Academic journal article Hemispheres

Imam Nur Al-Din Al-Salimi (1286-1332/1869-1914) - an Umani Islamic Thinker and Reformer. A Preliminary Study

Academic journal article Hemispheres

Imam Nur Al-Din Al-Salimi (1286-1332/1869-1914) - an Umani Islamic Thinker and Reformer. A Preliminary Study

Article excerpt

Uman and the Iba?i movement

In the middle of the 19th century several Islamic movements emerged as a response to the rapid social change provoked by the confrontation with Western civilization and the politics of colonialism. This first modern Muslim response attempted to combine Islamic faith with the Western concepts of nationalism, rationality, civil rights and democracy. The attempt of reconciliation of Islam with the modern Western values went through "critical reexamination of the classical conceptions and methods of jurisprudence" 1 that combined new approaches to Islamic theology and the exegesis of the ?ur'an (tafsir). This Islamic Modernism or Islamic Salafism is commonly associated with Egypt and such outstanding jurists as Mu?ammad ?Abduh and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani. The tendency founded by ?Abduh is referred to as Neo-Mut'azilism after the Medieval Islamic school of theology based on rationalism ( al-mu?atazilah). The disciples of this school denied the concept of the ?ur'an as eternal and uncreated, and declared that it was reason but not "sacred words" as a toll of determining what was obligatory in religion. 2 ?Abduh himself appealed for a good religious education; he criticized superstition and broke the rigidity of Muslim rituals and dogma.3

Evolved predominantly as a rationalist movement, Islamic Modernism has developed into another, ultra-conservative tendency often described as one synonymous with Wahhabism, especially when discussed as Islamic Salafism, or a movement devoted to the beliefs of the first three generations of Muslims. This movement has been characterized by strict and literalist approaches to Islam and is considered as a mixture of Wahhabism and other 20th-century movements with an idea of offensive jihad against enemies of Islam.4

Thus, Islamic Modernism represents a complex phenomenon and combines various trends focused on multitude goals and methods starting from education and missionary work to reinforce the concept of Taw?id and the rejection of any religious innovation ( bid'ah) to political reform based on the idea of a caliphate re-established through the means of evolution or violence. In the legal matters, these trends can be divided into two groups: those who opt for independent legal judgement ( ijtihad), and those who oppose using rational disputation (kalam) and stress a strict adherence (ta?lid) to the classical four schools of law.5

Founded and developed in Egypt, Islamic Modernism as an idea of religious and legal reform is widespread and can be traced in various Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Sudan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, or Saudi Arabia. At the turn of the 20 th century, Uman became one of the countries that witnessed a tendency of reforming religious sphere and political relations.6 In this country, it was the Iba?i rite which has been closely bound to this reform. Notwithstanding the existence of other schools of Islamic law, such as the Shafi'i in the south, the Hanafi in some northern coastal areas and Hanbali on the desert fringes, the Iba?i doctrine remained the religious authority in the country and became a constant engine of political dynamics. However, as Abdulrahman al-Salimi stressed, "despite the long history of Ibadi control, no research was conducted into the theological aspect of this school, but rather just into the political aspect of the Ibadi Imamate. Scholars rarely devoted their attention to Oman's oral and doctrinal heritage prior to the last forty years."7 Consequently, the question of the nature of this religious reform tendency and the role of its leading personalities is still opened to study.

Uman was a place where the Iba?i Imamat was established as a religious ideal of Islamic community within a particular political shape. This ideal goes back to the first two decades after the death of the Prophet Muhammad and the so-called Khawaridj (Mu?akkimah) movement based on the concept of the elected Imam. The election of Imam was a contract and the community was obliged to support its leader as long as he was lawful and observed the shari'a. …

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