Javed Ahmed Ghamidi is one of the leading scholars of the subcontinent. He enjoys a sizeable following in the Indo-Pak community within the subcontinent and across the world. Being a reformist at heart, he is seen as cavalier and a maverick by the many traditional scholars. Nonetheless his monumental amount of work and logical instead of dogmatic approach has quenched the intellectual thirst of many Muslims and Non-Muslims in this day and age. His book “Meezan” is a heavy treatise that has identified the flaws in the modern Muslim thought and pointed out its origins. Just like his contemporaries, he came into the limelight through his videos on social media.
He has been openly threatened because of his unconventional views and pluralistic narrative. He stood his ground but eventually had to leave Pakistan after a bomb planted outside his house failed to detonate. Not wanting to put the lives of people around him in jeopardy, he now lives in Malaysia. Often accused of trying to paint Islam with liberal colours, this article explores his viewpoints that have made him divisive in an increasingly polarized and intolerant society. It should be mentioned Ghamidi is also accused of raising up an entirely new religion. This is utterly false as he is merely flying the banner of the thought of Imam Hamidudin Farahi that was later picked up by Ameen Ahsan Islahi.
- View on Analysis of Sacred Text
Like his contemporary, Imran Hosein, Ghamidi has constantly underlined the need of understanding the sacred text in light of its background, context and the reasons for the revelation. He is against the methodology of interpreting a verse in isolation. This, he points out, is one of the ills of the Muslim community. A myopic reading of the sacred text is also reflected in fragmented understanding of the religion in the modern age.
- View on Education
Javed Ghamidi is against religious education that is imparted from the very beginning of a child’s learning. This is a norm in madrassas across India and Pakistan and even Afghanistan. Most of these madrassas are primarily orphanages. He wants 12 years of education to have same curriculum across the board, after which student should be allowed to chose between religious or non-religious education. By having an education system that is similar in scope and level, will not only create a more integrated society but also those who eventually do take up subjects of theology will not be alienated from the society.
- View on Hadeeth
It is a common practice in Islamic scholarship that ahadeeth (sayings of the Prophet SAW) can be given sometimes more weight than the Quran itself. Ghamidi has constantly resisted and challenged the concepts that have developed in the society because of misplaced priorities. He opines that Quran is ultimate source and ahadeeth should be seen in the scope of the Quran. He further says that if there is a conflict between Quran and hadeeth, than the verdict of the Quran should be held supreme.
It is because of him giving lesser weight to the hadeeth (in certain cases), that he is unfortunately branded as a heretic and considered someone who does not believe in hadeeth at all. In his own book “Meezan”, he has referred more than 600 hadeeth to validate his discourse.
- View on Blasphemy Law
A thorny issue in Pakistan is the blasphemy law. Every year dozens of people are wrongly convicted, incarcerated and even killed because of the wrongful application of this law and the cover it provides to the accuser. Ghamidi has pointed out the flaws in blasphemy law stating that it needs amendments and in fact this law is exactly opposite to Imam Abu Hanifa’s ruling. Ironically it is the school of thought of Imam Hanifa that is followed by the majority of people in the subcontinent.
He has said on numerous occasions that there is no doubt that polytheism, disbelief and apostasy are indeed grave sins. However no human being can punish the other for these crimes as this is the decree of God alone. He will punish them in this world or hereafter or might forgive them.
- View on Jihad
Ghamidi has stated in unequivocal terms on many occasions that the prerogative of Jihad only lies with the state or the wider Muslim community (Ummah). If the state declares war and it declares it for the right reasons, only then will it be classified as a holy war. Small groups that form militias and go on to fight the enemies of state, when the state itself is not fighting against them is nothing but fasad (corruption).
He has mentioned that unfortunately many Muslim leaders have diagnosed the wrong reasons for the demise of the Ummah. They think that standing up to fight the holy war and the creation of Khilafat (Caliphate) would bring back the glory days of the Muslim but the opposite is true. He adds that unless Quran becomes the central point of Muslims through which they govern their lives, there will be nothing but humiliation and further decadence for them.
- View on Metaphors
Javed Ghamidi has provided deeper meaning to many verses in the Quran and ahadeeth by unravelling their metaphoric nature. The famous hadeeth of Gabriel where it is said that “A slave women will give birth to her master”, according to him is a very valid analogy to highlight that slavery will be abolished. And this has indeed happened in literal terms in the last century.
Similarly, an ayah in the Quran (chapter 49: verse 12) that translates “And so not spy, neither backbite one another. Would any of you like to east the flesh of his dead brother” is popularly misunderstood. Ghamidi has pointed out eating flesh of a dead person implies that you are offending someone who has not got the ability to defend himself as he is not present.
- View on Communal Responsibility
An area where Ghamidi is distinguished from other scholars is the importance he places on communal responsibilities. In light of this, he has said several times that it would be better for someone to provide for the needy, help in marital communion or alleviate hardship of people in the neighbourhood than to go on a second Hajj trip.
He also condemned the Taliban because of the lack of communal systems in their governance structures. Punishment for a crime he says is not the responsibility of an individual, but rather the responsibility of institution.
- View on Plurality of Opinion
Javed Ghamidi has never shied away from accepting and alternate viewpoint provided it is based on proof and sound reason. Objectivity has to be supreme and not personal preference. Unfortunately, lack of religious education among the masses has lead to blind following of ulema. Due to lack of respect among the ulema for differences of opinion, the foundation for discord in society has been laid.
Javed Ghamidi has always emphasised the need for Quran and Sunnah to be the focus of governance and not the scholar’s opinion. If attention is concentrated on the basics only then differences will feel trivial.
- View on Islam in Subcontinent
Ghamidi has done rigorous research on Islam in the subcontinent and how it varies from Islam practiced elsewhere. He has rightly pointed out that in the subcontinent hadeeth that emphasise the importance of good deeds have been accepted even though many of them are fabricated. This was done by many Ulema on the basis of the encouraging nature of these texts. As a result, often people place more importance on non obligatory deeds than the obligatory ones. There is a far greater emphasis on “sunnah” than “fard” in the subcontinent. Furthermore shades of Tasawuf are evident throughout the sub-continental Islam. In the case of Barelwi madhab (school of thought), these shades are darker while in Deobandi these shades are lighter.
- View on Deen
Perhaps the most vital of Ghamidis contribution is defining the scope of Deen (religion) i.e. what can be categorized as “Deen” and what cannot be. Most of the criticism levelled against him is that he disregards many important aspects of religion. Ghamidi’s response to this is simply that we have to dissect and understand. Only that part of religion that is intrinsically religious, through the proof of Quran and Sunnah classifies as deen. People should therefore not put religious weight to cultural practices and norms at the times of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W).
He explains that what constituted as religion is what the prophet himself has ordered and practiced within the religious domain. The sunnah and the hadeeth therefore should be differentiated as not all hadeeth is Sunnah. He is also a firm believer in Itmam-ul-Hujjah, through which he distinguishes the commands that were applicable at the time of the prophet (SAW) to the commands that should be observed today.
Javed Ghamidi is seen by many as an agent for promoting secular thought. Nonetheless every time the nation faces a moral dilemma or tragedy, his opinion is the most balanced and sought after.
As he is mostly known in the Urdu speaking community, efforts are being made to translate his work in English. His work can be accessed on Al Mawrid wesbite, an education trust that he has formed. Whatever the controversy that surrounds him, it is no doubt that he is the most learned and needed scholars of our time.
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A similar article on Shiekh Imran Hosein can be accessed here
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