Bismillah. I attended this on Saturday 12th June 2010 and spoke on “Does the Muslim World Need A Scientific Revolution?” Main points: we need to be more analytical/contextual about tafsir, hadith, fiqh etc. Plus reflections from a Muslim viewpoint on the 9 main effects of the Scientific Revolution in the West according to Prof. John Henry in his book, The Scientific Revolution & the Origins of Modern Science, Palgrave, 3rd ed, 2008. These 9 points are in the 1st two pages of the book and are enough, you can skip the rest of the book if you wish. And you can read those two pages & more for free on Amazon’s Look Inside feature!
Amina Wadud spoke via video-link in the morning before I got there. Merryl-Wynn Davies was there, nice to finally meet a childhood heroine who is often confused with Mariam Davis, another convert from the same era. Merryl-Wynn is currently running the relaunch of the Muslim Institute as a Fellowship / Learned Society with journals, conferences, workshops etc. Jeff Mirza the comedian was there: Jeff is his stage name & he’s an East Londoner. No relative of Shazia Mirza.
Asghar Ali Engineer: India passed a new law against domestic violence recently; a senior Muslim leader said that they’d “… deprived us of our God-given right to hit our wives.”
There was a fascinating presentation on evolution by Dr. Shanavas of the USA. Darwin must have known of William Draper’s work, the US chemist, & of the evolutionary novel Hayy b. Yaqzan by Ibn Tufayl, since several English translations were widespread at that time. Draper wrote roughly that Christian theologians were too constrained, and should learn from “Mohammedan societies that developed & are comfortable with evolutionary ideas.” If this analysis is correct, Darwin’s theory had many ingredients from Muslim thinkers (Ibn Miskawayh, Jahiz, Rumi, Ibn Tufayl, etc.) and is effectively an Islamic theory. Rather ironic!
Hassan Mahmoud the Bangladeshi film-maker gave away DVDs of his film Hila about the oppression of women in the name of Sharia.
The “hijabis” there thanked me for defending their right to wear the headscarf, since a veiled woman can be a symbol of God. (God is veiled by creation & our egos.) Several of the revert sisters there had removed the headscarf after many years of wearing it since they felt it was counterproductive.
I politely challenged the total Hadith-rejecters there such as Edip Yuksel. His view is strongly based on seeing his mum, who he feels was buried alive in Turkey by being forced to wear a burqa, not having a real life & totally dependent on her husband. There are many weak, fabricated & problematic ahadith but the Hadith-rejecters throw the baby out with the bathwater, and I told them that. They are keen to assert the primacy of the Qur’an over the Sunnah. At the other extreme, some of the Ahl al-Hadith said things like, “The Sunnah rules over the Qur’an, and not vice-versa.” (They meant in the sense of the Sunnah conditioning the general verses of the Qur’an, usually in fiqh matters.)
For me, the relationship between Q&S is best understood by Imam Shafi’i’s statement, “Everything that the Prophet SAWS said or did is what he understood from the Qur’an.” (I first read this in a book by the late Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazzali rahimahullah.) Furthermore, others amongst the Salaf said that “Every sound hadith can be traced back to the Qur’an.” Only people well-grounded in the Qur’an and the Sunnah can understand this in detail. A clear grasp of the Spirit of Islam and its general principles is also required. This is also why some of the early Malikis said that “Ahadith were misleading for all except the people of understanding (fuqaha’).”
Yuksel was wearing a “www.19.org” T-shirt and I told him that I, like many of my generation, were initially very excited by Rashad Khalifa’s “Numerical Miracle of the Qur’an” theory based around the number 19 in the 1980’s. He guessed that we became disillusioned later. Yuksel is currently based in Tucson, Arizona and had known RK for a year. He confirmed that RK had indeed claimed to be a Messenger of Allah, and that it was a jihadi cell that had assassinated him in 1990. This cell seemed to have links to the first WTC bombing, and therefore some in the FBI regard the killing of RK as the first jihadi attack in the US.
The young revert sisters from Atlanta, Melissa Robinson & Kelly of the American Islamic Fellowship were interesting. “Going to gender-segregated mosques perpetuates misogyny. An expensive new mosque there has a lattice screen for the sisters, whose prayer-area is effectively a birdcage.”
Raheela Raza was there from Toronto, a grey-haired woman from Toronto. She’d led the Friday prayers at MECO the day before. Highly-controversial, of course, since the overwhelming majority of jurists have been opposed to women leading a mixed congregation. However, exceptions have been Imams Tabari & Abu Thawr, and it is even said, one of Imam Shafi’i’s (female?) teachers and Ibn Taymiyyah.
Raza grew up in Pakistan and owes much to that country, although she is worried that Islam there is dominated by extremism. She recited a moving poem about women’s rights in Islam at the conference – “I am a woman. Celebrate me.” In conversation, she mentioned that the TV series, “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” had helped enormously to shatter misconceptions about Muslims in Canada and show them as decent human beings with a sense of humour. (Muslims in the UK should take note, especially given the results of the YouGov survey last week about public perception of Muslims here.) She also said that the actress who plays the “gorgeous hijabi” in the series appeared in a game-show wearing a micro-skirt, to the total confusion of many kids watching.
Milan Sulc was there. I remember his presentation at the Islam & Science conference @ Wembley Arena around 1995. Science in the Qur’an stuff. He saw deep-sea oceanic waves in the ayah of “waves upon waves” in Surah Nur. Also Prophet Solomon’s winds that “travel a month’s distance every morning & evening.” His explanation was that if you compare earth & moon circumferences and motions, you find that our atmosphere travels the same distance in half (or quarter?) of a day as the moon does in a month. I’m not too convinced by the latter explanation.
On the way back, I got to Oxford train station at 10.45pm. The train stopped at Didcot due to engineering works. A rail replacement bus took us to Reading. There were two beautiful Arabian horses from Thames Valley Mounted Police outside Reading train station. Got on the 12.13am Reading-London train but it didn’t move because the train in front had hit someone, a suspected fatality (a drunk, suicide or kid playing on the line?) and the Reading-London line was closed. We eventually reached Paddington at 2am after the reopening of the line and two night buses later, I was at Leytonstone station. An ambulance was parked outside, probably from our Whipps Cross Hospital nearby. The two-man crew asked me if I had seen anyone lying on the floor in the street or the station subway, since they’d had a call for someone. I hadn’t. An invigorating walk later, I got home with dawn spreading (past 3am), birds singing & foxes loitering. After such a journey, it was easier to do the dawn prayer with a feeling of gratitude rather than simply duty. Alhamdulillah.