The pursuit of truth

I have a problem with the scholar’s refutation of our enemy, because I know what our books of fiqh contain. It is not enough to say these people are Wahabis or Kharajites. What they are doing is right there in our manuals of Hanafi and Maliki fiqh.

So we say they do not have authority to act thus. What? So legitimate authority would make their odious actions true and fair? These are the intellectual acrobatics we subject ourselves to.

Our books of fiqh say many wonderful things, unmatched in other traditions. But they also contain extremely unpalatable ideas, such as the notion that it is a communal obligation to wage offensive war every year to expand the borders of the state, and worse. These are not Wahabi teachings; they are detailed in our madhabs, and the learned know it. Some of us have honest teachers who acknowledge these realities. Others pretend not to know.

The latter are those who condemn people who seek to put the Qur’an first and restore it to its rightful place in our lives. While condemning those who bring the directives in our books of fiqh to life to such hideous effect, they simultaneously lambast those who turn away from them. The dishonesty is risible. Many a parable I was raised on springs clearly to mind.

There is a better way, but it demands bravery. Not the path of covering up what is in our books or pretending not to know — you cannot unsee what you have seen — but that hard, rough road where we acknowledge what we have inherited, but ask if it is really Quranic and really the prophetic way. Unfortunately, in the pursuit of truth, you have to expect most people to oppose you. It is a lonely road.

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