Sherman Jackson – Probing The Islamic Secular – Georgetown University Qatar

Sherman Jackson
AI: Summary © The founder of Islamic thought and culture discusses the history and cultural implications of the Islamic secular, including its negative impact on religion and the need for liberalization. The speakers emphasize the need for a culture of good to apply the definition of good and the importance of verifying facts in order to apply the definition of good. They also discuss the distinction between the Islamic and western sectors of Islam, highlighting the negative effects of the explosion of Islam on women, men, and children, and the need for acceptance of Sharia's authority and open-mindedness to the reality of the world.
AI: Transcript ©
00:00:13 --> 00:00:13

Good evening

00:00:15 --> 00:00:28

and welcome to Georgetown University in Qatar. We are very fortunate and honored to have with us tonight Dr. Sherman Jackson, the King Faisal, Chair of Islamic thought and culture at the University of Southern California.

00:00:29 --> 00:01:16

Before that, he was the author. So know that he was the now professor of nutrition studies and visiting professor of law and professor of Afro American Studies at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He has been listed by the religion, news Writers Foundation as among the top 10 experts on Islam in America and was named among the 500 most influential Muslims and of course, he's very different. Dr. Jackson's career spans many fields, including Islamic law, Islamic theology, liberation theology, Sufism and African American Islam. His publications from these various interests include Islamic law and the state the constitutional jurisprudence of Shabbat Deen

00:01:16 --> 00:01:17


00:01:18 --> 00:01:27

On the boundaries of theological tolerance in Islam, Muhammad Loiselle is for South Africa, Islam and the black America and looking towards the third resurrection,

00:01:29 --> 00:01:57

Islam and the problem of black suffering and most recently Sufism for non Sufis even artha. Allah s L's Kanda Ronnie Iskandar an essential Oros. Tonight he joins us to discuss his new project on the Islamic secular which seeks to deconstruct the antagonistic relationship between religion and secularism to offer new modes of thinking that account for the shifting socio political trends in both Muslim majority and non majority majority societies.

00:01:58 --> 00:02:09

Dr. Jackson will will speak and after he speaks Dr. Sahara so deeply our own will moderate the following discussion. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Jackson.

00:02:17 --> 00:02:28

Well, first of all, I want to thank you so much for that very generous introduction. It brings back very fond memories for us to be in the same space again.

00:02:29 --> 00:02:46

And it also brings back some very nice memories of being back in, in Qatar, again, it's been about I think, four or five years since I've been here. And I see that it is still the beautiful place that I remember, when I used to come here once or twice a year.

00:02:47 --> 00:02:57

I'm a little worried about the time not to mention the topic because I can tell that people are out there saying Islamic secular, we got to hear this.

00:02:58 --> 00:03:03

So I'm just going to, I'm gonna jump right in

00:03:11 --> 00:03:32

it was roughly a year ago that my article The Islamic secular appeared. The basic point of this piece was to challenge the notion that Islam recognizes an absolute contradiction between the secular and the religious, and that these two categories can only relate to each other antagonistically in Islam.

00:03:33 --> 00:04:28

On this understanding, an act idea or legal rule might be secular, or it might be religious, but it can never be secular and religious. To this end, the noted Orientalist Joseph shocked refers to secular Islamic legislation as a contradiction in abject tone. And no Coulson contrasts filk or Islamic law with CSS yada, yada, and basically dismisses the latter as secular, and thus not properly Islamic. Of course, such views are not the exclusive preserve of Western scholars. In his influential book, Islam and secularism, say Muhammad nakivo Our paths insists that and I quote, Islam totally rejects any application to itself of the concept secular secularization or secularism,

00:04:28 --> 00:04:51

as they do not belong and are alien to it in every aspect, and of quote, and in a similar vein, the late Mustafa Azimi seems to want to leave no room for the secular when he writes a slam that and I quote, again, there was no ask. No, there was no aspect of behavior that was not intended to be covered by the revealed law and of quote,

00:04:53 --> 00:04:59

for some time now, such approaches to the relationship between Islam and the secular have ceased to sit well with

00:05:00 --> 00:05:51

me to begin with both the propensity for universalizing the western perspective, and the attempt to respond to this tends to privilege the Western frame of reference, and in turn, impose upon Muslims a false choice between the secular and the religious war concretely, this understanding imputes to Islam, a totalitarian vision that recognizes no mode of human existence, other than a strictly devotional one, and no other avenues forms or basis of knowledge or value, other than than those implicated or directly provided by Scripture. Ultimately, this is bound to promote either civilizational failure, or civilizational schizophrenia failure by denying Muslims access to

00:05:51 --> 00:06:38

critical non revelatory knowledge and pursuits and schizophrenia, through the fact that while Muslims may recognize the need for non revelatory knowledge and pursuits, they can never fully acknowledge any of this as legitimate, let alone Islamic. For again, according to the above, understanding, Islamic equals revelatory. Second, against the backdrop of the cultural and intellectual hegemony of the West, and its inscrutable power to inspire imitation. pitting the secular against the religious in this matter, is likely to reinforce the tendency to empower the secular against the religious in order to police or domesticate it, or even to determine how much

00:06:38 --> 00:06:55

legitimacy we should lend it. Finally, this understanding of the relationship between between the secular and the religious in Islam, is not consistent with what has come to be my reading of the Islamic legal and jurisprudential tradition that is filth, and also look.

00:06:57 --> 00:07:45

For while this tradition was obviously committed to defining HUMAN ACTS in moral terms that is as halal or haram, it was no less explicit, and recognizing the practical or potential value of human actions, the determination of which often defied or transcended the evaluative categories of Sharia will over Sharia itself was widely recognized as being limited rather than unbounded in scope. And this to signal the recognition of other modes of evaluating human actions, according to a calculus that neither relied upon, nor offended Sharia. All of these insights, again, derived primarily from my reading of Islamic law, are fundamental to my alternative notion of the Islamic secular.

00:07:47 --> 00:08:32

So far, the response to my article, the Islamic secular has been mixed. Some have read it quite mistakingly, as confirming the primacy of the secular over the religious and as essentially calling upon the secular to play the same role in Islam, that it played in modern Western Christianity, which paved the way to what Charles Taylor calls a secular age. Others have read it quite correctly, I think, as holding up the possibility of averting this western trajectory by pointing the way to a complementary rather than an antagonistic relationship between the secular and the religious in Islam. But the response that has concerned me most has been that of a number of Muslims, who seem to

00:08:32 --> 00:08:46

nurse ignoring suspicion, that my thesis intentionally or not compromises the integrity of Islam, and or Shadia, by shrinking the authority of both in order to open up a space for the secular.

00:08:47 --> 00:09:26

Of course, much of this is simply a problem of language. The western purchase on the category secular is simply so complete, so powerful, and so pervasive. That is that it is difficult to use the term without conjuring up the kinds of non religious or anti religious associations it carries in the West. As such, it is hard for many Muslims to see the Islamic secular as representing anything other than the particular way that a slam pays obese is to a globally triumphant, Western secular. And so it's like, one might think at a better plan to simply abandon the use of the word sector altogether.

00:09:28 --> 00:09:44

But that would make precisely the point that I emphatically do not want to make, namely, that the Western secular is the only secular and that it is only on the basis of this understanding of the secular that we can define its place and its function in Islam.

00:09:45 --> 00:09:59

In my presentation tonight, I shall attempt to throw my concept of the Islamic secular into broader relief, with particular attention to the kinds of fears and apprehensions just cited. I will begin by clarifying the conch

00:10:00 --> 00:10:48

the sense in which I use the term secular. From here, I will move to my archaeology of the Islamic legal tradition, in order to vindicate my claim that there was widespread recognition of the bounded nature of Sharia, even among the or the mat, or doctors of Islamic law. I will then move to next to an explanation or by use of the term Islamic. Together. All of this will set the stage for an abbreviated restatement of my concept of the Islamic sector. This will be followed like by a closer look at some of the broader legal, political and theological implications of my thesis, including some of the problems that remain outstanding. In the end, it is my hope that whatever ambiguities or

00:10:48 --> 00:10:57

unresolved questions remain, these will be offset by the quality and magnitude of light that I shed on the topic overall.

00:10:59 --> 00:11:48

I begin with a concept of the secular as is known secular as a construct that carries several meanings from the simple reference to the this worldly as opposed to the other worldly, to the most extreme forms of ICT and the radical separation between religion and the state. This semantic ambiguity is further enriched by such derivatives as secularism, and secularization. Secularism for our purposes might be defined as the ideological commitment to promoting is this worldly approach to human affairs, to the exclusion of any other worldly considerations, especially when it comes to the public domain. This commitment underlies the principle of separation between religion and state.

00:11:49 --> 00:12:38

Stock secularization, on the other hand, is the process is the actual process by which this prioritization of the this worldly, all of the other worldly takes place. Now, my use of the term secular has nothing to do with any ideological commitment to an exclusively this world the approach, nor does it seek to promote the principle of separation between church and state, nor does it applaud the process by which any of this is normalized. Indeed, the Islamic secular has nothing to do with any attempt to associate secularism or secularization with Islam. Rather, it is simply the result of my recognition that God's concrete address in the form of Sharia is not the exclusive

00:12:38 --> 00:12:46

basis for deliberating the value of human acts in Islam, even where Shuddha itself speaks to such acts directly.

00:12:47 --> 00:13:34

Now, what does this recognition have to do with the concept of the secular? Several scholars including Asad Casanova, Taylor, Nandy and others, have suggested that the whole point of the categories secular as it emerged in 17th and 18th century Europe, and then crystallized more concretely in the 19th century, was to recognize realms of endeavor over which the church exercised no authority, and no longer supervise any process of integrating into a coherent Christian hole. And the earliest centuries secular was still a porous construct that could accommodate religion. But by the 19th century, it would become more explicitly cordoned off from religion, by continuous process

00:13:34 --> 00:14:22

of what Max Vabre refers to as differentiation. Differentiation was simply the continued development of distinct fields of endeavor, such as politics, economics, modern science, and the like, that were not only independent of the church in terms of their actual substance, but also in the sense of falling outside the sphere of the unifying force that the church had traditionally exercised in its effort to assimilate all forms of knowledge into a Christian worldview. By the 20th century, this process would reach the point where Western society ratified not only the separation between religious and secular knowledge, but also the superiority of the secular over the religious. Indeed,

00:14:22 --> 00:14:38

instead of religion being integrated into this new amalgam, as a sort of CO equal partner, it was increasingly marginalized to the point that a basic sense of separation, antagonism, alienation, and even fear with regard to religion set in

00:14:39 --> 00:14:56

this will ultimately normalize the commitment first articulated by the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, back in the 17th century, to proceed as if God did not exist. This is the basic meaning and feel of the secular and the dominant cultures of the west today.

00:14:58 --> 00:14:59

Now, my inverse

00:15:00 --> 00:15:48

within the contract and the construct of the secular is strictly as a mode of differentiation. By this, I mean nothing more than the fact that there are fields of endeavor, whose substance sources and methods are independent of God's concrete Sharia address, I do not mean that these fields or endeavors are or should be outside the sphere of any centripetal or unifying force that Islam might exercise as the nucleus of a God centered civilization. And the center to my concept of the Islamic secular is the idea that the divine gaze in Islam is ubiquitous, and rules out the very possibility of proceeding as if God did not exist. This, in fact, is what is what most fundamentally

00:15:48 --> 00:15:59

distinguishes the Islamic secular from the Western secular. This will hopefully become clear and below where I explain my use of the construct is slanted.

00:16:00 --> 00:16:30

In the meantime, I would like to pause here and an effort to vindicate my investment in the notion of the secular as a mode of differentiation in Islam, but not only as differentiation key to my concept of the Islamic secular. It is here that I hope to demonstrate that the limits I impute to the scope of Shetty s jurisdiction are self imposed limits, and not the result of any capitulation on my part, to some alien Western hegemonic called the secular

00:16:32 --> 00:17:22

the propriety of applying the concept of differentiation to Islam is perhaps most plainly obligated against the backdrop of the common claim and assumption that Sharia knows no jurisdictional boundaries, and encompasses the entirety of human life. Shocked, famously described Islamic law as and I quote, an all embracing body of religious duties, the totality of God's commands that regulate the life of every Muslim in all its aspects and of quote, and in similar vein, well, Haluk depicts Sharia as, and I quote, a representation of God's sovereign will, that regulates the entire range of the human order. And of course, again, as we saw in El Paso and Azami, above, this view is not

00:17:22 --> 00:18:01

unique to Western scholars. And it was seen given the caliber and sheer number of scholars who embrace this view, that there must be some basic truth about Islam, that this understanding succeeds in capturing that truth I wish to argue is that Islam is an all embracing construct that covers the entire range of human activity. But Islam, and here's where I differ with these scholars is not coterminous with Sharia. Rather, Sharia again, even as recognized by classical Muslim jurists themselves, is a bounded rather than an unbounded discourse.

00:18:02 --> 00:18:17

The idea that Muslims imputed jurisdictional limits to Sharia goes back to my days as a graduate student, and my work back in the last century, and my work on the great Egyptian Maliki jurist, she had the Dean al Karachi.

00:18:18 --> 00:19:07

Karachi makes it clear that the authority of Sharia is bounded, both horizontally and vertically. For example, He states that such pursuits as mathematics, geometry, knowledge of prevailing customs, sense perception and the like, are not sharp forms of knowledge, but fall outside the jurisdiction of Sharia. In other words, shadows authority does not extend horizontally far enough to be the authoritative basis for adjudicating the substance of these fields, as ELCA Rafi put it, and I quote, knowledge of none of these things reverts to scriptural sources. In fact, even assessing the practical dimensions of the good, and Hasson may take one outside the realm of Sharia, strictly

00:19:07 --> 00:19:18

speaking, for, as he put it, and I quote, again, good as a category is broader than the legal ruling, and Hussen our movement and machinery.

00:19:19 --> 00:19:42

In other words, good can mean either morally good, or practically good. And in our efforts to make determinations about what is practically good, we must often go beyond the boundaries of Sharia. Meanwhile, there is the matter of the of the empirical of the empirical verification verification of facts, including legally relevant facts.

00:19:44 --> 00:19:59

Rafi clearly separates legal jurisdiction from factual jurisdiction and limits the authority of Sharia discourse to the determination of law. He notes that while the sources of law which include the Quran

00:20:00 --> 00:20:02

Soon as you met and the like,

00:20:03 --> 00:20:41

are limited, the sources for determining facts are unlimited and constantly evolving. Based on this division, Muslim jurists only have jurisdiction of law, because they're only experts and interpreting the sources of law. They do not have jurisdiction of fact, as such, it is only legitimate to follow their own a man or the doctors of the law, by way of tax lead on questions of law, not on questions of fact, this is neatly summed up in the somewhat controversial statement by Qaddafi, which I will read now.

00:20:42 --> 00:21:34

There is a difference between Matic statement, engaging in homosexual relations necessary necessitates punishment, and so and so actually committed a homosexual act. We may perform tech lead or follow medic in his first statement, but not in the second. Rather, the second statement falls into the category of testimony. If three other upright witnesses testify along with Matic, the rule is applied. If not, it is not. And in this regard, the testimony of any other upright witness would be absolutely equal to that of medic. His status as in which the head or independent interpreter of the law is of absolutely no consequence in this regard. Neither is the status of any of the other

00:21:34 --> 00:21:35

which duds.

00:21:36 --> 00:22:04

In some, numerous fields of inquiry, such as mathematics, or geometry, or the concrete determination of empirical facts, are explicitly recognized as falling outside the horizontal boundaries of Sharia. In these areas, it is not the doctors of the law, but other experts and find as a fact, who are authoritative. And this is the very definition of what I have been referring to as differentiation.

00:22:06 --> 00:22:54

As for what are referred to as the vertical limits of shittiest jurisdiction, what I am trying to get at here is that even when an idea or action falls within the horizontal parameters of Islamic law, the question of determining its concrete instantiation, or substantive quality will not be dictated or determined by Sharia. Rather, one must drill down beneath the surface of legal rulings to other repositories of expertise. It is one thing in other words, to know on the basis of Sharia, that wealth creation or military preparedness is obligatory, or Whadjuk is quite another thing, however, to know, in concrete practical terms, how to bring wealth creation about or what military

00:22:54 --> 00:23:11

preparedness actually looks like. This particular insight into what I am calling here, the vertical limits of Sharia is particularly relevant when considering that class of issues that fall into the neutral or more back category of Islamic law.

00:23:12 --> 00:24:03

For some might argue that the well known presumption that everything is neutral until proven otherwise. I'll also share alphabet calls into question the very notion of Shetty or having limits. In other words, this principle seems to imply that nothing escapes shittiest judgment, certainly in the sense that everything falls into at least one of his legal categories. But we should be clear about what is really going on here. First, MOBA is a or neutral, is a constituent of Sharia as horizontal boundaries. As such, the fact that a thing might fall into this category does not negate the possibility of it falling outside or beneath shittiest vertical boundary. In other words, how to

00:24:03 --> 00:24:21

prepare militarily and concrete terms. For example, whether and how to develop this missile system or that missile system is not a short a determination, even if both systems may be declared MOBA. Second, the intended meaning of the principle

00:24:22 --> 00:24:59

will also feel assured a bear can only me can only be that everything that is already presumed to fall within surety as authority is presumed to be neutral rather than some other status. Otherwise, it would make no sense to say four times four equals 16 is more bad, or that it is more bad for an isosceles triangle to have two equal sides, or that the effectiveness of a particular economic policy or missile system can be measured in terms of its status as permissible. Four times four equals 16 is a

00:25:00 --> 00:25:48

mathematical judgment, not a sharp one. And it is mathematically correct, not legally permissible, any more or less permissible than it would be to say that four times four equals 15. In other words, even if mathematics as a subject falls within the horizontal boundaries of Sharia, the actual substance of mathematics falls outside the birth, the vertical boundary, and perhaps outside the horizontal boundaries of Sharia as well. Of course, the whole point of recognizing that there are boundaries to Sharia is to be able to call attention to the fact that there are categories of assessment such as mathematically correct, economically effective, safe for consumption, etc, that

00:25:48 --> 00:25:57

are not sure to your categories. And this once again, is precisely the meaning of what I have been referring to as differentiation.

00:25:59 --> 00:26:44

Those who are familiar with my work know of my long standing relationship with Xi habite, Dean ultrafine, but this should not induce them into thinking that the idea that Sharia has limits is unique to him. And my article, the Islamic secular, I cite several scholars who reflect this recognition. And I give examples going all the way back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad himself. For example, when he advised a group of farmers on pollinating the trees, and the trees failed, they approached him to complain and response, the prophet is reported to have said, quote, do not hold me accountable for me or non revelational ideas. But when I inform you of something on the authority of

00:26:44 --> 00:27:13

God, take it, for I will never invent lies against God and of quote, clearly, the prophet here is recognizing two different realms of authority and the period immediately following the prophets death, this distinction gets somewhat blurred, but it is not long before it really emerges with even greater clarity. A good example of this is found in the famous el Ghazali, who in his biographical work,

00:27:14 --> 00:28:05

a monk of middle Delisle complains about ignorant friends of Islam, a satirical gehad these were people who negated the the validity of sciences deemed to be anomalous of origin, for example, astronomy, geometry and the natural sciences, because these were not derived from Sharia. In fact, because the sciences were not derived from Sharia. These critics condemned them as being in violation of Sharia law, Sally's response that was that these sciences are neither anti Islamic and Islamic, nor against the religious law. On the contrary, he insists, and I quote, the religious law has nothing to say about the sciences, either positively or negatively. Well, laser sharp, the r&d

00:28:05 --> 00:28:44

heavy alone lab in Nash, what if bet in other words, and terms of their actual substance, these sciences simply fell outside or perhaps below the boundaries of the religious law, a clear recognition of differentiation. Again, we should be clear here that this recognition was not limited to the likes of Allah Ghazali Alka Rafi or other pre modern jurists. In fact, as we shall see modern jurists for example, POTUS on Jeff Yusuf Qaradawi also appear to signal their recognition of an extra shadow a differentiated realm.

00:28:46 --> 00:29:19

It is critical at this juncture, however, to point out that just because the secular in the form of differentiation is by definition, non shattering, does not mean that it is by definition, non religious, let alone anti religious, and D. It is precisely the function of the Islamic side of the Islamic secular to preserve the religious dimension of the differentiated secular in Islam. Of course, like the term secular, the term Islamic is also fraught with ambiguity.

00:29:20 --> 00:29:52

And the task of clarifying its meaning has been further complicated by a recent book by the late Shahab Ahmed, and titled, What is Islam, the importance of being Islamic and the aftermath a professor admits project no serious academic articulation of the meaning of Islamic could dispense with engaging his view on the matter. It is precisely through such an engagement, however, that I hope my own use of the word Islamic will be thrown into bold relief.

00:29:53 --> 00:29:59

My use of Islamic and the phrase Islamic secular simply refers to that

00:30:00 --> 00:30:17

sphere of activity outside the boundaries of Sharia, that is intentionally thought imagined or executed, and conscious recognition of the ubiquitous adjudicative gaze of the god of Islam. Maybe I should say that again.

00:30:20 --> 00:30:21

My use of Islamic

00:30:22 --> 00:31:17

in the phrase, Islamic secular simply refers to that sphere of activity outside the boundaries of Sharia, that is intentionally thought imagined or executed, and conscious recognition of the ubiquitous adjudicative divine gaze of the god of Islam. This divine gaze is adjudicative and that is understood to view human activity through the calculus of divine pleasure, displeasure or forgiveness is ubiquitous meanwhile, and that no human activity is understood to fall outside its purview. As for the substance or ethos of this divine gaze, this is intuitively extrapolated from the Divine revelatory address, but this extrapolation differs fundamentally from the process by

00:31:17 --> 00:32:11

which the rules of Sharia are extrapolated. Sharia is derived either directly, or by analogy, from God concrete address directed to specific human actions, for example, sale, murder, fasting and the light. Awareness of the Divine gaze, on the other hand, emerges out of a more instinctive engagement with God's more general, revelatory address. In other words, a statement such as in the Quran, established the prayer, or do not kill souls that God has rendered sacred speak directly to concrete specific actions, that is prayer and murder respectively. However, Quranic statements Tesla such as, verily God loves the patient, or is

00:32:12 --> 00:33:00

the reward of perfection, anything other than perfect Felicity. These statements speak more generally to God's character, and the universe of expectations that this character might be intuitively understood to imply. We might liken the difference between these two modes of knowing to the difference between two types of knowledge that a child might develop of his or her parents. The first type the child acquires to direct instructions received from the parents such as clean up your room, or don't teach your sister. Based on whether the child conforms or not with these instructions, he or she expect to expects to earn the parents pleasure or displeasure. The second

00:33:00 --> 00:33:47

type of knowledge however, the child receives, not through direct instructions, but by simply extrapolating from what he or she knows of the parents character, giving his or her a given his or her engagement with the parents direct and indirect indications over the years. Based on this knowledge, while the parents may not give the child an explicit curfew, for example, the child will still make it his or her business, always to come home at a decent hour. Now, the scope of the Divine gaze is horizontally infinite, and contradistinction to the scope of Sharia. On this difference, an actor idea can be secular, in the sense of being differentiated from Sharia, while

00:33:47 --> 00:34:37

also remaining religious in the sense of falling firmly within the parameters of the Divine gaze. And yet this distinction between Sharia and the divine gaze should not be misunderstood. For while the divine gaze is horizontally broader than the scope of Sharia, it remains in its own way dependent upon Sharia, or perhaps I should say, it remains dependent upon the same divine address from which Sharia is derived. And this context, ideas acts undertaken, under the watchful eye of the Divine gaze can no more violate God's concrete address that is as represented by shittier than a child who has uninstructed in one area of endeavor can violate his parents concrete instructions in

00:34:37 --> 00:34:58

another. For example, the child cannot post embarrassing pictures of his or her sister online, based on his or her good faith assumption that his or her parents would approve of posting pictures in general, for posting pictures that are embarrassing, would violate the parents direct command. Do not tease your sister

00:34:59 --> 00:35:00

is he

00:35:00 --> 00:35:48

Hear that fundamental difference between myself and professor athma emerges. His is a highly sophisticated, sophisticated and intricate thesis. And I could hardly hope to do it justice in the time allotted here. But I think I am on solid ground and saying that what I have been referring to us the divine gaze basically corresponds to what Professor Ahmed refers to as the pretext and context of Revelation. Revelation itself being the text. Now in the same way that an activity that is carried out with a conscious eye to the Divine gaze is Islamic, according to mind depiction. Song is the activity that seeks to authenticate itself on the basis of the pretext or context Islamic

00:35:48 --> 00:36:33

According to Professor Atma, but unlike the case with my divine gaze, neither Professor augments pretext nor context is derived from or dependent upon the text. Rather, both are essentially independent of Revelation. As such, actions that are deemed to be consistent with a pretext or context remain Islamic. Even if these actions categorically contradict the text, or my thesis. By contrast, even if an action is not based on the concrete dictates of Revelation, as articulated by Sharia, it cannot be Islamic, if it categorically violates either revelation, or Sharia.

00:36:34 --> 00:37:25

Professor Iman and I are an emphatic agreement that Islam is broader than Sharia. We emphatically disagree, however, on the substance and ethos of Islam, beyond Sharia, or my thesis, even if we allow for a pretext, or a context or what I have been referring to as a divine gaze, none of this acquires substantive content entirely independent of the text. For to allow this would be to run the risk of undermining the text, we can imagine in this regard adopting as our independent pretext or context, the binary system of math, while the meaning of our text is expressed as expressed entirely in the decimal system. This would obliterate the authority and meaning of the entire range of

00:37:25 --> 00:38:03

numbers in our text from two through nine. Since the binary system only recognizes the numbers zero, and one, and some to use the language of the late Peter Berger, any pretext context, or divine gaze that is invoked as the sacred canopy of Islam must serve and not degrade the plausibility structure through which the meaning relevance, efficacy and integrity of Islam sacred text is sustained. This is the most fundamental difference between the way Professor Imam deploys the term Islamic and the way that I deployed.

00:38:04 --> 00:38:52

Having defined my use of both secular and Islamic, we may now move to an abbreviated restatement of the concept of the Islamic secular. The Islamic secular converges with the Western secular and their mutual indebtedness to the principle of differentiation. The Islamic sector diverges from the western sector, however, at least three important ways. First, whereas the western sector is contrasted with the category religious, the Islamic sector is contrasted with a category shadowy. In other words, while an act cannot be secular, and religious, according to the Western secular, it can be secular and religious, indeed, Islamic according to the Islamic secular, in as much as it remains

00:38:52 --> 00:39:41

within the purview of the Divine gaze, and that simply cannot be simultaneously secular and shadowy, according to the Islamic sector. Second, it as much as surely as boundaries are self imposed, the Islamic sector emerges more or less as a benign religious complement to Sharia, not a hostile predatory, non religious or anti religious rival. Thus, unlike the Western secular, the Islamic secular does not play the role of policing, or domesticating. Either Sharia or Islam, for the boundaries of Sharia remain absolutely as broad as the legal tradition itself deems them to be. It's simple. It is simply the point beyond which the legal tradition lays down the boundaries of Sharia,

00:39:41 --> 00:39:59

that we enter into the realm of the Islamic sector. Finally, where as the Western secular reaches its ideal and the notion of proceeding as if God did not exist. This notion is entirely and emphatically alien to the Islamic secular

00:40:03 --> 00:40:33

Let me move in the time I have remaining to some of the more salient implications of this thesis. As I see it, there are three basic responses to the concept of the secular among contemporary Muslims, one to reject the secular as Anna Slavic, and they've all the issues that would fall into this realm to chance and non regulation. We see this in the general poverty of Muslim economic, or political fault, or the weakness of contemporary Muslim cultural production,

00:40:34 --> 00:41:19

to reject the secular again, as an Islamic, but this time by packing all its constituents into the shadow a realm and trying to address all of these things through the rules and machinery of Sharia. We see this and some of the exaggerated powers attributed to HTN. Whereas an aware as in reality, what is often needed is laws, policies, or innovations that lay outside the boundaries of shittier. Three, embrace the secular only now and that's modern Western guys as the Enemy Controller and privatize a religion. We see this increasingly as a response to surely as perceived an ability to speak effectively to legitimate human interest in the modern world.

00:41:21 --> 00:42:05

As for completely rejecting the sector in the first sense, the inadequacy of such an approach becomes clear. Upon considering such basic issues, as speed limits, what a doctor should have to know to obtain a medical license, or what a national health care plan should actually look like. Clearly, these issues cannot be ignored or left to chance, yet, they can also not be resolved on the basis of any concrete shared sources, either directly or by analogy. Of course, one might argue that Islamic law does address such issues in a general way through such precepts as protection of life, hips, and knifes, or protection of property heads of men and the like. But the question here is not

00:42:05 --> 00:42:47

whether speed limits medical licenses or healthcare can be brought under such precepts in a general way. The question is whether this particular speed limit these particular professional requirements, or this particular health plan can be concretely determined on the basis of Chautauqua. My argument is that rather than the scripture or the instruments of Sharia, the actual substance of such policies must recline upon non shoddy forms of knowledge, such as empirical observation, practical experience, public administration, medicine, actuarial sciences, and the light. All of these policies, in other words, would fall under the Islamic sector, and they could be rendered Islamic

00:42:47 --> 00:43:35

not by virtue of the substance issuing from Sharia, or scriptural sources, but by virtue of their being pursued with a conscious eye to the adjudicative gaze of the god of Islam, again, with the proviso that they don't violate any of God's concrete commands or prohibitions. This is extremely important for at least two reasons. First, it points to the potential vastness of the realm of the Islamic sector. For the same approach that we take to speed limits a medical licenses, we would take to such things as FAA regulations, monetary policy, building codes, education policy, zoning laws, tenure procedures, passport, regulations, and a virtually endless list in the public domain. Second,

00:43:35 --> 00:44:19

while the Islamic sector requires that one be consciously aware of the Divine gaze, the actual logic or methodology that one employs is not necessarily derived from nor dictated by Sharia or Islamic scripture. In fact, the logic and methodology employed in these areas might be generically indistinguishable from that employed by non Muslim experts or findings of fact, again, with the proviso that the conclusions reached do not violate the divine address. This has potentially far reaching political implications for the relationship between Muslims and non Muslims seeking to negotiate various dimensions of the public domain, whether in a Muslim majority or minority context

00:44:19 --> 00:44:30

for in theory, at least, many of these issues can be negotiated on a level playing field between Muslims and non Muslims, while neither relying upon nor offending Sharia.

00:44:32 --> 00:44:45

As for the tendency to reject the secular by collapsing it into the Shadow Realm, there are several areas where the negative effects of this come to the fore. In the interest of time, however, I would like to focus on one cultural production.

00:44:46 --> 00:45:00

This will also allow me to underscore another advantage of recognizing the Islamic secular namely, that it enables Muslims to locate religious indeed, Islamic value, and many activities that might otherwise

00:45:00 --> 00:45:42

To be dismissed or neglected, a secular and the non religious or anti religious sense, this ability to find value and mundane activity is an important step towards unleashing the vast cultural and other forms of talent and genius that exists in the Muslim community. And I thought the deployment of these talents, Muslims can move from being mere consumers or appropriators of culture, especially from the west to being actual producers and shapers of culture on a global scale, again, as a consciously Islamic activity. This is clearly what set us up for Qaradawi seems to have in mind when he writes in his book, The Kapha tuna been an MP there have been no Tilak

00:45:43 --> 00:45:46

our culture between open mindedness and closed mindedness,

00:45:48 --> 00:46:38

the following quote, we mean by Islamic culture, I'm sorry, what we mean by Islamic culture is not simply religious culture, as some people think. Rather, that which is Islamic is much broader than that which is limited that which is religious, based on the fact that Islam is both religious and secular. Then what dunya. Of course, by religious or Dini, here, Sheikh Yusuf is referring to what I have been calling shadow a. And his basic point is that cultural production goes beyond the strictly Shadow Realm. We already implicitly recognize this reality in such fields as Islamic art and Islamic architecture, the Islamic secular merely seeks to take this recognition to a broader, more explicit,

00:46:38 --> 00:46:40

more explicitly conscious level.

00:46:41 --> 00:47:28

All too often, however, this recognition is only engaged agnostically. Even when the problem is ultimately a cultural one, the solution is habitually sought and Sharia general in the form of louder and louder calls for each the head, of course, he had is the appropriate remedy for editing out cultural and other prejudices and presuppositions that pre modern jurist may have handed down through the tradition of Islamic law. But we should be clear that he had traffics exclusively in legal rulings that is, can and when it comes to such matters as promoting marital harmony, to take just one prominent example and wake you all up, legal rulings will be simply very limited, and what

00:47:28 --> 00:47:40

they can provide for a husband or wife may be both pious and just and they may both adhere assiduously to the dictates of the religious law. But none of this

00:47:41 --> 00:48:28

makes either of them a good conversationalist, a good cook, or maybe even a good kisser, nor consider your require of either of them, as a matter of law, a particular conversation, a particular meal, or a particular style of kissing, even if it might confirm the propriety of these things, after the fact that is, after these have already been arrived at independent of Sharia. In short, these are cultural matters, whose concrete substance lies outside the boundaries of Sharia, and outside the competence of the jurist yet to ignore them as falling outside the purview of Islam is to ignore precisely the kinds of pursuits that promote healthy marriages itself, undoubtedly, an

00:48:28 --> 00:49:16

important value in Islam. Once again, we see the role and importance of the Islamic secular come to the fore. Of course, there are other important implications to this as well, including a clear political one. For if Islam was understood, to consist in both Sharia and the Islamic secular government and Islam can be more easily recognized as consisting of both a shutter a and a secular dimension. And this opens the way to a number of important possibilities. First, Muslim governments might find a measure of insulation from inflated charges of violating Islam, every time they propose or Institute rules or policies, such as a five year economic plan, or an immigration policy that are

00:49:16 --> 00:49:26

not based on strictly shared justifications. For again, not everything Islamic is necessarily directly derived from Sharia.

00:49:28 --> 00:50:00

One can imagine how this understanding my temper some of the critiques directed at Muslim governments by so called Muslim fundamentalists. Second, it can empower the community at large and its collective role as fine as a fact and expert authorities in various professional fields to impose a modicum of accountability on government by holding such policies and policies or sub policies and rules to the standards of their stated goals and Islamic secular terms. Finally, such recognition you

00:50:00 --> 00:50:31

Can't deny government decisions and policies that fall outside the boundaries of Sharia, the automatic, unassailable authority of a Hukam. Shutter a. Clearly, this can go a long way in denying Muslim governments the ability to use religion as a tool of tyranny. All in all, there is much to be gained in the area of governance upon an intelligent investment in the concept of the Islamic sector, including the question of whether it is possible to reconcile Islam itself with the modern state.

00:50:33 --> 00:50:49

This actually takes me to the third common sense response to the secular among modern Muslims. When the distinction between the shadow a and the non shadow a is properly maintained, both jurisdictions can receive their do and healthy balance can be enjoyed.

00:50:52 --> 00:51:38

But when Muslims over rely on Sharia, they often end up burning it with tasks that it was never intended to fulfill. And on these misguided expectations, should it can end up being seen as having failed to provide Muslims with the kinds of lives that they would like to live. In other words, when Muslims rely entirely on a Sharia based commitment to piety, as the means of promoting such things as financial well being fun, healthy friendships, happiness and the like. while completely ignoring the importance of engaging the Islamic secular adherence to religion can end up being presented as an empty burden, or as so much a waste of time, for this matter of engaging Islam will routinely

00:51:39 --> 00:52:23

fail to produce the desired results. When this happens, the trend will almost certainly be towards a secular in the modern Western sense, that is not as a compliment to religion, but as an alternative to it. And here we come, perhaps to one of the most important lessons of this presentation. Not only does Islam consist of more than just Sharia, the failure to recognize and engage this fact, and, in the form of the Islamic secular, may be among the major causes of the rise and popularity of the Western secular among modern Muslims and some, far from being a threat to Islam. The Islamic sector may be among its most important preservatives.

00:52:24 --> 00:52:39

I suspect at this point that I have probably taxed your patience beyond anything that any mortal should be expected to endure. So let me just end with a couple of reflections on some of the theological concerns that attach to the concept of the Islamic secular.

00:52:42 --> 00:53:27

My first reflection has to do with the matter of authority, by what authority to conclusions reached in the area of the Islamic secular, acquire any ability to bind us to any action or non action. After all, one of the clear advantages of Sharia ties and everything is precisely that the harcum shatter a has a clear and uncontested authority to bind. But to what extent can I be religiously bound by my findings in the area of the Islamic secular, especially since by definition, the vaccum, Sharia attaching to these conclusions will not be guilt will not go beyond the low back or permissible category. Of course, Islamic law has traditionally recognized the degree of

00:53:27 --> 00:53:32

discretionary authority by which the imam or Muslim state can by Muslims,

00:53:33 --> 00:54:18

as we see in the classical doctrine of CS, a shadow AKA, or and the Ottoman institution, of all known. But in both of these instances, the authority at play is essentially political authority. What binds a Muslim in these cases, in other words, is the political or executive authority of the Imam or the state, not anything that inherent in the actual substances or the actual substance of the acts that they command. Otherwise, we'd be left with such absurdities, as the belief that there is something inherently binding and a 55 mile per hour speed limit that does not exist and a 56 mile per hour speed limit. The question of such is what intrinsic authority does one's findings in the in

00:54:18 --> 00:54:59

the area of the Islamic secular have to one? To what extent for example, is a husband bound to engage in a certain type of conversation or a wife bound to cook as a specific kind of meal? And if he or she is not bound? What is the real value of the Islamic secular? Or maybe it is not necessary for them to be bound at all? Maybe it is enough for them simply to be inspired, but will mere inspiration work always across the board? This is just one of a number of theological questions raised by the concept of the Islamic secular. I hope to be able to address these more successfully in the larger project.

00:55:00 --> 00:55:04

I hoped I hoped to complete. My second and final

00:55:05 --> 00:55:51

reflection, is, I think, a bit more redemptive. Here are returned to that sneaky suspicion, expressed by many Muslims who read my article, the Islamic secular. In a word. Their fear was essentially that the concept of the Islamic secular, no matter how well intentioned, will ultimately put Muslims on a slippery slope towards secularization in the modern Western sense, bit by bit, under the pressure of the West cultural and intellectual hegemony. My approach will simply incentivize Muslims to interpret away more and more of God as authority in order to maximize the area opened up for the Islamic secular. We should be reminded here, however, that even if the

00:55:51 --> 00:56:35

circumference of this time is secular or maximized, Muslims will still be operating under the watchful eye of the Divine gaze. As such, they will not be compelled to compromise or discard their religious orientation. In short, there are subtleties that are attached to the concept of the Islamic secular, that make it right for misunderstanding. And if we are to be fair in our assessment of this concept, you must take it seriously. And we must be careful not to detach the Islamic from the secular, it is the Islamic secular, more important, we must resist the tendency to read the Islamic secular, through an interpretive prism made up of meanings and implications that attach to

00:56:35 --> 00:56:41

the secular as it is understood in the modern West. But even more important than all of this,

00:56:42 --> 00:57:28

the way that many Muslims expressed their fears about the Islamic second is shrinking. The domain of Sharia is authority bespeaks a profound and worrisome misunderstanding of what is ultimately at stake. For even if there was no Islamic secular, and Sharia was accorded absolute maximum authority, indeed, totalitarian authority, this would not constitute any guarantee against all forms of secularization in the Western sense. For ultimate secularization resides in the move away from a conscious awareness of the Divine gaze, and the recognition of humans unending need for God's guidance and grace. And this move can be brought about just as effectively by an overemphasis on

00:57:28 --> 00:58:06

Sharia, as it can be by rejecting or curtailing the authority of Sharia. To look to Sharia, in other words, as a substitute for God is no less secularizing and effect than looking to reason or feelings or modern science for religiosity. Certainly, monotheistic religiosity requires open recognition of direct human dependence upon God. This is clear to the point of a telling statement by the celebrated doctor, your dean in new Tamia, whom no one could possibly accuse of being soft, and his commitment to Sharia. He writes,

00:58:08 --> 00:58:37

even if we were to assume that a person came to know every command and every prohibition in the Quran and Sunnah, the Quran and Sunnah was simply addressed matters of general categorical import, as it is impossible to do other than this, they would not mention that which is specific to each and every individual. And for this reason, humanity has been commanded to ask for guidance Houda to the straight path.

00:58:38 --> 00:59:28

Throughout this presentation, I have repeatedly argued two points one, that the Islamic secular compromise is neither the scope nor the authority of Sharia. And two, that Sharia is not the sum total of Islam. I may now add with far less fear of being misunderstood, at least I hope that Sharia is also not God. Sharia is a guide. Guidance itself, however, comes from God. And in these are increasingly complex times and troubled times. Muslims would do well to remember this fact, whether they are operating within the boundaries of Sharia or planning outside God as boundaries in the complementary complementary realm of the Islamic secular. Thank you very much.

Share Page

Related Episodes