Why Indian Muslims Should Adopt The Ibn Rushd Model

  • The noblest form of worship was to study god through his works, using the faculty of the mind, said Ibn Rushd, and it will bode well for Indian Muslims to follow his teachings.
  • Arshia MalikWednesday, December 14, 2022 2:59 pm IST
    Ibn Rushd.
    Ibn Rushd.

    In Akbar S Ahmed's book Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalisation, he seems to put all the blame for the degradation of Muslim society throughout centuries on globalisation.

    Globalisation, as we know, is the process by which ideas, knowledge, information, goods and services spread around the world.

    It is driven by the convergence of cultural and economic systems. This convergence promotes and, in some cases, necessitates increased interaction, integration, and interdependence among nations.

    The more countries and regions of the world become intertwined politically, culturally and economically, the more globalised the world becomes.

    That is not to say, globalisation does not have its cons, or side effects or negativity but life knows, the Muslim world needs to open up even more than when it was shocked to confront other superior cultures after Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the Ottoman Army in 1799 and after the Six-Day War in 1967 which the Israelis won, shattering the myth of an invincible ummah that god/Allah would never let be defeated.

    The Muslim world tends to shut itself off to scrutiny, either by stringent borders, radical interpretations of its scriptures and buying silence by petrodollars or the constructed terms of Islamophobia.

    It keeps insulating itself from critiques, modernisation, integration and assimilation with other cultures by this misnomer which basically shuts down debate or criticism about regressive practices in Islam.

    September 11 proved that the Muslim world had eventually not addressed its issues inside its borders; its leaders failing to adopt to the rules of the modern world, its scholars tightening freethinking spaces and its extremists under the delusion of challenging a superpower by killing innocents to protest the American policies in the Middle East and elsewhere.

    September 11 also opened Islam and Muslims to scrutiny like never before with the Muslim Brotherhood of Syed Qutub, Wahhabism of Abdul Wahab and Maududi's Jamat-i-Islami converging on US soil that fateful day in 2001.

    India is/was familiar with this convergence ever since terrorism erupted in its already divided states of Punjab and Kashmir in the late 1980s and early 1990s and through terror attacks in many Indian cities.

    Satellite TV brought Zakir Naik-type preachers and evangelists to Indian middle class living rooms by 24/7 broadcasts able to be accessed from around the world.

    Their extremist interpretations of Islamic scriptures, laws, history recruited many impressionable minds into the jihad factory and the internal insurgencies that Indian agencies have had to deal with time and again.

    The mystic strands of medieval times that had made Islam popular among the indigenous populations by Sufi mystics such as Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer (1141-1230 CE) had been overshadowed by the Deoband model which though staying away from politics had shown similarities of the Salafist version of Islam.

    Judging by the recent statements coming from the khadim of the Ajmer Dargah for beheadings, this Sufi model too seems to have been convoluted by radical political Islam.

    There had been some hope from the Aligarh Movement starting out with the promise of a modern education for India's Muslims but the emergence of the Two-Nation Theory from its campus at Aligarh Muslim University set the Muslims of the subcontinent back by decades as well as giving them the baggage of the Partition.

    Indian Muslims who stayed behind, both, the ones who had supported the creation of Pakistan and the ones who had not, would forever have to be answerable for this self-inflicted injury.

    Since technology made advent and new connections with Muslims all over the globe are being made, it is fascinating that the Indian elite liberal intelligentsia, the Muslim politicians, the Muslim civil society, or bureaucrats have never alluded to the Averroes model or tried to bring it mainstream.

    Named after the last man standing for rationality in the twelfth century when the Muslim world committed intellectual suicide by adopting the Asharite traditions (text over reasoning) over the Mu’tazila dissidents (reasoning over text) of whom Ibn Rushd was one.

    Ibn Rushd (1126-1198) was an Andalusian philosopher, physician and judge and the foundational source for post-classical European thought. Often improperly referred to as Averroes — the corrupted form his name took in Latin — Ibn Rushd quickly achieved such prominence in later European thought as to rival the influence of Aristotle 'the Philosopher' himself, whose works Ibn Rushd tirelessly championed and hence came to be known as 'the Commentator'.

    But that didn't take away from his own distinctive philosophical achievements which were to advocate that revelation must be guided by reason.

    In his opinion, the noblest form of worship was to study god through his works, using the faculty of the mind.

    He devised an elaborate scheme for the exegesis of the Quran, drawing upon the complex linguistic structure of the Arabic language.

    Today, when Muslims form a substantial demography in Europe and are even influencing the courts, law and judiciary in those countries in their favour, Averroes is being seriously promoted by the respective governments meeting the challenge of a growing Muslim population in their suburbs.

    Various leading universities, along with online courses on Islam that became popular post-9/11 have Averroism embedded in their curricula.

    The Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque is an example of this, a liberal mosque inaugurated on 16 June 2017, founded by Seyran Ates, a German lawyer and Muslim feminist of Turkish and Kurdish descent.

    Named after both the Andalusian polymath Ibn Rushd and German writer and statesman Wolfgang von Goethe, the mosque bans face covering, women are not obligated to wear headscarves, burqas or niqabs, allows men and women to pray together and accepts LGBT worshippers.

    It is open to Sunni, Shia, and other Muslims too, despite the threats and fatwas issued by Egyptian fatwa council at Al Azhar University, Cairo.

    Indian Muslims vacillate between the Ajmer model (mysticism), the Deoband model (literal interpretation) and the Aligarh model (fallen from the time when faith and reason co-existed) and now a bastion for the Oppression Olympics of Indian Muslims.

    The Averroes model needs to be promoted seriously among Indian Muslims without the fear of 'not true Muslims' (takfirism) clouding their reasoning, a huge defeat, when the falasuf (philosophers) were dubbed heretics in the twelfth century.

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