Saturday, December 24, 2011

[Kisah dulu-dulu] Memahami dan menangani pemikiran Islam liberal

Nota: Salah satu posting yang menarik dalam perdebatan Liberal Islam vs Conservative ini datang daripada Nori Abdullah. Melalui penulisannya, saya dapat memahami bagaimana seorang profesional muda yang rapat dengan kumpulan `so called liberalist' berfikir. Butiran hujahannya amat jelas dan baik. Bagaimanapun terdapat di beberapa tempat di mana saya tidak bersetuju dengannya secara total. Ikuti perdebatan bahagian ke-3 tentang Islam Liberal dan Konservatif.

From:  "penjejak badai"  
Date:  Thu Dec 6, 2001  4:06 am
Subject:  Liberal Islam vs Conservative Islam (Reply to Nori)

Dear Nori,

Should everyone put forth their argument like yours, I believe we would see a new 
breed of professionals who really appreciate a true intellectual discourse. I 
have to say that I agreed with your points but they have to be refined at 
certain places. I'll try my best....

Firstly, if we want to discuss the stagnation of Islam, we need to identify 
what causes it. In order to do that, we need to look back at the historical events ( as I 
summarised in my part II posting). There were many factors involved. But 
if you really analise them, you'll find that
Islam rose, shined and progressed well when the empire was politically 
stable, the ummah was united and experienced peace.

When there were struggles to keep peace and unity among the muslims, all efforts 
towards developments and progress were either being slowed down or totally stopped. 
So we learned that, in order to progress, the ummah has to be united, and 
the government must maintain certain level of political stability.

But what caused disunity and instability in the first place and lead to the 
stagnation of the ummah? Was it when the leaders and ummah were being 
`conservative', `traditionalist', `extremist', `lax' or `liberal'?

Then we have to define these terms, before we could be sure enough of what 
we are looking for. We could not term neither ourselves nor others with these terms 
should we ourselves do not really know what they mean.

Why do you call a certain group a `liberalist'? Do you see that this group 
is a group of those who have the quality of being broad minded and free from 
prejudice? How broad is `broad'?

Why do you call some people `conservative'? Are they the people who refuse 
to change and oppose changes? Have we checked how they define `changes'?

Which one is more dangerous to Islam? Being `too lax' or being 
`extreme'? Which one lead to the down fall of Islam faster - the `lax' or 
the `extreme'?

Who are the `traditionalists'? People who handing down beliefs from one generation 
to another? Should the method has been the best method available, since no one has 
come out with a more reliable and convincing alternative methods, do we 
expect them to change their methodology out of sudden?

I hope you could really look at these questions and slowly (through 
research), find the answers, and then you'll have a clearer picture of the 
dilemma faced by the muslims now, be it `liberalists' or `extremists'.

If you could get the answer, then try to ask yourself again - are you a 
`liberalist' or are you a `truth seeker' who would like to find sense in 
your belief. If you are the latter, then you will see that the cleric 
institution is still the highest authority to deal with Islamic teachings. 
You will respect them for the knowledge that they have, which you don't. However 
you will always see that you have all the right to ask questions and discuss 
with them intellectually until you get firm and objective answers.

Respect for others' knowledge, is important because this will change the way 
you ask your questions and your concerns. You'll be opened for discussion 
rather to spark rejections. Sometimes, from my observation, such respect were not 
shown and some groups made assumption that they hold higher authority and 
possess better knowledge by the way they commented on certain issues. It 
creates rejection from those who are sympathetic of the cleric institution, those 
who have basic knowledge in Islamic knowledge and its principles and those who look 
at physical appearences, or academic qualifications of the so called 

And, I share your concern that without good research, the clerics 
institution often issue out opinions, which tend to be rejected by the 
so called `liberalists'.

Let us see your arguments paragraph by paragraph:

1. `I was warned.......unconsciously becoming murtad' - you'll not fall into 
`riddah' (apostacy) simply because you questioned on certain issues in 

The prophet SAW said `if they (people) utter shahadah they 
save guard their lives and properties so long as they fulfill its 
responsibility. They are accountable to Allah'.

Ibn al-Qayyim says, `judging contrary to what Allah SWT has 
revealed contains both parts of kufr, major or minor, according to the 
attitude of the person making the judgement. If he believes that a 
judgement must be passed according to what Allah SWT has revealed and 
a punishment decided, but refrains of doing so out of disobedience and 
trangression, in that case he commits minor kufr. But if he believes 
that it is not obligatory and that he is free to act, notwithstanding 
his conviction that it is divine, he then commits a major kufr. But if 
he acts out of ignorance, or makes an unintentional mistake, he is only 
to be judged as a wrong doer.

Minor kufr or wrong doer are not punished like those who commits 

Even the Khawarij (the group which killed Caliph Ali RA and 
misinterpret al-Quran) were not branded `kuffar' by most of the Sunni 
jurist. (check Nayl al Awtar, by Imam al Shawkani)

2. `should answers ONLY come from this tradition?'- let me just say this, 
wisdom is not monopolised by any group in this world. But wisdom and 
`decree' are two different things. Wisdom may come from observation, 
experience, thinking, and guidance. Allah has awarded Muslim with al-quran 
and a prophet to guide the people to find wisdom and virtue. However to be guided by 
al Quran you will need certain tools. And these tools have been tested for 
years to avoid falsehood and misinterpretation. It has lead to stability, 
prosperity and high achievements in the past Muslim glory.

3. `This methodology has apparently perfect' - I would say, if not 100% 
accurate, it is 99.9% accurate. Nothing wrong with the method. Most of the 
time, the things that affect the judgement are input (knowledge) and 
availability of instruments.

Last time each faculty of knowledge is not too complex. But now it is 
imposible for a person to master everything. An Engineer will be an 
engineer, and a doctor will be a doctor.

Those days there were not enough invention of instrument to aid ulama to come 
out with a decree. But now x-ray machine could easily aid ulama to 
issue a decree to prohibit smoking and declares it as haram.

4. `doors of ijtihad is closed' - kindly refer to the latest development of 
ulama's thought. Yusof al-Qardawi, Sheikh al-Tantawi and other leading cleric 
do not hold to that. Kindly be informed that an ustaz, or a bachelor degree 
holder in Syariah are never the same as ulama. They might make wrong 
statements due to their shallow knowledge and lack of 
research. But they could be a reliable source of reference on basic and 
authentic issues.

`they do not contributed to the stagnation of Islam' - YES and NO. But 
kindly check the person's status - whether he is an Ustaz, a bachelor holder, 
specialise in what field, or an ulama. Sometimes when an Ustaz gave opinion 
on something, we shouldn't jump to a conclusion and treat that as a decree.

NO - there are scholars with limited knowledge and inadequate research who 
misinterpret al-quran and hadis, therefore they talk and act nonsense; 
they are those who contributed to the stagnation of ummah.

Women is prohibited from learning, working

But we have to admit also that those who are too lax in practising Islam, 
also contribute a great deal in the downfall of Islam.

5. `I do not believe the liberalist think all the traditions of the ulama 
are conservative, irrelevant and wrong' - May be, but you do not represent 
all of them. You might be one of those with clearer perspective than 
them. But you do not know how they think. I also dont know how they think. I could only 
make assumption and relate to the way they do things.

As I said, give due respect to the person who has better knowledge than you 
in al-Quran and hadis, which you do not have. Respect the specialisation. Or 
else you would duplicate the effort of Zahiriyyah (literalist) group.

But there is another way to overcome this, learn similar way the Islamic Knowledge scholars
learn. Learn from basic to the highest level, get tested, practice 
practically your knowledge, and you could become an authority in that field.

6. why shouldn't they go to the primary source, rather relying on the 
established school of thought.

As I mentioned, please refer to the thought of leading Islamic 
clerics like al-Qardawi and al-Tantawi. If you do not make yourself 
alienated from this sources, you will know that they try their best to 
answers contemporary problems.

7. `liberals do have tradition of their own literature' - which as I 
said is duplicating the effort of Zahiriyyah (literalist) group 
centuries ago.

Jimmy has posted something in relation regarding the issue of 
covering the women head.

9. theocracy in government - This I'll reveal in next posting.

10. the door of interpretation should be kept open - it is always open, but 
to avoid making wrong interpretation, kindly equip yourself with adequate 
tools. Gain knowledge and be an authority of that knowledge, no one is 
stopping you. In fact, people will respect you more.

I hope this will help at the moment. I'm going to reveal further in my next 



From:  "Nori Abdullah"  
Date:  Wed Dec 5, 2001  9:39 am
Subject:  Re: [PROMUDA-Circle] Liberal Islam vs Conservative Islam

Ok... I shall try.

Before embarking to make any contribution to this issue, i.e. outline proper
grounds explaining my critical stand against Abdul Rahman Abdul Talib (as
opposed to hurling a controversial and admittedly unsubstantiated
one-liner), I was warned to be wary of ‘not breaching any fundamentals of
the Islamic faith and thus unconsciously becoming murtad’. Rather than be
staunchly vigilant of 'inadvertently abandoning my faith', I choose instead
to be wary of admonitions that come with a measure of sincereity, but often
with an even greater measure of contempt for those who 'question', likely as
not stemming from a lack of good reasoning.

I write this email in the spirit of ikhtilaf in Islamic discourse, a
recognised tradition of disputation or disagreement granted in areas
relating to different rulings in branches of law, opinion in jurisprudence
and hence interpretation with regards to such matters.

Let me explain the reasons behind my concern that the writer, Abdul Rahman,
appeared to espouse views which to my mind can eventually lead (and has led)
to the stagnation of Islam, i.e. what I initially so carelessly put as
'keeping Islam in the middle ages'. In his critique of the 'liberals', I'd
like to address a point which I think Abdul Rahman may have missed. I think
that voices like Zainah and Farish (and many others who are like-minded) are
raising a very crucial point in being concerned that something as important
as Islam, one's way of life, is far too important to be controlled and
dominated solely by any one group or persons - including a group whose views
are more amenable to the 'liberals' themselves.

The liberals raise questions, issues and concerns on many aspects of the
religion today with regards to how it will respond to the realities of the
here and now, not because they necessarily believe that they know the
answers and have found a better methodology, but because they are seeking
the answers. Sources of such answers must also come from those deemed
qualified by an intellectual and academic tradition refined over 1400 years.
Muslim scholars, ulama, mujtahid, experts on fiqh (jurisprudence) and so
forth must deal with the realities of today in order to back up the claim
that Islam is relevant for all time. The point is, should answers ONLY come
from this tradition? The criticism against traditionalist ulama themselves,
come only when the ulama fail to respond to such issues and questions, often
because it is specifically a reality of today, unlike at any other time

I don't think that the liberals mean to debunk such a tradition (while
insisting that there is something better which they unfortunately themselves
then fail to define). I don't think the liberals have all the answers, and
they never claimed to, but that doesn't mean that it is the traditionalists
and conservatives who do - the point is, no Muslim should assume that we can
now rest easy on our previous laurels because all methodology, if we follow
Abdul Rahman's line of argument, has apparently already been perfected.

How can ulama who firmly believe that their methodology is perfected, who
think that all that Islamic jurisprudence has to offer has already been
found in 1400 years of refined discourse, research etc, who agree that the
doors of ijtihad have closed, reasonably argue that they have not at all
contributed to the stagnation of Islam? Do Muslims then bow their head and
quietly accept that our golden age has come and gone. Are we to live our
lives relying on imitation and regurgitation? Where then is the dynamic
Islam that is able to respond to any reality of any day through its
universal principles of justice and fairness.

I do not think that the liberals and all those who express alternative,
controversial or challenging views necessarily believe that they know better
than the ulama. And I don't believe that they think that all the traditions
of the ulama who are deemed more conservative, are entirely irrelevant or
completely wrong in some way. But I do think that they firmly believe, as I
do, in their right to question, criticise and demand a response from these
traditions, including the right to question, criticise and demand a response
to the outcomes of the initial responses/answers from these traditions
themselves. If these methodologies and traditions truly have been refined
and perfected, they should have no problems in responding to any question of
the day, rather than having to resort to reactions that often boil down to a
questioning of the critic's so-called Islamic credentials and 'methodology',
or a warning, or a call for silence - lest they end up 'unconsciously
becoming murtad'.

Islam was historically able to grow and create the well-respected tradition
in areas like jurisprudence and others that it now has, precisely because
the learned of the day had to respond to various challenges that came to
them from within and outside of Islam. Rather than simply challenge
liberals, reformists or anyone who questions opinions or methodoligies
already established in their traditions, I would like the ulama,
traditionalists or otherwise to work at responding to the concerns and
issues that have been raised. And why shouldn't they make the effort to go
back to the primary sources of the Qur'an, hadith and sunnah rather than
simply relying on the established schools of thought presented by the
various Mazhab or schools of thought that we alerady have?

As Tun pointed out in his email, Islam has the traditions of maslahah,
istihsan, qiyyas and others. Do we then take a step back as we seem to have
done for so long, and rely instead solely on established opinions already
outlined in tradition, practically rejecting all else? I would also like to
refer to his analogy concerning the logic of seeking out an authority and
how one should not reasonably go to someone who is not a doctor if he/she
was ill. While Tun makes a good point, I think that following the analogy
one can also say that it is reasonable to approach another doctor or
physician or surgeon, should one be unsatisfied with the diagnosis or finds
that the treatment/reccomendation is not working.

I fear the rising trend of what appears to be a clergy of sorts in Islam.
To my mind, this may end up being a sad aberration of the tradition of
'democracy' that Islam has had with respect to permissible discourse, and
also an aberration to the foundations of Islam that are not premised on some
form of institutionalised medium between the believer and God. Why should
something that directly influences everyone's (Muslims) lives come under the
exclusive control of particular groups? And as a citizen of a democratic
country, one also has the right to speak and be involved in any process that
seeks to govern and rule on his/her life.

To Abdul Rahman, I would also like to point out that liberals do have a
tradition of their own literature. Since Abdul Rahman appears to be
familiar with Farish, I'm sure he has also noticed that Farish rarely fails
to have a point of reference or good grounding for his arguments, whether
you agree with them or not. And since he's familiar with Zainah, he would
also know that she is not in the habit of coming up with her stand and
arguments based on 'mere rhetoric'. I don't think it is a bad thing to NOT
have 1400 years of literature flooding the market, an abundance of arguments
etc. I'm sure that those whom we now consider experts and scholars in
various fields, did not necessarily have, hundreds of years ago when they
began their work, such a tradition of reference - and that might have been a
very good thing.

I stand to be corrected but it appears to me that Abdul Rahman is arguing
that it is a positive thing to have ulama i.e. a theocracy in government and
thus power. I don't argue that the return of Muslims to the rule of clerics
and ummah has largely been brought about by the failure of
secular/liberalist regimes (I would argue the leaders rather than the
system) but I do not believe that the ummah of a community stands to benefit
from the rule of theocracy where interpretation, rules and policies are the
sole discretion of an elite who by dint of being religious scholars are
accorded ultimate authority. It is perfectly understandable to find people
turning towards 'religion' when they believe all else has failed in
government. But the danger, as many Iranians have found, is rejecting one
form of extremism for another. (Same thing with Attaturk in Turkey, just
the other way around)

The basis of the stand on interpretation by so-called liberalists is clear
to me - that the doors of interpretation should be kept open, always. Islam
should be universal, democratic and premised on justice and fairness. I
believe that Islam is, and I will continue to insist that this is a valid
viewpoint, just as valid as the views of all those who cite 1400 years of
tradition or otherwise.

-Nori Abdullah-

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