This post is a thread on the problematic ways in which we respond to religious refutations from so called traditionalists. Often it’s pointless, and the ‘traditionalism’ many claim to espouse in our context is simply unschooled rhetoric coming from ethno-cultural anxieties.

  1. The way we construct responses often resorts to playing their game and inevitably fall into the quagmire we seek to free ourselves from. Our responses play the citation game rather than approach the topic from a perspective that explores the topic in a reasoned way. It plays up to the fallacious game and invites inanity.
  2. Such interlocutors neither debate nor explore, but present only that which is argumentative, concentrating on minutiae or picking apart an argument in a way that is irrelevant to the generality of the propositions presented. They resort to ad hominem and attacks which clearly exhibit their sectarian interests. They weaponise citations, imputing into past scholars their own sectarian intent.
  3. Their ‘brand’ of doing religion is the worst and most regressive: they butcher the efforts of the classical scholars, ignore what they were trying to do (or make up an alternative narrative) and consistently present us with a fiqh that leads nowhere or makes things worse, impedes the strengthening of the believers or the cause of God, and any other optimum outcome.
  4. It’s as if they are determined to hold the progressions of the believers back, often relying on explanations that mirror irrational Christian medieval doctrines that God has never advocated in the Qur’an. They are completely insular from wider society and even other Muslims, sitting in sectarian mosques, madrasahs and Islamic universities with absolutely no cognisance of what actually exists in societies around the world.
  5. The reality they relate to is some fairytale they have constructed in their minds, the complexities of modern post-industrial living is as alien to them as they are to us. In fact this is no religious battle but a cultural one, and their use of disparaging terms such as modernists etc isn’t really to do with one era or epoch against another (past vs present), but actually about regions – their problem tends to be that we’re not being Asian (or Eastern) enough either in our looks, practice or understanding.
  6. It’s a showcase of the worst of what knowledge can be used for; bickering, puerile name calling, and tearing down any attempt to actually operationalise what God has revealed. They want to force Muslims into disengaging with the world around them, often to legitimise their own disengagement which comes from their lack of understanding the shariah and consequent struggle to implement and apply revelation to today.
  7. It can be quite futile in engaging in a scholarly discussion because the mufti/maulana/shaikh (whatever mantle he claims to occupy) clearly does not know how to engage like one, nor do they seem to know what scholarship actually is. And our mere citing against their citations is not only pointless, its boring and circular, and a game we could play forever. This method to fiqh never resolves anything (I did it for years and learned my lesson) and only exists as a rhetorical tool for one-upmanship, something (may God guide us) we should have little interest in.