ABU DHABI // Calls for renewal of religion, reassessment of outdated religious laws and orders, and putting an end to excommunication, were made by leading Muslim scholars at the second forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.
Reviving Fiqh, Islamic science, is no longer an option, but rather a “life buoy” to stop indiscriminate applications of past-time fatwas or excommunication by extremist groups, said the grand imam of Al Azhar.
“Renewal is fundamental in the Islamic religion, which is based on constantly linking between religious texts, the purpose of these texts and the current living reality,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, president of the forum.
“There are calls to renew religion and religious speech and a religious revolution, as the Prophet’s companion, Ibn Masoud, said: ‘One who wants religion shall revolutionise the Quran’.”
He said that commands in religious revelations should be taken in context and they should be viewed based on the general principle and universal purpose of their implication.
He called for reviewing the fundamentals of Islamic science, as many rulings are no longer applicable in modern society.
“So people take the revelation and think it is universally applicable in every time and place,” added Sheikh Hamza Youssef, a renowned Muslim personality and president of Zaytuna College.
“For example, Omar bin Al Khattab suspended [the Sharia penalty] for theft during drought.”
Another example is the apostasy law, which used to be a universal principle and the general mentality of people at that time that leaving one’s religion is a capital offence punished by death, which existed in Christianity also.
“That was to protect the religion … but it is no longer the mentality for the age we live in, so when you look at the universal principle of Islam it is to attract people towards religion.” However, he said, in the current age applying apostasy law will cause more people to leave religion than to join it so it has an opposite effect.
As for other Sharia penalties, specialised scholars need to sit and think about them: “It all needs to be reassessed,” he added.
Sheikh bin Bayyah said that only the majority of specialised scholars could play the role of religion renovators.
Rulers are not expected to be angels, prophets or even good men of religion, their role is to run the state well, and even if they were corrupt it is not permissible to rebel against them by force like excommunicators do, because that results in destruction and death of innocent souls, he said.
Grand Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayyeb, of Al Azhar University, said Fiqh principles should be revised to stop extremist groups from using excommunication as an excuse to kill anyone who disagrees with their organisation. They are using a fatwa issued centuries ago by the scholar Ibn Taymiya, “who was busy facing the fierce and violent bloodshed between Muslims and Tatar groups”, he said.
Since the majority of scholars agreed that fatwas change with the change of time, place, circumstance and conditions, such principles do not apply any longer.
He also called the forum to collect literature and media publications issued by terrorist groups to counter their arguments.