Usrah on Reason, Freedom and Democracy in Islam

February 1, 2014


Date & Time: Sunday, 16 February 2014 / 3-5PM
Venue: Graha Pemuda, Sri Hartamas, KL

In the early 20th century, an erudite scholar Imam Muhammad Abduh has argued that Muslims could not simply rely on the texts provided by medieval clerics to understand religion. They were invoked to use reason to understand and interpret the texts in order to keep up with the changing times. For man has been given intelligence so that he could be guided by knowledge.

Abduh maintained that the two greatest possessions relating to religion that man was graced with were independence of will or “free-will” and independence of thought and opinion or “freedom of conscience”. The concept of hurriyyah or freedom was to liberate the minds from the shackles of taqlid or blind imitation. And to return to the first source and to weigh them in the scale of human reason that was created by God, so that God’s wisdom may be fulfilled. Seen in this light, religion is accounted as a friend of science, pushing man to investigate the secrets of existence, summoning him to respect established truths and to depend on them in his moral life and conduct.

On a similar light, Muslims who romantically accepted the theory that the adoption of certain political forms will of itself produce change fail to realize that mere forms, however ideal, can only produce what the social context permits. They fail to grasp the reality that a constitution setting the political, social and economic purposes of a society can survive and produce the desired result only in so far as the community is willing to allow. This willingness is contingent upon the understanding not merely of a very few, but on the consensus of the whole society. And herein lies the ideals of democracy.