Modernistic fundamentalist approaches to Quran are a real threat to social fabric of Muslim societies – Aamir Hussaini

Nowadays I am studying ‘The Study Quran, a new translation and commentary’ compiled by five religious scholars in 10 years. This new translation and commentary was published in 2017 by Harper Collins Publishers.

Renowned Islamic Philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasar was Editor-in-Chief of this project and Caner K.Dagi , Maria Massi, Joseph E. B. Lumbard were general editors. Mohammad Rustom worked as Assistant Editor in the project of new translation and commentary of the holy Quran.

In February 2020, Abbas Zaidi, fiction writer and teacher of media studies came to Lahore from Australia. He brought two books specially for me, one was Rising of Anarchy, by William Dalrymple, other was ‘The Sttdy Quran…..’ . I have studied half of this new translation of the holy Quran. (I have two dozens of English translations and commentaries by different Islamic scholars including popular translation of Yousaf Ali). No doubt this new translation and commentary is fabulous, phenomenal, extraordinary work. In the last part of the book, there are 15 important and must-read essays written by renowned scholars and experts on Quran.

When this new translation and commentary came in the market then Politics & Prose at Washington Bookstore Founded by Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade in 1984, a cultural hub, a gathering place for people interested in reading and discussing books, organised a function in which Maria Massi Dakake, General Editor of the book and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University was in conversation with Seyyed Hossein Nasar. Video recording of that conversation should also be watched by those who are interested in such topics.

Seyyed Hossein Nasar informed his audiences that compilers of the New Translation and Commentary avoided from all modernistic and fundamentalist interpretations of the Quran made during two centuries. He mentions Syed Abu Ala Maudoodi especially, when he glances some light on term ‘fundamentalist interpretations’ of the Quran and he points out work on Quran by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan particularly when he deals with modernistic interpretations of Quran.

According to Hossein Nasar, new translation and commentary of the Quran has essence of traditional understanding of Quran developed in 1400 years.

Maria Massi Dakake, one of the general editors of the translation and the commentary, says that traditional classical texts of interpretations and commentaries of the Quran have very vast range of positions and understandings as compare to modernistic and fundamentalist texts of the interpretations and commentaries. Her view on modernistic and fundamentalist commentaries is that such texts have narrow and linear position and in often cases they have very clear political agenda. They often deviate from historical context of the verses, from context of the contents and in many cases they ignore clearly context of language.

Hossein Nasar says that modernistic and fundamentalist texts of interpretations and commentaries of/on Quran waste the potential of vastness of understanding and interpretation of Quran and modernistic fundamentalist texts of interpretations and commentaries open the gates of excommunication/ Takfirism of majority Muslim population which believes in classical traditional understanding of Quran.

When I was watching the conversation of Hossein Nasar and Maria Massi Dakake on YouTube,I received a news that a FIR had been registered in Aabpara Police Station Islamabad in which complainant is an officer of Islamabad police. According to the complainant, he and other police officials were standing outside the Red Mosque of Islamabad, when a dozen of people came out while calling out police officials ‘Muslims’ (Kafir) , Disbelievers……. and attacked them. Some women were also included in the alleged attackers. Those were followers of Deobandi cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, a fundamentalist interpreter of Quranic notion of Jihad. Maulana Abdul Aziz is an example of those modernistic fundamentalist interpreters of Quranic Text, who pave the way for excommunication/ Takfirism and establish neo-Kharijite religious school of thought. All modern exclusionary and violent tendencies have their roots in modernistic fundamentalist religious movements of Islamic world. Egyptian Al-Jamāʻah al-Islāmīyah was offshoot of Muslim brotherhood- MB and its all founding leaders and cadres were former members of MB and their ideological mentor was second head of MB Syed Qutub, who transformed completely meanings of many Quranic Terms , while using modernistic fundamentalist way of interpreting the Quranic verses and his book ‘ ma‘ālim fī t-tarīq’ (Milestones) became manifesto of many international fundamentalist radical so called Islamic Movements including Al-Jamāʻah al-Islāmīyah Egypt. Interesting thing is that Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan- JI published its Urdu translation titled with ‘ Jada-O-Manzil’. Hamid Ali, a renowned intellectual activist of JI had translated that book. Hundreds of thousands copies of that translated version of the book were distributed all over the country and every devoted worker of JI and its wings particularly of IJT, Student wing of JI read it and during cold war and for projects Jihad-e-Kashmir designed by ISI and Jihad-e-Afghanistan designed by ISI-CIA_MI6 many young devotees under influence of such books presented themselves for foot soldiers of the said proxies wars. Such modernistic fundamentalists interpretations of the Quranic terms transformed a large section of such so called Jihadi movements into sectarian deadly killing machine. They all declared a war against different versions of Islam based on classical traditional interpretations and understandings of Quran like Sufi Islam, Shia Islam. In South Asia majority practitioner of Sufi rituals and customs came under attack and threatened by modernistic fundamentalist movements particularly from Deobandi militant organizations inclined to excommunication like Taliban Movement, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and many others offshoots of militias organized for combating as proxies in Afghanistan and Indian held Kashmir. Unfortunately from Ziaul-Haq’s dictatorship in establishment of Pkistan powerful fundamentalist lobbies are patronizing such modernistic fundamentalists tendencies which we see now have roots in every institution of the state and in our civil society.

It is a tragedy that our young generation is being brainwashed constantly by modernistic fundamentalist approaches. In our Urban centers a large part of modern educated middle class including professional layers are under influence of modernistic fundamentalist well connected networks like of Farhat Hashmi, of Zakir Naik. Even Deobandi Tablighi Jamaat ‘s way of Tabligh has absorbed this modernistic fundamentalist approach due to strategic relationship between its leadership with Saudi Arabia as we saw such changing in various layers of Deobandi sect due to strategic partnership between leading scholars of Deobandi sect and Saudi Arabia- Pakistan based establishment. Strategic partnership between Iranian official clergy and many section of Shia theologians paved way for fascist tendencies in Indian subcontinent Shiite Islam, like Jawad Naqvi’s network in Pakistan.

Traditional Sufi Sunni Islam and Shia Islam based on classical traditional understanding of Quran is facing real threat from modernistic fundamentalist approaches. Even we see modern secular liberals and lefty progressive sections mocking, laughing sarcastically over those majority common Muslims following classical traditional interpretations of Quran. In Pakistan we never saw any admiring or positive trend in many liberal and lefty progressive for those who are representing moderate aligned with classical traditional position on the Quran like Tehreek Minhajul Quran led by Tahir-ul-Qadri or many Shia tendencies exiting in Pakistan but we see them presenting fake class based interpretation for emergence of ASWJ/SSP, of Taliban or making false binaries to obfuscate or justify killing of Sufi Sunnis Muslims or Shia-Muslims.

My desire is that our young religious scholars work and show similarities in Urdu-English translation plus commentaries made by many Sunni and Shia scholars like by Tahir-ul-Qadri, Talib Jauhri and ‘The Study Quran- New Translation and commentary’ by Seyyed Hossein Nassar and others. Researchers and scholars who belong to Minhaj-ul-Quran International University should focus on this issue and they should do comparative study of modernistic fundamentalist and Traditional approaches toward Quran.

Thank You Syed Abbas Zaidi for such a precious gift.

Aamir Hussaini
1st Ramazan, 1421 AH
April 25, 2020