Saturday, January 26, 2008

Islam & Modernity: Selling out?

Nothing but tales of the Ancients

The claim that Islam is not “modern” is not a new one. In fact, Quraish presented a similar argument to Prophet Muhammad (saw):

“When it is said to them, "What is it that your Lord has revealed?" they say, "Asateeru al-awwaleen” (Tales of the ancients)!"” [TMQ 16:24]

As revealed in this Ayah, Quraish used to dismiss Islam as simply being stories that belonged to ancient times. In other words, Quraish were implying that they were “modern” and Islam was a relic of the past.

The Islamic Shariah encompasses all the actions of man, completely and comprehensively, at every time and place.

Unfortunately, some Muslim speakers are now issuing calls to modernize our understanding of Islam. The claim is that Islam was silent on issues and that Islam left room for man to govern/legislate in certain areas. This would therefore require the need for a “new Fiqh” (Islamic jurisprudence); where ultimately we do what we feel is right. This idea threatens the existence of the Islamic jurisprudence. Such thinking will allow non-Islamic rules to be introduced into the Ummah under the guise of Islam.

Is Islam silent on issues?

The proponents of the idea that Islam is in need of a “new Fiqh” claim that the Shariah has remained silent on new issues, and that the existing methodology of Islam is incapable of dealing with such issues. The proponents of this viewpoint cite the following Hadith. On the authority of Jurthum bin Nashir the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:

“Allah the Almighty has laid down religious duties, so do not neglect them. He has set boundaries, so do not over step them. He has prohibited some things so do not violate them. He was silent about some things out of compassion for you, not forgetfulness, so do not seek after them” [Darqutni, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, & Hakim].

Tariq Ramadan, who is trying to formulate a methodology for life for the Muslims in the West, speaks about the silence mentioned in this Hadith in his book, “To be a European Muslim.” He says that this Hadith of permissibility…” He further states that: “The silence, then, is in the sphere of which permits Fiqh, within social affairs (Muamalat) to be in constant development, evolution, and formation.”

Based on this understanding, where there is no explicit text, then the concept of Ibaha (permissibility) exists. That is, we are free to do what we want and adopt legislation as we see fit. As a result, those who promote this understanding of Islam claim that the rules that should be adopted (within the area of permissibility) are those that provide the most benefit to the Muslims.

The issue of whether actions are permissible in the absence of a text is a topic of Usul-al-fiqh (principles of Islamic jurisprudence). As a result, such a topic requires greater discussion than what is permitted in this article. However, inshaAllah we will cover the key reasons that explain the falsehood of such an opinion.

The Shariah has not left anything without a ruling from the Quran or the Sunnah. The Islamic Shariah encompasses all the actions of man, completely and comprehensively, at every time and place.

Allah (swt) revealed, with definite meaning:

“And We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything, and a guidance and mercy and good news for those who submit.” [TMQ 16:89].

The meaning of this ayah leaves no room for the claim that the Shariah remained silent on certain issues. Instead Allah (swt) revealed the Quran as an explanation of all matters.

Either the matter is explicitly identified in the texts or a qualified scholar must use Ijtihad to extract opinion – supporting his or her opinion with Adila (evidences) from the Quran and Sunnah. Furthermore, Allah (swt) is clear on the fact that all judgements must be referred to the Shariah when He (sws) says:

“No by your God, they shall not become true believers until they make you judge in matters that are of dispute amongst them and find within themselves no dislike of that which you have decided, and submit with full submission” [TMQ Al-Nisaa:65]

If the premise that the Shariah did not cover all situations were true, then Muslims would be forced to adopt a rule that the Shariah had not come with. In effect, Muslims would have referred a judgement to other than the Shariah—and this is forbidden. So claiming that there is a permission to refer to other than Islam under the pretext contradicts this ayah and is therefore false.

Finally, the Messenger of Allah (saw) has explicitly forbidden us from taking anything other than what he has brought. Muslim reported on the authority of Aisha (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:

“He who introduces in our order something that is alien to it, must be rejected”.

Silence in the Era of Revelation

“Truly the gravest sinners amongst the Muslims would be those who ask about something that has not been forbidden for them, then it became forbidden because of their asking about it.”

This Hadith and others are used as a proof to backup the claim that the Shariah was silent on issues. However, a closer look at these Ahadith indicates that these texts are related to the subject of the prohibition of searching and asking about that which He (swt) has lightened for you and has not forbidden for you – during the period of revelation. So when something is not prohibited, it is a pardon from Allah (swt) so do not ask about it. This is reflected in Allah’s saying:

“O you who have believed do not ask about matters which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble, but if you asked them when the Quran is being revealed, they will be made known to you. Allah pardons this, for Allah is forgiving, Most Forbearing” [TMQ 5:101].

Consequently, the above Hadith and others are specific to the era of revelation and do not absolve us from the obligation of seeking the ruling on issues of politics, worship, economics, social relationships, and any other issue related to our life.

What is Ijthihad?

Ijtihad is the task of applying Shari (as in Shariah) evidences to determine Allah’s (swt) ruling on an issue. Such a task must be performed by a qualified Mujtahid. Just as any other expertise – such as doctors, accountants, and engineers - to be a Mujtahid requires an in-depth knowledge of classical Arabic (i.e. as was used during the time of revelation), Quran, Hadith, and Usul-al-fiqh. In addition to knowledge, the key to making Ijitihad is to look at the Shari evidences from a legislative perspective; identifying how the revelation solves problems in daily affairs. With such a mindset, we can see that Islam is more than capable of solving problems. If we as individuals lack the necessary qualifications to make Ijtihad – then the problem is with us; not Islam.

Ijtihad also requires a deep understanding of what the text is referring to. For example, one superficially examining the issue of drugs would say that Islam was silent on heroin, crack-cocaine, crystal-meth, and other drugs. However, when a Mujtihad studies the issue, he or she would study the nature of heroin, etc and discover that it is an intoxicant. Then all the relevant Ayat and Ahadith would need to be studied, such as:

"Every intoxicant is Khamr, and every Khamr is haram." [Muslim]

“Khamr is that which befogs the mind" [Bukhari & Muslim]

Thus, through a deep understanding of these Shari evidences and others, and through a deep understanding of the nature of the issue being addressed, the Mujtahid discovers that drugs are intoxicants and that intoxicants are Haram – even though no text specifically mentions them.

If we as individuals lack the necessary qualifications to make Ijtihad – then the problem is with us; not Islam.

We should also recognize that man’s needs have not changed since the Quran was revealed. People need to acquire the necessities of life in order to satisfy their need for survival, and to worship Allah (swt). One would argue that technological and scientific knowledge has increased and this is indisputable fact. However, technology is just merely a tool – it does not solve the problems in it of itself. For example, millions of people go hungry despite the fact that the Internet exists. The issue of how we use technology to solve such problems requires us to turn to the solutions provided by Allah (swt) in the Shariah.

Islam Solves Problems!

Ownership of Energy Resources: If we look at contemporary issues, we can readily find solutions from the Shariah. For example, in Canada, there has been a dispute between the oil companies and the Alberta provincial government about how the revenues from the oil & gas should be shared. The government wants to increase taxes, royalties, etc on the oil & gas, while the companies want to keep the profit for themselves. The crux of this issue is: to whom does the oil belong to? Regarding the ownership of oil, we find the following Hadith that would solve such a dispute (had it occurred in an Islamic State):

Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said:

“Muslims are partners in three things, in water, green pastures and fire.” [Abu Dawud]

Scholars have understood the word fire to mean any resource that can be used to generate energy – including oil, uranium, electricity, etc. As a result, the solution to the problem as to who owns the oil is neither the state nor the individual –it is rather the entire Ummah who owns the oil. In the Islamic State, the Khaleefah would administer the resources, but would have to consult the citizens of the Islamic State as to how it can be used.

Human Cloning is another contemporary issue that some claim Islam was silent on. To see how Islam is not silent about this issue, we must first understand the process of cloning (based on what was done with sheep Dolly in Scotland). The process involves taking a nucleus of the cell that was taken from the body of a particular man, and insert the nucleus in an egg that was taken from a woman. Special chemicals and specific electric currents are used to combine the nucleus of the cell with the egg. After they are joined together, the egg (that has the cell’s nucleus) is implanted in a woman’s womb so that it can reproduce, grow, divide and form a complete fetus which is then born through the
process of a natural birth.

1. Cloning deviates from the normal process of reproduction prescribed in the following ayah: “And that He (Allah) created the pairs, male and female. From Nutfah (drops of semen – male and female discharges) when it is emitted.” [TMQ An-Najm:45-46]
2. Cloning effectively generates a being without a father thereby violating the following Ayah:
“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female.” [TMQ Al-Hujurat: 13]
3. Cloning destroys the ties of family that is between the child and their parents. In the following Ahadith, we are required to preserve such ties;
Examining the Quran and Sunnah we find:

“Whoever claims relationship by birth to other than his father or belonged to other than those he belongs to, then the curse of Allah, the Angels, and all the people be upon him.” [Ibn Majah]

“Any woman who introduced to some people an offspring that does not belong to them, then she has nothing to do with Allah and she will not enter Paradise; and any man who denies his son while looking at him, Allah will not reveal Himself to him and Allah will disgrace him in front of the first and last generations.” [ Al-Darimi]

As a result, cloning violates this principle in Islam, thereby making human cloning haram.


A shallow understanding of the Shariah may have led some to conclude that Islam was silent on some issues. However, the real problem is not that Islam was silent, but rather that people lack the qualifications necessary to make Ijitihad or do not have sufficient understanding of how Ijtihad is performed.

May Allah (swt) guide us and protect us. May He expose the plots against Islam and protect this Ummah from the corrupt thoughts.



Foiz said...

“Khamr is that which befogs the mind" [Bukhari & Muslim]

Is it permitted to use perfume which contains alcohol?

Islamic Revival said...

There is legitimate ikhtilaf (difference of opinion) amongst the scholars on this issue. Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani's opinion is that is haram whereas others permit using some types of alcohol in perfumes.

Foiz said...

Zazakallah brother.

FYI i have posted a Qes. regarding Mahr( Thursday February 16, 2012). Pls kindly ack.

zeb said...

Salam Alaikum ,

1:Is drinking that much amount of alocohal like in medicine or drinks which contains it like cocacola or other and not befog mind Halal or Haram ?
2: Can you please share sheikh Taqqi Uddin (ra) opinion with evidences ?