Muslims must hold fast to flexibility in their tradition

Posted on July 24, 2007

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Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Grand Mufti of Egypt
Irish Times, July 24, 2007

Almost two years ago the citizens of London were victims of a great atrocity. Those who perpetrated those crimes would like you to believe that they were inspired by the religion of Islam. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is nothing in Islam that could ever justify these blatant acts of aggression. Islam calls on Muslims to be productive members of whatever society they find themselves in.

Islam embodies a flexibility that allows Muslims to do so without any internal or external conflict. This is why we see a vast variety of cultural, artistic and civilisational phenomena all of which can be described as Islamic, ranging from the Taj Mahal in India to the winding streets of Fez to the poetry composed by English converts that represents not only the rigour of English verse, but also encompasses the beauty of Islamic piety.

This flexibility is not just present in the cultural output of Muslims; it is an integral part of the Islamic legal tradition as well. In fact, you could say it is one of the defining characteristics of Islamic law. Islamic law is both a methodology and the collection of positions adopted by Muslim jurists over the last 1,400 years. Those centuries were witness to no less than 90 schools of legal thought, and the 21st century finds us in the providential position to look back on this tradition to find that which will benefit us today. This is one of the first steps in the issuing of a fatwa (religious opinion/ruling).

Fatwas represent the bridge between legal tradition and the contemporary world in which we live. They are the link between the past and the present, the absolute and the relative, the theoretical and the practical. For this reason it takes more than just a knowledge of Islamic law to issue a fatwa. A mufti who does not know the contemporary world in which he/she lives is like a person who can walk and might also have the ability to run. However, they move through a dark path without a light in their hand. It is possible that they will make it, but in most cases they will fall and perish. [more]

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