Shi'a Islam encompasses most Muslims who are not counted among the Sunni. The division between Sunni and Shia dates to the death of the prophet Muhammad, when his followers were faced with the decision of who would be his successor as the leader of Islam. Shiites are those who followed Ali, the closest relative of Muhammad, as Muhammad's successor. Today there are approximately 120 million Shiite Muslims in the world. The Shi'a consist of one major school of thought known as the Jafaryia or the "Twelvers," and a few minor schools of thought, as the "Seveners" or the "Fivers." These names all refer to the number of imams they recognize after the death of Muhammad. The term Shi'a is usually meant to be synonymous with the Jafaryia/Twelvers. The distinctive dogma and institution of Shi'a Islam is the Imamate, which includes the idea that the successor of Muhammad be more than merely a political leader. The Imam must also be a spiritual leader, which means that he must have the ability to interpret the inner mysteries of the Quran and the Sharia. The Twelver Shi'as further believe that the Twelve Imams who succeeded the prophet were sinless and free from error and had been chosen by Allah through Muhammad.
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
Majority of the religions on earth are emotionally, spiritually and physically attached to a specific destination or a geographic region that is directly associated with their belief. This association can be linked to the origin of that belief, historical grievances, residence of a holy figure or his/her burial and a socio-religious importance that has been accumulated through time. Shia Muslim are among the religious sects and groups within Islam and even other religion, which has the highest numbers of holy sites, cities and towns. The holy sites and cities of Shia Muslims are divided into two categories. First category are the sites and places that are shared with rest of the Muslim sects and second category are the sites that are sacred and glorified by Shia Muslims exclusively. A combined list of these sites and cities is as following:
(The days of Fatimiya) By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi These days mark the martyrdom anniversary of Lady Fatima Al-Zahra (P.B.U.H) the daughter of Prophet Mohammad and wife of Imam Ali and mother of Imam Hassan and Imam Hussein. This event, which is commemorated solely by Shia Muslims around the world, is considered as the start of calamities that were forced upon the holy household of Prophet Mohammad. In addition, the details of Lady Fatima Al-Zahra’s martyrdom are part of the controversial details that are disputed by Sunni Islam, and have been rejected by them due to the fact that many of their glorified figures took part in this event. Therefore, this specific event is one of commemorations that differentiating Sunnis and Shias, and it might be beneficial to dissect the rationale behind its commemoration and whether it fuels sectarian tensions as some might argue.
Brief historical factsAccording to Shia literature and history resources, which are agreed upon by majority of Islamic sects, prior to death of Prophet Mohammad, he ordered a young man named Osama Ibn Zaid to lead an army and leave Medina for a battle that Muslims had prepared for. These historical resources alongside Sunni traditions confirm these events and indicate that Prophet Mohammad said: May God curse whomever lingers from the army of Osama. However, some companions of Prophet Mohammad, disobeyed this direct order and decided to remain in Medina, since they knew the death of the Prophet was imminent. Therefore, after the death of Prophet Mohammad, who died in Imam Ali’s lap the early stages of a codetta were starting to take shape and be implemented on the ground. While Imam Ali and some companions were in the House of Imam Ali, preparing the body of Prophet Mohammad for burial, those companions who lingered from army of Zaid gathered in a Place called ‘Saqifa of Bani Sa’eda’. During this gathering, two major figures had a direct role in provoked the idea that Arabs reject the notion of Prophecy and Imamate being held in the same household, and therefore, Muslims must choose a successor after Prophet Mohammad. Although, Prophet Mohammad had appointed Imam Ali as his successor after his last pilgrimage, these companions alongside the remaining of Muslims in Medina decided to choose a successor for Prophet Mohammad and pledge loyalty to him. Oman Ibn Al-Khattab, who was among the two main figures provoking this idea in that gathering, presented Abu Bakr the other main figure as the Prophet’s successor and pledged allegiance to him right away. Although, there was some disputations and rejections, but things got out of control and ultimately Abu Bakr was chosen as successor of Prophet Mohammad. However, Omar and Abu Bakr knew that without Imam Ali’s pledge, Abu Bakr’s Caliphate was pointless and illegitimate. Therefore, Omar and other companions of Prophet Mohammad aimed for the House of Imam Ali, and asked him to come out and pledge loyalty to the new caliph. Imam Ali, who was still in grievance stages and preparing the body of Prophet Mohammad, rejected the notion and remained in the house alongside other close companions of the Prophet. During this fiasco, Lady Fatima Al-Zahra, who heard the neigh of the horses and clank of the swords outsides, came behind the door and asked Omar about his intention. During this conversation, Omar was very impudent and insolent with Lady Fatima, and when she asked him to leave and repent, he replied by saying that he will burn the house of her and her family, although he knew the status of Imam Ali and Lady Fatima Al-Zahra and her children. Eventually, when Omar realized that by continuing his conversation with Lady Fatima, he will lose his legitimacy and things might get out control, he decided to attack the house of Lady Fatima. He pushed the door on Lady Fatima, and since she was not fully covered and pregnant she hid behind the door and tried to prevent the companions from entering her house. Omar kicked the door on her and broke her rib, and one of the nails in the door entered Lady Fatima’s chest and she lost her child, who was going to be named Al-Mohsin. Imam Ali, who had been ordered by the Prophet to be patience and never take his sword and fight, came out of the room and saw those men in his house. He grabbed Omar and sat on his chest and said: O’ son of Sahhak (the name of Omar’s mother), if it wasn’t for the will of Prophet and my concern for the religion of Islam, you know you would never be able to enter my house. Omar, who knew about the will, shouted to his comrades that Ali is ordered not to fight, and don’t be afraid and attack him. Imam Ali was forcefully taken to the mosque and forced to pledge loyalty to Abu Bakr, which he refused to do and ultimately after those companions, realized they will not be able to take pledge from Imam Ali, they let him go. Eventually, Lady Fatima Al-Zahra became sick and she did not last more than few weeks after her father’s death and she passed away in her house, with a broken rib and a swallowed face and red eye, due to the violence of Omar and his comrades.
Shia Muslims & calamity of Lady Fatima Al-ZahraThe details of this event are agreed upon by all Shia Muslims and they all consider Omar and Abu Bakr responsible for the death of Lady Fatima Al-Zahra and extorting the caliphate of Imam Ali. The opinion of Shia Muslims about Omar and Abu Bakr and other companions of Prophet Mohammad, who took part in this event is not a hidden notion, as Shia literature is full of negative statement and narrations about them. Therefore, according to Shia Muslims these companions revolted against the will of God and displaced the truthful successor of the Prophet and placed someone else instead of him. This notion is one of the primary belief of Shia Muslims, which is the main animosity and conflict between Shias and Sunnis. In addition, Shia Muslims consider these events as the primary reason for future calamities, which were forced upon the holy household of Prophet Mohammad. Therefore, the names Saqifa, Omar, Abu Bakr and extortion of Caliphate and other companions bring pain and grief for Shia Muslims, condemning those actions and these figures is a major part of Shia Muslims ideology and belief.
Division Factor?According to some opinions, the commemoration of Lady Fatima’s martyrdom brings tension between Sunni and Shia Muslims and these types of celebrations should not be held. In addition, video footage of Shia Muslims commemorating this event have been spread by Sunni extremists and used as a mean of recruitment to attract radical Sunni Muslims and kill Shias around the Middle East. Therefore, the critiques of this commemorations believe that stopping the celebration of Fatimiya (The days, which Shia Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Lady Fatima) would help stopping these attacks and ease the tension. Unfortunately, the groups that present these opinions are primarily disengaging the notion of tolerance from existence and according to them freedom of speech and belief has no meaning. All people and groups are entitled to believe in whatever they desire and condemn, whichever action or figure they view as negative. Obviously, there will be unpleased sides in all cases and beliefs, and they have the right to be displeased, as the legitimacy of their glorified figures is being questioned and annulled in some cases. However, no one shall have right to exterminate any individual of a group for their belief, and the disputes shall be resolved through academic debates and dialogues. Commemorating the martyrdom of Lady Fatima Al-Zahra is part of Shia Muslims identity, which revives the notion of being on the side of truth and justice at all times. Therefore, presenting the argument that, commemorating this event is divisive is an insult to Shiism itself, as there are many beliefs and understandings that might be viewed as insolent toward a specific group or a specific sect and religion. The notion of believing Imam Ali is the first and only rightful caliph after the Prophet itself might be considered as divisive and insolent to Sunni Muslims. Does that mean Shia Muslims should neglect their belief and stop considering Imam Ali as the rightful successor of Prophet Mohammad? The lack of tolerance and acceptance among the other groups is a big factor, which is preventing them from acknowledging there are beliefs and ideologies, which might be unpleasant to them. Therefore, once Muslims including Shias and Sunnis come to an understanding that tolerance and accepting others is mandatory for co-existence and saving social fabric, the issues of commemorating or celebrating a specific event would not even be relevant in social and mutual relations of a society.
By: Dr. Hussein Al-Rumaithi Citizens of the Arab world uniquely identify themselves by notions other than what the world knows them by. They identify themselves by religion, sect, nationality, political affiliation and most uniquely by tribe. The rationale behind this type of identification is due to numerous reasons and socio-political factors, which can be categorized as:
- Early historic foundation of the Arab world (Arabic Peninsula) was based on the tribes and their mobility through the lands of this region. Therefore, the oldest and original identity of this region is directly linked to the notion of existence and survival.
- The political dynasties that existed in this region, asserted the role of the tribes by creating alliances and coalitions. Therefore, being associated to a tribe was accompanied by benefits and securities, which were not available through other means.
- Role of Islam in expanding the role of tribes as a mean of law and order to maintain social fabric along with Islamic norms and traditions.
- Political instabilities in the region, which have led the masses seeking for affiliations as a mean of survival, since the states have not been able to provide the basic necessities of life, such as; security, shelter, food, financial security and etc. Therefore, seeking a common identity is guaranteed through tribalism, since other affiliations like religion, sects and politics tend to create possible tensions and lack long-term security.
Contradictions: ISLAM VS TRIBESThe geographic and timeline, which Islam emerged from mandated presentation of sets of rules and regulations for social conduct and interactions. The Arabian Peninsula, which was mainly a tribal society was ravished by piracy, incursions, unfair social classes, intolerance and austerity. Therefore, Islam’s goal was to diminish these notions and replacing them with respect, mercy, equality and tolerance. However, the gradualism of this transformation was the essence of its success. Islam did not rule out all the norms and traditions that were practiced by tribes, and in many cases the Prophet of Islam chose to affirm some of the traditions and norms practiced by the tribes, as a way of completing the noble code of ethics and morals. Nevertheless, some of the unjust and unethical conducts and traditions of tribalism, which are still being practiced in modern Arab world, have been criticized by western observers as being part of Islamic legacy. Unfortunately, these types of actions, have been part of other conducts that have remained as obstacles for the rectifying attempts by Islamic scholars.
- Forced capitation.
- Forced marriages.
- Forced dislodgment.
- Autonomic penal codes. (Killing one man from a tribe in front of a murdered man from another)
- Status of women. (Objectification of women and viewing them as a basic necessity for personal pleasures and needs)
What it means to be a Shia Muslim
By: Dr. Hussein Al-Rumaithi
The misconceptions about the beliefs and ideologies of Shia Islam has been influenced by numerous factors such as, political, social and sectarian aspects. Every time the term Shia appears on TV or an article, observers tend to think of Iran and its Islamic government, Iraq and its Shia majority, Lebanon and its notorious Hezbollah group and Saudi Arabia with its oppressed Shia minority. However, all of these perceptions are factual and real, but what’s being ignored by majority of observers and readers is the reality of Shia Islam and its principles and beliefs. Therefore, it would be beneficial to distinguish the difference between this Islamic sect and other ones, since one side of the sectarian conflict on the Middle East are the Shia Muslims.
Fundamentals of Religion
In order for a person to identify him/herself as a Shia Muslim, he/she must believe in the following five fundamentals. A Shia Muslim is not allowed to follow a scholar in these matters, and he/she has to have full knowledge about them through dissection and research.
1. Monotheism: the belief that there is only one God. This concept are very obvious and definite according to its name and nature. Although all Islamic sects believe in this fundamental as a necessary part of Islam, the details and attributes of God, defined within the different sects make the difference. According the one of the sermons by Imam Ali (P.B.U.H), who is the first Imam of Shia Islam, he defines the concept of monotheism in the following form: “The foremost in religion is the acknowledgement of Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to testify Him, the perfection of testifying Him is to believe in His Oneness, the perfection of believing in His Oneness is to regard Him Pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute.
Thus whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognizes His like, and whoever recognizes His like regards Him two; and whoever regards Him as two recognizes parts for Him; and whoever recognizes parts for Him mistook Him; and whoever mistook Him pointed at Him; and whoever pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and whoever admitted limitations for Him numbered Him. Whoever said: ‘In what is He?’, held that He is contained; and whoever said: ‘On what is He?’, held He is not on something else.
He is a being, but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only one, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence”.
2.Prophet Hood. This fundamental mandates all Shia Muslims to believe in the existence of all previous prophets and messengers, beginning with Adam and finishing by the seal of the prophets, Prophet Mohammad. The issue of prophecy in Shia Islam is considered one of the necessities of creation and it is linked to the notion of free will and evil. Therefore, since there is evil (Satan) and since God has given humans the power of will, there has to be messengers sent by God to show the right path, which God has intended for the humans. To reaffirm this notion the Quran says: “we are not punishers, unless we sent among them a messenger”. Therefore, the issue of prophecy is linked to the justice of Allah and his mercy upon humans.
3.Imamate. To believe there are twelve Imams (successors) after Prophet Mohammad. This is one of the major principles that differentiates a Shia Muslim with others. The majority of Shia Muslims are considered Twelvers, which means, they believe in the succession of Imam Ali after the death of Prophet Mohammad, and followed by his son Imam Hassan, and later his other son Imam Hussein, followed by nine Imams from the progeny of Imam Hussein until the last Imam, who is in occultation currently. Unlike, Sunni Muslims, the Shias believe that, the first three caliphates after the Prophets were extorters and tyrants, and they acclaimed a position, which was rightfully for Imam Ali. The continuance of Imamate after prophecy is also linked to the justice and mercy of God, since people needed the presence of an infallible model among them to implement the laws and orders of God, in the way he wanted them.
4.Justice. This concept is related back to God, and is considered the main attribute of God after absolute knowledge, ability and existence. God does not create evil, and evil is formed due to the desires of humans, and therefore, God’s justice and mercy has mandated the existence of prophets and Imams for the sake of humans. In addition, all events, misfortunes, calamities, good things are due to God’s justice, and even though some matters might seem unjust and undesirable, God’s knowledge and justice is for the benefit of humans.
5.The after world. All Muslims including the Shias must believe in judgement day and the after world. Eventually, this day would come, and all humans would be resurrected once again and gathered for judgement. On judgement day, God will determine the final punishment and reward of all humans according to their deeds and conducts.
Shia Islam VS other sects:
Here are some of the major concepts and beliefs that distinguish a Shia Muslim from a non-Shia.
By: Jameel Oudah (From Adam’s center for defending rights and freedoms)
Translated by: Ali Maash
The general committee of the United Nations has submitted the international declaration of human rights which consists of thirty articles on December the 10th in 1948. The articles of this declaration have put a firm foundation for forming international agreements which could help to firmly establish the human rights on civil and political levels or on the economic, social and cultural levels.
Now, the question is: what is the relationship between human rights and the foundation of the concept of social justice? And how can these rights contribute to achieving the values of equality and justice among human beings.
Undoubtedly, the right of equality is generally considered the most important human principle that nations and peoples yearn to abide to, and it also considered one of the fundamental intrinsic elements upon which the international declaration of the human rights has been built.
The right of equality is unanimously considered one of the oldest and the most important, adhesive and genuine to the human race; for it is the core of all rights. For that it is unfair for any human society to be built on gender, race or religious discrimination. According to (René Cassin) the godfather of human rights; this declaration is the beginning of a long route to deep-rooting the principles of equality and justice among the human beings.
Article (1) of the international declaration of human rights states the main principle of rights equality among all human beings. From the view point of social specialists, this principle is regarded the cornerstone in relation with the top important principle of justice which directs the attention to what is just or unfair egalitarian; which is based on biological factors beside psychological, social, cultural and spiritual needs along with the individual contribution in others luxury.
The equality in rights indicates that the idea of social justice is inseparable from the idea of human rights. Thus, social justice is an essential credit of man emerging from his own merit as an individual qualified to have a number of social, economical and political rights as it is confirmed in the international declaration of human rights and in a wide range of other covenants, conventions and international agreements such as the international covenant of social and economical rights along with the agreements that concerns child, woman and minority rights. The idea of social justice is attached to the concept of achieving humanitarian needs of human beings due to, the humanitarian of any man is incomplete and his dignity is not achieved, unless he is able to satisfy his humanitarian needs.
Determining the concept of social justice and the best mean to achieve it, is often subjected to a big controversy. The outline of the concept of social justice is in constant change because the idea itself is a result of a changeable system of values and culture. Although the huge variation in defining social justice, and the uncountable definition of it, a big number of academic researches and scientific books agree on availability of certain elements to achieve social justice such as: equality, anti-discrimination, equal opportunity, equal distribution of resources and duties, social security and providing public goods.
One of the common approaches in defining social justice is equal opportunity and the chances of equal life; which mean that you have an equal chance of having a good education and job just like anybody else as in having equal chances of enjoying a decent life. Everybody should be protected against life’s risks such as illness, accidents, residence loss and unemployment..etc.
On the occasion of the world day of social justice, the United Nations secretary-general said: “social justice is a primary principle of peaceful coexistence within the nations and between them as prosperity is accomplished under its shadow. Since we will work on achieving gender equality or reinforcing the rights of both original nations and immigrants, we can raise the principles of social justice to a higher position. When we remove the barriers nations face whether if they are age, race, ethnic descent, religion, culture or deficiency, then we would have accomplished a big part in uplifting social justice”.
This means that social justice includes satisfying man’s basic needs and sharing material resources on the basis of equality as it targets giving opportunities to everyone to obtain basic services in the field of health and education besides providing security to both deprived individuals and groups. Basing on the previous, social experts consider justice and social justice as main defense mechanism to every type of oppression and a foundation to the most equitable human resources development.
As a result we can say the case of social justice that human rights principles are trying to seek and achieve is:
Below is the part two of 4 part article "Islam Does Not Need a Reformer". The second part was already published: Islam Does Not Need a Reformer – Part 2
By: Dr. Hussein Al-Rumaithi
The previous two parts of this series has focused on the questions of whether reform is needed in Islam and is reform even allowed and permitted according to Islamic legislations. This article will dissect the possibility of alternatives if reformation was to be implemented in Islam, and why there is an emphasis on the concept of reformation and who are the sponsors of such claims.
The concept of reform can be identified as a smaller scale of renascence and resurgence, since both concepts carry a corrective movement measures for the methods, which a society is being governed and ruled by. In addition, both notions have previously developed a set of principles and standards that force any reformation or resurgence movement to be bounded by them. The French revolution, which is considered one of the first revolutions that introduced and implemented the concept of democracy, had already accepted the alternatives, which were presented by Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, John Locke and other philosophers prior to the French revolution. Therefore, the conclusion that can be made about the main pillar of any reform movement is the notion of alternative. In addition, the alternative must be dissected and measured to see if it can keep pace with whatever it is being reformed, and whether the alternative is even adequate and compatible.
Is there any Alternatives?
One of the primary concepts that has been presented as a reformation method in the Islamic world, is the concept of democratization. Although, this concept was developed out of a political necessity based on the new realities and evolvements of the Middle East region, it has attracted high level of anticipation among the sponsors of reformation in Islam. This concept is based on the notion that democratization of the Islamic nations will lead to separation of church and state, since democracy is rule of majority or in other term governance of people over people. Democratization would leave no space for religion in the political life of the Muslim countries, and will ultimately diminish the role of religion as a major factor in decision making.
The reality that is being ignored when the concept of democratization is presented, is the actual will of the Middle Eastern masses and specifically the Muslims of Middle East. The recent years has shown the Middle Eastern societies tend to elect Islamic parties to rule and govern. In Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Gaza the polls showed people wanted the Islamists to govern their societies. Although, any well-educated observer would agree that those elected governments were not going to be successful in addressing the needs of Middle Eastern masses. Therefore, the primary decision to let such semi-democratic elections take place, was for the purpose of containment and finding a new potential victim to blame the miscarriages on. Nevertheless, even if those recent elections had never brought the Islamists to power, there is no evidence that attempts of democratization would have been successful in reforming the Islamic world.
Another exclamation of reform and reformation in Islam included a social nature, which were targeting some of Islam’s rulings and legislations. Polygamy, Islamic penal codes, status of women, apostasy and other subjects were the main issues that made many critiques of Islam call for reformation. Unfortunately, the critiques of Islam have failed to dissect these issues in a cultural relative approach, which enables them to understand the issues and find criteria for implementation. Therefore, they have based their criticism on the conducts of some autocracies and rouge states that use Islam as a mean of legitimacy and credibility. In addition, the actions and misuses of some Muslims have fueled these criticisms and has given the impression that unethical and impermissible conducts of Muslims are in accordance with Islamic laws and Sharia. However, the alternative for these Islamic concepts and rulings would require total abandonment of Islamic Sharia and values, which are derived directly from the Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet and the infallible Imams. This type of alternative not only would be inapplicable, it would draw tension and conflict since Muslims are asked to go against their beliefs and values. Nonetheless, the values and alternatives, which those critiques are proposing are hot topics of criticism and dissection in the western world as well. The penal codes of the western world are still considered relatively just, and until this day the status of women has not been affirmed in the western society. Therefore, this alternative has no room for application in the Islamic world and would have political implications like neo-colonialism and other labels that will widen the gap between the west and Muslims.
Why the emphasis on reform and who’s behind it?
Regardless of any nature affiliated with any alternative that is presented for reformation in Islam, the one common factor, which drives these exclamations is politics. There is not even a need to claim conspiracy and hidden agendas fuel these calls, since political interests are sufficient to tense any situation at any given time. However, if there are problems in the Muslim world and if there are social inequalities and injustice in the Muslim world, it is only due to the disqualified and incompetent regimes that have been ruling the Muslim world. In addition, these disqualified regimes have long supported by the western powers, and many of them were considered close allies of the west. Therefore, the attempts to democratize the Middle East, are ambiguous, vague, risible, gullible, pastoral and deceptive. The unethical political conduct of the west disqualifies the west to propose any notion of reformation in any form and type, since the western powers have been the ones supporting the dictatorships of the Middle East. In addition, the current position of the western powers is contradictory when it comes to attempts of democratization and reform. Today’s super allies of the west are the absolute monarchies of the Middle East, which are the source of radicalism and hatred in the Middle East. Places like Saudi Arabia, make non-Muslims believe, the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia is the way Islam views women. The way Saudi Arabia decapitates prisoners is viewed as the way Islam deals with human rights.
The other group that is eager to implement reforms in Islam, are the atheists. Obviously, each human being is entitled to carry any type of belief he/she desires. However, it should not be forgotten that atheism is actually opposed to the concept of religion and views belief and religion as a mean of sedation for common sense and intellect. Therefore, the notion of reform is not even the goal of this group, whether in the Middle East or any place else in the world.
The other radical and conservative groups, which seek any opportunity to criticise Islam are only concerned about dismantling the claims of Islam in general, which means their emphasis on reform in Islam is derived out of a systematic propaganda against Islam and any other belief, which might be viewed as rival. In other term, when a radical evangelical pastor claims Islam calls for beheading of all infidels and non-believers he is actually having the same opinion as a radical terrorist.
Therefore, I suggest before proposing any alternative and claiming anything about Islam, one must spend some time to dissect Islam and understand its true position on many subjects and matters. Understanding Islam will enable an observer to understand Muslims and acknowledge whether their conducts are Islamic or not. By taking such a step, instead of calling for reformation within Islam, solutions for reviving the conditions of Muslims and the Middle East are found, and ultimately the world would be able to co-exist.
Below is the part two of 4 part article"Islam Does Not Need a Reformer". The first part was already published: Islam Does Not Need a Reformer - Part 1
By: Dr. Hussein Al-Rumaithi
The previous article about refuting the notion, which claims Islam is in desperate need of reformation addressed the issue of need and necessity of reform in Islam as a religion and in accordance with the action of Prophet Mohammad and his rightful successors. This article will address the issue of whether reform is allowed in Islam or not, and if such a measure is permissible in Islam as a belief, under which criteria would it fall under?
Is Reform Allowed?
Answering this question might require a researcher to dissect many Islamic historical and jurisprudential texts to develop an understanding, which enables him/her to address this question. However, to simplify this subject, one must refer to the basic principles of Islam and the mainly to the roots, which the term ISLAM is derived from.
Any researcher of Islamic studies acknowledges that Islam as religion and a social constitution is bounded by the action, declaration, statement, admission of the prophet and his right infallible successors. Even, the ability of diligence and exertion to extract religious rulings is linked to the textual resources and tools such as intellect and norms are used to legitimize the ruling in most cases. Therefore, prior to forcing 1.5 billion Muslims to accept the notion of reformation, a western observer must leave his/her ethnocentric approach toward Islam and view this concept from an Islamic view point.
The religion of Islam claims to be a way of life, and according to this concept, it shall include all aspects of life like social, economic, political, domestic, warfare, theology, history and any notion that might be affiliated with a human’s daily affairs. However, Islam has given considerable amount of attention to evolvement of time, concepts, methods and universal realities, to an extent where it invites a Muslim to respect the laws of the society he/she lives in, if he/she has chosen to accept them. For instance, if Islam permits polygamy and the society, which a Muslims individual resides at, denies this right, he/she shall accept that law, or leave that place if he/she wishes to practice this right. Therefore, Islam has been able to establish a set of principles and fundamentals that helps a jurist to extract ruling and fatwas, and at the same time be compatible with modern societies and regulations.
The above mentioned notion is only applicable when derived from the direct or indirect orders of Islam, which have been delivered by the Prophet or the twelve infallibles. Therefore, any concept of reform must be introduced by Islam itself, since reform will address Islam. To simplify this notion, any external reform will not have the authority and the ability to introduce itself upon Islam as religion. The religion of Islam is so precise and deliberate when it comes to such concepts that it has presented solutions to defy and confront any external efforts of reform, since they might be contradictory with Islamic values and laws. Islam is very sensitive when it comes to the notion of saving the Islamic soul of all actions and conducts of Muslims, and if the necessity for change and evolvement presents itself, Islam has introduced numerous methods for Muslims to accustom themselves with those changes and evolvements.
However, if Muslims decide to ignore the methods Islam has given them to adapt their life with the societies they live in, it should not be the fault of Islam as a religion. Islam might be one of the most tolerant beliefs in the world, if dissected as a religion along with its teachings and regulations, therefore, it would be unethical to even claim Islam needs reformation. When the religion of Islam was applied by the Prophet and Imam Ali to its most detailed points and teachings, the level of inequality and injustice was minimized to lowest level possible. However, even by challenging this notion, the issue of relativity would be effectual in this subject and a thorough review of what the modern world has offered would approve the success of Islam in addressing the needs and necessities of mankind.
The modern world has introduced some of the most lethal weapons humanity has ever known. The modern world has imposed two of the most devastating and brutal wars upon humanity. The modern world has produced more poverty than any other world that has ever existed. Even the reform that took place in Europe was introduced by religious radicals, who were oppose to the conducts and actions of the Church and not the religion itself. Therefore, there is no evidence that even Christianity and Judaism allow reform in the way the modern world defines.
Reform is not allowed in Islam, due to the fact that the ones calling for reform has failed to succeed in their own reformation, and the results of their attempts are very doubtful and minimal if considering the amount of tools and power at their disposal.
To be continued....
By: Dr. Hussein Al-Rumaithi The term reformation if often used when an ideology or a set of conducts and norms are preventing advancement and progress within a specific group that share the same values and sets of beliefs. However, this term might be one of the most incorrect provisions, when it comes to the issue religion and relation of politics with religion. The approach, which this term tends to define religion is relative and bounds the content of the holy texts to be defined by social necessities and political tendencies that are in constant state of evolvement and change. Therefore, reformation is sought to be the proper mean of modification and rearrangement, to make religion an adaptable notion, which is compatible with mandates of each era, but according to the desires and necessities of mankind. Simplifying secularism as a philosophy will only be defined under the title of (separation of Church & State). However, the fact that is not being included in this definition is the contradiction of secularism’s own methodology, when it comes to separating church and state. Presuming that Church’s teaching were the reason behind the calamities of Europe in medieval era will only put secularism under further thorough dissection, to determine whether it has the been the legitimize methodology to govern an entity. Nonetheless, by claiming that head of the church authority were misusing the teachings of the holy book, would bring forward the question: why is there a necessity to separate the church and state? Wasn’t there a possibility to develop a system to assure misuses are prevented? Therefore, the feasibility and credibility of secularism would be under question, according to the second notion. The question that is being raised today by different scholars and observers of Islam, is the possibility of reform within Islam. Adopting an ethnocentric view of Islam will rationalize such a question, and would make such an inquiry very relevant about many religions and beliefs that the western world might differs with. Nevertheless, addressing this question is not a matter of choosing between black and white, and as a matter fact is not an issue of picking and choosing. It is a matter of comprehension and recognition rather than reform and rearrangement. By quoting the tern reform, an individual would refer to the notion of presenting a new alternative for an existing ideology, which might be very different in nature with the primary notion being subjected to reformation. Therefore, prior to answering the question of necessity of reform within Islam, the following inquiries should be made:
- Is reform needed and required?
- Is reform allowed? If yes, under what conditions, and which criteria?
- Is there any existing alternative, before bringing forward the notion of reform?
- Why is there an emphasis on reform within Islam, and by who?