Need a fatwa?
July 19, 2011 2 Comments
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.