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Michael Mumisa update July 22, 2006

Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Islam, Media, Shari'ah.
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Michael MumisaI have e-mailed Michael Mumisa to ask for clarification of his views on homosexuality, after conflicting images were presented by a Radio 4 feature on one hand, and a small book he has written (plus a comment from someone who attended a seminar of his) on the other.

Two months have passed, and he has not responded.

However, we were contacted by Shazia Khan, the journalist who interviewed Mumisa and produced/presented the Radio 4 piece. She denies that she misrepresented him, and quotes from her most recent conversation with him, in which he says:

The mainstream position can’t claim to have the key to absolute truth on this issue. As someone who has been brought up in the mainstream, i think people can have legitimate questions to ask about whether it is a sin. It is an area that is debatable. It is not absolute that the Qur’an considers homosexuality to be a sin.

Compare this with his book‘s declaration that “Islam therefore considers homosexuality a great sin and a crime punishable by Islamic law.”

Maybe he thinks the Islamic stance is not based on the Qur’an? Go check my full article out, with the update at the end:

Michael Mumisa: misunderstood?

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1. Rasheed Eldin - July 29, 2006

More of Mumisa’s views came up in this article:
http://education.independent.co.uk/higher/article1197780.ece

Excerpt:
—————————-
When I ask Rammell what he means by his criticism of Islamic teaching in universities, he goes off the record and refers me to the organisation, Forward Thinking, which acts as a conduit for Muslim groups to talk to politicians and the media. Forward Thinking met the minister for his research on the subject. One of those in on the meeting was Sheik Michael Mumisa, a scholar at the University of Birmingham and a member of a new group of Muslim theologians who advocate a reinterpretation of Islam.

Confirming Professor Ehteshami’s point, he says that British universities are simply not equipped to teach students about the theology of Islam. That is because British academics are not trained in the classical texts that are required for the job. But, even where they are equipped, they do not want to question the theology for fear of introducing ideas about, for example, the role of women that might be anathema to Muslim students. “Or if they are non-Western Muslim academics, they often cling to the idea of a mythical East, arguing that bringing Islam up to date and putting it in its contemporary context means that it loses what makes it unique.,” says Mumisa. “That is the Islam we associate with the Taliban.”

But Mumisa believes it would be a good thing if British universities got involved in the education of Muslim clerics. These clerics should be introduced to ideas such as feminism, he thinks. They should take courses in sociology, literary criticism and modern theological thinking just as Christian, Catholic and Jewish trainees do.

2. ZAYNAB ROBINSON MUHAMMAD - July 29, 2006

Brother Rasheed Eldin
I am wondering why you put up Shaykh Michael Mumisa’s photo on this site while you did not put up your own photo or the photo of the others you have written about here? People are begining to say that your project is not sincere and you are motivated by hatred. Islamically it is haram to do so without his permission. It is may also be illegal and that small action may undermine your project. I dont have more knowledge that you do but I am begining to feel that you are not doing things right. There must be a better way than this one. I hope you will include my comment and not edit it.

3. Omaru Abdullahi Toure - July 29, 2006

This is what the late Shaykh Zaki Badawi had to say about Shaykh Michael Mumisa’s views. I found it from the foreword of Mumisa’s book “Islamic Law: Theory & Interpretation.” Here is what Shaykh Zaki Badawi had to say:

“The need for new development in Islamic law is universally recognized. Nevertheless, attempts by Muslim scholars at reform have so far been timid providing only piecemeal solutions to the challenges of fast changing social, economic and political conditions.
The old procedure of eclecticism (talfiq) is helpful only in a limited number of cases. The modern jurists (fuqaha) are shackled by the ancient rules of principles of jurisprudence. These rules form the road map for the scholars; if they follow its guidance they will end exactly where their predecessors have ended.
No project at Shari‘ah development is possible without redrawing this map. ‘Ijtihad,’ that is the intellectual effort to formulate Islamic legal solutions to current problems, will only trim at the edges without creating a dynamic methodology to help transform the whole discipline and the Muslim community with it. There are at the moment two methodological approaches to the Islamic intellectual discourse: One is the traditional approach that rejects any attempt at re-thinking Islamic thought and advocates a fixed and rigid understanding of the classical texts. The second way is that of Muslim apologists who propose re-interpretation based on the same old methodological tools and theories of Usul al-fiqh. This second way amounts to a recycling of ideas and solutions and fails to provide meaningful solutions to the contemporary challenges facing Muslims in a globalised postmodern world.
Michael Mumisa has recognized this fact and called for a new set of rules to be derived, as they must, from the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunna. This means therefore that the Islamic legal theory itself (usul al-fiqh) needs to be re-interpreted taking into consideration the new challenges faced by the present generation. This is based on the recognition that these theories and principles of law in Islam are themselves contextual and therefore reflect the historical, cultural, social and political conditions under which they were formulated and drawn. In order for any religion or system to function within a society, it has to take a form that is common and relevant to its context. This was the case with Islam and the historical beginning of the Shari‘ah. Michael Mumisa challenges the attempt to universalise the historical context of the Qur’an or the conditions under which Islamic thought developed.
He writes with the authority of a scholar who is steeped in the traditional system of education and modern Western Studies.
The reader of this work will find a lot of useful information and deep insight into the Shari‘ah.

Dr Shaikh Zaki M. A. Badawi.
Professor of Islamic Law and Dean of London Postgraduate Muslim College, Chairman of the Muslim Law (Shari‘ah) Council of Great Britain, Vice-chairman of World Congress of Faiths.

4. Omaru Abdullahi Toure - July 29, 2006

Based on the above statement by Shaykh Dr Zaki Badawi on Shaykh Mumisa’a views and methods, questions of haram and halal or what he calls “juz’iyyaat” in his new book are the wrong kind of questions to ask him. The right question would be to ask how he reach to his conclusions? After reading his new book “Law, Hermeneutics and Social Change in Muslim Legal Theory: A close Reading of Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi” I do not think that this website or a Radio programme are the best platform to explore and debate such complicated Islamic notions and theories.
It is also important to note from what has been written on this website that he is not saying that homosexuality is allowed. My understanding is that he is saying that people can have legitimate questions to ask and debate about this issue and how we interpret Islamic texts. It seems to me that he has not clearly stated what his own personal view on the matter is. That would be a wrong question to ask him or anyone who deals with “kuliyyaat al-ahkam” or other such theories of Islamic legal philosophy.

5. Rasheed Eldin - July 30, 2006

ZAYNAB–

I don’t see why you’d be so sensitive over my putting the picture there to liven up the page, just as I’ve done in numerous posts, including one about Zaki Badawi (rh). It’s not like I took it with my long-zoom camera: it’s freely available on the internet (Islamic Foundation).

So which “people” are starting to say what you are suggesting? It hasn’t escaped my technical attention that both you and Omaru are writing from the Al-Mahdi Institute itself. I’m happy to hear from Mumisa, hence why I’ve written to him several times. If he chooses to ignore that, that’s his problem. Meanwhile, I’ll continue doing my simple job of highlighting what he is saying openly to journalists.

OMARU–

If Mumisa is just saying that “people can have legitimate questions”, then I have no problem with that. I have questions myself, and I look for answers. People ask questions, and I try to answer. People make claims, and I try to respond to those based on evidence and reasoning.

So why should I tolerate a pompous attitude that suggests that we common mortals couldn’t grasp the complexities of his “reinterpretation”? Could it be because it lacks the clarity that is inherent to the Islamic way?

He should at least be clear on his stance on homosexuality, otherwise he may be guilty of leading people astray unwittingly. And he will not sound clever on the Day of Judgement. We ask for Allah’s mercy and guidance for all of us.

6. R. Ahmad - August 6, 2006

We have been monitoring closely the activities of Mumisa for seven years now. It is important that Muslims be aware of the fact that he is [only] pretending to be a serious mainstream scholar. He has been disowned by South African ulama just like his predecessor Farid Esack who was co-opted and funded by Christian Orientalists based in Birmingham and Oxford. They are both peas from the same pod even if they pretend otherwise. Following them will cause you to lose your imaan.

[Comment edited by Rasheed Eldin]

7. Imran Jumah - December 3, 2006

Well, brothers and sisters,
I am not fully informed of all what has been going on with this gay debate of yours, therefore I would limit my input: the statement “It is not absolute that the QUR’AN considers homosexuality a sin”, seems to mean that you cannot make homosexuality a sin by just quoting those couple of ayaahs from surat Hud, but you will need to apply what is called the “convergence” principle. That is to say you will need other historical evidence, Sunnah or otherwise to prove your point. There has to be a convergence of proofs in order to make your case watertight. In otherwords, those ayaahs by themseves lend ear to different plausible interpretations and therefore there interpreted meaning cannot be called “absolute”. But they can be used as a pointer to some unwelcome behaviour from the Qur’anic Taqwa perspective; meaning that homosexuality is a reprehensible behaviour or act which is in contrast with Insaan’s Fitra. If there is any other meaning or clarification to the above statement, it should come from Sheikh Mumisa himself.

8. Rasheed Eldin - December 5, 2006

Thank you Imran for your thoughts. From those, I have two questions, which you can feel free to respond to – or get the answers from Mr Mumisa, who seems very reluctant to speak for himself.

1. Why would someone, when answering a question about the ISLAMIC position on homosexuality, restrict his response to the QUR’ANIC position unless he denies the authority of Sunnah, let alone the other bases of Islamic law?

2. How does this “convergence principle” fit in with the intricate systems of Usul al-Fiqh that have been developed over the centuries by the Muslim Ummah’s brightest minds and most learned people?

9. astranger - October 8, 2009

‘Post-modern’ islam: Yes we can perhaps import into our tradition the critical theories and other products of postmodernist thought, just as we ‘imported’ greek logic to help us better express our worldview intellectually. The key point is that, we must *appropriate it*, muslims did not just take from the Greeks without close scrutiny, but you will notice that the first muslims that met with Greek thought took it in more ‘wholesale’ then the latter ones who slowly filtered more and more until they ‘purified’ that knowledge.

What we have here with individuals such as Br. Mumisa, is that ‘initial wave’ of intellectuals who (rightly so) see the need for muslims to appropriate modern hermeneutical technique (as it really belongs to us, the believers, we just need to purify it before incorporating it) but being in that initial wave – they don’t have enough experience to fully do the job of ‘purifying before accepting’, hence you may get some views like ‘well interpreting Quran is a relative thing, we should let modern context to inform our interpretation’ leading to some quite dodgy views that just goes against our fitrah (such as homosexuality).

This is expected at this stage, perhaps not so in a few decades, so it is great that our scholars/academics (some of them who have faults, but hey its not easy to yet digest tradition & western scholarship and put it together perfectly – that takes a long time, look at when muslims adapted Greek knowledge – took centuries) are trying to think of new ways to understand the Quran, and we should not feel uncomfortable about this per se, but we should warn ourselves that everything we take from the west is value-laden – are we questioning those values or taking things wholesale – are we critical enough of the western intellectual frameworks we take?

For example, critical theory, a product of continental philosophy, which Br. Mumisa finds useful, is ‘situated’ – it came as a reaction to the modernist/mechanical, the colonial, and it has a certain concept of ‘history’ underlying it, so we need to be ‘critical of critical theory’ instead of ‘just using it’.

For a critique of a lot of these modern philosophical trends see works by Guenon (sh. abdul wahid yahya), Nasr (‘A young muslims guide to the modern world’ is a good start), Al-Attas, etc. The works of these people act like a modern version of Imam Ghazali’s famous ‘incoherence of the philosophers’.

10. Rasheed Eldin - December 1, 2009

Astranger, thanks for your thought-provoking comments.


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