MUHAMMADIYAH.OR.ID, MEDAN—The Secretary of the Muhammadiyah Council for Islamic Thought and Judgment, Muhamad Rofiq, mentioned that the paradigm of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) is constantly evolving, driven by two main factors: changes in the socio-political context and advances in technology and science.
Rofiq said that the epistemological shift in fiqh is always in line with changes in the socio-political landscape of the Islamic world. The era of Western colonialism brought new challenges to the Islamic legal tradition. Western colonialists imposed secular legal systems different from the Islamic law that had governed Muslims for centuries.
In addition, educated Western Muslim intellectuals also played a significant role in changing the paradigm of fiqh. They brought Western values, such as liberalism and the concept of the nation-state, into Islamic legal thought. This created intense debate among Muslims about reconciling Western values with the rich tradition of Islamic fiqh.
As a result, the epistemological shift in fiqh due to the changing social-political landscape is driven by two influential agents: Western colonialists and educated Western Muslim intellectuals. Western colonialists brought institutions utterly different from the habitat of Islamic law, while educated Western Muslim scholars integrated Islamic legal thought with Western values.
“Western colonialists insisted Muslims change that the colonialists replaced our legal system from mazhab to a criminal law-like. Besides, there are also changes in the paradigm of fiqh undertaken by Muslim intellectuals, whose thoughts are westernized,” said Rofiq in a discussion forum conducted by the Observatory of Astronomy of Universitas Muhammadiyah Sumatera Utara (OIF UMSU) on Saturday (September 16).
Furthermore, the development of technology has also had a significant impact. The advancement of tools such as the telegraph, telescope, phonograph, and photography has brought up new questions on Islamic law, as modern technology affects how we see natural phenomena and astronomy. It is a question that Islamic scholars should answer.
The changes in the paradigm of fiqh are evidence that Islamic fiqh is a living science that continuously adapts to the times’ demands. Although these changes have led to uncertainty and debate within Muslims, they also have the potential for renewal and improvement in understanding Islamic law principles.
Ulema Do Not Impede Changes
According to Fazlur Rahman in “Islam & Modernity,” ulema are agents of the past. In his view, they can hinder Islam’s advancement and adaptation to modern times’ demands. On the other hand, Muhammad Qasim Zaman in “The Ulema in Contemporary Islam” argues that ulama do not impede changes.
For instance, Muhammad Bakhit al-Mutii’s thoughts reflect that he no longer strictly separates fiqh and astronomy. He believes in the certainty of science and proves that ulema can also follow scientific developments without neglecting religious principles.
“Muhammad Bakhit al-Mutii’s thoughts show a correlation between science and law qualitatively different from the pre-modern period,” said Rofiq.