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Viruses out to attack the Book

Adian Husaini



WITHOUT much fanfare, academic and Quranic study circles in Indonesia's major cities have in the past two months been discussing an important new book in Islamic studies in Southeast Asia. Written by Henri Shalahuddin, the book "Al Quran Dihujat" (The Blasphemy against the Quran, Gema Insani Pers, 2007) is a critical look at the work of Professor Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, an Egyptian expert on Arabic literature.

Here is a list of reasons why we need to support more critical studies such as done by Henri, on the work of people like Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, who is famous for his assertion that Al Quran is merely a product of the Arabic culture. He also contends that the position of Al Quran is but a man-made text (nas insani), a linguistic product (nas lughawi) and a historical phenomenon (zhahirah tarikhiyyah).

First of all, Abu Zayd is a typical Liberal scholar who in 1995 was found guilty of apostasy by an Egyptian court, and who then moved out to the Netherlands. This marked the peak of a public uproar following his professorial appointment at Al Azhar, as his work was considered of poor academic quality. Most of all, his work was a blasphemy against Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and he reviled the ' ulama, most notably Imam Shafi'i.

In the Netherlands, however, Abu Zayd was given a hero's treatment, named professor of Al Quran at Leiden University. Here he has been training younger scholars from many countries especially Indonesia. Some of his students have gone on to become lecturers at important universities in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. Parents send their children off to study in those universities unaware of the dangers lurking in the classrooms.

Henri Shalahuddin, a masters degree holder from the Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur who now teaches at the Mohammad Natsir Institute of Da'wah in Jakarta, contends in his book that what Abu Zayd and his followers have done, through their so-called intellectual exercises, is nothing short of blasphemy against the Quran.

Second, acts of blasphemy against Islam and the Quran today may not always be in the form of physically flushing copies of the Quran into the toilet, but through "scientific methods" that lay people cannot begin to understand given that the actors are those with long strings of academic titles behind their names.

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd is one of a series of godfathers for blasphemers around the world, hiding under the cloak of intellectual exercises. He claims that Al Quran is very much influenced by the pre-Islam Arabic culture and tradition, that its absolute truth exists only in the Lauhul Mahfuzh (let's say, Allah's database about the Universe) but that it becomes relative when it enters and interacts with the man's ratio.

Man is relative, his truth is therefore relative, says Abu Zayd, adding that anyone who claims to hold the absolute truth is placing himself on par with God.

Third, this line of thinking spreads quickly. Many Muslim scholars are now promoting Abu Zayd's line of thinking and thus helping the flourishing of viruses _ Liberalism, Secularism, Feminism dan Religious Pluralism.

Abu Zayd also contends that as both man-made and linguistic text, the Quran occupies the same position that the Bible does _ namely a book whose contents do not have to be followed by the letter.

Fourth, in another book, al-Imam al-Syafi'i wa Ta'sis al-Aidiyulujiyyah al-Wasathiyyah, Abu Zayd calls on Muslims to abandon Al Quran and the tradition of the Prophet which he describes as shackling man's freedom of thinking.

Fifth, Abu Zayd has reviled the ulama who had upheld the sanctity of Al Quran as the divine revelation. He was targeting more specifically Imam Shafi'i, whom he accused as an opportunist seeking to cooperate with the rulers for worldly gains.

Sixth, the gravest danger of this "non-physical" blasphemy is that it deceives Muslims who seek to return to the true teaching of Al Quran and hadith. It reduces the truth of Al Quran into something temporal and local, intended for only a certain time, tribe and location. This line of thinking has bred scholars clamouring for a review of Islamic laws to make them "more in line" with social changes brought about by time.

We believe that Allah Most High protects the truth of Al Islam as it is revealed in Al Quran. But if Muslims are treating Al Quran in a careless manner _ we read it only when we have a funeral _ without making the effort to really understand, study and apply it, it is possible the deviant thinking people like Abu Zayd would one day penetrate the thinking of our offspring.

The writer teaches at the Post Graduate Programme, Centre for Middle-East and Islamic Studies, University of Indonesia

The Brunei Times







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