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Colloquium

[fullwidth background_color=”” background_image=”” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”60″ padding_bottom=”20″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” menu_anchor=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]IPSA debates the Khilafah

Auwais Rafudeen

On the 23rd March 2015, the International Peace College South Africa (IPSA) hosted a colloquium entitled “Understandings of Khilafah: Examining Current geopolitical complexities in the Muslim world.”

For a number of years now, IPSA has become renowned for seeking to address topical issues from the perspective of the “Middlle Way” – the Quranic perspective of balance that has traditionally informed the approach of the vast majority of this Ummah’s scholars.

This colloquium was no different. Headlined by accomplished Islamic legal scholar, Professor Jasser Auda as well as prominent politician and founder of the World for All foundation, Mr Ebrahim Rasool, the colloquium sought to shed light on current events in the Middle East in a way that went beyond media headlines and focused instead on the underlying structural issues at play.

This did not mean that these headlines were ignored. As IPSA’s principal, Shaykh Ighsaan Taliep made clear in his introduction, the “khilafah” of Isis has been condemned by ulama, including the Muslim Judicial Council and Muslims need to be unequivocal in this regard. He also reiterated that the factional conflict which has become the hallmark of the conflict in the Middle East is thoroughly unIslamic. A Middle Way response, he suggested, would look at alternative models of communal living that have been proven to cultivate successful co-existence.    The South African Muslim community, in Shaykh Ighsaan’s opinion, is a sterling example in this regard.

Professor Auda addressed the question: “What is an Islamic state?” He made it clear that Isis is merely a symptom of a larger problem, namely, a fundamental lack of understanding on what an “Islamic State” entails. In Professor Auda’s view, a true Islamic state is not a formal or rule-based state but is driven by moral requirements. In the Shariah, these requirements find their expression in the domain of the maqasid, namely, the objectives of the law. These objectives are   centred on the protection of religion, life (including body), mind, wealth, offspring and dignity. A state is Islamic to the extent that it preserves and enhances these objectives, not by a mere formal declaration of being an Islamic state or of implementing Islamic law. Judged by such criteria, some Western states turn out to be more “Islamic” than Muslim ones!

Deputy Principal of IPSA, and noted South African expert on Islamic law, Shaykh Dr Abdul Kariem Toffar, affirmed Professor Auda’s position and argued that it made contextualization in the teaching of the Sharia imperative. One cannot just “cut and paste” certain rules of fiqh that developed under different social and political circumstances to our current landscape.

Former Ambassador Rasool, in his presentation, implored his listeners to see this seemingly low ebb in the history of Islam as a space in which to rethink, regroup and reimagine the Ummah. As such, it can be a positive space as the notion of “victory” in the Quran can be seen in a complex way. Among issues that such a space needs to urgently address is Sunni/Shia faultline, the Islamist/secular divide and the problem of extremism.  New forms of politics can then be imagined, one that places emphasis on ethics and avoids the extremes of the secular state on the one hand and a totalizing one that speaks in the name of Islam on the other.

Professor Aslam Fataar of Stellenbosch University pursued the point by noting that the modern nation state has failed to provide the ‘good life’ to all. It has failed as a source of securing happiness and well-being for the world as a whole as can be seen in particular local contexts.  Isis, he implied, is not only symptomatic of problems in the Muslim world, but of the global order and its neoliberal logic. It was clear from his observations that, in order pursue social justice for all, we need to rethink the logic of this order.

The thoughts expressed by these speakers  were richly enhanced and problematized by a number of discussants that were present. The discussants included Safiyyah Surtee, Nabeweya Malik, Dr Andrea Brigaglia, Sh Ismail Qamane,  Sh Fakhrudin Owaisi, Moulana Ebrahim Bham, Dr Anwah Nagia and Moulana Muhammed Sheikh.

Ably facilitated by well-known journalist, Shafiq Morton, the colloquium at the very least alerted us to the fact that the complexities around the understandings of khilafah run deep: they involve, theological, geopolitical and even philosophical considerations. And they involve not only the Muslim world, but the world as a whole. A “Middle Way” response to the current crisis starts by appreciating this complexity.[/fusion_text][/fullwidth]

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