Prof. Miri:

Bringing Intellect Back to Understanding Islam Can Help Unity

17:30 - October 20, 2021
News ID: 3476128
TEHRAN (IQNA) – A Tehran-based sociologist and religion researcher points to need for have a reconsideration on understating of Islamic teachings and values which can eventually lead to proximity among Muslim communities and schools of thought.

The “Islamic Unity Week” is being marked every year from the 12th day of lunar month of Rabi al-Awwal to 17th of the same month – the former narrated by Sunnis as the birth date of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the latter narrated by Shias. 

To better understand some of the aspects of this unity, the International Quran News Agency (IQNA) reached out to Seyed Javad Miri Meynagh, an associate professor of sociology at the Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies.

Speaking via a virtual conversation, Miri lamented the absence of unity among the Muslim Ummah.

“Maybe when we talk about unity among Muslim Ummah as far as theological or in terms of the faith Muslims feel some sort of similarity and closeness to each other but these similarities, feelings, and affinities have not produced structures and consolidating relationships,” he said.

“And in terms of integrity, Muslim Ummah are composed of more than 50 countries across three big continents Europe, Asia and Africa. And we don’t see any unity among them.”

The professor went on to point to the budget that some Muslim states have dedicated to acquire weapons and military technologies, adding that these states consider other Muslim states as their potential enemy.

However, he continued, when it comes to the level of individuals, there are Muslims in different countries who have Muslim feelings and cherish Islamic tradition and rituals. “At the individual level we can talk about what we may call it unity among Muslim Ummah.”

“But again here unfortunately in some countries and in some cases we see even at the individual level for example among different Islamic Madhhabs there are unfortunately certain anomalies. There are certain Madhhabs who try to exclude other ones,” he added.  

Miri said there is need to have a critical view on ideal form of unity even at the level of religious feelings and sentiments among Muslim ummah.


Critical Understanding of Concept of Relation

Continuing the interview, he said today’s Muslims are somehow unable to relate themselves to the religion as their forefathers had envisaged.

“We need to have some kind of critical understanding about the concept of relation,” he added.

Muslims living centuries earlier could establish some sort of relationship with Islam as a revealed religion, however, the world has changed now and new factors have brought different vistas and different perspectives into the human life and human existence, he explained.

“We cannot have a “conventional” understanding of the concept of human relation to religion. The understanding of the relation between human and his/her religion needs to be problematized,” he said.

There are forces in some Muslims countries who “are trying to say we do not need to problematize the concept of religion and how we relate to our religiosity. and these conventional forms of understanding of religion have brought many problems and divisions and even somehow create and re-create more divisions among Muslim Ummah as a whole.”

“So what we need to do I think the concept of relation and relationship needs in the 21st century for the man of today to be problematized and re-critiqued. And some kind of reflective or reflexivity needs to be brought into our understanding of religion and its paraphernalia.”


Rituals Are Meant to Raise Our Awareness

Asked about the challenges ahead of arriving at Islamic unity, the sociologist criticized the lack of Islamic values in some countries who have the adjective of Islam in their name.

Naming the concept of “Amanah” [trust] as one of the most important Islamic values, he said this value is missing in state, organizational and institutional levels.

The concepts of “Mahabbah” [love and caring] and “Khidmah” [being at the service] are among other missing values in Muslim countries, he regretted.

Those who hold power should be more at the service of the society but this is vice versa in some Muslim communities, he regretted, adding that the powerful is instead demanding the weak to make more sacrifices.

However, he continued, “when it comes to the dimension of rituals, states and religious authorities and different organizations are at the forefront as though Islam is only meant to uphold rituals.”  

The Arabic word for ritual comes from the root of “sho’ur” which means “awareness”, he said, adding, “These rituals were supposed to make us to be aware of something and that awareness was going to ignite our hearts, our actions to do something for ourselves because Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged people and told them here is the farm that you have realize, you have to plan and try to reach them in the thereafter.”  

“The society, and Muslim societies at large, and especially the states and beneficiaries of these kinds of understandings are forcing societies to uphold rituals without having any consciousness or self-consciousness or awareness. These need to be countered and understood and critically revised.”


Conventional Understandings Should Be Shaken

Asked about the enemies of Islamic unity, the professor commented that main enemies are not outside but inside.

“I understand as a sociologist and a critical social theorist, the concept of imperialism and imperialistic order or world order. I know what colonialism means and I know what neo-colonial at the global level means. I do not deny them. But first and foremost, if we believe in the concept of Towhid, if we believe that “There is no God but Allah” and there is no other force which can determine and decide the position and condition of humanity expect the God Almighty then we have to understand and revise our conception of what we call it enemy.”

“The enemies are not outside. The first and foremost enemies are ourselves and how we understand life, humanity, the concept of human existence, the concept of human conditions, and the connection or relation between revelation and intellect.”

“We cannot subordinate our intellect under some kind of understanding which predates our time and expect that conventional understanding of religion will redeem and salvage us. No. We need to have a new understanding, we need to have intellect back,” he said.

“As long as Muslim communities do not cherish education, economic progress, responsibility, and the statesmen and politicians do not understand the concept of being accountable to the public, our enemies outside will have hand in hand with our enemies inside which is ignorance and we will stay at this level for another four or five hundred years.”

“We need to shake the conventional understanding of what human existence and a good society is and how we understand Quran, hadith, and religions traditions should be reconsidered based on critical understanding of different branches of knowledge and different branched of Islamic sciences as well,” Professor Miri concluded.


Interview by Mohammad Ali Haqshenas

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