You are by now familiar with this column that is meant to bring ideas, current affairs and questions related to Muslims’ attitudes, understandings, practice of their faith, and challenges posed by a changing world advancing on its natural evolutionary path, to the table for debate. Hopefully the provocatives for the mind given below will stimulate discussions, critical analyses and in-depth understanding of issues and their nuances facing Muslims globally.

For this issue of Spark we have selected the following provocatives which, for a change, are a mix of non-religious and religious issues, nonetheless extremely important. Though seemingly political, these issues are related with the causes and prevention of violence and bloodshed around the world. The correct understanding and application of these issues do project onto the vision of a safe and compassionate world of the future. We urge you to bring them to the round table for a lively and dynamic discussion.

We would like to impress upon you that ‘Ijtihad’, the finding of right solution to any problem in life without compromising the beliefs and the spirit of the message, is your individual right and responsibility, not a monopoly of the Mullah or the scholar as has been erroneously understood for centuries. Muslims need to understand that there are no pre-conditions of scholarship to qualify them for Ijtihad. This has been a nonsensical dogma that has been grilled into the very psych and intellect of Muslims by those who wanted to monopolize understanding of their faith. On the contrary every Muslim can acquire enough knowledge pertaining to any issue at hand so as to sincerely and honestly analyze it as it relates to his or her unique circumstances and make Ijtihad accordingly.

  1. In Saudi Arabia and many other countries, Muslim women chose to cover in addition to the regular Hijab, their faces with a veil keeping only eyes uncovered. The tradition of wearing Burqa is also a similar practice. Is there any clear divine injunction to support it? If not, should Muslim women who practice veiling or Burqa be strongly discouraged.
  2. Do you agree that there is such thing as rigidity and inflexibility in religion? Many people take it as a reflection of piety. Do you agree with this conclusion? Can piety be differentiated from strict and conservative practice of religion and if so can a very flexible (liberal?) Muslim be a pious Muslim?
  3. Saudi Arabia with other Gulf States, supported and endorsed by the United States started bombing Yemen in order to fight Shia Houthi rebels. The bombing was indiscriminate and resulted in about 3000 innocent Muslims killed. What is your standing on this issue?