Islam: Need to Be Contemporary

Having attempted to put things in context in ‘Popular Perception Vs Reality’, I do feel that some things could be looked at in a more contemporary framework. By stating this, I am by no means asking anyone to challenge the Quran. It is the interpretation that counts and that must now be set in more current times.

Akrita Reyar Having attempted to put things in context in ‘Popular Perception Vs Reality’, I do feel that some things could be looked at in a more contemporary framework. By stating this, I am by no means asking anyone to challenge the Quran. It is the interpretation that counts and that must now be set in more current times. What I am saying is that when some clerics or self styled keepers of Islam proclaim that women cannot work, that people should not be allowed to watch television or watch movies it does feel a bit archaic. Many countries in the Muslim world don’t allow their women to drive or go out unescorted. The fact is that cars, radios and televisions would not have existed in the 6th and 7th C, so there could have been no fool-proof statute on these. To bar people from watching television for example means keeping people away from accessing information. Not letting women work under the Taliban sometimes meant a life of poverty and hunger, and not allowing women to drive reduces their mobility and scope of communication.

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There is no dearth of Muslim groups, who continue to aspire to create a larger pan-Islamic country. Muslims must abandon any aspirations for a singular and unified Muslim nation. They have a lot to contribute; they must to do so to enrich the nations they live in. They must not proclaim that their aim is to impress Ummah in countries that do not follow Islam. The need is to reinvent without compromising on the fundamentals or the main edifice of the religion, and yet be pertinent to our times. Some laws/measures were extremely progressive centuries ago, but may be in need of reinterpretation in modern times. Many Islamic nations have their own civil codes, but there are several still that do not even want to examine the Shariat, let alone think of setting it to the 21st Century. Let me cite the example of Shah Bano in India. So trapped were the Muslims to wheedle out control from the government that justice became the casualty. While allowing a man to marry four women could have been practical in another period, it should no longer be allowed in this day and age. There no longer exist compulsions of the past. The Christian world, I must admit, has had the courage to challenge several decrees of the Church, though they were not necessarily indoctrinated in the Bible. This despite severe bloodshed and violent punishment. There were literally convulsions of agony, as men were poisoned and women hounded for being witches for speaking out against the Catholic ways. The different Christian sects that came up were partly due to their unwillingness to be trapped in a rigid way of thinking. For example, for centuries it was taken to believe that the earth is the centre of the universe. Though this is not mentioned in the Chapter of Genesis, it was so interpreted from it. The scientific community, after an acerbic literary duel with the Church, did prevail. And hence the entire modern concept of solar system came to be accepted. As of today, there is a very healthy debate in the West over abortion, contraception, divorce, homosexuality etc. However hard the Church may want, people refuse to let these issues slip away. Needless to say, the laws of most countries in the West are no longer driven by religion, but are set in today’s realities. Even a country like Ireland now allows divorce. It does not take much to notice that most of the scientific and technological breakthrough has come from the West or non-Muslim Asian countries. Despite its huge reservoirs of oil, little indigenous industry has been developed in the Arab world. Each society has its own systems, history, challenges and therefore its own churnings. The Muslim world needs to pass its own tests. But these are its alone, and not for the rest of the world to dictate to them or find answers to. The Prophet Muhammad said: "Every nation has a test to undergo. My nation will be tried through wealth." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 178

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