Islam in the Post-Cold War Era

Chapter VII

Sheikh Ai Abdul Raziq, an Egyptian scholar and a disciple of Abdu,   attempted to confine Islam to spiritual functions and free mundane matters from strict religious or priestly hold. He tried to delineate the nature of Islam in a bid to deal with the intricate issue of the relation between Islam and state. He says: "The complete  separation of religion and politics is to be achieved in  the interest of Islam, as a universal faith. The faith could, then be released free from the contingencies of history and power politics. This device can also be instrumental in furnishing the basis of modern state. It thus keeps the option open whether we want, to stick to the 'archaic and cumbersome regime, or weather the time has come to lay the foundation for a new political organization according to the latest progress of human spirit ."13

Sheikh Ali Abdul Raziq  wrote his book the Islam Wa Us'ul al Hukm"  at a time when attempts were being made to revive the Caliphate. Mustafa Kemal had abolished the Ottoman Caliphate on March 3, 1924. The whole Muslim world was deeply shocked at this happening. The Indian Muslims launched the movement of Khilafat as a protest against this state of affairs. Sharif Hussain of Hejaz for a time dallied with the idea of Caliphate but then gave it up. After him Fuad I of Egypt called a conference of the Muslim ulema with the object of discussing the feasibility of reviving the Caliphate. He himself desired to become the Caliph and the representative of world Muslims. It is at at this time, that Ali 'Abdul Raziq wrote his book disproving the thesis that Caliphate is a necessary institution of Islam.

He argued: "Islam is innocent of this insitution of the caliphate as Muslims commonly understand it. Religion has nothing to do with one form of government rather than anothe r and there is nothing in Islam which forbids Muslims to destroy their old political system and build a new one on the basis of the newest conceptions of the human spirit and the experience of nations."14

Islam, according to him, is a spiritual community, whose disciplinary and religious precepts are binding only on individual conscience and have  nothing to do with power and politics. Thus Din (religion) and Siyasia (politics)  are world apart. The blending of religion and politics in the history of Islam, according to Raziq does not follow from the teachings of Islam which aims at personal salvation and operates within the confines of individual morality. This is why the extension of religion to political domain in the guise of the theory of caliphate is taken by him to be the innovations of the jurists and theologians.

The real fact is,  Ali Abdul Raziq says, as evidencd a by modern and ancient history and as proved by reason,  that the preservation of religion and the maintenance of religious rites does not depend on that particular form of government which the Fuqaha' (legists) call Caliphate or on the rulers whom they call Caliphs. We do not need this kind of Caliphate for looking after our temporal and spiritual affairs. Far from being a source of strength, the historical Caliphate was actually a source of weakness and it gave rise to  many evils. When the Caliphate was centred in Baghdad, the religious condition of the people living under the Baghdad  Caliphate was no better than that of the Muslims who lived in the territories outside the Caliphate nor were the people  living under the Caliphate materially better off than the who lived outside it.15

DR. TAHA HUSSAIN  [b. 1890]
Dr. Taha Hussain, a leading Egyptian scholar,  rejects the theory that the political system of early Islam was prescribed by God thr ough His revelation to the Prophet. He says that there is no doubt that in the addresses of the Caliphs to the people and in the traditions related from them mention is made of the authority of God and the duty of obedience to Him. From this some people have concluded that the political system of Islam was not man-made but God-sent. But there is nothing divine in this system except that Caliphate was a contract between the Caliphs and the general body of Muslims and God has commanded the Muslims to fulfil their contracts. Beyond this, the political system of early Islam had no divine sanction behind it.

Taha Hussain emphasises the fact that in state affairs the prophet used to consult his Companions and this shows that the political system of early Islam was not divinely ordained. The revelation only drew the attention of the prophet and his Companions to their general interests without taking away their freedom to order their state affairs as they liked, of course, within the limits of truth, virtue and justice. The best proof of this thesis is that the Quran did not lay down any political system either in outline or in detail. It laid down only general limits and then left the Muslims free to order their state affairs as they liked. The only condition was that they should not  transgress the limits laid down in the Quran. The prophet himself did not give any specific political system to the Muslims. He did not even designate his successor either by word or in writing, when he fell seriously ill. He merely ordered Abu Bakr to lead the prayers in his absence.16 

Taha Hussain,   in his book On Pre-Islamic Poetry, published in 1926, contended that a great deal of the poetry reputed to be pre-Islamic had been forged by Muslims of a later date for various reasons, one being to give credence to Quranic "myths".  He also cast a doubt on the autehnticity of  the story of Abraham and Ismail of having built the Kaba. "Torah may speak to us about Abraham and Isma el and the Quran may tell us about them too, but the mention of their names in the Torah and the Quran is not sufficient to establish their historical existence, let alone the story which tells us about the emigration of Ismael, son of Abraham, to Mecca and the origin of Arabs there. We are compelled to see in their story a kind of fiction to establish the relationship of the Jews and Arabs on the one hand and Islam and Judaism on the other."17

In  another book entitled "The Future of Culture in Egypt,"  published in  1938, Taha Hussain, advocated that Egypt is cultrually a part of Europe and advocated for the assimilation of modern European culture. He argued that Egypt has always been an integral part of Europe as far as its intellectual and cultural life is concerned in all its forms and branches. "Egypt belongs by heritage to the same wider Mediterranean civilization that embraces Greece, Italy and France". 

In his ripe age, Taha Hussain's appar ently had a second thought about some of his early writings and pleaded for blind faith in religion. "Reason does not have that power and penetration which the Greek, Christian and Muslim philosophers thought it had. Human reason is really one of the many faculties given to man. Like other faculties its power is limited. It can understand certain things, but certain others are not amenable to reason," he advocated.18 Taha Hussain also crticised the apologists who try to reconcile the Quran with modern science and said that "it matters little whether Din (religion) is reconciled with modern knowledge or reamins unreconciled. "Din is a knowledge from God which knows no limits while modern knowledge, like ancient knowledge, is limited by limitations of human reason."19 

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a prominent Indian s cholar, argues  that there is nothing more prominent in the pages of the Quran than its declaration that it has not come to institute a new religion but to deliver humanity from the querrals that arise out of divergent religious groupings and to call all men to the same one path which is the agreed and common path of all religions. The Quran did not demand of the follower of any religion that he should accept some new religion. It demanded of every single religious group that it should stick to the real teachings of its religion, shorn of all perversions and interpolations. The Quran says that if you do this my task is fulfilled, because as soon as you revert to the real teaching of your religion, you will be facing the same reality towards which I am calling you. My message is not a new message, it is the same old universal message which all the founders of religion have delivered.20

Abul Kalam Azad says that Islam did not follow the method adopted by the farmers of the French Napoleonic Code wh o produced a mass of detailed rules and regulations. If it had done this, it would not have been a universal religion, but a religion for a particular nation and for  a particular time. Therefore, it did not involve itself in details but laid down foundational principles, from which detailed laws could be derived as and when the need arose. The Islamic polity started its life in a limited territory and  environment. Therefore, its political and penal laws were also very few. As the Islamic territory expanded and new needs arose, the legists of Islam deduced detailed rules from the foundational principles. All these detailed rules and regulations are not, therefore, the direct injunctions of Islam. Therefore, a distinction should be made between the direct teachings of Islam and the laws derived therefrom by the legists.21

Abul Kalam Azad believes that "all religions have two aspects, one of which forms their essence, the hard core of their truth. Another aspect is the outer grab in whic h they are clothed. The Quran says that the first aspect is Din, the second aspect is Shairah or Minhaj. The Quran points out that in the first aspect, that is Din, all religions are essentially the same. All the differences between religions relate to the second aspect, that is the Shariah or the external texture of religion consisting of laws, customs and modes of worship. It was quite natural that such differences should arise. Religion aims at the welfare of humanity, but humanity has to pass through different conditions in every age and in every country. Different nations are at different levels of culture and intelligence. Therefore, when religion appeared in these nations, it prescribed for them a different set of laws in accordance with their level of culture and intelligence. Thus Shriah or Minhaj differed in each nation and whatever shape it took was appropriate to the conditions of the time and the level of culture attained by each nation, but Din or the essential truth of religion was the same for all. This is the Quranic stand."22

One of the major causes for the dedadence of nations, according to Azad,  has been the exclusive monopoly of power exercised by religous authorities. "To destroy this poison Islam suggested a remedy which was that every individual in the Muslim community should perform the duty of commanding the good (Amr bil M'arouf) so that it should not remain the monopoly of any particular group, and no class of priests like the Brahmans and the fathers of the Catholic Church should exercise authority over the common people in the community. But since many centuries Muslims have bound themselves by the chains they had come to break and the Muslim ulema have claimed a hereditary right over this duty of commanding the good, making it impossibile for the common Muslims to perform this duty."23

Azad believed in divine guidence and says that  the faculty of reason, however, has one important limitation. It deals with material things, powers, laws and modes of thought; in other words, the realm of science. It has nothing to teach about matters of fatih and the life spiritual.

ASAF ALI FYZEE [b. 1899]
Asaf Ali Fyzee, an Indian Moslem thinker, agreed with Abul Kalam Azad  that the object of religion was service of humanity and that a static law was unsuitable to a progressive society. He thought that Islam had two sets of rules, one that do not change and the other that cannot stand against change. Fyzee called for the interpretation of the tenets of Islam in terms of twentieth century thought. "It is the duty of the scholars of each age to interpret the faith of Islam in their own times," he suggested.24

Fyzee argued: "On a truer and deeper examination of the matter, it will be found that  certain portions of the Shariah constitute only an outer crust which encloses a kernel - the central cor e of Islam - which can be preserved intact only by reinterpretation and restatement in every age and in every epoch of civilization. The responsibility to determine afresh what are the durable and what the changeable elements in Islam rests on us at the present time. The conventional theology of the ulema does not satisfy the minds and the outlook of the present century. A re-examination, reinterpreation, reformulation and restatement of the essential principles of Islam is a vital necessity of our age."25

He questioned the authority of the traditional Muslim schools of thought who had closed the door of Ijtihad in islam. "It must be asserted firmly, no matter  what the ulema say, that he who sincerely affirms that he is a Muslim, is a Muslim; no one has the right to question his beliefs and no one has the right to excommuncate him. That dread weapon, the fatwa of takfir, is a ridiculous anachronism. Belief is a mtter of consience, and this is the age which recognizes freedom of conscien ce in matters of fath. What may be said after proper analysis is that a certain peron's opionions are wrong, but not that 'he is kafir."26

According to Fyzee, the rules of Muhammadan jursiprudence (usul) and Muhammadan law (furu) should be studied in their relation to social conditions. In such study, historical, political and cultural factors should not be neglected, and the material studies should be exhaustive: it should not be confined to Arabic sources, but Latin and Greek, the four Semitic languages - Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Ethiopic - and Urdu and Persian and Turkish should also be laid under contribution. With such an equipment the following five stage study should be attempted:

1. What was the condition of society in relation to a particular legal doctrine prior to Islam?

2. What was the rule of law laid down by the Prophet?

3. What was the result of such legislation?

4. Today, after fourteen centuries, how is the rule interpreted in the diverse countries in wh ich Islam subsists?

5. Can we not, always keeping the spirit of Islam before us, mould the rules of law so that healthy reforms can be carried out? 27