Initially, the universe originated by a single word “BE,” when God's Will was materialized, and everything else is mere detail. The discourse is the means to convey the message between the commander and the receiver, so there is no alteration of God’s orders. Discourse methods are varied to include the worldly aspect which is not related to religion and monotheistic faiths. Rather, several literary genres have appeared to express human thought. However, the divine language is not subject to such criteria, and when humans intervened in the discourse, monotheistic faiths were distorted and polytheism spread with the aim of getting nearer to God. Our concern here is the Islamic religious discourse, including the divine discourse and the human understanding.
As for the divine discourse, it is the Noble Qur’an, to which approach is not permissible because it is the divine revelation with which the faithful spirit was sent to our master Muhammad (PBUH). Whoever attempts to philosophize in this context would be subject to accusations of disbelief, deem them fair or not. The story of Dr. Hamid Abu Zaid is a typical example. The man was deemed a disbeliever and was exiled because he philosophized and used linguistic research methods in what is not mundane. At best, he erred and at worst his mind started to doubt what there is no doubt about. In either case, he did not reach a safe destination for logic or reason insofar as he completely forgot that the emotional truths and the beliefs of the heart are above scientific pedanticism. This was not the way to obtain an academic degree, even if he undoubtedly deserved it due to his abundant knowledge.
But beyond divine revelation, the Qur’an contains divine mysteries and codes that will overwhelm human understanding until God takes back the Earth and those on it. This is the miracle of the Qur’an, which makes it fit for every time and place. We can find the Qur’an to be a book of faith, sociology, philosophy, education, and life. As science progresses, we will understand more. Thus, in our conscience we know that the Book of God is not man-made. No one, no matter their scientific title, can claim they know its secrets.
Let us leave the book of Allah and talk only about the concerns people have about religious discourse, which is our own understanding of the words of Allah or the words of the Noble Prophet (PBUH) and most importantly how religious scholars explain this message to people of different religious and educational backgrounds. There are illiterate, half-educated, and highly-educated people. Therefore, the understanding of human religious discourse is not the same.
Everything that is essential in religion is easy for everyone to comprehend. We all know what the qibla is (the qibla is the direction towards the Kaaba in the Sacred Mosque in Mecca), the number of prayers, the number of rak’ahs, the halal (permissible) and haram (the absolute forbidden). Thankfully, the confusing aspects are few and most people choose safely so they avoid what is likely to be prohibited.
There is no doubt that religious scholars have the most difficult and significant task of keeping the religious discourse up with the modern times. The human jurisprudence set by leaders of madhhabs (Islamic schools of thought) and circulated by the scientific public over centuries has become inadequate.
It is important to give credit to all madhhab leaders for their great efforts in instilling religion and sharia provisions in Muslims via their explanations and deep understanding of the purposes of sharia in preserving life, money, honor, and mind until the Islamic caliphate moved to Turkey. At the time, in the era of Suleiman the Magnificent, he prohibited ijtihad (independent reasoning). As Turkish hegemony reached its peak over the Muslim world, he was motivated by good faith but feared disagreements and rifts, so he closed the door of ijtihad and recognized only the application of the Hanafi madhhab in all government legislation. Consequently, the mental aspect of life was left behind for the simple reason that jurisprudential rulings were limited, even though life’s incidents were not limited.
Abu Hanifa al-Numan did not know about computers, organ transplants, genetic codes, etc. Thus, the nation’s scholars have a duty to pursue ijtihad, in compliance with Allah’s command that a group of Muslims, but not all of them, should learn well the religion, and teach it to their people.
But scholars were lazy, so ignorant people surfaced, and morals got lost. Now it is no longer feasible to project our past and use parts of our dignified Islamic history, because we are very far away from our past both in form and substance.
In terms of form, Muslims are not powerful, and enemies are surrounding us as flies surround a bowl of honey. In terms of substance, the nation has weakened and its scholars have failed it. We lost the direction, and no longer knew how to overcome this. We left it to the doctrinal laziness and the misguided recall of conspiracy theory, which is a disillusioned ploy that is not working anymore. We forgot the most important thing which is that a "word" initiated everything.
To be continued ..
Jamal Abdul Mabud is an Egyptian writer and researcher in the history of religions and philosophy of doctrines.