Notes from a talk delivered by Yasir Qadhi, London, January 2015
1) Is there need for a reformation?
Are the problems the Muslims are facing today unique? Or are the problems of today the same as the problems of yesterday? Does Islam have a problem with modernity?
Internal problems (division within the Ummah, sectarian or otherwise) and external problems (Islamophobes, among other problems, have been around since the time of the Quraysh) are no doubt increasing with time, but have been around in one form or another since Islam began. It is, however, a simplistic way of looking at things to say that these problems have been around forever as the nature of modern problems and their specifics are totally different than in any previous era.
The Caliphate only collapsed post WWI (Ottoman caliphate) and this has had profound effects on current Muslims as we have no legitimate leader to unite behind and no Muslim land to call our own.
The introduction of nations/borders for countries is a modern phenomenon and nationalism has arisen as a result. We often hear people talking of British values/American values – but how do these differ to Islamic values? The values are always the same in principle but not necessarily in practice. No unique values are to be found in Britain/America etc as all positive values are from the fitrah, such as being a good person, not killing an innocent human being, not stealing and so on.
Democracy is also modern – picking government leaders etc but as we have seen, this doesn’t always work. The Civil Rights movement in America showed that grassroots level change can happen, seeing as how the Black people in America got equality (or close to it)… Can Muslims achieve this?
Liberal secularism is the modern religion of the West – the move is to now have theology kept private to one’s self of to the home. Freedom of speech and dress is allowed to an extent as long as there is no physical harm. And the major religion of the West, Christianity, has almost in itself become a ‘secular religion’. Love and hope are the core values and teachings but little to no mention of God and Jesus is made anymore, let alone any offence taken at blasphemy and mocking of both the aforementioned. Having to hide one’s theology was not a problem of the past – you could tell a person’s religion from their dress, but not anymore in the vast majority of cases.
Feminism and dispute of gender roles is also a modern problem. Muslims who conform to modern values, for example saying that homosexuality is acceptable, are heroically branded by the West as the saviours of a progressive Islam – a modern Islam. This leads to fear amongst the conservative element in the religion so they close the door to change. There needs to be a middle ground to allow change where the Shariah itself allows change.
2) The need to differentiate between slogans and solutions
We as Muslims often fall prey to emotions and slogans – these aren’t solutions. “Islam is the answer” is a slogan not a solution and when looked at practically, how does this stop something like the CTS bill? “We must return to the Qur’an and Sunnah” – again, a slogan not a solution and again, how does this help with the above CTS bill example? The Khawaarij were the first from those claiming to be Muslim to have a slogan – “We want to judge by the Qur’an” was the slogan they used to oppose Ali (RA) as he was told he was not judging by the Qur’an.
Solutions come from the Qur’an and Sunnah, such as the Hadith “Give everyone and everything in life its due right.” – this is a solution.
3) We need to get specialists in finance, politics etc as well as scholars
Islam is the middle path. Our Ulema are not and should not be the primary reference for everything – when you are are ill you should consult a doctor not a scholar, obviously, so this is similar when it comes to other areas such as finance and politics in conjunction with what the scholars deem to be within the bounds of Shariah.
Scholars may not be the best resource to turn to in response to something like the Islamophobic Panorama documentary – sometimes non-Muslims may need to be conferred with for media response to such incidents etc under the monitoring of Muslims to ensure Shariah compliance – this was the case in the early generations of Muslims until the 5th Umayyad Khalifah who Arabised all the ministries. There is a clear example to be had from the Sunnah where the Prophet (SAW) took a non-Muslim as a guide for his migration.
The Sahaabah and the Salaf were far more tolerant than those who claim to love them in this day and age. The Liberals and Conservatives need to come together for the greater good, and lose phobias and prejudice.
4) Rethink Sectarianism
Lines are being redrawn within the Ummah as well. We need to keep issues such as Aqeedah and hand position in prayer as private issues among the Ummah and not let it cause rifts that external bodies outside of Islam would see and use against us to divide and conquer.
Eloquent debaters such as Mehdi Hasan (even though they have a different theology) may have a key roll to play in preserving the Ummah, even if you wouldn’t pray behind him, as a defender of Islam – this is a common goal that we should unite behind.
Respect your tradition, the Sunni tradition, but do not teach anyone to hate others such as Sufi/Shia and so on.
5) There is no one right answer or solution to these problems
Healthy diversity of opinion is crucial. We shouldn’t be overly critical of other attempts. If you disagree with something, be productive and do something better. Don’t be an armchair critic. As long as the goal is to benefit the Ummah, let them as long as it is Shariah compliant.