Farhan Shah

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Om Farhan

Islamforsker ved Det teologiske fakultet, Universitetet i Oslo og Islam-rådgiver ved forskningssenteret for Prosesstudier, California, USA

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Kvalifisert islamkritikk

Publisert over 4 år siden

Det er høyst påkrevd å etterstrebe «transcendens»; å overskride de konstruksjoner som hemmer «troens mobilitet».

Muslimer vil nyte godt av en kvalifisert islamkritikk, som vil gjøre det mulig å forholde seg mer reflektert til sin religion og dens historiske evolusjon. For det er slik at vi lever med et bredt spekter av diverse vaner, preferanser og oppfatninger. Det meste er overlevert fra de «signifikante andre», som vi ofte tar for gitt. Men mennesket er også i besittelse av den frie fornuft, som vi kan bruke for å overveie og vurdere holdbarheten til våre oppfatninger og tankevaner; å forsøke å gjennomtenke våre grunnleggende religiøse holdninger og ideer. Forutsetningen er da å begynne å tenke selv.

I følge filosofen Immanuel Kant er opplysningstankens imperativ å anvende sin egen forstand for å overskride sin «selvforskyldte umyndighet». Dette innebærer at vi, som reflekterende vesener, må ta ansvar for egen tenkning og hva vi betrakter for selvinnlysende sannheter. Den islamske filosofiens grunntanke, slik jeg betrakter den, ligger i å våge å tenke selvstendig og ikke overlate dette arbeidet til ytre religiøse instanser. Det er denne kritiske holdningen som muslimer bør forsøke å (re)aktualisere og konservere, men det vil være innviklet og intrikat for mange av dagens autoriteter, fordi det impliserer at man må stille kritiske og ubehagelige spørsmål ved det «lukkede korpus» (overlevert lære), og det passer ikke godt inn i en tradisjonell fortolkningsmodell av islam, knyttet til sekteriske maktinteresser. Det er dog høyst påkrevd å etterstrebe «transcendens»; å overskride de konstruksjoner som hemmer «troens mobilitet».

 

 
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Et felles menneskelig ideal

Publisert over 4 år siden

Det 20. århundres opplevelser og erfaringer har vist at menneskeheten trenger sårt en filosofisk-humanistisk basis i kampen mot målrettet umenneskeliggjøring. Kampen for menneskets uantastbarhet og likeverd er mer enn sekulært; mer enn religiøst. Det gjelder menneskerasen om en organisk helhet.

I nyere tid vitner vi krass kritikk mot Islam, som anses for å være antihumanistisk med en underkuende moralkodeks. Det hersker ingen tvil om den store muslimske majoritetens manglende selvkritiske og refleksive tilnærming til sine egne troskonstruksjoner og forestillinger. En (konstruktiv) kritikk av religiøst-motiverte desentrerende tankebaner og praksiser, som skyver det autonome, moralske subjekt til det perifere, er høyst påkrevd. Men i iveren etter kritikk er det fort gjort å utvikle en rigid og klart definert motpol, et essensialistisk fiendebilde, hvor «islam/muslimer» symboliserer stillstilstand og anti-humanisme mens «det norske» blir den diametrale motsetningen: progressivt og humanistisk. Å operere på slike premisser baner veien for et idealistisk-dogmatisk tankemønster som opprettholder polariserende konstruksjoner, en invitasjon til å fostre bl.a. ytterliggående krefter sugd opp i «høyere formål». Erfaringer viser at samfunn ikke er tjent med et sådant kulturklima.

Det er nå tidens kall å (gjen)reise et felles humanistisk ideal som transcenderer partipolitiske og religiøse skillelinjer. Et ideal som kan danne en felles motkultur, i stand til å motarbeide den rasjonalitet og falsk bevissthet som reduserer menneskets «egenverdi» til «instrumentell verdi», samt definerer mennesket partikulært og ikke universelt.

Det er fullt mulig, gjennom en filosofisk-teologisk oppryddings- og nytolkningsprosess, å utvikle en islamfortolkning, en alternativ modell tuftet på Koranens kjerneverdier, som rommer bl.a. kritisk resonnering, en anerkjennelse av menneskets autonomitet og naturlige tankekraft, dannelse, samt en modell som setter likeverds- og velferdstenkningen over pedantiske, sjelsfordervende ritualer/riter i ortodoks-konservativ forstand. Altså, fokuset flyttes fra en konservativ fortolkningsmodell som baserer seg på en gammelmodig «hellig tradisjon» til en Koran-dedusert humanistisk modell, et filosofisk fundament for menneskerasens velferd og verdighet, i tillegg til at det også kan fungere som en motkraft til reduktive antroposentriske tendenser (homomensura tesen) 

Et mulig perspektiv, som forfatteren har beskjeftiget seg med i sin masteravhandling og som er et hovedanliggende utad det akademiske univers, er definert i forhold til menneskets særstilling i tilværelsen, et perspektiv som verner om menneskeverdet, samt inntar en posisjon som anerkjenner dets autonomitet og potensialiteter. Dette perspektivet er en livsforståelse der mennesket er en bestemmende agent både i forhold til naturen og det overnaturlige, Gud/guder. Med andre ord, mennesket er verken en kasteball i Guds hånd (teosentrisk determinisme) eller i naturens hånd (naturalistisk determinisme), men en uavhengig variabel som griper skjebnen i sine egne hender med muligheter til å opptre mål- og verdibevisst.

Den islamske forestillingen om menneskerasen som innehar «Guds energi» impliserer blant annet at verdighet ikke kan utledes av vår subjektive opplevelse av verdighetsfølelse, men tvert imot en «iboende verdighet», som kommer tydelig til uttrykk i Menneskerettighetserklæringen av 1948. Gjennom en hermeneutisk nytolkningsmodell, som tar hensyn til helheten av Koranens basale lære (essens) og til de konkrete omstendigheter hvori Koranen ble åpenbart (kontekst), er det mulig å artikulere en Koranfortolkning av humanistisk-filosofisk karakter, som vektlegger den horisontale dimensjon (mellommenneskelige forhold) i større grad enn den vertikale (gudsdyrkelse). I denne filosofiske fortolkningstradisjonen ligger Koranens fundamentale mening i troen på et menneskeverd som transcenderer tilhørigheter (etnisk basert nasjonalisme) og egenskaper (kvalitetsgradering/høy-lav intelligens). Dette «verdighetsparadigme» bidrar til å stimulere de tendenser og tankebaner som forener mennesker som likeverdige på tvers av sosiale, etniske og biologiske variasjoner.

Et fruktbart fundament for en idé om det «felles menneskelige» er menneskets ontologiske likeverd. Med andre ord, mennesket besitter en «essensiell verdi» som gjør det til et autonomt og moralsk subjekt (mål i seg selv) og ikke et objekt (middel). «Menneskelig verdighet» bør ikke være knyttet til selveste livskvalitet (evnen til å oppleve/føle verdighet) men snarere tvert imot «selve dets eksistens og til det å motta menneskelivet». Altså, menneskelivets hellighet er ikke relatert til evnen til selvutfoldelse og handling (funksjon), men til det faktum at alle, uavhengig av funksjonsdyktighet, har rett til liv (essens). Lakonisk berettet, menneskeverdet er ikke synonymt med «opplevelsen av menneskelig verdighet». Dette bør være vårt aksiomatiske utgangspunkt for å bekjempe religiøst og sekulært umenneskeliggjøring som frarøver individet dets myndighet og verdighet, en blind allianse mellom idèsystemer og ondskap. Markedsliberalistiske krefter er et «sekulært» eksempel som har forent seg med ondskapens mekanikk, en logikk som desentrerer subjektet (mennesket reduseres til noe sekundært, et middel til fordel for et mål, en idé). Religiøst motivert moralsk ondskap er et annet konkret eksempel, som opererer med idèsystemer som bidrar til å rettferdiggjøre og rasjonalisere terroraksjoner utført for et høyere formål.

Det 20. århundres opplevelser og erfaringer har vist at menneskeheten trenger sårt en filosofisk-humanistisk basis i kampen mot målrettet umenneskeliggjøring. Kampen for menneskets uantastbarhet og likeverd er mer enn sekulært; mer enn religiøst. Det gjelder menneskerasen om en organisk helhet.

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Islam, Humanism and Ecology

Publisert over 4 år siden

An Islamic Humanism will see human dignity and human rights as situated within, not apart from, the larger created whole, itself evolving through time, with each creature having, in the words of good process fashion, "intrinsic value".

In various articles in this website and elsewhere, I have been developing a form of Islamic thinking I call Process Islam. The most systematic articulation so far is in A Process Interpretation of Islam, but all of the articles above are important to my ongoing project. In many contexts I speak of Process Islam as a form of Islamic Humanism. I realize, however, that the phrase can be misleading, if the word "humanism" suggests a Promethean perspective saying that "man is the measure of all things." I realize as well that for many process thinkers, with their ecological orientation, the phrase can also suggest a human-centered approach that neglects the value of the more-than-human world. I do not intend the word to have these connotations. In Islam the Qur'an itself speaks of the whole of creation on the analogy of a tree of life, or a single life cell, emerging from and returning to its divine source. An Islamic Humanism will see human dignity and human rights as situated within, not apart from, this larger created whole, itself evolving through time, with each creature having (in the words of process theology) intrinsic value.  The short note below is intended to clarify this point, bringing my perspective into conversation with two Christian process thinkers, Bruce Epperly and John Cobb. (It is explained more thoroughly in my Masters thesis, just accepted at the University of Oslo.)  I hope this note and the works above bring Process Islam into conversation with the larger project of international process theology, which is to encourage the development of just and sustainable communities throughout the world, including the Islamic world.  (For more on this see Ecological Civilization International by Jay McDaniel and Philip Clayton.)  My sense is that Islam can make a powerful contribution to this deeply humane -- and, yes, biophilically humanistic -- hope.Picture

From Traditional Humanism to Holistic  Humanism

The term humanism is multifaceted, and its meanings are legion. Further, every definition of humanism is shaped by historical conditions, places and times, and its uses, which have been intimately related to power structures of various kinds.

Christian humanism was developed within the framework of Christian values and principles.  Literary Humanism stands for a classical cultural movement devoted to the humanities. Secular Humanism is a modern non-theistic, atheistic-naturalistic-oriented philosophy, emerging out of eighteenth century enlightenment rationalism.  It includes a rejection of supernaturalism, “higher morality”, and religious dogmas/doctrines.  Many people identify themselves as humanists, but few clarify its content. Because of its diverse expressions and contents reflective of different historical conditions and climates, I want to clear up in a straightforward way the term (humanism) from a Muslim process perspective.

The essence of humanism, as inspired by the Qur'anic scripture and Muhammad Iqbal`s process theological thought, has three emphases: (1) The innate dignity of humanity, (2), the universality of human rights, and (3) the interrelationality of all creation.  Let me briefly look into the first two points and further deal with the last point in more detail.

(1) Human dignity transcends the barriers of ethnocentrism, and encompasses humanity en masse, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age and religious or cultural belonging. The Quran asserts: “Verily, We have created all humans worthy of dignity and honour” (17:70). Prophet Muhammad, in his farewell address, categorically asserted that “there is no superiority of a black over a white or a white over a black. All of you humans belong to the same single stock.” Furthermore, the dignity and honour of the human person finds it ultimate expression in that he or she is a subject of his or her own life, whose survival and well-being matters to himself or herself, and to God: he or she is a  “someone” and not “something”. Stated differently, the human entity is an “end in itself,” thus making collective identity`s such as family membership or citizenship, of subordinate character.

(2) Human rights are judicial principles employed against states in order to protect human beings from structural injustice, and are intimately related to humanity`s innate dignity. The prime function of humankind`s inalienable rights is the enhancement of the common good and also to furnish healthy environments in which human beings can actualise their remarkable potentialities. Just as human dignity encompasses the human species as a whole, so are basic human rights all-embracing, transcending the dogmatic model of we/they divide. This deleterious us/them distinction undermines the more inclusive way which emphasises the larger whole to which “we” and “they” belong, that is, the human species as an organic whole. In the Quran, we read the following verse, emphasizing humanity`s interrelationality: “The human species is but one single community” (10:19).

​(3) The last point is related to anthropocentrism. There have been, and still are, anthropocentric tendencies in most civilisations. Briefly stated, the notion of anthropocentrism was formulated by the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Protagoras, who asserted that “man (read: the human being) is the measure of all things”. Furthermore, the dualism developed by Descartes juxtaposes the human mind to all things, even to human body.  This mode of dualism also reckons animals devoid of any subjectivity, thus turned over to science for objective study. The image that is affirmed on the basis of the homo mensura (man is the measure of all things) dictum and the Cartesian dualism quickly develops into human arrogance and reductionist attitude towards the planetary life as a whole. 

From a Muslim process perspective, humanism does not stand for human entities as the sole denizens of planet earth, or that the human dignity is the only fact to be reckoned with at the cost of the larger spectrum of non-human species and their well-being. This perspective easily mutates into an unfortunate view which is bereft of respect and profound concern for other living organisms and nature in her totality. The Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss (1912-2009), developed a view that runs counter to the longstanding traditional mode of anthropocentrism. He also coined the term “deep ecology.”  One of the cardinal principles of deep ecology is that (1) every living entity have an intrinsic value of its own, and hence cannot be considered exclusively in instrumental terms, and, furthermore (2) that no human being has any right to cut down the richness and plurality of planetary creation, except in the interest to meet vital human needs.  The term “vital needs,” according to Næss, implies that human beings can only satisfy their fundamental needs essential for their life on planet earth.

​This is a version of humanism which not only is human-centred, but a version which expands the circle of our ethical sensibilities with regards to other non-human creatures and the biosphere as well. In other words, this is a humanism which goes beyondanthropocentrism and embraces biocentric ethics. Christian process thinking, with its relational and contextual approach to human life (interdependence, experience, joy, sorrow, value), also recognises the importance of the kind of humanism as expressed above. Bruce Epperly, a Whiteheadian inspired process theologian, argues that “We cannot separate humankind from nature or the environment; we humans are embedded in the environment, both shaping and being shaped by the wider world beyond ourselves. Ecological, environmental, and planetary ethics are essential in our time because of our ability as humans to destroy our own species and threaten planetary life itself in unprecedented ways.”
 
Epperly, in order to move beyond the anthropocentric stance held my many humanists, highlights the following saying of Jesus of Nazareth: “if a man is worth many sparrows then a sparrow`s worth is not zero”. What Jesus` words signify is that non-human entities ought to be treated with respect by including them in our ethical decision-makings. They are worthy of our concern, and, as sentient organisms, cannot be manipulated or used only for human profit. Non-human species have a rich and complex life of their own with different levels of experience, which ought to enter into our own moral calculations before using them for human benefit. Again, asserts Epperly, “Species, flora and fauna, are valuable not just because we appreciate their beauty but because they experience some level of joy and sorrow”. This means that, for process thinkers, other living beings with sentience (joy and sorrow) likewise have “intrinsic dignity”. The profound recognition of the interdependence of all life, and the commonalities between homo sapiens and other living creatures, would lead us from human hauteur to deep respect for the biosphere and its diversity of animate beings. 

The Muslim process theologian Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) makes a remark conducive to the development of bioethics. He states that “All is holy ground. As the Prophet so beautifully puts it:  The whole of this earth is a mosque.”  If the whole of the earth is a mosque, i.e., sacred, this could then lead to the conclusion that all of the denizens of earth, human as well as non-human, are sacred and interconnected (reflecting the presence of Divine energy and God`s unity). In other words, all life deserves our outmost respect by widening our horizons, thus including non-human actualities such as animal organisms and the nature in our decision-makings and policies in order to secure environments that promote the overall wellbeing of our dwelling place. There is also a hadith (traditions based on reports of the sayings of the Prophet of Islam) which reads: “Allah is kind only to those who are kind to His creations.” Explained differently, we serve God by serving God`s creation by expanding our scope of moral/ethical responsibility, thus transcending the reductionist anthropocentrism that has for long dominated our ethical vantage point.  In this context, a passage of John Cobb deserves our attention. For Cobb, to believe that “a human life is ’of more value than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10:31) does not warrant the conclusion that sparrows are worth nothing at all. Indeed, it presupposes the opposite. The Heavenly Father cares even for sparrows; how much more for human beings! This certainly means that people too should be concerned more about a human being than a sparrow. Much more! But it does not warrant the teaching that sparrows exist only as a means to human ends…God is pictured as loving the creatures and caring for them, not only human beings, but sparrows as well.“
 
Cobb`s views can be infused into the Iqbalian vision of “all is holy ground”, productive of paving the way for a humanism characterised by respect for humanity`s innate dignity combined with, “world-loyalty”, as Whitehead calls it. A world-loyalty in which our self-interest is joined with our commitment to be creative partners with God in the quest for welfare and beauty for all creation.

To recapitulate, as have been explicated above, the foundational keys of an Islamic process humanism are as follows: (1) Every member of the human species is endowed with an intrinsic, hence inviolable, dignity, (2) the importance of human rights as universal/all-embracing (3) humanism, far from being purely human-centred, needs to be blended in respect and profound concern for the ecosphere and non-human species, i.e., in addition to humans having intrinsic value, so do other living beings.

I have chosen to identify this version of humanism as “Holistic Humanism”, or “Biophilic Humanism” which is spacious enough to include all creatures, just as God includes every being in the Divine life (read: panentheism), thus making humans, possessing the highest degree of self-determination, God`s creative companions in healing and enhancing all life on earth.

First published on 

http://www.jesusjazzbuddhism.org/from-traditional-to-holistic-humanism.html

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Is the law of Islam capable of evolution?

Publisert over 4 år siden

Sharia can evolve and should evolve. Let there be process also in Sharia.

Muslims see law, not as a hindrance to the well-lived life, but rather a precondition and enhancement of it.  Without law life calls into chaos, but with law it can flourish and grow.  The idea that law is necessarily a hindrance to life is akin to saying that structure is a hindrance to creativity.  Poets cannot create poems without templates for their creativity, and humans cannot flourish without templates for their flourishing. 
 
The problem in many Muslims societies today, however, is that law has become stagnant and stifling.  In some cases it has become horribly oppressive.  What was a gift has become a chain. Muslim peoples in the Western world are on a daily basis confronted with discomforting questions concerning their religious faith and its essentials. One of the central questions  posed by non-Muslims is whether or not Islam is capable of change and creative process. Indeed, this is a pressing question which needs adequate answer, and unless reflective Muslims engage critically with their own heritage, challenging the premises that maintain and consolidate unhealthy thought patterns and societal structures, the prevailing climate of polarisation, and hostility to Islam and Muslims will continue to prevail.

Accordingly, Muhammad Iqbal poses a question which, in our time, is of utmost importance and relevance. In his words: “Is the Law of Islam capable of evolution?”

Iqbal’s answer is that Islamic law can evolve and needs to evolve.  This is no accident because, in the tradition of process thinking, Iqbal sees the entire universe as a creative process which can change and evolve through time.  Indeed, he believes that there is something like change also in the divine Life.  The future is open, even for God, and God offers new possibilities for human life in new circumstances. Still the question emerges: why didn’t later generations of Muslims, after the Prophet, see this? How did they allow law to become so stagnant in a world of constant flux?  Iqbal believes there are three historical reasons for the stagnation.

(1) The first concerns the advent and consequences of Rationalism.  Advocates of the Rationalist movement in the early days of Abbasid dynasty triggered –as a result of their radical notions– rancorous contestations between their own camp and the conservative thinkers of Islam.  As an instance in point, Iqbal points to the controversy related to the dogma of eternity or non-eternity of the Qur’an. The rationalist thinkers of Islam abnegated this tenet due their view that it was “another form of the Christian dogma of the eternity of the Word”. For the conservative thinkers, on the other hand, rejecting this dogma was tantamount to “undermining the very foundations of Muslim society”   It was because of this unrestrained rationalist philosophy of some of the Muslim rationalists that the conservative camp regarded it as a disruptive force, and looked at it as dangerous to the very “stability of Islam as a social polity. In response to their perception of the disintegration caused by the rationalists, conservatives sought “to preserve the social integrity of Islam," and "the only course open to them was to utilize the binding force of Shari’ah, and to make the structure of their legal system as rigorous as possible.” 

​(2) The second concerns the emergence of ascetic Sufism, which “gradually developed under influences of a non-Islamic character”. likewise became part of the problem, because it sought to escape, rather than work in and within, the spatio-temporal realities of the world.  Ascetic Sufism’s sharp differentiation between Appearance and Reality, produced, as Iqbal puts it, “an attitude of indifference to all that applies to Appearance and not to Reality."  This attitude of world apathy then obstructed the central idea of Islam as a social polity.  Iqbal criticises ascetical Sufism, saying that “Islam has had too much of renunciation; it is time for the Muslims to look to realities…The spirit of Islam is not afraid of its contact with matter.” In Iqbal`s Reconstruction, he proposes that ascetic Sufism was a reaction against the formalism of the early thinkers and jurists of Islam, which focused more on externals and technicalities rather than essentials and basic principles.  Because of the rise of formalistic tendencies in Islamic jurisprudence, ascetic Sufism “attracted and finally absorbed the best minds in Islam.” Iqbal goes on to explain: “The Muslim state was thus left generally in the hands of intellectual mediocrities, and the unthinking masses of Islam, having no personalities of a higher calibre to guide them, found their security only in blindly following the schools.”​​

(3) The third cause of stagnation was demolition of Baghdad in 1258 CE.  The mayhem of Bagdad “was indeed a great blow” on the intellectual life of Muslims.  In fear of further disintegration, which is only natural in such a period of political decay, the conservative thinkers of Islam focused all their efforts on the one point of preserving a uniform social life for the people by a jealous exclusion of all innovations in the law of Shari’ah as expounded by the early doctors of Islam.  As a result of the invasion of Baghdad, the protectionist attitude of conservative Muslim thinkers and jurists deemed the four well-known Sunni schools of thought as sufficient for further guidance of the Muslim peoples. This protective attitude towards innovation and dynamic reflection in accommodating the clime and time of advancing civilization boiled down to the closing of the door of ijtihad, or independent thinking. Hence, fresh legal and religious interpretations and revisions were relegated to the background. This contributed to servile adherence (taqlid) as the norm for life, resulting in the exclusion of human agency. According to Iqbal, blind imitation, “by a false reverence of the past, as manifested in the legists of Islam in the thirteenth century and later, was contrary to the inner impulse of Islam…”      

In response to the stagnation as prompted by these three factors, Iqbal offers a promising alternative for the future.  He boldly affirms a belief in the capacity of Islamic Law to evolve with altering condition of life. This affirmation is grounded in his conception of God, which paved the way for the “principle of movement in the structure of Islam”. The principle he is referring to is ijtihad, understood as the hermeneutical principle of creative, independent reasoning, which he takes to be an indispensable tool in the system of Islamic socio-political economic life.

How can this affirmation be justified?  For one thing, Iqbal cites the European Orientalist Max Horten (1874-1945), who rightly points out that Islamic thinking has always been evolving. In Iqbal’s words, paraphrasing Horten, “from 800-1100…not less than one hundred systems of theology appeared in Islam, a fact which bears ample testimony to the elasticity of Islamic thought as well as to the ceaseless activity of our early thinkers." Horton puts it this way: “The spirit of Islam is so broad that it is practically boundless. With the exception of atheistic ideas alone it has assimilated all the attainable ideas of surrounding peoples, and given them its own peculiar direction of development.”
 
Moreover, Iqbal also cites the conclusion put forward by another European thinker Hurgronje, who was – after a study into the spirit of Islam in the realm of law – driven to the conclusion that the spirit of Islam is capable of evolution and adaptive change. Iqbal cites these references to strengthen his affirmative reply, that “the inner catholicity of the spirit of Islam is bound to work itself out in spite of the rigorous conservatism of our doctors.” .

Further, thinks Iqbal, a “deeper study of the enormous legal literature of Islam is sure to rid the modern critic of the superficial opinion that the Law of Islam is stationary and incapable of development.” Iqbal offers some remarks on the adaptivity of the early Muslim schools of law, which reveals how the early legalists of Islam exercised ijtihad (renewed, independent thinking) –within the ambit of the general ideals and all-embracing humanistic principles propounded in the Qur’an –in their efforts to meet the demands of a developing Muslim civilisation.

An instance in point is the Andalusian scholar Abu Ishaq Shatibi (1320-1388) and his view on how the ultimate objectives/purposes of shariah (maqasid al-shariah) aims at protecting five fundamental human rights (Huquq al aadamiya) which consist of Deen (protection of religion/freedom of religion), Nafs (protection of life/human self-actualisation), Aql (protection of faculty of intellect/freedom of expression), Mal (protection of property and wealth/basic necessities of life) and Nasl (protection of progeny).

These welfare-oriented, fundamental rights are, for Iqbal, the aims of Islam as a social polity and a civil society, which needs to be restored and revived in their original shape “with a view to rebuild our moral, social, and political ideals out of their original simplicity and universality.”  However, in order to reconstruct the laws of Shariah (jurisprudence), it is of paramount importance to re-evaluate the Muslim intellectual inheritance and traditions according to the all-encompassing values of the Qur`anic scripture and also modern conditions and climes. This is only possible by re-opening the door of ijtihad.

In a forthcoming essay, I will look into the Iqbalian interpretation of ijtihad, which he derived from his process understanding of God, the synthesis between order and dynamism. For now, however, let it be noted that, for Iqbal and Muslim process thinkers like me, Sharia can evolve and should evolve. Let there be process also in Sharia.

First published on 

http://www.jesusjazzbuddhism.org/islamic-law-as-a-dynamic-process-farhan-shah.html

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A process interpretation of Islam

Publisert over 4 år siden

I am offering ideas which can serve as springboards for further development among those interested in a humanistic, compassionate, open-ended and mature understanding of Islam in our contemporary era: A Process Islam.

What does a process interpretation of Islam, inspired by the dynamic and organic perspective of Muhammad Iqbal, look like? Below I offer some key ideas forming the essence of an Open and Humanistic Islam or, for short, a Process Islam. By "humanistic" I do not have in mind the Promethean humanism that places humanity at the center of the universe with God and the rest of the world as mere satellites, but rather a humane way of living in the world that affirms the best of human potential, including critical thinking and open-mindedness, while emphasizing humanity's organic connections with the rest of the world, as grounded in One in whose life the universe unfolds.  This is Muhammad Iqbal's kind of humanism, and I share it, grateful for his example.  It is, as it were, a Process Islam, because it emphasizes human life and the universe as as whole as a dynamic process of becoming in which everything is connected with everything else.  

The version of Process Islam I offer below is not an exhaustive treatment; I am offering ideas which can serve as springboards for further development among those interested in a humanistic, compassionate, open-ended and mature understanding of Islam in our contemporary era: A Process Islam. 


An Attitude Toward Life
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Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) proposes that Islam is not a religion in the ancient sense of the term, but is instead an attitude toward life: specifically an attitude of freedom and compassion.  A Process Islam says the same.  A Process Islam is not a rigid approach to life or an overly-defined set of beliefs and practices, but is instead an attitude and way of living, centered in respect and profound care for the community of life, human as well as non-human. It is concerned with the welfare of individuals and also with the common well-being of the world, understood as an interconnected whole. It envisions the world as a process of becoming and the universe as a vast network of inter-becomings. It considers each living organism on earth as worthy of respect and attention.  This means that, as Process Muslims, we should seek to live humbly on our planet and softly with others, sensitive and aware of the interconnectedness of all things, and respecting the differences as one of God`s greatest signs.  

Moreover, a Process Islam influenced by Iqbal will be open to the myriad ways of understanding the world – verbal,  mathematical, intuitive, bodily, and empathic. This has implications for education. Education should nurture literacy, to be sure, but also compassion and creativity. 

Muhammad Iqbal supports this approach to life in a well-defined and highly refined form of Islamic theology.  His thinking is an excellent source for scholars; indeed, to my mind, it embodies the leading edge of the intellectual side of an Islamic process thinking.  Nonetheless, a complete command of his ideas is not a prerequisite to be a Muslim process thinker or,  to say the same thing, an Open and Humanistic Muslim.
 
The ideas introduced below shapes the essence of a Process Islamic interpretation: 

(1) Process: The universe is an ongoing process of expansion and change, never the same at any two moments. Every entity in the universe is conceived as a process of becoming that emerges through the interactions with others. The beings of the world are becomings. 

(2) Interconnectedness: The universe as a whole is a web of interconnected events, none of which can be separated from others. Everything is related to everything else and contained in everything else. There is a deep interrelationality in the universe, which we ought to understand and act accordingly, personally and corporately. 

(3) Continuous Creativity: The universe exhibits an incessant creativity on the basis of which fresh events arises over time which did not exist beforehand. This continuous creativity, this movement and becoming, is one of the greatest signs of God, The Ultimate Creative Power. Everything we see is God`s Self-Revelation. Or, in Iqbalian terminology, “the self-revelation of the great I-Am”. 

(4) Nature as alive: The natural world has a value in itself and all living organisms are worthy of our utmost respect and care. Rocks and trees, birds and horses, hills and rivers are not simply facts in the world: they are also acts of self-expression of God. The whole of nature is throbbing with pulse and life. Human beings dwell within, not isolated from, the phenomenal world. 

(5) Ethics: Human agents find their fulfillment in living in harmony with each other. The ethical life denotes living with respect and care for other people and the larger community of life. As Iqbal puts it: “The essence of humanity is respect for humankind”. Justice, love, compassion and unity in diversity is fidelity to the bonds of relationship. A society which is based on the humanistic principles is a free and peaceful society, with sufficient scope for self-realization for each an everyone. Put differently, such a society is creative, spacious, participatory, ecologically wise, spiritually and intellectually satisfying, with no life disregarded. 

(6) Novelty: Human beings find their development in being open to new and untried ideas, knowledge and insights. Even as we learn from the past, we need to be open to the future, yet to be formed. God is present in the world, among other ways, through novel possibilities of self-actualization. Human happiness is not only contained in compassion and justice, but also by being creative and open-minded. 

(7) Reflection and feeling: The human mind is not restricted to reasoning or abstract thinking, but also includes feeling, intuition, imagination; all of these modes of activities can work together toward greater levels of understanding. Even reasoning is a form of feeling, i.e., feeling the presence of ideas and responding to them in different ways. There are many a form of wisdom: logical, spiritual, experiential, verbal and emphatic. 

(8) The human being as a Person-in-Community: Human beings are autonomous individuals with individual freedom and potential; but this does not imply that they are cut off from the world by the limitations of their individuality. Humans are also persons-in-community whose social interactions with other members of the human species are partly definitive of their own existence and development. In Iqbalian terminology, Khudi signifies “individuality”, and Bekhudi denotes “individuals in communities”. Human beings reach full self-realization only when their Khudi is transformed into Bekhudi. We depend for our existence on various factors, such as intimate friends, family, mentors and life partners, on nutrition, shelter, clothing, on our religious traditions and the natural world. The communitarians are partly right by asserting that there is no “self/ego” apart from connections with others. The individualists are also right; each individual is unparalleled and unique, deserving of respect and care. Other living beings, such as animals, deserve to be included in our ethical calculations and policy-makings as well. 

(9) Complementary thinking: The rational and modern life consists not only of identifying facts and invoking to empirical evidence, but taking apparent conflicting ideas and showing how they can be connected into wholes, with each component contributing to the other. To be “sensible” does not only mean to be empirical but also imaginative, that is, exploring new patterns of thinking, fresh ideas and seeing how they might fit together, thus complementing one another. 

(10) Theory and practice: Theory affects practice and vice versa; a duality between the two is mistaken. Our actions do have a bearing on our thought patterns, and how we reflect affects our mode of behaviour. Learning can come about from body to mind (read: by doing things), and not simply from mind to body, 

(11) The Primary of Persuasion over Coercion: There are two categories of power: coercive power and persuasive power. In Muslim process thinking, the latter is opted for over the former. Coercive power is the power of violence and destructive force. On the contrary, persuasive power is the power of invitation, freedom and moral example. 

(12) Relational power: This form of power is experienced when people dwell in mutually elevating and enriching relations, such that both parties are “empowered” through their relations with each other. On the international arena, this would denote empowerment that would occur when governments enter into trade relations that are reciprocally beneficial, promoting welfare for the larger society and community of life. On a family level, this form of power would be the power that parents and children enjoy when, even amidst hierarchical relationship, there is respect and care on both sides and the relationship generates personal development and happiness. 

(13) Profound concern for the “Other”: Human beings are remarkable creatures who are joined together in a web of felt connections, such that they have capacities to share in one another`s pains and sufferings, hence moral responsibilities to one another. Thus, humans should approach one another in a spirit of mutual respect and sympathy. The quality of human societies does not lie in questions of affluence, appearance, and marketable achievement, but in the manner it treats the weakest: the marginalized, those who are left alone, orphans, immigrants, the otherwise disregarded. As Iqbal asserts: “Humanity binds humans together in fraternity; so keep your feet fixed on the path of amity. The human of love, who sees others with God`s eye, love heathen and believer equally. Give both of them a warm place in your heart; Woe to the heart, if heart from heart should part.” 

(14) Moral evil: In Islamic process thinking, moral evil (read: sharr/ithm) is identified as destruction and harm triggered by human activities such as pogroms, wars, economic injustice, abuse of humanity`s inalienable human rights, and greed. These are evils which weakens our God-given potentials of creative self-actualization, thus cutting us off from our true potentials as God`s co-workers. One of the most serious forms of moral evil is the act of degrading the innate dignity of humanity by overly rigidified constructions of culture, religion, nationality, language, and ethnicity.  These constructions, when they become too rigid, result in opposing camps, with each camp jealously safeguarding its own interests at the cost of the general commonweal of humanity and her environment. Moral evil can be personal as well as structural. Systems, too, can be channels of harm and human suffering. 

(15) Education as a lifelong process: Human life is not bread and butter alone. It is also a healthy and vital character expressing the universal ideals in its various forms. Human life is a dynamic journey of character development; of Creative Becoming. Formal education in the classroom is a context to facilitate the process, but the process of humanization of our character is never-ending. Knowledge must be accompanied by moral development, without which knowledge (read: power) tends to be destructive. A strong mind signifies knowledge as well as a high degree of sensitivity towards our natural as well as ethical climate. 

(16) Scientific development as religious worship: The Qur’an, by arousing human’s empirical attitude unto nature, wants human beings to become conscious of nature as a symbol, pointing towards God. In other words, the scientific quest, by accumulating knowledge about the physical world, its mechanisms and varying actualities, is a search after God.  For Iqbal, nature is a “structure of events, a systematic mode of behaviour”. And since it is one of God`s self-expressions, it is organically related to God's Self. That is, nature is the Habit of Allah. Iqbal puts it this way: “The knowledge of Nature is the knowledge of God`s behaviour. In our observation of Nature we are virtually seeking a kind of intimacy with the Absolute Ego; and this is only another form of worship”. Iqbal`s interpretation of worship from mere ritual and ceremonial, to scientific worship in the sense of intimate contact with nature by deepening and enlargeable knowledge into the mechanisms of it so as to conquer its forces, entails a wake-up call to the Muslims masses engrossed in excessive other-wordliness and narrow matters of mere ritualism; a call to turn their attention to the observable reality, considered as a religious obligation. 

(17) The ultimate aim of science: In Iqbalian process thinking, the naturalism of the Qur’an is only a recognition of the fact that human beings are intimately related to nature; and this relation, in view of its possibility as a means of controlling nature's forces, can be deployed, not in the interest of unrighteous desire for domination, but in the nobler interest of a free upward movement of spiritual life. In other words, by harnessing the creativity of nature, we must employ them for the promotion and elevation of the common good, including the good of the natural world itself.  The well being that God seeks is not that of humans alone, but rather that of the whole of creation.  This is the gist and essence of Divine aims enshrined in the Qur’anic scripture. 

(18) God and the Qur’an: God is the source of our existence, the creative Maker, the lure towards well-being and wholeness of life. The galaxies, the rivers and hills, the beautiful animals, all are expression of God`s creative work and life. God is the ideal companion, who cares for this world and its becoming. In human domain, God`s intentions are expressed in the Qur’anic scripture, which works as an inner calling toward compassion, wisdom, justice and unity. If rightly understood, the Qur’an is, according to an Iqbalian process perspective, “a set of basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis”. It is a guide to planetary well-being, a book of potentialities productive of enhancing all life. Through the Qur’an, the voice of God beckons human beings toward cooperation and the furtherance of the cause of all life.  However, God does not know the final outcome of the invitation in advance, because the future is a line in becoming. The future does exist as a possibility, but not as settled event, something fixed and inflexible. The openness of the future can make human beings God`s companions in bringing about a future of socio-economic justice, freedom, environmental preservation and compassion. 

(19) The state as an agency of welfare: According to Iqbalian process thinking, an Islamic state is neither a theocracy, nor a monarchic rule. The essence of God`s unity (read: Tawhid) is equality, unity and freedom. As an implication, the state is, from an Islamic standpoint, “an endeavour to transform these ideal [humanistic] principles into space-time forces, an aspiration to realize them in a definite human organization”. Thus, a state which does not provide its members their basic human rights and sufficient scope for self-development, is un-Islamic and diametrically opposed to the spirit of Islam as a message of world loyalty. A world-loyalty in which our self-interest is joined with our commitment to be partners with God in the quest for welfare and beauty for all creation.

(20) The principle of permanence and change: According to Iqbal, as human life is characterized by flux and change, processes of becoming, so must the scriptural interpretation be characterized by flux and change.  However, there are some eternal/permanent values/principles which ought to guide our exegesis and faith-praxis. In brief, the key values deduced from the Qur`anic scripture are: the innate dignity of every member of the human species, the unalienable rights of human beings (freedom of religion/thought/expression, education, shelter, ontological equality of male and female, socio-political justice, equality before the law, sufficient scope for self-actualization and self-determination), and the preservation of nature, along with humanity`s organic relation to its natural surroundings. Thus, every interpretation of Islam which downplays these all-encompassing values is not part of Divine Aims enshrined in the Qur`an and needs to be challenged through persuasion and moral example. Put differently, the principle of permanence signifies those values that need to form the very basis of interpretative activities. Change, on the other hand, implies reinterpretation of our religious heritage in order to keep pace with humanity`s altering conditions. To absolutize that which is a product of human interpretation is antithetical to Islam, which embodies the dynamism needed for a healthy human life. This Iqbalian idea is reflective of Whitehead`s assertion that “The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order”. Put in a different way, order (read: permanence) cannot be lost, but it cannot exclude the possibilities of novelty and freshness (read: change). Thus, a synthesis between the “constant” and the “variable” is the ideal which Muslim theologians and scholars should adopt in order to produce scriptural exegesis in concord with the essence of Islam as well as their own specific historical contexts.

First published at http://www.processphilosophy.org/a-process-interpretation-of-islam-farhan-shah.html

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