Tariq Ramadan in his book, Radical Reform: Islamic Ethic and Liberation, addresses Muslim societies and communities everywhere with a bold call for radical reform.
The publisher, Oxford University Press, writes in its description of the book that ‘it is bound to provoke controversy and spark debate among Muslims and non-Muslims alike’.
Ramadan argues that radical reform demands not only the equal contributions of scholars of both the text and the context, but the critical engagement and creative imagination of the Muslim masses.
In response to this call for critical engagement, a group of interested and courageous readers in Toronto have been meeting to discuss and reflect on the author’s bold proposals for reforming Muslim minds - see
Reflections on 4th week reading, Elaborating An Applied Islamic Ethics: Pages 113 - 155
The playing field will need to be leveled for transformational reform to take place.
The two revelations (the text and the Universe) and the two sets of scholars (of the text and context) are to be on equal footing and the textual scholars are to have a double specialization.
This will change the authority relationship in elaborating norms and ethics which is currently weighted in favor of the textual scholars.
Going further, to produce applied Islamic ethics requires reclaiming what it means to be truly ‘Islamic’ and reconsidering the higher objectives.
Labeling this and that ‘Islamic’ may comfort and connect but may not reflect that it is based on ethical principles, the norms and goals that are to orient the knowledge acquired.
The classical list of higher objectives was produced with sanctions in mind and indicates what needed to be protected.
This restricts and reduces these objectives to a religious enterprise.
A grander scheme is being proposed, on two axes, vertical and horizontal, which opens up and expands the objectives.
The vertical axis pulls the objectives up to a give it a global dimension and the horizontal axis allows for elaboration of each item on the vertical scale, to deal with the growing complexity of the world.
At the top is Din and Maslaha – ‘protecting the Islamic conception of Life and Death’ and ‘the common good and interest of Humankind and Creation.’
These two objectives on this first level gives a Tawhidi framework and determines its meaning thereby providing orientation to the Way.
This level gives the perspectives for ethical elaboration and restores a universal approach to the project.
Level two objectives are the founding pillars – protecting and promoting Life, Nature and Peace.
Level three objectives (thirteen) are about promoting and protecting an individual’s and community’s being and action and these are based on the values stipulated in the text – Dignity, Welfare, Knowledge, Creativity, Autonomy, Development, Equality, Freedom, Justice, Fraternity, Love, Solidarity and Diversity.
Level 4 of the objectives has three categories – promoting and protecting firstly, the Inner Being, secondly, The Being and Individual and thirdly, Societies and Groups.
Category One is all about the inner dimension – promoting/protecting sincerity, contemplation, humility…
Intriguingly, most of the classical list of objectives is to be found Category Two – promoting/protecting intelligence, progeny, health…..
Category Three is recognizes contemporary needs – promoting/protecting rules of law, pluralism, culture, religions….
An interesting and exciting proposal that transform Maqasid ash-Shariah and gives it breath and depth.