follows is an interview of Mr Javed Ahmed Ghamidi. The interview was conducted
by NaseebVibes. After the interview, they very irresponsibly documented it in
English, and attributed to Mr Ghamidi many grave errors. They then uploaded it
to their website without our approval. Despite many requests, they have
obstinately denied to change it. We feel it necessary to provide our people with
the exact version of the interview that we own.
What is Al-Mawrid’s
objective and how successful has it been?
The objectives of the Institute are to conduct
academic and research
work on Islamic Sciences, to educate people on its basis and to publish and
disseminate it through all available means. It is a long journey and we have a
way to go. We would like to see a series of such centers open up around the
country with similar goals.
Does Ijtihad need to be context specific? Can Muslims in two different contexts
apply Islam in opposite manners?
First of all, we need to appreciate that Ijtihad is not done in the religion
revealed by God. In the sphere of religion, what we try to do is to understand
it properly. We therefore do not conduct Ijtihad in the revealed religion.
As for other matters, we
have nothing but our own sense and reason to rely on. While deciding about these
matters, we definitely take into account the spirit underlying the directives
revealed and the common benefit of all people. Thus, we make use of Ijtihad in
It has also to be
understood that content of the divine religion is very limited. Perhaps, it
covers almost 10% of the activities of human life on this planet. The rest is
to be based upon Ijtihad.
There is no formal institution (or clerical class) in Sunni Islam to conduct and
enforce the correct Ijtihad. Do you think this has been hurdle in the formation
and practice of Ijtihad?
It is very good that there is no such institution. Otherwise, there is a danger
of theocracy emerging. In any case, it is a misconception that the gates of
ijtihad have been closed. They have never been closed.
The very fact that Muslims
have accepted democracy is an ijtihad. Muslims have always put emphasis on
consensus as the way to solve issues. The West has improved the idea of
consensus by evolving it into a systematic approach. Be it in the form of
parliamentary democracy or other political systems. That evolution is an
example of ijtihad. Muslims have accepted this. So the lack of a clerical
class is not a hurdle.
Is interest in the form
used today in most countries haram?
Interest is a moral evil. Much like bribery is a moral wrong. The religion has
only pointed out to the immorality of taking interest. The economists of today
also acknowledge that it is unethical to charge interest. However, people engage
in interest based transactions because they do not have an alternative system,
and know not the way getting out of an economy based on interest. Though Al-Azhar
and other scholars have allowed commercial interest, it doesn’t mean they no
longer see it as a moral evil. It is a wrong that we have accepted temporarily
because we have yet to find a viable alternative.
Just as an underpaid
official accepts bribes to support his family, that doesn’t make it right. We
have to create the conditions whereby those immoral activities are not
Can a state define who is Muslim and who is not?
It seems more appropriate if the state does not interfere in the matter of
deciding who is and who is not a Muslim.
Is hijab (i.e. covering face) a mandatory Islamic requirement, and was it ever a
There is absolutely no foundation for this in Islam. The Holy Qur’an prescribes
four directives in this regard, of which the two are for both men and women
alike, and the two are related to women alone because of their special
characteristics. These directives may be explained as: when men and women meet,
they should restrain their gazes and cover their private parts well. The women,
in addition, are required to cover their bosoms and not to display their
ornaments except for those which are worn on body parts that are naturally kept
Are secular ideals – the state doesn’t adopt anyone’s religion as a source of
laws – compatible with Islam’s view of how a government can be run?
The importance of secularism for the West emerged as a reaction from the
theocratic environment imposed by the Christian church. Since Muslims do not
have the theocratic environment, there was never a need to rebel against deen or
religion in that manner. Secondly, Islam is pure democracy. The majority’s say
in society has more significance. Thus if a people want religious laws, they
are welcome to do so through a legislative process.
Can a female be a head of
an Islamic State?
Yes, it is completely legitimate for a female to be the head of an Islamic
State. There is nothing in the Islamic Shari’ah that disallows women to contest
as leaders of a state.
You were one of the very
few scholars to accept Amina Wadud leading mixed -gender prayers. How does it
feel to be out in the left-field on this issue?
A female leading mixed prayer is not a matter of religious right or wrong. The
Shari’ah has not forbidden women to lead mixed gender prayers. Scholars have
had differing opinions on this. In ‘Bidayatul Mujtahid’, Ibn Rushd (Averroes)
states that some scholars were opposed to females leading mixed gender prayers.
Others only allowed female Imams to lead female congregations. Yet, there are
many scholars (ex. Abu Thawr) who have gone against the majority opinion and
stated that there is nothing wrong with female lead mixed gender prayers.
If Amina Wadud has done
anything wrong, it is to break a tradition – not an Islamic code. She
definitely has not contravened a Shari’ah directive.
How do you respond to
critics who claim you are creating bid’a and coming up with innovations in
I have come across people who agree with me and many who do not. All I can say
is that I base my research and knowledge on the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah of the
Holy Prophet, pbuh.
You have said in a TV show
that it is not reasonable to punish homosexuals. Is that not going against the
tenets of Islam?
I am afraid that is not correct. I have not said it is not reasonable to punish
homosexuals. What I said is that the Islamic Shari’ah has not prescribed a
punishment for homosexuality. If the society decides a punishment, I have no
objection to that. In addition, I should say that homosexuality is a horrible
sin. The Holy Qur’an is very clear about the fact that the only way for a person
to satisfy his sexual urge is to marry a member of the opposite sex.
Many American Muslims face
a dilemma in terms of their religion and their national identity. How should
they reconcile the two?
Obviously, one should not disobey the laws of where one lives. You may leave
the country where you feel restless and unsettled. It is your choice. However,
the Holy Qur’an only requires you to migrate from a country when you are
persecuted for acting upon the religion of God.
On a more personal note, what inspired you? Who was your inspiration?
My teacher Amin Ehsan
Islahi (died 1997) has been my inspiration.