Colombo Telegraph

Few Opinions On Internal Discussions Of Sri Lankan Muslims 

By N.M Rishard – 

N.M. Rishard

Two months have completed. It was an unexpected explosive attack that took place on 21st of April 2019 and none of Sri Lankan Muslims had any prediction on it. Few years back, some Muslims from Kattankudi had arranged a massive demonstration against Zahran Hashim, leader of banned terrorist group NTJ and the for-frontier of suicide bombers. In which they requested the government to arrest that particular person who was abnormal in his speeches and activities. Anyhow, the attack was a shocking incident not only for Muslims, but for entire human beings who respect ‘others’ irrespective of religion, race and ethnicity.

Post-Easter attacks (post 4/21) have created a new atmosphere where suspicions are rampant and each ethno-religious group has scarcity towards others. Particularly, Muslims are observed with black tinted glasses. When analysing the contemporary context, we can categorise it in to three major phrases. The first phrase is, three decades of civil war with LTTE, which was one of the dangerous terrorist groups internationally and was an unbearable burden to the nation politically, socially and economically. The second phrase is post-civil war which seemed to be a golden period in Sri Lankan history where the terrorism was eradicated. In fact, it starts from 2009 until Easter Sunday attacks. The third phrase will be post–Easter Sunday attacks where the terrorism has been planted again in this beautiful land for mere political purposes of few whose drama has been staging internationally and nationally. It is obvious that Post 4/21 is quite crucial period to Sri Lankan Muslims since they are anticipated to play a pivotal role in upcoming days. 

In future, Muslim society will pay more attention on external discussions than internal discussions. Many instances and incidents upon the attacks have urged Muslim community to rectify some misconceptions prevail among many people who are coming from various religious background. Numerous questions related to Islam such as Jihad, Shariah, Women, Freedom, relationship with other believes, suicide bombing and so on have been put forward to Muslims who mingle with Bhuddists, Hindus and Christians. Muslims are compelled to respond to these issues. This emerging new trend is unavoidable.

But, I strongly believe that Muslim society should focus more on creating very serious discussions in internal reformation rather than involve totally in external. I mean proper percentage should be given to both internal and external. Approximately 65% of the entire efforts and endeavours of the society can be provided to internal reformation. Following paragraphs try to suggest briefly few major points that can be given priority in internal reformation propaganda of Sri Lankan Muslims:

1. For Sri Lankan Muslims, self-criticism and self-evaluation are quite important at this crucial time. They have to step back and should have a courageous critical analysis into the way they are dealing with their sources, Quran and Prophetic traditions. We are able to identify four major trends that are adopted by Sri Lankan Muslims such as Sufism, Salafism, Traditionalism and Moderate Islamic Thought. All of these sects have been practicing for a long period and most movements that are following above mentioned trends, abstract its theology and worldview from foreign countries rather than contextualizing it according to the nature of our nation, people and environment. Furthermore, literal approach to the texts, Quran and prophetic traditions, has a great influence even inside the Moderate Islamic Thought groups and the objective based approach to the text is ignored in high extent. Only very few Muslim scholars make their uttermost effort to develop a contextualized method as well as objective based approach in this country. For instance, approximately one year back a well-known Muslim scholar had a talk on slaughtering cow and goat in Haj festival, in which he strongly argued that money can be given instead of slaughtering animals. His insistence was, one of the ultimate objectives of the prophetic action in slaughtering which is obviously taking care of poor and needy people in that joyful day and make them laugh. Giving money perhaps fulfils above mentioned objective and purpose much more. Unfortunately, unhealthy reactions and accusations were thrown towards him. My humble suggestion is, Muslims may slaughter only few animals in their particular area remembering the Abrahamic tradition and for the rest of the part they may provide money for the needy people in forth coming Haj festival. I argue that this kind of objective based approach, instead of literal approach, should be promoted, so that we can achieve the objective in multi-ethnic and pluralistic society.

2. Moreover, Sri Lankan Muslims should be very vigilant on extremist ideologies that can be stemmed again and promoted among youngsters particularly. Mosques can play a significant role in providing adequate guidance, educating and training young generation on moderate thought that totally rejects terrorism, racism and violence. Suspicious individuals who indoctrinate extremist ideologies even through in social media should be identified and their named should be informed to the relevant authority. In order to maintain the peaceful coexistence in this country this vigilant observation and other precautions are too essential.

3. Religious schools -Madrasa- are another sphere, in which a critical review should be taken place. Almost all madrasas, except very few, have orthodox approaches that are based on only traditional books. Graduates of Madrasas are educated and trained on a narrow perspective and worldview. For instance, in Islamic jurisprudence they are taught based on school of Shafie tradition only. Rather, they should be educated varieties of jurisprudent schools and further the students should be trained to analyse various opinions aiming to prioritize most suitable opinion to our county. Moreover, modern Islamic Thought, that emphasises on knowledge of minority, knowledge of priority, knowledge of contextualizing and so on, should be thoroughly taught to the students as well. These kinds of changes will provide a wide range of knowledge to the graduates who will be able capable enough to confront the prevailing problems and challenges with proper answer and adequate response.

4. Muslims religious leadership, that is the production of Madrasas, is another area on which Sri Lankan Muslims should pay more attention. All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama is considered by the layman group as the one and only accepted civil leadership for Sri Lankan Muslims. The structure of the particular organisation is quite complex and questionable. The main reason is that any graduates from any Madrasa even a small madrasa that has a narrow and unscientific syllabus can get membership in it. No any academic qualification, except graduating from a madrasa, is asked from a Mawlawi in order to gain a membership in this institution. The dangerous consequence of this unhealthy structure is that most of its members have no enough educational qualification such as Master or PHD in Islamic studies. This structural formation indicates a severe crisis among the religious leadership of Sri Lankan Muslims. It is very clear that the institution needs a radical change that starts from a structural reform, not mere arranging few seminars and workshops to empower its members.

5. Another unprecedented dimension is emerging aftermath 21/4 attack. Some civil leaders other than religious such as Ali sabri, Imtiyas bakir Markar, Kabir Hashim and ferial Ashraff have frequently appeared and they have been spotlighted in media. They were interviewed with critical questions that need an in-depth knowledge in Islamic sources, history and heritage. There is a possibility in future that this new emerging civil leadership will gain more support from limited Muslims groups that mostly consist of intellectuals, businessmen and other elites while religious leadership will gain support from public groups. This new phenomenon may create a huge division among Sri Lankan Muslims in advocating leadership. There is a high possibility of emerging rivalry between liberal and traditional approaches. The pros and cons of this trend should be analysed by the relevant people.

Here we have mentioned only few issues that have to be discussed very lengthy and there are some more issues that also to be discussed such as dress code, Muslim women, engaging with others and contribution to the nation. In short, we would like to emphasis here is that each and every society needs an internal discussion in order to reform itself and subsequently to contribute for building a peaceful country where every citizen has the religious freedom and the loyalty to the nation. 

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