About a month ago some very distinguished and influential scholars of Islam and du’aat drafted and signed a pledge of unity and mutual respect.  For the most part this pledge was recieved by the Muslim blogosphere very positively, but some have taken issues with it.  Dear sister and friend, Gess, at her blog has raised some points about it. From what I gather her questions about it have to do more with the language than anything else.

Personally, I recieved this pledge in a very warm way, something that was not possible some years ago.  The atmosphere for the pledge has arisen from a need in the community to set it self in order.  We have two extremes in the West: those who say nothing is open to ijtihad and those who say everything is open to ijtihad. It is good to see that Salafis, Sufis, Madhabists, Ikhwanis, Asharis, Maturidis, (all the ‘isms’) etc, can come together and not only realize but promote the fact that we have more in common then we have differences. 

The average Muslim is only responsible for knowing the basics of creed as they relate to a simple belief in Allah, His Angels, Scriptures, the Prophets and Messengers, the LastDay, and the Divine Decree

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The above quote it seems to me comes with an intention of being inclusive and showing the reality of the situation. Most Muslims, the vast majority are not concerned with the deep theological issues that get very detailed. They are concerned about putting food on the plate for their families, working, etc. Many Muslims arent even literate, but in the West we have a new situation. Muslims, are far more literate and they have far more time in getting consumed with things that other Muslims in the world have no time for. This leads to the ‘self-tought’ phenomenon which in and of itself is not bad but the mistake can not be made to say these are then specialists because their pedagogy does not include a real analysis and question of the texts that comes from formal learning.

I also believe the pledge gives sound advice and supports the seeking of knowledge, as it says:

Urge our brothers and sisters in faith to concentrate on enriching their lives by deepening their practice of Islam through roperly learning the basics of the faith, adopting a consistent regimen of Qur’anic recitation, endeavoring to remember and invoke Allah in the morning and evening, learning the basics of jurisprudence, attempting to engage in voluntary asting as much as possible, studying the Prophetic biography on a consistent basis, studying the etiquettes that guide our interactions with our fellow Muslims, and the performance of other beneficial religious acts, to the extent practical for their circumstances.

In the end, any call to unity amongst the mainstream of Muslims is a welcomed one. We agree to disagree. We agree not to call each other Kafirs, to respect our brothers and sisters and to widen our knowledge. To respect those with knowledge and not slander them but learn from them. We respect the call of all to raise questions. In the end, we must check our phsychology here in the West. Are we truly guided by the ethics and spirit of Quran and Sunna or are we following the ethics of WWF wrestling and gangsta rap when we are in the Masjid?

Here is a statement by one of the Signatories, Yasir Qadi, on the Pledge:

In the Name of Allah, the Ever-Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy

 

All Praise is due to Allah, and may the salutations of Allah be upon the Beloved Messenger.

Alhamdulillah, a very blessed and important step was recently taken by a number of du`aat and students of knowledge in the Western world. This was done in order to achieve a more cooperative spirit and foster a greater degree of harmony amongst Sunni Muslims. A mention of this momentous event was made in another MM post here.

The attached ‘Pledge of Mutual Respect and Cooperation’, signed by people of diverse theological backgrounds, all of whom have historically used the label of Ahl al-Sunnah (or ‘Sunni’ for short), is intended to be a guideline for mutual interaction (a modus vivendi of sorts), primarily for themselves, and also for those who might look to them for guidance.

Primarily, it states that:

– The fundamental issues of creed, as embodied in the famous Hadeeth of Jibreel, are simple, and it is not a requirement of Islam that every single Muslim be cognizant of the more abstruse issues of theology.

– The situation and times we live in warrants an even more concerted effort to achieve unity amongst Muslims, and avoid splintering to the greatest extent possible.

– Disputations of more complex issues of theology need to be conducted by people who are trained in these sciences, and not by lay-Muslims. Additionally, even when such discussions take place, they should be done in accordance with proper Islamic etiquette.

– No charges of takfeer should be labeled against other Sunni groups or scholars, and neither should the motives or character of those who profess alternate theologies within Sunni Islam be impugned due to their allegiance to that theology.

– Individual Muslims should, to the greatest extent possible, respect the local scholars of the community, and not engage in rash actions that might polarize the community or lead to further strife. There are proper ways of handling differences of opinion – even theological ones.

– Lay-Muslims, especially the youth (i.e., college level) should avoid getting passionately involved in intra-Sunni polemics, whether on campus or online, as this inevitably leads to the splintering of an already fragile local community.

– At an individual level, all Muslims should strive to come closer to Allah through increased acts of worship, and at a community level they should come together in order to counter any and all negative and false images of Islam.

The last paragraph is also an important disclaimer. All of the parties that have signed on to this document identify themselves as being from the tradition of Sunni Islam. And it is an undeniable historical reality that this label has been used by a number of diverse, and at times contradictory, theological groups, for the last thousand years of Islam. I personally have no qualms considering these groups within the broad fold of Sunni Islam. What combines these various strands (for example, the veneration of all of the Companions of the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and a sincere attempt to understand and implement the Prophetic Sunnah as preserved in the Sunni canonical traditions such as the Saheehs al-Bukhari and Muslim, amongst other issues) is much greater than what disunites them, especially vis-à-vis other groups. That being said, there are indeed, as the document states, some serious and legitimate differences within these various strands. And it is my personal conviction that the purest theology is that of the first three generations of Islam; it is these generations that we should seek to emulate. The pious predecessors of these generations freed themselves from the dialectic theology known as the science of kalaam, and from the theological positions that were derived from this science. And this is something that I too hold to, and consider Sunni Islam at that pure and blessed stage to have been nothing other than the beliefs of these pious predecessors. It is important to stress, however, that the purpose of this pledge is not to vindicate or justify one ideology over another. These differences have existed within Sunni Islam (in the broad sense of the term) for the last twelve centuries, and the fact of the matter is that, barring some sort of Divine Intervention, it does not appear that these difference will leave us any time soon. Therefore there needs to be a more pragmatic and realistic attempt at cooperation, one that retains our traditionalisms and respects our historical traditions, yet at the same time takes into account the context of our current political and social situation.

No doubt there will be those who will find fault with this agreement. Some might read in phrases or ideas that are not present. Others will not be satisfied with the wording of the document, viewing it as either too liberal and encompassing, or too narrow and strict. But it is not meant to satisfy everyone, for that is not its purpose (and nor is it a feasible goal!). Rather, the document is nothing more than an expression of a shared conviction that all the signatories feel very strongly about. Those who disagree have the right to do so – it is not being forced on anyone. But it is hoped from those who look up to some of the signatories and take knowledge from them, that they might take an example from this collective stance and be more proactive with other groups and organizations. Having said that, there will always be extremisms on all sides, especially amongst over-zealous, under-experienced youth. What is desired, though, is that such extremism not find a voice amongst authentic and respected scholarship.

On a personal note, I am very happy that Allah blessed me to be a part of this process from its very inception. Although I am very passionate about the specific theological doctrines that I hold to be correct (and all those whom I’ve had the privilege to teach can attest to that), I believe that there is a time, a place, an audience and a methodology for dealing with such issues. And I also believe that such issues need to be put into perspective, taking into account our local, national, and international situation. Even if I disagree with some specific theological doctrines of other signatories, I am proud to call all of them my brothers in faith; I am always honored to be in their company; I am eager to further my relationship with them; I sense a genuine spirit of Islamic brotherhood whilst amongst them; I wish the best for them and their da`wah; I am desirous to benefit from their wisdom and knowledge; and I consider myself the least amongst them in piety and taqwa.

In this blessed month of Ramadhan, I pray that this pledge helps in bringing about a renewed sense of optimism, and fosters greater unity, amongst us all. No doubt other steps need to be taken, but insha Allah this is a blessed and necessary first step.

Yasir Qadhi

 

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