Sunday, January 23, 2022

What Happened To Hilm (Forbearance) In Public Discourse?

By Junaid Jahangir, New Age Islam 23 January 2022 Consider For Instance How The Topic Of Ahmadis Riles Conservative Pakistanis, And The Issue Of Male Circumcision Rankles Progressive Muslims Main Points: 1. With the advent of social media there is no dearth of spaces where individuals can engage in conversations on myriad topics 2. Social media elicits caustic attitudes. 3. People don’t show the same grace that they expect of others. ----- With the advent of social media there is no dearth of spaces where individuals can engage in conversations on myriad topics. While this allows people to share ideas, it also elicits caustic attitudes. This happens across the left-right, socialist-capitalist, and atheist-religious spectrums of worldviews. Social media users spend less time understanding others and more time preaching soundbites, trolling others, feeling offended, or labelling others if they refuse to acquiesce to their worldview. Often people don’t show the same grace that they expect of others. And this happens in both the conservative and progressive circles of Muslims. In both spaces there is a stark absence of Hilm (forbearance), which refers to a disposition based on patience and the control of one’s anger. Consider for instance how the topic of Ahmadis riles conservative Pakistanis, and the issue of male circumcision rankles progressive Muslims. Conservative Pakistanis In response to my recent article on the institutionalized prejudice against Ahmadis, some Pakistanis left laughing emojis, others questioned highlighting “irrelevant issues”, and the moderators of a Pakistani platform blocked the article to keep their community “safe”. To laugh or mock and then to reject any thoughtful discussion on the persecution of a vulnerable minority is their prerogative. But it is also the hallmark of a people who wish to remain ignorant of uncomfortable truths or who wreak oppression on others but claim perpetual victimhood for themselves. Come to think of it, the Ahmadi issue is much ado about nothing. Based on their sources, Ahmadis believe in the return of the promised Messiah and justify it based on their reading of the Qur’anic verses and Hadith texts. In contrast, mainstream Muslims read the Qur’anic texts differently and reject the Hadith texts and the corpus of Sufi beliefs that substantiate Ahmadi beliefs. The faith of both mainstream Muslims and Ahmadis is missionary and they take the rejection of their doctrine or promised Messiah seriously. What should have been a simple difference of opinion, has instigated insecure conservative Pakistanis to rationalize their discrimination. However, even if conservative Pakistanis reject Ahmadi beliefs as heretical, there is enough scope in Islamic literature for radical inclusion. For instance, verse 4:94 of the Qur’an admonishes that “do not say to one who gives you [a greeting of] peace 'You are not a believer”. There is the Hadith that admonishes calling someone who recites the Kalima (Muslim testimonial) a Kafir. In a similar vein, Abu Hanifa (d. 767) taught that a statement comprising of 99% of disbelief but only 1% of belief would still not amount to Kufr (apostasy). Likewise, Khawaja Mir Dard’s (d. 1785) opined that someone cannot be called a Kafir even if he follows novel beliefs in most matters. Focusing exclusively on personalities revered in Pakistan, Iqbal argued that Turkey remained Muslim despite rejecting many Islamic practices, based only on allegiance to the Kalima (Muslim testimonial), and expressed a radical narrative that just confessing the unity of God was sufficient to be Muslim. Similarly, Jinnah, accepted Ahmadis as part of the Muslim League, and when pressed upon their Muslim identity, firmly stated that, “what right have I to declare a person non-Muslim when he claims to be a Muslim”? In short, instead of showing Hilm, conservative Pakistanis aggressively lash out at opposing viewpoints. Progressive Muslims The same holds true for progressive Muslims, whose primary affiliation is to western framework of rights than to Islamic principles and worldview. I observed this in a recent discussion by some progressive Muslims who were offended by the idea of male circumcision as it went against the consent of the child. In their group, they lashed out against mainstream Muslim commenters, mocked them, and rode their “moral” high horse in contempt. The same dynamics that one observes in judgmental conservative spaces were at play here. Apart from consent, the concerns in such spaces usually revolve around the perceived diminished pleasure from lack of foreskin. Such viewpoints abound in western spaces where sometimes naked men walk in Pride Parades to assert their rights against male circumcision. Of course, some progressive Muslims are inspired by activism that chiefly rests on issues of rights and consent. However, Islam is clear that male circumcision is one of the sunnah practices on tatheer (cleanliness). It is a practice that rests on tawatur (broad authentication) from Abrahamic times and like the prohibition of pork, has been upheld through general Muslim practice. It is also a practice like dietary restriction that binds a community through stigma or sacrifice. The western understanding of “consent” here is as limited as it is to tribal customs and practices on piercings, anointments, and rites of passage. Just as foisting western values on such tribes would be viewed through the lens of cultural colonialism, the same would apply for general Muslim and Jewish practices. Apart from cleanliness, some allude to the benefits of reduced probability of STIs. This does not mean that circumcision completely eradicates the probability of acquiring an infection, but it diminishes the odds. Indeed, in their popular book Super Freakonomics, the authors indicate how circumcision helped reduce HIV transmission as other policy changes reached their limits. One can understand this in the age of COVID, as vaccines do not reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus to zero but substantially reduce the odds of acquiring severe disease. However, several progressive Muslims do not buy such medical claims on the benefits of circumcision as “proofs”, even as scientific advancement rests less on proofs and more on preponderance of evidence. Generally, such individuals argue that people can spend extra time for cleanliness instead of circumcision. However, behavioural change is quite difficult, which is noted through observing how people don’t change their habits on being environmentally conscious despite policy incentives. Consider the many people who do not wash their hands as they leave the washroom. As documented in Super Freakonomics, this has included medical doctors in the U.S., who of all people should know better. To conclude, like conservative Pakistanis, progressive Muslims do not hold space for opposing ideas with Hilm. Just as conservatives are confined by their worldview where any opposing doctrinal view is heresy, progressives are shaped by their worldview where Islamic practices are rejected based on current popular worldviews. I have found individuals from both groups to be scathingly judgmental. There is neither religious grace nor humility here. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan captures it well: “There are only two types of men who can keep their balance when under critical fire. The first is the one who fears God … If the criticism is meant to belittle him, it does not matter to him, as he has already accepted his humble position. The other type of man who does not react to criticism is the one with a scientific temperament. … His attention becomes focused on the truth of the matter and not on hurtful comments. A strong reaction to criticism only proves that a man is devoid of piety and has no true academic leanings. If such a man is criticized, he presumably deserves it.” ------ Junaid Jahangir is an Assistant Professor of Economics at MacEwan University. He is the co-author of Islamic Law and Muslim Same-Sex Unions. With Dr. Hussein Abdullatif, a paediatric endocrinologist in Alabama, he has co-authored several academic papers on the issue of same-sex unions in Islam. He contributed this article to URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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