Summer School 2020 Public Forum: Is Secularism Compatible with Qur’an and Sunna?

December 25, 2019


 

Date: Monday, 27th January 2020
Time: 9.00 AM to 12.00PM
Venue: Patio 2 Level 2, Concorde Hotel, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur

 

Speakers:
1. Dr Tajul Islam, University of Leeds
2. Dr Shabbir Akhtar, University of Oxford
3. Junaid Ahmad, University of Leeds
4. Dato’ Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, Islamic Renaissance Front

Moderator:
Dina Zaman, IMAN Research

Organized by: Islamic Renaissance Front

 

Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/is-secularism-compatible-with-quran-and-sunna-tickets-87236800619

 

‘We can only understand the Muslim confrontation with the modern world by understanding the consequences of the Christian capitulation to secularism, a concession that made western Christianity rhetorically religious but operationally secular’ (Shabbir Akhtar, Qur’an and The Secular Mind, p. 329)

It is widely known that the word ‘secularism’ is still very much a taboo in the Muslim world, as many Muslims feel that Islam is not, and shall never be, compatible with the ideology of escularism. Some even maintain that as long as one is Muslim in its truest sense, he or she can never be a secularist. Such notion is further reinforced by fatwas and rhetoric from Muslim scholars and preachers claiming that secularism is haram, and secular nations are anti-thesis to the existence of Islamic ideals.

Despite the cautious and sceptical treatment towards the word ‘secular’, those who were arguing for the incompatibility between Islam and secularism did not necessarily specify the full meaning of the concept, especially given that the word ‘secularism’ has complex connotation imbued with a long historical roots that originated from a very specific political and societal context in Christian’s past experiences. In the scholarly world, the term ‘secularism’ is also never one-dimensional as such concept appears in various realms of intellectual territories like philosophy, politics, theology, ethics or even sociology; and each carries the word with different emphasis and connotations. Thus, any attempts at reducing the term secularism to its most negative manifestation, as committed by some Muslims, is not only a strawman argument but it obscures a more sophisticated linkage between secularism and the various dimension and aspects of Islam.

This session will discuss and elaborate the nuances of the connection between Islam, specifically the primary sources for the Muslim weltanschauung, that is the Qur’an and Sunna, and the multifaceted ideas of secularism. It shall examine in what sense both terms might overlap and share the same concerns, as well as in what sense they shall remain in a disagreement. This more critical evaluation will hopefully not only clear some of the unfortunate confusion in the mainstream view of the issue, but will also resolve the unfounded fear of some Muslims over the term secular or secularism in their day to day discourses.

Program:

0915

 

Opening Speech by Ehsan Shahwahid

 

0930

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1100

Session 12 Public Forum:

Topic: Is Secularism Compatible With the Qur’an and Sunna?

 

Speakers:

1. Dr Tajul Islam, University of Leeds

2. Dr Shabbir Akhtar, University of Oxford

3. Junaid Ahmad, University of Leeds

4. Dato’ Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, Islamic Renaissance Front

Moderator:

Dina Zaman, IMAN Research

 

 

Discussion & Session Summary

 

1200

 

Summer School Ends

 

 

Biography of the speakers

Dr. Tajul Islam is a Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Department of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Leeds and also Co-Director of the Iqbal Centre for Critical Muslim Studies. He specialises in kalām, uṣūl, tafsīrḥadīth and taṣawwuf. His areas of research interest include sectarianism, ecumenism, scholastic traditionalism of the Subcontinent (Barelwi, Deobandi, Ahl-i-Hadīth, Jaʿfarī Shiism etc.). In particular he is interested in the promotion of Critical Madrasa Studies.

Dr. Shabbir Akhtar is an associate member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom. He is also an associate fellow of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies. His current research interests include the Christian and Islamic responses to Western secular modernity; the work of Søren Kierkegaard; Paul’s letter to the Galatians; the Qur’an and the New Testament; and freedoms of speech, conscience, and faith. His publications include The Quran and the Secular Mind (2007), Islam as Political Religion (2010), and The New Testament in Muslim Eyes: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (2018). He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in philosophy from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. from the University of Calgary.

Dr Junaid S. Ahmad is a PhD candidate in Islam and Decolonial Thought at the University of Leeds. He is also a secretary-general of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the College of William and Mary and a fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA-Istanbul). He is also the director of Center for Global Studies at the School of Advanced Studies, University of Management and Technology (UMT), Lahore, Pakistan.

Dato’ Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa is a Founder and Director of the Islamic Renaissance Front, an intellectual movement and think-tank promoting reform and renewal in Islam, democracy, good governance and human rights. He is actively involved in civil society and the emerging discourse on post-Islamism. He is also involved in interfaith dialogues especially with regard to Christian-Muslim relations and intra-faith dialogues especially the Shi’i-Sunni discourse. He has presented papers at numerous international meetings including at the Symposium on Islam and Contemporary Issuesin Tehran, Iran, in March 2017 and ISEAS Yusuf-Ishak Institute, Singapore, in August 2019.  Professionally, he is an academic researcher at the School of Medicine, Monash University Malaysia. He is currently a Commissioner at the Commonwealth Initiative for the Freedom of Religion or Belief (CIFoRB) based in Westminster, London and a Research Fellow at Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Islam (STFI) Sadra, Jakarta. He was a Director at the Centre for Combating Corruption and Cronyism (C4) and a former Deputy-Chairperson of BERSIH 2.0, a strong civil movement working for a free and fair election.

Dina Zaman is a Founding Member of IMAN Research, a think tank focusing on research and community engagement. Sha has a Master degree in Creative Writing from the University of Lancaster, UK and Honours degree in Communications from Western Michigan University, US and works in the media. She has written a book on Muslim Malaysians titled I Am Muslim and covered Muslim life in her columns for Malaysiakini.com, The Malaysian Insider and The Malay Mail Online. She was a recipient of the Nippon Foundation’s Asian Public Intellectual Fellowship in 2012, and her research was a comparative study on saints in Indonesia and Malaysia. Her latest book, Holy Men, Holy Women, was recently published by SIRD Malaysia. She has been in the media for over 20 years, serving as editor at Malaysiakini.com and The Malaysian Insider. She also has a background in corporate communications, and believes that research, advocacy and journalism can be utilised in a multimedia platform that will serve policy makers, governments and media owners.