Post-Colonial Muslim Mind & Qur’an

When Islamic ummah encountered modernity in 19th-20th century, it fragmented into disunited pieces, with profound and far-reaching consequences for their relation with Islam as a world-view, affecting all aspects of traditional Islamic societies, from education to politics, from governance to family systems. According to Burhan Ahmed Farooqi [1], this created two classes of mind-sets with distinct world-views: a Traditional Islamic mindset that traced its roots to divine revelation of Islam; and, a modernized mindset, trained in modern educational systems, which felt more at home with all things with Western. Modernized Muslims ascended to the ranks of power and rule Muslims masses with aspirations to westernize their countries in totality. Traditional Islam, and its political elite, lost its sway with the replacement of Shariah Law with Roman or English or French law; although cultural aspects of Muslim societies continued to survive, albeit with constant losing battles with the monoculture of West.

Leadership was transferred to modernized-Muslims who were completely hopeless of Quran as a source of minhaaj, a way of solving problems both at individual and societal levels [2]. With their utter hopelessness in Qur’anic worldview, modernized Muslims looked up to knowledge produced by human capacity as a way of solving all of their problems. The root cause of this hopelessness may be explained as a result of trauma that Muslims went through after their political subjugation at the hands of West that resulted in disbelief in the power of their own Tradition. During this process, Muslims developed deep sense of inferiority complex, which according to many scholars is the root problem of Muslims which stops them from realizing potential of being a Muslim and final revelation from Allah.

What led to this state of affairs? Syed Abu Hassan Nadvi (r.a.) argues [3] that following were main reasons that led to Westernization of many Muslim countries, especially India, Egypt and Turkey:

- Western educational system which indoctrinated in a more subtle way superiority of Western civilization as a poison that led to death of authentic worldview of Islam

- Orientalism modernized Muslim scholars relied a lot upon research and analysis done by Orientalists to understand Islam and its history – those eyeglasses were also contaminated that blurred the vision of Muslims

- Decline of Muslim Intellectuality Muslims, largely, failed to respond proactively to the change in their surroundings and could not respond to challenge of modernity.

We can understand that these factors are pertinent and relevant today, since these at work creating more hopelessness in Muslims from Qur’an, as being a way of solving our problems. We only need to reverse this process through a (maybe unending) intellectual struggle, and to take Qur’an as a minhaaj to solve our individual and societal diseases and challenges of modernity.

[Challenges ahead]

- Asad Zaman: empirical, rationalistic vs revelation. superiority of later. Intellect and reason can't be limited to rationalism
- hamid algar
- nasr

[1] See, Minhaaj-ul-Quran, by Dr. Burhan Ahmed Farooqi
[2] Ibid
[3] Nadvi, Syed Abu Hassan. Muslim Mumalik mein Islamiat aur Maghribiat ki Kashmakash (1980) – "The struggle between Islamization and Westernization in Muslim Countries." Karachi: Majlis-e-Nashriyate Islam

3 did criticisms:

Hassan Habib said...

"Minhaah-ul-quran" a very difficult book to digest.
I remember in continuity with the lines you have written that the decline of Muslims had started right after the "Crusades" (or near that era)because the innovation was divorced from religion in all its aspects. the great scholars that had done marvelous scholarly research were absent from the society and scholars just reiterated the thoughts of their ancestors without indulging in the endeavors of constantly moving on. It is said that the last genuine work on history was done by "Ibne Khathir" and according to Iqbal there has been a revival to some extent and Syed abul Hassan Ali Nadvi's struggle is attributed to this revival.
In respect of all this. it is my opinion that the most intense affect on the revival of Islam can only be achieved by adopting, acting and denouncing the anti-islamists.
And Masha Allah your promulgation of truth is admirable in this respect.

Muhammad Umer Toor said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Muhammad Umer Toor said...

Spiritually and metaphysically, Muslims believe that decline was set for humanity soon after Prophet's era. Dr Burhan, however, points out that instead of seeing Islamic religious history as downward spiral of decline, should rather be seen as constant battles of good vs evil. I believe this view doesn't contradict the Divine Plan so clearly communicated in that hadith about best generations of Muslims.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr has done a lot of research to debunk the following myth: "Muslims ceased to 'progress' after such and such period." That period essentially was the point when Western scholarship lost contact with Muslim. The fact is that muslims kept producing original thought and advancement in sciences. He mentions that in his Harvard Phd thesis, later heavily updated, "Science, Civilization and Islam." Available in many bookshops in Lahore. Dr Asad Zaman also talks about it in 1st lecture on this page, highly recommended lectures, esp for secular minded:

And i would like to complement your words with the thesis of the book, "Knowledge Triumphant," by rosential [pdf], that love of knowledge and ilm itself was at the center of medieval Islamic civilization. The fruits we and the world enjoys today are really a product of these Aaba. However, innovation is not desirable in everything. Yet, today muslims condemn new good practices initiated in Muslim even centuries ago; and Prophet gave tidings of reward to he who inaugurates good practices in Islam, and warned who starts bad...

(Sunna and Bida: i'd really encourage to go thru this article by Shakyh Nuh Mim Keller on the topic of SUnna and Bida from Ahl e Sunna wal Jama's point of view of salaf saliheen, who is not like reformist/modernists, but learned din from Traditional ulema in Islamic countries, althu being an american ex-christian:

Islamists: i seriously have a trouble understanding this word, just as the term fundamentalist is very probelmatic. Every Muslim - whether shia, orthodox sunni, heterodox sunni, ismaili, whoever - is lumped in this category if he or she advocates political aspects of religion. Hamid Algar said:

""militant" Islam because it's not politically correct to say you're against a religion as such. Therefore, an adjective has to be supplied: militant Islam, extremist Islam, Islamic terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, political Islam."

And the thoughts and ideologies of non-orthodox Islamists as such are in contrast with the Traditional Islam, which stands between fundamentalist and modernist interpretations of Islam.

No matter if we are Islamists or orthdox, salafi or sufi, sunni or shia: our common is the ideology of modernism/secularism - the most powerful, pervasive ideology today.

Things are complicated when we find too big to ignore similarities between fundamentalis/reformist of Saudi arabia and guys like Sir Syed Ahmed: both want to by-pass centuries of traditional islamic scholarship. Surely this is complex topic and causes of much heated differences. But positive sectarian discussion is healthy and desirable.

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