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Articles Section > Redefining the Boundaries of the Muslim Mind by Dr. Dr MA Aziz

Redefining the Boundaries of the Muslim Mind:
by Dr MA Aziz - FRCS, FRCO
Chairman, Abdul Aziz Trust


A growing concern for the Muslim ummah (community) today is the issue of cultural identities as well as that of authenticity. Our issues have affected the contemporary Muslim minds as deeply as a sense of loss of identity and that of cultural authenticity. These are seen by many as a return to the fountainhead of Islam in order to redefine Muslim culture on its essential terms thereby purging it of extraneous baggage that history, Western hegemony and geographic realities have introduced.

This might be considered as facile, overly romantic and reactionary in its approach.

Another approach might include the recognition of the need to understand clearly the past and to decode its message through contemporary eyes that can separate the relevant from the time-bound. No society can isolate itself from the present no matter how unpleasant its realities are and none can exclude its past from the constituents of its contemporary reality.

Excellent scholarship is needed to understand the past legacy, to decode the historical symbols and to see them through the eyes of today. This enhances both the understanding and the appreciation of the heritage and makes it amenable to the modern public in its suffering from a rupture in its natural cultural evolution. By deepening the understanding of self and society, the intellectuals and scholars must make an honest and faithful effort to expand the space of freedom within which discussion and wholesome debate can flourish to redefine the boundaries of the contemporary Muslim mind and the Muslim world -- ummatan wasata (a nation of the median path) -- without fanaticism, dogmatism and fundamentalism.

The oft-quoted credo of Muslim activists that "Islam is for all times and all places and all peoples," applies to Islam’s beliefs (aqa'id) and core values, and does not paralyse specific rulings on social organisation into external truths.

The Prophet of Islam had established the principle of ijtihad when he advised Ma'adh [Muaz] ibn Jabal to use his judgement when ruling on issues for which he could find no direct instruction in the Holy Quran or the Sunnah. This permissiveness finds its principal expression in the legal principle that that which is not expressly forbidden is allowed. He hath explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you (6:119).

To determine what is appropriate we can refer to the rule that public interest is dominant when enacting laws and regulations. Who can deny that keeping apace with a rapidly changing and evolving world or global village is not in our interest?

Human rights, democratic principles and the status of women in Muslim societies need urgent reformation if Muslims are to meet the challenges and make their long-overdue contributions to the development of the world community.


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