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General Overview; By Faheem Hussain
In his book Islam author traces the chronological development of ideas and diverse schools of interpretation through the history of Islam. Starting his intellectual discourse from Muhammad, his early strategies and struggles in the Arabian Peninsula he leads the reader to the miracle of ‘Quran’. Beginning of the book is with short Meccan powerful verses and subsequently descriptive Ma’dne surahs.
Here author emphasizes the need of interpretations, rather than taking the sacred text on literal grounds. He points out the concept of understanding the divine text keeping in view the specified context and social trends of Arabia. Interestingly author also highlights the need for a Quran interpreter to know Arabic, Arabic idioms used in Arabia at the time of revelation, ‘occasions of revelation’ i.e. Shan-e-Nuzul and historical traditions about how the verses were understood by the people among whom the ayat first appeared.
After the death of Holy Prophet, initially the first four caliphs and then Muslim lawmakers of diverse political and religious sects, used Quran as a legal document which was, in the later century, supported by six early compilations of Hadiths. After a critical reevaluation author suggests that available Hadiths are more sort of views and attitudes of early generations of Muslims than of the life and teachings of the Prophet. Thus major fabrications that took place in hadith literature leads us to the sunnah that was prevailing in Pre-Islamic Arabian tradition, usually opposed by Prophet, rather then the true Prophetic tradition.
Thus to mould tradition in their favor, to stabilize the political situations and to modify public opinions; the Muslim rulers after Caliphs encouraged the fake traditions to groom and discouraged multiple interpretations of Quran that could have bought some new threats to their illegitimate regime.
As the time goes on Muslim felt the need of guidance; after the demise of Prophet and Caliphs. Therefore the intellectual crises gave birth to a ‘vacuum of guidance’ that was subsequently covered up by two new terms i.e. ‘Ijma’ (consensus or agreed practice) and ‘Qiyas’ (analogical reasoning), both proved to be the integral part of Islamic Law.
In the times of early Muslim history the interface of Ijma and Qayas was assumed to be a natural dynamic process of interpretation; but in later years it developed in the opposite direction i.e. a static one. Hence in early 4th/10th century the ijma was declared final and the doors of ijtehad were closed, consequently bounding the upcoming generations to the interpretations of past that usually supported the sinful ruler as a ‘shadow of God’.
During 2nd / 8th century due to the expansion of Muslim empire, Quran started to be interpreted in the light of customary law which gave rise to multiple Sunni schools that comprised; Malaki, Shafi and Hanfi and Hambali.
In a while another door is opened for the reader that directs not towards law or sharia or philosophy; but this time its mystic Sufism. On the contrary of the Sufi teachings, author seem reluctant to rise from his stage of intellect to the Sufi’s stage of unbounded love and this points the core reason that why you don’t find a word in praise of the Sufis from the author himself, instead he quotes several other verses to do that.
Spiritual exercises called ‘halaqa’ (circles), repeated recitation of a religious formula called ‘dhikar’ and elaborated spiritual concepts by the introduction of music and dance not only threatened the position of mosque in the eyes of orthodox but also escalated the never ending tensions between both the factions.
After the elaborative presentation of sects in Islam particularly Shi’aism writer jumps to the modes of formal and informal education in Islam, tracing its roots back to the 2nd/8th century. Where Rahman draws our attention to the Ismaili Fatmid learning institutes of Al-Azhar and Dar-il Hikma, he maintains his argument that despite of efforts they were unable to
ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRADITION
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