Introspection

If Facebook and Twitter had existed in the midst of the Ottoman Empire, what would our news-feed look like?

Would we be attacking our own leadership for its wars without end, as we do now for the West?

Would we be circulating a meme pointing out that the Ottomans had been at war for over 600 years without pause, or is our censure only for our enemies?

Would we still be absolutist regarding our madhab, finding that it is a communal obligation to wage offensive war every year to expand the borders of the Islamic State, or would we side more quietly with those we nowadays condemn for returning the Qur’an to its rightful place as the filter through which we read our tradition?

Would we be condemning the authors and implementers of our books of fiqh for disrespecting life and taking slaves? Would we label the warring Sufis a Crusader black-opp?

Would we stand up for life, against extremism and in favour of freedom of conscience? Would we be the voice in the wilderness calling to sanity and reason? Would we be calling our own leaders to account? Would we be championing the cause of the oppressed?

The loss of political power has humbled us: we cannot imagine being on the ascendancy, when we are not downtrodden and despised. But sometimes it is helpful to remember that it wasn’t always so.

Sometimes you have to look into what you are blindly defending, be it the romantic past, presumed glory days or every single ruling of a scholar of the past. If we view the past through the same eyes with which we view the present, what do we see? Are we fair and just and true, or are we just taking sides?

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