Revisit your intellectual tradition, Muslims told

Ebrahim-Moosa_islamKUALA LUMPUR: A US-based academic has lamented what he alleges is the general unwillingness of contemporary Muslim scholars to emulate their predecessors by using critical thinking in the study of their religious tradition.

Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of Islamic studies at Indiana’s Notre Dame University, said such inertia had contributed to making today’s Muslims appear narrow minded to others.

In generations past, he said, Muslim thinkers were well known for their intellectualism and for applying their critical minds in reassessing their traditional beliefs and practices in the light of new knowledge.

He said every generation of Muslims used to undertake its responsibility of updating what he called “the framework of interpretation”.

“But for the last 300 to 400 years, this framework has become less updated. It has become static and outdated.”

Moosa, delivering a public lecture at Nottingham University here, reminded his audience that the Quran, in countless verses, describes itself as a book “for those who think”.

Referring to Alija Izetbegovic’s book Islam Between East and West, he said the former Bosnian president was giving a wakeup call to Muslims because he could see that “modern Muslims are not thinking enough”.

He said his lecture was partly an echo of Izetbegovic’s message. “We need to begin thinking. That is our heritage, a heritage we gave to the world and to the philosophical tradition.”

He urged Muslims to read Izetbegovic’s book and others like it, but lamented: “Instead of reading Alija Izetbegovic, we are reading ideologues.”

The problem with ideologues, he said, was that they usually were too ready with answers and would not challenge their readers to think.

“That leads to the closing of the Muslim mind,” he added.

Moosa was listed among the world’s 500 most influential Muslims in 2015 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, a Jordanian think tank.