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Saturday, June 10, 2017

CONTEMPORARY DISCUSSIONS ON ISLAM / QURAN

This is the month of the fast. I choose my words carefully. There will be prayers this month where they will chant the entire Quran (in Arabic) throughout its 29 days.  Few will understand what is being chanted.   It is almost like listening to classical music (which I am doing now, Bach). It makes you feel good. Some smarties say listening to music actually stimulates your neurons (the wiring in the brain). But that is classical music.

In the prayer places,  another year would have gone by and many would have heard the entire Quran read in Arabic but still not know what was being chanted. Imagine if the entire Quran were read out in Malay or English for a whole month.  But you have to imagine, ok.

I know a person (thru the Internet) called  Layth al Shayban, a Saudi Arabian  who was born and raised within the vicinity of the kaaba in Mecca.  In the mid 90s, Layth got “entangled” with a Quranist website called Ropelist.com (now defunct) that was run by another friend of mine.  Ropelist.com was an eye opener for many people including Layth al Shayban.  

The net result was that Layth al Shayban and some friends  organised an online re-reading of the Quran (in his mother tongue Arabic) with many of our friends contributing in the discussion and understanding of the verses.  I believe the online reading took about two years to complete. 

Finally Layth al Shayban, born and raised in Mecca, Saudi Arabia cooperated with two others Edip Yuksel and Martha Schulte-Nafeh to produce a new and dynamic English translation of the Quran 

It is available online and thanks to the gomen of Malaysia for our Internet services, you can read "The Quran A Reformist Translation" here.




Thanks to the Internet, discussion about Islam, the Quran and such is extremely very wide and deep. It is only hampered by the amount of time you have to spend surfing the Net and reading all this new material.

In my view there are basically three types of discussions about Islam.  These are just my “talking points”.  If you feel there are more (or less) I will not argue with you.

  1.    Old schools  (both Sunni and Shia)

Firstly you have the never ever changing, old schools of thought. 

This would be the realm of the muftis including folks like Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin. They are basically old school – no new thinking is allowed. In these old schools of thought they defend their positions by the argument of force. 

Yes they do use force – including raising their voices, getting angry and such. No questioning is allowed. 

They also have recourse to laws and legislation like the 3,5,6 laws (3 years jail, RM5000 fine and/or six strokes of the rotan). Now they want to pass the 3,5,6 Laws (30 years jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 strokes of the rotan). All this just to defend their "old schools of thought".

The same applies to the Shias. They too have their old schools.
 

2.   2.     The “progressive Muslims”.

Next  you have the so called  “progressive Muslims”.    I call these “old wine in new bottles”.   Both Sunni and Shia.

They are basically the same as the Old School – they just do not want to admit it or maybe they do not realise it.  A fundamental weakness of the “progressives” is that they depend on the writings, books and the teachings of the same Old School fellows.  
They just want to reinterpret 1000 year old dusty books in a "more modern light".   One example of this group would be the "female imam" gang.  (Err..to the liberated ladies this does not represent my views about imams, whether male or female or about females, imams or no.  I am just stating facts, ok).  

The female imam issue made headlines for a while. Now there are quite a few female imams, especially in the US. This was a classic example  of  re-interpreting 1000 year old extra-Quranic texts.    The “progressive Muslims” of course get shouted down by the Old School guys. Because the Old School says the re-interpretation by the “progressive Muslims” is flawed.  As I said, old wine in new bottles. 


  3.    The “super fundamentalists”


Thirdly you have what I call the “super fundamentalists”.  This is where the real excitement is today. It is intellectually quite rigorous. Those who are dim witted (less intelligent),  faint hearted, those who suffer high blood pressure etc best avoid these folks.  

Simply put the super fundamentalists  are people who are researching and going back to the roots of Islam. They study all Islamic references very closely and critically. 

The study the Quran very carefully and they also study the extra Quranic texts very carefully and ask "fundamental" questions. Hence I term them "superfundamentalists".

They follow the scientific and historical method. They are evidence based. They ask for evidence about everything. The degree or intensity of their research and discussion varies.

They are almost exclusively Internet based  but their discussions are reaching a very wide audience.  Among these include :

1. aastana.com - this is a group led by one Dr Qamarzaman which studies the Quran in detail and discusses literal meanings of the Quran.  The discussion is in English and Urdu. An example of their discussion would be the meaning of 'zina' which they say means to adulterate or corrupt something.  This is quite different from the orthodox view which says zina is adultery.

2. ahleaqal.blogspot.com - this is a blog which again relooks the arabic text in the Quran.  Ahle-aqal even discusses the literal meaning of the word Allah. This is a first even for me because no one has stopped to ponder what is the literal meaning of the word "Allah".

3.   http://www.ourbeacon.com is Dr Shabbir Ahmed's web page.  Dr Shabbir who is a medical doctor by training critically discusses Islam and Islamic history. 


4. aididsafar.com - this is the website that hosts the book 'Mental Bondage in the name of God'.  The book uses arguments from the Quran to explain how the religious experts have deviated the Quranic message to enslave the Muslim mind.  Hence the title "Mental Bondage".


5. biblicalmullahs.blogspot.com - this website critically examines traditional methods of transferring religious knowledge. As its name indicates the research at this website shows a very strong correlation between the jewish/christian bible and many sectarian teachings.  Implying that many sectarian beliefs are plagiarised from the jewish/christian bible. 

5.   k____hituberhala.blogspot.com is a Malay language blog that is totally radical in its views.  The arguments are Quran based.  This one is not for the faint hearted either. 

The point to note is this. The discussion on Islam is not what you hear in the madrassahs and the religious ceramahs anymore. The discussion about Islam is not  limited to what the traditional and the orthodox people say.

There is a wide ranging and indepth discussion about Islam and the Quran which is completely different from what the religious guys have been dishing out for centuries. This new level of research and discussion has only been made possible because of the Internet. It is quite impossible to turn off or shut away these new developments.

1 comment:

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