Monday, November 8, 2010

Prof. Abou El Fadl on The Modern Dynamics and the Islamic Legal Tradition, part 4

I do think that is is not possible, or even advisable, to try to regenerate or reproduce the dynamics of the pre-modern juristic tradition. However, this does not mean that the current juristic practice should be disjointed from its past. There is a difference between a slavish imitation of the past, and a creative developing of the past. One of the reviewers of The Authoritative and Authoritarian described the work as "a creative vision" of Islamic law in the modern age. I am satisfied with this description. I do not seek to resuscitate the body of traditional Islamic law so that it may live as a historical oddity in the modern age. Instead, I seek to derive inspiration and guidance from the pre-modern juristic heritage, and then to articulate a normative framework that would be more fitting for the modern age. [...] Furthermore, at times it is necessary to completely abandon a pre-modern juristic position. [...] In short, a careful and reflective synthesis must be worked out between modernity and tradition. But reactive or defensive clinging to either modernity or tradition is not coherent.
 -And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses by Khaled Abou El Fadl, pgs. 111-114


  1. Brother Blogger, Asalaamu alaikum :)

    I have been reading the quotes you post from Khaled Abu Fadl's book, and they are very interesting & he articulates his thoughts very well. I'm interested to hear your take on this book and his positions, vis-a-vis ur education from traditional scholars. Thanks, and jazak Allahu khairan :)

  2. wa alaykum salaam Anonymous :)

    The most important thing I think I take away is that the societal context of the scholars writing and formulating opinions in a specific time must be taken into consideration - i.e. how these inform their conclusions. This in turn makes one reflect on contemporary contexts and the need to take that into consideration in formulating a position we would advocate for today.

    I really appreciate this quote from Abdal Hakim Murad:

    "Traditional Islam is not the replication of the positions of the ancients; it is to seek what they sought."

    Contentions 13, # 93

    And in the words of another scholar:

    "to look to the books of fiqh and or the fatwas of the ancients and not realize that their rulings were intended to serve the concrete interests of their time that were derived from the shari'ah, in light of THEIR reality and NOT in light of some presumed permanent, unchanging history, is to misunderstand them and, thus, misappropriate them."