Cuit Zaini Hassan

An Open Letter to Zainah Anwar

YOUR article in The Star, dated 3rd April 2016 caught my attention. In the article, you accused the scholars and religious institutions in this country to have deplored the use of intellect, and more so when you said that the scholars in Malaysia are ignorant about Islam, hence your suggestion for an overhaul of the understanding of Muslims in this nation to suit the spirit of modernity.

From your writing, it was obvious that you could not accept the verdict issued by the religious authorities which deemed every NGO that brings the ideas of liberalism and pluralism to be deviant.

You were very eager to tell the scholars in Malaysia how they should understand Islam. You were so confident that your understanding of Islam is better because you have received the “enlightenment” from the liberal figures who emphasise on their version of Maqasid Shari’ah and the freedom of ijtihad for everyone.

In this world, as mentioned by Imam al Ghazali, there are 4 types of people, (1) The knowledgeable, (2) The forgetful, (3) The ignorant and (4) The obstinate (those who do not know that they do not know). Do not become of those from the third and fourth categories; not realizing that they do not know, yet what’s worst, is to arrogantly assume to know and to refuse to be told. People like these will only corrupt many others, again and again.

There is nothing that pleases us more than to see you learn Islam diligently from the true scholars instead of from “pseudo-scholars”, those who get their degrees in Islamic studies by learning from the works of Orientalists. Eventually they themselves become confused and caused confusion to others, by not being able to differentiate between Shari’ah and Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence); between things that are immutable (thawabit) and things that are changeable (mutaghayyirat); the definitive evidence (qat’i) and those that are not definitive (zanni). Despite this deficiency, these people dare to differ with the great scholars of the past by declaring that they are scholars and we are scholars as well (hum rijal wa nahnu rijal).

A true understanding of Islam could not be obtained by attending two or three-day seminars and workshops. The religion of God is not something that can be picked on the side way, in market, on Google and YouTube, but one has to learn with extreme diligence. A student of the religious sciences has to first spend many years to learn the sciences of the tools such as, Arabic Nahw, Sarf and logic, before going further to learn the higher and more complex sciences of Islam. Some has to spend 40 years to master an in depth understanding of Islam.

Do not for once believe that the scholars of Ahl Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah  renounce the use of intellect. On the contrary, the scholars have emphasized the importance of learning the science of logic immensely, but without exalting the human reason beyond and above its limits. The assumption that Sunni scholars reject the use of intellect is a baseless allegation by some Western writers who are deliberately preaching hatred against Islam and hope to see the Muslims alienating each other.

If you really want to champion the use of the intellect, you should first begin by critically analyzing the liberal doctrines that are illogical. Arguments on religious pluralism, liberalisation of ijtihad, gender equality have no basis for rational arguments and no authority of knowledge. Equally, the opinions that legitimise homosexuality and pornography do not garner support from rational and logical arguments, let alone corroborated by evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Religious pluralism is illogical because two opposing propositions cannot both be regarded as true? Monotheism and polytheism cannot be referring to the same reality. The message of Tawhid which was the main teaching of the Prophets could not possibly be regarded as equally valid as the message for associating God with others. It is evident that the liberals do not champion the intellect, and so, Muslims who oppose the liberal agenda are not irrational. The fact is that the liberals are anti-knowledge and have no respect for the authority of knowledge. A truly rational man who possesses a sound reason would not undermine the authority of knowledge.

Islam does not stop Muslims from using intellect. What is not allowed is to regard it as the sole measure of truth as the liberals always do. Likewise Islam does not denounce the idea of freedom, but the act of deifying and absolutizing freedom is that which is rejected because it will deviate men from the true path of Allah S.W.T.  Nevertheless, the liberals often accuse Islam and the Muslims of renouncing the use of intellect and the idea of freedom.

As a feminist, surely you are promoting the idea of equality between men and women. This struggle of feminism is only relevant in the West as a reaction against oppression and injustice towards women. Islam never discriminated women; it indeed promotes justice for all. The feminist endeavor to fight for gender equality will not bring any good. In reality it will actually cause the collapse of the family institution and social disintegration.

Justice should not be equated with equality. Women are indeed a weaker party that needs protection. Often, due to ignorance and moral decay, men fail to uphold their responsibilities to protect women. However, giving women the same rights as men will not solve the problem; instead it will cause more problems to arise. This is because God created the nature (fitrah) of men and women differently. That is why men have different responsibilities than women in a household. If both were to compete to become the leader of the family, men would no longer be responsible to sustain the family – in Islam this task is the reason why they are given twice of that given to women in inheritance, and if women do not want to manage the household, there will be no tranquility in family life. Instead the family institution will be corrupted due to the lack of cooperation and complementary roles from both sides.

If you were to ask why SIS needs to be banned, know that one of the main tasks in an Islamic nation is to defend the sanctity of religion. If someone or a group of people seeks to confuse and deviate other believers about Islam, and after being corrected and rectified by the scholars they are still stubbornly clinging to their ideologies, then in that case the state has the right to ban or stop their activities for the sake of safeguarding the belief and identity of all other Muslims. SIS and a few other NGOs clearly promote Western feminism, liberalism and religious pluralism and this is not a matter of difference in opinion. The difference between you, and other liberal figures that support you, and the scholars that issue a fatwa of deviance is not just a matter of difference in opinion. But it is a difference in the fundamentals of religion, a matter in which there should not be a difference.

A piece of advice from me: If you truly are a Muslim, you should accept the Shari’ah. It is the basic tenet in Islam. Don’t just accept what conforms with your secular dan liberal thoughts. Respect the authority of scholars, because they issue a fatwa and ijtihad based on the methodology of Islamic Jurisprudence (Usul al-Fiqh), which have been developed for over a thousand years. The methodology that these scholars are using is established and firmly rooted, to the extent that it will not be shaken by any other methodologies that are being developed by the liberals. The liberal methodologies that are supposed to be based on Maqasid Shari’ah, are actually a result of the confused understandings of Islam, and are under the influence of some Orientalists writers who are ignorant about the true understanding of Islam. Therefore, do not change a firmly rooted one with the one that is crumbling, and do not be easily influenced by the slogans about reformation of Islamic law which have been brought forward by individuals who are proud to bear the title “Martin Luther of Islam”.

There is no doubt that the Western media will praise your actions to go against the Islamic authorities. However, it would be a great injustice if you do not have the same courage to fight the oppressions and genocide that Muslims are facing in some countries. Surely the fate of many Muslim women need to be defended! Why don’t you help them sincerely where help is direly needed without confusing them with the concept of gender equality and other liberal ideas.

Assoc. Prof Dr Khalif Muammar A. Haris
Coordinator of Academic Affairs
Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (CASIS) UTM

(Translated by Rehan Khalina)

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