Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Unity of the Qur'an

We always hear that tawhid, or unity, is important in Islam. Yet we rarely see this applied to the Qur'an. Very few Muslims think of the Qur'an as a whole, rather than a compilation of verses that can be taken separately and out of context. But is this how we should look at it?

Fazlur Rahman suggests that we need to see the Qur'an as a whole to find out what God wants from us. Quoting a single verse as proof of something is not good enough. What is more important is the main message of the Qur'an - socio-economic justice - and the values the Qur'an mentions over and over again - peace, justice, kindness, compassion, sincerity, respect, and so on.

Rahman argues that we need to think beyond a single verse when we consider Islamic issues. The message of the Qur'an is a unity, not a block comprised of singular verses. We need to look at the values that underpin the Qur'an - what principles is God asking us to follow? We need to look for the VALUE behind the verse.

An example: the verse saying that women should inherit half of what men inherit. Then, it was seen as just. Today, it is not, because why should a woman only get half of what a man does? So when looked at by itself, it makes the Qur'an seem gender-biased. However, if we look at the value and message BEHIND the verse, we see a different picture: we see that God was giving women SOMETHING, at a time when she got NOTHING. God was saying a woman does have value, and does deserve an inheritance. That is the value and principle behind the verse, and according to Rahman, that is what we should be applying to our lives, not looking at that verse specifically and applying it literally.

Of course I'm sure most Muslims would disagree with him, as he is definitely a modernist and a reformist, but I think his view is very refreshing. It is an interesting question: why do we not apply tawhid to the Qur'an, when it is obviously the most important principle to God. Why do we not look at the SPIRIT of the Qur'an instead of focusing on specific verses?

Khaled abou el-Fadl once said that if we look at individual verses about women in the Qur'an, then it does seem like Islam treats women as less than men. But if we look at them together and see them as part of the Qur'an, we see that God does see them as equal and does want justice for them - because the Qur'an is about justice.

And it's so refreshing to have someone remind us of that.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Questions on the Sunnah and Hadith

I'm really interested in finding out how you guys think the Sunna and Hadith fit into Islam. The Sunna are basically the practices of the Prophet and the Hadith are the written version of these. They can also include the Prophet giving his approval to someone else's action, without necessarily doing it himself.

Are we supposed to follow ALL of the Prophet's Sunna? Through the hadith we would know exactly what he did and how he lived. Does this mean we are supposed to implement this? If this is the case, as many Muslims argue, then we should grow beards, wear niqab, drink in a certain way, etc. Interestingly, these same Muslims DON'T think we should go back to riding camels or donkeys, give up all modern technology, give up healthcare, etc. So does following the Sunna mean selectively following it, or does it mean following all of it?

When it comes to hadith, how do you determine whether one is authentic (sahih) or not? Does it depend on the collection it is from? Many people say "well it's from Bukhari or Muslim so it must be right". Actually, weak hadiths were later found in the collection of Bukhari and a lot in the collection of Muslim. Also, neither of them was trying to make an exclusive collection of hadith - so there could be hadith that are sahih that were not included in their collections.

When a hadith contradicts our common sense, do we ignore it or do we ignore our common sense?

Is it a problem that the hadith were compiled by human beings, prone to error?

Can we understand the Qur'an without the hadith?

I would love to hear from all of you! My next post will be my answers.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Islamic Culture

Whatever happened to the Islamic empire? When Muslims were at the forefront of science, politics, law, medicine, philosophy, and the arts?

"The decline of the Islamic civilization is a great historical wound to Muslims. For a whole millennium their civilization had dominated most parts of the world. During that time, Islamic civilization was the entity that - due to its high degree of development - was the most expansive throughout the world."

Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Ghazali - what happened? And what happened to Muslims today to make them think that music, art, thinking for yourself, and debate are haram? All of these things have made Islamic civilization great. Muslims back then did not think every single thing was wrong, or that God does not love beauty. What is wrong with jazz? What is wrong with Rembrandt? Why are these unIslamic?!

"In those earlier times, a visitor from Mars might have supposed that the human world was on the verge of becoming Muslim. He would have based this judgement partly on the strategic and political advantages of the Muslims, but partly on the vitality of their general culture."

Vitality? It's hard for me to even imagine that now! Some of the world's greatest rationalists were Muslims - today we are told by many ulama NOT to think and NOT to question - if something is so it is because God wanted it to be so.

Some of the world's best poets were Muslims. Today we are told poetry, painting, even MUSIC, is haram. Why? Where are these arguments coming from? And why have Muslims for hundreds of years enjoyed these beautiful things? Were they all wrong and are they all in hell now?

Some of the world's best scientists and doctors were Muslim. Today we have Muslim doctors saying a male doctor cannot treat a female patient. Seriously, where has professionalism and common sense gone?

To me it is just so sad that this is what Islamic "civilization" has come to: following the ulama blindly and accepting anything without thinking. There is no debate. There is no freedom of expression. And there is definitely no freedom of religion. Even the majority of Muslims in the West blindly follow each other out of social and peer pressure.

There was a time when moderate Islam was the norm. When we had reason and belief, rationality and spirituality. Today we have orthodoxy and conservatism, and if you are a Muslim and you don't agree, then you have to be prepared to constantly defend yourself.


Quotes from Bassam Tibi, "Islam's Predicament with Modernity"

Saturday, February 6, 2010

7 Things...

I was just tagged by the lovely Jasmine and Aynur :)

1. I love writing a post at night and then waking up the next morning to comments. I really enjoy hearing what everyone has to say and knowing that people actually read my blog :)

2. I love carrot cake more than anything else in the world. I have a piece sitting in the fridge right now, and I'm waiting for the perfect time to eat it :D

3. I really hope I end up back in Cairo one day, insha'Allah. I've really fallen for it, and I don't think Holland is the place for me (as beautiful as it is when it snows).

4. Sometimes it is really hard to be a Muslim. I feel pressure coming from some non-Muslims, and pressure from many Muslims. It's a constant battle to defend your views and ideals and sometimes I really doubt myself.

5. I'm scared I'll never find best friends like the ones I had in Cairo.

6. I miss my mum and my sister, and how we used to go Starbucks every weekend to just talk about nothing.

7. My maternal instincts kicked in 2 months ago when the cutest baby sat on my lap. Her name was Gaby, and she was wearing BABY UGGS. How adorable is that?! Her mum was also wearing uggs, which made it even more cute.


I'm not sure who's already been tagged, so I tag anyone who hasn't done it yet.

(Wanted to add pics to the post but for some reason I can't :(...)