Home » All My Posts » Motive is the Primary Prerequisite

Motive is the Primary Prerequisite

The ever hyped question of evolution of Islamic law has recently been reiterated in one of the leading local newspapers. The writer, who is an old schoolmate, has indicated some finer points regarding the dynamics of movement in Islam while completely missing the principle issue of motive which might bring about this structural movement.

Quoting Iqbal from his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, author contends that:

The argument being made here is not the traditionally liberal one that Islamic law being the law of a dynamic eternal religion needs to be capable of addressing the needs and concerns of evolving society and thus capable of evolving itself through ijtihad, but that the Islamic tradition is being evolved but only through the ijtihad performed by radicals, thus making it more bigoted and retrogressive.

Unless clerisy in Islamic societies, for instance Pakistan, is not ready to reconsider and analyze why they need Islamic thought to evolve so badly, criticizing radicalist agenda would seem nothing more than a meandering prattle. The liberals and progressives among these societies are not yet ready to reassociate their religious percept as it relates to political and moral philosophy in recent times. Therefore all the arguments against religious exclusivity and extremist interpretations, though accurate and true, would ultimately resonate better with logical positivism rather than a true religious discourse.

It would be sheer naivety if one disagrees with the assertion that many popular religious opinions are insinuations of hate and revenge politics rather than outcome of serious and erudite contemplation. Moreover denouncements of fellow Muslims as infidels and apostates are just quasi-legal judgments played by escapists to terminate assailable arguments. On the other hand, it is too simplistic to contend that absence of religious reform and scholarship is a primary cause of this booming radicalism. What we often fail to see is that intelligentsia in Pakistan is not ready to accept position of religion at the kernel of political, economic and social philosophy and merely insisting upon using it as a liberal nationalist’s tool to counter radical interpretations.

As a matter of fact, revolutionary transformists [sic] like Muhammad Iqbal cautioned ceaselessly about a similar pitfall:

We heartily welcome the liberal movement in modern Islam, but it must also be admitted that the appearance of liberal ideas in Islam constitutes also the most critical moment in the history of Islam. Liberalism has a tendency to act as a force of disintegration, and the race-idea which appears to be working in modern Islam with greater force than ever may ultimately wipe off the broad human outlook which Muslim people have imbibed from their religion. Further, our religious and political reformers in their zeal for liberalism may overstep the proper limits of reform in the absence of check on their youthful fervor {…} A careful reading of history shows that the Reformation was essentially a political movement, and the net result of it in Europe was a gradual displacement of the universal ethics of Christianity by systems of national ethics. {….} and then to move forward with self-control and a clear insight into the ultimate aims of Islam as a social polity.

It is interesting that statements like above can be taken either way as radical brand of Islam is also claiming the right to reform and is one of the manifestations of modernity, at least in the west. Puritanical Islamic movements, both historical and contemporary, also point us toward a bitter fact that reform and (re) interpretation can be a dangerous notion if enough groundwork is not there at the level of social and political level.

We have come about a long way since Iqbal’s times and have had enough share of enlightened and retrogressive reformists. Religious scholarship, no matter how much rigorous and enlightened, would ultimately fail to deliver if religious thought does not get the central and governing place in society. Talking about extrapolation of moral principles in Quran, applying them to our lives in an idealized culture of proverbial tolerance and enabling people to criticize different brands of Islam is jumping to the method before achieving decisive consensus regarding the motive.

10 thoughts on “Motive is the Primary Prerequisite

  1. As far as motive is concerned, it should be the first tangible step. The beginning resolve to reform society by way of religious ethics and not by way of law; – by those who have been trusted to reform everything else and are claiming to do so in the past and the present. If you allow me to borrow terminology from Iqbal, it should be a firm statement that Tawhid is a working idea which when translated into political philosophy ‘demands loyalty to God and not to thrones’. That is the first step; the truthful and intentional declaration of the ultimate motive. Nobody (at top of the ladder) in Pakistan has made this statement as yet in last 60 years. I give Jinnah Sahab the benefit of doubt as I dont believe that he was a comulsive liar like most of the politicians of his times as Ayesha Jalal would agree🙂. Unfortunately, majority of intellectual elite consisting of politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, workers and soldier-kings do not have enough belief that any interpretation of Islam is practically workable in modern times. Secondly, society as a whole consisting everybody else like myself do not seem to collectively emanate a choice for Islam. So unless we are ready to believe that loyality to God is loyalty to our own ideal nature, we cannot proceed to reconcile the ‘categories of permanence and change’. This reconiliation is what Iqbal called Ijtihad. Sorry but I have begged, borrowed and stolen ruthlessly from Iqbal.
    Your second question seems confusing as I cannot relate it to the point I was trying to make. Perhaps I was not articulate enough. My bad. Anyway I would reply with only an assumption of what you might have in your mind.
    Albeit we use dualities like progressives and retrogressives in search of making our expression significance, these are just simplistic dichotomies; Both historically as well as philosophically. But even if we choose to indulge in judging scholars and labeling them with any of the names like progressive, modernists, backward-looking, revisionists or traditionalists et cetera, we have to understand that what we call radical Islam is just a modern enterprise of selling fear and making its point through force internationally. It has nothing to do with actual religious thought. Moreover, it has just happened logically that this enterprise would get the required juridic support from a particular school. In this case its one of the ‘traditional’ brands (to which traditionalist madhhabis would disagree as they would signify it as ‘Salafi’).
    On a different note, I would add that we should distangle the concept of ‘reform’ from all this pseudo-sectarian gibberish. Reform in Islam carries on in all the times. Ibn Taymiah, Ibn Hazm and Ibn Jawzi were reformers in their own times and so is Ibn Abdul Wahab, Syed Qutb, Shah Wali Ullah (as well as his progeny), Abul Kalam, Mawdudi, Shibli, Farahi, Islahi and Ghamidi in comparatively contemporary times. It just happens by chance in the course of history that House of Saud syncs with Abdul Wahab and Musharraf with Ghamidi. Whatever the case may be its unfair to doubt intents and motives of those great men who allegedly were the holders of progressive and retrogressive thought. They preached what they believed to be true and tried to be as consistent as possible in their methodologies. Who sold their thought, hiding it where and under what kind of heap is an altogether different issue which does not relate to the subject of development of religious thought but politics. Their intent and motive was to make the society believe that Islam is the best and only working idea.
    regards and wassalam

  2. I know the writer is strictly talking about Pakistan, but he does mention the situations in other Muslim countries (Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan). I don’t know, it seems like the realities of war and power seem to be not accounted for in many “liberal Muslims” views. No matter how “progressive” Muslim reformers become, if they don’t have power and if they are attacked and sanctioned by Western powers (where liberalism comes from) there will always be violence. Also, the Prophet (saws) engaged in violence. Yes, there are principles Islam sets for violence, but nevertheless violence is still sanctioned. Also, economics and poverty is not accounted for and that is a reality in Pakistan that is inhibiting “progressive thought.”

  3. Correction- If Muslim countries are attacked and sanctioned by Western powers or oppressed by Western backed governments, the language of liberalism will not speak to people.

  4. What exactly do you have in mind in relation to liberalism when you say that ‘Prophet sanctioned violence’. Care to elaborate?

  5. As salaam wa laikum,

    Sorry I responded so late. I hadn’t checked your blog in some time, a blog that I very much enjoy brother.

    Anyways, what I mean is that many so-called “liberal” Muslims put the emphasis on Muslims stopping violence like suicide bombing. But in situation like Iraq, Afghanistan,and Palestine the violence was instigated by non-muslims. Also, I’m from Bangladesh and the secular English language newspapers there don’t attack the economic policies that may not directly lead to “radicalism,” but defintely give it the “inspirational landscape” it needs to justiffy itself. The “liberal” Muslims as much as they should condemn ignorance by Muslims, needs to openly condemn and have the spine to condemn Western atrocities not only in warfare but also economic institutions and their cronies in the Muslim countries. Most of them do not do that however.

    Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) sanctoned violence. Islam is a way of life and includes all aspects of human experience indlucing war. The first Islamic society required violence to uphold itself. Liberalism seems to want to disarm Muslims (which is understandble) but need to understand that as long as the West is aggressive, they will never be heard not simply because of “radical irrationality” but because of “rationality.” The rationale being that people have to survive and whatever ideas come from the invading West will be looked ith contempt because of the West’s actions. I hope this was clear.

  6. as-salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Brother, I am curious about this statement,

    “The liberals and progressives among these societies are not yet ready to reassociate their religious percept as it relates to political and moral philosophy in recent times.”

    If this is true, in what way are the “liberals” and “progressives”? That is to say, by what distinction are they either-or?

    In addition you mentioned,

    “reform and (re) interpretation can be a dangerous notion if enough groundwork is not there at the level of social and political level.”

    Thereafter you wrote,

    “Secondly, society as a whole consisting everybody else like myself do not seem to collectively emanate a choice for Islam.”

    So my question is: what choices are there for Islam in Pakistan? Or Somalia? Or Iraq and Afghanistan for that matter?

  7. assalamu alay’kum Brother,

    Sorry for the belated response but I was away and committed elsewhere.

    If this is true, in what way are the “liberals” and “progressives”? That is to say, by what distinction are they either-or?

    Of course I am talking in religious perspective and not an ideally secular one. However when I say liberal or progressive, I am not trying to be cruely judgemental and labeling only those who classify themselves as such and try to associate their actions and policies with religion; one way or the other. But I am not saying they are hypocrites or using slogan of Islam for their personalised agendas – not to mention that masses believe it to be so. I am sorry if I have misunderstood your comment. Please clarify if it is so.

    So my question is: what choices are there for Islam in Pakistan? Or Somalia? Or Iraq and Afghanistan for that matter?

    A loaded question indeed. I can only comment about Pakistan and I have already wrote that unless the need of religion as a whole could not get a central place in society, talking about future of Islam is jumping ahead. Since its creation in 1947, Pakistanis have failed to clarify themselves why they need religion to justify their existence. Thats why I always say that Pakistan is a country with Muslim majority and not an ‘Islamic State’ per se. In short Islam is still not a working choice for Pakistan at the moment. Motive is absent and a big WHY? waits to be responded by our collective conscious.

    wassalam

  8. AS

    Abu Muhammad, I hope you well. Listen I wanted to see if I can get a question in. I considered this a dynamic piece and a platform to real discussion by I was left wanting. I want to know what you mean in the statement reform society by ethics and not by law. This is it not a form of positivism -the separation of ethics and law? There are a series of question that emerge in my mind regarding this dichotmy so I wanted to see what you mean so my thought is more clear before jumping in various directions of inquiry.

    look forward to your repsonse habibi

    AS

    Abul-Hussein

  9. Assalamu Alay’kum Brother,
    I want to know what you mean in the statement reform society by ethics and not by law. This is it not a form of positivism -the separation of ethics and law?
    I am sorry to have put across this inference that law should be disentangled from ethics as far as reform is concerned. I do not believe so and have actually tried to establish a case against it. I just wished to set the priorities right with this little piece. I sincerely believe that critics in countries like Pakistan should intellectually invest more on sociology of religion rather than jumping ahead to law.

    Nevertheless, your questions are considerably important for my learning.

    wassalam

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