Monday, 8 September 2014

The Placid Extremist

The Placid Extremist.

The thinking Muslim's experience is always want to be either one, or the other, extreme even when extremism is not their outlook.

Take the furore over the twelve or eight degree ruling in regards to the start of the fast. Or even the twenty or eight rakah taraweh?

But the extremism I talk of here is not of the type that "I am right and you, therefore, must be wrong". Nor is it of the zealousness that some might impart to those words. But it is an extremism of logic dictating what must be.

I had an illuminating conversation with a brother where it crystallised into the fact that you had to set yourself a rule and then be true to it.

So for example if you were a twelve degree person in regards to Sehri then you must wait for the twelve degrees in regards to Isha and then the Taraweh times. To chop and change was a definite no-no.

The same argument is used by the madhabees, those people who insist that you must follow one or the other madhab and to not do so is to be a type of a hypocrite. Picking and changing as is your want, is to them, a hypocrisy. And so in all likelihood the extremism that I talk of here originated with their outlook no matter how placid they might be.

Whilst this hypocrisy is true from a purely semantic and logical view, must it be true when we talk about life?

And whilst it is true that logic helps us to uncover the hidden depths within our religion, is it not also true that overmuch logic can tip the balance out of right?

I read a beautiful exposition of the madhabee position on Facebook, but it was not balanced. And whilst it is important to argue to a point it is also important to stay true to our legacy of selfless enquiry and debate. That legacy stipulated that you argue to the best of your opponents position;

1-that you take their best interpretations and
2- do not interpret them in ways that they would be loathe to, and
3- that you do not use as evidence those that can also be used as evidence against your position, unless that is that the opposition has brought it first and you only do so to right the imbalance.

The opposite methodology is used by the one wanting to thwart and hide truth. It is the one expounded in the European schools of thought as rhetoric. It is the one used by Orientalists, past and present, to cast doubt on the sublime.

But it is not our way.

That Madhabee paper argued that Taqleed was a practice at or just after the Prophetic era, and therefore part of the tradition of the Muslims.

What the paper failed to do is to recognise the very real destructive partisanship that followed on from the classification of practise into the five schools of thought. We all know that that saw four minbars and four congregational prayers for each of the Fardh prayers in the Holy Mosque. A sectarianism that must not be revisited. And the term Taqleed was defined in that atmosphere, and it is in that atmosphere that it must be understood.

The first point in such a definition would be to admit that Taqleed was and is real.

The second point would be to contrast and compare it with the Prophetic era and the era of his companions.

And not the reverse as that paper had done, which if it were the case would have seen partisanship in belief destroy the Muslim potential that altered the course of World History.

When we sincerely do it in the right order then there is no doubt that the Madhabs that are present now, were not present then, and therefore the Taqleed that is a consequence of the Madhabs was also an unknown force in the lives of the companions.

To ask those in the know, a Quranic injunction, therefore has nothing to do with Taqleed. Taqleed thus must then stem from the belief that the Madhabs brought consistency to Muslim practice, and that consistency was a thing to be sought after and valued.

After all before the Madhabs Muslims were Muslims, and after them Muslims remained Muslims.

The only claim that the Madhabs brought was that an overarching understanding of the religion should guide practice and lend to it a consistency that previously might not have been there.

But, can any Madhab really claim to be whole, consistent and free from logical errors? Isn't that an honour that we should reserve for that which claimed of itself such: the holy Quran?

And even if a Madhab were free from logical inconsistencies would that really reflect life?

We know that the Qur'an declares itself to be free from those inconsistencies and contradictions, and that ALLAH t'ala in His abundant wisdom revealed both it and the wisdom.

But can the application of the divine lay a likewise claim?
Can it claim to be free from contradiction and even then reflect and direct life?

These questions hint at the necessity of abrogation and what it means.

That was the need for the Prophetic example to explain, reflect and then direct the lives of the Muslims in that light of divine inspiration.

So we see the first revelation in regards to the use of alcohol as "being of some benefit but of greater harm" and later the recommendation to "not approach the prayers in the state of intoxication" which preceded a complete banning.

Whilst it might be argued that one abrogated the other preceding injunctions, when we look it at from a dispassionate linguistic position there is no contradiction or abrogation between any of those passages.

This is because the first is phrased as an argument that Muhammad (saw) was to put to the people. And abrogation is between injunctions or rulings and not between an argument and injunctions. Indeed we see that he himself abstained from it from the first in the Hadith that relates regarding Israa:

Hadith Anas:
"I entered the mosque and prayed two rak'ahs in it, and then came out and Gabriel brought me a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk. I chose the milk, and Gabriel said: You have chosen the natural thing."

Or similarly that "God has guided you to the natural way".

There we see reference to a second type of guidance, or inspiration, given to Muhammad (saw) and encoded in his Sunnah.

And so the Sunnah was in accordance with the revelation even prior to banning being enacted.
The interesting question that stems from this is how did Gabriel (as) know what the Fitra was, after all he is an angel and would have no internal experience or understanding of human Fitra, nor would he have bern able to imagine it. And then if he (as) knew of it, why did he offer both wine and milk.

The Sunnah preceded revelation on many occurrences and revelation confirmed the Sunnah on many occasions.

This is logically difficult for people who prefer a linear methodology. After all logic dictates premise and then conclusion, a linear movement towards right and away from wrong.

The miracle of Islam is that it was very often other than that.

And then to have tried to squeeze it into that linear and logical box, that the Madhabs have sought to do, even after the Prophet (saw) left us, is plain wrong.

MUADH (as)
After all when the Prophet (saw) instructed Muadh ibn Jabal (ra) on how he would judge, the Prophet (saw) confirmed his opinion.

Muadh (as) said that after he had exhausted what he knew of the Qur'an and Sunnah without knowing any better what to do, he would revert back to his own opinion.

Does holding an opinion really mean allowing logic to dictate what must be done in order to maintain consistency?

Even when the Prophet (saw) informed us that the true leaders of a people are those that help them, and do good to them?

Sometimes overmuch logic can be over bearing. I for one have been told that, and know it from primary experience.

Maslahah is but one legal method that is much overlooked and in accordance with the prophetic words asks for us to base our decisions, when there are no clear injunctions, on the public benefit or good.

And in that lies the answer to our placid extremists.


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Location:London, UK

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