Unity of the Text of the Qurān

Written By Dinda Revolusi on Kamis, 07 April 2011 | 18.13

As a subject of study, the unity of the qurānic text assumes special importance because the Qurān does not always seem to deal with its themes in what most readers would call a systematic manner (see form and structure of the qurān).
Western scholars of Islam have often spoken of the “disconnectedness” of the Qurān (see pre-1800 preoccupations of qurānic studies; post-enlightenment academic study of the qurān). Historically, most Muslim exegetes have not raised the issue at all (see exegesis of the qurān: classical and medieval).
Of those who have, some have offered the apologetic explanation that a text revealed in portions (see revelation and inspiration) over more than two decades cannot have a high degree of unity (see chronology and the qurān; occasions of revelation).
But a few others, notably Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1210) and Ibrāhīm b. Umar al-Biqāī (d. 885/1480), present the Qurān as a well-connected text (for further discussion of the concept of tanāsub/munāsaba, see traditional disciplines of qurānic study).
A distinction must, however, be made between connection and unity: the former may be defined as any link — strong or weak, integral or tangential — that is seen to exist between the components of a text (see literary structures of the qurān; language and style of the qurān),
Whereas unity arises from a perception of a given text's coherence and integration and from its being subject to a centralizing perspective. In the second chapter of al-Burhān fī ulūm al-Qurān, al-Zarkashī (d. 794/1392) seems to make this distinction, but most of his illustrative examples bear upon the Qurān's connectedness rather than upon its unity. The attempts of al-Rāzī and others also do not go beyond demonstrating that the Qurān is, in the above-noted sense, a connected text.
In modern times, however, a number of Muslim scholars from various parts of the Muslim world have, with varying degrees of cogency, argued that the Qurān possesses a high degree of thematic and structural unity, and this view seems to represent a modern consensus in the making (see contemporary critical practices and the qurān; exegesis of the qurān: early modern and contemporary).
In the introduction to his Tafhīm al-Qurān, Abū l-Alā Mawdūdī (d. 1979) maintains that one can appreciate the unity of the qurānic text if one notes that nowhere does the Qurān depart from its subject (humankind's ultimate success and failure; see eschatology; reward and punishment), its central thesis (the need for humans to take the right attitude in life — that is, to accept God's sovereignty [q.v.] in all spheres of life and submit to him in practice; see virtues and vices, commanding and forbidding) and its goal (to invite man to adopt that right attitude).
One of Sayyid Quṭb's (d. 1966) premises in Fī ẓilāl al-Qurān is that each sūra (q.v.) of the Qurān has a miḥ war (pivot, axis) that makes the sūra a unified whole. But perhaps the most sustained effort to bring out the unity of the qurānic text has been made by two exegetes of the Indian subcontinent, Ḥamīd al-Dīn al-Farāhī (d. 1930) and his student Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī (d. 1997).
Developing his teacher's ideas, Iṣlāḥī in his Tadabbur-i Qurān shows that the Qurān possesses unity at several levels: the verse-sequence in each sūra deals with a well-defined theme in a methodical manner (see verses); The sūras, as a rule, exist as pairs, the two sūras of any pair being complementary to each other; and the sūras are divisible into seven groups, each dealing with a master theme that is developed systematically within the sūras of the group. The Farāhī-Iṣlāḥī thesis would seem to constitute a serious challenge to the theories that view the Qurān as a disconnected text.

18.13 | 0 komentar | Read More

The Structural Formulation of the Asha’rite Dogma

The entry to the formulation of the Ash’arite system relies principally in understanding the Ash’arite perception of the concept of the relationship between the three circles of existence, namely God, man and the world.  The differences between all intellectual and civilizational systems are in fact, due to their perception of this relationship.  In terms of the Ash’arite formulation of this relationship, it is characterized by its abstract and formal form.  In this formulation, a concretization of one circle is deemed possible without any consideration to the other two circles, simply because it is impossible to formulate a creative relationship between the three circles –themselves formal- in the light of what is abstract and formal.  On that basis, the Ash’arites negate the idea of the relationship between the three circle due to the difference and contrast between them that goes beyond any formal and abstract intellectual construct.  To say the least, the Ash’arites came to the conclusion –by virtue of this formality and abstraction- that the only possible relationship between them is a “dictating and subjugating relationship” and not “interactive and assimilative one”.

In any case, the true relationship (true in the sense that it is necessary and not superficial) between any elements that can influence one another, has no place whatsoever in the Ash’arite system of thought.  In truth, it is not easy to explain the Ash’arites’ system of thought in the absence of a clear understanding of their negation of this relationship –as a necessary connection- between God, man and the world. 
Concomitant to their negation of this relationship is their intention to widely open the domain of the “dominance of the absolutes”. The aim of their system of thought and the cause of its formulation were principally to exhibit the dominance of the divine absolute at the expense of both man and the world.  That is why their system was crystallized as a complete reiteration of the concept of God, to the extent that the world seems to be void of anything but God.  This resulted in the dislodging of the objectivity and necessity of the world and the activity of man.  Hence, for the Ash’arite, the world and man are empty and fragile existence without value.  Accordingly, the true existence of God necessitates the marginality of any other existence. 
It might have been understood from that brief description that the sacrifice of the objectivity of the world and the activity of man for the sake of the dominance of the divine absolute, is the most passive results that the Ash’arite system of thought has ever produced.  Fortunately, this result is in a collision with one of God’s purposes of creation.  God has never created the world and man to institutionalize His dominance, but to constitute the knowledge of Himself, as He Himself states. The knowledge of Himself –and not the dominance over the other- is the real content of the relationship between God, man and the world.  And that is what the Ash’arites could not realize due to their prevailing perception of the absolute dominance of God over man and the natural world.
This absolutist structure, whose aim is to emphasize the dominance of the (divine or political) absolute, becomes even more apparent when the elements of the Ash’arite system of thought are structurally analyzed.  The structure of this system –it is important to note- is not discoverable only through the “realization of its external and sensitive relationships”;  a relationship that merely verifies the affinity between the elements of the system, but through the disclosure of the internal rational system that regulates all its elements.  Interestingly however, although the disclosure of this internal system -the structure that is- cannot be verified except through the elements of the system, these elements in their turn cannot be explained except through their affiliation to this structure.   Putting this in mind, the absolutist structure of the Ash’arite system is not merely a product of a simple realization of the superficial relationship that joins the elements of the system, because it is the internal rational system that regulates this relationship and acquires for it its rationality and interpretation.  In other words, a simple observation of the external affinities between various issues that the Ash’arites have dealt with, notably the issues of God, man and nature, will not lead to the disclosure of the structure of Ash’arite system.  What will lead to this is an internal rational system that these issues essentially revolve around.  It is here –and only here- that the structure of the Ash’arite system can be disclosed.
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The Ash’arite Dogma: The Root of the Arab/Muslim Absolutism

Absolutism is the real substance of the Arab (or perhaps Muslim) politics in the modern era.  It is the very root that feeds all despotic and authoritarian practices, which prevail in the political domains of the Arabs and Muslims.  The serious dilemma is that, the Arabs/Muslims are now under the tremendous pressure from the outside world –notably from the superpower- to rehabilitate their political order through the implementation of democracy and respect for human rights.  The driving reason behind this demand is the urgent need to drain the sources of what some have –mistakenly or rightly- called Islamic terrorism.  Apart from the true intention of this demand, reformation and change in the Arab/Muslim world become nonetheless the interests of the outside power.    

At this juncture, the Arab/Muslim world is trapped between two things; between the pressure for change and reform, and between the incapability to overcome its inherent predicament that hinders its aspiration for political shift.  Thus, it is awkwardly suffering from falling between the horns of the two dilemmas.

Attempts have been made to get away from the Arab/Muslim decadence, but these have come to a meaningless outcome.  This failure might be caused by the fact that these attempts followed the strategy of replacing an old practice with a modern one, without considering the discourse that stands behind this practice and dictates it.  The suggested Western recipe of reformation for the Middle East adopts this strategy.  It looks at the impasse of the Arab reality merely in its outward political representation, and ignores its deep cultural root, which found its most flashy projection in absolutism.  Absolutism of this kind however, cannot be uplifted by means of the Western recipes only.  Delving into a classical Muslim legacy is necessary; a legacy that still strongly dominates people’s consciousness –ruling and ruled- with its evasive systems and hidden roots that perpetuate absolutism.  Applying a Western democratic recipe without looking at this classical legacy is destined to another failure because this will merely replace an old practice with a new one, holding the absolutist discourse constantly alive.  This new practice will surely be absorbed –as past events witnessed- within the structure of the dominant discourse to the extent that it will become a decorative mask through which this discourse extends its life.
The intention of this essay is to initiate a serious step towards a critical investigation of the discourse of absolutism.  The essay suggests that this discourse finds its most profound roots in the dogmatic system of the Ash’arites.  Taking for granted that this system is not only theological, the thesis argues that it was vulnerably usable for ideological and political purposes.  The analysis particularly focuses on tracing the deep structure of the Ash’arite system that regulates some specific issues in a hope to touch some of its ideological functions.
17.41 | 0 komentar | Read More

Towards an Objective Measure of Gharar in Exchange

Written By Dinda Revolusi on Rabu, 06 April 2011 | 18.15

Although the legal aspects of gharar are well established in Islamic jurisprudence, researchers in Islamic finance constantly face the dilemma of defining the concept and its precise meaning. For example, Zaki Badawi (1998, p. 16) writes: “The precise meaning of Gharar is itself uncertain. The literature does not give us an agreed definition and scholars rely more on enumerating individual instances of Gharar as substitute for a precise definition of the term.” Frank Vogel (1998, p. 64) expresses a similar tone: “As with riba, fiqh scholars have been unable to define the exact scope of gharar.” These claims might well be exaggerating, but they point to the need for further contemporary formulation of the subject.

This paper is an attempt to develop an objective criterion to identify and measure gharar in exchange. It is shown that a gharar transaction is equivalent to a zero-sum game with uncertain payoffs. The measure helps economists view gharar within an integrated theory of exchange under uncertainty, so that it can be easily communicated to non-Muslim economists. Further, it provides a quantitative measure of gharar that can potentially be applied to innovative risky transactions. A Shari’ah-based measure is also developed, and the two criteria are shown to coincide and integrate each other.

The Islamic principle behind most illegal contracts is eating others’ money for nothing. A zero-sum exchange reflects precisely this concept: It is an exchange in which one party gains by taking away from the other party’s payoff, leading to a win-lose outcome. However, a rational agent will not accept to engage into a certainly losing game; only if loss is uncertain and gain is probable, that such game is played. Hence uncertainty or risk is what tempts rational agents to engage into an exchange which they know in advance that only one will gain from it while the other must lose. This temptation is best described by the term gharar, which means deception and delusion. It follows that a gharar contract is characterized as a zero-sum game with uncertain payoffs. This paper argues that such measure well
defines gharar transactions.

The paper also develops a Shari’ah based measure derived from the hadith: Liability justifies return or utility. It is shown the these two measures coincide and integrate each other. A quantitative formula is developed to examine gharar in nonzero-sum games, which helps formalizing conditions of unacceptable risk or excessive gharar mentioned by fiqh scholars. An examination of well known gharar contracts shows how the zero-sum measure is satisfied. The measure helps explaining why fuqaha take different positions on controversial nonzero-sum contracts, while unanimously prohibit strictly zero-sum contracts. Extending the measure to modern applications generates interesting results on how a certain contract, like the option contract, might or might not be gharar, depending on the structure of payoffs for the two players.

The economic significance of the zero-sum measure provides insights into the Islamic view of economic behavior. Elimination of zero-sum arrangements can be viewed as a paradigm governing Islamic principles of exchange. Not only this paradigm is internally consistent, it is also consistent with rationality as defined by Neoclassical economics. Consequently, modern analytical tools are readily available for Muslim economists without compromising Islamic principles There is much to be studied and analyzed, and I hope that this paper presents a proper starting point for building a coherent theory of exchange in Islamic economics.
18.15 | 0 komentar | Read More

Monetary Management in an Islamic Economy Muhammad Umer Chapra

The monetary system that prevails in the world now has-come-into-existence-after passing.through several-stages-of evolution. The monetary system that prevailed during the Prophet’s (pbuh) days was essentially a bimetallic standard with gold and silver coins (dinars and dirhams) circulating simultaneously. The ratio that prevailed between the two coins at that time was 1:10. This ratio seems to have remained generally stable throughout the period of the first four caliphs. Such stability did not, however, persist continually. The two metals faced different supply and demand conditions which tended to destabilize their relative prices. For example, in the second half of the Umayyad period (41/662-132/750) the ratio reached 1:12, while in the Abbasid period (132/750-656/1258), it reached 1:15 or less.

In addition to this continued long-term decline in the ratio, the rate of exchange between the dinar and the dirham fluctuated widely at different times and in different parts of the then Muslim world. The ratio at times declined to as low as 1:35, and even 1:50. According to both al-Maqrizi (d. 845/1442) and his contemporary al-Asadi (d. after 854/1450), this instability enabled bad coins to drive good coins out of circulation, a phenomenon which became referred to in the 16th century as Gresham’s Law.

When the United States adopted bimetallism in 1792, the gold-silver price ratio was 1:15. However, the fluctuating prices of both metals led the US to demonetize silver in 1873. Experience of several other countries suggests that bimetallism was a fragile standard. There was no dependable way to tie together full-bodied gold and silver coins at fixed rates. This was the main cause of its universal demise.

Monometallism hence took its place. In the beginning, silver and gold both com¬peted, but silver continued to lose ground and the gold standard became prevalent around the world. It emerged as a true international standard by 1880 following the switch by a majority of countries from bimetallism and silver monometallism to gold as the basis of their currencies. Under this standard, the value of a country’s currency is legally defined as a fixed weight of gold, and the monetary authority is under an obligation to convert the domestic currency on demand into gold at the legally prescribed rate. Historically there have been three variants of the gold standard: the gold coin standard, when gold coins were in active circulation; the gold bullion standard, when gold coins were not in circulation but the monetary authority undertook to sell gold bullion against the local currency at the official rate; and the gold exchange standard  (or the Bretton Woods system), when the monetary authority was required to exchange domestic currency for US dollars which could be converted into gold at a fixed parity.
The UK was on a gold coin standard until 1914 and then a gold bullion standard from 1925 to 1932. The rules of the gold standard required deficit countries to deflate and the surplus countries to reflate their economies. This seemed unrealistic during the Great Depression when the deficit countries had no alternative but to reflate their economies to reduce unemployment. The United States and France, the two major surplus countries, also did not find it practical to follow the rules of the game. Instead of reflating their economies, they persistently sterilized their balance of payments surpluses, thus accentuating the deflationary pressure on the deficit countries. Such policies undermined the effective operation of the gold standard and it was abandoned after the Great Depression.

18.04 | 0 komentar | Read More