Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam


Recently, a Mr. Yousaf took me to task for views expressed on the New Age Islam website. This is the response.

Dear Mr. Yousaf,

The New Age Islam site is not about me and I am not the only writer, though I would like to write more. Unfortunately running a site is a rather demanding job, more demanding than I had thought when I started it. This is a platform for all Muslims to participate in discussions on any subject relevant to the state of Islam or Muslims. I do indeed consider myself a forward-looking person and find it fruitless to live in the past and engage in mostly pointless discussions about the dirty Arab politics of the past.

For me, the definition of a Muslim is simply any one who says, just says, – for we have no right to speculate about his or her motives and there is no way we can divine his or her intentions – that God is one and Mohammad (PBUH) is His prophet. So, as you can see, I do have a rather individualistic view of things, but as an editor, I never try to impose these views. Yes, these views maybe affecting my choice of the articles I print and the subjects I raise for debate. But the reader is absolutely free to comment within the bounds of decency.

Some readers cross this boundary and sometimes I find it difficult to delete offensive expressions like “Lanati” and “Yazid ke aulad”, etc. as they are interspersed in the thoughts of those readers. I truly suffer from a horror of censorship, though, that may become necessary in some cases, but only to remove offensive, unseemly language.

By the way, I learned these offending expressions only on the site. It shows the depth of hatred we carry in our hearts against one another. If the believers in Allah and followers of Prophet Mohammad are not safe from us and our sectarian mean-spiritedness, what can followers of previous prophets like Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Jews, etc. expect from us? With what face do we indeed go to them and claim to be followers of a religion of peace and forgiveness, amity and total surrender to the Almighty.

Coming back, if you have an issue with any views expressed by any writers, you are free to take them up and if your views are censored you may have legitimate cause for complaint. God has not appointed you a commissar, however, as far as I know, and you should be a bit careful in calling people kafir or munafiq, etc. This merely shows that you have no arguments. You might be displeasing Allah too by doing so. For He alone is the Judge. Even the Prophet never called the munafiqeen abusive names, never restricted them from prayers and even participated in the funeral prayers for the salvation of the soul of the chief munafiq. All this when Allah had warned him about them and the Prophet knew they were harming the religion at a very crucial point in its history, actually in its infancy, when even its survival may have appeared difficult to some.

As far as the Muslims of today are concerned, we may have our own ideas about who is a kafir or a munafiq or whatever but we shouldn’t be expressing them as this only makes us a kafir or a munafiq. It is for God to judge. Not you. Don’t assume divine powers, please, even if you think you are gifted with a third eye and can divine people’s intentions and motivations just by going through their editorial work.

I do even publish the views of people I disagree with, not too often, of course, but occasionally I do give representation to people whom I consider having obscurantist and fundamentalist views as well. Only recently I went to the extent of getting translated from Urdu an article I thought defended fundamentalism and obscurantism rather well, just so people like you do not feel left out on the site. Please see:

In defence of Islamic fundamentalism – Maulana Nadeem-ul-Wajedi

You are welcome to suggest any well-written, well-argued articles that go against the basic thrust of the site and I will carry that. In fact in the comments section of most articles you must have found more retrogressive views than progressive. The reason is not difficult to see. As a community we are more reactionary and obscurantist than positive and progressive.

We live in fear and denial. There is nothing wrong with us; it’s all Jewish conspiracy, Hindu conspiracy, Western imperialist conspiracy, etc. etc. We love living in the past, in the land of pointlessness. So our discussions too are not so much about issues of today as about the bygone past. We revel in discussing ad infinitum the dirty politics of seventh century Arabia and taking sides with one or the other party.

We have no present and no plans for the future. As a community, that is. Some individuals, of course, do have plans for themselves as well as for the community and a vision of regeneration for Islam and the Muslim community. But they are reviled for thinking of this world rather than the other world where 72 houris are waiting for them in a land of milk and honey and of course, plenty of liquor. (In the case of poor women, of course, only their husbands, if any, would be waiting there, and yet some of them become suicide bombers, for some reason.)

So, Mr. Yousaf, pick up a pen, well, more likely a keyboard and enlighten us with your views on the issues covered on New Age Islam. You can even write in defence of Talibani/Jihadi brutality or against a Muslim girl’s education, in defence of the beard as the most vital Islamic institution, whatever, and the site will not deny you space. You will find a lot of applause too.

New Age Islam has many readers who express their retrogressive, reactionary views regularly. As I told you before I learned several terms of Islamic abuse on the site. We welcome both those who call Dr Zakir Nayak a kafir and those who warn against the kafir-manufacturing factories rampant in Muslim lands. You will find here people who call him Yazid Lanati (accursed) and also those who call him Rahmatullah Alaih, both arguing and contesting each others’ points of view fiercely.

Personally I would like to demolish all kafir/Mushrik/Munafiq-manufacturing factories. I consider them highly offensive and completely against Islamic ethos. But as they constitute a significant and influential section of the community, I do not even deny them space. So welcome, Mr. Yousaf.

Just remember, New Age Islam is not about me; it is about you. I am merely a moderator in the discussions. I do give you subjects to discuss, but you are free to add your own subjects, as many readers do. As for my Imaan, let Allah judge that; think a little about yourself.

SOURCE: New Age Islam

Sultan Shahin is the Editor at NewAgeIslam.Com Take part in the discussion of stories and issues relating to Islam at the New Age Islam website