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Engaging Islamophobes

Engaging Islamophobes

Muhammad Abdul Haqq

As Salamu Alaykum!


I thought it would be a great idea to post a portion of an email that I sent to some friends as an introduction on how to engage, refute, and debate Islamophobes. It is sort of a preamble to my countermanual, a “manual” of sorts on how to deal with Islamophobia and Islamophobes of all types.

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I am writing to you for two reasons. The first has to do with how we engage Islamophobes. This is for those of you who continue to comment on Loonwatch. This in no way should be viewed as a personal criticism, and any resemblance to you personally is purely coincidental. I have noticed the tendency among us to debate anti-Muslim bigots with emotionalism rather than ‘ilm, as Allah tells us we should in the Qur’an. Yasir Qadhi highlights the issue very well in one of his lectures. In Islam there are primary issues, secondary issues, tertiary issues and so on. And there are issues that are completely inconsequential from an Islamic standpoint. For example, ‘aqeeda is primary in Islam and tawhid is primary in ‘aqeeda. Zabiha is primary in halal slaughter, yet halal is much more than just food. Yet halal food is secondary. Now in Islam just because a matter is secondary does not mean it is insignificant(We must stop thinking like Westerers who are non-Muslims). Rather this typology is utilized to point out how we Muslims get bogged down debating Islamophobes on secondary, tertiary, and even inconsequential matters.

I originally wanted to write on two subjects when I first started blogging: refuting the notion that Islam is essentially violent and creating a sort of “manual” on how to engage Islamophobes, whether it is daw’ah, debate(remember, daw’ah is not debate), or just everyday interaction. Alas I never got around to it, making the statement “reality and circumstances always foil planning, but never avoid making plans”, very applicable to my situation. Insha’Allah I am returning to the subject of debating Islamophobes, and I wanted to give some “tips” on how to go about it. Insha’Allah you will get some benefit from this.

Never get distracted by secondary or inconsequential issues with Islamophobes, since, chances are,  if they accepted any of the secondary issues related to Islam, they would already be Muslim. The aim of Islamophobes is two-fold:

1. They want to present Muslims as overly emotional psychos who cannot defend Islam in a reasonable manner. To this effect they bait us with serious but secondary matters in order to get Muslims entrenched in useless debates with someone who will never accept the Truth since their hearts are already hardened.

2. To slowly get Muslims to accept the Western paradigmatic framework and concede that Western=Universal. “Progressive/Liberal” Muslims have already fallen for it. They bend over backwards to show modern science in the Qur’an, when “modern science” believes in theories and not absolute Truth, such that what science accepts today can be challenged and even rejected tomorrow. Is this real science, when the word itself comes from a word that carries the meaning of “knowledge”? And these same Muslims are constantly trying to show Islam’s compatibility with democracy, freedom, human rights, women’s rights, religious freedom, et al without understanding that these words mean something completely different in Islam than they would mean in say a Secular Western context.

For example in Islam the concern is primarily “freedom from” whereas in a secular context the concern is “freedom to”. So non-Muslims are constantly bragging about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and sexual freedoms; in other words freedom to say whatever, believe and practice whatever. But in Islam it is about freedom from evil, such that the best speech is praised and evil speech is discouraged, and people are free to practice, in an albeit limited way, whatever religion but not to do evil in the name of that religion, and sexual immorality is roundly condemned. Integrated thought seems to absent in much of Western culture which seems to be why there is no thought put into the logical consequences of beliefs and actions.

Imagine if we were to say that a religion that believes murder is not only okay but compulsory should be given full religious freedom. This example seems absurd on the face of it, yet the extreme examples highlight that Westerners do not actually believe in freedom of religion, only in allowing religions that do not threaten or challenge their way of of life full freedoms, as evidenced by the hypocritical Islamophobic attitudes towards Islam. This is why the Islamic position is more correct: Freedom to believe whatever you want, but not freedom to do whatever you want, especially if it directly harms humanity or our environment, which has the most direct impact on human survival. So when you hear Islamophobes say that Islam does not allow freedom of religion, that is mere obfuscation designed to conceal the fact that not only does the West not truly believe in its own stated conception of religious freedom, but designed to conceal that the real goal is that we accept their “religion”.

Second example. Saying that Islam is too harsh toward homosexuality and adultery and promiscuity is merely an attempt to instill acceptance of immorality among Muslims in the name of “tolerance” and “enlightenment”. Imagine a culture that constantly calls our Prophet(sal Allahu `alayhi wasallam) a pedophile and a lech for his polygyny, when the aforementioned things, in addition to rape, prostitution, misogyny runs rampant in the West. Imagine the hypocrisy. Imagine the hypocrisy of Christians and Jews calling polygamy immoral and backwards, when their own religious texts do not condemn it. In fact, it is the superimposition of Secular and Atheistic values on “Judaeo-Christian” society that has duped Christians and Jews into thinking that polygamy is not part of their faiths? So you can see the futility of debating someone with such a blind, diseased and dysfunctional mentality, rife with hypocrisy, inconsistencies, and love of logical fallacies. So what is my point?

I think I can demonstrate that with a quote from an Islamophobic poster on none other than Loonwatch:

In the article “Salon.com: Arabic for right-wingers” we find the quote:

“for a lot of Muslims, for them to be critical of their own religion would be like expecting Christian fundamentalists to look critically at evidence for errors in the Bible.”

Just look at what Khushboo said above:“I wouldn’t compare religion with politics. One is from God (sacred and unchangable re. Islam) and the latter is man-made and therefore, fallible.”

Not exactly a critical attitude is it?I don’t know. I’m not psychic. You may have a very different attitude. But if your attitude is anything like that, you simply aren’t capable of discussing the issues. That isn’t an insult or anything. It’s just a widespread problem found in various religions,” from “greg”.

What exactly is the virtue of being “critical” of one’s religion? In a postmodernist intellectual climate where “everything is subject to questioning and debate” and “there is no absolute Truth”, this is obviously a virtue, but can you not see the idiocy of ever believing that you can arrive at truth when you also believe that here is no such thing as absolute Truth? How can someone criticize Islam if it is not believed that anything ultimately can be true? What is the point of arguing with someone like this? In engaging a person like this we should directly confront their hypocrisy and inconsistency as well as their real agenda. For someone who holds that Islam can never be true, why else would they engage in debate except to try and convince Muslims to abandon Islam, piece by piece. And they do this by going backwards. Start with inconsequential issues then move to the primary issue of Tawhid once they have been exhausted and incessantly refuted on the other matters. Ask someone like this why you should be critical of Islam, yet they should not take a critical look at their own view? Why should we start by considering Western standards as the standard for all truth when the West has moved in the direction of “there is no such thing as absolute Truth”? Maybe it is them who should take a critical view of their own Culture and Intellectual framework rather than criticizing Islam. There should only be three reasons to engage Islamophobes in debate:

1. Correct the misconceptions about Islam

2. Address legitimate concerns about Islam

3. Expose the real agenda of Islamophobes, which is to take you away from Islam by any means necessary, rather than their stated goal of engaging in fruitful discussion.

You should be exposing Islamophobes rather than trying to prove the Truth of Islam. Remember, Debate is not Daw’ah.

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Barak Allahu Feek.

Wasalam Alaykum

The Doctrine of an-Nasikh wa’l Mansukh: Abrogation in the Qur’an and the Idea of a Hijacked Religion Part 2.

The Doctrine of an-Nasikh wa’l Mansukh:

Abrogation in the Qur’an and the Idea of a Hijacked Religion

Part 2.

Muhammad Sameel ‘Abd al-Haqq

Definitions of Abrogation

An-Nasikh wal Mansukh

From the dictionary we get that abrogation is abolishing by authoritative action. Some may believe that because it was the ‘ulama who formulated a doctrine of abrogation, that this idea is their own intellectual device to solve the supposed problem of apparent contradictions in the Quranic text. However it is believed that Allah Himself abrogates and another definition would be “to nullify”. However we also find that the early jurists did not always view abrogation in this sense. In nearly all cases what the scholars called “abrogation” turned out to be something else such as specification, qualification, restriction, or addition. Consequently, many jurists did not see abrogation as complete abolishment of a legal ruling of the Qur’an.

The revelations found in the Qur’an deal with a variety of subjects, yet the jurists particularly regarded as important the ahkam(legal rulings). This was mainly because these type of rulings, particularly because of the comprehensive nature of Islam, shed light on the manner of legal relationships between people as Allah wishes them to be observed. The basic message of Islam has alway been the same, from Adam(as) to Muhammad(saws), but it is believed that the legal rulings have varied throughout the ages, according to the circumstances of the respective communities these prophets were sent to. Therefore the things of Islam that are of a permanent, fixed nature never change, but the particular rulings that are merely specific applications of the shari’ principles they derive from change with the circumstances. This inherent flexibility in the Shari’ah has lead to the belief in abrogation of previous revelations and scriptures. It seems only natural that this idea would be extended to the Qur’an itself.

The Arabic words nasikh and mansukh are both derived from the same root word nasakha which carries meanings such as “to abolish”, “to replace”, “to withdraw” and “to abrogate”. The word nasikh (an active participle) means “the abrogating”, while mansukh (passive) means “the abrogated”. In the technical language of the ‘ulama these terms refer specifically to certain parts of the Qur’anic revelation, which have been “abrogated” by others. According to the jurists who support and elaborate a doctrine of abrogation within the Qur’an, the Qur’an itself refers to it and it is not a later development of the ‘ulama, developed following the generation of the Tabi’in:

None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause it to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: knowest thou that God has power over all things? [Qur’an 2: 106].

There are many commentators and other scholars who opine that this ayah refers to the revelations before the Qur’an, which have now been substituted by the itself (See Mawdudi. The Meaning of the Qur’an, Lahore, 1967, Vol. I, p.102. note 109). We understand that the message of Islam was presented to the Arabs as if something new that was introduced in stages. The Qur’an brought important changes to that society gradually in order allow the people to adjust to the “new” prescriptions. This type of gradualism in revelation is exemplified by the three verses in the Qur’an concerning alcohol drinking. The three verses which finally led to the prohibition of intoxicating substances were revealed in stages (4: 43, 2: 219; 5: 93-4). Many scholars have used this as an example affirming abrogation of Qur’an by Qur’an.

Many scholars believed that understanding the concept of abrogation fully was one of the pre-conditions for explanation (tafsir) of the Qur’an. It is also one of the important pre-conditions for understanding and application of the Islamic law (hukm, shari’a). Scholars such as Suyuti(rahimahullah) have said that tafsir or legal ruling is not acceptable from a person who does not have knowledge of abrogation. As in the field of asbab al-nuzul(reasons for revelation, a historiographical discipline) the information about al-nasikh wa al-mansukh cannot be accepted upon mere personal opinion, guesswork or hearsay, but must be based on reliable reports, according to the ulum al-hadith, and should go back to the Prophet(as) and his Companions(ra).The narration must clearly state which part of the revelation is nasikh and which is mansukh. According to Qattan, some scholars say that there are three ways of knowing about al-nasikh wa al-mansukh:

1. Narrations from the Prophet(as) or Companions(ra).

2. Ijma’ (consensus of the ummah upon what is considered nasikh and what is mansukh).

3. Knowledge about which part of the Qur’an preceded another part in the history of revelation.

Further study will suggest not only that reports from the Prophet(as) or his Companions(ra) about abrogation have some serious defects, internal and external, but that they often contradict each other. Further study will also serve to demonstrate that there was never any real consensus about what is considered nasikh and mansukh. In addition, asbab al-nuzul shows that the majority of cases of abrogation were in fact specification or restriction or some other qualification, according to the broad understanding of the earlier scholars of the meaning and application of abrogation.

An example here will hopefully illustrate how abrogation was classically understood and applied:

Narrated Mujahid(may Allah be pleased with him) (regarding the verse): Those of you who die and leave wives behind, they (their wives) shall await (as regards their marriage) for four months and ten days [Qur’an 2: 234]. The widow, according to this verse, was to spend this period of waiting with her husband’s family, so Allah revealed: Those of you who die and leave wives (i.e. widows) should bequeath for their wives, a year’s maintenance and residence without turning them out, but if they leave (their residence) there is no blame on you for what they do with themselves, provided it is honorable (i.e. Lawful marriage) (Qur’an 2: 240).

So Allah entitled the widow to be bequeathed extra maintenance for seven months and 20 nights and that is the completion of one year. If she wished, she could stay (in her husband’s home) according to the will, and she could leave it if she wished, as Allah says: Without turning them out, but if they leave (the residence) there is no blame on you.

So the idea (i.e. four months and ten days) is obligatory for her. ‘

Ata’ (may Allah be pleased with him)said: Ibn ‘Abbas(ra) said: This verse i.e. the statement of Allah … without turning one out … canceled the obligation of staying for the waiting period in her late husband’s house, and she can complete this period wherever she likes.

‘Ata’ said: If she wished, she could complete her ‘idda by staying in her late husband’s residence according to the will or leave it according to Allah’s statement: ‘There is no blame on you for what they do with themselves.’ ‘

Ata’ added: Later the regulations of inheritance came and abrogated the order of the dwelling of the widow (in her dead husband’s house) so she could complete the ‘idda wherever she likes. And it was no longer necessary to provide her with a residence.

Ibn Abbas said: This verse abrogated her (i.e. the widow’s) dwelling in her dead husband’s house and she could complete the ‘idda (i.e. four months and ten days) (wherever she liked, as Allah’s statement says: …”without turning them out …”[Bukhari 6:54]

This report explains clearly which part of the revelation is considered nasikh and which is mansukh. Mujahid(may Allah be pleased with him) was one of the well-known tab’iun and Ibn ‘Abbas(ra) was a Companion of the Prophet(saws). Later on in this series I will present a fuller explanation of this particular case of abrogation situated in the contextual framework of “every case of supposed abrogation can be reconciled without resorting to a doctrine of abrogation, narrowly defined”. The reason I word it in this way is that most early commentators and supporters of this doctrine had a very broad definition of abrogation.

Origin of the Doctrine of Abrogation

During the period when the commentaries were being prepared and when the study of the occasions of revelation (shan al nuzul) as well as of identifying Meccan and Medinan surahs was a subject of serious study, our scholars felt the necessity for a branch of knowledge which indicates and explains the gradual development of the Quranic teachings. A theory was framed that in the Qur’an some ayat are cancelled (mansukh) by other ayat (nasikh) . It is believed that abrogation for Qur’anic verses, was originally invented/elaborated during the 4th and 5th centuries A.H. (late 10th century C.E.) by some Muslim scholars; notably Ahmed Bin Ishaq Al-Dinary (died 318 A.H.), Mohamad Bin Bahr Al-Asbahany (died 322 A.H.), Hebat Allah Bin Salamah (died 410 A.H.) and Mohamad Bin Mousa Al-Hazmy (died 548 A.H.), whose book about “Al-Nasikh and Al-Mansukh” is regarded as one of the leading references in the subject.(Iftekhar Hai. “Case of Misinterpretation & Abrogation Theory“).

I say elaborated because there are many fiqhi and Shari’ concepts that, although not named explicitly in the Qur’an or described in the technical sense they are described in in fiqh manuals, commentaries or other Muslims scholarly works, the new or technically used terms were in reference to concepts already found in the Qur’an. Thus the Qur’an does use terms meaning abrogation and technical terms refer to a pre-existing Quranic concept.

The importance of understanding abrogation can never be understated as it is widely exploited by non-Muslim Islamophobic writers to tarnish the perfection and Divinity of the Book, and used by Extremist Muslims to justify un-Islamic practices . According to many scholars the principle of naskh originally emerged during the conflicts between usuli of different schools of fiqh. These discussions showed no uniformity and it can never be claimed that any type of consensus on abrogation was ever reached, contributing further to the complexity of the issue. Imam Shafi’i(may Allah be pleased with him) and many of his followers held that some parts of the Qur’an had superseded its other parts, but could never supersede the Sunnah; and that some Sunnah had superseded the other Sunnah, but had not superseded the Qur’an. In other words, Qur’an abrogates Qur’an and only Qur’an, Sunnah abrogates Sunnah and only Sunnah, but they never abrogated each other as the Sunnah was a supplement to the Qur’an and both were differing modes of revelation, as it were. Some scholars, even some in Shafi’i’s madhhab, took it further, stating not only could Qur’an never abrogate Sunnah, but Sunnah did indeed abrogate Qur’an as well as itself. The supporters of the doctrine of abrogation based their theory on their understanding of the aforementioned following ayah:

Such of Our Ayat (messages) which We annul or consign to oblivion We replace with a better or a similar one…” [Qur’an 2:106]

On the basis of the above it was argued that the principle of naskh (abrogation) is referred to in the Qur’an itself and is not to be considered a later scholarly historical development. In the discussions on abrogation the supposition was that since the various passages of the Qur’an were revealed according to the needs of a particular stage some of the earlier revelations were superseded by the later revelations. When some of the ayat looked “discrepant” to them and they were unable to reconcile interpretation of one ayah with another they formulated the doctrine of abrogation. There never was, however, agreement regarding the number of ayat to which the rule can be applied to. Ilm al naskh was a discipline, developed as auxiliary to the study of the Qur’an, set out to point out precisely how one ayah of the Qur’an abrogated another, and scholars in this discipline drew up lists of a abrogating and abrogated ayat. From the Qur’an we find,:

Yet whenever We sent forth any apostle or prophet before you, and he was hoping (that his warnings would be heeded) Shaytan would cause an aspersion on his innermost aims, but Allah renders null and void (faya nasakhun) whatever aspersions Shaytan may cast: and Allah makes His messages clear in and by themselves – for Allah is all- knowing wise.[Qur’an 22:52],

showing how the word was used in the Qur’an to signify “rendering null and void” as a definition of naskh. A derivative of this root is also used to mean “recorded”. For example:

This Our record speaks of you in all truth: for, verily, We have caused to be recorded (nustansikh) all that you ever did. [Qur’an 45:29]

Many of supporters of the doctrine of abrogation have taken a restricted meaning of ayat as the ayat of the Qur’an, as mentioned earlier in Qur’an 2:106, whereas many earlier commentators did in fact have a broader understanding of the concept of abrogation, as derived from an understanding of the ayat in question. The classical supporters of the doctrine of abrogation have described three kinds of abrogation:

1. The abrogation of the recital (of the Quranic ayat) as well as the injunction.

2. Abrogation of the recital (of the ayat) without nullification of application of the injunction.

3. Abrogation of the injunction and not the recital (of the ayat).

Some Muslim scholars refused to accept `naskh‘ and declared that `naskh‘ does not go with the holiness (taqaddus) of the Allah. They argued that Allah’s words are too authoritative, to be considered abrogated in human opinion. Abu Muslim Isfahani (d. 332/944) was the first one who refused to accept the ‘doctrine of abrogation.’ According to him abrogated ayat were those Divine Messages which were found in earlier Books (Taurat, Injeel etc.) Allah abrogated those earlier ayat, he argued, due to neglect and deliberate corruption of the Books by the respective followers and hence the contents of those books do not find place in the Qur’an:

And convey (to the world) whatever has been revealed to you of the Sustainer’s writ. There is nothing that could alter His words: and you cannot find any refuge other than with Him“. [Qur’an 18 : 27].

The eminent scholar Zarqani (d. 1367/1948) supported the ‘doctrine of abrogation’ and argued in his book, “Manahil al Irfan” that when Allah replaces an order by another it does not imply that Allah realized something which He did not realize earlier. He who has absolute discretion to cancel any injunction He deemed proper and to replace it by another injunction was aware that the expediency of the order will cease at a particular time. Gradual implementation of the laws of Allah does not imply that the revelation meant for one stage were not good for later stages or that the earlier messages were replaced by the later messages. The tendency of hairsplitting in this issue among the ‘ulama has lead many to erroneous and even dangerous conclusions. Such discussions were introduced which provided justification for the Islamophobic opponents of Islam to argue that the Prophet(as) made corrections in the Qur’an, as and when it suited him. To this we will turn in the next part of the series, Insha’Allah.