FIQH FOR MINORITIES
1- DEAR PROF. AL-ALWANI, YOU HAVE WRITTEN THE BOOK CALLED “TOWARDS A FIQH FOR MINORITIES” AND WITH THIS BOOK YOU HAVE PIONEERED THE CONCEPT OF “FIQH FOR MINORITIES”. COULD YOU PLEASE TELL US WHAT THE TERM “FIQH FOR MINORITIES” OR “FIQH AL-AQALLIYAT” EXACTLY MEANS?
Fiqh of minorities; Fiqh, in the Quran means understanding or knowledge. However in this context, it mean jurisprudence. Following the second century AH where Islamic jurisprudence thrived and prospered, Muslim jurists started using the term Fiqh to refer to the understanding of religious knowledge and used it to denote legal provisions which derived from the Quran and its applications in the Sunnah. So, in our estimation it means deriving principles of Islamic jurisprudence as it relates to Muslim communities living among a majority of non-Muslims as in the case of the Turkish community in Germany and Muslims in America.
2- WHAT KIND OF AN IDEA AND WHICH EXPERIENCES ARE THERE BEHIND THIS APPROACH?
In the past, Muslim jurists used the term “Fiqh Alnawazil” to refer to certain times where the Muslim Ummah was subjugated to outsiders under extraordinary circumstances. In this reference, the term itself is derogatory; it gives the Muslim person a feeling of separation from the community he lives in, he lives in a temporary state – a temporary life – without trying to establish for stable and evolving life in this new community and be an active part of its prosperity. So, using the term “Fiqh of Minorities” is more reflective of the condition of which Muslim minorities living in the West are experiencing. Muslim minorities in those countries have chosen to live there with freewill and without any coercion except possibly for the circumstances, be it political or economic, of their home countries. According to this delineation, “Fiqh of Minorities” is more congruent with the aspirations and living conditions of Muslim minorities nowadays. The term gives the opportunity to these communities to integrate into the majorities of their adopted homes while preserving and affirming their own religious affiliation and expressing themselves as citizens of these countries contributing positively to the advancement of these nations and becoming part of their social fabric while enriching their cultures by Islamic values and moralities.
3- WHAT ARE THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF THE „FIQH FOR MINORITIES“?
The main objective behind jurisprudence of minorities is to respond to the needs of Muslim minorities who struggled to find a path to fulfil their dreams and aspirations of contributing positively to their adopted countries in every aspect while maintaining their Islamic character according to the Quranic principles and Islamic jurisprudence and way of life. These Muslim minorities have suffered for a long time from the dichotomy of consulting jurists from the Muslim world who may have not been familiar with the particular circumstances of those Muslim minorities and may not understand the ramifications of a certain ruling based on their narrow worldview and those who may have moved into Western countries recently while maintaining closed minded Islamic jurisprudence based on their past experiences and circumstances they brought with them from their home countries.
4- WHAT KIND OF PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES DOES YOUR APPROACH OFFER FOR THE DAILY LIFE OF A MUSLIM? WHAT RESPONSIBILITIES DOES HE HAVE?
The consequences of such approach to Islamic jurisprudence is for Muslim minorities to live in peace within their adopted countries contributing to the improvement of its culture, societal values, character and economics while maintain highly appreciated ethical life and living according to the Islamic principles. This approach will contribute to the advancement of these societies by the contribution of Muslim minorities there as law abiding citizens of their adopted countries representing a living example of high achievement in every aspect of life while maintaining a healthy and moral life based on Islamic values and principles.
5- CRITICS SAY THAT TODAY’S GENERATION OF MUSLIMS IN EUROPE CANNOT BE CONSIDERED AS A MINORITY ANY MORE. SO, DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO SPEAK OF AN ISLAMIC LAW FOR MINORITIES WHEN ADDRESSING THESE MUSLIMS’ QUESTIONS?
Fiqh of Minorities doesn’t seek to establish Islamic statehood law and legal system within the societies where Muslim minorities are part of. Islamic law is meant to regulate issues related to individuals and families as well as those that are related to the state and should only be applicable when certain conditions are present. Fiqh of minorities is meant to be applicable in regard of individual and family laws only. Its main objective is to maintain the moral and spiritual standards that are common among all religions such as the ten- commandments and those are meaningful for good citizenship under any circumstance. In addition, Fiqh of minorities applied correctly could should lead to assist Muslim minorities to abide by their adopted countries laws and regulations as it promotes, in its essence, universal peace and family values. Top of Form Bottom of Form
6- THE QURAN PLAYS A KEY ROLE FOR MUSLIMS IN FINDING SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS THEY ENCOUNTER. IN THIS REGARD, DO YOU THINK THAT QURAN MUST BE REREAD/REINTERPRET IN EVERY AGE ACCORDING TO THE CHANGING CONTEXT AND REALITIES OF LIFE? OR DOES THE RICH TRADITION OF ISLAMIC SCIENCES ALREADY PROVIDE ALL THE NEEDED ANSWERS TO THE CURRENT ISSUES?
As Muslims, we believe that the Quran is the word of God and that the Islamic rich heritage as an interpretation of the Quran in a specific time and age. The only absolute that dominates and transcends any human interpretation is the Quran itself. From this vantage point, I believe that Muslims should engage all their faculties in order to understand the Quran in light of their current times and circumstances. The previous generations of Muslim scholars did just that and this is what we expect from our modern times scholars namely to interpret the Quran and provide an understanding within the confines of its possible meanings outside the realm of their own individual preferences and bias.
7- IN THIS CASE, DO YOU THINK IT IS APPROPRIATE TO SPEAK OF A EUROPEAN, AN AMERICAN OR A CHINESE ISLAM?
Fiqh of minorities does not mean that we will have an Islam for every version of society; European Islam, American Islam and so on. Islam is one religion started with Adam and ended with Mohammad. Accordingly, humanity is one family with different manifestation in race, color, and ethnicity. However, these differences are meant to enrich the human experience within the Islamic concept of life. The differences among humans are to be cherished and celebrated to provide richness of understanding the Quran in different context but it is not meant to produce different versions of Islam. We believe that Islam is one religion extended form the time of Adam to our modern life and that all the prophets and the messengers of Allah belong to the same family and that humans are but one family created to cultivate earth and inhibit it.
8- DO YOU THINK THAT THE TRADITIONAL METHODS OF FINDING OF JUSTICE ARE SUFFICIENT ENOUGH TO OFFER SOLUTIONS FOR FUTURE SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS PROBLEMS? WHAT ROLE DOES EACH INDIVIDUAL LEGAL SCHOLAR PLAY IN THIS RESPECT?
The Islamic heritage and tradition which was left for us by great scholars and jurists may not respond sufficiently to our nowadays circumstances and needs. This jurisprudence was produced for specific social and economic circumstances and times during which a jurist may have lived. However, these circumstances may no longer exist in our modern times and so the conclusions of the same jurist if he would have been living in our modern time may have been different. The Quran is the only constant in this equation which reveals its meanings to those who are willing and able to take the time to understand it and open themselves to its meanings within its higher values namely; Tawhid (monotheism), Tazkiah (purification), Imran (Civilization), Umma, and Da’awh.
9- DO YOU THINK THAT IT MAKES STILL SENSE TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN “DAR AL-ISLAM” AND “DAR AL-HARB” IN THE CONTEXT OF TODAY’S GLOBALISED WORLD AND MULTICULTURAL SOCIETIES? IS THERE, MEANWHILE, AN ALTERNATIVE TERM TO DEFINE THE SITUATION OR IS THE WHOLE CONCEPT TO BE COMPLETELY ABANDONED?
This two terms namely; Dar Al-harb and Dar-Al-Islam were coined by Al-Shaybani who was an advisor to the Abassid Khalif Haroon Al-Rasheed who was asked to define the world’s situation from the perspective of his position within the Islamic state and for the purpose of protecting Muslims who may end up in places outside the boundaries of the Islamic Caliphate in Baghdad which he called Dar-Alharb. Later on, Al Imam Al-Shafie added a third state which he called “ Dar-Al’ahd” in which a Muslim may be living in a place that has a treaty signed with the Islamic Caliphate and so may be protected by such a treaty. These are all terms which had been used in the past by Islamic jurists under specific circumstance and we are very much capable in this time and age to re-define these terms or come up with completely new ones depends on our circumstances. I subscribe to two other definitions Dar. Ijaba which may be defined as the place where Muslims are the majority and Dar. Daawa where Muslims are minorities and need to integrate within a larger society and provide an example for them in all their dealings.
10- CAN WE DERIVE SOME USEFUL LESSONS FROM THE EXPERIENCES OF HISTORICAL MUSLIM SOCIETIES IN MEKKA, MEDINA, ABYSSINIA AND ANDALUCIA FOR THE MUSLIMS LIVING IN PRESENT-DAY EUROPE?
There are certainly lessons that can be derived from Muslims in the places mentioned in your question.
First: Prophet Muhammad ordered his companions to migrate to Abyssinia, when he told them: “If you were to go to Abyssinia, it would be better for you, for the king there will not tolerate injustice and it is a friendly country, until such time as Allah shall relieve you from your distress”. As if he ordered them after the oppression they suffered in Mecca to migrate to a just country, and this lesson could benefit those who are oppressed in their own countries and needed to migrate to Europe under certain conditions of economic and possibly political hardships seeking freedom and economic prosperity in the countries they have migrated to.
Second: we can learn many lessons from Al-Andalus, where Muslims ruled with justice and demonstrated the highest ethical and moral standards in their dealings with the ruled. However, when Muslim rulers there diverted from justice to all and fought among themselves for material positions, they were driven out of Al-Andalus by force to be scattered as minorities in the surrounding areas of North Africa. Similarly, when Muslims in Europe and the Americas demonstrate the highest moral and ethical standards in their behavior, they will be cherished by their fellow citizens of their adopted countries and given the highest regards.
If the fate of the Muslims in Europe is going to be a good one, and enjoy their living in Europe without problems, they have to adhere to Islamic ethics and the highest Quranic values, and support justice, freedom, equality, and moral values. As they do not lie, nor steal, nor oppress, nor commit adultery to introduce a good example for the others.
Islam spread in Egypt through another example of Muslims living in a community which demonstrated the great moral values of Islam. Observed by the Copts of Egypt, the Egyptians embraced Islam and Muslims entered Egypt without war.
11- FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS MILLIONS OF MUSLIMS HAVE BEEN LIVING IN EUROPE, WHICH IS SHAPED TO A GREAT EXTENT BY CHRISTIANITY AND SECULARISM. IN THIS REGARD, THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE DISCIPLINE “ISLAMIC THEOLOGY” AT GERMAN UNIVERSITIES IS A RELATIVELY YOUNG PHENOMENON, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES AND RISKS OF THIS NEW DEVELOPMENT FOR THE SELF-IMAGE OF MUSLIMS IN EUROPE?
There are many universities in the United States which have had Islamic studies departments and disciplines in their curricula. These departments have contributed positively to improve the image of Islam and Muslims in America when occupied and promoted by unbiased and knowledgeable scholars of Islam. However, these same institutions contributed to a lot of harm and injustice when they were led by scholars with hidden agendas whether political or otherwise. The best advice I would give is that for German institutions to choose the best possible knowledgeable scholars of Islam in order for this effort to succeed in improving Muslims self-image in Germany and Europe.