Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh on Sheikh Abdallah al-Alayli

Arabic original here.

Islam according to the Approach of al-Alayli

Sheikh Abdallah al-Alayli (1914-1996) was characterized by boldness and progressiveness where other jurists held back. He published the book Where is the Error? Correcting Concepts of Renewal.... (First printing, Dar al-Ilm li-l-Malayin, 1978; Second printing, Dar al-Jadid, 1992) in which he criticized, from his position as an expert in Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh], various juridical issues that he saw to be at a variance with the correct Islamic method. Very quickly the first printing of his book was prevented from publication and distribution.

Al-Alayli decries the paucity of those who can properly be qualified as experts in jurisprudence. A jurist [faqih] must "possess the gift of acquiring, not of ordering for something. The jurist is not one who memorized what has been said, but the one who deduces and infers from what has been said. His disapproval grows when he deals with traditional jurists who rush to serve the governing authorities and to justify their actions and transgressions. He cites as a glaring example of this the issue of a monopoly over oil, which he views as public property which, on the basis of a prophetic hadith that says, "People are partners in three things: water, pasturage and fire", must be for the benefits of all Arabs and Muslims, not only the countries that produce it.

Al-Alayli also calls for the necessity of active legal reasoning [ijtihad] even in issues where there is a "consensus", especially if it is "of the sort of late consensus that does not stand up to argument unless it is based on conclusive evidence." Therefore, according to al-Alayli, Abu Hanifa did not accept the consensus of subsequent generations with his famous statement "they are men and we are men". By this statement, he meant that each generation has the right to use reason in the issues at hand and to discern the appropriate response by relying on Islamic principles, especially the Qur'an and hadith. Thus al-Alayli does not oppose civil marriage because he sees nothing in the Qur'an or the hadith that prevents the marriage of a Muslim woman to a man from the People of the Book. In this regard he says, "This issue is basically without any proof, except for the practice of the ancients, which became widespread."

With regard to punitive and criminal punishments and their application in Islam, al-Alayli puts forward an ideal rule for dealing with the issue, "The stipulated punishments are not in themselves intended literally, but rather what is intended is their goals." Punishment, according to al-Alayli, "has the purpose of deterrence. Anything that has this effect is equivalent to it. It remains the maximal, most severe punishment to be relied upon when all other deterrents are exhausted" and "it is not resorted to except when everything else is despaired of." However, he affirms that there are rulings that have no basis in Islam and must be eliminated, including stoning. He says, "There is no stoning in Islam... despite what has been spread about regarding it calling for stoning, it relies upon a group of hadiths that do not rise above the rank of hasan [i.e., one step below a 'sound' hadith]."

Al-Alayli's approach is based on his famous saying, "Tradition with error is not conservatism and reform that achieves knowledge is not deviance."  For this reason he came into conflict with the traditional religious establishment that connects the correct path with the literalist preservation of tradition, while he strove to reform the traditionalist viewpoint so that it could be closer to the authentic concepts of Islam.

Al-Alayli placed man at the heart of his thinking about religious renewal. He realized that religion was made for man by the Lord of the Universe out of mercy and kindness, "so Islam respects man in himself, insofar as he is man. .. Islam believes in man comprehensively, as a whole." This is the Islam that we knew in many historical periods in our country and which we hope to know once more in our own days, Islam according to the approach of al-Alayli.

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