The revival of religious non-fundamentals

Ahmed Al-Moslemany
Friday 21 Jun 2019

One thousand years ago, Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali wrote The Revival of Religious Sciences, and yet today literature and organisations focusing instead on the non-fundamentals of religion are widespread.

Imam Al-Ghazali’s book comprises several volumes exceeding 2,000 pages. While the book is revered among a wide spectrum of Muslims, it is criticised by Salafist sheikhs for relying upon 1,000 of the Prophet’s hadiths (sayings) that critics claim are not sufficiently verified.

Al-Ghazali’s book bore an important title, using the phrase "religious sciences" to express the idea of attempting to lay the methodological and academic foundations of Islamic knowledge.

Unfortunately, the Islamic world remained for long centuries without a revival of the religious sciences. Thus, rigidity overwhelmed, superficiality superseded and hardliners and extremists dominated the scene almost entirely. It is also unfortunate to say that the Islamic world remained for long centuries without a revival of the natural sciences. Hence, ignorance became rife and weakness prevailed and backwardness coloured an entire era.

The last few years yielded a surplus of infelicity and insensitivity. Movements and organisations were founded, all of which upon one project: the revival, not of religious science, but of the non-fundamentals of the Islamic religion. Muslims around the world, from Jakarta to Dakar, are shocked every day with fatwas and ideas that they had never heard about before.

These fatwas and ideas do not need profound reading or much research to evaluate because they fail to stand up to the minimum degree of reasoning and contradict the simplest rules of life.

The project to revive religious non-fundamentals was not limited to one or two countries or organisations. It was a vast project propagated by many and funded by many others. It also found encouragement from the secret services of some nations. 

Many of the leaders of this non-fundamental revival moved from ignorance to mosque rostrums, from renegades to advocacy, from crime to jihad. Some say that there are no non-fundamentals in Islam and that Islam is entirely substance. This is an eloquent yet incorrect assertion. Because what is meant by "non-fundamentals" isn't what occurs within Islam, but rather, what is happening on its peripheries in the form of opinions and ideas, what takes place in the form of untruth and miscreance.

Scholarly work in religious sciences requires gigantic efforts that could take a single person an entire lifetime to complete. On the other hand, religious non-fundamentals don’t need more than two lines in a book or a scene in a TV programme or a clip from a religious speech.

Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani’s book The Creator’s Illumination in Explaining the Sahih Al-Bukhari comprises 8,391 pages and reading it could take 14 days nonstop without eating or drinking. The Algerian scholar Abdel-Hamid ibn Badis took about 18 years to explain Imam Malik’s The Approved in the Green Mosque in Constantine, Algeria.

For instance, a book in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) like Imam Ibn Hazm’s The Adorned comprises more than 7,000 pages where 2,312 jurisprudential questions are addressed and in which 546 opinions are stated.

Ibn Kathir’s The Beginning and the End is comprised of 12 volumes and Imam Al-Suyuti’s The Compiler of Collections was written in 25 volumes. Historians say that the original version of Al-Tabari’s The Interpretation of the Holy Quran was written on 30,000 pages but his disciples suggested that this was beyond the human capacity to grasp, so Al-Tabari shortened it.

As for Al-Razi’s Interpretation of the Holy Quran, historians say that he listed 10,000 questions when interpreting Al-Fatihah only. Abu Yusuf Al-Qazwini’s Delightful Gardens was written in hundreds of volumes.

It was mentioned in Shams Al-Din Al-Dhahabi’s The Lives of Noble Figures which was issued in 30 volumes that Al-Qazwini’s book was in 800 volumes. The 1991 edition of Imam Muhammad Metwally Al-Shaarawy’s My Thoughts about the Holy Quran was printed in 24 volumes containing more than 15,000 pages.

Real scholars and serious researchers are characterized with humility and serenity because they are aware of the magnitude of studying the fiqh, interpreting the Holy Quran, and reviewing the work of their predecessors in studying creed and Islamic theology.

The non-fundamentals’ leaders are full of confidence and vanity. They speak from rostrums and on TV screens with much pomp, arrogance, self-aggrandisement, contempt for others, self-veneration and disdain for other Muslims.

Merely listening to one of them is enough to leave you totally bewildered. Try transcribing one of their speeches or meetings; contemplate their words without the vigour or grandstanding and you will find a mass of nonsense.

There is no end to the nonsense; for every ignorant or extremist person there is one who is even more extremist and hard-line. Some organisations had accused Islamic society of being jahili (pre-Islamic), then along came Al-Qaeda to accuse these group of being insufficiently Islamic, and then ISIS comes along and accuses Al-Qaeda of apostasy.

In the spring of 2015, Al-Qaeda disseminated a recording of three religious clerics in ISIS issuing a fatwa stating that Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, and Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, were both apostates.

The ISIS leaders issued a fatwa claiming that the Taliban was an infidel organisation because it opened embassies in countries run by infidel regimes, and they considered Al-Qaeda to be an infidel group because it failed to condemn the Taliban as infidels.

And so the endless absurdity and unparalleled chaos go on and on.

The Islamic world needs boldness to put a stop to this nihilistic period in the history of Islam. Our ummah (Islamic nation) cannot take a single step forward while minds and thought are ruled by an alliance of foolish people.

The ummah needs a revival of religious science: moderation, tolerance and mercy. It also needs a revival of the natural sciences: physics, mathematics, engineering and chemistry in order to revive the golden age of science and catch up with the modern world.

Science is the solution.


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