Of Bid’a, Al-Ghazali and the Sufis by Mo

Bid'a or at least the Sunni defnition of it, is in my opinion a direct result of the closing of the gates Ijtihad, something I think you have mentioned before. The inability to adapt or innovate is, in my opinion, the single greatest reason for the stagnation of Muslim society and the end of the advancement of science that the Muslim world was abale to achieve up until the 1400's. Or as you put it, constipated… Wahabism is bid'a taken to the absolute extreme. I defnitely favour the Shia doctrine of Bid'a where only that which is absolutely clear in the Koran cannot be "innovated"; But Then again, you are down to individual interpretations of what is "absolutely clear". I think the very etymology of the word, in that it comes from jihad and the struggle to wrestle the truths from Gods commands clearly makes it a worthwile cause. One of the odditites that I have never really had the time to track down is how Al-Ghazali, who is so linked with the closing of the gates, was also such a proponent of Sufism. Sufism is very much a different path towards the divine but it is one I admire. Anything esoteric and mystical in nature requires dedication and time to truly understand it makes it inaccessible to a majority. And we know how the majority usually handle that which they cannot understand…. But its methodology and practices could arguably be said to be closer to true tawhid than mainstream Islam, and the teachings of its various leaders over time seem to reflect a group more at ease with itself and its religion than the more confrontational groups around it.


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22 Responses to Of Bid’a, Al-Ghazali and the Sufis by Mo

  1. Abu Sinan says:

    Not all Sunnis believe the gates of Ijithad are closed. Some Sunni scholars have argued otherwise and many Sunnis, in their private lives and beliefs, practice Ijtihad.
    I know I do, as do many of my friends. We do not feel bound by scholarly dictates from centuries ago.

  2. Jake says:

    If you want to know how the Islamic golden age ended, look no further than the war of words between the mu’tazilite ideology and asharite.
    Here is an interesting interview with a neo-mu’tazilite, Soroush – apparently called the Islamic martin luther

  3. WILL says:

    Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts
    By Robert Pigott
    Religious affairs correspondent, BBC News 26 feb 2008

    “Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam – and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.
    “The country’s powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.”

  4. mo says:

    “I think the very etymology of the word”
    For non-Arabic readers, this sentence reffered to Ijtihad rather than Bid’a.

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    Will, All
    I have said before here that I think the revision of Hadith project in Turkey is a significant development. pl

  6. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    This past Sunday I had some out of town friends for Sunday dinner: a Jewish friend and his Roman Catholic wife and a Muslim Arab friend from Egypt visiting the US for a few weeks.
    Naturally we had an interesting and provocative discussion of the situation at Fort Hood, Islam, and so on.
    As a contrast to the Islamist extremists, my Egyptian friend recommended that I become familiar with the career and writings of Taha Hussein (1889-1973), an influential Eyptian modernist.
    I have found that R. Hrair Dekmejian, Islam in Revolution. Fundamentalism in the Arab World (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1985) is a useful early study for background.
    The classic study on the Muslim Brotherhood is, Richard P. Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers (Oxford University Press, 1969).
    Graham E. Fuller, The Future of Political Islam (London, NY: Palgrave, 2004) is also useful.
    Strong currents of political Islam, triggered in part by European colonialism as well as by the challenge of “modernism”, have been whirling around the globe since the 1800s so this current wave (say since the 1979 Iran Revolution) is nothing new. Just a new phase of resurgent Islam. Looking back in years ahead, I suppose we will see the Bush Iraq War as contributing partially to a new phase but who knows.
    I am just now looking through a book published in the early 1920s in the US dealing with the rising political Islam around the world of that era, Pan-Islam, Arab Nationalism and etc…so there have been some American academics looking into this for some time.
    During the Cold War, there were those in the US and “West” who thought using Wahhabism against Communism was the way to go…

  7. Charles Cameron (hipbone) says:

    I would like to express my warm appreciation for Dr. Kiracofe’s pointers — and say that his new book, Dark Crusade, which I have not yet seen, looks to be an important one. I hope to review it.
    I found several points of interest in Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller’s piece, The Concept of Bid’a in the Islamic Shari’a.

  8. kat says:

    “One of the odditites that I have never really had the time to track down is how Al-Ghazali, who is so linked with the closing of the gates, was also such a proponent of Sufism.”
    According to my understanding, Al-Gazzali’s works were misused to close the gates of ijtihad—he himself would not have approved of it. What Al-Gazali was against was the use of reason alone to understand the Divine—which he thought was an inadequate method—thus excessive debates based on reason and logic on minute matters of theology—he felt—distracted the believers from simply “connecting” with the Divine.

  9. Abu Sinan says:

    The problem with a Turkish backed reformation of Islam is that it kind of ignores Turkish history of the last century.
    We are talking about a modern country founded by a man who’d have beard wearing Muslims pulled off the street and have their beards yanked out hair by hair.
    I am not a big fan of hadith, I personally think much of it was manufactured over the years to suit various political and religious issues of the day.
    However, this being said, any such project coming from a secular democracy with a history like Turkey’s is going to find it hard to gain much traction in the wider Islamic world.
    Turks, and the Turkic people in Europe and Central Asia are known for many things, but being overly religious and a source of great scholarly work and Islamic societies isnt amoungst these.
    We also need to keep in mind that modern Muslims have the benefit of seeing what “reform” did in Christianity and the history of reform within Christian history wouldnt make it a great selling point to Muslims.
    Many Muslims feel that to a certain extent modern Christianity has really “reformed” itself right out of being a religion with guidance for every day into being a Sunday past time.
    True or not, it is perception that matters. Fact takes second place.

  10. Patrick Lang says:

    All People may find this old article of mine interesting.
    I have been harassed by someone who calls himself “Norwegian Shooter” who insists that I am abetting the jihadis by agreeing with them that there IS a “Conflict of Civilizations” underway. It is increasingly clear that he is just another hasbara troll and he will not appear here again.
    Just to be clear, I DO think there is a clash of civilizations underway. There is such because the jihadis believe there is such. Their belief kills. Most Muslims think the jihadis are not true Muslims? Well, that is their opinion. I am not concerned about them because they are not intent on waging war upon the West. pl

  11. Abu Sinan says:

    I agree with you colonel. As a Muslim I believe if we think that the jihadis do not represent us, then we need to ask what we are doing about it?
    The Muslim world and it’s various socities and countries should be waging war against the jihadis. The fact that they arent speaks volumes. When they do take action is usually isnt more than half measures.
    Sure there are issues between the West, US and the Muslim world, but our biggest common threat is that of the jihadis. If the Muslim world will not or cannot deal with the issue we shouldn’t be surprised that the West/US will step in and do what it takes.
    I often feel that the US/Western approach to the issue is ham fisted and misdirected, but it is a fight we must make.
    As an American Muslim I fully support any campaigns done against the jihadis, whether it is done with the support of Muslim governments and societies or not.

  12. mo says:

    Clash of civilisations? Isn’t that a bit of an overstatement?
    One the one side I presume you mean Western civilisation but on the other? Islam?
    The Whahabi brand? The entire constituency of Wahabism hardly constitutes or represents a civilisation let alone only those that are active in their “jihad”. Furthermore their “jihad” has been far more deadly and destructive to other Muslims than it has been to the West.
    Lets also not forget that these guys are mostly getting their funding from countries the West continues to call “allies” mainly because they have the oil and are willing to also aid in hampering the activities of the groups who are willing to stand up to Israeli hegemony over the Middle East.
    The Resistance brand? Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, Sadirists and maybe Syria? Their “jihad” has only ever involved the US or the West when the US and the West has made itself a target by becoming directly involved in one country or the other. Otherwise none of those have been active against Western civilisation.
    I will go out on a limb and suggest that if there is a conflict of civilisations, it is not because the “jihadis” believe there is such but because the West does. No matter how hard they try, the likes of Al Qaeda will never have the support in the Islamic world that would deem their fight one that represents any civilisation no matter how much they want to believe it to be. Western govts. on the other hand do have, by virtue of their democratic status, the support and can choose to make it either a clash of civilisations, by continuing to lump those that rally to the Palestinian cause (something Al Qaeda has somehow neglected to do anything about) with the Wahabis or put things into perspective and see the real “enemy” for what it really is.

  13. Patrick Lang says:

    I think you are pulling my leg or playing to the gallery.
    I have been clear that it is the image of their “special’ civilization that continues to exist in the minds of the jihadis that is the problem for us in the West.
    I know there are other problems, but nothig you can write on SST will solve those. pl

  14. kat says:

    Waging war against the Jihadis?—-?????? maybe the term Jihadi should be defined?
    —-The “West” created these monsters in the first place with their ignorant policies and now they want “Muslims” to clean up the MESS they made?

  15. Patrick Lang says:

    What are you?
    -Self hating Westerner?
    – Responsibiity denying Muslim?
    – Vapid academic?
    What? pl

  16. mo says:

    Apologies for sounding like either but the summary of the point I am trying to make is that their “special civilisation” is never going to happen.
    Since we Muslims would suffer a whole lot more under their notions of Islam, I can be quite confident that we would put them down – In fact apart from the lawless areas of the Muslim world like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and parts of Pakistan, they have been routed wherever they have reared their heads.
    Unfortunately, the actions taken in Iraq and Afghanistan have only given these people oxygen. And of course the heavy handedness towards the groups that do have support in the Islamic world exasperates the matter further, especially when some of those groups are better suited and better positioned to take on these people.
    Its no good anyone blaming the West for creating these people. They were around a long before there was even an Israel. And it is up to the Muslim world to be rid of them since, as I said, it is us they will come after first.
    Did you by any chance read the testimony of the sole survivor of the attack on Mumbai? I was expecting either a disaffected angry young man or self-righteous piety. What I did not expect was for him to be small time petty crook, drawn into an operation by peer pressure and so bereft of intelligence that he wondered how they would get back after throwing their radios in the sea. He actually thought he would make it back! If that is the level of grunt these groups are using, I think they are long way from their Caliphate.

  17. YT says:

    ‘Tis all a Chequer’d-board of Nights and Days
    Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
    Hither and thither moves, checks, and slays,
    And one by one back in the Closet lays.
    رباعیات عمر خیام

  18. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1. Anent Islamic Law:
    In a stack of books in my library I have not yet gotten to is an interesting recent offering:
    Knut S. Vikor, Between God and the Sultan. A History of Islamic Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press,2005). Vikor is the Director of the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Bergen, Norway.
    Several years ago, I was in Morocco on an academic visit lecturing and meeting a range of people. I well remember my meeting with a well known human rights.women’s rights activist. A lawyer, she asked rhetorically, “And just what is Sharia? Whose Sharia?” Then she explained to me her concerns about demands by the fundamentalists to impose “Sharia.” For SST lawyer types, she was particularly focused on what we call “Family Law” that is divorce, inheritance, and etc.
    I had essentially the same conversation in Tunisia a couple years later with professional women (businesswoman, educators, etc.) and with female students.
    2. One element needing close examination is the impact of Wahabism, particularly as backed with endless petrodollars since the 1960s. And speaking of historical Wahabi influence on political Islam and violent political action, what about the Senussi?

  19. Abu Sinan says:

    What is interesting is how the dictators and the monarchies around the Islamic world that use the jihadies to justify themselves and their laws.
    To a certain extent it is symbiotic. The jihadis exist to oppose the west, Israel and maybe other regimes in other foreign countries. The dictators and monarchies point to the jihadis and say that if they were overthrown the jihadis would take power.
    Meanwhile both sides target any middle ground opposition.
    They need each other. So as Muslims even if we “defeat” the jihadis we are still left with the dictators.

  20. mo says:

    In a sense you are right; The jihadis exist to oppose the West, Israel and other regimes in foreign countries. But in practice, they are mostly too inept to hurt anyone as much as they hurt fellow Muslims (and note Al Qaeda has not really ever acted on its supposed support for the Palestinians).
    I don’t know if their relationship with the titular rulers is symbiotic or in fact goes further and deeper. What is obvious is that these same rulers are more than willing to help one set or another of jihadis if the jihadis are willing to attack the right people.
    If and when the Muslim world, esp. the Arab world, wakes up from its slumber, it is large enough and resourceful enough to remove both quite efficiently.

  21. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Abu Sinan,
    One interesting case is the move by the late Moroccan King Hassan to import Wahabi preachers from Saudi Arabia in about the late 1970s I think it was. These extremists, through their teachings and some pupils, lit some jihadi fires in Morocco which have yet to be put out. These jihadi ideological fires led to terrorist ops in Morocco and in Europe.
    King Hassan reportedly thought that by importing Saudi Wahabism to Morocco this would bolster his “legitimacy” and would help crack down on his opponents thus strengthening his rule.
    This is a very interesting and revealing case.

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