Monday, October 10, 2005

COMMENT: Hiding qualifications ...

Tonight I had a discussion with a colourful and lively Muslim activist based in South-Western Sydney. The gentleman, who runs a Centre devoted to “Islamic Sciences and Human Development” has claimed to have an undergraduate degree from the Islamic University of Madeena in Saudi Arabia.

He also claims to have ijaza (authorisation) to teach in particular areas of Islamic studies. These authorisations were allegedly obtained from a number of prominent Sunni scholars in Yemen and elsewhere.

On a number of occasions, I have asked the gentleman to show me his qualifications and to make them public. I have been doing this since as far back as April 2005, if not earlier.

What has especially concerned me about the gentleman is that he has been holding classes on specialist disciplines in Islamic law and jurisprudence. He has been charging money for holding these courses. However, his manner of speech and the content of what he teaches and writes (including on Muslim Village forums of the website islamicsydney.com) lead me to have serious doubts about his claimed scholarly credentials.

I have expressed my doubts on numerous occasions. I first doubted the gentleman when he made the almost laughable claim that my recognition or otherwise of Shaykh Tajeddine Hilaly as Mufti of Australia was a matter which affected my aqida (meaning more or less the orthodoxy of my expression of the articles of faith). H suggested that my refusal to recognise the appointment of Shaykh Hilaly as Mufti made my faith defective.

Tonight, the gentleman offered to show me his qualifications and his ijaza certificates. He would also obtain NAATI-accredited translations of the documents. However, he advised that he would prefer to do this at some stage after Ramadan.

The gentleman also made a few other claims, and he has permitted me to have these stated on the public record.

Firstly, he rejected the notion that traditional Islam requires a person asked to show his ijaza to do so. The gentleman’s position was that this is in fact not the case. He suggested that he should only show his students. Further, he said he reserved the right not to show someone whom he felt was discrediting or undermining him. He claimed that Imam Muhammad Idris ash-Shafei had refused to show his certificates of ijaza to five persons who were allegedly undermining the Imam.

Secondly, he claimed that he had studied with Professor Abdullah Saeed at the Islamic University of Madeena. He said Professor Abdullah Saeed was aware of this and had confirmed this to be the case.

Thirdly, the gentleman claimed that he is opposed to persons studying Islamic studies at mainstream universities in order to learn traditional Islamic sciences.

Fourthly, he claimed that the American scholar Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller had viewed the certificates of ijaza and the university degree of the gentleman and had permitted students in Shaykh Nuh’s circle to study fiqh (personal law and jurisprudence) with the gentleman.

Fifth, he stated that the Crescent Project cooking and feeding of the homeless was a separate project of his Centre and was not being done under the auspices of Just Enough Faith. Rather, the Centre was merely using JEF’s facilities.

I am of the view that the gentleman must make his qualifications public. It is not good enough that he just shows his students or even me. And I would make the same requirement for all shaykhs and imams, including and especially those who claim to be advising on sensitive matters (such as whether a particular financial product complies with sharia).

The Khalid Yasin fiasco has shown how important it is that we take such matters seriously. It is not good enough that we accept people at face value anymore. Those claiming the mantle of scholarship and claiming to be qualified to teach should be prepared to make their qualifications public.

30 years ago, when we were a small community, it was OK to get any old person to lead the prayers, give religious advice and deliver sermons. But in the present age, with scholars and imams under the microscope, it is essential that we insist on people being up front on the nature and extent of their qualifications.

Further, as more and more younger Muslims return to traditional Islam, it is essential that those espousing traditional Islam are honest and transparent about their ijaza and be prepared to show it.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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1 comment:

Omar Abas said...

finally you guys meet!!!!!

In the FYI department, Ijaza is not synonomous with "certificate". In fact traditionally the only science that required a "physical" ijaza was that of the science of Quran.

Many sheikhs have ijazas from high level sheikhs and the only proof they have got is that the sheikh said "aajaztuka" (orally) or i have given you ijaza.

the fact of the matter is, NAATI translated or not we are not in the position to decipher ijazas. how in the world do you know if this certain mans sheikh has ijaza? and his teacher? and the next one in the chain? do you plan on asking each of them for their 300 year old piece of wood pulp?

the fact of the matter is you almost have to be at that level yourself to prove that his ijaza is valid or not, not anybody (especially people like you and me) can decipher pieces of paper written in a foreign language.

you keep claiming that you have a degree? and you even showed me the paper! but what the hell does that mean in Indonesia? or in any other country for that matter? to the lay it means nothing, to the educated it may have some relevance.

we should give the brother a little more credit.