Sunday, July 08, 2007

Interview with Sharon Chadha - Part 6

Today in Part 6 of our series on Mac the Man, otherwise known as Mac Haque, the lead singer of the great Bangladeshi band Maqsood O'dHAKA, Mac, as you will see below will answer two question. Be sure to scroll down to see Parts 1-5, not to mention the Introduction to this series on Alternative Voices from the Islamic World. And check out his music! You can find links in previous posts.

Will the jihadist movement change Islam in Bangladesh?
I think the reason why Bangladesh has for the most part been spared by Jihadist extremism is because of the value we place on Ijtihad and in our Sufi traditions. Ijtihad is widely practiced. Ijtihad is the Islamic tradition of inquiry, assessment, fact sorting, scripture analysis, logic and proof. The Sufi twist is that we do this to music.In the far flung backwaters of rural Bangladesh, for example, Ijtihad is used to resolve disputes and in its musical form – part of our Sufi tradition - it is often the only form of ‘entertainment’ in many rural villages. I have a keen interest in Ijtihad music and collect many of these extraordinary songs. Ijtihad is also part of the Baul quest for spiritual transcendence. Baul is a Bengali and Bengladeshi system of thought that combines elements of Sufi Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and has inspired Bengali and Bangladeshi musicians and poets for hundreds of years. I see myself as part of this Baul tradition. [UNESCO designated Baul as one of the "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" in 2005.]Our rural culture in Bangladesh is neither backward nor close-minded. It’s the urban centers that produce the most of the communal and extremist elements!
Is sharia a solid basis for the modern polity?
A technical question indeed. Conservative Muslim thinkers would argue that sharia is ‘unchanging and unchangeable’ but is still appropriate even in modern circumstances.Contemporary thinkers, on the other hand, say that sharia can be modified to adjust for the new conditions. This is where Ijtihad or debate comes in. If Ijtihad is allowed then, they say, sharia is appropriate even for a modern polity.Bangladesh legislation is not based on sharia. Rather, it is modeled on the British system of law. Other than Family Law, where disputes are adjudicated in Islamic courts, everything else is secular.By the way, I believe the development of Jihad and Ijtihad simultaneously does not in any way indicate that we are in a degenerative phase at this point of history, but rather, shows we are finally waking up from our collective slumber of centuries.


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