The only way that I see forward is neither ‘ijtihad’ nor ‘islah’, nor ‘ tajdeed’ ‘ehyaa’ or ‘tashkeel e nou’. Islam and Muslims rather need ‘ibtidaa e nou – min al asal’
(New Beginning from the Original).
The first step is re-establishing Allah’s discourse in Islam.
So how can we achieve that ? how will that happen?
In my view that can only happen by certain fundamental reforms / rethinking to create a new Islamic discourse, which should then take its new form by open discussion and consent.
a. Understanding and direct connect with God, Allah; the creator of the universe and seeing Him in the correct perspective of human/ earth/ universe ; why He gave humans ‘ faculty of reason’; how He wants humans to use it; etc.
The size conundrum
I invite you (and anyone else who reads this ) to scale yourself. look at the room you are in right now as you read this. how many of you can fit in that room that must be a tiny part of the city you live in, which is a tiny part of the country you live in, which is a tiny part of the planet earth, which is a tiny planet orbiting around a medium sized star ‘sun’, located in a far off part of our galaxy which has about 200 billion stars like sun. there are estimated to be 16 billion galaxies or so in this universe and we don’t even know for sure if and how many other universes exist.
And i believe Allah has created this all.
So how do you compare yourself to this universe, which is 14 billions or so years old. ie 140000000000. if an average human age is 70 years this is 2000000000 times human age.
how big is this universe ? let me give you a clue. sun’s diameter is 1.5 million kilometers. if we make it 330 mm, our earth is just 3 mm big. you can easily see this on an ordinary ruler.
if we now divide this size by further one million ie earth becomes 3mm divided by 1000,000,; then our sun is 330 nanometer ( 3.3 parts out of 100,000 parts of one millimeter), earth is 3 nanometer, our galaxy would be 215 km across, the nearest galaxy andromeda would be 4800 km away.
Or say if the earth is 3mm then galaxy is about 8 times the size of the earth itself.
Universe has 16 billion galaxies and space between these.
Speed of light traveling at 300,000 km / sec crosses a little more than 1 billion km in one hour and nearly 26 billion km per day, 9490 billion km in one year ie nearly ten trillion km in one year.
Universe is 14 billion light years old. That is ten trillion multiplied by 14 billion kilometers.
to give you another example, the light would take about 14 billion years to cross the universe ( as we know it today), at it speed of 300,000 km per second.
now please tell me that Allah the creator of all this, why would he worry about azhar aslam, or any one of you ?
However you can easily compare yourself to any other human being and you will be in a perfect position to make a physical and emotional impact on him or her.
So why ?
So why did Allah send us his prophet and Quran? for Himself or for humans ? i leave it for you to decide.
before i finish i relate you another story from the annals of history ( true again in spirit , only may be in letter ).
it is said that prophet ibrahim ( Abraham) always had a guest at his table at dinner time. one day he had none. he went outside and called to the first person passing by who was an old man of 90 carrying wood on his back. he offered him dinner and brought him in. when they started to eat, the old man dipped in. Ibrahim stopped him and said ‘ you haven’t said bismillah’; to which old man replied ‘ ibrahim do you not know i do not believe in you God’. Ibrahim said,’ In that case, i cannot have meal with you’.
the old man got up and left saying ‘ well you invited me, its not as if i came begging.’
after he had gone Allah spoke to Ibrahim and said, ” ibrahim what kind of person you are ? That you do not have big enough hear to feed a hungry human being one meal. Just because he does not believe in me. It is ‘I’, he does not believe in, and yet I have fed him and looked after him for 90 years of his life. And you did not even put up with that fact for one meal and a short time. so what is your problem?’
b. Understanding the paradigm of the Prophet and continual interpretation of that paradigm. The Prophet in his last sermon made two important pronouncements:
i. ‘ deen is complete’
ii. ‘follow the book and my sunnah’
the logical conclusions are
i. after him, all interpretations and decisions are political, juristic, legal, social and are down to the person making that interpretation. Therefore these are neither final nor binding nor part of the ‘original deen ‘, which was already complete and can and should be discarded as required.
ii. sunnah is not the same as hadith. therefore hadith should be downgraded into its rightful place and not put at par with Quran or even sunnah.
an example of this is the verse 34 problem, where ‘ Dahrabbuna’ has been interpreted as‘hitting’ for centuries , clearly ignoring the other interpretations of the word, and certainly the most relevant one i.e. ‘ stay away’; which was the sunnah of the prophet. he never hit or even raised his hand on his wives; when upset he would stay away.
c. Without new Quranic hermeneutics and without moving completely out of ‘Ulama’ (or be-diyanaat ilm waley) paradigm this ‘ ibtidaa’ will not materialise.
exegesis of Quran in tarteeb e anzool is essential . ancillary to that would be ‘abrogating’ the ‘concept of abrogating’ which essentially implies imperfect God;
d. understanding that ‘believing in immutability of Fiqah (human made)’ is Shirk, since believing that elevates humans as equivalent to Allah.
e. understanding rituals in their proper context and giving these appropriate weightage;
eg the five fundamentals of Islam are not five fundamentals of ‘Islam’ itself but rather five fundamentals that help create and bind Muslim community in symbolic, ritual and implementory unity. But these are not such fundamentals that take precedence above other commandments.
The current concepts of Ulema and Sufi Islam are static and derogatory to human integrity and respect. They fail to understand that various degrees of practice, rather than one single set of belief is what is called for in Islam. The rpesent paradigm sees it as ‘All or None law’.
This paradigm has given birth to fundamentalist discourse that has become reactionary on scientific basis/modern atheist basis. It has slipped into being a process of mechanisms (being saved), rules (being good) and laws( being right). It has made life into a meaningless vacuum devoid of spirituality and unity of Allah. No human perspective is allowed here.
so do we not still want to go back to prophet’s Islam? In that paradigm Allah’s discourse reigned supreme. And it was human perspective that defined all ethos. The prophet who turned back and did not perform ‘hajj’ to avoid bloodshed? And made it easier to fulfill his long term strategy than a short term gain?
We all accept Taqwaa is the only criterion for being near to Allah. What is Taqwaa ?
Sura Al Baqraah verse 177: ‘ It is not AlBirr ( piety, righteousness) that you turn your face towards east and west; but AlBirr is the one who believes in Allah, the last day, the angles, the book, the prophets, and gives his wealth, inspite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to al masakin, and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to set the slaves free, performs as-salat, and gives the zakat, and who fulfil their covenant when they make it, and who are patient in extreme poverty and ailment and at the time of fighting. Such are the people of the truth and they are AlMuttaqun. ‘.
I invite you to decide for yourself what Allah wants?