It goes without saying that Islam is not a strict religion. It opens its door to any call of renewal and advancement so long as the call itself is moderate and divinely guided. A renewal or reformation process is to be placed in a fence of guidance and adherence to scholastic views and authentic rules and maxims of jurisprudence.
Tackling this delicate issue in much detailed manner, the grand Muslim scholar and prominent Dai`yah Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states the following: “Islamic culture has an ample room for renewal and reformation. It even firmly believes in the necessity and the importance of such things in the realm of religion and life alike.
Towards A Fruitful Reformation:
Our firm belief in reformation and renewal stems from the Hadith of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, that reads: “Upon the onset of each hundred years, Almighty Allah sends to this Muslim nation a person to reform its religion.” One is in no position to pose the following question: “How can the religion be renewed or reformed, bearing in mind that it consists of glorious verses, best-laid rules and noble Hadiths?” In fact, when it comes to the renewal of the religion we are talking about renewing our faith, understanding its rules, renewing our commitment to the religion, behaving in accordance with its rulings and reactivating the way we propagate it.
Perusing the annals of Muslim history will reveal some big names and brilliant personalities who have shouldered such a great responsibility in bringing about something great for this Ummah. Topping the list of these important figures is `Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, who revived the traditions of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs after their effacement, Imam Ash-Shafi`, who laid down the bedrock of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, Imam Al-Ghazali, whom Allah entrusted with the task of reviving religious knowledge, Ibn Taymiya, Ibn Al-Qayyim and many others.
Renewing something does not means rubbing it off and building up a new structure. Rather, it means preserving the essence and characteristics of such a thing, and reforming its old or vanishing parts. Figuratively speaking, if you want to renew an ancient mosque, you should, on the one extreme, keep its foundation and structure intact as much as you can. On the other extreme, you ought to renew its pallid colors, restore its make-up, embellish its entrances and pave the way leading to it.
The process of reforming and reviving the religion must be done by veteran Muslim scholars in conformity with its rulings. This means that revival here is not an every man’s job. Nowadays, we frequently hear about those who encroached on the religion dubbing themselves as the “reformers” of religion, and celebrities of their times. Adding to that, some of those people try to introduce a new understanding of the Qur’an that goes in contrary to the true understanding of Muslim scholars of all times as if those self-claimed reformers are going to cast aside a 14-century heritage of Muslim nation.
They may even call for abandoning the whole treasure of Islamic jurisprudence, which they brand as static, not dynamic. Why such feeble-minded people blame Shari`ah and the illuminating teachings of Islam for their ignorance and backwardness? The deficiency is theirs indeed.
Some of them want us to cast aside the Prophetic Hadiths, claiming that some of them are weak or fabricated. They even claim that religious texts were given priority over personal reasoning, a thing which led to an intellectual stagnancy. They are, in fact, blamed for not delving deeply into Islamic culture or bearing in mind that Muslim nation took pains to maintain the unparalleled heritage left by the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.
We Are the Heirs of Guidance:
The defect of those people lies in the way they perceive their nation and its legacy. They think of this nation as being a naïve nation whose scholars are a bunch of idiots who promoted myths and being blindfolded by illusions. They have forgotten the fact that Muslim nation never unanimously agree on falsehood. Allah Almighty says:“And of theose whom We created there is a nation who guide with the Truth and establish justice therewith.”(Al-A`raf : 181) and “But if those disbelieve therein, then indeed We shall entrust it to a people who will not be disbelivers therein.”(Al An`am : 89). The Sunnah is also a rich record of so many authentic Hadiths witnessing to the fact that: “There is still a community of my nation who follow the correct path of Allah without being affected by those who stand opposed to them, until they gain Allah’s victory while they are steadfast.”
Muslim scholars dubbed the aforesaid community as “the victorious community” which serves as the safety valve for Muslim nation. They carry out the responsibilities of educating the ignorant and helping rogue persons be back to the right track. Historical events go in harmony with the Glorious Qur’an and the noble Sunnah in this regard. Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, is reported to have said: “The earth is not and will not be void, at any era, of those who shoulder the responsibility of defending Allah’s decrees in accordance with crystal clear evidence and proofs.” However, those fake “reformers” are unacquainted with the Qur’an, the Sunnah and history. They and their peers, unfortunately, have a strong voice and their banners are fluttering high.
No To Demolishing! No To Imitation!
We welcome any initiative of reformation and reject the above-mentioned examples, since their alleged renewal is a process of disguised scheme to undermine the cornerstones of the religion. By the same token, we reject imitators and “petrified” people who spurn renewal and any act of independent reasoning, taking “this is the best you can get” as their slogan.
Yes, there are no archbishops in Islam, but there are well-versed Muslim scholars who are properly qualified to create a link between the branches of the tree of Islamic Jurisprudence and its origins, and who observe the proprieties and steer clear of doubtful matters. In his book “Why Are Muslims Lagging Behind?” Prince Shakib Ar-Raslan wrote: “The religion is lost due to the ungrateful and the narrow-minded. The first group do lead people astray by their ungratefulness, while the second derive them away from religion by their narrow-mindedness.”
Almighty Allah knows best.