By Dr. ‘Ali al-Qarahdaghi* | Translated and abridged by Suhaib Webb
The methodology of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani is composed of the following major points:
A return to the Noble Qur’an:
Jamal al-Din al-Afghani considered the Noble Qur’an as the foundation of reform saying, “The Qur’an is one of the greatest means for attracting the non-Muslims to the beauty of Islam; inviting them in using a style that draws them towards it. However, when they observe the pitiful condition of the Muslims through the light of the Qur’an they abstain from following it and believing in it.”
The Qur’an is the sole source of guidance, the basis of reform and the way towards advancement. Commenting on this Jamal al-Din al-Afghani wrote, ‘From the accomplishments of the Qur’an was that the ‘Arabs, before the Qur’an was sent to them, were in state of savagery which cannot be described. However, in little over 100, they were the masters of the age surpassing the other nations in politics, education, philosophy, manufacturing and business….. Therefore, religious reform will not happen unless it is based on the Qur’an alone first and foremost and engaging in a sound understanding of it. This will happen by reforming our syllabus [related to Islamic Studies] which carries us towards it, easing the way towards it [syllabus] and making it relevant to those of different understandings and outlooks.”
The call of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani to return to the Noble Qur’an emanates from his faith and confidence that Allah [The Exalted] made it a cure for the sicknesses that afflict the Muslim community.
Allah [The Exalted] says:
“Say it is, for those who believe, a guidance and a cure.” [Surah 10/44]
“Oh people there has come to you are reminder from your Lord and a cure for what is in the chest; a guidance and mercy for the believers.” (Surah 10:57)
In fact, the Qur’an presents, in grand wonderment, the case of a community who, while possessing the book of their Lord in their hands and recites its verses, manages to differ [in the fundamentals] and splits [into sects and parties].
“And how could you disbelieve [split into parties] and while the verses of Allah [Qu’ran] are recited to you and the Messenger is amongst you. And whoever clings to the Allah, for sure, he will be guided to the straight path.” This verse was sent regarding and incident that took place between some of the Jews of Medina when they tried to sow dissension between the two tribes of the Companions [known as the Ansar al-Awas and al-Khazraj]. In this verse Allah [The Exalted] calls division as disbelief due to its danger and it’s the graveness in which in departs from Allah’s order [to be united]. Thus, Allah says, “And how could you disbelieve” meaning how could you differ and divide yourselves and fight with each other; returning to the nationalism from the days of ignorance?” The Prophet [may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] referred to fighting between the Muslims as disbelief when he [may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him], “You are forbidden to return to disbelief [disunite] after me by striking each other necks.”
We’ve noted that this verse demonstrates with the utmost clarity that the Muslim community, as long as the Qur’an is with them, they recite it and implement its rulings, then it is not allowable, nor acceptable for them to split and differ over the fundamentals, separate their hearts and oppose one another since it is a balm which heals and potent cure [for such aliments]. The Qur’an is the charter of the Muslim community and its first point of reference hands down. It is spring by which all of the fundamentals [related to faith, practice and brother hood] as well as their tools are found. Finally, the Sunna of the Prophet is, by default, automatically included in our discussion surrounding the Qur’an as a source for reform and development.”
End of Part Two
* Qatar University member of United Council of Muslim Scholars.