This is an old article written in the relatively immediate aftermath of 9/11. As someone observed on a Pakistani TV talkshow a year or so ago, jurists and theorists like Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi’i etc. would be shocked to know that people in the 21st century were still taking their interpretations as law – indeed, ‘Divine’ law. They would have been surprised enough to see that their views had not been updated, renewed and replaced within a century or two. The speaker claimed, given such freezing of thought, the shocking ideology that we saw glimpses of in Sufi Muhammad’s public address last year ought not to surprise us. In fact, Sufi Muhmmad types are ‘neo-Kharajites’ – they can be likened to the original kharijites in some essential traits at least – who may or may not have been the product of a thousand and more years of stagnation of thought and critical enquiry in most parts of the mainstream.
The situation in relation to ijtehad is different within shia Islam… at least within Usuli Twelver Shia Islam. The heirarchy of marja and its unambiguous place in the ‘vilayat e faqih’ (to borrow from Khomeini’s spin) is hardly an improvement but is at least contemporary, albeit in (almost) purely chronological terms only. But I digress. Here’s the article. (Bciv)
By Ziauddin Sardar
Serious rethinking within Islam is long overdue. Muslims have been comfortably relying, or rather falling back, on age-old interpretations for much too long. This is why we feel so painful in the contemporary world, so uncomfortable with modernity. Scholars and thinkers have been suggesting for well over a century that we need to make a serious attempt at ijtihad, at reasoned struggle and rethinking, to reform Islam. At the beginning of the last century, Jamaluddin Afghani and Mohammad Abduh led the call for a new ijtihad; and along the way many notable intellectuals, academics and sages have added to this plea – not least Mohammad Iqbal, Malik bin Nabbi and Abdul Qadir Audah. Yet, ijtihad is one thing Muslim societies have singularly failed to undertake. Why? Continue reading