Dr. Sherman Jackson

Interesting pointers from the notes i took while listening to Islam and Muslims In america.

(any mistakes in transmission are mine)

"Muslims in America are an amalgamation of races, ethnicities, classes, and histories bound together by a common commitment to a set of basic religious and theological postulates, and an ongoing exchange in words and in deeds about what these religious and theological postulates mean in the context of their desire for a dignified and self-respecting existence as Muslims in America...

It is this conversation that really defines the lives of these people and their status as a Muslim Collectivity in America.

Historical reality of the first three centuries influenced the normative teachings of Islam

It’s not simply the Quran and the Sunnah that define the parameters of Islam. One must add dictates of the sacred history.

To reiterate, part of what’s going on in modern Islam is the continuation of the process of seeking to vindicate ones articulation of Islam through a conversation with the parameters of acceptable doctrine that emerged out of the period of sacred history.

Permanency in articulation -> cant ignore sacred history.

(classical period) Doctors of law had the most authoritative discourse and therefore had the authority to define the parameters of acceptable doctrine

1. they developed processes for accreditation (who was qualified to looked up as doctor of the law and had a degree standard) …only someone who went through a certain type of education and had certain type of accreditation was looked upon as a scholar
2. Developed a public reason: an interpretative methodology via which interpretation of scripture could be validated. Real authority was not in the fact that a scholar was expressing it but in the fact that he could vindicate it by reference to agreed upon normative interpretation of Islam. Moreover, any opinion based on this was considered valid, plausible.

[In classical period, Jurists were independent of the state. They told the state what the law was, and the state applied the law.]

This particular set up gave rise to a massive rise to a diversity of opinion. Diverse opinions that recognize each other as plausible.

Ibn al mundhir (sp?) in the 4th century (10th common era) published a book entitled “ The Book of Consensus” that contained all the issues on which the doctors of the law reached a unanimous consesnsue. Turned out to be 139 pages in large Saudi print.

Tabari (died 8 years before) published "The Book of Disagreement. That book came out to be 3,000 pages in manuscript.

During the period of sacred history, doctor of the law exercised monopoly on literacy. This helped them sustain their power and authority. Before the rise of the printing press only they had access to books.

Simultaneous marginalization of the interpretive authority of the traditional doctors of the law by the modern Muslim state.
Law in classical period, certainly in terms of determine substance of the law, was a sub-state activity. Doctors were independent of the law.
With modern states -- they take over the interpretation of the law. (Govt takes over the legal authority of the doctor.)

[Law systems:
1. Only laws recognized are those issued from the state
2. One law applies to everyone in the state]

At the same time, a vacuum is developed by the fact modernity witnesses the rise of mass literacy and mass access to books.

We have a very different reading public…

Interpretative free for all… results in global authority crisis in modern Islam

Who speaks for Islam?
One mistake is to assume that problems of modern Muslims are an uninterrupted continuation of the problems of the classical period.

Authority now is often confused with and replaced by authorship. If you want to be an authority all you have to do is write. Authority is not based on training or accreditation but simply because you can write. Authority is often confused with authorship.

In many instances, the true basis of the immigrant pretension to authority is not religious knowledge per se, rather their rooted-ness in history that is presumed to be Islamic because it is presented as being an uninterrupted continuation of history that emerges out of the era sacred history. (Looking at competing histories, who has the greatest claim)