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Pragmatism and Fundamentalism


Fundamentalism in Islamic societies is a growing tendency that needs immediate attention. The urgency to address this issue is there because it is threatening the very fabric of the modern societies. Fundamentalism is a form of idealism that emerged from the faith in the eternity of truth. The truth that is being advocated in fundamentalist approaches is not precisely the truth of Islamic spirit; rather, it is related to the preservation of cultural form and non admissibility of the newly emerging forms of the modern culture.
Allama Mohammad Iqbal, a famous thinker and poet of the sub-continent, in his work Reconstruction of the religious thoughts in Islam says that Islamic thought has been stagnant for the last five centuries. However, during this immense period so many new cultural forms in the form of new institutions, ideas and practices have emerged. Muslim societies failed to admit and acknowledge these new forms because they did not use the provision of Ijtehad in the Islamic legislation. The problem pointed out by Iqbal has no longer been a problem for the Muslim societies in the sense in which it was portrayed by Iqbal. Muslim societies are accepting the new forms and advancements. However, the religious mind is yet to up date itself and religious thinking still resists the admittance of new forms.
In societies where Muslims do not have a political power, the non admissibility of new forms in the Islamic thought is not a problem. However, in societies where orthodoxy has a potential and power to influence political decision making and legislation, their refusal to accept modernity is a great problem. Fundamentalism becomes a great problem for these societies.
Islamic legislation has four sources. The Koran, Sunnah( deeds and sayings of the holy prophet), Ijmah( The decisions made by the clerics of previous generations) and Ijtejad( The dynamic part of Islamic law that allows the legislature to enact new laws to deal with the situations that are unprecedented).
Modern civilization offers many situations that are entirely new and for which there is no mention in the traditional sources of Islamic legislation. Thus if a new situation emerges then the legislature has to deal it through Ijtehad. Ijtehad in fact is an attempt to baptize newly emerging forms through evaluating them at the touchstone of Islamic spirit embodied in the traditional sources like The Koran, Sunnah and Ijmah.
Thus, a new situation can be admitted to the mainstream thought if it is in accordance with the spirit of Islam and is rejected if it is contrary to the spirit of Islam. Iqbal in his Reconstruction of Religious thoughts in Islam claims that the spirit of Western culture is not different from the spirit of Islam. Thus, according to Iqbal Western forms embody the same spirit that is present in the Islamic sources of legislation. The difference that people observe in their notion of Islam and the corresponding Western reality exists on at the peripheries. It is only an appearance where as the essence of Islam quite similar to that of West.
Fundamentalism comments on Western society while committing a fallacy. The fallacy is of considering things as bearer of some intrinsic value. Fundamentalists believe that forms are good or evil and they don’t consider the fact that things don’t have intrinsic values. They don’t consider the fact that spirit has to evolve to reside in the newly emerging forms. For instance Islamic economic system does not allow governments to dictate the market and at the same time, in order to ensure a fair competition it applies an anti-dumping mechanism and does not allow people to store commodities. Thus, Islamic economic spirit is in line with of West.

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