Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On the call of 'revivalists' for ijtihād vs. taḥqīq

For many of the "revivalists" of the 18th and 19th century, the emphasis fell on ijtihād, rather than on taḥqīq in the sense of rational or mystical-experiential verification of received scholarly opinions. As has been pointed out by R. Peters, the call for renewed ijtihād in the 18th and 19th centuries tended to go hand in hand, not with "rationalism" or "modernism" as is often supposed, but with "fundamentalism," that is, a radically scripturalist and antischolastic stance. [88] The prevalent scholastic tradition was found wanting, not because it was insufficiently "rational" or "flexible," but precisely because it was believed to have been too flexible and rational through the ages and had cease to be sufficiently grounded in the Qur'an and the Sunna. The 18th and 19th century "revivalists," naturally enough, tended to portray their opponents as rigid and unthinking imitators. Less understandably, a host of modern historians, both Western and Eastern, have uncritically adopted this partisan view. Consequently, the very existence of an alternative to both scripturalist ijtihād and unthinking imitation was lost to sight. The age before the 18th and 19th century "revivalist" ijtihād movements was accordingly viewed as marred by rigid and unthinking imitation.
-Khaled El-Rouayheb, "Opening the Gate of Verification: The Forgotten Arab-Islamic Florescence of the 17th Century," Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 38, No. 2 (May, 2006), pp. 275-6.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rorty's prediction of the breakdown...

Richard Rorty, in Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, fears that a breakdown will be inevitable once workers realize that the government has no genuine interest in raising low and substandard wages, halting the exportation of jobs overseas, or curbing crippling personal debt. White-collar workers, who are also being downsized, will turn to the far right, he writes, and refuse to be taxed to provide social benefits:
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodern professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once such a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic. 
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words “nigger” and “kike” will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
-Chris Hedges, The Wages of Rebellion:  The Moral Imperative of Revoltp. 148-9.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Blanqui on 'progress'

[French revolutionary Louis Auguste] Blanqui is an important, if neglected, nineteenth-century theorist, for unlike nearly all of his contemporaries, he dismissed the naive belief, central to Marx, that human history is a linear progression toward equality and greater morality. He warned that this absurd positivism is the lie perpetrated by oppressors: "All atrocities of the victor, the long series of his attacks are coldly transformed into constant, inevitable evolution, like that of nature...But the sequence of human things is not inevitable like that of the universe. It can be changed at any moment." He also foresaw that scientific and technological advancement, rather than a harbinger of progress, could be "a terrible weapon in the hands of Capital against Work and Thought." He even decried the despoiling of the natural world. "The axe fells, nobody replants. There is no concern for the future's ill health." "Humanity," he write, "is never stationary. It advances or goes backwards. Its progressive march leads it to equality. Its regressive march goes back through every stage of privilege to human slavery, the final word of the right to property." Further, "I am not amongst those who claim that progress can be taken for granted, that humanity cannot go backwards." His understanding that history can usher in long periods of repression as well as freedom and liberty is worth remembering.
-Chris Hedges, The Wages of Rebellion:  The Moral Imperative of Revolt, p. 13-14. 

Reverence for the sacred

And there will have to be a recovery of reverence for the sacred, the bedrock of premodern society, so we can see each other and the earth not as objects to exploit but as living beings to be revered and protected. This recovery will require a very different vision for human society.
-Chris Hedges, Wages of Rebellion, 220. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

New Mission Statement of the Cambridge Muslim College (CMC)

The mission of the College is to develop Muslim faith leadership through world-class education, training and research based on a genuine dialogue between the Islamic intellectual tradition and the ideas and circumstances of the modern world.
This is a response to the urgent need for leaders and thinkers capable of articulating and enacting the positive role Muslims and Islam can and should play as part of modern, multi-cultural British society and the world as a whole.
The strategic aims of the College in the furtherance of its mission are:
  1. Developing accredited courses which meet the education and training needs of those working or intending to work in Muslim faith leadership in the context of modern British society;
  2. Developing accredited courses which combine substantial subject knowledge and understanding of the Islamic intellectual tradition with the comparative, critical and historically-contextualised paradigms of the modern academy;
  3. Supporting research that will inform the development of these courses specifically and contribute to the development of Islamic Studies, Religious Studies and Theology as academic disciplines generally;
  4. Supporting the dissemination of the College’s work through other channels for the benefit of the wider community and to encourage greater public engagement with the College’s mission and objectives.
The College is independent of governments and is not affiliated to any Islamic movement. CMC provides a prayerful context for strengthening da’wa skills and scholarly resources to support all who care about the continuing health and dynamism of the Muslim community.
CMC is accredited by the British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Taqlid, ijtihad, "chaos on earth", flexibility and 'some sort of synthesis'

The redefinition of ijtihad as a lay rather than restricted practice has facilitated radical transformations in the ways Muslims define Islam's unifying ethical ideals. Communities of Muslims became bound by the search for a "true" Islam, and a set of hermeneutical tools for that search, but the hermeneutics of "true" Islam only produce multiple truths and multiple communities. I do not argue that this independence of thought and religious diversity is inherently dangerous, or that law must be as rigid as the nineteenth-century conservatives claimed it was in order to preserve social order. Indeed, the search for religious truth is part of human existence, and legal systems must be able to adapt to changing social circumstances. Although those who sought to preserve the unity of their community by restricting ijtihad predicted the contemporary upheaval in public belief, this "chaos on the earth," a return to taqlid would probably not provide the flexibility needed to maintain a legitimate legal system today. Some sort of synthesis of traditional sources and methodologies that restricts ijtihad and provision of fatwas to specialists, to encourage some measure of social consensus on the definition of the community, and its legal basis, is needed. Attempts so far to create such a synthesis have been given little popular attention. [68]
-Indira Falk Gesink, "'Chaos on the Earth': Subjective Truths versus Communal
Unity in Islamic Law and the Rise of Militant Islam," The American Historical Review, Vol. 108, Issue 3, pg. 15, paragraph 58.

I just read this article for the first time for a class on Islam that I am TA'ing for. I appreciated it for its scholarly historical and political analysis of some changes in the usage of terminology, especially by modernist thinkers like Afghani and 'Abduh, and how they viewed scholarly learning as well as the idea of how welcoming all sorts of lay interpretation as authoritative can possibly lead to "chaos on earth."