An Afternoon with Kashif Ahmed Shehzada

I think in life, there are only a few occasions when you can say ‘so and so changed my life’ and really mean it. For me, one of these few people was Kashif Ahmed Shehazada. During my early years as a Quranist, it was Kashif who helped introduce me to the world of quranism . Kashif was one of those rare individuals whose mastery of the Quran is rare …and dazzling.

After 8 years, I was fortunate enough to meet with Kashif this afternoon at Regents Park masjid. Of course, like the tafseer-hungry geezer that I was, I immediately sought for the latest insight into the stories of the Quran. The ‘inner meanings’ as it were. I guess this was a throwback from my Ibn Arabi admiring days. Kashif as usual suprised me. Instead of giving me what I asked for, he instead asked if I was governing myself by the ayat. That is, was I living by the signs of Allah and achieving salam? A good question indeed. This is the quality of Kashif, to point you to what matters , that is your salvation. Intellectual exercises must be secondary to this.

As if that wasn’t enough, out of nowhere there came a detractor. A person who overheard our conversation and decided that it was time to correct our view that in fact, Islam did spread by the sword. Kashif displayed great patience with the man and deftly overturned his arguments. I don’t know if the chap will abandon his Sunnah inspired imperialistic ambitions but at least he was reminded of some very merciful acts of the Prophet from Hadith literature.

We also had some friends of the Christian faith drop by. They were friends of Kashif and followed his interfaith work closely. I was very enthralled by the conversation and how we can work closely together to promote humane religion and overcome fundamentalism on all levels. Great hope ahead.

I must say, I hope it will not be another 8 years before I see Kashif again….

Need a fatwa?

Some recent discussions of Facebook reminded me of a blog entry by RP, The Concept of God in the Quran (intro):

“Well, religious individuals forbid all sorts of things – especially every-day requirements. There is no way to follow all these laws without a major heartbreaking sacrifice: the sacrifice of oneself. Everything becomes a sin. Small issues become major sins. The wars, the slavery, the patriarchy system. All these are things that can easily be justified in the name of God. People’s love for Allah can be used.”

The heartbreak is something many of us who were traditionalists would have felt at some point. One that stands out for me was deleting my entire mp3 collection! Yes, I smiled through the pain and convinced myself that this was indeed an act of piety and God may be pleased with me as a result. And I could list countless other things that secretly distressed me in the pursuit to be closer to God.

Why do people do this? Unfortunately, the slogan “Islam is a way of life” is rendered by traditionalist classical scholarship to mean that every facet of life has an “islamic ruling” to go with it. Islam is thus a universal acid, burning through everything and leaving nothing untouched. It means that scholars are on constant standby, ready to tell you the correct way to behave in any given situation. So sincere, energetic, and concerned muslims are conditioned to believe that they must search for the correct ruling for everything they do. I always found it upsetting when I’d go onto an islamic forum and find girls asking, “is it okay if I pluck my eyebrows?”, only to be met with a barrage of fatwas saying it is haram and the behaviour of a whore. Sad.

Does the quran suggest that everything in life has a ruling from Allah and His messenger? The quran is a book of finite text, so obviously it cannot contain detailed step-by-step instructions for every possible situation life throws at us. So then does it say that we should search and derive rulings for everything from the quran to be made binding upon us? I believe the issue is explicitly addressed in the following verse:

5/101 O you who believed! Do not ask about things [ashyāa], if made clear [tub’da] to you, (may) distress you [tasu’kum]. And if you ask about it when the quran descends [yunazzalu l-qur’ānu], it (will be) made clear [tub’da] to you. Allah pardoned [ʿafā l-lahu] regarding it, and Allah is oft-forgiving, forbearing.

The verse seems to condemn the prevalent culture in traditionalism of incessantly looking for rulings for absolutely everything. It is ironic then, that in their desire to be pious, traditionalists manufactured divine rulings for everything only to fail to live by all of them, thus manufacturing their own disobedience! The verse says that if you have a question that is worthy of God’s explicit instruction, He would have given a clear answer in the quran. If one reads the quran and does not find an explicit ruling/instruction, then he is left to his intellect and moral compass.

All those women who are concerned about plucking their eyebrows should take heed of this verse. Read the quran and see if Allah cares about what you do to your eyebrows. If you find He hasn’t said anything, then do not ask for a ruling, because a ruling will only cause you distress if it doesn’t match your desire. Instead, use your intellect.

The above verse also implies something else (at least to me): that nothing in the quran should cause you distress. Allah has made everything in the quran clear, which answers all of our questions needed to be moral and upright beings:

12/111 Verily there is in their stories [qasas] a lesson for people of understanding. It is not a narration [hadith] invented, but a confirmation of which was before it and a detailed explanation [tafsila] of all things [kulli shayin] and a guidance and mercy for a people who believe.

5/101 says that there are things that if made clear, may distress us. Which means that the things that have been made clear (i.e. in the quran) should not distress us. This gives credence to the quranists approach to the quran, which is to examine things that seem questionable and not entirely in-tune with our moral compass. Our innate sense of morality and the teachings of the quran should be in sync with each other.

Hajj vs Moshpit

I, for one, do not believe hajj is the travel to Mecca, nor do I believe it happens during a certain months, simply because calenders are man-made. Anyway, before we get into a deadly discussion about hajj, I wanted to show you this.

These are roughly gathered online, but I don’t think it’s full of errors. The Hajj data were from wikipedia itself, listing deaths by year, cause and location.

  • Number of people who died in a moshpit from 1993-2006 were 10 (the first death was during a show by Motörhead). Some of these deaths had been reported from the Ozzfest, Wacken Open Air and by the band Limp Bizkit.
  • Number of people who died during Hajj in crowd-related accidents and stampedes from 1994-2006 were 1034. Not only that, but the overall deaths of hajj before the year 2007 were 2460 (as 1462 died in 1990 during a stampede in Al-Ma’aisim tunnel).

10 vs 2460.

Robert Spencer’s Evil Anti Islamic Agenda

Thanks to Zeshan, I was reminded of our pressing need to answer warmongering imperialist reprobates such as Robert Spencer, author of some anti-islamic books and videos. It’s indeed a pressing need , for quranists to answer for the misinterpretations of some of Traditional Islam on the Quran. Spencer used these misinterpretations very well indeed. You can view Spencer’s work here.  Spencer is the religious arm of American Imperialism and plays his role in keeping Traditional Muslims on the defensive. Muslims don’t need to be at all. The Quran can easily answer all of Spencers imputations.