This book is the result of a lengthy collaboration between scholars of Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University and Islamic Hotline or El-Hatef El-Islami organization. Put simply, far too simply, its aim is to contest the growing number of intolerant and/or simply mistaken legal opinions that often go unchallenged in Muslim communities today. Deeply rooted in the legal tradition of ikhtilaf writings, yet utilizing modern means of communication, The Response applies the wisdom of the classical jurists to the complex realities of the contemporary Muslim world.
What can the present work add to the overcrowded and, it seems, increasingly stagnant debate on “how to live as a Muslim in the modern world”? This book’s importance lies in refocusing our attention on the flexibility and coherence of the works of Sunni Islam’s traditional legal authorities, a point that, while eloquently made in
Professor Muhammad Ra’fat ‘Uthman’s introduction, informs the reasoning behind all the legal opinions (fatawa) contained here. Of course, the same kind of reasoning was exercised by the classical jurists, for whom “difference” (ikhtilaf) was perceived as a sign of God’s mercy (rahma).
Sadly, the jurists’ initial courage – their
respect for difference, even for ambiguity –
is now often forgotten, as the search for a
single, monolithic reading to solve all
problems regularly results in discussions
breaking down into mere polemic. In troubled
times, the authors invite Muslims to
exercise compassion and common sense in
their dealings with each other. The advice
given is not to judge harshly someone who
fails to live up to your standards, or who
prefers a different path, or who is ignorant
of the law in a particular instance...
Dr. Richard Gauvain
Professor of Comparative Religions at the
American University in Cairo, Egypt.