Interpretations of Islam

Interpretations of Islam

This is extracted from Pukhtoon Khan's book "Religious Exploitation of Afghans and World Peace"
Due to the existence of Politico-religious parties in the Politics of Muslim countries, the interpretation of Islam has become a major, central and pivotal issue in Muslim scholasticism. While it was always there potentially even when Islam was limited to the Arab stock, it became significant when Islam was exported to the Non Arab or civilized world. Arabs, being the inhabitants of Arabian Peninsula, were the residents of deserts. The structure of their social fabric was missing the complications of Greek philosophy and oriental logic. Hence Muslim history saw major manifestations of difference in interpretation.

In contemporary world, all those parties like JUI,JI etc with religious agendas based on the political interpretation of Islam, have to answer which interpretation would they opt for in order to run the business of a nation state. The following is a historic evolution of various interpretations in the Muslim world in general and south Asia in particular.

The Shia Interpretation:
Before Greek works were translated during the Abbasid dynasty, which encouraged knowledge and wisdom, the Arab history had already seen the battle of “Jaml” between the wife of the prophet and the son in law of the prophet, who was also the caliph at the time, as an ugly face of difference in interpretation. Even the killing of Usman - the third caliph was the due to the same reason. The genius of the Jews, who were the major rivals of Ishmaelites, saw the potential of theological interpretation as a tool to break the unity of the nascent community called Muslims. Thanks to Abdullah Ibn Saba, the Jew scholar, who transformed the difference between the wife of the Prophet and Ali into a school of thought and those who accepted his teachings based on his conspiratory interpretation , became the supporters of Ali and were called “Shiyaan-e-Ali”.Abdullah Ibn Saba also took advantage of the primitive nature of means of communication at that time and the vast Arab empire under Ali and started preaching about the divinity of Ali being an incarnation of God to those who did not have information about the new religion which was propagating. Hence the Shi'ite sect was founded on a cultist version of Islam.Shi’ism is the first visible consequence of difference of interpretation in Arab or Muslim history.

Mutazilite’s Interpretation:
After that the Arab history saw another major controversy over the issue of Quran being a creation of God popularly called the “Khalq - Quran - Controversy”. This was also an example of interpretation. It discussed about the nature of the word of God – the Quran. The rationalist’s school called Mutazilla’s maintained that Quran is just a creation of God and hence it does not have an origin which is infinite in time. While Malik, who is also the proponent of a jurist school in Islamic jurisprudence maintained that the word of God has no origin and it is an infinite (ancient) in time as God is. The logical consequence was that as the Word of God was in Arabic hence Arabic also turned out to be a language with infinite origin and hence sanctified.

The Sufi Interpretation:
The Arab history saw increasingly more controversies after the Greek philosophy was translated into Arabic. The supporter of Islamic and Arabs world had to face a lot of problems to interpret their point of view vis-a-vis the new world of knowledge and reason. The interpretation has political implications too. When ever the interpretations challenged the political hegemony of the Arab rulers they had to resort to the worst type of violence in the name of Islam. The scholars of Islam wanted to segregate themselves from these controversies as they were becoming increasing harmful for the masses of the Muslim masses. Hence they came up with an individualistic and mystical interpretation of Islam called Tasawuf or Sufi Islam. This interpretation produced renowned scholars and intellectuals of all times who propagated the non political interpretation of Islam aimed at the purification of mind and soul.Al-Ghazaali and Ibne- Arabi are two examples of intellectuals giants who reached the zenith of Sufi interpretation of Islam.

Indian Interpretation:
When Islam came to the land of the saints, myths and mind called India, enriched with music , poetry, arts, culture and saintly wisdom, Indian mind gave the highest intellectual interpretation to the city state oriented Arab cultural ideology revealed to mankind through prophet Muhammad. Indian interpretation not only gave an intellectual foundation to Islam as a philosophy of life and presented it as an explanation of existence and universe along with an integrated system of thought for the socio-politico-economic issues of humanity. The interpretation of Islam was formally performed by taking the bold initiative of translating the Quran into Persian – a step which had no precedence in Islamic history. The teaching s of the Quran were integrated into a logical network of ideas with rational explanation by Shah Waliullah in his “Hujjatullah al Baligha” which again was a pioneering step and birth of a new science which later became the foundation stone of modern Islamic scholasticism. Later on Shah Abdul Aziz, Syed Ahmed Khan, Obaidullah Sindhi, Hameedud din Farahi, Amin Ahsan Islahi and contributed their part.

On parallel lines Another Indian interpretation came into existence which emphasized more on the collective aspects of life with reference to modern science. Iqbal and Mawdudi, Ghulam Ahmed Pervez and Rafiuddin are those scholars who interpreted Islam as a philosophy of existence as well as a potential ideology capable of becoming the social order of a modern state. “The Reconstruction of religious thoughts in Islam” by Iqbal, “Al Jihad Fil Islam” of Mawdudi, “Islam a Challenge to religion” by Pervez and “Ideology of the Future” by Rafiuddin are the master pieces of collectivistic intepreation of Islam.

Western Interpretation:
With the advent of industrial revolution and the advancement of science and technology human knowledge has evolved. After centuries of dark ages when west woke up from the deep slumber of ignorance and went through the Renaissance and Reformation movements, they almost interpreted every aspect of life according the tenets of the modern science and technology. Religion was no exception. A critical study of history in the light of scientific evolution revealed the roots and causes of prevalent myths, ideas and creeds and notions and west discarded all those concepts which were not upto mark according to the benchmarks of modern science. The scholars of Islam also could not isolate themselves from the effects and advancement of modern science and were compelled to interpret Islam in terms of the modern concepts which emerged after the industrial revolution. Harun Yahya, Zakir Naik, Dr Israr, Javed Ghamdi and a host of other Muslim scholars are the ones who are aware of the modern concept of science and also cognizant of the facts discovered in sciences of sociology, economics, Politics and Philosophy of history etc.

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