The ‘Fundamentalists’ and the ‘Progressives’

walid Jumblatt
Of late, the Muslim ‘Progressives’ in Singapore have been more vocal and assertive; and I welcome this. Previously, they worked behind the scenes and used to detest being labeled as ‘liberal Muslims’ and the like. It is high time they ‘came out of the closet’ and clearly spell out their beliefs and agenda, so that the Muslim community can assess them properly.
(note: we must exercise caution in using the ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ label against Muslims we disagree with. I am just appropriating the term that some of them have preferred to use to describe themselves).So the narrative being espoused now is that there are some ‘fundamentalists’ within the Muslim community, and, in my opinion quite humourously, they look to the state to ensure that these ‘fundamentalists’ do not threaten the ‘secular’ nature of the state. The #wearwhite campaign is the ‘poster boy’ for what they would term as rising Islamic religious assertiveness.

Firstly let us not obfuscate the facts: the #wearwhite campaign was a call for the Muslim community, to return to fitrah, or the state of purity. It was a peaceful campaign, done in the spirit of compassion and love, and intended to include and not alienate any Muslim, however far from the faith they may be. The campaign was not motivated by events in neighbouring countries, it was not meant to interfere in the political or public policy realm, it was not meant to discriminate against anyone: it was a call to return to purity, i reiterate. This is quite a simple point that i think has either been genuinely misunderstood or adroitly manipulated by the ‘progressive Muslims’. Does not matter; i hope this clarifies it.

Rather than get into a definitional debate about the problematic terms (‘fundamentalist’, ‘progressive’ etc) that have been thrown about recklessly in mainstream and social media, i have a few questions for these self-proclaimed Muslim progressives.

1) What is your agenda or end-goal? Please spell it out properly.

2) What is your position on issues such as homosexual acts and the hijab in Islamic jurisprudence? Please be straightforward and do not skirt the issue. Your positions seem to be ever-changing on these, so it would help to clarify.

3) Do you believe that anyone can interpret the Quran, even those whose knowledge of the Arabic language can fit comfortably at the back of a stamp?

4) What other laws/legal rulings do you seek to ‘reinterpret’?

5) Do you accept the authority of the ulama’, local and foreign ones? If so to what extent? If not why and whose authority then do you accept? Who are the ulama’?

6) What do you guys believe is the position of ‘rationality’ in Islam? Are there limits to rationality? If so where?

7) I constantly hear you guys singing the tune ‘oh we do not reject the Quran, we just reject the interpretations of classical scholars that are not relevant.’

What is the arbiter/criterion by which you judge what is relevant or not?

8 ) What is your methodology in ‘re-interpreting’ the Quran?

9) What is your methodology for accepting or rejecting the hadiths of the Prophet, if you accept them at all?

10) Do you accept that as Muslims, we have to worship Allah the way He wants us to, and not the way we want to?

These are just some of the questions that i believe should be answered, in order for the community to truly assess the ‘progressives’. Be open about your agenda and aspirations, and let the community decide whether they are worth the community’s time and efforts.

And the answers to these questions are also needed if a genuine dialogue is to be started, and to avoid hollow calls for discussion.

Authored by Walid J. Abdullah

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  1. Progressive Muslim Sinner

    1) Our main goal or agenda is to unify Muslims… No Sunni, No Shia, No Sufi, No Wahabi just Muslims… One Islamic voice not only to condemn any acts of aggression against fellow Muslims but towards any member of humanity as well… Ultimately we want a fair, compassionate and inclusive Muslim society one which can be proud of… A positive and non judgmental society which helps to lift each other up instead of pushing them down… 😉

    2) The first gift of man is knowledge and the first request of man is for a partner and God gave him woman from his own rib… Without each other both are incomplete… To know God u have to know yourself first but how can you know yourself if you are incomplete? Acts of homosexuality is wrong and should not be encouraged but the person should not be condemn… Hate the sin not the sinner… Hijab is a call for wearing modestly so that men are attracted and love your beauty and not just aroused by it… Someone can wear a hijab but not dress modestly so it defeats the purpose and vice versa someone may dress modestly but not don the hijab for personal reason like an itchy scalp or feel uncomfortable due to the extremely humid weather… End of the day its about respecting personal choices coz God gave us free will after all right… Sayidina Ali RA said that God loves the sin that brings a person to sincere repentance and towards God rather than acts of worship that brings a person to riyaa or arrogance and away from God… End of the day who are we to judge… 😉

    3) Everyone has a right to interpret the Al Quran because when you read it, it speaks back to you… We all have different experiences in life so we can relate to things in a different manner but remember that before we read the Quran we start by reciting “In the name of God the most compassionate and most merciful”… If after you read it and your heart hardens then its safe to say you are interpreting it wrongly… 😉

    4) Laws should be interpreted with the current view of society, culture and economic situation in hand… Our last mashab by Imam Syafiee is established centuries ago… In view of Qisas the Al Quran wrote that in case of murder than the aggrieved family could ask for the life of the murderer, for restitution to be paid or even forgive the murderer as God loves those who forgives… As in most “Hudud” laws they choose to take the most severe form of punishment… In view of adultery, the Al Quran wrote that those who are caught have to be separated from society for a period of time if they are unmarried that period should be 3 times longer than those who are married and if they have repented afterwards than accept their repentance but most Islamic scholar choose to barbarically stone them instead… Personally I believe that Shariah Law is implemented to ensure that each member of society acts considerately and compassionately towards each other… To be accountable for one’s action so that one does not act unfairly towards other members of their society or hurt them physically or emotionally… To create a fair, just and inclusive society… 😉

    5) We do not accept everything the ulamas decide for us…. Our conscience should decide it for us… But of cause we respect them for their immense knowledge and wisdom and we take everything that is good and beneficial cause everything good is from God and everything bad is from us… 😉

    6) Islam is a rationale and most beneficial religion… Everything has its meaning and reason… Nothing God creates is without reason… We do not believe in blind faith… The beauty and wonders around the world is itself is a testament to our syahadah… 😉

    7) a) We reject interpretations that goes against our moral conscience… Basically one that is not guided by the tenets of being compassionate and merciful… b) We believe in cause and effects… We understand why most youths will want to adopt casual sex, alcohol consumption and their propensity for acts of violence because that is what you see on the internet and television daily… When you sell alcohol, sex and violence and advertise its lifestyle exclusively everywhere yet you punish Muslims who succumb to indulging in it is just irresponsible… We have to be more positive in our approach in regards to our religious approach instead of being judgmental and too light handed in dishing out punishments… We want to bring people and the youths especially towards Islam not drive them away… Education should be our main priority,,, Patience and empathy should be our style… 😉

    8) Once again to be guided by the tenets of being compassionate and merciful… To be a just, compassionate and inclusive society… To build a society where everyone has an important part to play… Inclusive not only in active participation towards the forming of our own social identity but also in wealth distribution supported by the establishment of a strong social service industry … ;p

    9) In accepting hadiths we have to get to know our beloved prophet first… This is a kind, compassionate and forgiving man who gave up wealth, power and status to abolish the Quraisyh caste system, corruption and slavery… A person who was abused physically and verbally yet chose to patiently pray for his aggressors well being… Any hadith that contradicts his kind, compassionate and forgiving nature is avoided… We are not saying its false or not sahih cause who are we to judge… We just choose to adopt those we feel is more aligned with the prophet’s extremely superb akhlak, adab and iman… 😉

    10) In our doa iftitah, not only is our prayers but our actions, our deeds, our life and our death is but as a service for God… There are many paths towards God and we pray that God leads us towards the straight path that is why we open with our al fatihah as God choose those God wants to guide… Even the Ahlul Kitab there are those God choose to guide and will be rewarded in the afterlife… Our prophet even held prayers for the Christian king of Abyssinia Negus… So end of the day who are we to judge… We just do our best and leave the rest to God… Insya Allah does who does good will always be rewarded… 😉

    This is just a personal view of a “progressive” Muslim sinner… I do not hold any degree or certification may it be from Islamic or secular higher learning institution so pardon my humble opinion… May Allah forgive me for whatever that is wrong and guide me towards the right path always even though I may struggle badly from time to time… Amin… Assalamualaikum… 😉

    1. Allah's Servant

      In answering to Progressive Muslim Sinner:

      1) There is no way you can unify the Muslims unless you agree to be subdued under al-Quran and Sunnah Rasulillah s.a.w. Otherwise, you will form another part of the sub-equation; being a progressive/liberal Muslims as your theology.

      2) You are NOT answering Walid’s question: what is your position in terms of HALAL / HARAM on the homosexual acts and hijab. Do not beat around the bush.

      3) Everyone has personal experiences with al-Quran but he needs to study it with its compounding knowledge which includes Arabic (Nahu, Saraf, Balaghah, etc.), Ulumul Tafsir, As-Sunnah with knowledge of Riwayah and Dirayah in order to interpret the verse correctly accordingly. Imagine understanding an Arabic book without knowing its language….hmmmmmmm…..

      4) Hudud laws may seems harsh, but to implement it is not easy. There are too many syarat prior to implementing it so that the crime done is beyond reasonable doubt. From your understanding, I can see your poor understanding of Nasikh and Mansukh.

      5) Ulama are the inheritors of the prophets. Of course, if you are an ALEEM, you would also hear their thoughts and whatever is aligned to al-Quran and as-Sunnah, we should be obligated to follow them.

      6) True, but faith has to be aligned with proper knowledge and hidayah from Allah s.w.t. With His Taufiq and Guidance from Rasulullah, then our faith will be steadfast.

      7) Would love to see how you going to apply that “compassionate” interpretation to al-Quran.

      I will not comment on other points as I find them rather repetitive. What I can conclude from your thoughts:

      Progressive Muslims are no different that the Mu’tazilites and Jahmiyyah from the past who believe that the human mind overpowers everything including Divine revelation. Such ‘itiqad must be corrected, otherwise it is feared that the person having such school of thoughts will end up in su’ul khatimah.

      Wallahu’ a’lam.


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