Monday, October 09, 2006

***Non Skeptical Essays has moved***

assalamu alaykum

I have been asked by my friend Abu Muhammad to inform readers of this blog he has moved. He will now be blogging at:

So please update your links, blogrolls, feeds etc.

Abu Muhammad explains more here at his new blog:

The real reason I have shifted my old blog to WordPress is because I am unable to manage the pain and mental agony any longer. My frustration is multiplied as access to blogger is not only blocked (in Pakistan) but users (Pakistani) who have switched to blogger beta cannot even log in to their dashboards anymore. To add insult to the injury, google’s blogger management is showing nothing but divine unconcern.

I am neither a versatile commentator like Thabet, Eteraz or Haroon nor an ardent and passionate blogger like Dr. Shabana Mir, Svend White or Mozaffar. I am just a reader who is desperate to make sense of what he reads and cast off his skepticism through the clarity of expression. I dont write a lot but being completely away from blogging makes me feel as if I am loosing the track of my thoughts and slackening intellectually.

Till the time WordPress updates their tool to import entries from blogger beta, there is no way I am able to bring all the posts and comments from the old blog. I’ll soon set up a page here to give a walkthrough of whatever I have written uptill now which is worthy enough to be mentioned.

So, once again, please update your links, blogrolls, feeds etc.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ramadhan 1427H: Culture of Consumption

I have pondered a lot and finally concluded the I belong to a culture of consumption.

Try asking a Muslim in Pakistan about the first thing that spontaneously comes to mind about the month of Ramadhan and in most of the cases the answer will somehow be related to consumption. The quantity reigns with significance throughout the holy month; may it be variety of food or recitations of Quran. Large hoardings all along the road are persuading people to consider their special Iftaar offers in order to consume maximum food with minimum disbursal of money. The most popular Imam in the vicinity is the one who recites fast and relieves the burden of standing too long in Qiyaam. My friends disagree with me; their contention being that what I am positing with a religious slant is merely a cultural thing.

So I stepped back, brooded over and realised that I too have an equal proclivity for consumption like my cultural siblings. As far as fasting is concerned religion has failed to transform this culture of consumption into one of abstinence. It may also mean that the culture has successfully deformed the kernel of revelation producing nothing beyond ritual.

The month of fasting does not bring along a climate conducive for sowing seeds of taqwa anymore; it has just become a celebrated festival in our part of the world.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pope should not waste time reading all the people who wrote about Ibn Hazm; he should instead read Ibn Hazm.

If Pope's evidence (the famous 14th century dialogue) to beef up his argument against Islam being a violent religion was fragile, flimsier was this allusion that Islamic teachings defy all the inherent reason in the universe. In fact, his remarks were pathetically blatant lacking sufficient concern for historical reality and an in-depth knowledge of Muslim philosophy. After reading the text of Ratzinger's speech quite a few times, I am still perplexed regarding the line of his reasoning; namely that faith in an absolutely transcendent God whose acts and will cannot be grasped completely by human reason can possibly lead one to conceive His images which are capricious and may be against all truth and goodness. The argument becomes further ironic as Pope strangely chooses to abduce views of a multifarious Muslim writer who can equally be classified as a quasi-liberal writer/poet, a literal jurist, a controversial philosopher, an innovative grammarian or above all a compassionate ethicist.

Even scanty readings of Ibn Hazm would fail to portray him primarily as an absolute fatalist which Joseph Ratzinger was able to do inadvertently for his Christian audience with such an ease. The intuitive reason which Ratzinger calls creative and self communicating when combined with sound human perception and understanding of language is the first and foremost source of all human knowledge according to Ibn Hazm. It was one of his earliest projects to advocate a sound system of logic so that the revealed word of God can be defended without taking refuge in circular arguments. Times right before his were famous for determining value of logic as a means for attaining absolute truth. There were debates, for instance between Christian logician Abu Bishr Matta bin Yunus and the Muslim philologist Abu Said al Sirafi in early tenth century, resolving controversies whether logic is a form of universal expression or not. Ibn Hazm wrote extensively against the holders of extreme view of man tamantaqa tazandaqa (whoever practices logic practices heresy). In reposnse to his opponents, who objected with the counter-argument that early generations of Muslims did not resort to demonstrative argumentation and proofs rooted firmly in logic, he replied that they witnessed the revelation directly and were not exposed to contrastive beliefs.

An alternate undertaking in parallel was to refute the philosophers and theologians who elevated logic to a station where it can be used independantly as a means for attaining truth thereby superceding and replacing revelation. Many consider him as a pioneer in methodological rejection of hellenistic metaphysics of that time which was voiced by many Muslim philosophers with slight shifts in semantics. Here, the Pope is partially right as Ibn Hazm advocates an unbridgeable gap between the Creator and creation. However the underlying aim in Ibn Hazm's discourse is not to establish that human beings are not responsible for their own actions by being submitted to Divine Will but to define a supreme station for God where there is no room left for speculations. Ibn Hazm achieves this with ease as he has the revealed word of God to fall back to, and which he uses as a touchstone to establish veracity of any claim regarding His ultimate nature.

Ratzinger however speculates erroneously when he hypothesize that Ibn Hazm's God could have done everything against the truth and virtue. Ibn Hazm does not push his God away in order to grant him more divinity (as the Pope contends) but asserts that we cannot comprehend fully the particulars of God's wisdom and will instead remain in need of His favours always. He pits these arguments against some of the Mutizilites who were presumably in favor of basing ethics on human reasoning, even at the cost of statements in the Quran. His often misunderstood contention that God can reward evil and punish good is completely subjective as he never claimed that God in fact does so. His contentions are rooted in a constantly recurring theme that humanity always needs objectively sustainable communication from the Creator as we cannot achieve salvation through reason alone. He and his God calls it the divine mercy and love, on which depends the destiny of all creation; and that is the only real analogy as far as Ibn Hazm is concerned.

Ibn Hazm can easily be misunderstood if his different positions are not disentangled carefully. Moreover his various intellectual stances can be put forth as an evidence for contradictory assertions. He tried all his life to bridge gaps between reason and revelation and describe the human condition and thought in relation to revealed word of God. His literature is depictive of human beauty and love of God. According to Ibn Hazm, we constantly need God to reveal us who He is, why He created us and what should we do and what we should not in order to attain His pleasure. It is one of His favors that He gave us the power to reason and contemplate both within our selves and with others. However all human contemplation, cogitation and criticism should take revelation as the starting point.

On a different note, I completely agree with what thabet has said and do share his feelings. Pope's speech may have been full of inaccurate assertions and misreadings of Muslim theology (kalam) yet he has asked some challenging question which should be responded satisfactorily by contemporary Muslim scholarship. His major contention is that Islamic weltanschauung incorporates violence as a valid methodology and this world view is theologically rooted in the understanding of God's nature and character. Why should these questions invoke anger, hate and murder instead of inciting positive and objective confrontation on intellectual fronts.

Among 20+ people that I have asked in the past week, none cared to read what Pope has actually said though they were aware that he has said something very wrong. A Christian member of Pakistan's parliament who proposed the house to ask clarification from Vatican before passing a unanimous resolution of condemnation was forced to sit in protest. No major or minor newspaper (of Pakistan) took pains to translate and publish the entire speech or even its controversial parts. However none of them failed to make a great news story out of it. Its sad that Muslims of the world seems to be a big rabble lead by the pirates of intellect. Even sadder is the realization that there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

GBIT: Hayy ibn Yaqzan (Alive, Son of Awake)

My next choice for this series is Hayy ibn Yaqzan by Ibn Tufail - a Spanish Muslim philosopher, physician and scientist from 12th century. Simon Ockley's translation can be found here in pdf. A better and modern translation is by Lenn Goodman but it is not available on the internet unfortunately.

Its a story of a boy, the nature of whose existence was shadowy to an extent that there are two completely rivaling accounts of his origins. One account ascribes his origin to spontaneous generation, deducing from intricate details of matter that eventually evolved into life. The other account is necessarily a legend, a human drama in which a royal infant grows up away from society and culture. The boy represents an ideal man with an innate desire to 'know'. Being totally isolated from 'intelligent' life he gradually becomes morally conscious. He discovers shame, jealousy, aspiration, desire, eagerness to possess and practical reasoning with time and as his doe foster mother gets old, he learns to love and realises death as she dies.

Its an extended (but not tediously protracted) philosophical narrative, encompassing all forms of knowledge and discovery. To know is necessarily an obligation for Hayy ibn Yaqzan. He desperately seeks to understand his being in time and locate his space in cosmos. His search guides him through various disciplines of knowledge; for instance anatomy, physiology, metaphysics and spirituality. Discovering the unity of cosmos and its boundedness through reasoning, he discovers God and through his self imposed [quasi]ascetic 'code of conduct' he finds a way of his salvation and felicitousness. At the age of 35, when he had not communicated with anyone except himself, he meets Absal; an anchorite refugee from a land of coventional 'true believers'. Absal is a perfect model of a religious man, a zealot who has learnt many langauges to gain mastery of scriptural exegesis. His first reaction is a deep sense of fear for his faith as he encounters an exotic being i.e. Hayy. But his fears are dropped soon as he comes to know that Hayy do not have a clue of any langauge. In good faith he tries to teach him to speak and communicate in order to make him aware of knowledge and religion. However he soon discovers that Hayy is already aware of the 'truth'; to envision which, his own (Absal's) intellect bears nothing except revealed symbols.

Hayy formally proselytizes judging Absal's good intentions and the veracity of his message and as the duo associate with one another, Absal introduces Hayy to his culture and people. As Hayy gets familiarised with this civilisation, two basic questions continue to puzzle him in great deal. Firstly, "Why people must need symbols to assimilate and express the knowledge of the Divine?" and continue understanding matters of Divine world literally. Secondly, being completely oblivious to ritualistic sense, he continues to wonder why there is an obligation to indulge one's self in rituals of prayer and purity. Though he never regrets submitting himself (in good faith) he kept on wondering why people of this 'religion' consume more than their body needs, possess and nurture property diligently, neglect truth by purposefully indulging in passtimes and fall an easy prey to their desires. He finally decides to accompany Absal to his land, thinking that it might be through him that people encompass the true vision and 'realize' truth rather than 'believing' it with their seemigly narrow kens.

What follows is a tale of a neophyte philosopher teaching people to get above their literalism and open another eye towards reality. His audience on the other hand, recoil in their apprehensions and being intellectual slaves to their prejudices close their ears. He consequently realises that these people are unable to go beyond their usual appetites and proclivities. He also grasps that masses of the world are only capable to recieve through symbols and regulatory laws rather than being receptive to unstained and plain truth. Both men return back to their isolated world but this time Hayy as the teacher and Absal as his disciple. They continue searching their ecstasies until they met their ends.

Besides being a surpassingly great philosophical romance, its a unique story told by a philosopher who characterised himself as an autodidact. It was a fictional thought experiment to bridge gaps between reason and revelation, struggling to make it known that rejecting any of theses would mean rejecting a part of truth and trying to laydown a perpetually self evolving construct where reason is necessarily the caliph of revelation. It is a must read for all the times and a tradition that should always be kept alive.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Is Quran a simple and straightforward document?

To say that Quranic language is completely devoid of any lexical ambiguities may lead one to infer that atleast one interpretation can be claimed as universal. This would be a rendering which in principle can be accepted as absolutely monolithic if correct analytical tools are agreed upon by all. The argument can be extended to contend that one can reach the 'true' purport of an ayah primarily through literary methods. Ruminating whether one can be sure to discover this original intent and limning methods to substantiate authenticity of any such discovery is not my present objective. I just want to assert in this entry that Quranic language is partially polysemous and its not a very straightforward document to interact with.

This characteristic embedded in the very design of Arabic language should not be confused with two seemingly contradictory facts emanating from the Quran itself. One, that Its a perspicuous Book with clear verses of established meaning and two, that It contains firm (Muhkamaat) and ambiguous (Mutashabihaat) verses. Shah Wali Ullah presents an exposition of both these claims in al-Fauz al-Kabir fi Usual al-Tafsir. He lucubrates that when Almightly says in Quran that its a clear book revealed in Arbic proper with unambiguous and clear verses,
the intention is to avoid going deep into the interpretation of allegorical verses, in drawing the picture of realities of God's attributes, in determining the doubtful and in the narration of stories in minuteness.
On the other hand firm vesres are those from which the masters of speech (ahle lughat) can take only one meaning while ambiguous are those which admit duality in meanings. An example of this are words employed which are common to two meanings for instance lamas[tum], which means both the sexual intercourse and as well as touching with hand. Another case is when there happens to be a possibility of both the copulative conjunction and commencement of new sentence; for instance the verse Wa ma Yala'm Tawilahu Illalah wa al-Raasikhun fil Ilm. Intersetingly, the import of Shah Wali Ullah's explanation implies that the verse of Mukam and Mutashabih ayahs is itself abstruse and ambiguous to some degree. There are of course various other reasons, for instance different figures of speeches causing obscurities in text. Works on the language of Quran are full of such discussion and would perhaps move me later to dedicate a complete post. The present concern, as I have mentioned above, is regarding various interpretations of seemingly firm and unequivocal portions of Quranic text.

It has reached through various reports that even Prophet's companions sometimes understood various verses differently. Anas narrates that Umar, while addressing from pulpit, mentioned fakihaatin wa abba (fruits and fodder) and said that we understand fakiha but it is very difficult to say what is ab'ba. Ibn Abbas narrates that he did not know about the meaning of faatiris samawat till two bedouins came to him with a dispute, giving him an indirect clue what that phrase might have meant. Suyyuti includes long lists of words and phrases with their meanings narrated from Dhahak and Ibn Abbas. Knowledge of connotations associated with different words is also necessary to help eliminate the 'wrong' interpretation. An important question is regarding the basis to know whether a particular connotation understood by the interpreter was originally intended or not. A valid example is Ibn Abbas' (who is one of the major source of classical exegetes) inclusion of music while explaining phrases like lahw al-Hadith and wa antum Saamiddoon.

What then do we mean by agreed upon universals of language? What we must know in order to determine the reference of an expression? Is it legitimate to disregard and discard agreed upon historical interpretations using tools of linguistic and literary criticism only? Isn't it true that what we choose to eliminate also has valid basis in language though not always in historical context of revelation? What is the correct priority of sources of understanding Quran? What comes first in Quranic hermeneutics - knowledge of language, tribal dialects and jahilia poetry or Hadith, context of revelation and understanding of Companions and their students? Is it a valid assertion that understanding of Quran would always remain evolving and there would always be room for new interpretations?

The fact that answer to these questions are multifarious and sometimes extremely complicated implies that Quran by itself is not a very straightforward document. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say (in the words of Fazlur Rahman) that Quran is as 'straightforward' and as organically coherent as life itself.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Independance! Really?

It felt uneasy in my stomach when I got up this morning. The overwhelming contentment which I used to have 20 years ago as a child was not there.

I am still struggling intellectually on both fronts. Past and Present.

My frequent visits to history are making it further obscure. The constant search of ideology keeps me dangling between the likes of Ayesha Jalal and Mukhtar Masood. Knowing is afflictive if you have no clue how to deconstruct.

Present is not animating either. As Ayaz Amir puts it, these are not very proud days to be a Pakistani.

And if all this was not enough, it was advised not to visit public places on 14th as it is not safe out there. We are not as grievously affected as Faiz when he wrote this; but most of it is still valid:

Nisar mein teri galion peh ai watan, keh jahan
Chali hai rasm keh koi na sar utha keh chale
Jo koi chahane wala tawaaf ko nikle
Nazar chura keh chale, Jismo-jan bacha keh chale

Hai ahl-e-dil ke liye ab yeh nazm-e-bast-o-kushaad
Keh sang-o-khisht muqayyad hain aur sag aazad

Bahut hain zulm keh dast-e-bahana-ju keh liye
Jo chund ahl-e-junoon tere naam leva hain
Baney hain ahl-e-hawas muddai bhi, munsif bhi
Kisey wakil karein, kis sey munsifi chahen

Magar Guzaarane walon ke din guzarate hain
Tere firaq mein yun subh-o-shaam kartey hain

Bujha jo rozan-e-zindan to dil yeh samjha hai
Keh teri maang sitaron se bhar gai hogi
Chamak uthe hain salasil to humne jaana hai
Keh ab sahar tere rukh par bikhar gai hogi

Gharaz tasawwur-e-shaam-o-sahar mein jeete hai
Giraft-e-saaya-e-diwaar-o-dar mein jeete hain

Yuhin hamesha ulajhti rahi hai zulm se khalq
Na unki rasm nai hai, na apni reet nai
Yuhin hamesha khilaye hain humne aag mein phool
Na unki haar nai hai, na apni jeet nai

Isi sabab se falak ka gilaa nahin karate
Tere firaq mein hum dil bura nahin karate

Gar aaj tujhse juda hain to kal baham hongey
Yeh raat bhar ki judai to koi baat nahin
Gar aaj auj peh hai taal'a-e-raqeeb to kya
Yeh chaar din ki khudai to koi baat nahin

Jo tujhse ahd-o-wafa ustuvaar rakhtey hain
Ilaaj-e-gardishe lailo-nihaar rakhate hain

One year from now, probably in the midst of another discontented summer, I have to start narrating my boys the story of Pakistan. I know they would hear with interest and believe all of it just like I believed it when it was first narrated to me.

I make a resolve to myself this August. I would not pass on this story as it was recounted to me. I would just give them enough to ask new questions. I would take them to the past and let them unfold it all their lives. This might be a first firm step towards disenchantment and collective contentment of the present.

Long live Pakistan.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

GBIT: al-Ittiqan fi Ulum al-Quran

GBIT is a signifier for Great Books of Islamic Tradition, a series which starts with this post. I would not be doing the formal review and would rather like it to be a quickly readable introduction to the work.

Jalal al-Din Abd al-Rahman bin Abu Bakr al-Suyuti (1445 - 1505) was a Shafii jurist and achieved the repute of a hafiz and muhaddith. Gustav Flugel lists 561 works attributed to Jalaluddin al-Suyuti ranging from tomes of hundreds of pages to pamphlets and small treatises. Suyuti is exceptional in encompassing most of the preceding sources into his works. He penned no less than 8 works on different aspects of Quran and co-authored one of the widely taught exegesis with his teacher Jalaluddin al-Mahalli.

According to Hajji Khalifa, al-Ittiqan is actually an expansion of al-Takhbir fi Ulum al-Tafsir which was written by Suyuti as an introduction to Majma al-Bahrayn wa Matla'al-Badrayn - a voluminous commentary which is refered in many other works by the author but could not be traced so as to establish whether the author was able to complete it or not. In the process of revising and enlarging al-Takhbir, Suyuti made use of Balqini's Mawaqi'al Ulum and Zarkashi's al-Burhan fi Ulum al-Quran.

Al-Ittiqan is extremely elaborate in its width and gives a detailed exposition of 80 different fields concerning the reading, writing and understanding of Quran. This includes not only the disciplines derived from holy Quran but also the principles which facilitate this derivation. While introducing all these disciplines in the introductory chapter, Suyuti writes:

These 80 categories are chosen so as to include various branches of knowledge that are interrelated and if each of these branches were dealt with seperately, there would have been more than 300 disciplines. There are seperate books on many of these areas of study and I have read most of them. The books which are written on similar lines as my book are very few but these do not come close to the width of subjects that I have expounded upon here.

Besides covering usual disciplines like a count of Huruf and Kalima'at, history of compilation and organisation, reasons and places of revelation, Nasikh & Mansukh (abrogation), Tajwid (rules of recitation), lughat (lexical analysis), names of reciters & memorisers, principles of exegesis and grades of exegetes, the book contains some really unique dimensions of approaching the Quran. I am inclined to list few of these unusual ways of exploration. These are:

  • Parts of Quran which were exposed through the tongue of Companions.
  • Chapters of Quran which were revealed with an accompanied group of angels.
  • Parts of Quran which were also revealed to previous Messengers.
  • Non Arabic words in Quran and differences of opinion regarding the contention itself.
  • Branches of knowledge which were derived from Quran.
  • Quranic oaths.
  • Dialogues in Quran.
  • Ambiguities in Quran.
  • Etiquettes of writing Quran.
This book is not meant to be read from cover to cover in few sessions. Its more of a researcher's companion - one of the oldest and most elaborate reference of studying or accessing holy Quran. Its greatness does not lie in its profoundness and depth but the extremity of breadth and the surpassing comprehensiveness with which the author establishes the richness of the greatest book on earth.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Reviewing the Debate on Hudood Ordinance

If the premise was that Hudood Ordinance is problematic, the debate was a non sequitur. But it doesn't come as a great surprise because debates and discussions are never the usual movers towards reaching conclusions in Pakistan. However this debate was not irksome like the most of the rest which we compulsively witness everyday on tv in search of a tinge of wisdom.

Javed Ahmed Ghamidi and Dr Muhammad Tufail Hashmi were teamed up to object the ordinance and its implementation and Mufti Muneeb ul Rahman and Maulana Abdul Malik were there to defend it.

The Initial Remarks:
Dr Hashmi and Mufti Muneeb were alloted 5 minutes each to make their respectives stands clear to the house. The first speaker Dr Hashmi said that the contentions of ordinance being within the injunctions of Quran and Sunnah are grossly erroneous. 81 out of its 101 clauses are not related in any way to Quran and Sunnah. These procedural clauses are subject to change by judiciary and legislature any time. The rest which are presented as hudud have been incoherently picked up from Quran & Sunnah without reflecting upon the nature of crime and criminal. As a result hundreds of women were kept in jails for years waiting for hadd to be implemented. There is a deterioration in the state of law and order as enactment of the law itself gives loopholes to misuse it. The resentment compiled over years ultimately led different groups of society to talk against the Islamic law in general.

Rather than commenting on the ordinance, Mufti Muneeb began with a protest (in his alloted time) that hearts of the people of Pakistan are deeply attached with Islam. Since no one can talk openly against the hudud due to fear of inviting strong criticism from people, they are actually trying to get the complete ordinance repealed. It is similar how many people who want to criticise Islam end up criticising the maulvi. There wont be any new revelation delineating the procedures for implementation of punishments. Experts can only comment on the errors in implementation but complete ordinance cannot be revoked. He rejected it as a propaganda that women were mistreated using the ordinance per se. He confirmed the juristic ruling that women should not be put in jails and said that taazira'at in the ordinance should be removed and made part of the Pakistan Penal Code instead. Rather than discussing the ambiguities related to zina bil raza (adultery) and zina bil jabr (rape) in ordinance he irrelevantly went into history of Islamic law and gave an example or two that both crimes were differentiated by Islamic jurists throughout history.
[In my view, Dr Hashmi's presentation was accurate enough keeping in view the scarcity of time. His main points can be understood further in the light of his book. I dont want to be accused of pleonasm in trying to prove the absurdity of Mufti Muneeb's method of argument. As I have already said in the start, it was not a classical argument in favor of the ordinance - it was just an irrelevance indulgence into emotionalism.]

Role of Police in Implementing the Ordinance:
A movie was played showing women who were in jails since three years (and more) without evidence. The recent case proceedings of Aruna and Muazzam Ali (who were present on the occassion) were also shown. In response to moderators' questions Aruna replied that both of them (she and her husband Muazzam) were caught by the police after an FIR was launched under hudud ordinance by her parents who said that Muazzam has kidnapped their daughter. In the courtroom magistrate didn't pay heed to whatever she said and kept looking at her father. The overall response of judiciary was pathetic and she thought about requesting the mainstream ulema to help her.

In response to a question regarding how to resolve complications arising due to false FIRs, Maulana Abdul Malik said that police should never chase the adulterers at first place. Totally disregarding that an ambiguous ordinance adds to the complications, he put the entire blame on the system of police reminding the house that its a British system. Making this comment further absurd, he added that police should be well versant with Quran and Sunnah [thereby agreeing, though he would be unaware of this subtlety, that requisite awareness about any law may be a prerequisite of its application]. Mufti Muneeb said that Anglo-Saxon law equates FIR with a nass (reasoning from a known injunction - a valid shari'i evidence).

In response to another question whether police should record the FIR for adultery at all, Dr Hashmi said that police has no role in cases of zina bil raza. Javed Ghamidi said that police should demand four witnesses before recording the FIR and Quran is clear on this. That was perhaps the only point in the complete debate where all the panelists agreed.

The Issue of Qadhaf:
The point of concern before the house was that qadhaf (punishment for slander) in Zina Ordinance cannot be exercised unless the case is re-prosecuted. That was perhaps the best part in the complete debate in terms of mirthfulness as well as deep frustration. I present this diatribe here from my notes.

Abdul Malik: No seperate legislation should be done for qadhaf. Prophet (pbuh) applied qadhaf as well as hadd in cases of zina. Judge is a legislator as well as an implementer of law.
Mufti Muneeb: It is necessary that people like Aruna should come to judge and ask for their qisaas (retaliation) because qadhaf is a kind of qisaas.
Javed Ghamidi: No. It may not be necessary that women should come to judge as this is against their honor according to norms of our society. In addition to that its an issue of procedural law and there is nothing in Quran and Sunnah which can be used to establish that women should come to judge demanding hadd-e-qadhaf to be implemented on one who has blamed them falsely.
Tufail Hashmi: The complete ordinance of qadhaf is ambiguous. Did Ayesha (r) formally demanded the hadd-e-qadhaf. The case of Mughira bin Shu'ba (r) is another example when hadd-e-qadhaf was implemented automatically.
Javed Ghamidi: The court has all the right to exercise hadd-e-qadhaf without a formal petition.
Mufti Muneeb asks Javed Ghamidi: How can court send forces to identify people who are falsely blaming others?
Javed Ghamidi: I am talking about a specific case which is already in court and it has been proved that accuser was wrong.
Abdul Malik: Ideally a judge should be a mujtahid (an independant jurist) in limited capacity.
Javed Ghamidi: I have been stating categorically since few years now that either the requisite amendments should be made in the ordinance or the complete ordinance should be repealed.
Abdul Malik [outbursts]: He [while poiniting towards Ghamidi] is actually opining that hudud Allah should be repealed.
Javed Ghamidi: I have no doubt that implementation of hudud Allah is obligatory but the ordinance under discussion is made according to human understanding and can be repealed or amended.
Abdul Malik [shouts]: This is a conspiracy against hudud of Allah and we would never let it happen in this country.
[After that moderators intervened and sought clarification from Javed Ghamidi who re-clarified his already clarified stance which had been grasped by everyone viewing the debate except the two opposing panelists.]
Does Zina bil Jabr Invoke Hadd?
Speaking first, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi said that zina bi jabr should be dealt with under the law of hiraabah (maleficence in land) as expounded by verse 5:33. He explained that rape is a multiple crime involving adultery as well as harassment and molestation and Prophet (pbuh) himself defferentiated between both on number of occassions. Dr Hashmi said that evidence in cases of zina and zina bil jabr are different. The ayah that noble women should come out of their houses covered was specifically revealed so that they should not be a subject of sexual harrassment. He gave examples of Maliki Jurists like Qadi Iya'd and Qadi Ibn Arabi (the jurist and not the sufi) who believed that rape should be dealt with under the law of hiraabah. Mufti Muneeb disagreed and said that zina bil jabr if proved invokes rajm (stonning to death). Abdul Malik said that there is no need to do ijtihad when Quran is clear.

Amendments Proposed by Panelists:
Mufti Muneeb suggested that all the procedural clauses and punsihments which are not hudud (therefore taaziraat) should be excluded from the ordinance and made part of PPC and a qadi who is also a qualified jurist should be included in the system. There is no question of repealing the complete law. Maulana Abdul Malik said that he agrees with Mufti Muneeb and gave another emotive political statement (which has now become a trademark of MMA) that no disguised conspiracy against Hudud would be tolerated. He reiterated that police and judges should be trained according to Islam.

Javed Ghamidi quickly presented five of his main objections against the ordinance. These are:
1. Adultery should be explicitly differentiated with rape not only in terms of definition (which it does now) but in terms of procedural methods and their implementation.
2. The ordinance in its current form applies punishment according to the degree of evidence. It should be recodified to invoke punishment on presence or absense of punishment.
3. There should be no gender discrimination in the application of ordinance.
4. Cases of rape should be dealt with according to law of hiraabah.
5. Appropriate clauses should be added to the ordinance to explicate the degree of doubt that can be given for the benefit of the accused.

Dr Hashmi while agreeing with Ghamidi said that any new law should not be projected as a law of Allah so that there will always remain the room for improvement and change.
Viewing the debate was another very frustrating experiencing for me. Not because the lack of objective scholasticism on part of panelists in favour of the ordinance but lack of sense in people of media regarding how to conduct and organise such debates. First of all the title "Grand Debate on Hudood Ordinance" was a misnomer as the Ordinance of Zina was the actual topic of discussion. Not even a brief summary of the agenda was presented to educate the panelists as well as audience to avoid repetitive digression. The choice of hosts was also confusing as both were journalists specialised in political and social issues rather than discussing conflicting religious interpretations. As a result it was more of an informal discussion based on conventional wisdom rather than sources of religion and law. I still fail to find the reason why a person like Maulana Abdul Malik was invited as a panelist who just kept on nodding his head in favour of whatever Mufti Muneeb uttered. Not to mention his funny and caustic remarks against panelists on other side.

The only good that can come out of such debates is the exposure of actual depth of scholarship of mainstream ulema who have more excess to people due to their politicised and emotive slogans. The in-depth scholarship is not popular enough to come out of the books and reach streets even in cases where lines of religious interpretation and social reforms crisscross. This was a indeed a good platform for people to get acquainted with faces representing religion on a different intellectual plane and for a different cause than meeting twice a year for sighting moons.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Grand Debate on Hudood Ordinance

Zara Sochieye (think for a moment) is a series of debates/discussions on various conflicts within Pakistani society arising due to contradicting interpretations. Here is an excerpt of the ad from Geo TV website:
The Hudood Ordinance was enforced in 1979 during the rule of Gen. Zia ul Haq. Since its inception there has been a great debate on the Hudood laws – a debate that has involved people belonging to all walks of life – religious scholars, lawyers and human rights activists. The debate continues, without any resolution, till this day.

GEO aims to bridge the gaps that have been created within the Pakistani society and bring people together to the same platform to discuss matters with knowledge, tolerance and integrity. GEO will focus its programming and discussion on the most controversial law within the Hudood, which is the Zina Ordinance. There is one group of people who believe that the injunctions within the Ordinance are in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah. There is another group that believes that the Hudood Ordinance is man made which has lead to a misrepresentation of Islam.
The current debate (which will be in Urdu) primarily features Javed Ahmed Ghamidi and Mufti Muneeb ul Rahman (a mainstream barelwi scholar from Pakistan). There are few other speakers also and a considerable portion of time is alloted to views/grievances of audience which are mainly lawyers and feminist activists.

I hope it will be aired on Geo US and Geo UK as well. Please confirm local TV schedules.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

'Halal' Biros

Is it competitive advantage on the cost of insinuating inadvertently what is not Islam?

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Amal-e-Ahle Madina (3) - Imam Shafii's Criticism

If Imam Shafii's charge on the Medinese school has to be expressed with just one word, it would perhaps be 'arbitrariness' or more precisely, 'inconsistency'. However the aim at present is not to ruminate over the entire significance of his criticism but just the aspect of relying over 'practice' rather than 'traditions'.

Shafii's case against Madinese is multidimensional and perhaps the most misunderstood partly because of its complexity and partly because he was the pioneer in laying down the foundations of Usul al-Fiqh. The latter though seemingly subtle is most telling because the reference to the problems of Usul (methodology) in his predecessors' writings are occassional and peripheral as opposed to the thoroughgoing discussions that he has produced in his writings. The study of critcism directed at this alleged lack of method is apt to impair our vision unless we disentangle the different dimensions and set them against what is percieved as Medinese school in Shafii's time. Only in this manner we might be able to visualise the lack of methodology in Medinese schools as a methodology itself.

I have already presented this beauteous simplicity of method in words of Malik and an equally uncomplicated riposte by a worthy contemporary. Its important to understand that Shafii's criticism against the principle of amal-e-ahle Madina (practice of Madinites) is not against the practice of Madinites per se (which will obviously be understood as an intrinsic disapproval of practice if seen in the light of an equally important and strong case in favor of Hadith [1]) but against arbitrariness and inconsistency of approach.

In my opinion, major part of Shafii's criticism against the practice of Madinites (as source of legal doctrine) should be seen in the light of his discussions of definition and validity of Ijmaa (juridical consensus) as a source of various rulings of Fiqh. However the times when this criticism should be seen as strengthening the case of Hadith is when Malikis prefer practice over Khabr-e-Ahad (a solitary hadith) and they always do so when both sources lead to diametrical conclusions. Keeping the discussion in the perimeters of Ijmaa, Shafii is found presenting his case repeatedly on two lines of reasoning. First and foremost is that a valid Ijmaa does not derive its cogency from the consensus of jurists of one region (Madina in this case) but becomes binding only if jurists of all the regions do agree about a ruling. Secondly, there are scholars from Madina disagreeing with the rulings regarding which Madinese bring the claim of Ijmaa as an evidence. This is the same line of reasoning which was used by Laith ibn Saad previously.

Even extending the discussion inside the realms of Hadith, it cannot remain uninvolved with the intricacies of Ijmaa. This is because Madinites according to Shafii cannot bring anything as a proof even when they are opining against an ahad hadith (a solitary tradition from Prophet) except a claim of consensus or a practice of some companion. On the other hand he brings argument after argument with amazing consistency to project their lack of method in deriving various rulings. Shafii's critique is objective as his aim is not to bring about arguments in support of right doctrine but to lay down the right doctrine itself.

Pursuing the same aim, his predecessors (and especially Malik in this case) refered informally to variety of sources. Their attitudes were characterised by trust in respective doctrines whom they acknowledge as their authorities. For instance the doctrines of Ahl al-Raa'y (the people of opinion) and Ahl al-Hadith (the people of tradition). In Malik's case this trust was specifically derived from the sacredness and continuity of 'practices' that constituted the Islamic way of life. As long as this trust remain unchallenged, no formal touchstones were required to test against and choose the particular source among many which ought to be made the basis of some legal ruling. However by the time of Shafii the scientific criticism on Hadith reached at a particular stage of development where it was not difficult for Shafii to insist about some overriding authority superceding all the other sources except Quran.

Therefore on the one hand subjective factors like intuitive conviction, commonsense, gumption and gut feeling about the veracity of a particular source were considered inconsistencies and arbitrary methods by Shafii. On the other hand agreed upon practice of a particular region, traditions from companions and all the claims of consensus were considered overridden in principle by traditions (in case of conflicts) which can be authentically traced back to the mouth of Prophet.
1. As seen by Shacht for instance in his Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Whosoever changes his religion, kill him!

In a recently televised discussion, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi has clarified that his reliance on the principle of prescription of death penalty on only two occassions (al-Maidah 5:32) does not in anyway weakens any of the authentic ahadith ascribed to the Prophet(s). For instance this one narrated by Ikramah(r) and recorded by Bukhariy in his collection
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his (Islamic) religion, then kill him.'
(Sahih Bukhariy, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57)
The above hadith and few others are generally understood by classical Muslim scholars as adding a third instance invoking capital punishment (i.e killing apostates). Ghamidi opines that all of these should be revisited in the light of principles established in Quran rather than adding something explicitly to the body of these principles.

He asserted that there's no doubt in the authenticity of the ahadith in question per se. However the application of these traditions or deductions from them are redundant in modern times even if there's an ideal Islamic state. No one except Prophet(s) can claim the removal of all the excuse in relation to accepting the revealed truth of God Almighty, a concept which is called Itmaam al-Hujjah and therefore no one except him could implement death penalty for apostates. As he is no more amongst us, the ultimate decision would be revealed by God on the day of judgement and should be postponed as such. This right cannot be claimed by anybody after Prophet no matter how much effort is put in to present the true message of Islam.

Ghamidi's reiteration of his position has a multidimensional importance in the overall framework of contemporary Islamic scholarship and its methodology which is currently experiencing its formative period. Firstly first it establishes that the school of Ghamidi/Islahi has dropped the sheer skepticism towards the science of hadith in general though its not among the primary sources of understanding Islam, in principle. Secondly it raises many questions regarding the pre-formative history of Muslims. For instance the concept of Itmam al-Hujjah (as understood by Ghamidi) seems anachronic in light of coarse presentation of Islam that earliest of the Muslims used to extend during their expansions.

Before I start meandering I give these bleary thoughts some time to transform into meaningful questions.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Great Books of Islamic Tradition

Forseeing the magnitude of my professional commitment (which is ironically tangential to my intellectual indulgings) in next few months, I intend to blog about things which are comparatively less demanding for my (e/o)ver-occupied cranium.

Great books are not just about inducing intellectual pleasures, setting trends or moving large masses of readers in a particular direction. Not that books which seek to do all of the above are underachievers in some capacity, its just that these are not meant to be remembered as nonpareil in the history of text.

Whether a text circumscribes a tradition or transcribes it is a question that would keep inviting people to ponder till eternity. A far easier proposition is that a text when embodies a tradition becomes a paragon. It does not remain a mere text anymore but starts to breathe and lives through those who access it with purpose. Interacting with such texts is not just a modest experience we call reading but an intention to embody it in some capacity, to understand those who embodied it and embodied the tradition as well.

I intend to start a never ending series on such great texts of Islamic tradition. The primary motivation was Great Books of Islamic Civilisation which though lacking in some ways is an excellent reference putting up a cross-section of all the important areas of knowledge in which Muslims indulged themselves.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Addendum to 'Cosmopolitan Fiqh' Post

In 1980, the Council of Islamic Ideology of Pakistan initiated the first comprehensive report comprising proposals for making the economy Shariah compliant with special emphasis on elimination of riba'a from the banking system. The report is considered by many as the first consensus-driven approach towards a combined 'intrusion' of pseudo-modernist and traditionalist scholarship into the realm of classical fiqh and far ahead (atleast in Pakistan). Though it is never taken as such by the religious circles, it can easily be understood as a valid conceptual attempt at exercising ijtihad in modern times.

This and many such attempts later cannot be circumscribed within the bounds of any traditionalist methodology. The content (which is coming up lately in copious amounts and would continue to expand quickly in future as well) do not belong to hanafi, shafii, maliki, hanbali, zaidi or ja'afri literature but equally belongs to a genre of 'Islamic jurisprudence literature'. If these attempts are analysed in detail keeping traditional jurisprudential methodologies in perspective, it is not difficult to realize that though many opinions of the classical scholars pose difficulties to solve complex contemporary problems (especially in the fields of modern economics), there are as many opinions from the past which may lead us to smooth solutions as well.

One of the valid illustration of this inevitable as well as methodological 'pick and choose' approach is a comparison of opinions between Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik in identifying bare minimum rights of people in relation to public law when they make promises among themselves and fail to keep those due to various reasons. The question in consideration is that how to quantify liability if a person promises to buy all the products of my factory and refuses when the products are manufactured. In pre-modern times it was considered impossible to assess minimum identifiable liabilities in such deals. Abu Hanifa held that such promises though considered binding by Shariah cannot be represented in a court of law in case one refuses to keep them. The justice will be served on the day of judgement as Allah has promised. Malik on the other hand asserts opposite and considered subjecting such a person to court of law with the condition that he completely understands the implications of his promise for instance an incurred financial loss to other party in case of dishonoring the terms decided.

It is needless to say that Abu Hanifa's opinion doesn't hold good as far as modern commerce & trade mechanisms are concerned. The process that begins from memorandum of association, continues through details of various forms of capitals that a firm requires and other nitty gritties of corporate liabilities is a simple promise between two persons if we try to analyse it from the lens of a hanafi jurist. On the other hand Malik's opinion, if considered in detail, may give us leads to exercise ijtihad in modern times when a usual promise may be one between a hundred thousand persons and a 'fictitious person'.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cosmopolitan Fiqh

While traditionalists and reformists continue their indulgence in fiery encounters (all in good faith) and thabet wrapped it (and more) up concisely, haroon posted a comment worthy of deliberation and serious attention. The contents of this post are a result of some hasty thoughts that followed haroon's cue but may not be directly linked to the problem he posed.

It would help if I reproduce the complete question here: there a way to realize the traditionalist respect for the four madhahib and extend it to a legal framework that takes into account newer, serious developments in Islamic law and theology, including more modernist perspectives, Wahhabist perspectives, etc.

The question in a way presumes that the four orthodox legal schools derive their respect directly due to the legal consistency and historical strength of arguments behind their methodology. That may be true for a theoretic sake of traditionalist's argument but historically speaking, people started practicing according to these four interpretations because of administrative reasons and by virtue of their being located in a particular setting where a methodology was formed up, evolved and subsequently presented later foundation for legal corpus. Thus for the sake of precision, it would be more accurate to say that development and evolution of fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) came about historically through conflicts rather than being a product of objective and tangible methods.

The realization (above) though elusive brings along a lot of theoretical baggage. A rather concrete point that can follow from this is that the jurisprudential sources of one legal school are no more an intellectual property of jurists of that school. Therefore a jurist of sub-continent may consider (and will certainly be compelled to do so in future) Asad bin Furaat's Mudawanaa, Shafii's Kitab al-Umm and Ibn Qudama's al-Mughanni as much a jurisprudential source as he considers any of the texts/commentaries of Hanafi school of law. I do have a fair idea of the magnitutde of intircacies invloved in exercising jurisprudential preference (Tarjih) and alleged lack of consistency in method if jurists move out of their respective methodologies but what I am suggesting here is not simply a wild game of pick and choose rather an originating mindset that juridic literature would be taken as a whole in times to come due to various inevitable and practical reasons.

I mean how can one neglect encyclopedic efforts like al-Muhalla of Ibn Hazm and Fatawa of Ibn Taymiah just because their respective schools were not developed, evolved and sustained the test of time or seen as a digression from the content of four schools. The degree of depth in Islamic legal methodology and the number of dimensions in which it provides foundational sources cannot be ascertained completely unless the complete Islamic legal material would be taken as a whole and studied as such.

I contend this because the development of any modern Islamic legal system (encompassing all the modern facets of law and not just the quantity of water one should consume when doing ablution - though latter can be a good ethical source for guiding regulatory laws of our modern day consumption habits) cannot remain bounded in a particular school's legal framework and would tend to build upon the collective fabric of Islam's legal base. This development would again be historical due to inevitable circumstances rather than a composed and objective deliberate effort. The signs of such developments are already obvious in the fiqh of trade, commerce and banking and the current period may be understood and remembered in history as formative phase in the development of a Cosmopolitan Fiqh [1]. There is no particular way to imbibe this realization purposefully as it is already being insinuated through various intangible agents. However future historian's analysis would bring about the true character of this formation.
1. I came across this pithy term in transcribed lectures of Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi on various dimensions of fiqh.

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