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Islam Negotiating the Future

"Rashid Shaz is one of those who have visualised the growing debilitating state of the Muslims but he is one of the few who have come up with the right approach to this problem. Islam Negotiating the Future; is a book that aims to correct our primary approach to Islam."

Syed Ali Naqvi in The Nation, Lahore

"Some of his ideas are radical. Shaz places unconventional proposals in the book. It is for the thinking readers now to decide what can be done with them."

Shams Afif Siddiqi in The Telegraph - Calcutta


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Reconstructing the Ummah Muslimah: The Legacy of Abraham

Some 1.6 billion people on this planet believe that by virtue of being the followers of the last prophet they have been entrusted to play a very special role in future history. This belief in their chosen ness (khaire ummah) is as much part of their faith as the belief in the oneness of God almighty, His messengers, the hereafter and the divine agency of angels. This ideological stance of world leadership as opposed to the stark realities of real world where they find themselves in the web of global enmity and hatred have created a spilt personality among them. If we are really the khaire ummah -- the chosen nation to lead history till end time, why for centuries we find ourselves so much on the margins of history, they would ask?

That the Muslim nation is in a state of perpetual decline and that something has gone awry in her centuries long journey are no novel contentions any more. However, so far Muslim intellectuals and reformers have been concentrating on mere reforming the Muslim society. Reforming or purging the historical Islam of alien elements has not been their focus of attention. They conveniently ignored the fact that historical Islam as it was transmitted to us through generations had absorbed varieties of individual perceptions and human interpretations. The canonization of the four schools of fiqh in Sunni Islam in the 9th century Hijra further muddled the Muslim mind. We took our intellectual digressions as the given, as if the four great fuqaha were part of the divine scheme, as Waliullah ad-Dehlawi would later come to argue in the 18th century. Ijtihad, an independent and fresh reading of the text, was accepted in principle but not to the extent of leading to founding a fifth school. In short, we were only allowed to think within the fiqhi paradigms of the four schools and that too without any critical appraisal of the intellectual premise on which these schools were founded. A truly fresh or independent reading of text, it was supposed, demanded a mujtahid mutlaq, a repository of all-knowledge, an all-knowing legendry mind whom the later centuries had stopped producing, we were told. Bringing thus the Muslim mind to a complete halt was disastrous, a point that I shall later return to.

The modern day Islamic movements vociferously argue that returning to Islam will once again take the Muslim Ummah back to its glory. However, they fail to realise that the kind of ideological package that we are delivering to the beleaguered Ummah today in the name of Islam is not the same that once was put forward by the holy prophet in the 6th century Arabia. I believe that the prophetic Islam in its pristine purity needs to be reconstructed before we embark on any Islamising mission.

The very fact that the Muslim Ummah is no single monolithic group and that there are many varied perceptions of Islam often in conflict with one another, is enough indication that reforming historical Islam is no new novice. Each group among Muslims draws its legitimacy from its claim that it alone has inherited the essence of true Islam and hence it alone has the sole right to salvation. According to this view that is held with varying intensity by almost all sects and religious groups, the other sects need to be reformed to bring them back to original Islam. But no group allows the same reformation within its own ranks lest it may end up in the dismantlement of the group itself.

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