Source Values of MCA Foundation

On Terrorism and VIOLENCE in Islam

Religious Rulings of the Fiqh Council of North America, ISNA – largest Muslim organization, dated 7/28/05

“Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not martyrs … In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state: 1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam. 2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence. 3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians. We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur’an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him.”

Rulings on Being American and on being Muslim- by Dr. Taha Alalwani,former Chair of the Fiqh Council-Isna, These rulings are abstracted from the book: Muslims Family in a Dilemma: Quest for a Western identity (2007) by M.Akhtar.

A. Excerpts on being American

Love of soil and Muslims patriotism for America. We claim to be citizens of America, demand the same rights as any other American. We feel entitled to object to Ashcroft for some of his statements and feel it is legitimate to criticize President Bush within the American framework. How far we are correct or not in our political assertions is open to one’s judgment. The point, however, that we want to recognize is that to be American means more than political contentions. It is a feeling going deep in our heart and is an integral part of our spirit. When some one in the family, for example, passes away and an immigrant Muslim says that h/she will take away the body to the native country. What statement it makes? That you do not belong to the soil and that you are here only for certain opportunities. No sooner do the opportunities end, would you leave for your homeland. That is a bad attitude.

Q. It means that love of the soil and love of the country where a Muslim is settled, is not only natural but is in keeping with Islam.
America is our country now. People ask me whether I love Iraq or America! I tell them that Iraq was the country, which I did not choose, but was destined to be born there by God via my father and mother; also I got married there. But America is the country which I have chosen out of my own volition> I love America with my heart and feel that I belong here. Of course, I do not like when I am treated here as a second class citizen compared to someone who was born here and had parents from Miami, North Carolina or what have you. In contrast to such a native person, who could not help but be born here, I feel my case is more special because I had chosen this country. This country is mine because of my person and not because of my parents. The question if I prefer Iraq or America should not even be a question. Iraq was the country of my parents and grandparents, and because of that I like her. But do I belong to her? No

Q. Let me ask another question. Granting that higher values of Islam have a definite priority. Now applying them, suppose we find a number of values in Iraq and number of values in America are judged to be equal or neutral to the Basic Islamic emphasis, should not we then have a definite preference for the cultural ways and values of America, simply because that is where we live?.
A. In essence yes, except for one consideration. I would phrase it this way. Iraq gave us world-class jurists and thinkers to whom we are indebted in building our cultural Islam and its practice. Now we need to build Islamic American culture, it is an obligation for American Muslims. They need to develop American jurisprudence. They need this new jurisprudence based on the understanding of the conditions of American life and its cultural system, and the understanding of Qur’an and Sunnah. They may take whatever they like from the old jurisprudence and whatever they find suitable there. But the main requirement is that it be in the American format and be adaptive to the needs of the American society

Q. Let me make sure that our understanding is clear. You are saying that the jurisprudence developed by scholars in other countries, even if they are Muslim countries, is not binding ?
A. No, it is not. We need our own jurisprudence, which may match with that of other countries in certain aspects and be quite different in other aspects. The foundation of this new jurisprudence would rest on the following three cornerstones:
Sources: Book of God and the biography of the Prophet (Sirah ) which, by way of a practical guide, is of crucial importance.
Three high values of Islam:
1) Unity (Tawheed) of God and the universe,
2) Purification and the discipline of Self (Tazkiya), and
3) Societal development based on values (Imran).

B. About being a Muslim: elaborations on what it means to be a Moderate Muslim

Understanding of causal dynamics or of motives (Maqasid) which constitute the basis of legal injunctions. In other words it is imperative to figure out the overall purpose that underlies various rules before applying those to given situations.

These three elements will be the basis of the new system of jurisprudence which will focus on the needs of American society. With that perspective in mind, what this means is, whatever Imam Abu Hanifa said and whatever his rulings were, will be discarded if they are found not in sink with American life. I feel that I am not responsible to follow Imam Abu Hanifa, howsoever revered he may be, but I am accountable to God. So, I must go to Quran to find what is irrevocable. Some people ask, are you better than Imam Abu- Hanifa? No, I answer. But I understand the conditions of my environment better than other Imams who most probably understood their worlds better than any one else.

Imam Shafi, when he was living in Baghdad, had developed his jurisprudence. But when he left for Cairo, he was 49 years old, he developed a new jurisprudence there. He had to change all of his earlier rulings, except on thirteen issues, which were included in his famous book “ Alhujja” (compelling proof) and were developed in Baghdad. When in Baghdad, he had Imam Hanbal, Zafrani and other celebrities as his disciples. When he was in Egypt, he again had as his students world renowned scholars such as Muzani , Rabi and more. Imagine the difference in Baghdad and Cairo, they were practically similar in numerous ways, yet that caused drastic changes and produced differences which were separated as two distinct systems of rulings. By comparison, the differences between America and the Middle East are enormous and virtually incalculable. If some Muslims bring the old jurisprudence and come to tell me that it is basic Islam to be followed in America that would be absolute absurdity. What they have is at best a specific interpretation, even though outmoded and antiquated.

Q. To make sure that I understood this, let me paraphrase what I am getting here. You indicated that we take jurisprudence of another country or the one developed at another time, extract its underlying purpose and then apply to the cultural context of contemporary America. In doing so, one may well find that in some cases the opposite practice is the ruling to what was originally given in order to implement the same given purpose.
A. Exactly! We have to develop our own rules given a different life system in America. For example, let us consider Zakat (obligated charity), can we send it to India or any other country because of the personal association with her as the homeland? No, You cannot. As long as there is a single American even, who is needy or poor. He/ she would have priority. You have no right to send it anywhere else. One may contend that the needy American may not be a Muslim. That does not make any difference, why? Because you earned your monies in this country. One main purpose to be served here is to distribute them amongst the same people of the community and the same society where you collected them. Transfer of this money to another country is wrong irrespective of the consideration of the religion. In this country, we have three million homeless people out in the street. In the severe winter weather, it is imperative to open our doors and provide the shelter to the homeless. Muslim Centers and Mosques need to do more in this regard. How else does one demonstrate that one is for the uplift of the society and not for one self?

Q. May I ask a question that can be a bit controversial? Consider the purpose of Zakat and consider the fact that it is meant for the poor people who have to be the local people. Let us apply it to the issue of taxes. Some people say that if you are paying taxes to American government, you do not have to pay Zakat. If you disagree, tell us where you feel that you will be missing any important function or a major purpose of Zakat that would not have been incorporated in the payment of taxes and for which, therefore, Zakat has to be paid?
A. No, taxes have to be paid. But for paying the taxes, you get returns. You get roads, highways, hospitals and many other services and benefits we receive.

Q. it makes it clear that the concept of the taxes is different from that of Zakat. Zakat is purely for giving and not for receiving any benefits.
A. There are eight functions for giving Zakat specified in Sura Anfal.

Q. While you were reciting the Sura, it reminded me of one situation: passenger or traveler. Quran repeatedly emphasizes the importance of helping the traveler and
orphan. Evidently, they are assigned a high priority because of their need. That may have been true at that time in the past when Quran was revealed. However, it does not seem to hold true of the current conditions. Taking the basic purpose and the spirit that may underlie the priority of travelers and orphans, when we apply to the contemporary context, we may come up with different and changed priority in the classes of needy people.

A. Exactly!

Q. I do not say that Quranic teachings are wrong now but that our applications change.
A. You are right, it is the application.

Q. So it is wrong to take verses as isolated and without relating them to their intent and basic purpose and apply them especially to the different set of conditions in other cultures.
A. Yet, a reading of the verses themselves would give some idea and help understand the underlying purpose to a degree.

Q. If Quranic teachings can be changed in their interpretation, imagine the teachings of Sunnah. They should be changeable to a far more degree, because Sunnah is colored much more heavily in the settings of local conditions.
A. Exactly!
Specific Family Issues
(Several issues that were discussed in this section are omitted in view of the present context and the platform of MCA. Two issues, however, are chosen for our inclusion here as they help illustrate how the theory of interpretation works in its specific applications. The first issue as examined below is : man-woman parity and the second issue is of abortion)

Q. in the last session, you made it absolutely clear that one should not take a few verses of Qur’an in isolated manner and run away with them as a generalization. Instead, one needs to take the whole spirit – not the specific injunctions, of Shari’ah based on all the teachings combined when transferring them to a situation or a culture different in time and space.
A. Yes! Let us put it in the terminology we use. Qur’an and sunnah make the text.We need to extract from them the purposes ( Maqasid). We need to analyze the reasons and causes behind a certain injunction. Once that central theme is comprehended and the overall purpose is formulated, achieving that, is of crucial importance rather than going with a specific injunction that is part of the text..

Q. Good! I want to raise a question about the text of Qur’an. In the previous discussion you were equally clear in denouncing the mistreatment of women in the Muslim societies and you want to see them treated as equal to men. How would you reconcile with this view the verses in Qur’an ( Surah-an- Nisa, 4:11) regarding inheritance and regarding witnesses ( Sura-al-Baqara, 2:282) in treating woman as equal to only one half to a man in regard to giving witness and receiving inheritance.?
A. True, these verses are part of the text and had specific rationale; but they do not negate the general theme of equality. Under specific conditions, if women are treated differentially, that does not necessarily imply an inferior or superior status in the overall valuation of their role. In the overall scheme, whose witness is accepted or not accepted and the exact weight given to a witness is up to the judge. His judgment as to what will best serve the purpose of justice is the supreme goal and that is central in the formulation of Shari’ah . In certain cases depending on the nature of the dispute, the judge may accept the witness only of women and reject the witness of men. In other cases, the woman’s witness may not get even half of the weight and may be rejected altogether. This is a matter of justice, suitability, bias in judgment, qualifications and credentials of the witness. Acceptance of one and rejection of another person does not elevate or devalue the general status of the person in the society. However, if someone is looking at the specific verses with the intent of deriving the generalization, or broadening the certain differences in the female versus males as large scale or wholesale differences, that is wrong. It is incorrect reading of Qur’an to equate one man to two women as witnesses in the form of a general rule. These verses were specific to the women who were in the trade and their witness was not considered as equal to that of men in that specific sphere. In the society of Arabia, women were not experienced in trading and running the business transactions. Look at Khadija (the wife of the prophet). She did not had much sense in trading and she had to hire the prophet for running her business. This deficiency in the business competency of the Arabian women in general was the cause for lowering the weight as the witness specifically in the matters of loan and trading and not in all the matters of human transactions.

Q. I understand that, it was true of the Arabian society way back in the past. Let us talk of the contemporary society. To simplify Islamic position and put matters to rest, what are we saying here ? Now, applying those teachings to the modern times and, let us say, to the women in America and Europe, who are educated and have experience in monetary and financial transactions, are we saying that as a witness one woman is equal to one man ?
A. That is right in the essential sense. I feel a bit uneasy to put it in that categorical, absolute, and universal manner. I rather consider it case by case and culture by culture. What you just asked about women in the West, I agree to the equal weight of the women’s witness in the society of today.
What will be true tomorrow, who knows ! Who knows, compared to women, if men may need to be given half a weight. Then, of course, we have had a long history spanning over the bulk of the past millennium years, where women were given a role different from that of men in most of the societies across the board. This role did not include the trading and finances as their primary charge and lack of experience there would leave women as deficient. So, if we formulate now, as a firm generalization a universal rule, it would not apply to all the cases and we may have to change it again.

Q. Can you name one or two conditions in which abortion is acceptable and two conditions in which abortion is not acceptable.
A. As a general rule abortion is not allowed. You are talking of life in the fetus which is aborted. If husband and wife agree that they do not want to have a baby, they should use medication, birth control pills or other such methods to prevent conception. But if the wife gets pregnant, there are a few exceptions to the rule. If it threatens the life of the mother, she can have abortion.

Q. Is that the only condition in which abortion is acceptable. What if a woman is raped and in the process, she gets pregnant and will be traumatized if she has to have a baby out of the inhuman process involved?
A. Yes, she can have abortion. But make sure that it is done in the early stage of pregnancy, something like during the 40 days of the embryonic life. After that there is formation of human like configuration of the head and the leg. Abortion after that gets us in the problematic area of killing a human.

Q. The question of 40 days or any other cut off for the age, is it n’t up to further research to determine?
A. We know it that life has attained substantial form by the age of 40 days

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