Islamic Studies

Beyond The Literalism And Rationalism Debate: Prompting The Rise Of Ahl as-Sunnah Wa’l Ja’mah And Responding To The New Mu’tazila [The Liberal Da’wah]

In Path To Eden: Reopening The Way To Paradise
[Refining The Thought Of The Student Of Shar’iah]

With the decline of Islamic educational institutions in the Sunni world came a decline in the intellectual rigor necessary and demanded of a scholar capable of addressing the needs of his age. Put differently the decline in the educational system for reasons political and economical “Ahl as-Sunnah Wa’l Ja’mah” in the area of education.

What is demanded of the person concerned with Islamic revival is a keen focus on building and cultivating the mind of the scholar in a manner that does not do violence to tradition nor dismiss the need for educational reform.

-Firstly, the student today must turn to two key areas in order to achieve the task of building the mind of a scholar capable of meeting the demands of Islamic revival:

1.] Ta’lil –understand the wisdom behind Islamic legislation

2.] Ta’dlil –understand the evidences for Islamic rulings, as they are derived from the source texts of Islam, Qur’an and Sunnah

-Secondly, the student must understand how a legal judgment is translated in real life by keeping in mind that Islam aims to:

a.] Aid people in achieving the greatest good [as defined by Islam] in this world

b.] Stave off harm [as defined by Islam]

For indeed, Islam aims at realizing the Greatest good for humanity, and staving off that which brings harm to humanity. That is, Islam aims at creating the conditions necessary for the good life, a life of worship and love of Allah {swt}, spiritual, intellectual and emotional fulfillment, this is the ultimate aim of Revelation. Revelation’s goal is a humanistic aim, which tends to the interests of the human being and speaks to the reality of the human being in his or her totality [spiritually and physically. So the whole of Islam and creation is build on the purpose of cultivating and serving free individuals who are bound only to the love of the Creator and mature and refined enough intellectual and spiritually and materially to care after the needs of humanity and extend their potentials.

Calling the student and the Muslim overall to keep in mind the aims of the Shar’iah and their relation to all of life and fiqh and Islamic education means then that the student of knowledge, and every Muslim must be a student to some degree, desires and seeks and searches to understand:

a.] The wisdom underlying Islamic legislation

b.] The source texts of Islam

c.] And the relation between these and the scholarly tradition

d.] And lastly, how all these apply to life problems and are in the position to offer real practical solutions that function to realize and attain and achieve the Greatest Good for humanity both individuals and the community, both Man and Woman, both the Old and Young, both the Black and white, and the Muslim and the non-Muslim.

The student of knowledge then must learn to value the thought processes and experience recorded in Islamic tradition while being thoroughly versed in the Qur’an and Sunnah and having the ability to respond to life not as a passive object but as a living actor who stands responsible before Allah {swt}.

Attending to the da’wah to build our understanding of Islam via understanding ta’lil [underlying wisdom and purpose of a ruling or group of rulings] and dalil [ general and specific evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah: for more on this look to the books of the principles of fiqh [Usul al-Fiqh]] along with Maqasid ash-Shar’iah studies is what creates a necessary balance between the da’wah to tradition and the da’wah to dalil and the da’wah to reform and the da’wah to make our Islamic thought relevant to today and to a changing world. Building the mind of a scholar starts with being initiated into an educational approach that promotes:

a.] The life of the intellect

b.] And a deep understanding of revelation

The purpose of such an initiation is so that the student learns how to search out the underlying wisdom of “shar’iah” but does so within the parameters laid out by revelation –the Qur’an and Sunnah and considering the experience of the Ulema of the past and their intellectual efforts at understanding Islamic texts.

A problem that we face now in the West in the House of Islam is the rise of a liberal current clothed in an Islamic discourse that pretends to be a da’wah to ijithad and revival. This da’wah, which has emerged in the West affirms “the Aims Of The Shar’iah” but has done so at the expense of textual support and without the support of a wholstic methodology that surveys Islamic texts globally. They are reading the source texts piecemeal and dismiss being informed by scholarly legal methodology [Usul al-Fiqh] and tradition [scholarly experience.

This is why they raise issues that are non-starters they bring up issues about polygamy, womens’ rights, Islamic criminal law etc. in the name of a more humanistic read of Islam and according to the claim of being more in line with the spirit of the Qur’an. Not all that is said is problematic but this current would do well to first initiate itself in rigorous scholarly methodology rather than in sensationalist events and the discipline of debate.

The liberal discourse because it opened itself up to the philosophy of postmodernism that is the likes of Derrida, and Foucault and the school of Hermeneutics and literary criticism and other currents that claim to be tools of textual interpretation, would have the Muslim submit to cultural relativity prior to a thorough read of Islamic sources and literature [tradition].

The key here is not to engage the debate as it is a tool of mass distraction, the key is to focus on:

a.] Education

b.] To master Maqasid ash-Shar’iah studies to the degree we can

c.] To Learn how the sources of Islam well, both: The Qur’an, Sunnah and tradition in light of maqasid studies [ta’lil [wisdom, reasons, underlying purposes of Shar’iah and ta’dlil [textual evidence].

The fact that the liberal current raises and focuses on piecemeal matters illustrates a lack of depth in their understanding scholarly methodology and Islamic sources. In point of fact they are what some scholars term corrupters of the text that is in interpretation [mu’attila who make ta’teel [they empty the texts of what they mean in the name for understanding the overall aims of the Qur’an]. They are in fact a new strain of the Mutazila that hold their intellects above the texts and capable of abrogating the texts when desire demands.

When we ask for real scholarly credentials few can demonstrate that they have attained some degree of ijithad of which is a prerequisite to speak in the manner that they choose to discourse nor are they recognized in scholarly circles this is why it is best to leave them be and organize their ideas and present them to the Ulema without taking to much heed or investing much in what they claim as it leads to giving them recognition and a platform. Time spent in being frustrated at what is being said is time taken from your education, the education that allows you to understand how what is being presented is very shallow.

Allah Al’am Wa Al’a


About the author

Yusuf Rios (Abul Hussein)

Yusuf Rios (Abul Hussein)

Yusuf Rios was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While becoming a Catholic priest, Yusuf discovered the path to Islam. He studied Islamic sciences for a period of seven years, studying with scholars in Cleveland, Ohio before receiving a work-study contract with the Islamic American University. At the Islamic American University, he read Arabic and a limited number of Islamic sciences intensively for one year. He then traveled to Cairo, Egypt where he resided for five years. There, he attended a number of intensive courses at Arabic learning centers. After these courses, he joined various scholarly circles, reading Islamic sciences with a host of scholars of diverse expertise and orientations. Yusuf takes particular pride in having studied intimately with a number of scholars from al-Azhar University. Likewise, he has great love and attachment to Egypt and especially al-Azhar Mosque where he studied for the major portion of his residence in Egypt. Yusuf has a Bachelors in Western Philosophy and Sociology and is working on a Masters in Education. He serves as an instructor in Islamic Sciences with Islamic American University and in local mosques in Dearborn, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio. His four main research areas in Islamic sciences are in the areas of Usul al-Fiqh, Maqasid ash Shar’ia, Hadith Sciences, and Fiqh.

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  • Assalamu alaykum…
    Alhamdullilah, that knwoledgeable people recognize that there are serious issues emanating from Muslims who are not necessarily coming from the traditional mode of thinking…Scholarly responses of equal merit must be made to works of Reza Aslan (No God but God…), and others who follow a “modernist/progressive”/ basically a secular humanistic approach…Insha’allah, may Allah (Swt) bless your efforts…


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