Scholars need to come together and discuss exactly what they are bickering about and whether their stances are aligned with Islamic teachings.
By Nikhat Sattar
The wealth and pomp of several Muslim monarchies notwithstanding, the world of Islam is in tatters. Torn by internal strife, lack of focus on starving millions and controlled by greed as well as external powers, Muslim governments are in a state of disarray.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have reached such levels that they are waging proxy wars against each other in Syria and Yemen. Iranian pilgrims were not able to perform Haj last year. The wars have created major humanitarian crises, producing famine, poverty and millions of refugees with nowhere to go.
These political games are aimed at grabbing power and space within the region, and politics and religion is being exploited to the detriment of civilians. Divides have been created amongst an already polarised Muslim world. Sectarian feelings are worked up on social and mainstream media, where pictures of atrocities allegedly committed by one or the other party are posted.
In Pakistan, each year, hundreds of ‘firebrand’ clerics are banned from entering the more ‘sensitive’ areas of the country during Muharram. Members of minority sects are regularly and brutally attacked, ostensibly by the Pakistani Taliban or their splinter groups, but also by others. The pulpit is often used to spread hatred.
Centuries of textualist interpretations of the Quran, belief in questionable ahadith and tribal and patriarchal customs have created a troubling rhetoric, comprised of social and religious demands by self-righteous clerics.
The Muslim world, its scholars and leaders who are seriously concerned about the rapid deterioration of Muslim politics and society, must find alternative routes of thought and create platforms of open discourse and debate. This must happen at local, country, regional and global levels. The objectives would include development of tolerant and pluralistic societies, as Muslim societies should be, but equally to take measures for technological and economic progress through inclusiveness, education and social cohesion.
The approach to this could include analysis of what is going wrong and acceptance of responsibility, without emphasis on Western ‘conspiracies’.
Countries could begin to accept differences of religious opinion and clamp down on those who oppose freedom of expression, not the other way around.
Today, the message of Islam, which calls for rational thought and deliberation, discussion and a free and open mind and freedom of choice, must be reiterated. The individual must be free to follow any religion or sect of her/his choice and the state must turn its attention to the welfare of people, providing health and education and intervening only where the weak and the innocent are oppressed.
Scholars need to come together and discuss exactly what they are bickering about and whether their stances are aligned with Islamic teachings. Muslims should be free to discuss what the Sharia means to their individual and collective lives and which form of it may or may not be relevant.
(Nikhat Sattar is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion).
(For the full article, see http://newageislam.com/ijtihad,-rethinking-islam/nikhat-sattar/muslim-discourse–there-is-a-need-to-reverse-the-narrative-used-by-extremists/d/109707)