I want to study Islam: Part I | Part II | Part III
As the Informed Muslim progresses, he/she may eventually make the choice to move on and become a Muslim Activist. A Muslim Activist can differ quite dramatically from the Scholar, the key difference being that a scholar is equipped to issue a legal fiqh ruling and has fulfilled the conditions to do so, while the Muslim Activist is not. This will be discussed further in the next section (The Scholar). The Muslim activist is often an imam of a mosque, a caller to Islam or a specialist in a field other than the Islamic Sciences, such as philosophy, language or politics. A Muslim Activist is unable to generate new, independent scholarship, although he or she is able to generate more Informed Muslims and can share information with other Muslim Activists on a basic level.
The first step for a Muslim Activist, beyond fulfilling the learning responsibilities of the Informed Muslim, can vary depending on the type of activism in which the individual wants to be involved. For example, a Muslim Activist involved in political discourse should be well informed of the political theory and ideas involved, as is the case with other activism, such as those who are interested in addressing issues in atheism, Orientalism or general community and youth work.
With regards to Islamic Studies, it is highly recommended that the Muslim Activist maintain a consistent pattern of learning of the Islamic Sciences whether in Arabic or his or her native language (although the former is highly recommended due to the abundance of materials available). Learning related to his or her area of activism should be more rigorous than in others. For example, an individual participating in discussions on politics should have a general working knowledge of Islamic law in at least one madhhab (school of Islamic legal thought) as well as the field of siyasat-ul-shari`ah (politics of Islamic law). An individual dealing with atheism should be well versed in the different understandings of Islamic theology and its foundations, and the activist in the field of Orientalism should be well versed with the ins and outs of the hadith (narrations) and Qur’anic Sciences. Please note these are general recommendations and can vary depending on the specificity of the activism involved.
A teacher or mentor in the Islamic Sciences and and in the particular field of activism is strongly recommended for the Muslim Activist, and if this mentor is a Scholar (as described in the next article), then that is better than having a more learned Muslim Activist as a mentor, although not necessary.
The Muslim Activist is not permitted to give a legal ruling, and should not be involved in teaching or interpreting classical texts. He or she can still teach Islam but should be very careful to teach others by way of referencing the works of scholars (whether contemporary or classical) so as to protect his or herself from the major sin of giving a legal verdict or interpreting a verse of Qur’an or hadith without the necessary knowledge.
This type of Muslim really requires a learned teacher and a scholar to consult with. Because the demands of activism are so strong that one might give in to the moment of pressure if not mentored by a proper teacher. This is really an important point. Thank you for raising it in the article.