(This article was inspired by Kadir Jasin’s latest posting where he mentioned what is important is to “protect the future of UMNO. Malays and Islam..” No fault of his.)
We often hear this phrase “protecting Islam”, “protecting the sanctity of Islam”, “memartabatkan kedudukan Islam”, “mempertahankan Islam” and so on. What do they exactly mean when they say that?
Firstly, I must confess that I as a Muslim do not know exactly which interpretation of “Islam” they are referring to though I know that there is no single interpretation. All the evidence is out there and in particular, globally, the Muslim world is theologically and politically divided in two major denominations - the “Sunni” and “Shia” Islam world. The Shias and the Sunnis do not accept each other’s collection of hadiths (“saying of the Prophet”), notwithstanding the fact that each claims “authenticity” and academic verification of the same .
Even within the said denominations, there are diverse sects with their own interpretation of what constitutes “Islam”. In the Sunni world itself there are four main schools of thought namely, Maliki, Shafie, Hanbali and Hanafi equally diverse in views on many topics including those related to pure faith issues.
Fundamentally the divisions in the “Islamic” world arises due to the differences in the sources relied upon to build the structure of Islam. While all of them claim to accept the Quran, much of the structure of Islam today is build not necessarily from the explicit injunctions of the Quran per se but mostly from the jurists or fuqahas efforts of exegesis. In simple words, derived from the reasoning and interpretation of the jurists.
In the Sunni world, it is “accepted” by their collective mainstream clergy that the sources of Islam in Islamic jurisprudence or usul al-fiqh is primarily the Quran, the Sunnah and hadith, Ijma’ (consensus of the scholars) and Qias (anology). There are many other sources of islam that have been created to assist in addressing a particular issue such as istihsan, urf and so on.
Even the idea of maqasid al-syariah (objectives of the shariah) is a concept created by the jurists or religious scholars/clergy by way of deducing and inferring from the “accepted” sources aforementioned.
It is understandable that human beings will have to interpret, deduce, and infer from facts and evidence to arrive at a conclusion or to create a concept from which everything else is build. There is nothing unique about this process of thinking and is common to all aspects of our life. This is how values and systems of beliefs and behaviour evolve in societies.
The problem only arises when we deny our interpretative role and equate our ideas, concepts and conclusions to that of the Divine or God. Hence, criticisms and alternative interpretations become impossible and would immediately be cast as blasphemous or unthinkable.
This is what I call the confusion between the views of the Interpreter (“the clergy or anyone) and the actual intent of the Giver of the Text (“Divine/God”). Would not equating the views of the interpreter (clergy) absolutely with the intent of the Giver of the Text (“God”) equate the position of the clergy with the position of God?
So back to the question of “protecting Islam”, those who say this cannot and should not assume the serious reader or serious audience knows what they are talking about. They must specify which “Islam” they are talking about. A generalisation in matters pertaining to Islam is completely unhelpful if they understand the realities of the situation and the diverse academic discussions on Islam and most importantly, the contents of the Quran itself.
Say for example, they were to say “protect the Shia Islam”, then it will be easy to make a choice whereby those who prefer the Sunni version can reject that call. And similarly if one was to say “protect the Sunni version”, then those in favour can support that call. Even this however may pose a problem in a seemingly Sunni society because of the differences in the opinions of the four schools of thought.
So, maybe it becomes clearer if the caller was to say “protect the Shafie views of Islam” and so on.
However, do we see this manner of calls as promoting unity among the Muslims? What then will those adhere to the Maliki or Hanafi view do? If you say accept all, then what do you do when there is a conflict of views?
Would it not be easier and more efficient for Muslims to make the call from one book which all of them do not dispute – the Quran? And mean it too when the call is made and Muslims heed the call by adhering to the Quran. Otherwise, you will be guilty of causing further disunity among the Muslims.
Hence, be careful when you say you want to “protect Islam” for you may be doing the exact reverse by your futile call due to your ignorance of the complexities and the Quran.
NOTE: THE AUTHOR DOES NOT REQUIRE NOR EXPECT ANYONE TO ACCEPT OR AGREE WITH HIS VIEWS STATED HEREIN. IN MATTERS OF ISLAM, THE AUTHOR WARNS THAT THE READER SHOULD CHECK WITH HIS OWN COPY OF THE QURAN AND MAKE UP HIS OWN MIND.