Ulama More Concerned About Insignificant Issues, Says IKIM D-G

(Bernama) — The ulama today are more concerned about addressing insignificant issues involving individuals rather than society, thus stifling the advancement of the Muslim world.

Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) director-general Datuk Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas said rather than focusing on fardhu kifayah (responsibility to society), the ulama confined their views on fardhu ain or the "dos and don'ts" of a Muslim.

"In the Muslim world, we talk about issues which have no significance whatsoever, like the dress code. What is Islamic attire, and we have all kinds of people telling us what we should wear. What we wear is not Islamic attire, according to them.

"This is nonsense and not an issue which will benefit our society. It's up to you whether you want to wear like this or like that," he told reporters after delivering a keynote address at the International Conference on Muslims and the Frontier of Knowledge in the 21st Century: Issues, Prospects and Challenges, here, Tuesday.

"People who have been given the mantle of authority speak only on "remeh-temeh" (insignificant) stuff which is within the fardhu ain framework. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying fardu ain is not important. It is very important. Both fardhu ain and fardhu kifayah are important, but fardhu ain is more about the individual," he said.

The ulama, he said, had failed to discuss things that affected society such as education and Islamic economics and finance.

"After all, one cannot simply introduce Arabic terminologies such as mushawarah (consultation), musharaqah (partnerhip) and mubaralah into a capitalist system to make it Islamic.

"Look at some of the banks here, they are all murabahah (about terms of finance/sale), with the exception of one and two, so how can you call it Islamic? You have Islamic syariah compliance apparently, yet credit card interest is 25 per cent per year. Is that not riba (usury)?".

He said the ulama's narrow-minded views had given birth to extremism in Muslim society.

"We are hypnotised by symbolism such as McDonalds, K-Mart, Disneyland, Internet…these are symbols, symbols of western technology…and we are saying this cannot, this is bad, so we must get the Islamic ones.

"As a result, we have groups in society who after listening to the so-called ulama, have become extremists. These are the ones who are causing problems, these are the ones who are killing people, these are the terrorists. They are hypnotised by the symbols, they are fighting against the symbols, not against the substance," he said.

Syed Ali also felt that the country's political leaders were ignoring the real ulama, while the West tapped into their knowledge.

"For example, where is the Nobel prize winner for physics now? At the University of California. He's a Muslim from Egypt, but they (Egypt) don't care about him, so he goes there.

"The West always depends on the Muslim world. So, if we want to advance, we have to listen to the real ulama."

However, he said, the ulama now were depending on political leaders before giving out advice.

"They shouldn't look to the political leaders, instead, the political leaders should look to the ulama…the real ulama. They (political leaders) should get advice from them, not the other way round," he added.