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three dimensional ijtihād: Ijtihād at the religio-textual level, ijtihād at the sociocontextual level, and collaborative ijtihād of applied ethics (union of the first two processes of ijtihād). The structure of these three dimensions corresponds to the ‘parallel-collaborative’ approach that Ramadan appears to propose, where both groups of religious scholars and scientists must first work with their respective methods and skills within their respective areas of specialization, and then share their respective thoughts to reach a common understanding. This common understanding, then, must revolve around ‘common legal and practical studies in various areas of specialization aiming to determine ethical values, the scope and modalities of their application, and the stages of their implementation’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.144).
5.4 Discussion At a cursory glance, the models of reform promulgated by al-Qaradawi and Ramadan may seem too different to have any basis for comparison by virtue of their unique methodological approaches, and of the fact that they are portrayed as branching out to fulfill different objectives; al-Qaradawi’s adaptive approach is acutely focused on blending Islam into the European context, while Ramadan’s transformative approach is broadly centered on revolutionizing this context itself in accordance with “Islamic” (by which he also means “generically-shared”) principles. Although the transformative reform’s all-encompassing focus supposedly includes the wellbeing of the Muslim minorities, there is little explanation in Ramadan’s writings as to how it can help solve the particular Muslim issues that already fall under the purview of fiqh al-aqalliyyat - it is, thus, difficult to find clear and convincing evidence of overlap or contradiction
If both models of reform are able to exist in parallel, the argument that the adaptive reform suffers from an outpaced methodology and a submissive nature and is thus “functionally obsolete”, then, does not hold any water. However, when the two approaches are deconstructed to their underlying bases, it becomes obvious that they are based on similar operating fundamental principles, and that their differences are mainly down to rhetorical embellishment, with the exception of a few features that stand out as exclusive to their own respective thinking, as will be demonstrated in this section.
To begin with, both models of reform are similarly characterized by the need to elevate the worldly context to the same level as the Text, through the use of ijtihād, in the contemporary interpretation and application of Islamic law and ethics. There is no clear difference between al-Qaradawi’s method of subjecting the pertinence of classically-established rulings to contextual realities and Ramadan’s “radical” proposition to make the context a complementary source to the Revelation, although the latter may seem more likely to skirt beyond the confines of classical Muslim thinking due to it not being confined to fiqh issues. In addition, it can be argued that these two approaches are equally based on the principle of maqāṣid al-sharī’a; al-Qaradawi’s use of this concept is evident in his way of making the objective of “protection of religion” central to his approach to developing the most lenient solutions to the problems commonly faced by the Muslims, while Ramadan’s generous expansion of the list of “Sharia-derived” objectives beyond the classical five can be traced back to the need to promote the general concept of “wellbeing”. The only difference here lies in their methodological proclivities; al-Qaradawi seems content with keeping mostly to the original five objectives of Sharia in the context of fiqh al-aqalliyyat, while Ramadan
Reflecting on their methodological differences, it is clear that al-Qaradawi and Ramadan take different approaches to using ijtihād and its concomitant manifestations.
For al-Qaradawi, it seems that the notion of ḍarūra must serve as a conditional precursor to taysīr, which, then, precipitates a departure from the classical conventions of Sharia in order to find a lenient alternative to a problem through ijtihād and by resorting to the established principles of maqāṣid al-sharī’a and the lesser evil.
Additionally, there seems to be no clear formula on which the scholar bases his determination of issues as invoking the principle of necessity and requiring the application of ijtihād. His cautious approach of creating temporary fixes only where they are needed (in response to the questions asked by Muslim minorities) begs to convey the impression that the scholar holds the classical image of Islam as a standard against which the religiosity of European Muslims is compared or assessed, and to which they must try to conform as much as possible. Correspondingly, the adaptive approach appears to be envisioned as a provisional solution that is to be sustained presumably until Muslims have managed to normalize into a balance of religious and worldly commitments, or until the West has become a pro-Islamic environment that facilitates the translation of faith into practice; the latter dovetails with al-Qaradawi’s long-term vision of Islamizing the West, as discussed in Chapter 4. Here, it should be noted that al-Qaradawi is quoted as having said that ‘it is necessary for Muslims to discover religiously legitimate and pragmatic means of adapting to contemporary realities for the purpose of gradually reforming them according to salafist understandings of Islamic law’ (Wiedl, 2009, para. 32). Considering the suggestion that
bigger mission of Islamization, it can be argued that the adaptive reform is similar to the transformative approach in the sense that the former is also intent on ultimately revolutionizing the context, though with a different end goal (Islamization for alQaradawi as opposed to “religionization” for Ramadan).
Contrastingly, Ramadan’s attempt at stretching the classical boundaries of maqāṣid al-sharī’a shows that he does not consider ḍarūra as a precursor or taysīr as a motivation, which is reflective of his adherence to the principle of permissibility (everything is permissible except that which is forbidden). The fact that the scholar takes this flexibility further by interpreting the objectives of Sharia with sensitivity to not only the immediate needs of Muslim minorities, but also to those of the greater society speaks for the “radical” nature of his transformative approach. The scholar seems to rely more on logical thinking than the classical conventions of Muslim jurisprudence and has no hesitancy in making “deviations” in his transformative reform, as evidenced by his hypothetical approach to the case of abortion and the overturning of its classical prohibition discussed in Chapter 5.3.2. Nevertheless, this very flexibility begs questions more than provides answers, particularly with respect to its boundaries;
given the general nature of Ramadan’s understanding of “welfare” and “interests”, and his suggestion that text scholars and context scholars should handle contemporary problems equally, one may be lost speculating on the proper frame of reference in which the objectives of Sharia are defined. It would not seem far-fetched to imagine the problem of abortion (and the principles and rationales used in the production of its solution as proposed by Ramadan), for example, being analogized to other controversial issues in Islam (e.g., apostasy), leading to the scholar’s approach being questioned as to
welfare” could be used to overturn their prohibitions. The problem here, however, is, the fact that “wellbeing” can be defined rather differently in the Sharia and in secular ethics. It is noted that the Islamic concept of maqāṣid al-sharī’a, according to Ramadan and many other Muslim scholars, may legitimately be used to re-examine the contemporary suitability of certain Islamic rulings involving social matters through the higher objectives of Sharia; the tradition remains that issues of worship and explicit prohibitions should not be tampered with. Then, if the meaning of ‘wellbeing’ in secular ethics is interlaced with progressive self-liberation that disregards dogmatic, religious constraints, the question that may follow naturally is whether contemporary Muslim theologians would be willing to consider this concept as a legitimate guide for reexamining rulings that fall within the overlapping spheres of worship and social, such as female leadership in mixed-gender congregational worship. However, there do not seem to be (or rather have yet to be) any clear rules for where, when, how, and the extent to which the concept of “wellbeing” applies in this context, although it is considered legitimate enough in theory by Ramadan to overturn the prohibition against abortion.
Nonetheless, the scholar’s acknowledgment of the importance of grasping the essence of Islamic principles (as opposed to the specific historical Islamic models reflecting those principles) by extracting moral and ethical messages that often lay beneath the textual particularities of canonical injunctions can help pave the way for a multiperspective interpretation of this “essence” and a multi-ideological collaboration for the common good of the world.
The unconventional use of maqāṣid al-Sharī’a and the idea of allowing contextual settings to modify rulings established by classical Muslim scholars, as
the context the source of legislation as a pragmatic approach under the pretext that Sharia does not address all issues and legitimizing unlawful acts through the principles of ḍarūra, maqāṣid al-Sharī’a, and the like is assumed to have led to the violation of Sharia teachings (Khan, 2004). It is argued that the reformist tendency to impetuously associate the silence of Sharia on certain issues with the concept of permissibility overlooks the traditional belief that Islam remains silent in a few specific areas in order to avoid imposing burden and hardship on its believers (Khan, 2004); this argument is
based on the verse:
When al-Alwani, coiner of fiqh al-aqalliyyat, first passed a fatwa in the 90s allowing Western Muslims to participate in voting (an issue that is not touched on explicitly by the Qur’an and Sunna), many conservative-oriented scholars within the Muslim world began to express concerns about the validity of accepting secularism, condoning political division among the Muslim community, and establishing alliances with non-Muslims (Mas’ud, 2005). This led to the explicit dismissal of fiqh alaqalliyyat, with some labeling it as bid’a (innovation), a ‘plot to divide Islam’, a guarantee for the ‘thawing of the Islamic existence in the current of the deviating Western civilization’, and a leeway for specious concessions (Mas’ud, 2005, p. 63). In addition, the reformist thinking that underpins fiqh al-aqalliyyat is criticized as being ‘a
solution’ (Khan, 2004, p.2). Although it is often agreed that contextual differences may sometimes prompt change of Islamic rulings, this phenomenon is supposedly only applicable to laws that were originally based on ‘urf (custom) and ra’y (reasoning), not those that were based on the explicit teachings of the Qur’an and Sunna (Khan, 2004).
The point here seems to be that the Islamic Revelation should always have precedence over human laws and sciences in administering the affairs of the world.
Whether al-Qaradawi’s approach is wholly applicable to the afore-mentioned criticisms is difficult to determine. While it is true that the scholar tends to deviate from the Muslim conventions of jurisprudence, his fatwas do not appear to contradict any core beliefs and teachings in the Islamic tradition. For example, while he grants Western Muslims the ease of combining the sunset and evening prayers in the summer, he maintains that the five prayers remain obligatory, as opposed to calling on the Muslims to abandon the last prayer of the day altogether. Meanwhile, Ramadan (2009) responds to the criticism by claiming that there has always been emphasis in Islam on the reading of both the Text and the context for understanding religion and human affairs; it is generally believed that the Prophet, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, and their leading disciples possessed a cohesive proficiency in various areas of knowledge and an ‘intimate’ understanding of the realities of their own contexts, which supposedly allowed them to confidently, creatively, and pragmatically ‘establish links [presumably between the complex conditions of human affairs and the written revelation], to devise adaptations, to “read” texts differently’ (Ramadan, 2009, p.79).
Furthermore, many modernist scholars now acknowledge that the importance of contextual approach to the interpretation of the Revelation had been accentuated long
closing of the gate of ijtihād (Ramadan, 2009). The Qur’an, for example, contains general principles relating to social codes and morality, which were then expounded by Prophet Muhammad in accordance with the contextual conditions of the 7th-century Arabia. His endorsement of his companions using their own judgment (ijtihād) when dealing with matters whose reference cannot be found in the Qur’an and Sunna is almost universally accepted as a proof that the tradition of using human judgment and reason is deeply-embedded within the Islamic tradition as opposed to being an exogenous element (albeit with diverging opinions concerning the limits and conditions of ijtihād). This tradition of using human judgment and reason would continue with the four jurists and scholars thereafter, whose elaboration of laws was inarguably influenced by the unique conditions of their particular context. The notional corollary here, then, is that God’s message across time has always remained the same, but the ways in which it is understood and implemented continue to evolve in accordance with socio-cultural changes.