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Having argued so, both al-Qaradawi and Ramadan strive to construct a form of European Islam that seamlessly balances the foundations of the religion and the ideals of pluralistic society (although it seems clear that, in the former scholar’s case, “adaptation” is merely a temporary means for Islamization). The two scholars oscillate wildly between maintaining the continuity of classical Muslim perspectives and traditions and coping with the shifting spectrum of modern sensibilities, but beyond the core defining aspects of Islam, they show willingness in “deviating” from normative Muslim theological standards, even at the cost of severe criticisms by orthodox scholars, for the purpose of blending traditional Muslim religious beliefs into life in the
into the potential of Islam’s universal message and pluralistic vision (in the case of Ramadan’s transformative approach). Despite the shortcomings of their positions (as discussed in Chapter 7.1.2 and 7.2.2), both their models of European Islam have the basic components and potential to make way for a more defined path for cultural and ideological trends of Muslims in the West to progress towards a more positive orientation. Thus, it is necessary to examine how both scholars help set the boundaries of a form of European Islam that is both true to the Islamic tradition and suited to the practicalities of life in the West.
To start with, while it is clear that both al-Qaradawi and Ramadan bring to their reformist thinking a combined use of taqlīd (unconditional imitation) and ijtihād (independent reasoning), it should be pointed out that the bases on which they build their approaches to these two positions are not identical. Al-Qaradawi appears to be more inclined to the side of taqlīd than ijtihād, aspiring to keep most of the laws and traditions of Islam as they are believed to have been laid down by Prophet Muhammad and observed by his companions and their subsequent generations, and resorting to reformist thinking only when extreme necessity demands so (although, in such case, he exercises ijtihād rather unhesitatingly and radically). Ramadan, on the other hand, takes a more formulaic approach, keeping strictly to taqlīd in matters that involve Muslim worship and explicit Islamic tenets (which constitute a smaller, yet most indispensable portion of the religion) and applying liberal thinking copiously and proactively in all other areas of life. Al-Qaradawi’s recognition of the hardship that Muslim minorities may genuinely face of adjusting many of their religious beliefs to life in the West and of its possible ensuing repercussion on the solidity of their religious identity seems
modification of rulings, enabling many of the essential Muslim beliefs blend unobtrusively into the Western context. Meanwhile, Ramadan’s belief that the passive nature of the adaptive reformist approach falls short of fulfilling the potential of Islam as a positive resource for empowering Muslim minorities and building a cohesive, peaceful, and well-integrated society serves as a factor that motivates the scholar to expand the scope of ijtihād beyond the confines of fiqh issues. Thus, in an opposite manner, al-Qaradawi’s adaptive approach seems largely uninhibited by the systematic “worship-social“ formula to which Ramadan adheres (as evidenced by the Qatari scholar’s concessional recommendations on worship issues presented in Chapter 5.2.2), whereas the latter’s transformative thinking is hardly restrained by the law of necessity with which the former complies.
Narrowing the focus down to al-Qaradawi’s approach, it can be argued that the adaptive nature of the scholar’s fiqh al-aqalliyyat successfully protects the integrity of the foundations of Islam and respects the configurations of life in Europe, despite the criticism that it yields acquiescently to the context and modifies the traditional manners in which certain Muslim rituals are practiced. First, many of the scholar’s recommendations are saturated with a significant level of changeability, given the dependency of his adaptive fiqh on the dynamism of the environment in which Muslims minorities live. This is to argue, albeit hypothetically, that, should the socio-political conditions of the environment in which the Muslims live shift to work in the favor of their rights and needs, the concessions proposed by al-Qaradawi will cease to remain valid due to the absence of the necessity to maintain leniency. What is of significance here is the fact that the scholar’s approach steers clear from making permanent changes
concessional rulings in habit (which are some of the main concerns of the critics of fiqh al-aqalliyyat, as discussed in Chapter 5.4). The focus in the idea of adapting to the context should, then, shift from the problem of Muslim thinking being stagnant, as often argued by Ramadan, to the advantage of providing temporary concessions that can be resorted to as a last recourse. Second, the straightforward and self-effacing way in which fiqh al-aqalliyyat assists Muslim minorities seems to show respect for the personal boundaries in which religious practice occurs, and for all external aspects of the diverse European environment; it highlights, even if indirectly, that being committed to most Islamic obligations neither contradicts nor harms the wider society in any clear way, perhaps with the exception of the veil issue in some European countries that follow a strict interpretation of secularism (although al-Qaradawi has responded to this issue by recommending that Muslim women abide by the legal decision of the state).
On the flip side, many Western countries have been supportive of the essential socioreligious needs of Muslims in general, such as allowing the construction of mosques and institutions and recognizing Muslim holidays and festivals. Despite the skepticisms surrounding the value of fiqh al-aqalliyyat, it must be argued that it is vital that Western-Muslim scholars and Muslim minorities recognize it as deserving of further development alongside the European model of Islam if sustaining the wholeness of the soul and character of Islam is to remain part of the objective of ensuring the wellbeing and positive integration of Muslims in the West.
Shifting the focus to Ramadan’s reformist thinking, the scholar’s solution to creating a psychological position that allows Muslim minorities to support pluralism and find comfort in being both European and Muslim is to re-frame their faith in a
understanding that faith is a matter of one’s personal relationship with God, and that only He can ultimately judge its soundness. Much of Ramadan’s message about being a “respectful” Muslim in a shared environment, beyond simply trying to apply Islamic teachings to the Western context for personal purposes, revolves around the practice of expressing one’s personal religious beliefs outwardly with sensitivity to the personalized boundaries within which they occur; to believe in the comprehensiveness of Islam as a personal commitment, for example, does not give one the authority to impose it on others, just as refraining from non-Islamic norms does not give them the license to expect others to abide by their personal beliefs. A large portion of Ramadan’s use of ijtihād manifests in his calibration of human values such as justice, respect, and equality through the prism of the Qur’anic vision of pluralism; he does this by highlighting the basis and natural existence of these values in the Islamic tradition while emphasizing the inimicality of literalist theological thinking to their progressive interpretation. In this sense, it is likely that the scholar perceives his radical opinions not as a “deviation” in its negative sense, but rather as a “reorientation” to the “intended” Islamic way of life. One can argue, then, that the key to progress appears to lie in the coherent interaction between the inner Muslim belief system (which should operate strictly within one’s personal psychological boundaries) and its outer manifestation (which necessarily affects, involves, and concerns all aspects of the shared outer context). Based on Ramadan’s rhetoric of “balance”, this notion of “respect” should also apply vice versa; thus, to not believe in homosexuality on a personal level, for example, should not be condemned as a sign of isolation or bigotry, with which he often find himself associated.
any act of faith in Islam should not be imposed on Muslims because there is simply no “faith” without sincerity in action and purpose. His opinion of “meaningless faith” here deserves to be taken into consideration, seeing that there is apparently a tendency (though not suggesting that this is common) to overemphasize the importance of attaching the binary status of ḥalāl and ḥarām to Islam, so much so that it prevents one from moving past the limiting paradigm of observing religious obligations solely for gaining rewards and avoiding punishments in the Hereafter at the expense of fulfilling spiritual connection to the Creator. It is this idea that Muslims should be free and secure in practicing their faith that serves as the grounds on which the scholar bases his conviction that most of the legal and political systems in Europe do not restrict Muslim rights to express their beliefs. In keeping true to his belief in the pluralistic vision of Islam, the scholar does not shy from explicating the fallacy in the one-sided Islamist intention of converting the West into an “Islamic” space, which, again, represents the “pluralism-friendly” nature of his model of Islam.
By studying al-Qaradawi’s unhesitating use of ijtihād in his fiqh al-aqalliyyat and Ramadan’s tenacity in rejecting extreme religious literalism, one can easily infer the implicit (yet no less real) message within their rhetoric of the importance of recognizing the fallibility of any scholarly attempt, including their own, at dictating the specific, absolute criteria of “truth” through personal interpretations of the Qur’an and Sunna. In the case of al-Qaradawi’s approach, this message is conveyed mainly by the nonimposing nature of his religious prescriptions, although it may well be unintended on his part, considering the fact that it is readily belied by his disapproval of liberal Muslim voices and thinking. In the case of Ramadan’s approach, this message corresponds to
the “non-standard” nature of alternative ideologies. Nevertheless, the notion of man’s fallibility here is consistent with the universal Muslim belief (though this may not be exclusive to the Islamic tradition) that God is the ultimate judge of mankind, and that man’s well-intended effort to prescribe the way to “truth” is consequently subject to His judgment (as discussed in Chapter 6.4) – hence, the common use of the traditional Arabic expression of wallāhu a’lam (God only knows) by Muslim scholars, including al-Qaradawi, when handing down a decree based on ijtihād. Given the impossibility of knowing the “ultimate” truth, it becomes crucial to support the necessity of privatizing one’s perception of “right” and “truth” (as opposed to imposing it on others) as a prerequisite for living “respectfully” in a shared environment. Theoretically, at least, such open and dynamic nature of al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s thinking may allow their models of European Islam to keep shifting in line with the constantly changing cultural landscape of the modern world.
In addition to their balanced use of taqlīd and ijtihād, al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s portrayals of integrationist ideals, through their concepts of da’wa and shahāda, convey the message that securing national cohesion is as important as maintaining the bond of the Muslim umma. By rejecting the two extremes of isolation and assimilation and the prevalence of deviating (non-Islamic) cultural norms within Muslim societies, and emphasizing the responsibilities that come with the citizenship status that Muslim minorities hold, both scholars manage to formulate a pertinent notion of “balanced loyalty” for reconciling religious identity with citizenship in a nation state, although they take different approaches to its specifics. Al-Qaradawi maintains that both religious identity and national allegiance are separate entities, and that the former
maintain a positive, contributory social presence and a strong integrationist attitude towards the state and wider society. Ramadan sidesteps altogether the position of having to assign greater priority to either religious identity or nationality and chooses instead to portray both as complementary underlying systems that work together to create a coherent multifaceted identity in spite of the fact that they cater to essentially different emphases (the former centers on the philosophical question of “being” and the latter focuses on the question of “spatial belonging”). In the case of conflict between religious beliefs and national values and laws (as shown throughout Chapter 6), al-Qaradawi, while urging Muslims to remain resolute in their commitment to the former, tries to make compromises to comply with the latter (to a certain extent), such as his advice that Muslim women who live in a state where veiling is prohibited in public institutions should abide by the civil law (as highlighted in Chapter 6.2.2). It seems probable that alQaradawi defines “religious beliefs” within a narrow frame, encompassing only explicit precepts that Muslims generally consider “uncompromisable” (e.g., the illegality of homosexuality), as evidenced by his unyielding approaches to some of the issues presented in Chapter 6.2.2 and 6.3.1. Meanwhile, for Ramadan, to respond positively to the ideals of “integration” is itself part of living the “Muslim” life in the West; the Swiss thinker rejects the notion that Muslims cannot be “European” and, similar to alQaradawi, attempts at achieving an equilibrium that is sensitive to the unique characteristics of Muslim minorities’ multidimensional identities, which he believes allows a seamless process of identity negotiation.
Beyond the intangible matters of creed, both scholars make a valiant effort to balance standing up for the fundamental defining markers of Islam that identify one as