Saturday, October 17, 2015

Yusuf Al-Qardawi: Towards freedom of knowledge and the freedom of the mind

I am among Dr Yusuf al-Qardawi’s admirers. It is not due to his name, but rather his intellectual scholarship. His books contain analytical values and very much free from any mazhab (school of thought) fanaticism. He is one of the respected reformers who calls toward the vastness of fiqh (jurisprudence), and the freedom of the mind from zealotry toward a scholar’s opinion, rather to analyze every opinion in justice based on the Quran and the Sunnah.

 In his recent book, he mentioned about his methodology of writing:
 “To benefit from the treasure of Islamic fiqh and to honor the vastness of its ocean are not by being inclined only to a mazhab, without looking at other mazhab, or to limit oneself to an Imam, without looking at other Imams." 

Rather, we acknowledge this great inheritance (of fiqh) is owned by every researcher, for him to delve deep into its core, to uncover its reserves, to dig in every corner, to compare an opinion with another, or an evidence with another, without being extreme to one opinion or continually following a mazhab blindly.

My thought is that, if there were people who wanted to hold onto such liberty of mazhab and intellectualism in Malaysia, surely there will be crowds who accuse them as “mazhab defiers”, or disrespecting the effort of our forefathers, or leaving the Shafi`i mazhab, or thinking that he is too smart, and others. Even more tragic is to be labeled as Wahhabi and deviated. 

Perhaps this is why our religious opinions are rigid, and our new generation is not able to see the broadness of Islam due to our confined mindset. The so-called “respecting our fiqh treasures in Tanah Melayu (the Malay Federation)” is taken out of context to the extent that we forbid others to carefully study opinions from other mazhab. We forget that such action causes us to exclude and deny the abundance of our scholarly resources from various schools of thought existed in this ummah. The fault is not at ascribing to a mazhab, rather the fanaticism in ascribing to a certain mazhab, such that anything different is wrong, and the refusal of evaluating the currently practiced opinion merely because “this is our mazhab!”. 

For that reason, Dr Yusuf al-Qardawi mentioned while talking about Manhaj Mu`asir li al-Fatwa (The Current Method in [Giving] Fatwa), that the first issue is to “release one self from fanaticism and blind following”. He said:
 “Firstly, to free oneself from mazhab fanaticism and blindly following a person, whether he is among the past or present scholars. It was said that ‘a person does not blindly follow another except that he is a fanatic or an idiot.’ 

I will not let myself succumb to one of these characteristics. To free oneself from mazhab fanaticism is actually the greatest honor for the imams and the faqeeh (Muslim jurist). To not follow them blindly is not dishonoring them; rather it fully agrees with their methods and executes their will, which was to not follow them blindly. 

We take the religion from the resources that they took (al-Qur’an and as-Sunnah). Also, to not blindly follow them does not mean that we are neglecting their fiqh and legacies. On the contrary, we should refer to them and benefit from the various schools of thought, without prejudice or fanaticism. This view does not require a Muslim scholar to have an independent understanding that reaches the level of absolute ijtihad (to exhaust all of one’s effort in studying a problem thoroughly and seek a solution for it from the legal sources – the Qur’an and the Sunnah) like the previous imams or scholars.” (al-Qardawi, al-Fatwa bayn al-Indibad wa at-Tasaiyub, pg. 101, Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami) 

Phrases such as “freedom of knowledge” and the “freedom from the shackle of extreme zealotry” are strongly detested by some groups. They have been controlled by fanaticism for so long that they would never ask or question anything taught by their teachers and subsequently, their religious mindsets become idle and exhausted by current challenges. 

Nevertheless, these groups still insist on inheriting the “religious empire”, whose leaders are not to be questioned, or their views be revised. These people then gave the fatwa of “one who leaves a mazhab is deviated,” or “one who asks too many questions or criticize our views or our customs is being rude.” Moreover, any who tries to understand Islam in a different manner than what was explained to them, then “he is deviated and have fallen outside the fold of Ahlus Sunnah (the people of Sunnah).” 

For them, it is as if all the scholars of Islam from other mazhab are astray and not from among Ahlus Sunnah such that we are prohibited from studying, understanding and taking their researches! This issue worsens when the tareeqah sects thrive in our country of late. Many among the tareeqah members who hold on the tradition of “don’t ask, just follow” are extremely angered at the new movement, which demands for the minds to be functional in practicing this religion. Islam is a religion of fitrah (natural inclination/conscience) and balance. The mind is of utmost importance in Islam such that the crazy or the person whose mind has not reach maturity will not be judged with sins or rewards. 

Therefore, al-Qardawi too does not escape from being vilified. He was accused as a liberalist, Wahhabi, and others. These accusations originated from various groups, such as the mazhab fanatics, tareeqah fanatics, as well as the rigid and narrow-minded salafis. In addition, there are books that labeled him as “the barking dog”. 

At the same time, the Western world too initiated animosity against him. This is because he works for Islam, [by means of] writing, delivering talks and lectures and planning. Prior to becoming a “giant” and renowned personality, al-Qardawi was jailed. Even more so, there are countries that deny him entrance into their countries. Such are the days that lies ahead for those working on da`wah and revivalism.

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