This first article in a series on the role of ijtihad in Muslim-Western relations looks at the position held by the United States Institute of Peace that ‘opening the gates of ijtihad’ would allow for a beneficial reinterpretation of Islamic law, or Shari’ah, for the 21st century. Providing a basic explanation of ijtihad, Claude Salhani highlights some of the challenges facing such reinterpretation as well as the support for it from proponents who feel that “the cures for what ails some Muslim communities can only emerge from Islam itself”, and that reopening these gates will encourage positive community participation by mainstream Muslims.
(Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), March 7, 2006)
In the second article in a series on the role of ijtihad in Muslim-Western relations, Mohammed Hashim Kamali, Professor of Law at the International Islamic University in Malaysia, argues that a purely secular approach to issues facing the Muslim community today – terrorism, women’s rights, depictions of the Prophet Muhammad – “often fails to enlist public support in Muslim societies”. As a result, he makes the case for the “continued relevance of ijtihad, particularly of collective ijtihad, in providing solutions that are informed by the Islamic heritage and in encouraging consensus among the Muslim masses”.
(Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), March 14, 2006)
In the third in a series on the role of ijtihad in Muslim-Western relations, M.A. Muqtedar Khan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, considers ijtihad as a tool for understanding Islamic principles in a way that fits the needs and challenges of individuals and societies. He encourages Muslim communities to “continue to reform in positive ways without losing the connection to Divine revelation and traditional culture”, arguing that “Islam has nothing to fear from reason”.
(Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), March 21, 2006)
In the fifth article in a series on the role of ijtihad in Muslim-Western relations, Tamara Sonn, Professor of Religion and Humanities at the College of William and Mary, describes how Muslims used ijtihad to apply Islamic principles of justice and human rights to the national struggle against Apartheid. Through this practical example, she demonstrates how “through the ijtihad of pluralism, Muslims like those in Apartheid South Africa are finding ways, based on motivations in their own legal tradition, to work with people of all beliefs in the search for justice and universal human rights.”
(Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), April 4, 2006)
In the last in a series of six articles on the role of ijtihad in Muslim-Western relations, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani dispels the myth that "Islam is a religion frozen in time." Explaining how ijtihad is not static but instead determined "in light of changing times, places, circumstances and social milieus", he argues that "the history of Islam shows that ijtihad and juristic reasoning, conducted by competent and spiritually enlightened scholars, have enabled the social, cultural, and intellectual adaptation of Islam to innumerable contexts" and will continue to sustain the faith in the future.
(Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), April 11, 2006)
In the fourth in a series of articles on the role of ijtihad in Muslim-Western relations, Noha A. Bakr, a Jordan-based doctoral candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, considers the various mechanisms for tackling new problems – ijtihad, taqlid and fatwas – and advocates their use by “moderate” Muslims to tackle extreme responses to new issues, such as the violent aftermath of the caricatures of the Prophet. She looks to the majority of Muslims who do not advocate radicalism and who embrace the peaceful, tolerant heritage of Islam for positive change: “Let’s use our voices – through such mechanisms as the fatwa - to create a new ethical standard for our community.”
(Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), March 28, 2006)
The women of Tunisia have a decisive role to play in shaping Tunisia's future. Fatma Ben Saïdane reminds women of the power of their vote and the importance of civic engagement.
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