Does islam need_a_reformation_i_era_dont_hate_debate

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  • The assertion that Islam needs to be reformed so it can conform to the liberal conception of human rights and values is based on the false assumption that this conception of rights and values is absolute and true. The liberal conception of human rights, also known as universal human rights, is premised on atomism or individualism. Although there are common grounds between the Islamic and liberal conception of human rights, there are profound differences. One key reason for these differences is due to liberalisms false premise of individualism, and Islams anti-individualistic view of the society and the individual.

    The perspective that Islam must adhere to, and be understood, via the prism of rational ethics begs the question: what does one mean by rational ethics? This opens the door to a broad range of ethical theories that claim to use reason. Simply arguing that Islam is not in line with rational ethics implies that there is one ethical standard that one must abide by, and that rational ethics are free from moral, philosophical and conceptual problems. This is simply misleading and false.


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    The intention being that no change in whatever state everyone is, shall be made (status quo shall be maintained). Neither the people shall be punished for any past crime or murder, nor shall they be compelled to do military service. Neither shall ushr (the tax on grain) be imposed on them, nor shall any army enter their area. If anyone of the people of Najran demands the rights, justice shall be done between the plaintiff and the respondent. Neither oppression shall be allowed to be perpetuated on them, nor shall they be permitted to oppress anyone. Whatever has been written in this pact, God and Muhammad, his Prophet, are guarantors for it, unless there is an order from Allah, in this connection, and as long as the people of Najran remain faithful and adhere to the conditions, which have been made for them, except that someone compels them to do otherwise.14

    The Islamic teachings of respect towards other people and their beliefs are echoed by Associate Professor Andrew F. Marchs study on liberal and Islamic values. He opines that the Islamic scholarly tradition supported the idea of recognised religious differences and the contribution to non-Muslim welfare:

    there was surprisingly strong support from classical, conservative jurisprudence, particularly on questions relating to the terms of residence, loyalty to a state of residence, recognition of religious difference, and contribution to non-Muslim welfare. 15

    This toleration and respect is not just for other religions, but also for people with no religious beliefs. The Quran teaches that we must share our beliefs and values with wisdom and good instruction while discussing in a way that is best. 16

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    Liberalism and Human Rights

    Since the premise of liberalism is false, then it follows that its conception of human rights cannot be accepted as truth or absolute. This does not mean that the entire liberal project for human rights is to be dismissed. Many of the rights reflect an essential part of who we are and how we should treat each other. However, the absoluteness or universality must be questioned and discussed. Professor Syed Nasr raises an interesting point that human rights are also determined by culture, and the claim to universality is incoherent because the Western understanding of the term has itself changed over time. 33

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  • This is where many reformists face some inevitable difficulties. If social pressure or consensus is argued to form a yardstick for morals, then the proponents of this assertion face a huge issue. Firstly, it renders morals as relative, as they are subject to inevitable social changes. Secondly, it leads to moral absurdities. If someone accepts social consensus as a basis for morals, then how can we justify our moral position towards what the Nazis did in World War Two? How can we claim that what they did was morally wrong? Even if you were to claim that there were people in Germany who fought against the Nazis, the point is that there was an overwhelming consensus or social pressure supporting the evil. This is why it would be accurate to describe reformers as intellectual-sheep, as they age for a moral position in line with social pressure. The question they should answer is: would you have been articulating such a position 200 years ago? Such irrational positions are simply herd-like moral positions, in reality, a moral view devoid of thinking and depth.


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  • God. In the Islamic intellectual tradition, there is a careful interplay between obedience to a command and using our cognitive faculties to understand what the command is, its implication, and context. This can result in differences of opinion about the understanding of Gods command, however it still necessitates that if a valid opinion is established, obedience must follow. The Islamic intellectual tradition provides us with volumes of ethical treatises all based on Gods commands and moral guidance. Some of these treatises differ in some areas; however these differences are respected and tolerated, particularly if they are based on a sound methodology. Professor Nasr in his introduction to The Study Quran aptly summarises Islamic ethics,

    The Quran is also a book of ethics. It provides criteria for discernment between not only truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, but also good and evil. Although it emphasizes that human beings should use their God-given gift of intelligence (al-Aql) to discern what is true, beautiful, and good, it also insists that it is necessary to have faith in the revelation that provides the final judgment as to what is true and good and in fact allows human intelligence to be fully operative rather than becoming atrophied by human passions. 38


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