Friday, December 15, 2006

Dr Gibril Fuad Hadad comments on the statement given by Mohd Asri, a Mufti from a state in Malaysia.

The function of Saudi-trained clerics is to propagate Do-It-Yourself Islam. Since irony is terra incognita to them, they may even do so in the name of reclaiming Islam from the clerics. They also mention "reform," "renewal," "Qur'an and Sunna" in the same ironic/absurd vein since we all know that DIY Islam spells chaos, not reform, not renewal, and certainly not Qur'an and Sunna. But how appealing to TV viewers, internet surfers, and DIY Muslims everywhere!

Allah Most High said He had raised the Ulema above the non-ulema in rank; but Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the 35-year old Mufti of the Malaysian state of Perlis, wants each Muslim to be his or her own mufti. Our Holy Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said that Allah Most High reserves the understanding of the Religion to those for whom He desires the greatest good. But Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin says: "Religion deserves to be understood by everybody." Evidently, he finds Allah and His Prophet conservative and in need of renewal. "Overhaul," as he puts it.

Asri dismisses the Muslim ulema but admires Turkish picturebook author Harun Yahya. Asri mocks the traditional Malay ustaz for teaching the jurisprudence of snow in snowless Malaysia rather, he claims, than teach prayer to new Muslims. Many a professional with poor Arabic are better read in Islam and "might have memorised more hadith," Asri suggests, than a traditional scholar of Qur'anic commentary. Asri has a doctorate, he is a mufti. It must be true. After all, he witnessed a traditional preacher confuse the aedes mosquito with AIDS once. This is what Asri, a Malaysian Salafi, would like you to believe is the state of things in Muslim Malaysia. Then there is all this talk about the need to "kill off ideas and understanding. "

Asri thinks light of "the scholars of old" but much of "science today." He actually says: "The Quran speaks many times of the greatness of God in the signs that we see all around us. The scholars of old could not grasp such verses thoroughly, but science can do so now." "They" are reactionary while "Islam puts forth arguments." The subversion of persons by abstractions is only one of the many ironies of the grammar of islamism. A much greater irony, of course, is that islamism is the greatest threat to Islam today. Machiavelli himself could not dream up worse perversion than what a mufti in the most ostensibly advanced Muslim society on earth can stand up before Muslims and teach nowadays.

A few days ago the young "leader" of a group named "Tawhid and Jihad" shot Syrian border guards as he attempted to make his way into Lebanon, then, rather than get arrested, blew himself up with an explosive belt. It does not take an Einstein to divine the slippery slope that leads from "youngest-ever" muftis preaching revisionism, to 28-year old "Tawhid and Jihad" suicides in our times. It is a fact that the Islamic podium in Southeast Asia is now dominated by the Ikhwan al-Muslimin. If so-called Progressives want you to do away with your Muslim identity, so-called Salafis teach you to do away with yourself. The suicide is spiritual and intellectual as well, since they convince their blind followers that they are "thinking for themselves" and according to "Qur'an and Sunna!"

The rule of boys and the podium of the ignorant are among the signs of the end of times predicted by our Holy Prophet, upon him blessings and peace. Islamist Islam can be compared to an adolescent Hulk alternately throwing huge, uncontrollable tantrums and sermonizing incoherently at
his parents, the neighbors, their dog, and everything else in the world. How can we best treat this confusion and extract it from our midst? Two steps seem paramount for people of Islamic learning and educated lay Muslims alike, although respective emphases differ:

1. Acknowledge the odd good point each newfangled movement may forward, and expose the endless errors and incoherences that dominate their discourse. This requires greater knowledge and representation of what they themselves claim to speak for, namely, the main and ancillary (e.g.
logic and language) sciences of the Qur'an and Sunna as taught by Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama`a.

2. Reconnect our professionals and graduates about their own scholarly tradition so they can tell gold from plastic and tin. This necessitates firsthand connection with a traditional, non-Wahhabi teacher as well as pursuing the reform of the soul. TV muftis, websites and picturebooks are a delusion. So is party activism.

Asri says he believes "two movements will influence the minds of Malaysians in the future: one is the Salafiyyah movement. The that of liberal Muslims." Malaysians should beg to differ one and all. Surely their heritage is richer than to blinker its sons and daughters into a bankrupt alternative. What do the accomplished elders and their graduates and communities say? Where is the voice of the Muslim majority in Malaysia? They are best qualified to silence those who think contemporary Malaysians must be (how horrible to say!) either Wahhabi-Salafis or liberal-progressives.

May we learn and re-learn, calmly and methodically, to differentiate between authentic voices of Reason and Learning on the one hand, and, on the other, immature voices promoting rebellion and self-destructive pseudo-scholarship.

Allahumma! Arina al-haqqa haqqan wa-urzuqna ittiba`ah, wa-arina al-batila batilan wa-urzuqna ijtinabah.


GF Haddad 

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