islam as a religion of tolerance and moderation

Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl has been described as “the most big and influential Islamic thinker in the ad hoc age.” An accomplished Islamic jurist and academic, he received formal training in Islamic jurisprudence in Egypt and Kuwait as able-bodied as holding degrees from Yale, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Constitution. He is currently the Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Person in Islamic Constitution at the UCLA School of Constitution. Before joining the faculty at UCLA, he taught Islamic constitution at the University of Texas at Austin Constitution School, Yale Constitution School and Princeton University.

In the extended essay that begins his book, The Abode of Tolerance in Islam, Dr. Abou El Fadl argues that the post-September 11th angel of Islam as a reactionary, intolerant, and agitated religion does not accurately act as the absolute traditional acceptance of Muslims. To the contrary, he declares his “unwavering conviction that I belong to a abundant ethical humanistic tradition.” Traditional Islamic jurists, he writes, “tolerated and even celebrated divergent opinions and schools of anticipation.”

During the aboriginal centuries of Islam, clerics underwent a lengthy and intellectually demanding training that included an accessible discussion of differing viewpoints and interpretations. This training prepared them to be community leaders and judges in disputes between their coreligionists. As the secular authority in Muslim states grew increasingly able, centralized, and autocratic, Muslim clergy absent much of their authority, producing “a profound vacuum in religious authority” and “a state of virtual anarchy in ad hoc Islam.”

As the Muslim clergy were increasingly marginalized, the abundant centers of learning at which they were trained became equally marginalized and added and added clerics were self-declared holy men with babyish or no formmal training. Consequently, amateurish interpretations of Islam, exemplified by those of Osama bin Laden, gained sway over theologically illiterate Muslims justifiably ablaze at the poverty and powerlessness they experienced in comparison to citizens of the U.S. and other Western nations.

Dr. Abou El Fadl is particularly critical of Wahhabism — a puritanical revision of Islam propagated by the Saudi monarchy. While Wahhabism claims to be the “straight path” of Islam, it is, according to Abou El Fadl, an abberant anatomy of Islam, forged in the 18th-century slaughter of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. To call it “fundamentalist,” he asserts, is misleading, since it flouts fundamental Islamic truths and distorts Islam by rejecting “any advance to interpret the theologian constitution historically or contextually.”

He quotes specific passages to appearance that the Quran declares diversity among peoples to be Allah’s theologian intent. Further, contrary to what you may accept been taught in a aerial school history class, the Quran opposes forced conversion of others to Islam, as practiced by the Taliban. In actuality, the Quran explicitly states that Jews and Christians as able-bodied as Muslimswill action to Heaven.

Interpretations of the Quran that appetite abandon against innocents, he argues, crave poorly informed, out of context readings of a line here/ a line there in my appearance, not unlike the practice of abounding Christian Fundamentalists. To appearance that, he cites the ambiguous verses by which Muslim extremists absolve their acts, and their deceitful disregard of everything Quranic that prohibits their acts. He insists that any valid Quranic interpretation must square with the holy book’s “general ethical imperatives such as mercy, amends, affection.” “If the reader is intolerant, hateful, or oppressive,” he concludes, “so will be the interpretation.”

Far from sanctioning “holy battle,” Abou El Fadl reports, the Quran does not even contain the phrase. The entire abstraction of jihad as holy battle was a subsequent adding to rooted added in political and economic conflict than in religious aberration. Besides, far from supporting the “amuse even” (for Israel, for economic imperialism, etc) justification for terrorism, the Quran warns Muslims that the injustice of others does not permit them to be unjust in return. Furthermore, warriors who attacked innocent civilians were regarded by classic Muslim jurists to be “corrupters of the earth and criminals” — guilty of “especially heinous crimes.”

The eleven reactions to Abou El Fadl’s essay add further depth to the debate. Milton Viorst, Middle East correspondent for The Advanced Yorker, praises it as a “brilliant” explanation of why Muslims are “on the brink of becoming a permanent global underclass.” Sohail Hashmi, who teaches international relations at Mount Holyoke College, agrees that politically motivated Quranic interpreters, not the Quran itself, feed the us-against-them mentality of agitated Muslims. British culture critic Tariq Ali laments that “there was added dissent and skepticism in Islam during the 11th and 12th centuries than there is today.” On the other hand, Abid Ullah Jan, a political analyst from Pakistan, blames all debates about Islam on “efforts by the United States and its allies to accomplish economic and cultural hegemony by dominating or destroying all opposition.” He denounces the essay as “an advance to please Islam-bashers.”

Abou El Fadl’s response to the commentaries asserts that the extremists false fundamentalism threatens to turn Islam into “an idiosyncracy — a ethical and social oddity that is incapable of finding accepted ground with the rest of human society.” His motivation for engaging in debate against extremists, he says, is “to deny such groups their Islamic banner.” In his appearance, the bitter borderline affair for all Muslims ought to be the extremists degradation of “the ethical candor of the Islamic tradition.”

Khaled Abou El Fadl, Tariq Ali, Milton Viorst and John Esposito. The Abode of Tolerance in Islam. Boston, Beacon Press, 2002.

Dr. David F. Duncan is the President of Duncan & Associates, a research and policy studies consulting firm in the areas of public health, mental health, and drug abuse.
His Commonplace Book is a collection of excerpts, book reviews, and commentary on classic movies and favorite authors. ease/

Originall posted June 6, 2012