It is the moral duty of moderate Muslims to review and reinterpret Islam

Our seminaries and our blind dedication towards the ancient scholars has in fact damaged Islam by institutionalizing it and handling it over to the few clerics

Islam and the Muslims today are facing significant challenges. I believe that never in their history have they faced challenges of such great magnitude. Islam and the Muslims are slowly becoming a source of terror for the west. People have started doubting the intentions of the Muslims just because of a radical Islamists, who I believe have hijacked Islam. A few days ago, there was huge outrage and uproar on social media regarding Mr. Donald J Trump’s comment that he would impose a ban on the Muslims entering United States of America in order to deal with the Islamic extremism. Mr. Trump’s comment came a few days after the incident that occurred in California which claimed the lives of fourteen innocent people.

As much as I hate to agree with a bigot like Donald Trump, on this particular occasion however, I find myself rather confused considering the irreparable harm caused by radical Islamists. I know that America has been developed and built by people belonging to different ethnic races and professing different religions and that they all have contributed massively in the uplift and the progress of America. Having said that, I do believe that Muslims in general, and Islam in particular, have become terrifying especially since the last few decades. Hence, I strongly believe that the present situation demands that the Muslims must review and reform their religion.

Any ideology that fails to reform itself with the needs of time, becomes a liability. More than the reformation, what is more important is to study and examine the teachings of the fuqaha (jurists). I believe that the institutionalization of Islam has caused a great deal of damage. Most of the Muslims belonging to Sunni school of thought follow the teaching of the four Imams of Ahle Sunnat. Similarly, most of the Muslims belonging to Shia School of thought generally follow the teachings of their 12 Imams.

When we start following certain people blindly in religion, then we in fact limit the perspective of that very religion. Therefore, our young generation never bothers to read Quran and generally follows the teachings of their ancestors. This is how we have limited the perspective of perhaps the most beautiful Abrahamic religion. We do not even know that those students who study in various seminaries are given the right knowledge about the respective jurisprudence since they are not allowed to criticize or do research on it independently. Our seminaries and our blind dedication towards the ancient scholars has in fact damaged Islam by institutionalizing it and handling it over to the few clerics. A society where religion becomes a possession of a few clerics, nourishes people like Maulvi Abdul Aziz and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the rest would even fail to defend their faith because they never bothered to understand it. Religion should never be a possession of a few, rather it must never be a possession. 

Syed Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, the most influential Islamic scholar of the twentieth century and the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamic political party of Pakistan, never went to any madrassah yet he wrote the most popular exegesis of Quran in the modern times. I have huge differences with him and the way he politicized Islam but there is no doubt that he contributed massively when it comes to making a common man understand Islam. His influence is such that today even those sects, who once targeted him are now bound to speak in his language. The major reason why most of the scholars were against Maududi is because he never went to any seminary and in our society it is considered inappropriate for a scholar not to attend a seminary. This truly sums up our priorities.

I believe Muslims must get rid of this institutionalization of Islam since it has contributed a lot to extremism. Living in denial and constantly peddling the fact that the concept of “Islamic Dominance” and “Global jihad” has nothing to do with Islam, would not help the Muslims in their cause. Instead, what they need to do is to present a counter narrative against this radical version of Islam. I believe that Javed Ahmed Ghamidi has presented a strong counter narrative against radical Islam and jihadism. I consider it a moral duty of the moderate Muslims to start realizing the facts and reform, review and reinterpret their religion and show the world that Islam is not what Isis and other radical outfits represent.

I am not denying the role played by the west in the nourishment of such outfits but we must realize that there must be something awfully wrong in either our religious doctrine or our interpretation of Islam, that they keep exploiting and manipulating us time and again. We need to realize this fact before it’s too late.

Ammar Anwer is a student with an interest in philosophy, rationalism and politics

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