Thank you very much for this, it came at a significant time when I was trying to avoid the stale thought of Nomani vs. hijabis – Is this all Muslim intellectuals have to offer? Your lecture is like breath of fresh air, happy feasting for the gray cells.
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This is very kind of you nmr. I think progressive Muslim thinking and thinkers are going through a suicidal phase. They mutually destroy each other, when they should be having conversation and nuance. Something is not right. One can disagree without having to demolish the worth and integrity of your adversary, unless the goal is to bury her or him. Then, of course, the purpose is ignoble. I think, those of us who do advocacy must also be mindful not to denigrate others who might be equally committed to faith on progressive grounds but who wear the hijab in one style or another. To call for no-scarf day might have a tactical purpose, but one must consider how it will make scarf-wearing Muslims feel. So in the end, the tactic turns into a strategic failure. There is enough ethical and theological bandwidth in which both wearing a head-cover and not wearing head-cover for Muslim women could be normative positions.
Wonderful, Dr Ebrahim Moosa. A few questions though:
1. You have quoted Ibn Rushd as saying “Imam Ghazali intended to broaden the circle of learned people but had the opposite effect, the circle of fasad increased instead.” Has Ibn Rushd established this effect of Ghazali’s teachings in his writings? Can you share your own views on this? I do see Imam Ghazali being quoted a lot by orthodoxy here in the SF Bay area and I always wondered about their intent.
2. How do you reconcile Ibn Rushd’s description of fiqh as something that encourages dignity with the fact he was in the court of a king who did commit terrible atrocities on non-muslims such as mass slavery?
I would encourage everyone to listen to all 55 mins or so. However, what I will probably remain with me appears at 50.3 “seek truth by inquiring — not by collectivity’s madhab .. doubts transport to truth.” I haven’t seen or heard this in any talk by the popular preachers of today (who by and large expect obedience). Muhammad Asad in his translation of the Quran though condemns consensus through shallow mass opinions as well as quotes Razi: “faith is useless unless it is desired for its own sake (that is love of truth than dread of consequences)”
Sorry Aamir Q, I have been remiss in checking my blog. I have not seen Ibn Rushd elaborate further on how Ghazali advanced farad by widening the circle of the learned. Ghazali and Ibn Rushd, both believed that some kinds of learning are designated for the elite (khawāṣ) and other kinds of learning are appropriate for the laypersons (ʿawām). But I think Ghazali also tried to educate the middle intellectuals, a group in between the elites and the laypersons. However, he also has a text that discourages theologians to talk about complicated theology in the public sphere, for fear that these debates might disturb the faith of ordinary people. But that was another world. Well, you know, people understood dignity within specific contexts. Dozens of Muslim scholars, especially jurists would say, “A human being is dignified (mukarramun) even he is a unbeliever.” Two sentences later the same jurists justify why a subject of a darul ḥarb (a ḥarbī) can be enslaved, even if he converted to Islam. The jurist then says that slavery attaches to the “living soul” of the slave but does not detract from the nobility of the slave’s “[God-created] form and creation”. Go figure! This is how dignity worked in slave societies. I have not examined what Ibn Rushd said about slavery but I will not be surprised if deemed it normal. Yes, Ghazali was really troubled by following authority (taqlīd) all his life and he always examined his commitments, hence that fabulous quote. Best.
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Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
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