«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
permissible (mubāḥ), reprehensible (makrūh), and forbidden (ḥarām). For example, marriage in Islam, while permitted (mubāḥ) and recommended (mustaḥāb) in general, may become obligatory (wājib) for a Muslim who finds it “extremely difficult” to repress their sexual desires when the risk and temptation of fornication is present, reprehensible (makrūh) for a Muslim is “doubtful” of their capability to be just to their spouse, or prohibited (ḥarām) for a Muslim who is “convinced” of their incapability to be just to their spouse (Ramadan, 2004).
In addition, embedded within the contextual approach is the constant emphasis on the need to disentangle the underlying principles of Islam (argued to be immutable, absolute, and eternal) from their historical models of implementation (argued to be relative, changing, and in constant mutation), which is characteristic of Ramadan’s thinking (Ramadan, 2004). The argument presented here is that one should not have to replicate historical implementations of Islamic principles when there is evidence that they cannot adequately and effectively serve the potential functionality of such principles in the contemporary context. Thus, while eternal principles such as modesty, decency, justice, equality, human rights, and liberty have remained unchangeable in the course of Islamic history, the particular forms in which they manifested in the context of the model city of Medina do not necessarily have to be calcified and transposed “as such” into the modern context (Ramadan, 2004).
Putting aside the binaries of “explicit and ambiguous” and “mutable and immutable”, it is clear that the potential of a purpose-based reading of the Qur’an may stretch far beyond the traditionally-capped contours of Islamic thinking. However, the prudence predominantly shown by al-Qaradawi and Ramadan in not tampering with the
latitude in terms of human creativity and reason is, in practice, more “limited” than “emancipatory”. The rationale behind this limit can be deduced from al-Qaradawi’s portrayal of man as a weak entity and of God as the ultimate decider of “Truth”, and from Ramadan’s understanding of the “regulating” aspect of his ethical reference discussed in the previous chapter. This brings to light the line between Divine prerogative and human reason in Islam. The Islamic notion of complete submission to God as the lone sovereign is, above all else, the extended reflection of the monotheistic message (tawhῑd) in the Qur’an. Islam defines this as fitra - man’s intuition that recognizes the Oneness of God, which is encapsulated in the Muslim pronouncement of faith (shahāda): There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. The three delineated categories of tawhῑd in Islamic theology – tawhῑd al-rubūbiyyah (oneness of Allah’s Lordship), tawhῑd al-uluhiyyah (oneness of worship), and tawhῑd al-asmā’ was-sifāt (oneness of the names, qualities, attributes of Allah) - together converge to signify ‘both the commitment to worship and serve God alone and also the taking to heart His injunction’ (Neusner et. al., 2002, p.93). The Qur’an clarifies man’s subjugation to God at many points, most illustrative of which for this context is perhaps the verse that reads: 'O mankind! Ye are the poor in your relation to Allah. And Allah!
He is the Absolute, the Owner of Praise'35.
man is created internally weak, and is consequently in need of the Creator’s guidance.
Much emphasis on this notion of weakness is placed on the natural vulnerability of man’s heart to many vices; the Qur’an makes ample references to many “diseases of the
parsimonious39, disputatious40, rebellious and complacent41, and desperate when in poverty and sickness but boastful in wealth and health42 among many others. The Text then warns that the Devil43 capitalizes on such weaknesses, and that his temptations are a test of man’s faith. This is the premise on which al-Qaradawi bases his perception of
those who commit Islamic moral prohibitions as slaves to their lusts. He further writes:
‘… the Muslim is not entirely his own master; he is also an asset to his religion and his Ummah (the Muslim Nation), and his life, health, wealth, and all that Allah has bestowed upon him are a trust with him which he is not permitted to diminish’ (alQaradawi, 2003b, p.65). Accordingly, “true” belief in Islam is linked to the purity and steadfastness of the heart; Prophet Muhammad was reported as saying: ‘… Beware!
There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart’44. The Qur’an also alludes to this in the verse: ‘Among them are some who give ear unto thee (Muhammad) till, when they go forth from thy presence they say unto those who have 36 ‘Man is ever hasty’ (Qur’an, 17:11) 37 "But man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant." (Qur’an, 33:72) 38 "Indeed man, to his Lord, is ungrateful." (Qur’an, 100: 6); "Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful." (Qur’an, 14:34) 39 "Say: 'If you possessed the depositories of the mercy of my Lord, then you would withhold out of fear of spending.' And ever has man been stingy." (Qur’an, 17:100) 40 “But man has ever been, most of anything, [prone to] dispute." (Qur’an, 18: 54) 41 “No! [But] indeed, man transgresses because he sees himself sufficient (Qur’an, 96:6-7) 42 ‘And if we cause man to taste some mercy from Us and afterward withdraw it from him, lo! he is despairing, thankless’ (Qur’an, 11:9); And if We cause him to taste grace after some misfortune that had befallen him, he saith: The ills have gone from me. Lo! he is exultant, boastful’ (Qur’an, 11:10); Man tireth not of praying for good, and if ill toucheth him, then he is disheartened, desperate (17:83) 43 ‘And surely I will lead them astray, and surely I will arouse desires in them, and surely I will command them and they will cut the cattle' ears, and surely I will command them and they will change Allah's creation. Whoso chooseth Satan for a patron instead of Allah is verily a loser and his loss is manifest. He promiseth them and stirreth up desires in them, and Satan promiseth them only to beguile’ (Qur’an, 4:119-120) 44 Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 2, Hadith 50 175 been given knowledge: What was that he said just now? Those are they whose hearts Allah hath sealed, and they follow their own lusts’45.
shows that man is bestowed with free will46 and a conscience that is able to instinctively distinguish the “right” from the “wrong”47, subsequently rendering him accountable for his own deeds48. Although Islam teaches that the span of one’s life and the time of their death are predetermined, their actions are dictated by their own free will and steered by their own intellect and reason. Arguably, any interception from God in this case would defeat the purpose behind the notion of free will. This specific understanding of “freedom” resonates with Ramadan’s position on homosexuality (which presumably applies to his views on many other explicit Islamic prohibitions) discussed in Chapter 6.2.3, but appears to clash with al-Qaradawi’s previously-mentioned belief that Muslims do not “own” themselves. In addition to confirming mankind as God’s best creation49, the Qur’an places considerable importance in the use of human intellect, particularly in the search for truth in the legitimacy of God and His word. Evidently, a vast majority of Muslims believe that the first Divine message revealed to Muhammad was the term iqra' (read or recite), and that the many commandments in the Qur’an that urge believers to learn, fathom, reflect, and ponder sanction the important role of human reason and creativity. This idea is central to Ramadan’s writings, and a contributory
Revelation, as discussed in Chapter 5.3. However, it should also be pointed out that Ramadan himself believes that ‘… God alone decides what is right and what is wrong…’ (Ramadan, 1999, p.69).
Notwithstanding the preceding argument, it must be stated that the Qur’an also makes ample references to highlight the inherent limit of human intellect. It may be argued that scriptural commandments that refer to man’s inability to understand, such as those which contain the phrases ‘if only they could know’ and ‘if only they could understand’, exist to accentuate the presence of “truth” that the human intellect is incapable of grasping, and that which only the Revelation can establish. Herein lies the relevance the concept of trust in Allah (tawakkul), as expressed in the Qur’anic verse ‘And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him]’ (Qur’an, 3:159) and the following Prophetic saying: ‘People will keep asking questions until they come to asking: “Allah created the universe, but who created Allah?” Whoever has thoughts like this should simply declare: “I believe in Allah.” Seek Allah’s help and desist from such thoughts’ (Sahih Muslim, 134).
What has been discussed so far in this chapter may readily accentuate the complexity of deducting and particularizing the esoteric divine Revelation to a specific context, given humankind’s predilection for intellectual diversity. Therefore, the idea of adopting Divine Revelation “as is” (while neglecting its multivalent nature) in order to deal with problematic situations such as social unrest, political instability, poverty, destitution, homicide, terrorism, and the like may seem highly impractical. At this point, what can be learned from al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s approaches is that the exercise of man’s intellectual faculties appears to be limited effectively to only as much as
and on the other, methodological antecedents in the traditional Islamic legal system.
The discussion on the three binary conceptual pairs shows that there is no randomness to the scholars’ choices; on the contrary, there is a pre-determined guide to which they carefully follow in their interpretation of Islamic principles. Sharia, then, exhibits a contrariety of natures (or at least in the way it is portrayed by al-Qaradawi and Ramadan): It is both liberating and restricting in accordance with the areas in which each of the two approaches of emulation (taqlῑd) and human reasoning (ijtihād) is allowed to predominate. Ramadan himself recognizes that ‘the path of Islam is both easy and demanding’ (Ramadan, 1999, p.70). Furthermore, it is clear that the discordance between religious and secular approaches to the organization of life and society - the former represented by al-Qaradawi and Ramadan – should not be seen as merely a problem that occurs on the veneer of tangible legal and cultural differences between Islam and the secular West, but more fundamentally, as a systemic crisis that is deeply rooted in the intrinsic functioning of their epistemic philosophies.
The discussions in the previous main chapters demonstrate that al-Qaradawi’s conception of a moderate European Islam is essentially an import from the Muslim world, but that which comes with as many lenient concessions as the scholar deems inevitably necessary in order to make it practicable in the least for Muslim minorities with the subsequent hope of preserving their Islamic identity from “erosion” by the prevailing cultural norms of modern society. Consistent with this model, the scholar appears to bring to his reformist thinking a pre-defined image of “the ideal Muslim” – one who balances their religious commitment and national identity, keeping to the sound teachings of the former and maintaining a deep sense of the latter. Although alQaradawi’s approach here may not seem particularly revolutionary, it presents itself as a pivotal advantage in several ways as the discussion in this section will show.
The first main point of al-Qaradawi’s innovative reformulations is his recognition of the importance of contextual factors in the reading of the Islamic Revelation, which is contrary to the more orthodox Wahhabist tendency to adhere exclusively to the literal dictations of the Qur’an and Sunna. The most salient feature of this approach lies in the scholar’s consistency in balancing and preserving the integrity of both the Islamic Revelation and the context. By attenuating hardship in religious matters through the concessions provided by fiqh al-aqalliyyat, yet ensuring a relatively