Past Muslim scholarship and present day differences
It’s all very well saying that yours is the real Islam. You also infer that your rulings are based on the Quran and the Sunnah and the rulings/beliefs of other scholars aren’t. But there is no traditional scholar who will say that the Quran and the Hadith don’t form the basis of their belief. What we cannot avoid is the fact that the Quran and the Hadith have to be interpreted. Given a choice of over 1200 years of Hanafi scholarship and 60 odd years of Dr. Ghamidi’s scholarship, I know what I would choose.
Wahhabi/salafi/Ahl-e-Hadith thought has existed only since the 18th/19th century. It is sheer ignorance and/or arrogance on the part of Muslim modernists to suggest that the scholarship of people as great as Imam Ghazali is deviant. Not even the early Salafis and Ahl-e-Hadith leaders said that!
There has been general consensus amongst the ulema on core issues which has been disturbed by the Salafis. The Salafis are spreading fitna. They often either veer towards extreme intolerance or excessive liberalism. While there are are obviously major differences between the two, there is one common theme between what Osama bin Laden and Amina Wadud say: forget about traditional scholarship, let’s go and interpret the Quran and Hadith ourselves!
If the opinions the traditionalist hold are superior because they have a history of more than twelve hundred years, then of course in those twelve centuries you are including the Qur’an and the prophet, alaihissam, as well. Are you suggesting that scholars have remained in agreement during this period? Why then do we have the four famous schools of thought? Why is it that Imam Ibn Taimiyah disagreed with these Imams five centuries later on numerous matters and his opinions became more popular amongst a good part of the Arab world? If old is really gold and whoever comes first has the right to speak the truth and the rest of the people (late comers) have to accept what those elders have already said, why did the students of Imam Abu Hanifah disagree with him? Would you condemn them as well? Would you condemn Imam Sahfi’i for disagreeing with his teachers Imam Malik and Imam Muhammad (and his teacher Imam Abu Hanifa) not just in details of religion but in the basic principles of Islamic learning? If you will not condemn him for doing that why would you condemn the one who wants to do the same thing today in the light of Qur’an and sunnah? What is the basis of your argument that twelve hundred years are more important than two hundred years? Does the Qur’anic text and its understanding figure anywhere in your scheme of understanding the true messsage of Islam?
[This is Dr. Khalid Zaheer’s response to a blog comment.]