Catch-Up Posts: 8,9 and 14

Thank you for the consideration of these late posts.

Week 8:

In trying to discuss whether Progressive Islam is in line with classical jurisprudence we need to analyse what the key aspects of Progressive Islam were as well as define what “natural” and “reasonable” can be seen to be in this context.

Because the other arguments require it, I analyse what natural and reasonable look in this context. Classical jurisprudence within Islam had strong roots and many rulings that created a rigid system that created a very sharp line between what could be done and what was prohibited. These rulings were based upon Fiqh, a well-defined way to try achieve Sharia. Thus anything that broke away from the basic procedure of Fiqh is something out of place and unnatural with regards to Islam.

Afghani argues that the “dead hand of tradition” is what is holding Islam back and that to be able to flourish in the modern era a shift from Taqlid to Ijtihad needs to be made. The idea here is that the social stagnation brought upon by simply imitating past rulings (through Taqlid) can be overcome by using our own reason to adjust and develop Islam for a new time and place (Ijtihad). The issue with his congruency with classical jurisprudence is that he defined Ijtihad as a broader use of reason than was permitted through Fiqh. Classical jurists could have used Ijtihad to apply reason to readings of texts and then apply a limited judgement to this reading whereas Afghani leaves the constraint of textual support. This departure from Fiqh is what sets Afghani apart from classical jurists.

Abduh faced a similar case yet not to the same degree. He argued that the Qur’an existed in history within a certain context and should be read as such. He did not discard the classical definition of Ijtihad but the fact that he historicized it sets him apart from classical jurists in that he was willing to take a step back from simply using the exact meanings found in the Qur’an and Hadith to reach rulings. Applying a second degree of logic was something that classical jurists did not allow themselves in order to stay true to what Allah expected of them so Abduh’s act of placing the Qur’an in a certain context to reach different conclusions was also poles apart from classical jurisprudence.

In Rahman’s “double movement” theory we find the most explicit difference to classical jurisprudence. In the previous two examples it has become clear that Fiqh operated inside a boundary defined by a close reading of accepted texts and limited use of reason on these readings. Rahman places the Qur’an completely in context and allows us to draw two “arcs” to reach new conclusions. The first part is finding what was present at the time of the Prophet and then analysing the Qur’ans position towards this issue. Once we can determine a trajectory the Qur’an seems to endorse the second part allows for a ruling to be made in concordance with this supposed desire. Not only does the expand Ijtihad to the absolute extreme but this system runs in explicit contrast to Fiqh which makes it completely unacceptable by classical jurisprudential standards.

Through looking at the views of three Progressive interpreters of jurisprudence, it is clear that their works are fundamentally contradictory to Fiqh and thus classical jurisprudence as a whole.

Week 9:

Both the Revivalists and Modernists saw the state of Islam as being one of disunity and weakness which required urgent attention. The Revivalists saw the issue as being an internal one that could be addressed by returning to the Islam of generations past. Modernists saw the relative strength of Europe and decided that modernizing the Islamic world would be the only answer to a weaker position.

Some Revivalists believed the social stagnation of the previous centuries could be undone by placing more power in the hands of the people through a move to Ijtihad which would allow people to make sense of Islam within their own lives. Thus these Revivalist perspectives sensibly put a large focus on education and perhaps the best example is Shah Wali Allah who set up a schooling system that succeeded in the short term in providing a religiously based education to the people in areas supported by this system. Don Fudi similarly tried to use education to promote a communal Ijtihad but without buy-in from the government it was not as successful. Mohammad Sanusi proposed a retreat to Zawiyas far away from others that would allow his people to practice Islam in peace and without being disrupted by the French or Italians. In stark contrast to this was al-Wahhab who demanded a fundamental return to the teachings of the Qur’an and a complete dissolution of the juristic system which he believed was corrupt and immoral. This doctrine preached for less Ijtihad and a literalist reading of the Qur’an yet the same idea existed to bring back the people of Islam to an ideal state of being closer to the Prophet and his community. All of these movements were successful yet only on a local basis and thus did not change the course of Islam to come.

Modernists looked outwards to find that Islamic nations were in a weaker position than their European counterparts and found the answer to this disparity in trying to imitate what they saw. Leaders like Sultan Mahmud II and Muhammad Ali tried to modernise their nations through bringing in aspects of European nations like bureaucracy and technology. Whilst trying to stay with classical Islam the question came up as to whether technological change could come without social change and trying to juggle these two imperatives proved too much for Islamic modernization in these two cases. Afghani came into this with the distinctly anti-colonial powers view yet appreciated the value of science and philosophy that Islam could take from them. This lead to the apologetic use of European concepts as already present within Islam.

Week 14:

The Muslim experience within the United States is unique in that its path has converged with that of “black religion” to create a spectrum throughout the united states that ranges from Five-Percenters to the more classical Sunnis. This was set in motion through the start of the Moorish Science Temple which appropriated a number of Islamic characteristics and gave itself ostensibly to the teachings of Islam. While there has always been a presence of Muslims within the US since slavery, their numbers dropped over time due to the difficulties facing the black population that spread it to America. This meant that groups like the Moorish Science Temple could take the name of Islam without being challenged as unorthodox despite their practices being highly different to those found in Middle Eastern Islamic nations. This continued with the formation of the Nation of Islam and, keeping with the spirit of “black religion”, these religions practiced resistance towards White Supremacy and in some cases a segregationist policy. The important aspect here is that these churches were geared towards solving social issues faced by their followers.

Changes to immigration policy in 1965 resulted in an influx of immigrants that had practiced “orthodox” Islam back in their respective nations and took back the unquestioned authority over Islam that the previous generation of US Muslims had. This resulted in deep schisms within faiths and eventually the Nation of Islam split into those who would become traditional Sunni Muslims and those who would continue to follow the Nation of Islam under the leadership of Louis Farrakhan.

Given this context it is easy to see that the Muslim experience within the United States of America is varied and a product of the history experienced. If one were to be a Sunni their experience would no doubt be closer to that lived by more than a billion other people around the world but a member of the Nation lives a tradition that arose to counter the immediate and local problems faced by the community.

This tradition is made manifest in Hip Hop which served in many ways as an Islamic form of artistic resistance and expression. What makes it powerful and well connected to those it aims to serve is that it is consistent with the “black religion” culture that often uses music to express what the community is feeling. While flying in the face of conventional Islam, many rappers were continuing a tradition of using music to put forward their religion and views towards a society that doesn’t acknowledge their authority in subtle and artistic ways.

Catch-Up Posts: 8,9 and 14