As Muslims, we are obliged
to believe and understand our religion in a manner that Allah wants us to.
The way to achieve this is mentioned in the Qur'aan.
Allah says, "And if
they believe as you (i.e., the Sahabah) believe then they are rightly
guided, but if they turn away, then they are only in opposition." [Soorah
al-Baqarah (2): 137]
In light of this verse, the correct understanding is
what emulates the beliefs and understandings of the Sahabah (the Prophet's
Sahabah were the fortunate people who accompanied the Prophet (sallallahu
alaihe wa-sallam) and learned the religion directly from him (sallallahu
alaihe wa-sallam). They witnessed the revelation of the Qur'aan and
the Sunnah and experienced the circumstances in which they were
revealed. The Sahabah's understanding of the religion is therefore,
the most pure and perfect, and they are a group that has definitely
succeeded in achieving what Faith is meant to achieve, i.e. Allah's
Pleasure. “And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun
(those who migrated from Makkah to al-Medina) and the Ansar (the
people of al-Medina who helped the Muhajirun) and also those who
followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as
they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under
which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the
supreme success.” [Soorah at-Tawbah (9):100]
Apathy towards the understanding of the Sahabah as well as free
interpretation of Islamic texts are the primary causes of
misconceptions and confusion; and consequently straying from the path
of the 'the rightly guided'. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihe
wa-sallam) said, "This Ummah (nation) will split into seventy-three
sects, all of them in the Fire except one." They asked, "What is that
sect?” He (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said, "That which I and my
Companions are upon today." [at-Tabaraanee]
(argumentation based on Greek philosophy) is among such innovations in
the religion that created intellectual schisms in the Muslim nation
and initiated deviant trends. One of the sects that indulged in
Ilmul-Kalaam were the Mu'tazilah. They gave precedence to intellect
over the revealed texts of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah - when they
perceived the two conflicted. This attitude set an evil precedent for
all later groups who sought to make intellect and desire decisive over
the Qur'aan and the Sunnah. In this book, we shall critique such
modernist groups that attempt to impose novel interpretations upon
It is important to clarify from the onset that condemning 'modernism'
is rejecting illegitimate interpretations in religious matters and not
about opposing science and technology, or about rejecting benefit from
information and awareness that mankind constantly improves with time.
What is eternal and ever-relevant according to Islam are the teachings
revealed by Allah – the Most High and since Prophethood ends with
Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihe wa-sallam), his teachings will be
preserved and applicable until the time people need Guidance.
The Two Modernist
One trend of Modernists are the self-proclaimed 'Islam-experts' and
'Muslim-reformers' that we see all to often paraded on major media
outlets. They openly demand reformation in Islam and call for a
'progressive' interpretation of Islamic values. Their catch phrases
are “humane Islam”, “gender-friendly Islam”, “Islam 2.0”, “Progressive
Islam” and the like.
Their newly-found activity gained momentum with the emergence of
violent extremist elements that misinterpret Islam to create chaos and
cause hardship for Muslims. This began a search for an alternate,
sensible and moderate voice - a voice that can expect state funding
The lucrative opportunity thus created has attracted an assembly-line
of individuals with a history of apathy for Islam and Muslims, to
masquerade as champions of the 'oppressed Muslim woman',
good-governance for Muslim nations, human rights, etc. They claim to
be the moderate voice and speak in a language that the media,
especially the western media, likes to hear. They persist in this even
if it alienates Muslims and reinforces biased stereotypes about Islam.
In the name of 'progressive thinking', they organize campaigns against
the head-covering for women, for women to pray in mosques alongside
men, for the acceptance of lewdness, and other similar issues. They
seek to misinterpret Islamic texts in light of rational thought,
modern values and even feelings and desires for, they consider the
rational (Aql) and desires decisive over the revealed texts (Naql).
Another group that is an equally staunch patron of free-thinking and
modernist interpretations is that of the so-called 'Islamic-thinkers'
and activists. Their primary goal is political power and thus, their
novel interpretations are aimed at supporting their revolutionary
goals and undermining genuine priorities of Islamic Dawah that they
see as a hurdle or a distraction from their primary goal.
Politically, the two modernist groups are poles apart. The
'progressive thinkers' are extreme secularist while the
'Islamic-thinkers' are ardent callers to the Khilafah - however
distorted their views may be about it. But the two are similar in
making Aql decisive over Naql, in their apathy towards Hadeeth, in
their emphasis on modernistic interpretations of the Qur'aan, and in
their unjustified toughening or lightening of Islamic regulations for
the achievement of political/organizational goals.
The vocal participation of these media-savvy modernist groups in
speaking about Islam and affairs of the Muslims has resulted in the
spread of a lot of confusion and misinformation. In this book,
Insha'Allah, we shall critically analyze the Modernists, beginning by
understanding the deviations of the Mu'tazilah sect. We shall see with
a) the rejection of Kalaam by the scholars and Imams of the Muslims,
b) the turmoil that the Mutazilah brought upon the Islamic world as a
result of their Kalaam and,
c) the ill-effects of philosophy on pious and knowledgeable scholars
who indulged in it and later abandoned it.
We shall study the views of the 'Muslim' rationalists (al-Aqlaniyah),
a group that emerged towards the end of the colonial era and found
intellectual nourishment in the views of the Mutazilah. Impressed by
Western advances in science and technology, they sought inspiration
from the west for the advancement of Muslim societies, assimilating
along the way 'Modernist' attitudes towards religion that had gained
popularity amongst European Christians and Jews.
The European Modernist agenda was primarily aimed at settling the
conflict between religion and rationality with the help of philosophy.
On their part,
'Muslim' Modernists attempted to reject or alter those teachings
of the Qur'aan and Sunnah that they saw as hindrances, and turned to
the Mu'tazilah and 'Muslim' philosophers for guidance.
We shall see in this booklet the close resemblance between Christian
and Jewish Modernists on one hand, and the 'Muslim' modernist and
progressives on the other. We shall analyze the views that have become
the hallmark of the Modernist call and expose their remoteness from
Lastly, we shall comment on the most
outrageous antics of present-day
expose their hatred for Islamic teachings and report on the complete
failure of their call.
The second section of this booklet deals with the misguidance of
rejecting Hadeeth as this is another malady afflicting all Mu'tazili
influenced groups whether the Modernists, the Progressives, the
Secularists or the pseudo-Islamists. The refutation focuses upon
analyzing the views of three prominent rejecters of Hadeeth;
Rashad Khalifah, Ghulam Parvez
Amin Ahsan Islahi.
The two sections of the book greatly complement each other as the
modernists and the hadeeth rejecters are two sides of the same coin.
All in all, this booklet should provide a good overview towards
understanding the many misguided views that emanate from varied groups
influenced by the Mu'tazilah.
May Allah make us amongst “Those who listen to the Word (good
advice La ilaha ill-Allah) and follow the best thereof." [Soorah
Az-Zumar (39): 18]
Sajid A. Kayum