There are many things that are strongly pushed as being haram (unlawful) and presented as a decisive matter, and to say otherwise in many circles amounts to heresy or the common ‘following one’s desires’. Whilst we ought to be tolerant it is unfortunate when interlocutors fail to exhibit the same. Rather than there being one decisive conclusion, most of these issues have been subject to much debate over a millennium, and often, the majority of scholars from all schools of legal interpretation have actually held views to the contrary. Rather than being ‘mainstream’ many of these views have been somewhat fringe.
I believe these issues ought to be addressed robustly (and I hope to do so over time), and that people should be educated about the different and legitimate ways in which the shar’i sources can be understood or interpreted. We need to do this not only because some restrictions cause unnecessary challenges to people’s lives, but because even the most mundane of issues can cause impediments to the progress of Muslims in wider society. There seems to be an active effort under way by those in the scholarly realm to restore some balance that has been upset by conflations, misrepresentations and an attitude that sees restrictiveness as godly. On the latter, Allah said: “Believers, do not ask about matter which, if made known to you, might make things difficult for you…” (5:101) The Prophet said: “The most criminal of Muslims are those who question things that are not prohibited, and consequently those things become prohibited because of their incessant questions.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim).
But the main point of this post is this:
In our redress, people should not assume this is a free for all. We are not the ‘halal police’ who simply seek to make permissible that which God hasn’t. Nor must we do this with the simplistic excuse of making things ‘easy’ since taklif, that is legal obligation from God, necessitates that we will be challenged and one purpose of divine commands is to test the nafs. We must be moderate and take a composed and sensible approach:
- If the ‘haram police’ go to one extreme, we must not go to the other with extremely far-fetched conclusions to present something as halal.
- If takfiris throw people out of Islam willy nilly, it doesn’t mean that everyone is a Muslim no matter what.
- If some believe we must be vehemently anti-government even when the govt does something legitimate, it doesn’t mean we must acquiesce to all policies.
- If one argues absolute taqlid of a cleric, it doesn’t mean that we become anti-madhab or anti-taqlid.
- If someone reduces the shariah to the hudud (capital punishments), it doesn’t mean we become militant secularists.
- If some advocate a modern day caliphate simplistically predicated on the mediaeval “age of empire” and view the world through the lens of post-colonial grievances, it doesn’t mean we negate the idea of an Islamic political philosophy/theory and notions of Muslim governance as a means of Muslim self-determination.
- If some are anti-Western it doesn’t mean that we hold every western cultural product to be appropriate for believers (this also goes for eastern cultures).
- If men mistreat women, it doesn’t mean we legitimate man-hating. If feminists argue for complete gender deconstruction or the fall of religion (viewing it as unjust patriarchal hegemony) it doesn’t negate the fact that misogyny exists and attitudes in most cultures need to evolve.
Most people who take positions at one end of a spectrum are usually reacting to something, but if we go to the other end, we’re also being reactionary. The nature of ‘truth’ is that it is not a reaction nor is it defined as the opposite of falsehood; it is an entity that stands independent, regardless of whatever else is going on.
As believers, we are not defined by our differences to the ‘other’, God has given clear guidance and we follow that guidance regardless of who happens (or doesn’t) to concur with it. Because of our commitment to it we feel no need to incessantly argue with others, we remain confident but humble, and proceed. Fiqh or aqidah for the laity exists to inform them how to live and remain in God’s grace, and not to argue. Even if you have no intention to do so, be on guard and don’t let others pull you in. Respond in the words of the wise, “God is our Lord and your Lord, to us our actions and to you yours, so let there be no argument between us and you. God will gather us together and to Him we shall return.” (42:15)