Thursday, January 26, 2012

Voices of Reason In The Muslim World- Egyptian al-Aswani and Saudi Cleric al-Ghamdi

It's hard to tell if the dearth of voices of reason in the Muslim world is because they simply don't exist, or because they're too afraid to say anything because their extremist brethren will more than likely make them their next targets.  There are a few, however, willing to say something.

Egyptian writer Ahmad al-Aswani is one of them.  Translating Jihad has posted a commentary by al-Aswani where he places full blame on Muslims and Islam for terrorism in the world. A refreshing take, for a change, since so many (including Westerners) love to blame the West.  Although it was posted on on 22 December 2011, and just posted on Tranlsating Jihad today, I think it was actually written quite a few years ago. Jihad Watch has excerpts from it in 2008.  But he makes some cogent points from an Arab's perspective that I feel are worth sharing: 

Who Offends the Prophet?

I don’t believe that cartoons, books, or movies can offend any religion, or affect the faith of those who adhere to that religion with truth and conviction.

The ones who offend the Prophet are those who slaughter and blow up innocent people throughout all the world—from New York to Madrid, in London, Bali, Riyadh, Cairo, Kabul, and Baghdad—even now, after mentioning Allah and the Prophet under the banner of Islamic jihad. Protests come out in support of all this, and internet forums sing praises to the knight Usama bin Laden, the hero of the raids of  New York and Washington.

Who offends the Prophet is a man like al-Qaradawi, who incites people to kill Jewish children in their mothers’ wombs (from an interview with Egyptian journalists in 1996), and incites people to carry out suicide operations. In the name of the religion and the Prophet, he declares jihad in Iraq, and innocent victims are killed.

Who offends the Prophet are those who demand that the world issue a decision preventing the disrespect of religions while they practice it themselves in every prayer in their mosques, schools (madrasas), and on their television stations. They especially disrespect Christians and Jews, and curse them in every prayer (after the Islamic bloc offered a decision on this issue in the Human Rights Council in the United Nations, the Saudi Shura Council objected to this decision because insulting other religions is one of the rites of Islam, according to what was published on the Saudi site al-Arabiya).

Who offends the Prophet is he who issues a fatwa, ruling that adults should be breastfed, and that the urine of the Prophet is blessed. It is he who allows hadiths like these to be studied in religious schools (madrasas) and colleges, such as the hadith of the fly, hadiths about holding the dhimmis (Jews and Christians) in contempt and humiliating them, hadiths about Paradise being under the shadow of swords, and thousands of other hadiths like these, whose mere existence offends the Prophet and Islam.

Read the rest here.

Not quite as brave, but considering the source brave enough, we have Saudi cleric Sheikh Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamdi.  Al-Ghamdi was the former president of the virtue and vice police in Mecca has actually issued fatwas saying that listening to music and the mixing of genders should be allowed.  He also believes that one should be able to pray alone, not just in groups.  He, of course, has been savaged for voicing those opinions, but has asked those in opposition to debate him in a civil manner.

In his special interview to Al Arabiya, he said that his edicts are the result of extensive research based on experienced scholars’ clarifications. He expressed surprise at the amount of criticism that he receives on his social networking site, Facebook and accused extremists of resorting to abuse to whoever speaks of revivalism in religion or espouses values that do not conform to theirs.

He said: “I have received both support and criticism for my views, but sadly the debate is not about concepts, the problem exists in the nature of the dialogue. We are not brought up to accept different views, which is an essential component to knowledge growth.”
In reference to his fatwa against the prohibition of listening to music he said this was nothing new, as senior clerics have ruled on this in the past.

He said: “Let’s ask those who are against music whether they consider ‘duff’ (local instrument) as musical? If they say yes then we have evidence from credible sources about the Prophet listening to ‘duff’, thus he wouldn’t listen or do something forbidden.”
He has been  slammed for issuing fatwas that are not authorized by the King, but he has this to say about those charges:

"I did not go against the decision of the King. I don’t issue fatwas; what I came up with was a point of view, everything I said was the result of my studies, I have gained wider knowledge in this field of research and I felt obligated to deliberate it.”

This isn't the first time he has been vocal about reform, he was fired and then rehired for his positions on gender mingling and praying in mosques in the past.  You have to give him credit for continuing to promote change in Islam when so many refuse to evolve.

We need more like al-Aswani and al-Ghamdi.

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