Javed Ahmad Ghamidi – Muslim intellectual, a noble voice for peace

The eigth article in a series featuring Muslims who are pro-peace with Israel.

Rebecca Abrahamson

OpEds Rebecca Abramson
Rebecca Abramson
INN:RB

For previous articles click here.

This series began at a time of relative calm. Now, with the murders of Alexander Levlovitz, Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, Nehemia Lavi, Aharon Benet Hy”d, and others and  the many injurious attacks against Jews over the past few weeks, we are bound to lose heart and abandon getting to know Muslim peace seekers.

But that is what the terrorists want, they want us to suspect each and every Muslim and Arab and throw them together with the violent. We cannot buckle to that cynical goal, on the contrary, we need to hear the voice of the peace seekers among both the Muslim intelligentsia, and we also need to hear the voice of the regular folk who remember better times between Jew and Arab.

First, there are condemnations by Muslims of the recent terrorist murders:

Sinem Tezyapar, activist and part of the Adnan Oktar group, Turkey, condemned the murders outright. [1] Israeli Arab Thaana Jawabreh condemned the murders both in her name and in the names of who she claims are thousands of Palestinians who are afraid to speak out.[2]

Wan Abi Sufi, a Canadian Muslim whose parents are originally from Pakistan, states, "Palestinians should know terror attacks against civilians will not help their cause, it will turn the world against them. They are stabbing themselves in the foot if they think shooting an innocent two year old boy in the leg is justice for the occupation." He adds: “Where the (something) are the Palestinians getting guns from to shoot the Israelis?”

We honor the righteous gentiles who helped save Jewish lives at various times in our history; similarly we should have no resistance to recognizing the righteous among them now – and especially when they are setting out an intellectual framework for coexistence.

A recent OpEd by Dr Shmuel Katz: “Did the Free World go Insane?” - outlines important action that we can take in challenging anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias in the media. This is indeed important, but another important form of activism is giving voice to peace seeking Muslims – that is what really neutralizes radicalism. And here is a major voice.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is a Muslim theologian, educator, and former advisor to the Pakistani parliament on Islam. He taught at the Civil Services Academy in Lahore, Pakistan, which trains civil servants, and is founder of the Al Mawrid institute, which disseminates information about Islam. He just completed a tour in North America[3] and is now on tour in the Far East. In other words, Dr. Ghamidi occupies an influential po‎sition in the Muslim world, and he is making his voice heard.

Javed Ghamidi is a bit hard to pin down if you are used to stereotypes. Dubbed “a scholar of independent thinking,” he is at once deeply religious, employing orthodox methods of Islamic exegesis, yet at times comes to conclusions that smack of the liberal. Secular liberals may agree with some of his conclusions, but be offended because his approach is not based on humanism and relativism, Likewise, he at times offends clergy because his conclusions, though based on sound methods of Islamic jurisprudence, challenge the religious status quo. This came to a head when he resigned from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), an advisory body to the Pakistani parliament which consists of a mix of liberals and conventional clergy, in September 2006. [4]

The issue centered on the hudood laws in Pakistan. (Hudood laws are a category of laws in Islam concerning crimes against G-d) When certain laws were recommended by CII including the hudood ones, the clergy sitting outside CII pressured the government not to accept them. The government then tried to circumvent the CII by forming a comnittee of the conventional clergy, thus leaving the status of CII to be a rubber stamp. As a protest to this unfair treatment, Javed Ghamidi resigned.

Despite his resignation, Javed Ghamidi commands quite a following, and is likely to play an influential role as respected scholar in the Islamic world – appealing to and sometimes challenging both liberals and fundamentalists. For this reason we must familiarize ourselves with this approach.

In the Summer of 2015 he toured North America with the following purpose: “…Dr. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, renowned religious scholar, thinker and Qur’an exegetist, conducted a series of lectures to explain traditional religious interpretation of Islam, history of its evolution over centuries and how this erroneous misinterpretation provides intellectual support to narrative of violent and extremist factions of Islam such as Taliban and ISIL.” He is currently on tour in the Far East.

In the next articles I wish to present Javed Ghamidi’s approach to Islamic jurisprudence that gives ample room for coexistence with non-Muslims. This includes the Qur’anic basis for intellectual, social, political, and scientific development through itjihad – similar to our pilpul, but concerning matters not explicitly stated in sc‎ripture.

Statehood in Islam – “Islam has not given any directive to Islamize a state.” [5]

The relationship of democracy to Islam – closer than we think - “the affairs of the Muslims are run on the basis of their consultation.”[6]  

His condemnations of terror: “(His) movement emphasized that only a Muslim state could declare jihad (war) and therefore dismissed the Taliban-led Afghan resistance, the Palestinian struggle, the Iraqi resistance and all other Muslim struggles, saying they were not jihad.”[7] and a concept in Islam that is similar to ours of yeridat hadorot – that previous generations were on a higher spiritual plane than later ones, so when the Qur’an refers to kafir – infidel – that term cannot be applied today as it was at the time the Qur’an was committed to writing.

As a student of his, Dr. Shehzad Saleem explains: “Javed Ghamidi sb has argued that there is a fundamental difference between the non-Muslims of the Prophetic times (dubbed as kafirs) and those of later times. Both are governed by separate laws mentioned in the Qur'an. The two must not be confused or interchanged otherwise we would be guilty of playing God. And unfortunately, this is what precisely has happened.”

So the good news is that there is a strong intellectual orthodox movement in Islam that fosters peace. The not so good news – he has relocated. He had been receiving security threats from extremist religious groups since 2004. Two of his close companions were shot dead in different parts of the country. Another miraculously survived. He continued to resist until his immediate neighbors felt threatened because of his presence near their houses. This put him under enormous moral pressure and he reluctantly left his country in 2009 thinking that he was now being perceived as a security threat by his neighbors. To put them at ease, he immigrated to Malaysia. Look at his websites and his exile is hardly mentioned, bespeaking of a nobility of character and determination: Javed Ghamidi will not be thwarted in his dissemination of a peaceful Islam.

I wish to share a view of a layman as well. Ismail was the bus driver that day, all to myself as I alighted at the first stop. In his fifties, he waxed poetic about the times the Jews and Arabs lived together peacefully in Israel. “The British wanted blood to run in this land, they would dress up a British soldier as a Jew, have him throw a grenade at a mosque, and say the Jews did it. But my father would tell everyone, ‘I saw it myself, it was a British soldier, we always got along well with the Jews’. If only we could join again, Jewish smarts and Arab strength, if only…”  "Arab strength?" I asked. “Fasting on Ramadan” he answered matter-of-factly.

Sources:

[1]Sinem states: “- There can be no equivalance between the murder of innocent civilians and those who are killed while attacking people.
- Targeting civilians indiscriminately and deliberately is an outright act of terror and it will get retribution.
- Stabbing, shooting innocent people -including children- just for being Jews is an inexplicable hatred and a major offense in God's sight.
- Those political/religious leaders who have been calling Palestinians to violence and blood should feel responsible for the killings on both sides.”

[2] http://www.timesofisrael.com/arab-israeli-activist-stirs-controversy-after-condemning-henkin-murders/

[3] http://pakistanlink.org/Community/2015/June15/19/03.HTM

[4] Hudood laws, Ghamidi's resignation and CII government wrong on all counts:

http://archives.dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/22-Sep-2006/editorial-hudood-laws-ghamidi-s-resignation-and-cii-government-wrong-on-all-counts

[5] Islam and the State – a Counter-Narrative, http://www.javedahmadghamidi.com/blog/view/islam-and-the-state-a-counter-narrative

[6] Qur’an 42::38

[7] http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LJ22Df03.html




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