A Discourse with Bassam Obeid

AT THE TABLE: Sheikh Bassam Obeid, Dr. Masood N. Khan, Taimur Tareen, Shaban Abusamak, Mirza Azim Beg, Dr. Omar Idlibi, Ashfaq Mehdi, Arshad Shums

Here are the excerpts of an interactive discussion that took place on The Round Table with Bassam Obeid, a baccalaureate in Islamic Law from Islamic University of Medinah, Saudi Arabia and other participants.

About “Taqleed”:

A question was asked as to how best to define Taqleed which is commonly used in the discussion about various sciences related to Deen. Sheikh Bassam Obeid, a linguist in Arabic, explained that the root word of Taqleed is Qallada which means a kind of yoke placed in the neck of an animal to devote it to certain purpose or diety so that it is not available for any other function including slaughter for food. Qur’an has used this word in its plural form as Qalaid. With this applied meaning of the root word, Taqleed is an act of devoting oneself to a system, ideology or a school of thought. It is not necessary that one should follow an interpretation or idea 100% to do Taqleed. As long as one accepts if for himself as a valid option in its core approach and application and subscribes to it predominantly even if it differs in some areas, he/she will be rightly called a Muqallid – one doing Taqleed. The precedence is present in the example of Imam Abu Hanifa’s famous pupils who while following him as his Muqallid, differed with him in certain issues.

Is Ijtihad a right of individual Muslim?:

Many Muslims believe that in order to do Ijtihad one has to be qualified. The required qualifications have been so strict and restrictive that by default they exclude all Muslims except that scholars in religious sciences. Since there were no such highly structured courses in religious sciences at the time of the Prophet, the understanding and applicaton of Ijtihad as an option given to Muslims, definitely was different and available to them in the earlier period, without any prohibitive qualifications. It was brought up that perhaps we need to understand right to Ijtihad at two different levels. One is at an individual level where a Muslim can make Ijtihad for his/her unique conditions and challenges in life but making sure that the mahkamat given in Qur’an and confines of haram and halal are not violated.

Here even a basic understanding which a common Muslim is expected to have of beliefs, haram and halal and other clear injunctoins for human colde of conduct given in Qur’an, is enough to qualify him/her to avail the avenue of Ijtihad to solve his/her uniquely situated, day to day problems and issues in life. The second level of Ijtihad is in a collective realm where Muslims en-masse are facing a issue in the society at large. Here an Ijtihad will obviously have to come from either a person of stature who people listen and follow and/or from an acclaimed institution of religious scholarship (strict qualifications?) in order to be able to give a Ijtihad-based solution to a large group of Muslims locally or to all Muslims globally.

About the Comsic Creation – the Universe:

Discussed the knowledge we derive through Qur’an about the creation and the structure of universe. There are verses in Qur’an related to cosmic creation that baffle human imagination. As we reflect on these verses some clear facts are revealed concerning what the universe contains. These are:

  1. The universe is structured into seven spheres which Qur’an calls “Samawaath” commonly translated as heavens (Surah 67: Verse 3)
  2. These seven spheres of the cosmos (the heavens) are layered one above the other. (Surah 67: Verse 3)
  3. As there are seven heavens, Allah has created earths (earth-like planets) similarly. This could mean exactly seven in number like heavens or could simply mean more than one, not necessarily one above the other but scattered in the universe. (Surah 65: Verse 12)
  4. These earth-like plantes are very similar to earth, able to harbor life. Today human being is trying hard to find life beyond our planet, yet Allah has already hinted the presence of life beyond the earth, in Qur’an. Not only this, Qur’an declares that either in this world or in the hereafter the inhabitants of these planets will meet each other. So the possibility of meeting with aliens cannot be ruled out according to Qur’an. (Surah 42: Verse 29)
  5. The order of Allah keeps descending upon the cosmic creation. In other words, the whole comic including heavens and what they contain and the many inhabitable planets like earth are under the order and control from one commanding source – the God with all His power and encompassing knowledge. (Surah 65: Verse 12)
  6. There is a physical endpoint of the whole universe (Surah 53: Verse 14 & 15). Beyond this point it is impossible to go further. This is limit is called “Sidrath-ul-Munthaha”, which has been commonly translated as “tree located at the endpoint”, but the word “sidrah” in Arabic also simpl means a station or a place beyond comprehension, where the whole universe in its creation form reaches its farthest border and ceases to exist.

Above are some important facts mentioned in Qur’an related to cosmic science, that modern astronomy is trying to explore. We are sure Qur’an may contain more facts that could be unmasked with a researching study of Qur’an by those who are interested in astronomy.