The Hope of Hermeneutics

A.A Khalid

The great religions of the world all have a central text which the faithful adhere to and interpret constantly as their companion in the quest for meaning. Islam is the proto-type example of this typology of religion, a faith with an unmistakably central and crucial text, the Quran. The Quran the ultimate example of a Sacred text which guides intimately the life of Muslims, offering peace and tranquility and its message of mercy.If one is to refine our understanding of religion to tear down assertions of patriarchy and autocracy then a new framework of Quranic hermeneutics has to be established.

Hermeneutics is quiet simply the philosophy of interpretation, it recognizes human agency in the act of encountering the text. Hence in this respect hermeneutics is known within the Islamic traditions as tafsir operating in a traditional exegetical setting. However, the first to use this concept was German Protestant theologian and philosopher, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), whose founding role is now widely recognized. Others include the great German philosopher and hermeneuticist Gadamer, a modern exponent of hermeneutics. The art of interpretation is a delicate act with many factors and variables in play with the assumptions and presumptions of the reader, the intricacy of the text and the interaction of the two.

The encounter of both reader and text is an event that one can neither foresee nor define.  The greater the work, the richer is the meaning which is for generations of its readers to disclose.  The reader brings to the text assumptions and presumptions, intelligible ideas of justice and ethics and these inevitably mesh into the interpretive scheme. Hence interpretation is a fully human act.

We must be careful in what respect we talk of a Quranic hermeneutic. A framework of hermeneutics is needed to understand the ethico-legal content of the Quran (as Abdullah Saeed puts it), to do with the issues of law and society. The beliefs of the religion (the Five Pillars for instance) cannot be re-interpreted, that is heresy and sacrilege. What is at stake here then is the interpretation and subsequent implications of the ethico-legal content of the Quran. How to determine the law, who determines it and how to implement it are some important questions to be asked.

Within the Islamic tradition it has become difficult to introduce hermeneutics within the framework of Quranic exegesis. Many have tried from Nasr Abu Zayd, AbdolKarim Soroush, and Mohammad Arkoun who have advocated very novel frameworks which have been extremely controversial to say the least. Others such as the Pakistani professor Fazlur Rahman have tried a synthesis of traditional and modern techniques of literary analysis and theory, but even they have found it difficult to break through the conservative hold on the interpretation of the Quran. In recent times Tariq Ramadan’s presentation of the text and context and the systematic exposition of this in his recent new works can also be an example of a cautious but transformational reformism. Also Khaled Abou El Fadl’s specific and robust presentations of the role of interpretation in the fiqhi discourse have also been illuminating.

There are many major differences between classical tafsir and the new exegetical efforts of modern intellectual in the domain of hermeneutics, but one of them is of history and social context. Historically, Muslim exegetes and jurists often relied on linguistic criteria only to interpret the ethico-legal content and to determine whether a particular ruling in the Quran is to be universally applicable or not, hence framing their exegetical inquiry in atomistic terms, interpreting solitary verses without taking into context the holistic message, the global message of the Quran. This of course is not totally true; there is the school of Maqasid in medieval Islam with the likes of al-Juwayni, al Shabiti and the great Al Ghazali. The Maqasid (the objectives of the Sharia) has now taken centre stage in many of the modern hermeneutic schemes constructed by Muslim scholars and intellectuals, indeed Ramadan has used the framework of the Maqasid quiet effectively.

Hence the question of social and historical context in which the ruling was given at the time of the revelation of the Quran was seen as irrelevant or unimportant, bar a few exceptional cases.

Hence the quarrels of interpretation lie in the area of fiqh and law, (with some associative issues in theology) rather in the core principles and beliefs. Hence fundamentalism in this sense alone means a negation of history, and the role it has in the shaping of our religiosities and interpretations of law. It means a negation of human agency and free will, human beings do not and should not have the capability to reason independently rather should do what God tells them to because it is clearly self evident. In this respect fundamentalism refuses to take social change and the evolution of societies into account.

But as many historical inquiries by modern scholars show the interpretation of Islamic law (jurisprudence) has been in constant flux with an irreducible diversity hence the many schools of law.

The recognition of socio-historical contexts in the act of interpretation is the barrier preventing any dynamism and creativity in the discourse of faith in Pakistan today. Unquestioning reverence of past authorities and clerics of law and theology has stifled any dynamism and pluralism.

One of the doyens of modern Quranic hermeneutics Fazlur Rahman suffered a great deal of hostility and persecution in Pakistan; hence he pursued the rest of his scholarship in the West. His influence though minimal in Pakistan has been great across the Far East in Indonesian and Malaysian scholars. His influence on the American discourse of Islam too has been greatly felt; hence this sad event was a loss to Pakistan but a gain to other discourses across Muslim communities elsewhere.

If the issues of gender relations, war and peace, democracy and political philosophy, ethics and pluralism are to be resolved one needs to take the hard road of hermeneutics. By introducing hermeneutics into Islamic discourse, clerical authoritarianism can be countered and more penetrating and holistic interpretations of the Quran can surface. We must constantly remember that Revelation is infallible and from God, but interpretation is fully human endeavour, capable of fault and error, a fallible expression of human reasoning. Hence reform is never in the context of religion itself but in our understanding of faith. By taking the road of a pluralistic and liberal hermeneutical framework we will give the respect and sanctity that our central and Sacred scripture deserves, whilst engaging with our Scripture in a contemplative manner.

The hope that a sensitive and reformist hermeneutical framework can bring is enormous. A comprehensive hermeneutical framework can counter the assumptions of conservative jurists in their exegetical endeavours. Piece meal reforms will never succeed (for instance questioning one aspect of the pre-modern fiqh framework but leaving the other aspects untouched is counter-productive), a wholesale ijtihad on ijtihad will need to take place, and the pre-modern paradigms of fiqh though useful have perhaps outlived their purposes in a new world where the epistemological (epistemology refers to the theory and framework of knowledge) realities are very different.

71 Comments

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71 responses to “The Hope of Hermeneutics

  1. P. Vengaayam

    “We must be careful in what respect we talk of a Quranic hermeneutic. A framework of hermeneutics is needed to understand the ethico-legal content of the Quran (as Abdullah Saeed puts it), to do with the issues of law and society. The beliefs of the religion (the Five Pillars for instance) cannot be re-interpreted, that is heresy and sacrilege. ”

    All of this semantic mumjo-jumbo seems to be intent on hiding the real reason why following a literal interpretation of the quran, if harmful for muslim interest, must be moved away from. Society changes and law must change with it, and anyone who insists that both remain static is either very stupid or has a malicious intentions towards the well being of muslims worldwide.

    Books are just books, and their contents are meant to be debated and dissected, not enforced by means of a sword. But those who want to use violence instead of reason and debate will always like to pretend that rules are static and cannot be changed. It seems like a blatant attempt to preserve the current power centers by a convenient interpretation of Holy books that is at odds with the interest of the Pakistani public.

  2. A.A Khalid

    I am afraid the version of utilitarianism that Vengayaam has insisted upon has been tried and it has never penetrated the legal discourse. The notion of public interest (maslaha) has been used by some modern Muslim jurists but on this basis alone a calibrated theory of law cannot be produced.

    Liberalism is not the same as utilitarianism I am afraid, and Vengayaam has made the characteristic mistake to conflate and confuse the two.

    The problem is as many scholars have noted such as Hallaq and others is that using the notion of interest lends itself to incredibly subjective tendencies and no parameters can be set. For instance extremists can justify violent behaviour on the notion of interest and necessity (daurirat).

    What on earth is ”public interest”, is very subjective, and the problem that it then presents is that the religious discourse does not have an independent epistemological structure. Religion becomes relativistic as with the current post-modern frenzy.

    Hence public interest cannot be the sole basis of reform, early Arab liberals in the early 20th century tried to this and it didn’t work. It can play a crucial part.

    Because if the true goal is liberty, and a liberal political theology then we must note that liberalism is not the same as utilitarianism.

    No this religious utilitarianism cannot work because of the hopeless subjectivity it induces. A hermeneutic is the key.

  3. Zulfiqar Haider

    Some of the fundamentalist mullahs have reduced the possibility to interpret religion according to the requirements and are sticking to the fundamentals. This needs to change and we all must advocate its approval.

  4. P. Vengaayam

    AAKhalid:”What on earth is ”public interest”, is very subjective, and the problem that it then presents is that the religious discourse does not have an independent epistemological structure. ”

    Still smells like something I stepped on last saturday.

    Tell me, dear sir, if the “public” is a uniform mass of citizens of Pakistan, then pray tell what is your difficulty in understanding the notion of “Public Interest”?

    On the other hand, if the “public” is considered to “muslims” and “non-muslims”, then clearly there is no single thing called “public interest”, since the interest of the muslim may clash with the interest of the non muslims (or “less purer” muslims) at different times, resulting in questions like yours: “what exactly is public interest?” and consequent semantic distractions like “hermeneutics” to move away from the more important questions of separating religion and state.

  5. A.A Khalid

    The notion of public interest on its own in the political sphere is easy to define, but how do we define in the context of a legal tradition? That is a difficult task since juristic structures in any legal culture are not based on democratic principles but on a systematic hierachry of learning and progression.

    Hence the question is how do we merge public interest to a legal tradition in Pakistan which is in dire need of epistemic modernization and reform? Public interest in law is tricky to define as where does not draw the line between lawyers and jurists working in a strictly professional and objective manner and engaging in the public sphere, operating in the marketplace of convictions and ideas? (the issue of judicial activism)

    Hence your assertion of public interest was naive and vague, when the discussion was clearly about jurisprudence and law with the associative issues of scriptural hermeneutics.

    Hermeneutics is important because it is the process of interpretation. Interpretation vis a vis religious texts is important. If one adopts a reformist and liberal hermeneutical scheme then religious reform can be fostered from within in conjunction with rigorous engagement with the religious text. Hermeneutics especially in Islamic law and the Quran could modernize the legal tradition and the way one is educated about matters of faith.

    The question of secularism is important though I have to say, the debate about secularism is dire in Asia. Its inflated at the expense of democracy and liberalism. Secularism is in its most basic sense a pardigmatic analysis of church/mosque/temple and state relations. Objective secularism entails this, whilst subjective secularism entails a more social decimation of religion from the nation’s conscience and the influence religious belief has among the population.

    I find discussions on secularism tedious, as they do not preclude or suggest any real debates on human rights, tolerance, pluralism ,gender issues, war and piece, political ethics, morality and citizenship. Whereas political philosophy and one of its schools, liberalism (with all its diversity and various types) does imply discussions of these issues.

    Secularism in Asia has been hyped up at the expense of liberalism and democracy. Indeed one can question strongly whether secularism is needed for liberalism and democracy. See this empirical study:

    <<<>>>>>>

    http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521707589

    The secularization thesis (in the social sciences proposed by sociologists and historians in the 19th and 20th century by the likes of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Auguste Come) has been proven wrong, see the work of Jose Cassanova, William E Connolly, Talal Asad, Peter Berger, Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre. Many social scientists and historians are now positing the notion of a post-secular modernity for instance Jurgen Habermas.

  6. If I may add, one of the pioneers (in South Asia) in the field of hermeneutics as regards the Quran was undoubtedly Imam Hamiduddin Farahi.
    His approach to the Quran was novel, not in the sense that he wanted to veer away from the mainstream Islamic thought, but in that he used the jahiliyya Literature of the Arabs as the basis of understanding the Quranic text. An English translation of his Muqaddimah – Tafsir Nizam-ul-Quran is available on my blog, as well.

    His efforts of textual interpretation of the Quran were continued by his student Amin Ahsan Islahi, resulting in the publication of one of the monumental exegesis of the 20th Century, Tadabbur-e-Quran.

    Currently, Prof. Mustansir Mir, of Youngstown State University in Ohio, is considered as an authority in this field and his book Coherenece in the Quran is a basic primer for anyone starting in this field.

    I had a chance to go through Fazl-ur-Rehman’s Major Themes in the Quran. Although a great effort, he strayed into the philosophical moorings of such things as Revelation, which is anathema to the run-of-the-mill Mullah. Still, a lot of work needs to be on the foundations which he laid.

    Just my 2 cents!

  7. A.A Khalid

    public interest is difficult to define in the legal sphere. It is easy to define in the political discourse of a nation.

    But how does one connect the public interest with jurisprudence. Jurisprudence is not a democratic discourse, its based on meritocratic structures of education and hierachrical institutions where one progresses through.

    Hence how can one connect a culture of jurisprudence in Pakistan which is in need of reform anyway with the ”public interest”.

    In law this becomes difficult, what is the line when lawyers or jurists who are meant to be objective and neutral arbiters of the law and when they engage in the public sphere to gauge the public interest. This notion of judicial activism comes into play.

    hence your use of public interest in the juristic context we were talkinga about is naive and simplistic.

  8. A.A Khalid

    Furthermore, hermeneutics is an important issue because it can bring about reform in the juristic culture of Pakistan.A liberal and reformist hermeneutical scheme can diffuse and disarm the legal reasoning of conservatives which has such a monopoly on the determination of the law of this country.

    As for secularism, I tire of talking about secularism. In Asia it seems we talk so much about this that we forget about democracy and liberalism.

    I do not set much store by secularism so long as religious authority and temporal authority are clearly separated.

    Secularism does not suggest any discussion on human rights, pluralism, tolerance, citizenship. To me it just refers to basic paradigmatic analysis of church/mosque/templerelations.

    Hence I am more interested in talking about liberalism and democracy as these concepts deal with the crucial issues of rights, responsibilities, tolerance and pluralism in a much more substantial way.

  9. A.A Khalid

    If I were to identify a model of secularism it would be a modified version of American/Madisonian/Lockean secularism with its emphasis on an institutional division between religious authority and the state.

    However, in the public sphere religious voices should not be marginalized as that is a violation of religious freedom, freedom of expression and political rights of autonomy and association.

    The public sphere should be open and free to all citizens of the state regardless of creed. To me the public sphere is the marketplace of ideas.

    I think the political discourse in religious societies will be determined by religious sentiments regardless of what a small westernised elite thinks. Hence I feel it prudent to develop a liberal political theology as an alternative to conservative dogma.

  10. Hayyer

    It is possible to get too involved in Quranic hermeneutics. As an excuse for a re-liberalization of Islam it may work, or it may not.
    I bought a book last year edited by that ex Muslim Ibn Warraq. It is called ‘What the Quran really says’
    I bought it because I had read Warraq’s earlier ‘Why I am not a Muslim’ and thought he had something new to say.
    The book is a collection of essays by Quranic scholars, all western, many likely Jewish.

    My comment is in the context of the following quote from Mr. Khalid-:

    “Revelation is infallible and from God, but interpretation is fully human endeavour, capable of fault and error, a fallible expression of human reasoning. Hence reform is never in the context of religion itself but in our understanding of faith. By taking the road of a pluralistic and liberal hermeneutical framework we will give the respect and sanctity that our central and Sacred scripture deserves, whilst engaging with our Scripture in a contemplative manner.”

    Taking the road of a pluralistic and liberal hermeneutic framework may lead us eventually not to an enhanced respect and sanctity that we think the text deserves but quite the opposite.

    Don’t look too closely the Mullahs say. They are probably right. If you have faith it should be enough, without validation through hermeneutics. Your faith can be liberal or not; the poor book can do nothing by itself. It is all inside you, or so Bulle Shah told us.

  11. A. A Khalid

    @ Hayyer

    A Quranic hermeneutic as I have stressed should be taken into context in conjunction with the law i.e. jurisprudence (fiqh). I am not saying to systematically construct a hermeneutic for private and personal/spiritual interpretation.

    Fiqh is in dire need of reform, our understanding of the sharia is dated and we still use the same paradigms of interpretation as scholars used 500 years ago. There is not much difference. To change our jurisprudence to take into account human rights, democracy, pluralism, tolerance and liberty we need to take the route of constructing an alternative Quranic hermeneutic.

    The medieval scholars took an atomistic view of the Quran , interpreting verses in isolation . We need to take into account the whole global message.

  12. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    I agree that exercising reason to take account of the whole global message of the Quran makes sense and the alternative of leaving fiqh in a fossilized state from “500 years” ago seems perverse. This matter is pressing because the reality is that Salafist, deobandis etc have the initiative with muslims (when it comes to an understanding of their faith) and this trend needs to be reversed for the sake of the faithful’s moral well-being and for the sake of peace.

    As such, I feel the first priority is to take on and remove the threat of Salafist inspired ideologies using the framework of traditional Islam as well as developing new thinking as you mention.

  13. A.A Khalid

    @Tilsim

    Of course traditional Islam with its traditional jurisprudence can act and does act as a force for moderation against these modern puritanical trends of Islamic thought. Traditionally, Islamic jurisprudence if compared to some of the ideas of the new modern puritanical trends seems quiet enlightened, but the jurisprudence of traditionalism is still not enough to deal with new pressing issues of human rights and democracy for instance.

    So yes I agree traditional jurisprudence (which is historically speaking the orthodox schools of law in Islam), or orthdox jurisprudence still has much offer, but a new jurisprudence is still needed.

  14. Hayyer

    A A Khalid:

    Your motives are laudable and every right thinking Pakistani should appreciate them.
    But what hope of success where legislators tread on eggshells for fear of Mullahdom. Where would you begin. Academia?

  15. P. Vengaayam

    AA Khalid:”The notion of public interest on its own in the political sphere is easy to define, but how do we define in the context of a legal tradition? That is a difficult task since juristic structures in any legal culture are not based on democratic principles but on a systematic hierachry of learning and progression.”

    Or to put it in other words: “how to reconcile via rhetoric with the inherent bigotry against non muslims in the Islamic legal tradition (shariat) with the notion of “equal public rights for all citizens”?

    The reality is that a religious legal system, especially based on a religion that is very particular to differentiate between its adherents and non-adherents, is not compatible with a constitution that MUST treat all people equally.

    A legal system based on religious dogma cannot be reconciled with a secular constitution in reality, even though people can try big words like “hermeneutics” to pull a fast one on unsuspecting readers. Here is why.

    There is a fundamental contradiction in the aims of a Religious “legal tradition” that does not entertain notions like “equality of man”.

    Yes, there is a lot of talk about how Islam supports equality of man (if you are a muslim, of course), but talk is cheap.

    Islamic law is insufficient to protect the interests of minorities, and there are enough countries run under the shariat today that do not support the contention of this article that all Pakistan has to do is rearrange the pieces in front of them without removing anything to fix things. I can understand how Jinnah found it impossible to push Pakistan back in the direction of a constitutional republic once Pakistan was created, if this is the average mindset.

    Once religious law is made official law, guess who is the highest judge in the land to interpret religious law? The priest. To those who see nothing with priests being at the top of the legal food chain, how many of you want your appendix taken out by a priest? Well, if the answer is negative to that question, if you won’t trust your body to a priest, why would you trust your country to them?

  16. P. Vengaayam

    Pakistan’s solutions lie in fixing the education system first, if all the good people here want your future generations to fight back the evil you are all confronted with today. If textbooks still teach intolerance and bigotry, you will not find much of an audience among students of those textbooks for keeping Pakistan in one piece and to reconcile a secular constitution and the Holy Quran, which would also require an education, and not to mention a rational and methodical mindset.

  17. A. A Khalid

    @ Vengaayam

    Well Islam perhaps is the most egalitarian of religious traditions, perhaps only Christianity comes close to any sort of universalism of mankind. So there is a lot of potential to construct a jurisprudence of equality on the normative texts. After all the Prophet PBUH has said that:

    All mankind are members of the family of God and the most beloved ones in the Presence of Allah is the one who is kind to His family.

    And the Quran’s egalitarian nature is best summed up in:

    “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you (atqakum). And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). [49/al-Hujurat/13]

    Indeed Sufi poetry and many Muslim scholars of law have elaborated on the equality of human beings, something sadly lacking in other religious traditions such as Hinduism. Muslims are lucky not to contend with the caste system, and many scholars have noted the irresistibly egalitarian tendnecy of the Quran.

    The legal tradition constructed took into considerations political contexts, hence socio-historical factors repressing the egalitarian nature of the Quran. For instance Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have argued that Islam has an inherent egalitarian intent founded only perhaps in Christianity. That is not to say other religious traditions do not have this egalitarian intention, it is just that in Christianity and Islam it is much more central.

    Of course if one is narrow-minded and if one thinks being an atheist means one is enlightened, then you are wrong. Many atheists are just as dogmatic as religious people. The crucial link to establish is empathy. There are many reformist jurists now advocating new paradigms of legal hermeneutics. For instance Mohammad Mojtahed Shabestari and
    Yousef Sanei in Iran within the clergy, and Ghamidi in Pakistan. So there is a discourse of Reformist Islam, if you do not believe me see the work of Shirin Hunter: Reformist Voices of Islam: Mediating Islam and Modernity.

    Of course historical Islamic jurisprudence has made many errors, but today we are in a position with the gift of history to correct these errors and to move back to normative principles.

    There are many signs of a reformist Islamic jurisprudence emerging taking into account pluralism. We can see this in the writings of many Muslim intellectuals such as Tariq Ramadan, AbdolKarim Soroush, Hamza Yusuf, Fazlur Rahman, Ziauddin Sardar. Indeed the Nobel prize winner and women rights activist who operates within the Islamic tradition Shirin Ebadi is a great symbol of this success.

    Historically Islamic Law has been quiet ahead in accomodating pluralism with the millet system in the Ottoman Empire, indeed the Ottomon Empire is cited by many scholars as a pre-modern example of tolerance, say in comparison to Hindusim. Although today it cannot be applied, the intent is there that Islamic jurists do realise pluralism.

    There is a lot of potential given the simple and egalitarian nature of Islam summed up in the saying of the Caliph Ali (RA) saying that people are either brothers in faith or brothers in humanity.

    Furthermore, in mainstrean Islam Al Ghazali the great Sufi jurist in his work the ”Theological Boundaries of Tolerance” (translated by Sherman Jackson) has elaborated that For al-Ghazali, kufr is “purely a matter of rejecting the truthfulness of the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]. Beyond this, it reveals, in and of itself, virtually nothing about a
    person’s moral or religious constitution.” Thus, “a kafir (qua kafir) is neither immoral, irreligious, nor exempt from receiving recognition—in this world—for the good he or she commits”.

    The Islamic legal and intellectual traditions are one of the most diverse and rich in world history and there is great potential within it to build new paradigms of tolerance and human rights.

  18. A. A Khalid

    Furthemore, vengayaam your sense of history is obviously scant, because do you know the roots of the Enlightenment in the West? Please do not spew the grand atheistic narrative of that the Europeans kicked out faith and suddenly became rational, that’s absolute nonsense.

    Indeed one of the great Enlightenment thinkers John Locke was a devout Christian and although a pioneer of modern rationalism did have profound religious sensibilities. We remember Locke has a man who revolutionized the field of political philosophy but one his works was, ‘’A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity’’. This is indicative of his strong religious belief but also his trust in human reason.

    All of John Locke’s arguments and theories about freedom of conscience, the basis of authority, the legitimacy of political authority and equality do not stem from a myopic focus on human reason devoid of religious revelation. Rather they must be understood as emanating from a revised reinterpretation of Christianity, setting the parameters for a political theology of liberality. Locke recast religious norms, fought the conservatives of his times on their terms and in their idioms and successfully merged liberal ideals with religious legitimacy, to advocate a unique form of governance. But unfortunately some liberals and progressives are unaware of this.

    Rationality is not predicated on a lack of religious belief; it is predicated on the utilisation of one’s own critical faculties to the best of their own potential.

    Professor Sorkin’s new book the ‘’Religious Enlightenment’’, challenges the grand atheistic narratives about the Enlightenment arguing there were many religious groups and thinkers who were hopeful in achieving a harmonious unison between faith and reason whilst proposing new ideas for political philosophy in relation to church-state relations.

    The central thesis of the book is that, ‘’ With the Enlightenment’s advent, religion lost neither its place nor its authority in European society and culture. If we trace modern culture to the Enlightenment, its foundations were decidedly religious.’’

    Do we not know the Muslim rationalists of Al Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Al Juwayni and Al Kindi and many many others? Rationalism in Muslim thought has had a great place interacting with Greek philosophy.

    Secularity is not indicative of reasonableness and religiosity is not indicative of irrationality. For liberals to try and make crude and crass distinctions is to betray their own values and for conservatives to repress rationalism is to betray aspects of their own religious traditions they care so much about.

    To truly advance rationalism, tolerance and pluralism one has to speak the language of one’s constituency. The language of the Pakistani people is God-talk (theology). Hence a secular political ideology devoid of religious engagement and religious language is always going to fail but a synthesis in terms of creating a political theology in the style of John Locke could pave the way for challenging the conservatives’ monopoly on religious discourse and open a frank discussion on what type of religiosity Pakistan needs today.

    Obviously Vengayaam you do not know that many of the Enligthenment philosophers were devout Christians.

  19. A. A Khalid

    @ Vengayaam

    So please do not bore me with your talk of kicking out faith as a pre-requisite for rationality because that is an insult to the many reformists and intellectuals currently working across the Muslim World.

    The Enlightenment was born out of a phase of religious re-interpretation (guess what using hermeneutics) in terms of elaborating new norms of tolerance and pluralism. So please learn from history rather than repeated tired old media narratives.

  20. A. A Khalid

    @ Vengayaam

    Furthermore, I direct you to the work of Judge Christopher G. Weeramantry, who is the president of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, and has received awards from UNESCO and received the Right Livelihood Award.

    In his work as an editor of a volume called, ”Islamic Jurisprudence: An International Perspective”, he writes:

    “Islamic jurisprudence is a much misunderstood system. This misunderstanding is due to lack of information and to centuries of prejudice. This book seeks to present information, not at present available in a single work, on the pioneering efforts of Islamic jurists to develop a comprehensive body of human rights principles and practice, as well as a corpus of international law principles. The attempt to develop such international law principles long anticipated any similar work in other legal or cultural systems. Human rights doctrine based upon the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet was expressed in terms which will strike the reader as surpassingly modern. In international law, Islamic treatises anticipated the work of Grotius by eight centuries. This systematic exposition, not attempted before in such detail, will be of interest not only to the Islamic world, but also to philosophers, historians, sociologists and political scientists world-wide. All students of international affairs would likewise benefit from this book.”

    Please get some proper knowledge about the Islamic legal tradition rather than crass presentations from the media outlets. There is reform needed in the legal tradition but there is so much potential that it can be done.

  21. A. A Khalid

    @ Vengayaam

    Yes please learn to broaden your horizons and realise that human rights and the paradigms of liberal democracy can be borne out of religious engagement aswell. See this brilliant paper by a well known academic:

    ”Islamic Rationalism and the Foundation of Human Rights”:

    Abstract:

    The question I address is whether the rationalist tradition in Islamic jurisprudence has the conceptual resources to explicate and justify contemporary human rights discourse. A common theme of many commentaries on Islam and human rights is that there is something intrinsically “Western” about human rights, where “Western” is thought to exclude “Islamic.” As a result, scholars are sometimes reluctant to apply human rights norms to Muslim societies. Some even suggest that those who evaluate Muslim societies on this basis are guilty of “moral chauvinism and ethnocentric bias.” This paper questions the validity of any strong epistemological contrast between Western and Islamic jurisprudence in this respect by arguing that several principles lying at the foundation of Western accounts of human rights have important counterparts in Islamic rationalism. Far from being exclusively Western, the philosophical foundations of human rights appear to be shared by both Western and Islamic theories of law.

    Read the last bit Vengayamm it might do you some good:

    <<>>

    Read the full paper for yourself:
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=777026

  22. A. A Khalid

    @ Vengayaam

    Also please type in the title Islamic Rationalism and the Foundation of Human Rights into google and you will find a very intersting paper on the SSRN website by an academic at Georgetown University by the name of John Mikhail who is Professor of Law and Philosophy at the Georgetown University Law Center. (the PTH does not allow url links instantly for some reason).

    The abstract is revealing:

    The question I address is whether the rationalist tradition in Islamic jurisprudence has the conceptual resources to explicate and justify contemporary human rights discourse. A common theme of many commentaries on Islam and human rights is that there is something intrinsically “Western” about human rights, where “Western” is thought to exclude “Islamic.” As a result, scholars are sometimes reluctant to apply human rights norms to Muslim societies. Some even suggest that those who evaluate Muslim societies on this basis are guilty of “moral chauvinism and ethnocentric bias.” This paper questions the validity of any strong epistemological contrast between Western and Islamic jurisprudence in this respect by arguing that several principles lying at the foundation of Western accounts of human rights have important counterparts in Islamic rationalism. Far from being exclusively Western, the philosophical foundations of human rights appear to be shared by both Western and Islamic theories of law.

    Read the last bit Vengayaam, it might broaden your horizons a bit:

    <<>>>

  23. A. A Khalid

    the last bit is:

    ””’Far from being exclusively Western, the philosophical foundations of human rights appear to be shared by both Western and Islamic theories of law.””’

    Very important to bring this fact to people’s attention that the philosophical groundwork for human rights is already present in the Islamic tradition in the jurisprudence of rationalists and the Mutazilites. We need to build upon, elaborate, discuss and critique existing paradigms to produce new ones.

  24. A. A Khalid

    @ Hayyer

    The first thing to of course is to start in academia, there is a dearth of progressive religious intellectuals in Pakistan. In America and Europe discourses of reformist Islam have been produced due to the work of Muslim intellectuals in the university such as Seyyed Nasr Hossein and Omid Safi.

    Academia is the place to begin. The issue of madrassas is key, I have debated this with Tilsim elsewhere about the state interfering with religious discourse, it was a long and fruitful discussion and although we were both apprehensive that the State can quash intellectual freedom in religious discourse we think that the case of Pakistan is so dire the State needs to interfere.

    The Islamic University of Islamabad is a good example. A synthesis with modern intellectual tools and the traditional sciences within Islam is perhaps the most pragmatic way forward.

    Europeans grounded their justification of democracy and equality in the Enlightenment not only on rational premises but also on moral and religious arguments. This has to be noted, especially by people like Vengayaam whose sense of intellectual history is much to be desired.

    The separation of Church/Mosque and State does not mean the political discourse cannot be determined by religious convictions. It just means an institutional divide.

    The legal education of the madrassa system has to be modernised to include the humanities and social sciences. This will require great political will. But we must remember the conservatives are in a minority, in Pakistan the electorate never vote en masse for religious parties.

  25. A. A Khalid

    @ Vengayaam

    There is no concept of priesthood in Islam anyway my friend. In the work of Ira Lapidus the great historian of Islam, Muslim societies always maintained a divide between religious autority and temporal authority. Indeed Abdullahi An Naim the Muslim reformist intellectual has cited this in his book Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia.

    The Sharia has been and should be determined by institutions independent of the state, that’s why one of the founders of the biggest school of Muslim Law, Imam Hanifa when in 763, al-Mansur, the Abbasid monarch offered Abu Hanifa the post of Chief Judge of the State, he declined to accept the offer, choosing to remain independent. A similar thing can be observed in the case of Imam Malik who rejected the use of his text Al-Muwatta as the only source of Islamic jurisprudence when a monarch requested this.

    Islamic law is by its nature pluralistic and tolerant hence the separate science of Islamic law, known as the ethics of disagreement (adab e Ikhtilaf), which shows that scholarly disagreement is welcome and part of the legal discourse.

  26. A.A Khalid

    @ sheepoo

    Points taken, but I may add that Mir’s approach is more artistic in terms of approaching the Quran through the prism of literary theory hence the fact he ignores juristic discussions.

    The other authors you mentioned indeed were pioneers of a new exegetical approach but I would question their omission of socio-historical contexts. Rahman’s work on the philosophy of Revelation was perhaps ahead of his times, but I think that part of his work was truly illuminating.

  27. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    I appreciate your robust dismissal of an overarching judgement that Muslims are unable to develop a legal tradition that is rational and humanist because of the Quran and the example of the Prophet.

    However to be fair to P.Vengayaam, QS and others the proof lies in the pudding. The few examples of modern Islamic States, purportedly following Islamic law currently set miserable standards of ethics, law and governance for their own citizens as well as minorities. It’s remarkable then to see that such is the strength of the fundamentalist propaganda and the intellectual weakness of the societies that they seek more of the same. I think with that in mind I am happy to listen to the more informed, rational criticism from any source, welcome it and it helps me to research and reflect more about the issues that religious reformers face.

    A number of the deep sceptics on this blog have cited their personal loss of religious faith (whether muslim or hindu). They argue that it is easier to achieve modern human right standards or a liberal polity by rejecting the role of religion all together. That argument ignores the increasing hold that fundamentalist Islam has over people in Pakistan. If a genuine concern for the positive reform of muslim societies is the intention (and it does not come across that way from some of the comments), to my mind the more immediate hope lies in exposing the fallacy and disaster of atavistic fundamentalist interpretations of Islam.

  28. AA Khalid

    @ Tilsim

    I do not defend the examples and practices of Muslim states violating human rights.

    However, I do say this. Democracy and human rights has not taken root in the Muslim due to the authoratarian regimes which are mostly secular in the Muslim World for example Egypt. Most Muslim countries suffer from authoratarian leaders which repress the wishes of Muslims for democracy and human rights. Poll after poll shows that Muslims want democracy and human rights, and at the same time see these concepts compatible with their religiosity. That is the reality of popular Muslim opinion.

    As soon as their is democracy and a liberal political culture, enlightened interpretations of Islam flourish. Even in Turkey with its hostile secularism has produced the moderate AKP party which has been hugely democratizing and liberalising. In this vein can I mention Professor Esposito’s (Georgetown University) new book, ”The Future of Islam”, which shows the growing popularity of reformist ideas among Muslims.

    See the absolutely overwhelming and empirical evidence of this in the Gallup Centre for Muslim studies which took the largest survey of Muslim opinion to date which showed Muslims across the world overwhelmingly showing support for democracy and human rights. The study also shows that most Muslims live under democracies anyway.

    Secular autocrats repress the religious discourse for their needs and stifle debate. There are brave religious leaders and clerics who are popular and liberal but their voice is marginalised due to authoratarian political interest.

    To my mind the concept of the ”Islamic State” is mistaken. There is no such thing, in jurisprudence or history. It was a concept made by activists opposing what they saw as European hegemony and political dominance. The nation state is a modern political concept, hence the term ”Islamic State”, is modern and has no roots in the tradition. I cannot see the State as confessional anyway purely from a spiritual and religious perspective.

    And for the record no its not easier acheiving human rights and democracy without religion in religious societies. How can you justify it? You need moral and religious arguments which alot of American founding fathers and Enligthenment philosophers of Europe like John Locke used in addition to non-religious, secular (philosophical secularist) arguments.

    Quiet frankly those who try to reject the role of religion in religious societies for building democracies and human rights are woefully misguided. These people obviously do not appreciate the religiosity of the masses, nor do they have a clue about intellectual history. Democracy in Europe and America was based on a re-interpretation of religious norms, aswell as other sources.

    Alexis De Tocqueville in his travels and writings about America wrote that the Biblical concept of convenant was a more appealing and popular argument for democracy than Rosseau’s concept of social contract. He famously wrote about American Democracy (the title of his classic work, please read it Vengayaam and others, it might broaden your horizons):

    ”The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul rather than to live.”

    De Tocqueville noticed that democracy in America in the early 19th century (and probably today aswell) is thoroughly grounded in the religious discourse.

    You need theology, metaphysics, law and religious morality, to keep the conversation going and to give legitamacy to these concepts.

  29. P. Vengaayam

    A.A.Khalid:”Please get some proper knowledge about the Islamic legal tradition rather than crass presentations from the media outlets.”

    You fail to understand my point — IT DOES NOT MATTER what Islam’s legal tradition is, and it can even remain in its present form, as long as the state’s laws are separate. I have explained to you the rationale behind ignoring and avoiding “hermeneutics of legal tradition in Islam” arguments, because that is like trying to find a nice tie for a guy who can only afford an underwear.

    The religious laws have to share fundamentals of the constitution such as equality of all citizens before the law before such legal traditions can be accepted by the wider public. This will essentially change the face of the religion itself — that is, the Quran would have start claiming that non-muslims are identical to muslims, which is obviously not tenable from the standpoint of the immutability of those religious tests. Thus, this conflict has to be resolved in a different way, and hence the need for separation of religion and affairs of state.

    So it does not matter if I read 30 different references on Islam’s legal traditions that you may want to provide because the above logic is independent of what Islam preaches because it has abstracted the specifics of the religion out of it.

  30. AA Khalid

    My message to the critics is to learn some intellectual empathy and remember you are talking about Pakistan not about France.

    Every nation’s historical experience and path to democracy is different, this precious truth can be reached through different routes. Pluralism in political theory should be welcomed I would have thought by these self confessed ”liberals”.

  31. P. Vengaayam

    AA Khalid:”He famously wrote about American Democracy.. (stuff deleted) The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul rather than to live.”

    So what? The important point is that the americans only combine religion and liberty IN THEIR MINDS, not in their legal systems and in their law books, which is what you want when you want to make “Islamic Legal Tradition” the same as “Pakistani Legal Tradition”.

    You need to comprehend what is being said instead of randomly throwing out quotes and references that have nothing to do with the unsuitability of “legal tradition” from any religion being the same as the official laws of a state.

  32. AA Khalid

    This will essentially change the face of the religion itself — that is, the Quran would have start claiming that non-muslims are identical to muslims, which is obviously not tenable from the standpoint of the immutability of those religious tests

    Not at all, the egalitarian nature of Islam has been noted, many today as Fathi Osman, Abdulaziz Sachedina and in Iran the late great reformist cleric and champion of liberalism within the religious discourse, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri have made it clear humanity precedes our creeds.

    Please you are using crass analogies at least engage with the material and substance of the discussion. There are concrete examples where Muslim reformism is taking root in America and Europe. Just last month in Oxford University Muslims gathered at the ”Rethinking Islamic Reform” Conference with guest speakers Tariq Ramadan and Hamza Yusuf.

    Furthermore, didn’t I quote Al Ghazali on the concept of unbelief and that it has no effect on a person’s moral constitution? Furthermore, natural law can be used as well, see Islamic Natural Law Theories, by Anver M. Emon. Furthermore, many theological schools of thought in Islam report that moral principles are equally accessible to all human beings.

    Islamic humanism has a deep and long tradition with enlightened philosophers, jurists and poets. See the work The Islamic Quest for Democracy,. Pluralism, and Human Rights. Ahmad S. Moussalli, which shows that from the corpus of medieval jurists and philosophers such as Al Farabi that democracy can be constructed from the Islamic traditions.

    Reform is needed no doubt, but reform is part of the nature of the Islamic traditions. Wael B Hallaq makes this clear in his work ”The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law”.

    So far I have backed up my thesis with new and exciting developments and scholarly literature while you can only cite analogies about ties and underwears.

    Real deep…..

  33. P. Vengaayam

    AAKhalid”Every nation’s historical experience and path to democracy is different, this precious truth can be reached through different routes.”

    Pakistan calls itself a democracy now, even though it is the army that is in control. I suppose you speak of such a “democracy” that runs under shariat law, which is not a democracy even though you are trying very hard to pretend it will be one. If your constitution does not force the state to protect minorities, your country is no democracy, and I won’t hold my breath for minorities to live a free citizens under a religious constitution based on the Quran.

    Yes, a constitutional democracy can be reached through different routes as long as those routes follow certain fundamentals in terms of what is written down as the rights and responsibilities of any citizen in the country.
    If the rights of a muslim are different from the rights of a non-muslim, you do not have a constitutional democracy in real terms, just a theocracy pretending to be a democracy.

    You are trying very hard to redefine various well known terms like democracy to include a theological state running under religious laws and pretending that semantic tomfoolery like “hermeneutics” will fix the problem, but you are not fooling anyone but yourself.

  34. AA Khalid

    @ Vengayaam

    Read the letter that the Caliph Ali RA, wrote establishing some core political values a ruler should adopt, his letter to the Governor Malik. ( will include link for this)

    Indeed the letter (UN Legal Committee, member states voted that the document should be considered as one of the sources of International Law).

    So please do not patronize me about ”messing with the religion’s fundamentals”, because the fundamentals of Islam do include egalitarianism.

    I will quote part of Caliph Ali’s (RA) letter here:

    Be it known to you, O, Malik, that I am sending you as Governor to a country which in the past has experienced both just and unjust rule. Men will scrutinize your actions with a searching eye, even as you used to scrutinize the actions of those before you, and speak of you even as you did speak of them. The fact is that the public speak well of only those who do good. It is they who furnish the proof of your actions. Hence the richest treasure that you may covet would be the treasure of good deeds. Keep your desires under control and deny yourself that which you have been prohibited from, for, by such abstinence alone, you will be able to distinguish between what is good to them and what is not.

    Develop in your heart the feeling of love for your people and let it be the source of kindliness and blessing to them. Do not behave with them like a barbarian, and do not appropriate to yourself that which belongs to them.

    Remember that the citizens of the state are of two categories. They are either your brethren in religion or your brethren in kind.

    They are subject to infirmities and liable to commit mistakes. Some indeed do commit mistakes. But forgive them even as you would like God to forgive you. Bear in mind that you are placed over them, even as I am placed over you. And then there is God even above him who has given you the position of a Governor in order that you may look after those under you and to be sufficient unto them. And you will be judged by what you do for them.

    Do not set yourself against God, for neither do you possess the strength to shield yourself against His displeasure, nor can you place yourself outside the pale of His mercy and forgiveness. Do not feel sorry over any act of forgiveness, nor rejoice over any punishment that you may mete out to any one. Do not rouse yourself to anger, for no good will come out of it.

    Do not say: ” I am your overlord and dictator, and that you should, therefore, bow to my commands”, as that will corrupt your heart, weaken your faith in religion and create disorder in the state. Should you be elated by power, ever feel in your mind the slightest symptoms of pride and arrogance, then look at the power and majesty of the Divine governance of the Universe over which you have absolutely no control. It will restore the sense of balance to your wayward intelligence and give you the sense of calmness and affability. Beware! Never put yourself against the majesty and grandeur of God and never imitate His omnipotence; for God has brought low every rebel of God and every tyrant of man.

    Let your mind respect through your actions the rights of God and the rights of man, and likewise, persuade your companions and relations to do likewise. For, otherwise, you will be doing injustice to yourself and injustice to humanity. Thus both man and God will turn unto your enemies. There is no hearing anywhere for one who makes an enemy of God himself. He will be regarded as one at war with God until he feels contrition and seeks forgiveness. Nothing deprives man of divine blessings or excites divine wrath against him more easily than cruelty. Hence it is, that God listens to the voice of the oppressed and waylays the oppressor.

    See Vengayaam, one of the earliest political treatises of Islam clearly showing the vision of a pluralist society with tolerance and respect for rights.

  35. P. Vengaayam

    AAKhalid:”Islamic humanism has a deep and long tradition with enlightened philosophers, jurists and poets…(repetitious nonsense deleted) ”

    That is not the point and is irrelevant. Just because Islam is advertised to be tolerant and merciful means absolutely nothing and is less than worthless, if the implementation of such a system results in the anarchy and lawlessness seen in Pakistan today. So no, you cannot pretend to be a democracy when your country implements the Shariat. Period.

  36. P. Vengaayam

    AAKhalid:”See Vengayaam, one of the earliest political treatises of Islam clearly showing the vision of a pluralist society with tolerance and respect for rights.”

    I can see Islamic law currently implemented in the world and it is not very liberal, and that says more than some random text from the past on how great Islam would be in theory, if it became the official law of any country. So, your condescension notwithstanding, you are yet to even comprehend, let alone address, some of the fundamental weaknesses in your approach. But it is your country, so go ahead and experiment while it exists.

  37. Hayyer

    Vengaayam:

    That last post is quite off the track. A A Khalid’s arguments have nothing to do with what you have just posted.

  38. AA Khalid

    Your prejudice is showing Vengayaam, best cover it with something, how about knowledge? I heard knowledge is always good for erasing prejudice, but it can be hard to come by unless we open our eyes and ears.

    When have I tried to redefine democracy?

    When did I say that citizenship should be based on faith, in Pakistan? When? Quote a statement to that effect or retract your hideous slur. When have I called for a theocracy? When have I condoned treatment of minorities?

    I am arguing that protection for minorities can happen under a modern interpretation of Islamic Law. If in the past Muslim jurists offered far better models of tolerance such as in the Ottomon Empire compared to their Christian and Hindu counterparts what is stopping us today?

    Religious law can be humane and liberal aswell. Indeed early human rights as I have shown was protected by facets of religious law in Islam. What is needed to day like any social process is evolution and change.

    Furthermore, anyway I have stated that religious law should be adminsterd independently of the state (see my comments on Abdullahi An Naim), or are you just recycling stereotypes and not reading my posts? See Noah Feldman’s work the ”Rise and Fall of the Islamic State”, on how Islamic law can be conceived as a liberalising force.

    In Islam we have a distinction between core beliefs and other aspects of the faith. The determination of Islamic law (fiqh) is not a core belief, its a human discplne with human beings interpreting religious texts. Its a dynamic process.

    It looks like you are resistant to knowledge and resistant to scholarly debate. Be that as it may no loss to me, I can only extend my hand to those who wish to construct a discourse of religious liberalism.

    If you wish to stay on the margins with futile renderings of agnostic and atheistic political ideologies in the midst of a religious society fine by me.

  39. Hayyer

    I meant the post of 10.05

  40. P. Vengaayam

    “please do not patronize me about ”messing with the religion’s fundamentals”, because the fundamentals of Islam do include egalitarianism.”

    Maybe, depending on what you mean by “egalitarianism” (I suspect you are just using that word like you use “democracy”).

    Unless you think everyone else is an idiot, it is not lost to third-party observers that Islam’s fundamentals as it is practised today DOES NOT INCLUDE providing the same privileges and rights to a muslim as opposed to a non muslim, which is where Islam diverges from an enlightened constitution.

  41. Hayyer

    Vengaayam:
    Did you get the drift at all?

  42. AA Khalid

    @ Vengayaam

    Pakistan implements the Sharia? No it doesn’t the majority of laws are from the colonial period. I have never condoned the behaviour of Muslim state violating human rights and democracy, but obviously you cannot appreciate my comprehensive socio-political analysis of the religious discourse in those countries.

    Indeed many scholars have noticed the death of Islamic law in the modern world, see the paper ”Death of Islamic Law” (type into google), the author is Haider Ala Hamoudi. (available on the SSRN network free to download).

    Here is the abstract:

    ”That lawmaking in many modern Muslim nation states appears to give rather short shrift to shari’a, seemingly ignoring it in all areas save the law of the family and replacing it elsewhere with European transplanted law, has been discussed. That the Muslim world is replete with political institutions and leaders that seek a greater role than this for the shari’a in the affairs of the state is obvious to anyone even faintly familiar with the region.

    However, left undiscussed is the fact that the Islamist, who derives his authority precisely on the basis of returning sovereignty to God in all matters of state and law, is no more enthused than anyone else in permitting God’s Law to retain any real level of supremacy over the law of the state. Yet this is amply demonstrated by the Islamist obsession with seizing state control and enacting, selectively, shari’a as state law, rather than attempting the type of complete law overhaul that would be necessary to ensure the permanent primacy of the shari’a.

    The selectivity, while puzzling to one in search of logic in the law, provides in fact much guidance to precisely why the Islamist has chosen this road of incoherence, demanding that the law of man lie subservient to the Will of God on the one hand, and then gleefully ignoring the necessary consequences of taking such a notion seriously on the other. The fact is that while the Islamist may say that he wishes God’s Law to be supreme over that of man, there is nothing in his actions to suggest that this rhetoric, however sincerely held, is an accurate reflection of his actual aims. The Islamist does not want God’s Law to reign supreme in areas such as corporate law and the law of business entities, where the economic consequences might be dire. On the other end lies the law of the family, where God’s Law is deemed a vital necessity, and any development, any evolution, any alteration of the rules established centuries ago when caliphs walked the earth will meet with red-faced Islamist indignation at the suggestion of such outrageous sacrilege. With the power of lawmaking safely in the hands of the state, the Islamist need only bring sharia where he wishes it, and leave all other, largely transplanted, law, where it lies, which is to say in as authoritative a position as any shari’a derived enactment by the state.

    The wide scale adoption of secular, transplanted law and secular legal systems and their continuation in force even in the most thoroughly Islamized societies is not a matter very thoroughly discussed by our academy, except to the extent that it is asserted as largely irrelevant to the reestablishment of a true “Islamic state” where some form of shari’a does indeed reign supreme. Thus, much scholarly attention has been focused on the “repugnancy clauses” in various Muslim state constitutions, which prohibit the enactment of laws that are repugnant to the shari’a. The focus on such clauses is striking, and portentous phrases on their importance are rife in our scholarship, among them “the Rise of the Islamic State,” “theocratic constitutionalism,” and “Islamic constitutionalism.”

    On repugnancy, I offer only two points. First, to the extent that an “Islamic state” can be formed under such a conception, it only seems to confirm how fundamentally limited the role of shari’a has become in the “Islamic state.” Secondly, no theory of repugnancy has been coherently laid out, let alone applied, in any Muslim state. Muslim states, and Islamist movements, are far too invested in their development to call for anything less than a selective application of shari’a, with the only real difference between the Islamist, the moderate and the secularist being precisely how much to select. Logic and coherence, in the end, has been forced to give way to the hard realities of our times, which cannot afford to Divinity the primary role in the making of law. ”

    You still haven’t read the Gallup Poll, and gone to the Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies have you? I advise you to do so to break down some stereotypes.

    You homogenize and you essentialise complex debates into superficial binary oppositions. You stick with your easy prejudices of us and them, without realising the complexities of human experience. You generalise about traditions and people, and you do not appreciate diversity, pluralism and the scope of reform.

    So in most Muslim countries there is authoratarianism but the substance is secular with a religious veneer. Islamic law as a working discourse is near extinction in many parts of the Muslim World, with the lack of acadamies and educational institutions.

  43. AA Khalid

    @Vengayaam

    Fair enough, if a person cannot change their mind after all the arguments and texts I have cited then continue with your prejudice, and maybe just maybe some of that ”enlightenment” you talk about might actually by mistake hit you.

    Do you really believe in dialogue, or just asserting homogenized stereotypes?

  44. AA Khalid

    Read that paper on the ”Death of Islamic Law” vengayaam it will demolish most of conveniently held stereotypes and assertions.

  45. AA Khalid

    @ Vengayaam, most Muslim countries do not have the Sharia solely as the basis of law, only a small number of Arab countries do.

    The majority have a hybrid legal system with an overwhelmingly secular constituent. By the way secular does not mean ”enligthened”, you might be thinking of liberalism and human rights based constitutionalism.

    Secularity is not an indicator of liberalism. Many Arab countries have suffered under secular autocrats.

  46. AA Khalid

    Vengayaam you may now be constructing another analogy to do with underwears and ties (who knows you might fancy using trousers or gucci sunglasses).

    But at least try and deal with the substance of the debate in a scholarly manner rather than using gross analogies. But it is clear that all your slurs and accusations cannot be backed up with anything I have written. You say I redefine democracy and egalitarianism, when have I done that?

    You can’t respond so you just move on to another airy fairy accusation hot off the juvenile press.

  47. AA Khalid

    Vengayaam said:

    ”So what? The important point is that the americans only combine religion and liberty IN THEIR MINDS, not in their legal systems and in their law books, which is what you want when you want to make “Islamic Legal Tradition” the same as “Pakistani Legal Tradition”.

    You need to comprehend what is being said instead of randomly throwing out quotes and references that have nothing to do with the unsuitability of “legal tradition” from any religion being the same as the official laws of a state.”

    Oh dear, pray tell how one comprehends and reasons the contents of law? The mind of course. That may be a newsflash to you, but if the popular conscience of a nation is that of religious liberalism like that in America then the law will reflect this.

    Much of Madison’s writings are based on a re-interpreted rational theology of Christianity, laying stress on reason and liberty as a means of enhancing the relationship with the Creator.

    George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and Benjamin Franklin were religious liberals who were heavily influenced by the new science and rational philosophy of the European Enlightenment. Although each of these men was a believer in God, their religious philosophy as a whole went contrary to dictates of conventional/orthodox religion of the day. In other words rational reformist religious thought, fusing religious principles with that of law and government to produce a liberal democratic culture.

    Come on this is simple stuff Vengayaam…..

  48. AA Khalid

    Vengayaam:

    Ever heard of natural law? Ever read the American Declaration of Independence:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

    Notice the use of Creator and the evident religious language used, religious liberalism in action right there. Natural law can be used as a means of constructing religious liberalism.

    Read Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious, Assessments by Madison who uses moral and religious arguments to fight for liberty and freedom of conscience.

    This is a beautiful statement in the Memorial:

    ”Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered”

    A beautiful example of liberal political theology in the defence of rights in an articulation of a human and liberal law with religious legitamacy. Fantastic.

  49. AA Khalid

    I have never said anything to this effect vengayaam:

    any religion being the same as the official laws of a state.

    I have always said that the Sharia should be independently determined from the state. What I have said is that for the nuturing of liberalism in Pakistan it has to be couched in religious language and thus the Islamic legal tradition has to explored for such possibilities hence the construction of reformist methodologies to justify religious liberty, freedom and democracy.

    Or have you not read my posts? Come on, if you haven’t I will forget and forgive…..

  50. AA Khalid

    Islamic reformism in action, I quote Ziauddin Sardar’s article (Can Islam change, type into google for full article),pay close attention to the last paragraph):

    I would advise you to read the full article

    ””’This is where Morocco has provided an essential lead. Its new Islamic family law, introduced in February, sweeps away centuries of bigotry and bias against women. It was produced with the full co-operation of religious scholars as well as the active participation of women.

    Morocco retained much of the colonial legal system that France left behind, but, in family law, followed what is known locally as the Moudawana – the traditional Islamic rules on marriage, divorce, inheritance, polygamy and child custody. At first, King Mohammed VI had to abandon plans for change because, protesters claimed, he was trying to impose secular law and western culture on Morocco. In spring 2001, however, he set up a commission, which included women and was given the specific task of coming up with fresh legislation based on the principles of Islam. Given enormous impetus by 9/11 and its aftermath, it produced a report that many see as a revolutionary document. The resulting family code establishes that women are equal partners in marriage and family life. It throws out the notion that the husband is head of the family and that women are mere underlings in need of guidance and protection. It raises the minimum age for women’s marriage from 15 to 18, the same as for men.

    The new Moudawana allows a woman to contract a marriage without the legal approval of a guardian. Verbal divorce has been outlawed: men now require prior authorisation from a court, and women have exactly the same rights. Women can claim alimony and can be granted custody of their children even if they remarry. Husbands and wives must share property acquired during the marriage. The old custom of favouring male heirs in the sharing of inherited land has also been dropped, making it possible for grandchildren on the daughter’s side to inherit from their grandfather, just like grandchildren on the son’s side. As for polygamy, it has been all but abolished. Men can take second wives only with the full consent of the first wife and only if they can prove, in a court of law, that they can treat them both with absolute justice – an impossible condition.

    Every change in the law is justified – chapter and verse – from the Koran, and from the examples and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. And every change acquired the consent of the religious scholars. Even the Islamist political organisations have welcomed the change. The Party of Justice and Development described the law as “a pioneering reform” which is “in line with the prescriptions of Islam and with the aims of our religion.”””

  51. J.Krishnan

    Islamic society seems to fall apart repeatedly into contesting power centres (with much violence, groupism and propaganda as concomitants). Laws in islamic societies are a hotch-potch of colonial, sharia, tribal, feudal etc. whims and interest-groups. Jesus says someplace (in the NT) : law is for man and not man for law. This realization does not come to the muslims. They try to fit man into (old and older) laws and not laws to fit to the needs of modern man. Muslims claim to honour Jesus, but have little regard for certain things he really says. The muslims’ relationship to him is more about how to disprove, ridicule, devilize and humiliate the christians (what to speak of jews and hindus).

    Why does islamic society have this tendency to repeatedly fall apart? Is it because of some inconsistencies, ambiguities etc. in their faith-texts? Unless they acknowledge the existence of these inconsistencies, ambiguities etc. no progress towards a peaceful co-existence among muslims themselves (what to speak of one with non-muslims) will take place.

    Once you call something as holy-final-perfect then honesty (in regard to this something) takes a backseat, or gets no seat at all.

  52. AA Khalid

    Krishnan:

    The muslims’ relationship to him is more about how to disprove, ridicule, devilize and humiliate the christians (what to speak of jews and hindus).

    Nice, really good, nice stereotyping Krishnan, you must be doing a lot of good in the world with this sort of attitude……….

    Real sophisticated……..

    Can we get a little bit of nuance in this place please, it seems to be running on empty on this forum…………..

  53. NotVajra

    AA Khalid, can you point to some writings of yours of how we got to the current situation (that new hermeneutics might solve?)

  54. Tilsim

    @ AA Khalid

    It’s clear from these questions that the burden of the religious reformer is not only to challenge the orthodoxy within his own religion but to also answer the genuine concerns that have arisen amongst non-muslims because of the attitude and statements of the orthodoxy.

    You are clearly very well informed and it seems unfair that you are being held to account or answerable for views or practices of Muslims that you clearly reject or have problems with just because you answer to the same label of Islam.

    Unfortunately some of the wrath is ridiculously sweeping and aimed at the wrong person e.g “The muslims’ relationship to him is more about how to disprove, ridicule, devilize and humiliate the christians (what to speak of jews and hindus).” or “You are trying very hard to redefine various well known terms like democracy to include a theological state running under religious laws and pretending that semantic tomfoolery like “hermeneutics” will fix the problem, but you are not fooling anyone but yourself.”

    I guess it goes with the territory. Hang on in there.

  55. Hayyer

    It is rather a simple point that AA Khalid was making. Vengaayam and Krishnan seem determined to steer discussion into other directions.
    I doubt what worked in Morocco will work in Pakistan simply because Pakistan does not have a tolerant enlightened monarch, but if conditions arise it may be a way of doing it.
    I wonder if Pakistan would have as much difficulty absorbing a liberal legal system had events after 47 followed a different course. Supposing it had had elections early on and got done with its constitution making at the speed India did with no scope for the army to intervene, would it not have been a liberalish Pakistan anyway?

  56. AA Khalid

    @ Tilsim and Hayyer

    Religious reformers can only extend their hand to those who are willing to engage in dialogue and wish to diffuse the political theologies of conservatives.

    Because religious reformists engage in a double critique, they are targeted by both religious conservatives and strong secular fundamentalists who see that liberalism cannot acheived by religion because religious people are frankly barbaric (another prejudic I find quiet shocking).

    The reason I enlisted the Morocco case is because the reforms in Morocco were not even backed by extra-textual reasoning. There was no reason to go beyond the texts, every change was backed by chapters and verses from the Quran and Hadith. That is a great sign of hope, and shows the true power that an alternative hermeneutical framework can bring .

  57. J.Krishnan

    to A A Khalid

    When I came to know that islam respects Jesus I had some hope (although I am no christian or Jesus lover). I had read the NT as a hindu and was much impressed by it – even recommended it to my hindu friends. How many muslims in Pakistan have been told to read the NT (New Testament) and not be swayed by what kuran writes about Jesus? Why does the muslim say that if there is a statement conflict between the two then the NT is a falsification and the kuran alone is right? Why this fixation? How can there be an honest islamic hermeneutics with this attitude among muslims?

    Hermeneutics will make sense in islam only after this kuran-fixation is whittled down.

    I have given only one example here.

    May be Khalid is an exception among muslims – hence what I wrote was not stereotyping. The muslim majority is programmed to downgrade/dismiss anything that does not stay in total harmony with and subservience to the kuran. I have taken part in dialogues with muslims and I know this concrete difficulty.

  58. AA Khalid

    Krishnan you may not be aware of the scholarly literature on the NT, by the likes of Bart Ehrman and others. Many Christians now accept the New Testament is not the Word of God itself, but is an ” inspired” of literature.

    As for why Muslims think only the Quran is right, well that goes for any mass of religious believers who believe that their religious text is right when compared to other texts. Theologically I agree.

    But morally and spirituality I think all world religion scriptures have something important to say. We may disagree on theology but on morality, ethics and spirituality we can converge and come to common understanding (as the Quran uses this phrase aptly).

    Rejecting moral aspects of the NT I think would be wrong, we need to as sincere partners in dialogue contemplate on the spiritual and moral aspects of scriptures.

    Indeed many Muslim scholars in the past used to study the Christian and Jewish scriptures along side the Quran, and many like Al Ghazali used to quote from these scriptures when talking about ethics, virtue, morality, knowledge and spirituality.

  59. Tilsim

    @ J Krishnan

    Not sure how much an exception AA Khalid is in his views. I agree with him too. Certainly AA Khalid’s detailed knowledge of his subject is a refreshing exception to the norm – we need the same love of enquiry amongst a much greater number of muslims.

  60. AA Khalid

    I am no exception by the way, there is a tradition of Islamic liberal thought built up over the last 150 years starting with the likes of Muhammad Abduh who reintroduced rational theology.

    I advise you to read, ”The new voices of Islam: rethinking politics and modernity ”and ”Reformist Voices of Islam: Mediating Islam and Islam”.

    Also read John Esposito’s ”Future of Islam”.

    Read these three books and you will realise a great number of Muslims are thinking seriously and rationally about their faith and believe in the spirit of a liberal ijtihad in the pursuit of equality, mercy and pluralism enshrined in the global message of the Quran. (and I believe in other religious traditions aswell)

  61. J.Krishnan

    respected Khalid

    “…a great number of Muslims are thinking seriously and rationally about their faith and believe in the spirit of a liberal ijtihad in the pursuit of equality, mercy and pluralism enshrined in the global message of the Quran.”

    I am reading such sentences from the muslims since some years.

    When does the “action part” come?

  62. AA khalid

    The action part is happening, it is you who is willing to close your eyes, greet xenophobic Hindu nationalists as ”defenders”, and does not wish to see the activism of Muslim reformers.

    Enough about Muslim reformers. Where are the Hindu reformers? Where are Hindus who combat discriminatory practices in the Hindu tradition? Which religious leader in Hinduism in India has condemned the caste system in certain terms?

    See Esposito’s work for the action part, he documents Muslim reformist activism and social work in great detail……

    See Fetullah Gulen for example, who has a massive grass roots network in Turkey promoting tolerance, peace, respect and democracy.

  63. AA Khalid

    I hope you are not going to use Nietchze to justify the caste system…..

    In fact go ahead, it might be quiet funny actually!

    But tragic aswell that in this day and age people still justify inequality and barriers to social mobility…….

  64. AA Khalid

    ”When does the “action part” come?”

    I have given you great number of references in this post and thread about the details of social activism among Muslim reformers.

    I still ask you, which Hindu religious leader has condemned the caste system in certain terms?

  65. J.Krishnan

    Khalid

    You are not being sincere. You are confusing (intentionally?) between justification and explanation. This is what I call sentimentality and show-off of pious anger. You do not understand the sub-conscious workings of the human mind and society. No one ever succeeded in creating an egalitarian society. If someone did – it fell apart rapidly and brought in its aftermath worse social relations/conditions. Even egalitarianism needs a totalitarian outlook and practice for its management and survival. Neither communism nor islam were/are/will-be an exception to this.

    Nietzsche justifies nothing, never – he only describes incisively. Wishful thinkers regard him as their enemy because he exposes hypocrisies.

  66. AA Khalid

    Krishnan, continue to be an apologist for the caste system, Hindu nationalism, xenophobia continue to be an apologist for Nietchze’s distasteful writings, I am just happy to note there will always be Indians who will turn around and note your absurdity……..

    Funny, Krishnan, those who excuse the bigotry of others are a bigot themselves.

    Do you think human beings have no free will or reason? That we have no conscience?

    Yeah keep blaming ”nature”……

  67. Tilsim

    @ Hayyer

    “Supposing it had had elections early on and got done with its constitution making at the speed India did with no scope for the army to intervene, would it not have been a liberalish Pakistan anyway?”

    I would like to think more liberal than now. However, fundamentalism’s onward march has been there in the background. The lack of a coherent vision, apathy and intellectual poverty of the ‘liberal’ establishment which we inherited at the dawn of independence makes me suspect that we would still have a problem with religious facism. The establishment has always played with Islam as some sort of glue to bind the nation. Since the late 60s, they started to initially appease and then coopt the Islamists.

    However, what happened then does not matter as much as what is happening and needs to happen now.

    Elsewhere, if I understood you correctly, you have said that you have a problem with the idea that fostering liberalism in the religious discourse in Pakistan might not be the way forward. Could I kindly ask you to expand on the reasons for your misgivings?

  68. J.Krishnan

    To Khalid

    OK you abolish the caste system. I am with you. Try it. Don’t blame me if you don’t succeed.

  69. J.Krishnan

    Islam cannot fulfill its promises. Muslim liberals cannot fulfil their promises. Muslim orthodoxians cannot fulfill their promises. It is one huge bunch of liars since 1400 years. And there are too many simple-minded, gullible, opportunistic or timid guys salivating to salute them and kiss their knees and look at them with starry eyes and face them with begging arms. This hypocrisy will not come to an end so soon.

  70. AA Khalid

    ”””””’An Indian made this observation:

    “Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, MJ Akbar can never win a doctrinal debate on Islam with Zaid Hamid, Mullah Omar or Shahi Imam Bukhari. As long as they call themselves Muslims they can never win a debate with them. The power these (latter) individuals exert is not drawn from the sword. It’s drawn from doctrine.”

    Any comments? If it is true, it does not bode well for the future.”””””””’

    Absolute nonsense, and typically basing the faith of so many individuals on the barbaric acts of a few. This is typical, the violent one is the true Muslim and the peace loving one must be out of the fold of Islam. What nonsense. Who gives the right to other people to define my faith and religiosity for me?

    Read John Esposito’s ”Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam ”, and ”Arguing the Just War in Islam ” by John Kelsay. Open your eyes and stop generalising and actually read scholarly literature from accredited professionals, professors, intellectuals and scholars. What qualification do the likes of Hamid and Omar have?

    Doctrinally, Hamid and Omar go against traditional Islam let alone the new reformism which is coming into form. On matters of war and peace, traditional jurisprudence makes it clear the aggression is unwarranted.

  71. J.Krishnan

    Barbaric acts of the few are going on uncontrolled. No muslim can stop them.