Ijtihad (reformation) is a significant idea in Shia jurisprudence, but the prospect of a consensual opinion among the mujtahids (jurist-consults) has been elusive.
Unlike other major religions, Muslim orthodoxy has been reluctant to reform with the changing times. Fourteen centuries went in a struggle for change, yet no change in sight is a bizarre phenomenon.
The consequences of a negative approach to the compulsions thrown up by the advanced scientific and technological age are unrelenting. Instead of gainfully readjusting to moderate Western ways of life, the Muslim clergy advocated rather fiercely distancing from Western culture. Two reasons can be imagined.
First, Muslims are fed with the ideology that Islam is the religion sent by Allah to supersede all other religions, and hence, Islamic society (ummah), being different from all other communities, is superior and must dominate.
Muhammad Abduh came back from Europe so impressed with the order and prosperity that he told Egyptians: “I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but no Islam.”
The second reason could be the domination of Islamic countries, especially the Arab world, by the Western colonizers from the 18th to 20th centuries and controlling their rich resources, particularly the hydrocarbon reserves.
We don’t say that distinguished brains in the Muslim community did not realize the loss that the ummah will be inflicted owing to senseless apathy and disdain for the Western culture.
Thinkers like Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan or Allama Iqbal did rise from time to time in the Indian sub-continent exhorting the ummah to adopt good things of modern Western culture. Iqbal brilliantly put forth his ideas on reformation in his scholarly work titled Reconstruction of Islamic Thought.
An outstanding Egyptian scholar put the whole narrative in a cryptic but meaningful sentence. Muhammad Abduh came back from Europe so impressed with the order and prosperity that he told Egyptians: “I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but no Islam.”
The remarkably outstanding Islamic personality of contemporary times, who has drunk deep from the fountain of Islamic knowledge by being the holder of temporal as well as ecclesiastical authority over the Muslim ummah on the one hand and the other, has lived and socialized with the Western societies for many years, is Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, lovingly called MBS by his Western friends and associates.
No Islamic leader of our times has as deep an understanding of the need for drastic reforms in Islam as he has. Being in a position of authority and driven by a vision of the future of the ummah, he has already undertaken several measures to pull the Muslim societies out of a morass of antiquated and obsolete practices and traits that have caused the backwardness and segregation of the ummah in an overall estimation.
It is ironic that a country that meets one-third of the world’s oil requirement should remain steeped in the conservatism and backwardness of the Middle Ages.
The Crown Prince’s lead has inspired many of his close associates and compatriots to initiate a reformation movement to convert the stereotyped Islam into a moderate, vibrant, and inclusive Islam.
He knows contemporary Muslims want to realize their aspirations under political compulsions. The failure to argue their point effectively has led them to resort to violence, oblivious to the dire and disastrous consequences of an adventure like that.
Today, if every Muslim is not a terrorist, every terrorist is a Muslim. The largest religious community in the world that has bid farewell to its native land and migrated to a Western country to earn two square means in an environment of peace, tranquillity, and justice is that of the Muslims. Why is it so? The malaise lies in politicizing Islam.
These questions have upset the mind of the emancipated and visionary leader of Saudi Arabia. We have a special reason to appreciate his courage and determination to initiate much-needed reforms in Islamic jurisprudence.
Prince Salman firmly believes in resolving disputes and differences through dialogue and a votary of non-violence. He has taken some important measures to resolve the Yemen dispute and strongly supported the invitation to President Assad of Syria to participate in the Islamic summit meeting in Riyadh.
Eminent Islamic scholar Dr. Mohammad Bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa from Saudi Arabia, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, cited as one of the strongest global voices on moderate Islam, recently was in India and he addressed prominent religious leaders, scholars, and academics in the capital. He shared the stage with NSA Ajit Doval, who also addressed the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) gathering.
In his interface with Indian intellectuals and luminaries at various levels and meetings, Al-Issa spoke on issues ranging from moderate Islam, dialogue between civilizations, religious tolerance, intercultural communication, non-violence, and religious pluralism.
It is a matter of great satisfaction that a leading religious scholar and ideologue from the heartland of Islam, holding the high position of Secretary General of the Muslim World League, has chosen to speak in India for the dissemination of central themes like a dialogue between civilizations, religious tolerance, intercultural communication, non-violence, and religious pluralism.