Monday, 5 January 2009

Islam has a intellectual and spiritual tradition too


It was not until university that I began to think about what it meant to be a Muslim. Until then, life was pretty much plain sailing. I prayed and would fast in the month of Ramadan, but only half-heartedly.Experiences at the mosque taught me that Islam was something that came from the sub-continent: backward and ritualistic. But my perception and understanding of Islam changed as I soon discovered that Islam had an intellectual and spiritual tradition. Little did I know that I'd become part of an increasing number of Muslims in the West who, in the past decade or so, have been seeking the revivification of an authentic, traditional wisdom; one that rises above sectarian divisions and discredits the angry rhetoric of the orphans of modernity. Rather than being architects of destruction, traditional Muslims were builders of a magnificent civilization synonymous with life, celebration, purity and knowledge. Some Muslims today, in their rhetoric or by their actions, portray a faith whose adherents want a religion to die for, as opposed to live for. These Muslims are replacing the legacy of that civilization with anger and hatred. Confusion rife Unfortunately, despite the huge upsurge of interest in Islam, there remains much confusion as to what it's really about.

" A twisted and mutated offspring is wreaking havoc in the name of Islam"

While "the war on terrorism" has shifted relations between Islam and the West in tectonic proportions, the responses by Muslims have been different. Some argue that 9/11 signalled the ultimate showdown between Islam and the West; others reactively repeat the mantra "Islam is a religion of peace". And another segment of the community has decided it is time for some serious and critical reflection. These messages have been mixed and confuse many people, who cannot understand why so many Muslims are angry. Despite the immense suffering in the Muslim world, nothing can justify the heinous actions that result in the spilling of innocent blood. Devoid of the necessary skills and tools to decipher the religious texts, minions of chaos have side-stepped over 1,000 years of scholasticism and Koranic exegesis [critical explanation of a text] to create their own deluded Sharia - a new law couched in Islamic terminology established solely to be the antithesis of the West. Under this law, there is only hatred and rejection. Under this law, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are its victims. Classical traditions For the integrity of Islam, these individuals and their organisations need to be seen as they are: marginal and heretical. So far are they from classical notions of ethics and morality, manifestations of this extreme reading of Islam are more in line with "Islamicised" Marxist-Leninist notions of revolution and anti-imperialist struggle than with anything derived from the Koran and the Sunna through a classical legal tradition. Muslim reformers who dismantled and undermined the Islamic tradition with its legal philosophy, an apparatus of law and system of spirituality during the 19th and 20th Centuries, paved the way for a twisted and mutated offspring that is wreaking havoc on the Earth in the name of Islam. So what is traditional Islam? It really means orthodoxy, consisting of the four Sunni legal schools of thought (madhahibs), two schools of doctrine (aqida) and the science of ihsan (excellence or perfection), otherwise known as tasawwuf. Traditional Islam teaches how to view tribulation and oppression through prophetic eyes and not how to contribute to it. By restoring the equilibrium between the heart and soul, the intellect and creation, traditional Islam can help calm the frantic nature so prevalent in Muslim psyche today and, once again, marginalise and eject extremism from the Muslim discourse.

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