A time to reflect

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014


THE month of Ramadhan is a good time for Muslims to reflect and to discern the meaning of being a ‘Muslim’ (which is a complete submission to the will of Allah). In our present context, the Bangsamoro peace process is put to hold while our national government tries to address the issues on corruption with the PDAF and DAP.

People in our grassroots communities in the area of the propose Bangsamoro are also having speculations, what if the MILF will not accept the Bangsamoro Basic Law drafted by the legal minds from the Office of the President? Does this mean we will have more conflict in the area? Does this mean all our peace efforts will be set aside, and expect more armed conflict?

Whenever we, Muslims, encounter a situation of despair we turn to Islam for help and assistance. Throughout the history of Islam and even humanity in general, we know for a fact that resorting to violence is not the solution to our problems.

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However, looking at the global situation, Muslims in the past thirty years are in the limelight because of the religious, political violence, and conflict that most of us are facing. In the 1970s, we had the revolution in Iran which ousted their Shah regimes. In Palestine, Israel, Lebanon and Beirut, we have the conflict and continuous violence between the Muslims and the Jews.

In Egypt, Muhammad Anwar El Sadat was assassinated by Muslim extremist army officers on 6 October 1981.Then we have the Iran - Iraq war in the 1980s, which was not just a Sunni-Shiite conflict but a deep proxy war of interests from the West.

Another part of the Muslim world is Afghanistan. This country hit the world's headlines in 1979 when Russian paratroopers landed in Kabal, and invaded the country. This seems to perfectly summarized the Cold War. The Afghan Mudjaheedens (Muslim freedom fighters) were supported and trained by the US government to fight the Russians. But now, after the September 11, these Mudjaheedens become the enemies of the US in their war on terrorism.

Last week, I attempted to write a glimpse of Islamic civilization and its contributions to humanity. This time, I would try to reflect and ask our Muslim brothers and sisters and the Ummah (Muslim community), what is the situation of Islam today? Do we need reform? Is modernization and Islam completely incompatible?

In answering these questions, let us go back in time. Throughout the history, for Muslims "to improve their conditions, the argument always goes, Muslims have to return to the purity of Islam and apply its fundamental teachings to their daily life. This has always been the case throughout history from the time of the first schism in Islam over the caliphate, Fitnah, to the time of the crushing defeat of the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies by the Israelis in the 1967 six-day war. Calls for religious reform did not go unopposed. The call for secularisation was equally strong though it was a call for a move in the opposite direction. (A.A. EL-ASHKER, 2006)

Muslim scholars have determined the different movements that called for Islamic reform starting at the late eighteenth century may be divided into three categories: Traditional movements, reconciling movements and secularised movements.

To have an easier understanding, lets define the traditional movement as those who call for the return to the Holy Qur’àn and Sunnah in a strict manner. For them, Modernization is something evil, thus this ought not be imported at the sacrifice of Islamic norms and ideals. El-Asshker in his book mentioned that "innovation in religious rules, in both sides of Sharì’ah, ritual and societal, is not permissible and is regarded as bid’ah, and every bid’ah is dhalalah, and every dhalalah is in Hell Fire".

Then we have the second type of movement which is the reconciling movement. This group confirms the need for a return to the Islamic prime sources in the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah, sees no harm in importing Western culture if it were for the general benefits of the community.

The third group argues that secularization is the way forward as it is imperative for the modernization of society that is necessary for Muslim counties to become competitive. They contends that while Islamic norms and ideals are of great religious value, they should be: (a) confined to the individuals’ in shaping their personal and social pattern of behavioral with no effect on the politics of government or the affairs of the state, and (b) Islamic Sharì’ah rules need to be re-examined to avoid what has become, in their view, redundant and unsuitable to the community of today, such as polygamy and divorce rules. (An example of this was the Islamic movement in Turkey which influenced the policy of their state).

We have learned from our madrasahs and Islamic courses that the sources of Shariah (Islamic way) are the Holy Quran, Sunnah, and Hadith of the Prophet (SAW).There are many Muslims that claim and would even argue 'living' Qur'an as opposed to a type of textual approach or an intentionalist approach to the Qur'an: how do we interpret the Holy Qur'an in the light of modern society?

To answer this question, Islam in our country needs real scholars who have the authority to interpret the Holy Qur’an in the light of the modern context through their deep understandings of the text. We need scholars who can unite us and promote non violence in resolving conflict.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 09, 2014.

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