Rethinking Islamic scholarship in Ghana

Ghanaian Muslim scholars have for years operated in a discursive space with followers of different sects as interlocutors.

They operate within a society strongly polarized by relevant and insignificant religious differences between the leaders and followers of the two Sunni sects (the Wahhābiyyah and the Tijāniyyah) and between them and the leaders and followers of the Ahmadi and Shia Muslims.

The unconscious state of their followers not to seek clarification or probe most of the things the leaders of these sects say and do has been a major cause of legal disagreement between them.

Differences in the understanding of what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did and did not do, said and did not say, tacitly approved and disapproved of have also been a major cause for concern.

The lack of proficiency in the Arabic language and its nuances by many leaders and followers of the various sects has further aggravated the sectarian differences.

Each group’s desire to strictly adhere to its established school of thought has caused their scholars and followers to deem all other sects except their own to be false and to shout their “true” sectarian positions from the rooftops of their mosques without being stopped by any form. of decency.

The followers of each sect have a striking sense of loyalty and duty; nothing could frighten them once they had promised their engagement.

In a fit of overzealous loyalty, graduates of pure Islamic secondary schools (Madrasas) received a standing ovation with reverberating words of eulogy from other sectarian members for letting off harsh criticism at the against holders of masters and doctorates in Islamic sciences perceived to adhere to other sects.

This situation has, on numerous occasions, led to sectarian clashes in the various Muslim communities of the country and created hostile relations between the leaders and the followers of the rival sect or sects.


The term at-Taqlīd denotes the conformity of one person to the teachings of another. The precise meaning of the term varies according to context and time.

Sunni Islamic usage denotes the unwarranted conformity of an “ordinary Muslim” to the teachings of a mujtahid (a person qualified for independent reasoning).

Shia Islamic usage denotes the general conformity of an “ordinary Muslim” to the teachings of members of the Household of the Prophet (Ahlu-l Bait) and the Twelver Imāms without connotation of negativity.

Among progressive Muslim scholars who consistently advocate for reform, the concept is portrayed in a negative light and translated as “blind imitation”.

It refers to the perceived stagnation of independent intellectual endeavor (Ijtihād) and the uncritical imitation of conventional religious interpretations by the mainstream establishment.

Progressive Muslim scholars have characterized earlier Islamic scholarship as dominated by “blind imitation”.

They testify to a desire for radical reform, generally associated with a return to the era before the establishment of taqlīd.

The absence of any positive evaluation of this term in modern commentaries tends to produce a negative view of more than fourteen hundred years of Islamic history.

The insistence on taqlīd in Ghana is clearly the determination of legalistic traditionalists and ‘Ulamā political scholars to continue to enjoy the loyalty of their followers and preserve the literal interpretation of the sacred texts.


The argument against taqlī̄d rests on several conventional moves in Islamic polemics.

I start by setting up discursive binaries that are not simple descriptions of existing realities; rather, they are designed to emphasize the superiority of the position of progressive Muslim scholars.

The binary opposition between “imitation” and “following evidence” allows progressive Muslim scholars to construct an argument against taqlīd as inherently contradictory – a logical fallacy so to speak.

How does the imitator come to care about evidence?

How can the position of the imitator even compare to that of one who relies on evidence?

The distinction between following the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) versus following fallible human beings is also the difference between the clear truths of the revealed texts and the internal contradictions of the legal schools.

Ibn Qayyim Aj-Jawziyya

Ibn al-Qayyim’s theological attacks on the practice of taqlid made him quote Quran 30:32 which reads:[…deceuxquiontdiviséleurreligionetsontdevenusdessecteschaquefactionseréjouissantdecequ’ellea[…ofthosewhohavedividedtheirreligionandbecomesectswitheveryfactionrejoicinginwhatithas

These cleavages, and the self-satisfaction of knowing which sect is on “the right path”, compelled Ibn al-Qayyim to establish a rare connection with the realities of his time.

He explained how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his successors (al-Khulafā ar-Rāshidūn) stayed on the same path until disagreements surfaced years after their death, which caused a split among Muslims , each sect rejoicing in the “truth” that is on their side. .

This condemnation is not only ideological, but also based on a particular diagnosis of the prevailing events in the Islamic countries then leaders for Islamic scholarship (Iraq, Syria and Egypt).

He wrote: “Certainly the disagreement arose and grew worse because of the imitation and its supporters.

They are the ones who divided the religion into factions, each group glorifying and turning to its principal and condemning those who oppose it.

They do not believe in the correctness of the opinions of others, as if the others belong to an entirely different community”.

Ibn al-Qayyim poses a series of questions or apparent logical paradoxes that fascinate those who believe in imitation.

These questions amounted to a critique of Islamic legal reason and a denial of Islamic legal hermeneutics.

His anti-hermeneutical reading sometimes distorted the interpretative reasoning of Islamic legal schools of thought (al-Madhāhib). For in the methods of interpretation of the legal schools, researchers work with probabilities rather than with certainties.

This is why Ibn al-Qayyim referred to the Shari’a (Law) through a synecdoche, where a part or parts are made to represent the whole.

The synecdoche is an interesting figure of speech because it can reveal the essence of a whole in the mind of the speaker and his audience.


Ibn al-Qayyim has become a major figure in Islamic legal scholarship in the 21st century. As a disciple of Ibn Taymiyya with whom he spent years in prison, the reason for his contemporary relevance is his criticism of imitation which resonates with progressive Muslim scholars.

His insistence on moving beyond a single Islamic sect gives progressive Muslim scholars greater flexibility to meet the challenges of contemporary times.

His call for independent Muslim chief justices (muftis) to familiarize themselves with the realities of the times and the particular challenges facing their individual countries resonates with progressive Muslim scholars as well. Above all, Ibn al-Qayyim’s broad definition of Sharia (law) with a shift in emphasis from the stricter rules of

Handbooks of Islamic jurisprudence (Usūl al-fiqh) on justice, mercy, wisdom and the general interests of society are what make his contributions to Islamic civilization valuable.

Its broad definition opens the field of politics to conservative Islamic scholars (traditionalist legalists and political ‘ulāmā), who must consider what is beneficial to society as a whole and never ignore socio-cultural issues as they have done for centuries. decades.

In the era of legal codes administered by state institutions, Ibn al-Qayyim’s indifference to the legal practices of Islamic courts becomes an advantage. He demonstrated that the intent of the law (Maqāsid ash-shar’iyya) must be central and not the law itself.

He explains that the general and specific rules set forth in the Quran are not goals in themselves. Decisions depended on particular historical circumstances that may or may not exist in contemporary times.

At the time these decisions were made public, they were aimed at achieving specific objectives.

Therefore, Muslim scholars must study the moral purposes of the Quran and treat the specific rulings as demonstrated examples of how to achieve the intent of the law.

If social order can be effectively and efficiently provided by other possible means, then the intent of the “Quranic laws” is achieved.

Thus, in a sovereign state such as Ghana where law enforcement agencies assiduously enforce the laws without fear or favor, Islam enjoins all Muslims to submit to the dictates of the state.

With this in mind, most Muslim-majority countries have long since reformed their legal codes to align (to a large extent) with the international standard of legal practices.

In 1884, Egypt abandoned strict sharia (law) and adopted the Code Napoleon, leaving only matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance to the jurisdiction of the Islamic legal system.

While Syria in 1939, Morocco in 1958, and Iraq in 1959 continued their series of reforms, it was the reforms undertaken by Turkey in 1926 and Tunisia in 1956 that remained the most stringent of all.

The author is the founding president of the Center for Islamic Thought and Civilization. This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About Harold Hartman

Check Also

Reviews | As Democrats continue to fail on policy, Biden’s tough rhetoric is needed

Polarization Runs America Midterm, as Political Ad expenses is expected to surpass the previous all-time …