Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (Urdu: جاوید احمد غامدی) is an Islamic scholar from Pakistan, whom you might have heard about, mentioned here or there in religious niches. Chances are that the mention would have been highly cynical, if not derogatory. Religious people normally consider him as a threat to their beliefs; and the only reason why you might not have heard much hue and cry about the guy is ’cause they want to keep him an obscure figure. If it were up to them, they would have come up against him with all guns blazing, but they couldn’t do so except by attracting a lot of people’s attention towards him, which for them is self-defeating. Hence, he is a figure, whom you can’t write about without angering either a vast majority, or his camp followers. Anyhow, I for one, will try and exude my actual feelings towards him, no matter how confusing they might end up looking. So here goes…..
To start off, let me say it out loud and clear:
“If the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم – Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had not revoked prostration to anyone besides Allah, I would have kowtowed with respect infront of Ghamidi Sahab for his clarification of the Quranic verses on inheritance”
To me, the harmony he has brought to the Quranic interpretation of these verses on distribution of inheritance, which was, and let’s be fair, a big mess previously, ‘epitomizes‘ his genius. I also think, it is his ninth symphony, and i don’t think he can bring about any work in the future that is so profoundly well founded and so immensely beneficial to the Muslims, than this; and just so we are clear, it was a compliment! There were no assumptions, no artificial beautification: he just let the verses be – something no one had allowed them to do. The low-key and sulky attention it has gotten this far, eludes by comprehension.
At the same time I feel very strongly against his interpretation of the punishment of stoning to death (رجم) for adulterers (i.e. married fornicators), his explanation of the Chapter of Elephant (سورة الفيل), his view of Jesus’s second coming, calling the Caliphate a democracy, and so many others; yet I respect him like crazy. I have many disagreements with him, but I revere him for being the iconoclast he truly is. In the business of ‘Knowledge’, one has no option but to behave with nothing but respect. And let me say it: I learnt it from him.
Try and read any of the rebuttals written by contemporary scholars against him and you’ll come to know what I’m talking about. You’ll find all such works overly invective, rife with open and hidden insults and abuses; not to mention their exceeding shallowness in the name of knowledge. But you’ll find this guy, standing his ground, with nobility of reasoning and humility of expression. I mean it is not easy to keep one’s cool and maintain one’s composure in the face of open rebuke and revile. And whether I end up agreeing or disagreeing with him, I always admire the integrity of his interpretation and the loftiness of his proffered proofs. After all, I’m not blind.
Perhaps, his biggest turn-on is that he is Amin Ahsan Islahi’s (أمين أحسن إصلاحي) true protégé. Islahi Sahab is the biggest treasure I have found in my life this far. Before him, it was Maudoodi Sahab. But Islahi sahab is ‘a mufassir apart’ (mufassir is a person who interprets the Holy Quran, exegete). I like to call him ‘Mufassir 2.0’ as in ‘web 2.0’, since he is the only one scholar in our history who has convincingly transpired the Holy Quran as being ‘Semantically Coherent’ and brought about the eloquence of the Quran to be recognized tangibly. I know these are high sounding words and might be a handful for you right now, but I just wanted to state it; I’ll tend to them in the article I wish to write on Islahi Sahab. But oh boy! did he get a great legatee in the form of Ghamidi Sahab. But while Islahi sahab was more of a mufassir, he is a scholar in the complete sense of the word – and I’m not overstating.
Imagine a person who is:
- a literary prodigy from his childhood, having many marks to show for it;
- abreast with all the leading philosophies, posited by significant philosophers of our era and the past: not only abreast, but adept enough to be at a position to offer his critique in their jargon;
- one who accepts evolution but treads a fine line in his discourse on Darwinism, and no! it is not a shallow work we are used to finding in the critique offered by our contemporary scholars: filled with misplaced anger and driven by emotion in the name of science – in fact it is as dispassionate as it can be;
- is deeply founded in history – Islamic and otherwise;
- knows almost all significant scientific inventions and astronomical discoveries of our era, as are necessary;
- is a biblical major – again, dispassionate is the word;
- and so eloquent that going through his critique is usually better than watching a blockbuster movie or a best seller novel,
but is simultaneously a scholar of Islam;
- adept in Arabic literature, not of present day, but of an era the interpretation of Holy Quran depends upon;
- a Mufassir, one who is sensible enough to consider Quranic Orations as a form of coherent speech, experienced enough to have dug up trenches in famous works by ancient mufassirs, and sagacious enough to do his due diligence before announcing his inclinations towards a particular interpretation – Quran, is his forte;
- a jurist, of the likes of our famous Imams (Chief Scholars), who knows what are the actual reasons for any, and I mean any, juristic decree that has trickled down to us, how many differences of opinions there are regarding that decree, and based on what proof his decision is better than theirs, if he differs;
- a hotshot expert of ahadith (Sayings of the Holy Prophet, plural of hadith حديث), expert enough to talk about the health of pretty much any hadith, which is quite a lost art these days;
- and still noble and humble enough to present his views as just another view people ought to know about, without declaring them cutthroat essential, the acceptance or denial of which would normally be equated with apostasy.
I know, these seem to be a lot of tall claims, but hey, it is my blog, so I am only responsible for what I think. But please, do visit his site to go through his works and then tell me, in which of the above mentioned areas have I exaggerated.
Ghamidi Sahab often frustrates me though, with how dispassionately he rebuts the prevalent and agreed upon interpretation of juristic issues. Many a times, his endeavor appears to be nothing but throwing stone in a perfectly placid pond; delving into issues that weren’t even disputed, at least not by a vast majority of our ancestors and scholars. On other occasions, he tries to oversimplify dissentient issues. He thus reeks of being a veritably cold person who is uninhibited by any form of emotion or compassion for our juristic legacy when it comes to exegesis. I know! this statement is a dilemma in itself; it will sound good to some and utterly evil to others, depending on their angle on things. I am not going to try and expound on it, as far as this article is concerned, for it will consume all of my time and effort. With time, however, I have come to understand that this way; way of looking at issues without any pre-conceptions and sans passion or prejudice; is the only way, to find out the truth.
If you wish to come to grips with this man’s intellectual abilities, please have a look-see at some of his researches that are pretty much ‘watersheds’ in the sea of opinions. These include:
- definition of sunnah, thereby separating sunnah from hadith, not only as our traditional scholars remark in passing, but deprecating hadith in ‘value’ as far as tenability of evidence and derivability of law is concerned;
- separation of jurisprudence (فقه) from religion (دين), successfully displaying that while interpretations may vary throughout eras and people, religion remains the same – which in turn provides basis for the much longed for but never attained unity of the ummah;
- genesis of Law of Evidence (قانون شهادة), especially equating males and females by first laying bare the reasoning of our jurists that led them to believe the same and then by reasonably refuting their arguments (like for example the semantic analysis of the word ‘شهدا’ used in the Holy Quran, or differentiating documentary and legally acceptable evidence);
- critique on sufi-ism, research into which is awe-inspiring and mind-boggling, master stroke being labeling it as a parallel religion;
- critique on Maudoodi sahab’s coined ideology, you’ll fall head over heels in love with the attention to details of Ghamidi sahab particularly in his debunking of this ideology;
and a myriad of other juristic matters, particularly from the Holy Quran, like inheritance of orphan grandson, insurance, organ donation, prisoners of war (boy this one was just awesome, in fact, any rebuttal to Maudoodi sahab’s reasoning is jaw dropping, since Maudoodi sahab already goes to a never before attained depth, when Ghamidi sahab surpasses him, it is breathtaking), his unacceptance of incarceration as a legitimate form of punishment, kalalah (oh boy, it was spell binding) and so so many others. By no means is this an exhaustive list. I can go on and on. If you can read and understand urdu, please go here for all of his essays: http://al-mawrid.org/pages/articles_urdu_all.php?author_id=5. I’ve just mentioned those, the taste of awesomeness of which has still not subsided. I’ve made it a point to read, listen and see anything he has to say about anything. I think everyone else should as well.
I think his books, Burhan (برهان, which means ‘Testament’) and Meezan (ميزان, which means ‘Balance’), perhaps have been translated into English, so any non-Urdu speakers can benefit too. By the way, Urdu or English, Meezan is a must read: While I think the name is a bit pompous, but nevertheless, you won’t find any other book on the face of the planet that’ll better describe Islam to you, and I mean diametrically. As discussed earlier, he does deviate from traditional beliefs at 2, 3 places, but that isn’t reason enough to avoid it altogether. It’s a work of art – and the world ‘will’ recognize it sooner or later.
To people with juvenile intellects, I would have come off as his utmost camp follower, but I hope, those with mature minds can understand the difference between an admirer and a camp follower. I am the former!
Going back to the bigger picture, I started off this article with the intention of introducing Ghamidi Sahab, but perhaps have veered into his admiration. But in case of Ghamidi Sahab, I don’t know where intro ends and admiration begins, coz they’re pretty much one and the same to me. I mean, ask any world renowned painter or creative artist to introduce the Sistine Chapel, and I’ll be amazed if even you can tell the difference. Anyhow, as far as his difference of opinions with our traditional viewpoints on some issues are concerned, I think I am not completely sure the pen has written the final judgment. I think, there’s still a lot to be said and written. Many paths to venture, many stones to turn. But I have a strong hunch that the viewpoint of our traditional school of thought has not been optimally represented. That is why, on this blog, I’ll try and argue with the reasoning tendered by Ghamidi Sahab with the hope of reaching absolute certainty, mopping up any stray aspersions, along the way.
I have initiated a category by the name of Ghamidi. I’ll file all rebuttals under this category. I’ll hope that he replies to it, if he finds it worthy enough. Coz, only then, can we achieve our purpose.
Forgive me if I have offended anybody. It was not my intention.