A while ago, I came across an interesting blog by a fellow Muslim agnostic, Hassan Radwan. In particular, I thoroughly enjoyed reading his blog-post titled ‘Will the “True Islam” Please Stand Up!’ as it seems to say much of what I am saying in this piece. There is no “True Islam”!!
The extremist are also Muslims much as the Muslims who say that extremist Islam is not Islam. And that the best way to fight extremist, literalist interpretation of Islam is through engaging in an open and honest discussion about the religion. It involves criticism, scrutiny, introspection and reinterpretation.
My wife’s uncle, Prof. Tahir Masood, who survived the attack that killed Prof. Shakeel Auj last year, wrote an article on religious tolerance and intolerance. Following is the article in JPG image format:
The article is in Urdu and is too lengthy to translate for the time being. However, towards the end of the article, he said that for religion to survive in this day and age that is characterized by material well-being and technological progress, a new Ilm al-Kalam (science of discourse) is needed. The onslaught brought about by secular, atheistic thought is powerful and Islam, in particular, seems quite ill-equipped.
Prof. Tahir Masood, who used to have a beard before the assassination of Prof. Auj, has now shaved it off. I don’t know the exact reason for this move. It’s possible that he may be trying to distance himself from the religious forces operative in the country in general and the University in particular. What’s certain, however, is that his life is in danger and he needs to be extra cautious with his sayings and actions.
Coming back to the topic, I whole-heartedly agree with the ideas of Prof. Tahir Masood and Hassan Radwan. In my humble opinion, Islam is in dire need of an Iqbalian reconstruction of sorts. Any such attempt of reconstructing Islam can possibly lead to the creation of yet another sect. It is, however, precisely in the creation of a myriad sects that the essence of Islam can be truly appreciated. To elaborate a bit more, sects and schools of thought reflect differences. And it is difference, at a philosophical level, that ultimately leads to evolution, creativity and improvement.
If the entire population of earth started to believe and act in exactly the same beliefs and manner, respectively, how can we expect any novelty to arise? How can knowledge possibly advance and fresh avenues of understanding be explored? Misinterpretation and re-interpretation are, therefore, the sine qua non for the progression of human intellectual thought. One must constantly re-examine and re-evaluate ancient ideas and see what newer ideas can be generated from the bosom of the older ones. This would require one to differ from one’s predecessors. Intellectual schisms are inevitable. One must, however, be constantly careful to restraint one’s emotions so as to not turn the intellectual differences into a bloody war.
Islam is certainly not any different. It is, at the end of the day, a human enterprise insofar as humans believe in it and try to live their lives according to its message. Islam needs remodeling and I hope my generation continues to strive to periodically update Islam. Islam 2.0 is the need of the hour.