A Three Point Plan and Four-Step Solution

A true believer is fundamentally one who engenders Abrahamic monotheism and aspires to the highest form of moral conduct reflected in the shari’ah, and given the complexities life tends to throw up believers occasionally find themselves seeking an understanding of the divine will to various issues. As times change and contexts will perpetually vary, this necessitates that there shall always be a need for judicious responses to queries of a religious nature, as well as those who have the learning to provide them. Regrettably, in some circles these solutions have become merely a matter of intellectual experimentation, and those who offer an inventive reason to divert from praiseworthy norms are celebrated as the truest of sages, heroes that shall defend the aspirations of the people. While orthodox scholars regard finding solutions stimulating challenges, they also remain cognisant of the fact that the aspirations of the people must be tempered by the idea of godliness. As God put it, “And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the way of God.” (Q 6:116)

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‘Normative Islam' in Public Discourse

We are increasingly privy to those who speak on our behalf in public – and this is why it must be addressed. It is not our place to sanction the right of people to have their personal opinions, but to speak as if one is learned on normative Islam or represents the Sunni orthodoxy we and our families ascribe to when even the most basic prerequisite such as knowledge of the Arabic language are amiss is either deep ignorance or simple hubris.

In the public realm, experience and acting responsibly are key issues, a lack of both drives individuals to act flippantly and speak out of turn. Upon the Prophet’s distribution of war spoils on the Day of Hunain some from the Ansar said: “May Allah pardon the Messenger of God; he apportions for the Quraish but leaves us out, whilst we are the ones who fought!” So after having gathered the Ansar in a tent the Prophet asked about what was said. “The fuqaha (learned and informed) of the Ansar replied: As for our heads (ru’us), Messenger of God, they said nothing. But there are people from us with ‘new teeth’ who said…" (Muslim) The term new teeth in Arabic denotes the young or those who lack experience and subsequent maturity. It is pertinent to note that it was the fuqaha of the Ansar who spoke, who clarified that the heads of the Ansar effectively knew when to remain quiet.

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Does Islam Need Defenders?

In an era when corporate capitalism has ordered our lives into a monotonous routine, defending Islam offers the type of excitement that can make us feel, if only nominally, what it might have been like to walk with the righteous of the past. However, what kind of defence Islam requires has been privy to all sorts of speculation, much of it the result of attempting to determine what kind of attack Islam is actually under – and seldom are the various factions accurate. For some, it is the ubiquitous haze of muscular liberalism, for others it is a particular attack against certain groups who feel they fly the flag of normative Islam. Much of all of this is up for debate. Yet what has been missing is a learned and reasoned voice, that weighs up all angles, rather than impose a partial understanding of every occurrence where many fail to read the nuances of a situation, or simply recognise the complex nature of how things have come to be.

For those unable to offer some an educated insight, they school us that it is a simple showdown between good and evil: ‘The Christians and Jews shall never be contented with you until you adhere to their religion.’ (Q 2:120) Indeed He has, yet contradictorily, or at least unfaithfully to their reading of that verse, the same proponents lobby non-Muslim politicians looking for common ground. The same and rather bizarre approach is adopted elsewhere. Those who propose democracy to be polytheism and Parliament to be the abode of disbelief where ‘man legislates in place of God’, would have us sign petitions so that they may lobby man to legislate in place of God and have Muslim detainees returned to the UK.

The desperate defenders of our faith have taken up their positions; they’re everywhere working their righteousness, all from various points of the (quasi) religious spectrum. From those who feel the UK needs an entirely pointless injection of caliphate-ism, (pointless in that they don’t actually desire a caliphate anywhere in Europe – they simply enjoy arguing about the concept in the abstract sense), to others who ridiculously imply that the Most High, His final Prophet, and all those before him wanted nothing more than liberal secularism to be the philosophy of every nation on earth (something I will deal with elsewhere). Whilst we might note the intention of some to be good, it is always problematic to advocate on behalf of something of which you have little knowledge. With those who have spoken on Islamic law or theology, it is apparent that they have appropriated widespread populist notions without any actual insight into such matters. Consequently, the public narrative on Islam becomes further entrenched in negative stereotypes, the rhetoric of the politicians now substantiated: “See they do want to make an Islamic state in Britain with stonings, beheadings and floggings.”

The ignorance of scripture and the evident disconnect from scholars whose erudite readings subsequently manifest as codified fiqh, usul, and aqidah means that ‘defenders’ exhibit all means of promulgating their unlearned, and frankly, detrimental conceptualisations of legal and political philosophy, not to mention unorthodox theology. The ranting style that is becoming commonplace on national television not only undermines the political objectives of the faithful, but also contravenes the method of political and social interaction established by prophetic tradition. In a hadith compiled by al-Bukhari it is narrated that some of the enemies of the Prophet wished him ill distorting words to have ‘death be to you’ sound like a greeting of peace. He responded uprightly and dignified with a simple retort: “And to you (be the same).” However, his wife A’ishah responded with a riposte: “Death be to you all, the curses of God and His anger!” The Prophet counselled her, “Calm down A’ishah, be gracious! Be careful of (seeming) rancorous and wicked.” In another narration, the Prophet informed her: “God is gracious and loves affability, and through affability things are achieved that are not by callousness.” Now the point here isn’t to adopt sycophancy, but in the realm of politics and public opinion, defenders are to exhibit a degree of judicious statesmanship and religious learning that might serve as some utility rather than enunciate self-patting rants that further entrench an already misinformed public.

[blockquote align="none" author="Qur'an 41:34"]Good and evil cannot be equal. Repel with what is better and your enemy will become as close as an old and valued friend.[/blockquote]

We are called to be helpers to God, that is to His cause, not because He is in any need of such help, but to provide believers the opportunity to prove their worth and commitment to the Most High. Interestingly, this call is made analogous with the call of Christ to his apostles, where God puts it: ‘You who believe, be God’s helpers. As Jesus, son of Mary, said to the disciples: “Who will be my helpers in God’s cause?” They said: “We shall be God’s helpers.”’ (Q 61:14) The Messiah’s call, among other things, is a call to speak on behalf of truth in a way that reflects its lofty station. For those incapable – a way of measuring competence might be to evaluate what the tangible outcomes of one’s defence has actually been – they should implement, before anything else, the prophetic statement narrated by Abu Hurairah and recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim: “Whosoever believes in Allah and the last day, let him speak good or remain silent.” In fact, given the way most media outlets refuse a balanced discussion on Islamic issues and the worrying trend of belligerent ‘defenders’ inaccurately representing revelation, perhaps a self-imposed moratorium would be best so that the religiously illiterate not legitimise media misrepresentations of Islam and British Muslims.