Monday, April 09, 2007

What is a "Progressive Muslim"?

The question keeps coming up. "Why say 'Progressive Islam'?" "What is a 'Progressive Muslim'?" "What is a 'Moderate Muslim'?" Someone asked again, late last week--in an email. I have replied to questions like this before. And I keep replying, because I think it is very, very important to keep talking to each other--as Muslims, and as human beings. Here's what I wrote in reply:

What is an emotional Muslim? Or a Muslim who is very military in his thinking? Was there a difference between the attitude and style of practising Islam by Umar Ibn Al Khattab and Salman Farsi and, say, Ali Ibn Abi Talib? Before Umar converted, everyone--including The Prophet--prayed in secret. But once Umar became a Muslim, he insisted they pray jamaath in public in the Kaaba's "Haram", or sanctuary. He would not practise his faith in secret or compromise on being open and "out" as a Muslim. Were some of these people "regular Muslims" and others not?

There is one universally applicable Islam. But it is a comprehensive "deen", a complete way of existing in this world. It is "jaama'e" (comprehensive) and has a complete code for every human being in every place and time. Each of us understands it and adopts it as a function of our respective personalities, temperaments, and circumstances.

For example, ALL of us cannot practise the rules, principles and attitudes The Prophet transmitted for seeking revenge, and at the same time those for forgiveness. That's what makes us each unique and different. There are those that choose not to forgive everything but seek revenge. If they do it in accordance with Islamic principles, they are still "regular" Muslims. And those that choose to forgive, Allah has said they get hasanaat and sawaab for that--and are also regular Muslims. But they are not the same kind of Muslim. And they can disagree on which path is better--but it will be a disagreement on what is best for a specific Muslim to do at a specific time and place. And lead to very different ways of practising the same, universal, religion.

We need to build bridges and work together--the Qur'an says "hold onto the rope of Allah as a group" but also tells us that HE made us each different. It is when people start saying that anyone who thinks he or she is a "progressive" Muslim, or a "spiritualist" versus a "conservative" one; or one who has great regard for the Hadith versus one who loves the Qur'an so much he has no time for the Hadith is, and so on; when one says that one is wrong and should not believe what they believe; it is one who tries to get everyone to conform to one way--whether progressive or conservative-- who is sowing discord and wants to challenge Islam or rip it up. And that is the root of fitna in the community.

What do YOU think of people who go against all the millineum and half of traditional Islamic practice and change their greetings, and stand outside the community and declare Jihad as individuals?

If I had wanted to live on the crumbs of those who hate Islam, I could very easily have written a book like Irshad Manji or someone and made milions in the last 6 years. But it is us who speak of moderation and don't milk either perceived and real oppression AGAINST Muslims OR perceived and real oppression BY Muslims that get crumbs in terms of attention and so on by anti-Muslims OR by Muslims

Thanks for your email, though. I hope you keep in touch. We should be able to learn from each other. And I sincerely take your email as a reminder that whatever way we choose to live up to Islam, we have to keep reminding ourselves that we are all part of one faith community and should never close the doors on anyone within that community because of how they practise that faith.

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bb_aisha said...

I have been extremely busy these past few days, and thus didn't get a chance to reply to your comment. But I think this post has you agreeing with me :-)
I understand your views, and the day I commented I just skimmed through your post.
I think most of us truly practicing Muslims are progressive in that we know how to uphold the tenets of our deen whilst assimilating into non-Muslim society in a productive manner.

I'm a young Muslim woman in hijab, & I've always been commended by non-Muslims & Muslims alike for staying true to my faith, and being very much a part of broader society.

I just refuse to be labelled 'moderate' or 'progressive' by non-Muslims because I don't like the connotations. Likewise, I practise the five fundamental pillars of Islam, so that makes me a fundamentalist in my own terms.

I denounce extremism of any sort. I diagree with suicide bombings as I feel it goes against the principles of Islam, but at the same time, I fully empathise with those carrying out the operations.

Umm, I should stop before I write an essay :-) Definitely looking forward to having more conversations

iFaqeer said...

So on the one hand you refuse to be labeled as anything other than Muslim, but you are quick to talk about "truly practicing Muslims" and therefore want to classify Muslims into, it seems "truly practicing", "less-then truly practicing" and, maybe, "non-practicing".

Secondly, on the one hand, you say that us (you?) "truly practicing Muslims" "know how to uphold the tenets of our deen whilst assimilating into non-Muslim society in a productive manner". That seems to imply that there's a basic discordance between the tenets of this deen and being a productive member of "non-Muslim society" (something I wish you'd define).

Care to sort that out?

And please; don't be afraid to write an essay. We do need to have these discussions in detail so we can all sort these things out both for ourselves and to help the world be a saner place. Look forward to hearing from you. And if you don't mind, I am going to put my response on my blog as a new post, so that we can take the discussion further.