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Thursday, September 24, 2009

A schism of isms

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Going against the mainstream can be a challenging thing to do. And not always fun, either. But Walski being Walski, there are some occasions when he has to do exactly that.
Image taken from Southern Methodist U. website, hosting by Photobucket Yesterday, The Star published an article written by Dr. Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad, director of the Center for Syariah, Law and Political Science, an academic sub-group within the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia, better known as IKIM.
Walski won’t duplicate the entire article, entitled “Human rightism” vs religion, but rather will pick out certain areas that he thinks are of interest to this discussion. The gist, however, is that what’s termed as “Human rightism” is not entirely congruous with Islam. Or, as Dr. Wan Azhar argues, any religion.
Once again, the tired argument that those who don’t have “sufficient” knowledge on religion, Islam in particular, should not voice any opinion or objections when it comes to matters deemed Islamic, becomes one of the key points raised. Even if these matters have an effect, direct or indirect, on one’s life.
Well, Walski for one believes that he has a right to critique anything that has an effect on his own life. And frankly, if Dr. Wan Azhar doesn’t like that, well, just too bad.
The first thing that the article does is to paint human rights as an ideological doctrine, and therefore an ism. Understandable, because from many an Islamist’s point of view, any ism may be seen as somewhat derogatory. With the exception, naturally, of Islamism (emphasis by myAsylum).
THE doctrine of human rights seems to have developed into an ism that has rapidly spread, and been embraced, defended and championed by an increasing number of people beyond ethnic and cultural boundaries worldwide.

This universal human rightism is also perceived by many as an ideology that prevails over national laws and even transcending religions.

For some reasons, conflicts are always portrayed to happen when the values of human rightism are brought against the teachings of Islam.

(source: The Star)
So, it would appear that the stage is set – values of human rights can be incongruous to the “teachings of Islam”. Or the conventionally mainstream view, anyway. 
(schisms of isms, and more, in the full post)

In a larger sense, the article is a commentary on the events and opinions surrounding the Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno case. But it does also try to reinforce certain mainstream and conventional views.
Such as the one that not everyone can comment on religion. Or, at least, not Islam. And that view is very apparent in the article.
Another argument goes to the effect that every Tom, Dick and Harry must be given a chance to speak about things even if he has no sufficient knowledge about or no knowledge at all.

It is as if we ask a layman having no knowledge and training in medicine to prescribe medication for a dying patient.

In religious matters, not everybody has the right to claim that he enjoys the freedom to give an opinion as he wishes without first gaining a certain degree of knowledge on the subject matter in dispute.

Religious matters must be left in the hands of qualified ulama to address, in as much as medical matters must be given to qualified doctors.

If one is ill-informed or totally in the dark about any religious precept, then one has to do some research, seek counsel from those who are competent, qualified and authoritative.

(source: The Star)
Very mainstream. Very conventional. So, no surprises whatsoever.
But once upon a time, it was conventional belief that headaches were the work of demons. And if it were not for the freedom for certain “heretical” individuals to question this belief, we’d still be subjected to exorcisms, rather than aspirin or paracetamol, for headache relief.
One bit written in the article, somewhere mid-way through the piece, caught Walski’s attention more than anything else, and is something that he would like to explore a bit more.
Let’s turn to the mockers of the case. Some remark that whipping for drinking intoxicating beverages is not there in the Quran. It’s true, but the sources of Islamic law is not confined to the Holy Book alone.
(source: The Star)
Consider the following verses from the Quran.
Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
(Surah 5, Verse 3)
Shall I seek for judge other than Allah? - when He it is Who hath sent unto you the Book, explained in detail. They know full well, to whom We have given the Book, that it hath been sent down from thy Lord in truth. Never be then of those who doubt. (Surah 6, Verse 114)
And We put coverings over their hearts (and minds) lest they should understand the Qur'an, and deafness into their ears: when thou dost commemorate thy Lord and Him alone in the Qur'an, they turn on their backs, fleeing (from the Truth). (Surah 17, Verse 46)
Far be it for Walski to contradict what Dr. Wan Azhar says – the bulk of “Islamic laws” are indeed not based on the Quran. In fact, according to Dr. Zaharuddin Abdul Rahman, a Syariah scholar, a vast majority of it isn’t (translation and emphasis by myAsylum).
Kiranya hadith Ahad tidak diterima dalam hukum. Ini bermakna hampir 95% sumber perundangan hukum Islam akan ditolak. Kerana semuanya bersumber dari hadith Ahad.

If “hadith Ahad” cannot be accepted in the area of jurisprudence. This would mean that almost 95% of Islamic law sources would be rejected. Because all of these are based on “hadith Ahad”.

Hadith Ahad”, incidentally, is defined as hadith (sayings/narrations of Prophet Muhammad) whose narrators at every point in the chain of narration is few in number (3 or less, according to some definitions).
As far as Walski knows, the Quran is God’s final direct revelation to mankind. If that is the case, and if the Quran is detailed, and contains God’s perfected religion and favor for mankind, why is it that the sources of Islamic laws are not confined to the Quran alone? This is a question that Walski will not provide an answer for.
And yet, without a moment’s hesitation, most Muslims will immediately agree that the Syariah is God’s undisputable law on Earth. Despite the fact that there are many versions of the Syariah, which is a diverse as “Islam” is today.
It’s not Walski’s intention to debate on what constitutes “God’s law” and what doesn’t – he merely wants to put some perspective on some claims. And based on these added perspectives, to think a little bit beyond our dogmatic isms.
Walski realizes that it would be pointless to debate this at any great length, as centuries of disagreement can never be resolved in one blog post. In all likelihood, such disagreements will continue for a considerable time to come.
The point remains, however, that when we become absolutist on one position over the other, we create our own ism. That, in totality, then creates a schism between the various isms we create.
The path forward, therefore, is not through exclusivity, but through objectivity. And objectivity, in part, necessitates looking at all isms, from all angles, including those isms that some might claim exclusivity to.
Otherwise, all we’re left with will be schisms. Perpetually.
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