Dark Stars of Islam

2 12 2007

Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said, “The scholars on earth are like the stars in the sky. People are guided by them in the darkness of the land and the sea. If the stars are covered, people would get lost.” [Ahmad]

The Prophet of Allah (PBUH) tells us of the important role the scholars play in guiding the Ummah and championing its cause. The position of a Mufti is a position of great responsibility, dignity and authority. Those who achieve such a position are endowed with such knowledge and wisdom that the very fate and progression of the Ummah may rest on their shoulders. The entire Islamic world including its leader looks to such men with awe and respect and the words of such a man have the weight to change the progress of history. Or at least that’s how it used to be.

The grand Mufti of Egypt, Mufti Ali Gomaa’, one of the highest religious authorities of Sunni Islam is found to be almost opposite of what his title stands for. But not only him, those at al-Azhar and those running the shariah based judiciary in places like Sudan and Saudi Arabia have proven themselves to be incompetent time and time again. Far from being stars in the Sky guiding the Muslims, at a time when division and fragmentation pervade the Muslims, they have only added to the darkness by their feckless counterproductive fataawa. Take for example:

Egypt’s top Muslim scholar has defended himself against criticism for a series of controversial fatwas he has issued.

With tears in his eyes, Grand Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa told reporters his religious edicts were never influenced by pressure from the authorities.

Fierce criticism followed his recent ruling that speeding drivers cannot be condemned for killing people who deliberately stand in their way.

It became public days after just such a case involving a police car. 

and

A committee of scholars at al-Azhar university, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution, called the ruling “abhorrent” and something “even the devil himself hadn’t thought of”. Source

this man from al-Azhar solved the segregation issue at work by issuing a fatwa allowing women to breadfeed thier male colleagues 😮

Dr Izzat Atiya of Egypt’s al-Azhar University said it offered a way around segregation of the sexes at work.

His fatwa stated the act would make the man symbolically related to the woman and preclude any sexual relations.  Source

And last but not least

Turkish Muslims will be allowed to pray only three times a day from Wednesday instead of the usual five – without fear of committing a sin.

A member of the scientific council of Istanbul University, Muhammad Nour Dughan, has issued a controversial fatwa or religious edict cutting Islamic prayer requirements from five to three times a day.  Source

There are many more examples of such blatant ‘juristic’ errors which are often shown to discredit the Shariah.  Anyone with eyes to see can discern the irresponsible attitude of Muslim scholars throughout the world, who have turned Islam and its powerful infallable Shariah into an academic experiement. The scholars are to be blamed for the problems of the ummah, I know there are some good scholars, but they are also to be blamed for not taking government appointed feckless Muftis to task. The stars in the sky, as described by the Prophet (saw) are desperately needed now to show us how to live by Islam and the Shariah without having to reform or alter it.

Imam Ali (ra) is reported to have said, “Two types of people I cannot tolerate are – a scholar who is shameless and an ignorant worshiper. The ignorant worshipper fools the people with his worship and the scholar with his shamelessness.”

see also: End of Ulema

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20 responses

2 12 2007
Hasmita

i always thought that its mostly the madrassa type scholars who are a bit dipsy, and those who graduate from places like Al-Azhar are more intelligent and understand better. But it seems, they are just effected by the same problem, whatever that is?

Breastfeeding male colleagues? praying 3 times instead of 5 to alleviate hardship..how stupid are they?

2 12 2007
Observor

Ali Gomma is known for dodgy fatwas.. he wants to fit in with the moderates.

2 12 2007
Tia

Hasmita in my opinion, the Madrassahs and the institutions such as Al-Azhar -which have gone thru extensive mondernisation are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Most Madrassahs today want nothing to do with the modern world and are happy with their hands stuck in the old manuals of fiqh. And those who graduate from places like al-Azhar learn Islam in a purely academic fashion as a set of theories without realising the spirit of Islam.

2 12 2007
Sumera

This would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

3 12 2007
Hasmita

What do you mean by Academic? that explains though

hay, your blog looks wicked!

3 12 2007
Tia

Academic meaning that they learn Islam as theories without cosidering the practicalities, like for example breastfeeding male colleagues. So, if God forbid this rule was implemented, how would it work? every female joining workplace would have to breastfeet every male colleague in that firm?? or every male joining the firm would have to be suckled by every female there?? lol tragic as Sumera puts it.

4 12 2007
brnaeem

AA- Tia,

Good post. But I don’t see it as a decline/loss in the overall scholarship of the Umma (although that has been foretold by our dear Prophet, if I recall correctly).

I see it as a byproduct of the information age in which the oddest of rulings make international headlines within a few hours. I’m thinking these types of off-the-wall ‘academic experiments’ have been taking place since the Khulafa Rashidun, but they just weren’t publicized.

4 12 2007
amal

Tia is that you? great new image !
I like it 😛

‘The Prophet of Allah (PBUH) tells us of the important role the scholars play in guiding the Ummah and championing its cause. The position of a Mufti is a position of great responsibility, dignity and authority. Those who achieve such a position are endowed with such knowledge and wisdom that the very fate and progression of the Ummah may rest on their shoulders. The entire Islamic world including its leader looks to such men with awe and respect and the words of such a man have the weight to change the progress of history. Or at least that’s how it used to be.’

so true !! this makes me so angry, recently a friend of mine took out a mortgage because her husband insisted and he thinks its halal , because a sheikh said so and we should trust them in such matters. I do not care which sheikh told you that , the quran has been clear on that matter , allah will ask me as a layperson why did i just follow blindly ?

Another thing regarding that breastfeeding one , apparently a lot of shias made fun of sunnis on that , and Al- azhar university actually removed that fatwa .
By the way check out my post on imam suihab webb apparently hes left traditional islam .
one last point , people really need to use their intellect and stop just fulfulling their desires by looking for the sheikh that does .

4 12 2007
Tia

Ws BrNaeem. You make a good point which I had not considered in my rant regarding the ‘academic experiements’ taking place during the time of Khulafah Rashidun. Indeed, the history of fiqh is full of many examples of outlandish juristic opinions which are still sometimes referred to as source. But there is something uniquely different about those comparing to what we have now, for one those scholars reached their status through a certain authentic process of scholarship which is why we would still consider those opinions for discussion sake due to the credibility and respect they had earned. And secondly, we also find the fiqh was developed in such a way that those outlandish opinions were refuted vigoursly by their contemporaries and those who came later presented thier counter arguments in volumes, hence proving productive. However, what we have now is that people like Ali Gomaa who earned their title of Grand Mufti by no particular process of scholarship (or at least not proven thru producing any original works) rather a government employee who responds to events in a pragmatic fashion catering for thier needs. What is also missing is the constructive criticism by their contemporaries, so when the Grand Mufti or the Arab/Sudanese/Pakistani ‘shariah’ courts issue dodgy fatwas, surely it is the responsibility of other scholars to present refutations and what they consider correct guidance on the matter.

If our scholars truely take on their role with the required level of seriousness, the Muslims would have something substantial to stand on. When the media attacks a particular law issued, the vast majority of Muslims will accept what is being reported by media and have no alternative, whereas if the Imam of mosque addressed that particular rule in the Jummah sermon, for example, it will give Muslims a better perspective. However, it is unfortunate that no single scholar of repute (to my knowledge) have even addressed the contraversies involved in the qatif rape case, sudanese case or at least the Turkish 3 salah a day fatwa.

Amal, sometimes people like to ‘fatwa shop’ and if you want to get a mortgage you will always find a scholar who says, ‘its allowed because of xyz’. But as you said sis, its time for Muslims to broaden their horizon and make use of the so many opportunities available to possess the knowledge requried.. at least that of neccessity.

I think I read about Suhaib Webb on his blog sometime ago, I don’t particularly know much about him, but apparently there is something strange going on as I come across so many people switching sides, extremists becoming moderates, ex-Islamists appearinng on TV as if being one is some sort of qualification and now traditionalist becoming ?. In my opinion, Muslims need to stop following ‘isms’ and jumping from one ‘ism’ to another and simply just follow Islam, it really is not so difficult. I’ll pop over to yours after salah and lunch 🙂

5 12 2007
brnaeem

AA- Tia,

Thanks for the reply.

“What is also missing is the constructive criticism by their contemporaries, so when the Grand Mufti or the Arab/Sudanese/Pakistani ’shariah’ courts issue dodgy fatwas, surely it is the responsibility of other scholars to present refutations and what they consider correct guidance on the matter.”

I don’t see the dearth of scholarly responses to some of the referenced fatwas (pray 3x day, breastfeeding, etc.) as being a problem. While I may lack confidence in many individual scholars, I have full confidence in the entire Islamic scholarship that if the need ever arose to counter these dodgy fatwas, they would arise to the challenge.

As its clear that these questionable rulings are far from being adhered to in the mainstream, the Ulema are wise to keep them in the periphery. Why substantiate these rulings with a response? By merely ignoring them, time will be sufficient to wipe them off the pristine slates of Islamic law.

Our tradition has shown that the scholars step up and counter a questionable trend if there is fear of widespread practice. But when an individual ‘scholar’ rules on the prohibition of naming a teddy bear Muhammad and its clear to all that such a ruling is not a widespread consensus, I don’t feel a response is warranted.

Lets not mix the calls of contemporary politics and shock journalism into our tradition and its clear methodology.

5 12 2007
amal

Brnaem and Tia just to let you know regarding the fatwa about breastfeeding , it actually does have islamic bases although the opinion is weak , it was with regards to aisha ra who wanted to teach certain male students and wanted them to become her mahram so she can teach them direct , apparently she had wanted one of her female relatives to express milk for them to drink …..and the sahaba apparently had disagreed with her on that .What I just mentioned their is not the proper full hadeeth so do not quote me on it .

Another thing it does not mean direct breastfeeding , in case you thought that !

with regards to ‘fatwa shopping’ , people need to fear allah and not go out a look pacifically for a fatwa to suit their needs they will be held acountable for that , really I think the major desease in our ummah is lack of sincerity !

5 12 2007
Observor

Amal I heard about that breastfeeding incident too, thats why I also agree with Tia that some scholars need to address the issue in more deeper way than just condemn a scholar because thats how masses would be educated and get some understanding.

5 12 2007
Hasmita

BrNaeem jzk, thats exactly what I have been meaning to say. If we look at some of the cases like the breastfeeding one and the other, scholars did criticise and condemn the ruling after which it was removed. And the first example of Ali Gomaa, why was he in tears? and who said, ‘even the devil himself hadn’t thought of this?’. We can see there is condemnation and criticism.

I am not at all comfortable with how you make out as if our scholrs are useless Tia.

5 12 2007
amal

I have to agree with Hasmita on that , the scholar did not just make that one up from the top of his head , Tia I think you should take back that sentence

‘even the devil himself hadn’t thought of this?’

Because allahu alim on his intentions ,Many times I hear scholars coming up with the stuff that I think what the ??? I hink were better off keeping silent on it ..

6 12 2007
Tia

Br. Naeem, I appreciate your confidence in the scholarship but I have to admitt I do not share the same level of confidence in the scholarship which has now become institutionalised on an industrial level. Furthermore, the continous silence of scholars (majority), which in my opinion has everything to do with their inability to engage in the modernity discourse, will only allow the reformationist call to gain momentum. We already have some very ‘knowledgeable’ scholars along with self-styled Mujtahids setting agendas in Washington and London responding to the calls of modernisation/secularisation of Islam which is all happening right in front of our eyes. If the role of scholars is to guide the Muslims and their leaders, why are they mute?
Shukran for your comment though, at least for me, it has put the discussion in perspective.

Hasmita, I certainly don’t mean our scholars are usless, though vast majority of them are just doing a job, like the Imams and thier same old friday sermons.

Amal sis, that was not my statement, if you read it is sourced as a quote from the BBC made by scholars of al-Azhar.

6 12 2007
amal

Tia I am so sorry forgive me , I misread that .

7 12 2007
Shahrzad

Interesting Article. Usually muslim scholars dont know enough about muslims’ lifestyle and their needs of today. Not just bcs of modernity, they even dont have clear Fatwas on something like Organ or Blood donation, or many other subjects that muslims face them every day.
They usually write books and books about very esp issues that dont have any influence on people life. But when they some to find a solution for something related to real life, they dont say a clear Fatwa or like this Al-Azhar scholar, talk nonsense.

Btw, i feel they are afraid of each others. They are not enough brave to clear the fatwas, just bcs they dont want other scholar comes and criticize them.
They are very conservative and always afraid of their situation.

From the scholars i like their ideas:
Shia: Ayatullah Khumeini for his brave fatwas on Transexuality, Organ donation and Shia/Sunni marriage. Also Ayatullah Mutaharri for his good points on basic concepts of Islam

Sunni: Al Mawdudi for his good books related to Islam, And Al Qaradawi, Imam of Doha, who is a brave scholar to give Fatwas and to stand firmly against stupid scholars.

My opinion..

7 12 2007
Tia

Amal its ok sis, no harm done 🙂

Thanks Shahrzad for your comment and I agree with your point about scholars being scared. Imo they are not only scared of other scholars but they are also scared of the media and how their views will be percieved by the masses and perhaps they fear being labelled for extremist views. That would explain why they answer questions in ambigius fashion almost hiding the truth sometimes.

Also, the scholars you have listed, what distinguishes them from the masses is the mere fact that they have spoken the truth as it is, without sugar coating and being ambigius. I have some reservations about Sh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, but credit where its due, he speaks with confidence and clearly is not scared to speak the truth, whether its his views regarding issus of Palestine, apostates, and modern issues despite being labelled an extremist.

7 12 2007
Shahrzad

I mentioned Qaradawi for 3 events:

1. His clear defence of Palestine

2. His clear defence of Lebanon during Israel-Lebanon war even protest again some scholars who had said war against Israel is haram bcs Hizbullah is other side.

3. His request to have a munazirah with one of iranian scholars in Aljazeera TV channel on the Iraq issue. In the time that iranian rulers used to try to hide their effect in Iraq and their support of Sadr and Jayshul Mahdi.
It wanted much braveness regarding the idea that he is not political man at all and the other side Rafsanjani is famous to be big sophist in political discussion, yet the request itself was wonderful.
Even if the result had nothing for Iraqis..

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