalaluddin Suyuti recorded a similar opinion (one of three opinions) regarding nature of revelation in his magnum opus on Quranic studies. If language is understood to support such a belief 500 years ago, there is no academic justification whatsoever to blatantly disregard any of the textual interpretation in modern times.

On a different note, it is also true that parts of Rahman’s overall methodology can be disagreed with strongly. He was an intellectually honest scholar and kept no secrets while admiring the work of Joseph Schacht and other orientalists in general. It is interesting however that while positing a strong criticism against some of Schacht’s assertions he also ended up drawing heavily from one of his major works as well. I always remember a valuable comment by one of my teachers who wrote (while helping me to evaluate some of Rahman’s contentions):

Max Weber’s ‘methodology of history’ demonstrates that Rahman’s position on the method of historical research was seriously flawed. Harlad Motzki’s research on the reliability of hadith reports demonstrates that Rahman’s position on hadith was flawed. Rahman was part of that generation of scholars (both in the West and the Muslim world) who treated traditional sources of knowledge with great deal of skepticism. More recently developments, variously called the post-critical school or the Yale School, assert that while there are some problems in the traditional sources those problems are not egregious enough to discount the entire tradition. This is a position that has emerged within modern western secular academia. Those Muslims still taking Schacht and Goldziher seriously are way behind the times.

Its tricky to unbrace all the knots, articulate every disagreement and encompass each complication of this great scholar’s thought. I ramble on and eventually meander whenever I sit to do so. But while I drift and sway, I revisit some enlightened bits of Fazlur Rahman’s legacy and live over the bitterness of his times.


73 thoughts on “Revisiting Fazlur Rahman’s Ordeal

      • Those who liked Fazlur Rahman Malik’s Historicism which applied to Islam can make a group or a society . I was in favour of ” modern Muslim society” or “progressive Muslim society” . Fazlur Rahman was a cautionist philosopher . My concept is a daredevil type. I deny Hadith as a part of Islam . Islam should have based on Quran only. People will read Quran and follow accordingly. There must not have uniform laws of everything. People will have their liberty to conceive religion to suit their family need ,social need. Today society is vague and does not work at all .

      • 2 concepts of Hasan MURSHID are impractical and hence flawed:
        Taking out Hadith completely from Islam. Hadith doesn’t only contain detailed explanations of a lot of Quraan’s content.People like you can consider it as 1 step down in credibility/misunderstanding / mis-statement of referring source, only and only for the contents that are not extensions of any of Quran’s verdicts.
        Society doesn’t work. Especially in modern times when information overload doesn’t let you available time to go through every piece of important information and browsing through irrelevant info and flawed opinions are time-consuming, you need to have a society to help you. You only need to filter you association fast through your initial half life, and index the people whose research assessments and opinions are based on solid knowledge, logic and fact not fascist opinions and bad influences.

      • Before you comment , you should have read the history of Islam and subsequent development . There was no Hadith till about 120 years of muhammad’s death . After 120 years , some imams during Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad thought of collecting each and every saying , acts , habits etc of muhammad . It took another 80 years to collect first cut of Hadith called ahle Hadith .
        Some critiques commented that how Muslims used to practice before Hadith was discovered . Before Hadith Muslims used to follow Quran and with open minded practices . This was actually according to Quran which says in verse 5.49 as ——I gave you a law and an open way —-” . This is actually the true spirit of Quran . This gives a free mind to think and practice .

        But after Hadith , it has restricted Muslims movement , dress code , food habits , money handling process etc etc . Muslims became fanatics slowly and increasingly . Today free thinking is dead , absolute fanaticism is ruling Muslim society .
        Some say , Quran = Hadith . Two books came from God ?
        Some say , those who don’t believe in Ala Hazrat aren’t Muslims . One more flavor ?
        Lol . Society has gone to the dogs . Isis , Al qaeda , hizbul muzahideen kinda hell born evilists are born .
        Sick and tired —–

  1. There is no one in particular who can be pointed out as the culprit. To understand these dynamics, its important to retrace the politics of Islamic Pakistan during Ayub’s post martial law era – from 62′ to 68′. Like all the wise generals of Paki land, he soon realised that he had nourished enough substantia grisea and should be remembered in history as a religio-social reformer. It started with the postulation of new constitution with omission of word ‘Islamic’, de-islamisation of constitution while using ‘Islam’ as a slogan for state policy, appointment of liberal scholars, steering their judgements behind the scences and passing of a new Muslim Family Law.
    To cut the long and familiar story short, Ule’ma were equally hypocritical and politically arrogant. They wanted nothing less than powers to draft an ‘Islamic Constitution’ themselves as if it would solve all the problems immediately. All the mainstream Islamic political parties (who were on the forefront e.g. Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat al-Ulema’ay Pakistan) had tolerant and erudite religious discourse way below the ladder of priorities. They oppposed almost anything that came from Ayub’s regime with force and mass mobilisation instead of a scholarly discourse; may it be the Family Ordinance, Waqf Ordinance, appointment of marriage registrars, family planning program or the consent of first wife before second marriage etc. People like Mian Tufail and Mufti Mahmood were the most vocal.
    Fazlur Rahman was considered a liberal modernist by all these traditional factions. He tried to do few important educational reforms in his seven years which he explained with some detail in ‘Islam and Modernity’ and continued working independantly on formation of a new Islamic Methodology (which can be understood in detail by reading ‘Islamic Methodology in History’). In this backdrop he published ‘Islam’ and as I already wrote in my post, the blinded mob turned towards him like a wild elephant. Rahman finally offered to resign from Council of Islamic Research in despair as Ayub started showing concerns for reconciliation with Ul’ema in 68′.
    I hope that helps.

  2. That was such a fascinating post, and I agree wholeheartedly with it. I am revisiting “Islam” after around 3 years of it sitting on my shelf and am finding intellectual diamonds in there! 🙂

    I am revisiting his books, as well as the likes of Wensnicks “Muslim Creed” in order to try and trace the currents of thought in Islamic Studies and how they developed. It is very clear that the folks from these times are very cautious in using traditions (hadith and athar), and the work of Motzki has no comparison (that I know of) in regards to dealing with the issues of early history, collection and codification.

    It could equally be said that those anti-Islam people still using Schachy and others are behind the times too! 😉

    When reading about Rahman’s life, especially in Pakistan, I feld very sad. It is clear that he was an enormous intellect and had an amazing talent – yet it was effectively cut short in Pakistan. Remembering too that this was the time period aftr Iqbal, Muhammad Asad and Yusuf Ali toyed with the idea of starting a Muslim/Islamic faculty, then one is left wondering what the outcome would have been if this had been in place and Rahman came along.

    My curiosity right now lies in his interest with Ibn Taymiyya later in his life, as it is becoming clear to me that Ibn Taymiyya (and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya) are not as flat as certain types of Muslims make them appear. It seems a lot of academics in the West who are of the reformist model have had interest in them, and it has nothing to do with Salafiyya etc. I am wondering why, and if there is anything to read which explains this. 😛

    Anyway, fascinating post. I will definitely be scoping this place out more often!

  3. As far as I am concerned, Fazlur Rahman was THE most important Muslim thinker-philosopher of the 20th Century.

    I am developing of a website that would be used as a gathering place to compile, critique, revive, enhance and promote his thoughts and methodologies.

    Please visit http://www.fazlurrahman.org and send comments to liaquat222 (at) yahoo.

  4. I’m a huge fan of Fazlur Rahman. His books really opened my eyes to Islam and the great things it could achieve. In fact, I seriously thought about thoroughly converting to Islam after reading him. I ended up deciding not to abandon my own tradition (Armenian Christian, liberal Presbyterian), but I do read the Qur’an, and I do believe in the Shahada.

    I’m very interested in Mu`tazila philosophy, as well.

    Thanks for the good post!

  5. Thank you Ara for taking time to comment. I dont know much about Presbyterian school except that it is closer to Protestant church. But I have a gutt feeling that you may like Perennialist Philosophy. Likes of Gai Eaton and Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon.


  6. Your post is refreshingly neutral. I cannot hide my own bias: I consider Fazlur Rahman the teacher i never met in person. Those academics (note, I really don’t give a hoot about the confessionally based denigrations) who critique him often fail to take into consideration that he had to do with that whcih was available. Ironically, many of those who critique him do so from the very position that FR always saw as a goal..the acquisition of more knowledge. It is refreshing to note that there are Muslims who love him. One of the saddest events in Islam was when this flower of Islamic thought was plucked from Pakistan…but in divine protection perhaps, allowed to survive in what many of his opponents would have deemed “dar al harb”.

  7. Fazlur Rehman was an ok person with not so much of “training” in classical theology… his so called erudition and scholarly ability were falsely elevated by the typical accolades and chairs that were given to him to increase his credibility which inadvertently fawned an extreme likeness amongst the so called Liberal Muslims… his version of islam was what the west was comfortable with and with all due respect his interpretations of islamic law were not that much profound…

    This does not justify the reaction he got at the time of Ayub… he was castigated as a munafiq and kafir and probably a mulhid…primarily by Yusuf Ludhianvi of Khatme Nabuwat Islam… i had the chance to read the rebuttals of some of the maulvis and they were unjustifaibly vicious… the concept of treating hadith skeptically comes from one of the charthawli acquantiances of fazlur rehman that very few people know about… subsequent to this was some unintended overal with allama mashriqui on the question of authenticity of hadith…

    His students one of whome i know Faisal Devji also follows in similar footsteps of errorneously drawing out geneology of Jihad from dodgy sources and making drasic conclusions of “political” islam as if the real islam was stripped of its political nature and resigned to the practice of sufis and hermits…

    All in all he was an average person with average skills and earned respect and prominence because of the usual marketing techniques used by academia in the US….none of his major works has impressed me or influenced me and usually carries the streaks of the typical western styled argumentatin…

    No disrespect to his followers as they are free to chose whome so they wish to follow… apologies if anyone got offended…

  8. “His students one of whome i know Faisal Devji also follows in similar footsteps of errorneously drawing out geneology of Jihad from dodgy sources and making drasic conclusions of ‘political’ islam as if the real islam was stripped of its political nature and resigned to the practice of sufis and hermits…”

    I don’t know a lot about Fazlur Rahman, having only read Islam and your article – and that’s it. But I find your statement quoted above odd. I didn’t get that from Rahman’s book at all. When he spoke of “political” Islam, he refrained from supporting it or opposing it. Rather, he explained its history and characteristics and left me feeling as if Islam’s political dimensions are reasonable and understandable. As for Sufism, Rahman seemed to have tried to remain objective but several times took hard stances against it. He seemed to view it as a problem to be dealt with.

    I find your statement curious since it differs so profoundly from what I picked up from Islam (Rahman’s book).

  9. Those who are still sceptical on Rahman’s academic works covering Islam in general, Islamic education, Islamic methodology in history, introduction to the major themes of the Qur’an, Ibn Sina’s De Anima, prophecy in Islam, and many other related subjects, please read all or parts of them, before giving any comment. I was one of Rahman’s students when I studied Islam under him at the University of Chiacgo, 1978-1982. He was really an impressive teacher. As an Indonesian, I am always proud of his serious and sincere works on Islam.

    • AoA Dr Ahmad Sayafi Maarif! I have recently got Ph.D degree from University of Karachi.
      My Thesis title: The Dynamics of Islamic Reforms in Sub-continent from 18th century todate(with special reference to Shah Wali Allah, Sayyed Jamal al-Din Afghani and Dorctor Fazlur Rahman). I think in modern era Doctor Fazlur Rahman is our lone asset who provides firm footing to Islam against western academic orthodoxy or our religious orthodox schools. My humble opinion is 21st century is the century of Fazlur Rahman. I am facing much obstacles in this case. in varsities of Pakistan I am facing obstacles. nobody is accepting me . my sheer fault is that i have worked on Fazlur Rahman. Any way i am ready to cope with such peoples. but i feel a need to be attached with the pupils of Dr Fazlur Rahman. it is our tragedy that we Pakistanis missed or lost Fazlur Rahman. Iqbal rightly says شیرمردوں سے ہوا بیشہ تحقیق تہی
      رہ گئے صوفی وملا کے غلام اے ساقی
      Field of research is void of lion-heart people, only the servant of Mulla or Sufis prevail there o Saqi(Lord)

  10. Interesting article. Thank you. You guys seem to know more about him than I, and I’m his son. Keep up the dialogue, which, from what I remember about him, was one of the things he cherished.

    • Dear Atiq,
      am glad 2 know about you. am a Ph.D student conducting research about the legacy and thoughts of Dr Fazlur Rahman. I am a grain fan and enthusiastic or say fanatic lover of Fazlur Rahman. in recent times, i only found the writings of Dr Eqbal Ahmad so convincing and scholarly rich. Still, on Islam nobody seems to me so convincing as Rahman was. It would be honour for me to remain in touch with you to understand more about Dr Sb. Please post me your cell no and mail address.

      • I am a PhD student as well , trying to discover the liberal thought in Islam. It would help me if you could share some of your ideas about Fazl ur Rahman. Regards Fatima S

        On Sat, Oct 12, 2013 at 11:49 PM, Hanging Odes

  11. Thank you Atiq for dropping by. Its a pleasure to have you among us. Please contact me on my e-mail asembuxi at yahoo dot com. Want to ask you some stuff about your father.

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  14. Assalamo uliakum,
    I am considering on researching Dr.Fazlur Rahman’s Hermeneutic Approach to the Quran, for my Master’s thesis. I am looking to possibly approach Fazlur Rahman’s thought from the aperture that he was a traditionalist cum modernist at once who attempted to grapple with the problems of Modernity, Globalisation and Orientalism. I was hoping to evaluate his conception of an “ethic based approach to the Quran” by trying to ascertain what he meant by ethics: ethics as expressed by Kant, ethics as expressed by John Dewey or ethics as expressed by the positivists (etc). Lastly, I am considering analyzing the responses of the traditionalists or neotraditionalists in Maududi and Ludhianvi to Fazlur Rahman’s approach. Did they see another hired agent like they saw with Mirza Ghulam, the one who considered himself to be a Prophet, against whom Iqbal said he was a British agent conspiring against Muslims. On another note, did they see him as another Ahmed Pervez, who rejected hadith as a source of the islamic tradition. I guess my approach to him would be Derridian, in trying to deconstruct the world he saw and how it shaped his writings.
    I’m not completely familiar with his writings and with his person either and was hoping that those are familiar with his writings could better guide on how best to analyse his work. Jazakullah

    • What is really interesting, even compelling about some of these posts, is the degree to which personal opinion-a kind of cottage industry philosophy- is so easily embraced as acceptable when it comes to understanding some of the most important artcles of faith. The Qur’an is the uncreated Speech of Allah Almighty. It, therefore, must have came from outside of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Anything which implies that it lacks or is not characterized by “externality” (I love this term-now, anyways) is clearly kufr. The earliest generations of this Ummah, as-Salaf as-Saalih, at the head of which are the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, understood Islam better than anyone after them. They witnessed the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, whilest the revelation descended upon him. They learned Islam directly from the one upon whom the uncreated speech of Allah-the Qur’an-descended. It is therefore ridiculous for anyone to conclude that someone 14 centuries later should have a better understanding of Islam than them, academic chairs notwithstanding. The singular disrespect shown the earlier scholars by these neo-liberals is astounding. When will the dinner-party Muslims realize that Islam is what has been transmitted from the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. One of the great early imaams, Sufyaan ath-Thawree, may Allah have mercy on him said, “The Deen (the prescribed way of worship and obedience) is only in the Narratives; it is not (found) in opinion.”

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  18. Very useful discussion. I would like to learn as to when did Dr Fazlur Rahman leave Pakistan in 1968. Did anyone support him at the time?

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  20. I’m 22 years old and i’ve read almost all the books by Rehman.He was truely a great scholar and extremly knowledgeable. We may or may nor agree with some of his writings but he is inspiration for those muslims who want much needed reforms in islam……

  21. Hi, Atiq

    I so glad to find you on this forum. I’m doing some work on your father’s teaching career in the UK and I would really appreciate it if you could email me on raydewe at yahoo dot co dot uk.

    Many thanks

  22. Salam.
    In the construction of Encyclopaedia Britannica 15th. Edition’s Outline of Knowledge (refer 828. Islam), Fazlur Rahman was one of those consulted. I came across this as I flipped through the pages of Propaedia, the first part of that edition, aimed at making Encyclopaedia Britannica one of the institutions of Democracy, made available to the intelligent reader world-wide, in the English Language. The people at Britannica regarded this work as ‘a revolution in encyclopaedia-making’. Fazlur Rahman’s article on The Religion of Islam appeared in Macropaedia (Knowledge in Depth). In this particular portion of that article accessible on the web here
    http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5003_29_101.html#0148 , he mentioned the impact of modern education and thought as the greatest challenge of all.
    There, Fazlur Rahman spoke about what the Sunni and the Shi’ah medieval systems of learning had come face to face with.
    Perhaps here the question is “How do we — as an Umat — go about putting to good use Fazlur Rahman’s involvement at Britanicca?”
    Wa s-Salam.

    • A s-Salamu ‘alaikum wm wb

      A revolution in encyclopaedia-making

      … Britannica 3, as the new edition was christened, incorporated the most radical changes in the encyclopedia since its founding 200 years before. Britannica 3 was composed of …, and a one-volume Propaedia, or guide to the encyclopedia’s use. …
      Source: >> http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Encyclopaedia-Britannica-Inc-Company-History.html <<
      … In 1985 a revised version of the Fifteenth Edition (with the number of articles in the Macropaedia reduced from 4,200 to only 681) was published. …
      … in that one-volume Propaedia or guide to the encyclopaedia's use — copied above — is to be found Section 828 Islam (web page here: http://tinyurl.com/Islam-in-Britannica Apart from contributing the article on Islam, A l-Marhum Fazlur Rahman was appointed as consultant by Encyclopaedia Britannica to participate in the construction of The Outline of Knowledge, that covering the religion of Islam.)
      Educationists throughout OIC Member-states may regard this as a milestone reached in meeting the impact of modern education and thought — the greatest challenge faced by Sunni and Shii medieval systems of learning pointed out by A l-Marhum Fazlur Rahman and others.
      Wa s-Salam

  23. Possibly below is the author’s own encyclopaedic condensation of “Major Themes of The Quran (MToTQ)/ Pesan-pesan Terbesar A l-Quran (a 2007 Malay translation)”
    F.R. Fazlur Rahman (d. 1988). Professor of Islamic Philosophy, University of Chicago, 1969-88. Author of Islam and others.
    DOCTRINES OF THE QUR`AN (Book entitled: “Major Themes of The Quran” IBT KL 2nd. Edition (1999))
    >> http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5003_29_13.html <> http://www.uv.es/EBRIT/macro/macro_5003_29_19.html <<
    Because the purpose of the existence of man, as of every other creature, is submission to the Divine Will, God's role in relation to man is that of the commander. Whereas the rest of nature obeys God automatically, man alone possesses the choice to obey or disobey. With the deep-seated belief in Satan's existence, man's fundamental role becomes one of moral struggle, which constitutes the essence of human endeavour. Recognition of the unity of God does not simply rest in the intellect but entails consequences in terms of the moral struggle, which consists primarily in freeing oneself of narrowness of mind and smallness of heart. One must go out of oneself and expend one's best possessions for the sake of others.
    The doctrine of social service, in terms of alleviating suffering and helping the needy, constitutes an integral part of the Islamic teaching. Praying to God and other religious acts are deemed to be a pure facade in the absence of active welfare service to the needy (MToTQ p. 62 (A l-Baqarah 2:177)). In regard to this matter, the Qur`anic criticisms of human nature become very sharp: "Man is by nature timid; when evil befalls him, he panics, but when good things come to him he prevents them from reaching others." It is Satan who whispers into man's ears that by spending for others he will become poor. God, on the contrary, promises prosperity in exchange for such expenditure, which constitutes a credit with God and grows much more than the money people invest in usury. Hoarding of wealth without recognizing the rights of the poor is threatened with the direst punishment in the hereafter and is declared to be one of the main causes of the decay of societies in this world. The practice of usury is forbidden (MToTQ p. 41).
    With this socioeconomic doctrine cementing the bond of faith, the idea of a closely knit community of the faithful who are declared to be "brothers unto each other" emerges. Muslims are described as "the middle community bearing witness on mankind," "the best community produced for mankind," whose function it is "to enjoin good and forbid evil" (A l-Qur`an (Ali Imran 3:104, 110; A t-Taubah 9:71)). Cooperation and "good advice" within the community are emphasized, and a person who deliberately tries to harm the interests of the community is to be given exemplary punishment. Opponents from within the community are to be fought and reduced with armed force, if issues cannot be settled by persuasion and arbitration.
    Because the mission of the community is to "enjoin good and forbid evil" so that "there is no mischief and corruption" on earth, the doctrine of jihad, in view of the constitution of the community as the power base, is the logical outcome (MToTQ pp. 43, 63). For the early community it was a basic religious concept. Jihad, or holy war, means an active struggle using armed force whenever necessary. The object of jihad is not the conversion of individuals to Islam but rather the gaining of political control over the collective affairs of societies to run them in accordance with the principles of Islam. Individual conversions occur as a by-product of this process when the power structure passes into the hands of the Muslim community. In fact, according to strict Muslim doctrine, conversions "by force" are forbidden, because after the revelation of the Qur`an "good and evil have become distinct," so that one may follow whichever one may prefer (Qur`an), and it is also strictly prohibited to wage wars for the sake of acquiring worldly glory, power, and rule. With the establishment of the Muslim empire, however, the doctrine of the jihad was modified by the leaders of the community. Their main concern had become the consolidation of the empire and its administration, and thus they interpreted the teaching in a defensive rather than in an expansive sense. The Kharijite sect (see below Theology and sectarianism) which held that "decision belongs to God alone," insisted on continuous and relentless jihad, but its followers were virtually destroyed during the internecine wars in the 8th century.
    Besides a measure of economic justice and the creation of a strong community ideal, the Prophet Muhammad effected a general reform of the Arab society, in particular protecting its weaker segments–the poor, the orphans, women, and slaves. Slavery was not legally abolished, but emancipation of slaves was religiously encouraged as an act of merit. Slaves were given legal rights, including the right of acquiring their freedom against payment, in installments, of a sum agreed upon by the slave and his master out of his earnings. A slave woman who bore a child by her master became automatically free after her master's death. The infanticide of girls that was practiced among certain tribes–out of fear of poverty or a sense of shame–was forbidden.
    Distinction and privileges based on tribal rank or race were repudiated in the Qur`an and in the celebrated "Farewell Pilgrimage Address" of the Prophet shortly before his death (MToTQ p. 46). All men are therein declared to be "equal children of Adam," and the only distinction recognized in the sight of God is to be based on piety and good acts. The age-old Arab institution of intertribal revenge (called tha`r)–whereby it was not necessarily the killer who was executed but a person equal in rank to the slain person–was abolished. The pre-Islamic ethical ideal of manliness was modified and replaced by a more humane ideal of moral virtue and piety.

  24. Salams. I had read “Islam” when I was in college (because of my own interest, not as part of any course) and really liked it. However, much later on I was introduced to the lectures of Dr. Israr Ahmed, and have heard most of them. He very breifly mentioned Dr. Fazlur Rehman once (in several hundred hours of lectures that I heard from him) that “if you want to learn the quran, then you should learn it from the respected Ulema” – which made me wonder who Dr. Fazlur Rehman had learnt the quran and tafseer from? Did he learn it in Oxford? Many thanks for any answers the readers can provide – and pls send any comments to my email – ahmed_farooq@yahoo.com, since I dont come to this forum often.

  25. Late Dr.FR was an academic scholar with good grasp on occidental methods. But it is the absence or lack of classical method of training and understanding which leads to opening for the floodgates of western style critique towards Islam. Although he was focused on Islamic sciences yet he could not be cited as an authority in this field.

  26. Also, Ms. Saadia Niazi, I was hoping I could get in touch with you regarding ‘uncle’ Dr Fazlur Rahman. Reason being that I am writing my MPhil thesis on his theological thought and it would help me greatly if I could ask you a few things about his personal life because I have a chapter dedicated to that in my thesis.

    My email is: ahad.maqbool@gmail.com
    Thesis title: “The theological thought of Dr. Fazlur Rahman”

    Best Regards,

  27. Pingback: Maududi’s Children : How the intellectuality of Political Islam turned into the brutality of faithful fascism: Nadeem F. Paracha | Citizens Media Alternative Voice Junction

  28. At a time when I read Quran quite a few times, read Bukhari hadith too, I realized that my traditional concept about Islam is shaking seriously. Traditional Islam is quite far away from Quranic summary of Islam. In fact, I started thinking that except for few hadiths, majority of it can discarded straight without any hesitation. Quran could also be segmented in 3 parts based on time segments, e.g., past (before Muhammad, present During Muhammad and future universal Islam). I started arguing with muslims and tried to convince them. But almost all of them were furious and gave a very hostile return to me. They tried to mark me as an ignorant stupid. I was in a fix of what to follow . I cant accept Mulla and Madrashah’s Islam. At this time I read about prof. Fazlur Rahman Malik and his famous concept called “Historicism”. I was delighted thinking that his concept was very closer to me. I got on to my feet and decided to pursue my concept further. Today I say openly , that all the present day religions which are survived from all past odds are from the same God , the God of Muhammad, the God of Jesus, the God of Abraham, Moses, Krishna , Rama etc. One scientist proposed a concept that if there is a God in this universe, He should be the God of physics . I liked it and I also say sometimes, my God is the God of physics. No, I am not a scientologist, I am just a believer , an Abrahamic cult, but I have no difficulty in going alongwith Hindus or Buddhists.
    I think modern and educated muslims should make a society and move on. If required, they can have their separate identity in order for them to survive from the hostile and violent Islamic clerics.

    I like Prof. Fazlur Rahman malik , I agree with him that there is a severe shortage of Islamic intellectualism in this 21st century. Madrashah and fanatic mind can never create intellectual mind. If we are intellectually honest, I am sure God will love us more than intellectually blind and puppet clerics.
    I had a plan in setting up a society called “Modern Islamic Society” or “Progressive Muslim Society.” Things were not right and I had lost my identity so far. Even today, my wife tries to drag me back , but why I cant get interest in traditional Islam?? Why I cant get along with Muslims?

    Fanaticism ruined beautiful Islam.

    Hasan Murshid
    Singapore , 21st May-2012

    • Your comments are based on logic. The truth lies in Quran. Those who are infuriated with your views on Hadeeths, they have not studied Hadeethd or else they would see themselves the unreasonableness of cooked up Hadeeths. No Muslim will refute Hadeeth if he can ascertain it was actually said by our beloved prophet.

      • If hadeeth is from prophet muhammad , then who wrote Quran ? Who is the author ? I think muhammad himself . God only inspired him . But concept must be from the first principle who intended to change the society .
        Whereas Hadith is some teachings what muhammad practiced and implemented at that time . It may not be applicable now.

  29. Salams.
    There is a group of muslims who believein the Perennial Philosphy, are Universalists and also Traditionalist…When I first heard about that, I thught how is that possible? Its not only possible, its beautiful. I was once, a muslim, wanting the princilpes of Islam, but not the mulla-Islam, but not an innovated Islam either, but Islam, with true colors, spirit and form. Also its Jamal, with the perfume of spirituality and love and humanity. One can never coerce anyone to want to be islamic or anyother religion. I am blessed and fortunate to have found this particular type of people who believe in the Unity of God, but also of Universality and Tradition. I recommend reading of Perennial Phiolsphy and its followers, for the intellectual and the logical type people but also the seekers of the perfume, beauty and melody of Islam.

    • Salam,
      There are varieties of Muslims who have their own opinions on Islam and they follow according to their own concept conceived by their over a period of time after reading , receiving various lectures from scholars. But the question is : what is the true color and true essence of Islam? Who will decide it and who will guide ? Who has this capability of guiding common Muslims who are mostly following what their Imams/clerics are teaching them? If traditional Islam is the truth of the day, then how come Muslims are in a bad shape today? Why world is hating Islam and Muslims today? Why Muslims are hesitant in describing themselves as Muslims openly?
      Today science is proven and we can doubt about it. Rather I think , science is the law of God or may be the properties manifested by God to materials and the whole universe thereby. Law of gravity is the law controlled by God himself. Then where and how will we place religions ? Al-Farabi commented in his book that religions are all inspirational. Every messenger or son of God or demi-God could have got inspiration and proposed a religion to help humans. Yes, religions came to help humans in attaining their improved intelligence. Today , the humans are in their highest intelligence level. Humanity flourished superbly and humans attained their highest level. Probably , God wanted humans to reach at this stage probably. Who knows what God actually desired to do?

  30. some corrections : 2nd line ipo “their”, should be “them”. 11th line —Today science–and we can—-it. Please read as “Today science is a proven knowledge and we can not doubt about it” .sorry.

  31. Pingback: 299. Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas « Sägefisch

  32. Pingback: Naquib al-Attas. Erziehung zur Disziplin « Schariagegner

  33. I am glad I found this blog….just someone sitting in Pakistan wondering what has gone wrong here and when…all the bloodshed in the name of religion in Pakistan makes one question the religion which has been taught to us so far…the ulama in Pakistan must take the responsibility of the chaos they have created…I shall read Fazl ur rahman hoping to find some answers there…

    • Ulema can not take responsibility of utter chaos in Pakistan because they have created this nonsense and they are thinking they are right. Only highly educated Muslims need to wake up , kick out ulema concept and bring down new concept in Islam. Islam needs immediate overhaul and new reformation must come out . Faster the better, else people will hate ulema and therefore Islam.

  34. I am afraid it is the highly educated and learned ones which have been kicked out of Pakistan every time they try to change things …the resulting chaos is the price we pay for our arrogance and ignorance…

    • If politicians of Pakistan in question are highly educated, I am afraid you need to rethink about the definition of highly educated community. University professors , highly skilled engineers and top levels of doctors and such other scholars are considered as highly educated. Uneducated people can never run a country .

    • Yes, highly educated people are being kicked outa Pakistan. Who are doing that? Fanatic Muslims are doing that only. Fanaticism is not the answer for a progressive society and hence for a country. Pakistanis only have to rise up and protest, they have to find their own solution.

  35. Pingback: Among Dogmatic Slumberers (II): Failing to Read the Intended Texts | Hanging Odes

  36. Fazlur Rahman was an original thinker of Islam, streaks of historian, psychologist, sociologist also abounds in his writings. He was a man of zeitgeist . As Khaldun says nobody without zeitgeist can be true successor of Prophet Muhammad. In words of Iqbal the forest of research is empty of lion-heart researchers and the left one are the slaves of orthodoxy and Sufism. But the balance of thought is the touch-stone of creative cum original thought. Fazlur Rahman fulfils and qualifies the credentials of true and genuine scholarship. Recently i have been awarded the Ph.D Degree from University of Karachi. My theis title is: The Dynamics of Islamic Reforms in Sub-continent from 18th century todate(with special reference to Shah Wali Allah, Syed Jamal al-Din Afghani and Dr Fazlur Rahman). if anybody needs help contact me on 092-3452097606, 092-3201210072. my email address shabbir1world@yahoo.com , shabbir@abbtakk.tv.
    Dr Ghulam Shabbir

  37. Prof Fazlur Rahman Malik was a cautious Islamic philosopher. Few of we modern Muslims think of a drastically different and modern Islam. We shun Hadith considering the fact that Quran bring a book of God and Islam is the religion of God. Muhammad was a messenger and he was ordained to preach Islam clearly. Some of the quranic laws are not appropriate as of now although relevance of these laws were important during Muhammad’s time. In this way we are different from prof malik too .

  38. Muslim society of today is plunged into fanaticism and probably this is the darkest age of Islam followers and can be compared to dark ages of Christianity in mid medieval period when Islam was enjoying its golden era.
    I personally is confused with Islam . It’s futile mixing with Islamic fanatics and keeping a healthy relations . Their mind is so poisonous , they start conversing with abuses to the west .
    I read prof Fazlur Rahman and I am convinced that it’s a need of the hour for Islamic intellectuals to gather and chalk out a plan to shun fanatic school of thoughts and resurrect our golden era through intellectualism and innovative works even it’s heretical .
    Else some of us may desperately think of a leap towards other convincing philosophy of religion .
    Few concepts are mushrooming like progressive Muslim society , modern Islam . Some thinkers even denying the usefulness of sharia constitutional law of Islam , Hadith , ijma etc .

  39. The article is very enlightening. Fazlur Rahman was genuine scholar who tried to reform the intellectual tradition of the Muslim Community. I personaly, as graduate student from Africa, appreciated his works only after I exhausted the traditional thought. The traditional Islamic thought, as the late Rahman argued, can’t be literally applied into our modern-day world. It became archaic and unable to give satisfactory answer to our modern problems. What we need is understanding of the Qur’an and Sunna through new rational method. The late Fazlur Rahman’s tried to fullfil this gap and made important contribution to the modern Islamic thought. The method he developed is, as far as I know, the most coherent and the most closest to the essence of religion.

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  41. Pingback: Is Islam a patriarchical tradition (II): Exegesis or Eisegesis | Hanging Odes

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