The Story Goes On

Not long ago, an Islamic Studies teacher in a famous Pakistani university, let’s call it Pakistan’s Premier University (PPU), had to go on a sabbatical leave for one year. Since the inception of the graduate program, he was single-handedly shouldering the burden of teaching the subject which was mandatory for all Muslim students to take. The teacher, let’s call him The Moderate (TM), was neither hugely popular nor unpopular. However, he was able to carry the burden of teaching the important subject reasonably well until the time of the leave. While he was able to bring some intelligent students closer to Islam, there were a few conservative students who were not impressed by his ideas which they felt were non-conventional. TM himself began to feel the need to have another teacher, a conservative one, who could help in maintaining a balance by catering to the needs of the conservative students too who felt that the subject of Islamic Studies was not being treated fairly at PPU.

Incidentally, just about the time when TM was leaving for his sabbatical, there appeared a conservative candidate, let’s call him The Traditionalist (TT), for taking over the assignment. The gentleman had several features that made him a better candidate for the job for PPU which primarily caters for the English-speaking elite of the country: He was born and brought up in the US; he graduated from the same top country of the world whose citizens are an envy for most students of PPU; he then shifted to Pakistan to graduate from a local seminary; he joined the ranks of Sufi saints by becoming a part of one of the many Sufi traditions (silsilah) by doing bay‘ah (oath of allegiance to attain spirituality) of a Sufi master; his appearance of white clothes, flowing beard, and a turban all work to add authenticity to his credentials of being a genuine traditional Muslim. His wife has a similarly American-cum-madrassah background.

TM was one of the interviewers of TT when the latter was being considered for the job of teaching Islamic Studies. On talking to the polite, fluent, and intelligent TT, he got convinced that the ideal man he was looking for to balance things off in teaching Islamic Studies at PPU has arrived at the right time when he was about to go for the leave. Of course, TT impressed all others too who mattered.

As anticipated by TM, TT was supremely popular amongst a large number of students. Many of them started following him and the lessons he taught. His classes would be crowded. For reasons best know to him, however, TT designed a plan to get rid of TM. On his return to PPU after the leave, TM realized that his students weren’t coming to him any more. He was informed that TT has convinced his students that since TM was not a madrassah-graduate he was not a scholar and therefore was not qualified to guide people on Islamic matters. He also convinced many of his students that the only right approach one could adopt to follow Islam was to follow the madrassah scholars blindly. TM was alarmed at learning that many students of the premier educational institution of the country had started believing in his ideology. Frustrated by the situation, TM started sending e-mail messages to the students, informing them that taqlid (the policy of blindly following scholars) was unacceptable in Islam. TM’s e-mails caused a strong reaction amongst the students many of who launched a signature campaign against him and the VC took action against him by demanding an apology to the students. TM had thought that he was doing a service to PPU by warning its students against blindly following anyone. However, he submitted to the authority of the VC and apologized to the students. And he soon left PPU, the institution that prides itself in promoting values like independence of thought and openness in exchanging views. No tears were dropped nor any regrets expressed on TM’s departure. It was an unceremonious ouster of, as if, an unwanted element that had accidentally joined the institution.

TT meanwhile celebrated the departure of TM by mentioning not just within the campus but outside of it too that he was able to, by the grace of God, get rid of the ‘deviant group’ and PPU, by His supreme kindness, was cleansed of impure elements from the team of Islamic Studies teachers. He then set about the objective of taking to task in the ‘over-westernized’ PPU the ‘Satanic elements’ in the other departments.

TM left PPU with a resolve that he will work to create institutions that would produce Islamic scholars of the right kind. He was convinced that TT was not just one person. He symbolized a prototype that was causing huge damage to the youth of the country. In order to improve the cause of education in the country, especially religious education, it was imperative that a system of education parallel to the madrassah-system be introduced. He joined an NGO that had set forth as one of its objectives the task of creating open-minded Islamic scholars. Meanwhile, TM was also able to get the opportunity to express his moderate approach towards Islam in the media on a scale he could have never imagined. He realized, and still does so, that his projection in the media far beyond his potential was a manifestation of God’s policy according to which if a man was unfairly treated, He will make sure that he finds adequate compensation elsewhere. Indeed TM has far less abilities than the response he has received through his television appearances. But then who can stop God from doing what He wills to do?

Meanwhile things have taken a new turn at PPU. Within a short period of three years, the tables have been turned at the university. The once all-empowered instructor of Islamic Studies, TT, has been denied the opportunity to teach his favorite subject. The obligation of teaching Islamic Studies is now being shared by many instructors, TT not being one of them. PPU hasn’t approached TM to take over the assignment once again nor would he be interested in doing it even if he was offered. He is happily involved in the task of pursuing his now life-time project of creating the right kind of Islamic scholars elsewhere.

Neither TM nor TT is an angel; nor is any of them a Satan. They are both ordinary mortals living in God’s world where He is at the helm of all affairs. We can fool others but we can’t fool Him. More particularly, when we try to bluff people in the garb of religiosity, God takes immediate action. Both TM and TT would do well to take that reality into account. Indeed if they continue to live for a few more years, the story is likely to take a few more turns and twists. However, no turn in this life is accidental and no twist without reason.

God can tolerate mistakes and, at times, blunders of humans in this life. He can however never tolerate injustice done by one individual to another, especially when the one who is being unjust is a religious person.

21 thoughts on “The Story Goes On

  1. Waqas

    Assalam o alaikum again.
    Sir, while being a student at PPU at the time one did get to hear a lot of rumors, mostly they were not in good taste. Rest assured, while I have always completely respected TM and TT in their capacities as teachers and people who I have personally seen bringing people towards Islam, it was this tribalism within religious students at PPU that simply disgusted me. It was at that time possibly that I strengthened my resolve not to become part of a certain faction however broad or limited it may be. If I would have actively thought about it, I would have tilted towards TM but not if that came at the expense of being anti-TT. However, the attitudes of students who divided themselves as somewhat loosely defined followers of either TM or TT, I always felt that this was trivializing Islam. And I hope I am not being disrespectful here because I don’t mean to be so, but I always felt that both TT and TM were in ways encouraging such tribalism and factionalism. It became more of a personal battle, and again I hope this is taken as academic criticism and not disrespect, but this article reminds me of that. Regardless, being TM’s student at PPU, I can count him as one of the few tremendous influences in my life who have caused me to be thinking in what I hope is the right way. Additionally though, I have high regard for TT as well and have managed to gain perspectives on that front too. But I remain as yet, and inshaAllah forever more, unattached to any ‘party’ as this prevents me from learning from individuals that I could learn so much from – so what if they may hold scholastic differences.
    And I apologize, but this article does leave a bad taste in my mouth as it reminds me of the TT vs TM debate that PPU students often indulged in – a debate that has no conclusive answer as it is often about individuals who may or may not be aware of the consequences of their encouragement to students rather than about rectifying their own selves as a result of the teachings of either TT or TM.
    And hence I fail to understand why this story still goes on. I wish it hadn’t started in the first place.
    Regards
    Waqas

  2. Dr. Ejaz Akram

    Your comment “The obligation of teaching Islamic Studies is now being shared by many instructors, TT not being one of them”, is NOT correct. [Name deleted*] whom you have called TT is still part of the co-taught Islamic Studies course, just like I am one of the co-teachers of that course. He is likely to continue until summer 2010, and then like you may be God puts him in a place where he is suppose to be.

    Khalid sb, let me also add that your article saddens me. I have always respected you and I did not expect this kind of defamatory article from you. If you had the moral courage you would have not hidden behind acronyms and become a self proclaimed ‘moderate’ by assuming the title of TM and calling [institution name deleted*] (pee pee you). All this is reflective of utter lack of ethics of disagreement and doesn’t reflect the best of Islamic behavior. It is apparent that you are still holding a grudge and now you are enjoying [TT – edited*] sb’s departure (due next year), from which I smell revengeful satisfaction on your part.

    May God guide us all.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Ejaz Akram
    [institution name deleted*]

    [* These entries have been edited to keep the identities of the individuals and institution discreet at the request of Dr. Khalid Zaheer, as that was his intent in writing the article.]

  3. Khalid Zaheer

    Assalamo Alaikum Waqas

    Thank you for your honest and pious comments on the story that you wish shouldn’t have been posted in the first place.

    I have to make a few observations on behalf of TM.

    Isn’t there a world beyond academics? What if there is a real dispute and there were conflicting claims? What if the dispute had something to do with the fundamental issue of how a subject was to be taught and how differences of opinions were to be handled? What if there was a party to the dispute that was asking the students to shut their minds and follow just one authority? Can we get away with it by making pious statements like “it leaves a bad taste in my mouth” when the situation is demanding justice to be done? TM was insulted by a student body that conducted a signature campaign against him. Obviously, the pro-TM students were neutral, pious, and non-partisan, so they silently saw the drama happening. All they had to say was that they weren’t a party to the dispute.

    TM has used a private website to discreetly give his views. He has censored the message heavily by not including some of the serious allegations. He doesn’t absolve himself completely of the blame of what happened. Do you think he is still being bad by mentioning it?

    The business program of PPU takes pride in the case-study method of teaching. It helps in enabling to learn better by analytically looking at a real-life issue. By introducing unreal names of characters, the negativity associated with criticizing individuals is lightened. TM has attempted to do just that.

    TM owed an explanation to many people who used to ask him why he had left PPU. The story was a response from him to their queries. Of course, it seems he has done it at the expense of annoying some of his pious students. He is proud of them and apologizes to them for not living up to their expectations.

  4. Khalid Zaheer

    Salaam Dr Ejaz Akram

    I respect your criticism and the tone of it. I would, however, like you to go through what I have mentioned in my response to Waqas.

    It is not a matter of moral courage or the absence of it that is the issue. I had done much more direct protestation while I was at PPU and all names were mentioned directly. Of course your busy schedule or travels may have prevented you from learning about them. It is the fundamental issue of the question of brainwashing students and instigating them against fellow teachers that is the point of discussion. There is a religious ideology that claims openly and boldly that blindly following the authority of someone is what Islam demands from its followers. Whatever happened in the story was the unfortunate outcome of that ideology. I protested then and am still protesting that the claim about our religion is false.

    The reason why I didn’t mention the names was that those who knew the issue didn’t need any clarifications while those who didn’t, needed only to know the moral of the story.

    The fact that you have found it important to attack my sense of morality is welcome. I know that I am worse than what you have mentioned. And I need good people like you to continue criticizing me for my correction.

    Thanks for correcting the facts. Let me politely disagree with you in the way you have unnecessarily made known what was not necessary to be done.

    One piece of advice from an elder brother: While writing something to be posted for others to read, do make sure that your temper is in your full control and that you read the piece twice. I have violated the principle and have regretted many times for doing that.

    If not for any other reason, my story was worthwhile simply because it enabled me to get in contact with a good person like you again. Thanks for writing. My website is richer after accommodating your views. That those views have condemned me like hell doesn’t matter at all.

  5. Dr. Ejaz Akram

    Dear Khalid sb,
    Salams again!

    1. Please be assured that I read that piece very very carefully.
    2. Please be assured that my temper is in full control: neither you nor [TT – edited*] are either my relatives or schoolmen. Please read my message again and tell me if I made any indecent remark(s). You are both my colleagues and both of you can testify I that I have always respected you.
    3. Please be assured that I am aware of all the on-scence and behind the scene things (the things at [PPU – edited*] and also from among some of your colleagues of al-mawrid).
    4. I still think that such an article should not have been written in the first place, secondly if it had to be written, one should not have even made a cursory reference to people and institution, but only deal with their ideas and criticize them. Do you really think that all those who read this will not figure out who is who by hiding the real names behind acronyms used in this article? Outside of [PPU – edited*] this may not have any relevance anyway. The real audience for such an article CAN only be [PPU – edited*] and not citizens of Pakistan, who either don’t give a hoot about the issue, or who may be more likely to lean towards ‘TT’.
    5. I have had many disagreements with [TT – edited*] sb on issues pertaining to religion and philosophy, but I never had the urge to write such a piece. I sense your intolerance of his ideas, which is why after such a long time you still seems to be having trouble letting go of this issue.

    I shall stop here and wish that our reunion took place in person and not on the web, but I do appreciate you allowing me to post my opinions on your site. Happy belated Eid!!

    Wassalam,
    Ejaz.

    [* These entries have been edited to keep the identities of the individuals and institution discreet at the request of Dr. Khalid Zaheer, as that was his intent in writing the article.]

  6. Faisal

    I had never been a student at PPU & either of TM or TT but thanks to Dr Khalid Zaheer for highlighting and bring forward a deep rooted and penetrated issue of Religious Sectarianism, Self Righteousness and intolerance/bigotory which is now even affecting Pakistan’s Premier Universities.

    I do not understand here, that, why the High-ups and Management of University didn’t take stand against TT- when he was violating “academic ethics” and “moralities” of forcing students to “blindly follow” his version of Islam and floursing the already existing conservative element in students?

    The very reason for which Group of “Conservative” students were enrolled in the university was that, their alma matter, can uproot all elements of prejudice, blind following, intolerance and develop in them critical thinking abilitiy and make them better humans – it’s tragic to know that it was not done.

  7. Umer

    Assalam o alaikum,

    I am really surprised that this blog could also had a place for such an article and then for such comments. If, with all due respect, Ejaz sb wouldn’t have mentioned the hidden names, it would have been much better, because people like me might have never known who were TM,TT and PPU.

    I would shortly like to tell my story, that not long ago, I thought people like Khalid sb had some jewish agenda, and also that Ghamidi sb might be one of those fitnas that are mentioned in the Ahadith. May God forgive me, but that was how I was brainwashed by the rhetoric of some religious personalities, no one mentioned these things to me, but I naturally had to think like that.

    Having reservations on the biased attitude of the religious people, I kept on looking at the arguments regarding religion of different religious personalities with an open mind, and may God make me able to do that till I die, because I can always be wrong. This attitude allowed me to listen to Khalid sb even after not being entertained by his point of views initially, or else I would have been mentioning to others that don’t listen to him, he is a fitna, kafir and God knows what I would have said. In my opinion, people like Khalid sb can never be as famous as others, atleast for the time being, because the level from where he talks, you need to work very hard to reach it, and you need to have the right attitude to understand him.

    Having said that, I am really dissapointed with this article, I don’t think there was any need for this, such articles take people away from the authors. I guess if some injustice is done to someone, he should leave the matter to the court of Almighty.

    I would humbly suggest to Khalid sb that this article should be deleted and this blog should never have any space for such an article again.

  8. Khalid Zaheer

    Dear Dr Ejaz Akram

    You have accused TM of writing his blog-story out of sentiments of revenge against TT and have mentioned that TM didn’t have the moral courage to state the names openly; instead he sheepishly tool refuge behind the garb of acronyms. You have claimed that your message was carefully written and didn’t suffer from emotional outrage. I accept what you have mentioned as coming from you sincerely and I thank you for doing it. Please pray to God for me then that He should give me moral courage to cleanse my heart from all emotions of vengeance against others. Indeed more than the question as to whose arguments were stronger it is the moral performance of the individual that will count on the Day of Judgment. And I don’t want to win the battle of arguments at the expense of success on that day.

    My motivation of writing the story was very clear: We cannot bring the younger generation closer to Islam unless we invite them intelligently towards its message. The religious personalities must cooperate with each other in this huge task. The entire world is a battle ground where our religion is pitched against Satan. This is more particularly true in the case of our religious institutions. The Premier Pakistani University’s case was particularly important. TM, despite his differences with TT, welcomed the prospect of the latter joining him in this battle. TT had other views. Like TM, TT too was sincere in giving Satan a fight. However, he included TM not in his camp but in the opposite category.
    TT had a right to do so had he done it the correct way. However, he chose to use negative tactics, which he may have thought to be positive given his religious training. He informed his students that TM was a deviant, that he — not being a scholar — didn’t have a right to talk on religion, that he and his teacher were the rejecters of hadith (Munire Hadith) etc. TT would talk about these issues in the class. He would emotionally blackmail his students by asking them how they will be able to face accountability on Judgment Day when TM’s teacher will be standing on one side of the trial and the rest of the scholars of the ummah would be standing on the other side.

    TM was helpless because there was no communication possible. Had these issues been debated openly with students listening to both views, TM would have informed the students how baseless those arguments were. He would have let them know that ijma‘ (consensus of opinion of scholars) was a misnomer given the fact that Imam Shafi’i, Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, Imam Razi, Imam Ibn Hazm to name a few have ridiculed the very possibility of ijma‘ ever taking place. TT knew quite well that his best chances of winning the battle were in not allowing the exchange of views to take place. And that is exactly what he managed to do.

    TM wrote the blog-story discreetly to bring home two points: This world is run by God and He knows who is doing what. TM, TT, and all others should be mindful of this fact. Their story shows that short-term gains can at times be disastrous.

    TM didn’t know that TT was leaving PPU in 2010. It hardly matters to whether he leaves the institution or not. TM is thankful to him for helping him realize that it was a waste of his time to stay at PPU. He couldn’t have left PPU had he not observed TT’s behavior. TM is now convinced that the solution to the problem of religious extremism, bigotry, and self-righteousness lies in creating institutions that would make non-TT scholars. He is happily engaged in that assignment.

    TM doesn’t claim that his motivation in writing the blog-story was without any hint of sentiments of vengeance against TT. However when you are fighting a cause, at times your personal emotions get mixed up with your attachment to the cause. It is very difficult to remain pure in such situations. Satan does play an active role in exploiting the situation. I seek refuge in Allah from getting used by Satan for his purposes.

    Allow me to alter your messages in a way that your explicit mention of names is replaced by the discreet acronyms you dislike, so that the story serves the purpose that TM wants it to.

    Belated Eid Mubarak to you as well.

  9. Ali

    Salam,I would like Dr Khalid Zaheer Sb to guide his readers about the “Religious Directives” in such situation as faced by TM ? What directives,teachings and attitude religion advises us to adopt if one is faced injustice,exploitation and humiliation at large ?

  10. Salman Ahmed

    Assalam-u-Alaikum Dr. Khalid and Others:

    It is a noble desire of us to see people not disagreeing and even if they do, they do it to themselves and not make things public. However, when the issue involves religion and the correct viewpoint of religion, then one must (though after a thorough research) uphold the correct viewpoint.

    Once Ghamidi Sahab in a close gathering was telling about the scholarly traits of Maulana Maududi Sahab. Maududi Sahab used to ask the people while posing questions that ‘let me think over it and let me get back to you’. He preferred giving answers in writing over verbal discourse. In that meeting, Ghamidi Sahab was also mentioning the points of disagreements he had with Maulana Maududi Sahab. I asked him ‘why then we still respect him so much’.

    Then, Ghamidi Sahab told me and others precisely that giving respect or scholarly credit to others must not become a function of one’s affiliation, affinity or agreement with his/her school of thought. He then said that he now has probably as much scholarly disagreement with his teacher Maulana Islahi about whom he wrote that ‘my greatest gift in life is to have studied under Islahi Sahab’.

    Last week, I was taking a class at University of East, Hyderabad where i teach. I was teaching communism, one student mentioned that in his opinion Ghamidi Sahab is also a communist. I gave the answer which Islahi Sahab gave to people who were after declaring him heretic. I told them ‘I know him and you do not know him’.

    When something is recommended to be followed in a religious way; then, it is every Muslim’s right to ask (and responsibility in most cases especially of Scholars) the religious source of such a recommendation. The religious recommendation has to come from Quran or the Way of Prophet. It can even come from Authentic not contradictory to Quran Ahadith. But, in no way, can it be accepted or should it be accepted that one is asked to follow blindly.

    Therefore, in my opinion, the gist and reason of telling the story is to humbly ask the religious sources which recommend one to blindly follow. It is not just that one needs to give the source favoring this opinion, but also need to give an interpretation of verses in Chapter Qamar and in many other places in Quran where it is asked ‘Why do you people not ponder’, ‘why do you not pay heed’, ‘we have made this message easier for you to understand, will someone pay heed’ etc.

    Salman Ahmed

  11. Salman Tahir

    Dear Everyone Assalamualaikum,

    Interestingly, many such incidents consistently happen in professional organizations in which students of PPU aspire to get recruited. The ethical orientation of these students is shaped by teachers like TM and TT. A social environment is hence constructed by these individuals in these organizations. And such organizations are increasingly becoming important entities of our working society. So when a teacher like TT, despite excellent academic credentials, and representing a popular religious viewpoint, is endorsing such politics of undermining fellow colleagues, by actively participating in it, what professional environment are we foreseeing to build in PPU. And Later on in the world we live in.

    Let me admit, I am heavily influenced by TM’s views due to long association with him as a student. Let me also admit that the presentation of TT in some matters also impresses me. I think this openness to listen to TT has been to large extent provided by the culture of PPU and teaching of TM. I have a feeling that the same is not granted to students of TT. While they may be fulfilling their other religious duties in a better way than I do.

    I feel it is unfortunate that at an institution like PPU, which we dearly remember as our alma matter, a situation of “TM vs. TT” was created. It is unfortunate that some people consider it necessary for their service of religion, to compromise on the moral and professional qualities, required for a fair execution of their academic and professional duties. We see the same story of unnecessary and uncalled for rivalries among competing mosques in our Muhallahs.

    The administration at PPU should have ensured that the free thinking / discussion environment which has been a hallmark of the institution was not undermined at any time. In the process of doing so, it should have made a sincere and honest effort to inquire about who cast the first stone. It should then not have shirked from taking action against the subsequent use of unfair tactics which are patently unbecoming of an academic personality at PPU.

    I am not an authority on religion. Neither should I judge who has better rewards in the Hereafter. I am however a participant of practical world, which is full of competition and at times it is very tempting and seemingly ‘fair’ to idulge in political activities to undermine, or ‘get rid of’ or create a negative perception of your rivals. I dont find it aesthetically pleasing to see students of PPU falling in the trap of doing these things, just because a teacher who taught them ethics found no problem in doing the same, and that too in the name of religion.

    Regards,
    Salman

  12. Khalid Zaheer

    Dear Ali

    The following are the etiquette of disagreement that I believe we should follow as Muslims:

    i) If one disagrees with another person, one should talk or write to him directly.
    ii) If the other person presents an explanation, one should consider it sympathetically, even if one disagrees with it.
    iii) One should not doubt the intentions of the other person even when one disagrees with him.
    iv) One shouldn’t use foul language, demonstrate stern behavior, or misuse people in one’s influence to cause harm to the other party in disagreement.
    v) One should be prepared to constantly review one’s opinion in the wake of information one receives from the other side.
    vi) One should try to be fair in forming opinions and making comments and criticisms about the others.

    One should try to remain calm, patient, and graceful in the wake of humiliation. One should resort to whatever legal recourse is available. But one should never stoop low by retaliating in a tit-for-tat manner.

    TM admits that his behavior during those testing times was less than ideal. He regrets the wrongs he committed during the difficult period. He wants to assure his well-wishers that their criticism does affect him. It isn’t that he has narrated the story with great pride. It is a sad account of a story he still believes should be told. As and when he would realize that it should disappear, you wouldn’t find it on his website.

  13. Khalid Zaheer

    Assalamo Alaikum

    True to their well-known religious orientation, Tablighi brothers maintained an apparently neutral stance on the issue. Their inner affiliations were more towards TT than towards TM. Even though they may not state it, Tablighi brothers have a strong emotional attachment to the traditional madrassah system, Deobandi point of view, and tasawwuf. TM was hopelessly lacking in all these areas of qualification. The fact that he received love and good company from them during his eight-years stay at PPU is an indication that the Tablighis know how to stick to their basics despite their biases.

    The only problem TM has with his Tablighi brothers is that their view on religion allows no debate except the one in which they are delivering and the other person is receiving. Islam is reduced to an ideology only for the gullible; an otherwise highly intelligent PhD from Stanford, Princeton, or MIT can be seen completely shutting up his mind and accepting the most ludicrous information in the name of religion. That indeed is a great tragedy.

    The presence of TT on the one hand and the Tablighi brothers on the other in PPU makes the institution a very interesting place for the social scientists to investigate as to how intelligent young minds get influenced by their ideologies.

  14. Amir

    I have studied in PU between 1999-2003, apart from TM,TT and tablighi jamaat group there was also what some people called the wahabi, ahle hadis or salafi group, one of their members who was also the convener of the masjid commitee openly critisiced TM.

    I heard they all left PPU in protest after one of their members was kicked out because he demanded that girls and boys sit seperately and because he missed one class because he was sad the day sheikh Yaseen was killed.

  15. Salman

    Sir,

    If you were in place of the VC of PPU – how would you have resolved the issue?

    Administratively, Is it OK to make decision in favor of Majority’s opinion, (I am assuming from the story above that TT and followers were in majority), at the expense of Minority (Again assuming that in numbers TM and supporters were a silent minority)? What minimum rights should have been granted to Minority?

    Regards,
    Salman

  16. Khalid Zaheer

    Assalamo Alaikum

    There were several teachers who left PPU en masse because they felt the institution was too liberal. TM was of the opinion that all those faculty members knew before joining it that PPU was liberal. To him the right strategy should have been to attempt a gradual reform intelligently, instead of demanding radical changes. However, there can always be a difference of opinion on such issues.

    TM didn’t enjoy very warm relations with the members of that group; there weren’t any serious problems either. It’s just that the kind of cordial relations one would expect amongst Masjid-going Muslims were simply not there. But most certainly TM was to be blamed equally for it.

    If one of the members of the that group openly criticized TM, it was his right. It isn’t quite as much the act criticism that is wrong as the attitude of the critic and the one criticized as well as the contents and the arguments in support of the criticism.

    The VC should have simply told the students that TM was exercising his right of mentioning his views to them; if they didn’t find them convincing they should ignore those views; in case some of the views were convincing, they should accept them. VC should have told the students (some of the signatories were simply unaware of what they were doing; they were forced to sign by the peer pressure) that he had no right to stop a teacher from expressing his views to the students. A university is a place of learning in an environment of diversity; those who were not prepared to celebrate that diversity should find some other place to study.

    However, if the VC wasn’t quite sure about the significance of freedom of expression in a university, he should have called a faculty meeting to discuss the issue. The fact that he required TM to tender an apology to the students was not a very wise decision. If you reprimand a teacher on telling students that blindly following others is wrong, you are paving the way for religious extremism in your institution. If PPU was invaded by religious bigotry, self-righteousness, and extremism after the departure of TM, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. TM is not basking in revengeful pleasure on learning about it; he is simply wondering if that lesson has been learnt by the authorities of PPU.

    TM must confess however that he never bothered to inform the very high-ups of PPU about what had happened despite the fact that he knew one of them at least very well. Probably they don’t even know even now about it, even though ‘the story goes on’.

  17. Maaz Bin Noor

    Assalamulikum!

    Islam does not require an entirely different approach of ascertaining religious knowledge. It demands the very same methodology of understanding that we use in other acadamic desciplines also. In Qura’an it is humen intellect that is addressed and these are five senses that are required to extract the truth within and around;” DO not the see”", ” Do not they ponder”, ” Do not they think with care”.
    If TT had any intellectual disagreements with the TM regarding interpretation of any religious matter, why did’nt he bring them infront of his audience in an open and healthy environment. Why did’nt TT let his students to go scientifically about his version of a matter and convinced them on merit by listening to both of the parties. Just like in any other subject students are allowed to accept an argument on the basis of its strength not dominance or prevalance.

    I think the story indicates an evolutionary trend within our society where some people have started taking there religion logically and have stopped believeing any thing without establishing its real link with Quran and Sunnah. Except these two sources no personality has the right to go unchecked or unquestioned and become a part of our belief. I think it is only about time that the struggle initiated by TM will bring fruits to the muslim youth and will stick them closely to the fold of the right religion. This time with all conviction. Insh’Allah

  18. Khalid Zaheer

    Assalamo Alaikum Maaz

    The simple response to your query is that TM tried to reach to the students through emails because otherwise TT had convinced them not to listen to TM. When he used his right to approach the students through emails, the VC of PPU — the Premier Pakistani University — stopped him from doing it and asked him to apologize to the students.

    I agree with you that an evolutionary trend has started that promises to replace the trend of emotionally acquired religious understanding with one that requires a religious view to be logically appreciated before it is accepted. PPU was expected to take lead in initiating and strengthening the process. Alas, it turned out to be the otherwise, because a faculty member and the VC of it had religious approaches, which though conflicting in their results, were similar in their methodology. The similarity in their methodology was based on the idea that what the elders have already said cannot be questioned and challenged; that challenging religious views of the espoused scholars of Muslims is a sin.

  19. Inam Abd Al Bari

    Khalid Zaheer Sb, Asalamualaikum. I had been a student of your class while I was doing my MBA in Punjab University in 1981-82. I remember that you used to teach us some subject (correct me if I am wrong) related to management. I am pleasantly surprised to know that you have stepped in religious arena, not as a student but as a teacher/scholar. (May Allah enlighten you more.)

    Khalid Sb, let me ask you a question first, not because I differ with your urge to represent Islam in its proper perspective, but because I feel very strongly that the tendency to step in a specialised field (here of interpreting the religious injunctions) without having credible credentials is questionable everywhere. Please also do not consider my question with relation to the specific issue at PPU or with reference to TT, as I have no intention to indulge in individual difference whatsoever. My point is also not in the background of the specific issue at PPU, but it is concerning the discussion which emerges in its background and has a legal, ethical and religious connotation. My Question is that why is it only religious scholarship, acquired through a process in an institution called Madrasa (religious school) challenged? Why is the same rule not applied to other disciplines in the society? One can differ with the credentials of a certain institution on the basis of merit and standard, but the whole school of thought cannot be rejected without strong evidence and arguments. Will you allow a person who has not acquired an MBBS degree from a recognised institution to be a doctor, or does law permit him to practice in a hospital or private clinic? Of course not. Recently such a case was detected in a civil hospital in Rawalpindi and the Medical Superintendent was suspended.

    Personally, I may not agree with our religious leaders/scholars on few issues, but in what capacity I stand to challenge their academic understanding of the religious issues acquired through a process of learning in a Madrasa over period of time in a historical background. Understanding of the issue at personal level is one thing and interpretation and giving opinion on the matters related to common masses is another.

    If a quack cannot replace a doctor, how can a self-claimed scholar be given the right to interpret issues of sensitive nature. If that is not the case then why Caliphs during Muslim History required Imams to give injunctions on religious issues. Why they did not do it them self or get it from any self proclaimed scholar in those times. They knew where the authenticity lied, that’s why they were forced to refer these matters to such personalities who had an acceptance in masses, by virtue of their knowledge and stature. Please do not misunderstand me for pleading ’popism’ in Islam, that’s why I refrained from using the term religious authority for religious scholars but rather referred it as Religious Authenticity.

    If the principal of interpreting religious injunctions is left to every individual then imagine the chaos. In such a case Governor Punjab needs no advice to what is right or wrong from religious point of view; he can claim his own understanding of religion, may get away with it. Are you ready to give him such leverage? But having said that, I cannot deny exceptions, like Syed Abul Ala Maududi Rehmatullahalaii. But again his authenticity was accepted in wide circles of Muslim world through his priceless work in all the Islamic fields. If someone can rise to that echelon, the acceptance will generally be there, but undermining the institution as a whole will be disastrous for the Umma. Please do not think that I am approving, in any way, the maligning of non-madrasa scholars by the madrasa certified ulema, as no one can snatch the right to enlighten oneself with religious or non-religious knowledge, but being informed of medicines does not qualify someone to start writing prescriptions for people in the streets.

    In the end, I would like to clarify that all that I have appended above is my humble understanding as a student and I do not claim any hard lines. I would like to read what you have to say to change my perspective.

  20. Maaz Bin Noor

    Assalamulikum to Mr Inam Abd ul Bari!

    Well i read your comment. You have expressed your views in a comprehensive manner.
    There is no doubt that Prophet Muhammad PBUH has fully communicated the noble message of Allah to the mankind. The salvation of the entire humanity depends on people’s approach towards accepting the message of Deen Al Islam. The two basic sources of religion have reached us with Twatur whereby generations after generations have forwarded this Deen in shape of Qur’an and Sunnah. It is so pure and transparent that even today a sincere student of Deen may differenciate matters related to deen from matters that were made a part of Deen due to misconception. In my openion there are some basic questions at the background of Dr khalid’s approach and your questions regarding his approach;

    1) What is the difference between Sunnah and Hadith? If like Qur’an Sunnah is also transferred through Tawatur then can Suunah be similer to Hadith the reporting of which was left on a person’s choice??

    2) Can Hadith add something to the original message of Deen or it only explains the matters discussed in Qur’an and Sunnah?

    3) what is the difference between Fiqah and Shariah?

    4) If Fiqah is an interpretation of Islamic Shariah, then is it possible that our respectable Fuqaha would have done some humenly mistakes while interprating shariah?

    5) If we believe in the possibility that those respectable Fuqaha would possibly have made humenly errors while explaing shariah, does Qura’n and Sunnah (being the original sources) provide us with the knowledge to rectify those mistakes?

    6)What if a pure matter of interpretation by Fuqaha sometimes (unintentionally) exceeds the boundary of mere interpretation and introduces some additions in the original Deen while the conclusion of that matter does not have its basis in Qura’n and Sunnah?

    These are very important questions the answer to which will reveal the need of reviewing the whole acadamic history of Muslims in the light of Qur’an (the centre of Deen’s knowledge) .

    Coming back to your question; In my openion, surely no body has the right to claim an authority/authenticity concerning to any academic decipline without having proper certification. But still you belive that there can be exceptions to this standard like you quoated Maulana Maududi R.A. We have to keep in mind that the traditional Ulama even did’nt accept Maulana’s status just because he had no Madrasah degree. The decision then was left on the choice of the audienece; whether they find his openion in accordance with what Quran and Sunnah direct.

    Infact, with in the limits of Eemaniyat prescribed by Quran, every scholler gives an argument and presents it before its followers on the basis of its strenght. No where does any one of them say that because i enjoy a respectable status as a religious scholler so on the basis of it you should accept my openion as a matter of fact. To relate his openion with Qur’an and Sunnah, every scholler has done reasoninq to be evaluated by the generations to come.
    Yes institutional certification is an important criteria to accept an openion as an authentic one but is it the only criteria? had it been the only criteria in muslim history? or even did it exist before the 17th centuary?? Did not the Aima e araba disagree with each other on the basis of their arguments?. Did such a disagreement exist because they were all humen beings and none of them had the final say? With all the respect for the valuable work done by our religious schollers, i think that the endevour of muslims to understand quran and (demand answers from it ) will always create needs for exceptions like Maulana Maududi.

    Finally, if we agree that the certification and strength of the argument are two basic criterias for a scholler’s openion to be accepted, then both of these should be equally apprieciated.

    Jazakallah

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