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Chapter Thirteen



Ihsan Yilmaz

The very nature of Islam, which orders an individual’s life in ethical and legal normative ways, paves the way for Muslim legal pluralism. 1 Muslim legal pluralism is inevitable even in non-Muslim spheres, regardless of non- recognition by ocials. Many Muslims in Muslim and non-Muslim poli- ties relate more to the Shari'a than to the lex loci as Islam demands full allegiance from them once they have freely chosen to embrace it. Currently, many Muslims live in secular and modern milieus. Normally, in times of necessity ('aßr al-arùra) 2 an identity crisis could be anticipated in environments where clashes with the Islamic way of life occur. Yet Muslims nd ways to cope with the conicting situations arising from their being subject to legal pluralism. They successfully respond to the changing social and cultural contexts and skillfully navigate and surf across these conicting lifestyles, rules, norms, and laws. Today there are many types of navigation between ocial and unocial laws. At times the state itself navigates across its own ocial law and exis- tent but non-recognized or unincorporated, unocial madhhabs or other Muslim laws. This is exemplied in the cases of the Ottoman Family Rights Law (OFRL) of 1917, and more recently in the Pakistani Family Law. Navigation is also typied by individual Muslims navigating, for any num- ber of reasons, across the ocial law of a particular country of which they are a citizen and unocial Muslim law to meet the demands of both. “Skillful legal navigators” of England and Turkey are examples of this phenomenon. 3 A second category of navigation is totally within the unocial realm and has nothing to do with the ocial law. In this category Muslims navigate across unocial madhhab laws. Put dierently, they surf on the “inter- madhhab-net.” 4 Here, Muslims navigate in order to t their beliefs to

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secular and modern environments. Legal pluralism of conicting and some- times opposing rules among madhhabs facilitate this phenomenon. This second category of navigation is also subdivided into two practices. The rst is institutional navigation as exemplied in the case of the Islamic Shari'a Council (ISC) of Britain and the second is individual navigation by those who may be referred to as “micro-mujtahids.” 5 This study focuses on these two dimensions of unocial navigation, which is a manifestation of the dissolution of madhhab boundaries in the unocial realm. After giving an analytical picture of the current unocial Muslim socio- legal sphere vis-à-vis the dissolution of madhhab boundaries, I will deal with the new challenges to traditional qh and Shari'a since this new Muslim legality carries the danger of post-modern fragmentation and anar- chy as a result of the inadequacy of new ijtihads (individual reasoning), problems surrounding the issues of legitimacy and doctrinal authority. Subsequent to presenting these problems and challenges, my study suggests civil neo-ijtihad and new implementation techniques as possible alternative avenues in order to cope with the socio-legal dangers. In this regard, it is argued that faith-based movement leaders of Muslims have a role to play to face the challenges posed by Muslim legal pluralism in this age.

Ijtihad and tajdìd in times of necessity

The Shari'a is an essential and central part of a Muslim’s religion; it is the core of the faith. Law in Muslim understanding is a system of mean-

ings and a cultural code for interpreting the world. 6 Islam “represents an

order which governs all spheres of life, in which

tocol and etiquette are of a legal nature.” 7 Thus Muslim law must be con- ceived as a culture. 8 Consequently, issues with regards to Muslim socio-cultural change, transformation or renewal would inevitably intermingle with the discussions surrounding ijtihad. Any new discourse or practice vis-à-vis these issues is directly or indirectly a result of a new ijtihad, and this does not have to be in the eld of “law” only, as strictly dened and understood by the legal modernity. As non-recognition does not make Muslim law and legal pluralism dis- appear, the tools of ijtihad and tajdìd (renewal) maintain their relevance wherever Muslims live. That is why especially after the decline of Muslim power and triumph of the Western hegemony, Muslim advocates of renewal, reform, 9 and revival have argued for a return to the right to exercise ijti- had to facilitate reinterpretation and to renew the Islamic heritage.

even the rules of pro-

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Most of the responses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth cen- turies to the impact of the West on Muslim societies resulted in substan- tial attempts to reinterpret Islam to meet the changing circumstances of Muslim life. 10 The purpose of ijtihad is a return to a puried Islam by weeding out un-Islamic beliefs and practices that have inltrated the law and life of Muslims. 11 For those modernists, revivalists, and activists, ijti- had was a prerequisite for the survival of Islam in a modern world. 12 They argued for internal renewal through ijtihad and selective adaptation (Islam- ization) of Western ideas and technology. 13 The atmosphere of renewal and the emphasis on the need for new ijti- had in 'aßr al-arùra paved the way for the revival and wide usage of takhayyur (selection) in dierent contexts by individuals and institutions both in ocial and unocial realms. Under the concept of necessity (arùra), an individual may employ takhayyur, i.e., he can choose minority interpretations or another madhhab’s view to resolve a particular problem. In other words, he can navigate across dierent madhhab laws, surf on the inter-madhhab-net.

Takhayyur: Surng on the inter-madhhab-net

Classical Muslim jurisprudence has provided room for choosing minority interpretations or another madhhab’s view to resolve a particular problem under the heading of takhayyur, takhyìr or tarjì˙: eclecticism, selection or pref- erence from among the opinions of the dierent schools of law or the views of individual scholars within the schools. 14 Takhayyur refers to the right of an individual Muslim to select and follow the teaching of a madhhab other than his own. Modern-day Muslim scholars are of the opinion that under arùra inter- madhhab surng is permissible (˙alàl ). 15 However, a majority of them emphasizes that surng is only ˙alàl if there is a condition of arùra. 16 Injunctions of Islam are related to a great extent to the consciousness and psychology of individuals. In secular environments, where Islamic laws are not enforced by a state, this is even more so. Thus psychology is not a minor issue and must be thoroughly taken into account especially in the context of inter-madhab surng when psychological comfort may be disturbed. The denition of arùra is therefore a major issue in this regard. Îarùra is a comprehensive concept that covers all qh rulings. 17 This concept developed within Islamic jurisprudence to facilitate and allow for actions which are normally forbidden. 18 Its existence can lift a prohibition or a compulsory act. When there is arùra, a mufti may issue a fatwa in

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accordance with the ruling of a given mujtahid most suitable for the cir- cumstance at hand. To decide if arùra exists is not arbitrary. There are certain borderlines and conditions to decide if it really exists. 19 If a vital interest needs to be protected, this condition is called arùra. Vital interests as usually listed in

ußùl al-qh literature may be related to the following: religion (dìn), person (nafs), ospring (naßl ), property (màl ), or reason ('aql ). In such contexts there

is a well-known legal maxim stating that “Necessity lifts prohibition” (al-

arùràt tubì˙ al-ma˙Ωùràt ). A strict denition of arùra allows that a primary necessity is one of an emergency nature, where one’s life or circumstance

is threatened. An exception made to protect a “vital interest” cannot exceed

the minimum necessary to obviate harm to that interest. If there is no per- missible alternative, arùra exists. The condition of arùra must be existent

at the present time; a future possible arùra condition has no legal weight. 20 The dissolution of madhhab boundaries justied by a modied under- standing of takhayyur can be observed in the legislative attempts of some Muslim countries to modernize their societies by restructuring Muslim laws. The takhayyur right of individual Muslims was adopted in Muslim countries in draft legislation to justify the selection of one legal doctrine from among divergent opinions of the four Sunni madhhabs, and it has been the most notable basis for reforms, especially in the eld of family law. 21 This use of takhayyur departs from the traditional understanding in which takhayyur was the right of the individual Muslim in a specic case and not that of

a government in legislating changes for all Muslims. 22 Preliminary observations and anecdotal evidence suggest that today both the ocial realm and the unocial realm employ takhayyur. A close scrutiny of contemporary literature on Islamic jurisprudence and qh also shows many examples of takhayyur, of fatwas based on takhayyur, and suggestions for its usage. 23 The inter-madhhab-net is composed of and maintained by the following:

(i) Intra-madhhab texts. These are traditional books of particular madh- habs, citing dierent views within the particular madhhab. For each issue, authors cite views of dierent scholars of the same madhhab one by one, from the strongest to the weakest. For instance, for the Hanamadhab, the view of Abù Óanìfa is cited rst, then Abù Yùsuf, then Mu˙ammad al-Shaybànì, then Zufar, and then others. The reader is advised to follow the strongest view, yet it is lawful to navigate across the intra-madhhab net by following the view of another. Any view can be selected. It is possible that in the very near future these texts will be available on the Internet and on CD- or DVD-ROMs.

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(ii) Inter-madhhab texts. These texts are formatted in the same way as

those discussed above; however, here the views of the four major madh- habs on a given topic are cited for contrast and comparison. In some cases, they oer a fth madhhab. 24 As with the intra-madhhab exam- ple, readers may navigate across the dierent views by adopting one approach from one madhhab and another from another madhhab. Again, in the near future these texts will likely be available in elec- tronic form. 25


New inter-madhhab fatwa books. 26 Contemporary Muslim thinkers are continuing the traditional attitude of considering legal diversity as a

source of richness rather than a diculty. 27 They rearm the tradi- tional idea that dissension (ikhtilàf ) is in fact a benet to the Muslim community, demonstrating exibility in the Shari'a. It is often reiter- ated that the diversity of madhhabs is a bliss. 28 Thus many scholars today, in their books on contemporary issues, give fatwas based on views of dierent madhhabs. Although they do mainly follow one par- ticular madhhab, they employ takhayyur when necessary and thereby reach a conclusion on a given subject. In sum, these authors use the aforementioned texts but they navigate on behalf of the reader and come up with an answer. In some cases, they produce more than one answer and leave it to the individual to navigate across these re- produced fatwas.


Newspaper inter-madhhab fatwa columns. This is almost identical to the inter-madhhab fatwa books but here the medium is a newspaper. For instance, a close look at some Turkish dailies, such as Zaman, Yeni Safak, Vakit, Milli Gazete, Turkiye and so on, shows that the attitude taken by the qh-fatwa columnists to takhayyur is positive and that they cite dierent views and opinions of madhhabs and scholars when dealing with a particular issue.

(v) Radio-TV programs. In addition to newspapers and journals, with the

advancement and spread of telecommunication, radio stations and television channels have their own muftis and question-answer pro- grams. In Turkey a number of private TV channels broadcast such programs. 29

(vi) Inter-madhhab fatwas in cyberspace. This is no dierent from inter- madhhab fatwa books or newspaper columns, yet in this case cyber- space is the medium. 30 As Mandeville observes, “through various popular newsgroups and e-mail discussion lists, Muslims can solicit information about what ‘Islam’ says about any particular problem.” 31

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Post-modern fragmentation

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Examples of fragmentation within responses to modern-day arùra con- ditions and challenges can be seen in two contrasting examples: a state- sponsored ocial ijtihad committee in Turkey and a civil unocial council in England. While neither state recognizes Islamic law, they do allow civil Shari'a institutions to operate as long as they do not contravene the lex loci. Also discussed below is the phenomenon of Muslim individuals who surf on the inter-madhhab-net as mujtahids of their own in daily life.

Survival of Muslim law in Turkey and an ocial ijtihad committee: The Higher Committee of Religious Aairs (HCRA)

With the transplantation of a new secular Turkish civil code from Switzer- land in 1926, aimed at secularizing the Turkish society in order to bring it closer to Western models, 32 Islam was ocially removed from public life. Nevertheless, Islam is still deeply rooted in the minds and hearts of the Turkish people, 33 and it continues to be an important dynamic within Turkish public life. In the area of family law, recent research has showed that the Turks have not abandoned their religious law but reconstructed it. 34 The state expected that through education, legal literacy campaigns, and urbaniza- tion, the populace would give up its local customs and religious laws and would follow only the ocial law. However, it is becoming clear that Muslim legal pluralism is a metropolitan reality, too. 35 In addition to family law, other areas such as business, nance, and insurance see Muslim law referred to and obeyed by many, despite the non-recognition of this law by the state. An indication of this phenome- non is the fact of fatwa books now being bestsellers in Turkey. Moreover, many newspapers have fatwa columns, and recently, the number of Turkish fatwa sites in cyberspace has increased. 36 Scholars have been asked about such contemporary topics as working in Europe, madhhabs, using ampliers when reading the call to prayer, Friday prayer and work, dàr al-Islàm, fast- ing and traveling by train, the stock exchange, tax, ˙alàl meat, marrying non-Muslim women, alàq, court divorce, polygamy, nationalism, unem- ployment benets, ination, interest, customs tax, bribery, depositing money at a bank in non-Muslim countries, selling alcohol in a non-Muslim coun- try, gambling in dàr al-˙arb, sterilization, plastic surgery, using perfumes, abortion, ijtihad, military service, organ transplantation, prayers ( ßalàt ) on

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the bus, VAT, mortgage, the European Union, alcohol in medication, eau de cologne, life insurance, feminism, fertility clinics, etc. 37 In this regard, it is also worth mentioning that a recent survey has found that 14.1% of the Turkish people have accounts with interest-free Islamic nance insti- tutions despite the fact that such nance institutions carry no state guar- antee for any losses, as opposed to mainstream banks. 38 Albeit secular, the state has set up an ijtihad committee, Diyanet ({ leri Ba{kanlı<ı Din I{leri Yüksek Kurulu (The Directorate of Religious Aairs Higher Committee of Religious Aairs). The pervasiveness of Islam and Muslim law in Turkish society is so evident that the state has needed to respond to this socio-legal reality by establishing this committee. 39 In Turkey, reli- gious institutions are linked to the state bureaucracy, without any auton- omy. Soon after the establishment of the Republic, the Directorate of Religious Aairs was established, and all Islamic activities were placed under the auspices of the state. The state has also tried for a long time to cre- ate its own version of Islam. 40 The HCRA is a result of this scheme. This organ of the state has a somewhat awkward status. While the state does not recognize Muslim law, and arguing for its application is a crim- inal oence, the HCRA bases its arguments on ocially non-recognized Islamic legal and jurisprudential sources. This committee endeavors to pro- duce fatwas to the questions put to it. 41 The HCRA responds to the socio- legal reality by exercising ijtihad and also by employing takhayyur. There is a problem of doctrinal authority and legitimacy in this Turkish case, similar to the Pakistani one. 42 Some people do not see the rulings and ijtihads of the HCRA as legitimate for it is an organ of a modern secular state and scholars of the HCRA are ocials of the state. These scholars must act within the limits of the secular law and try to adapt the Muslim law to the state law; scholars at the HCRA are not free to oper- ate within the realm of Shari'a. If there is a clash between qh and sec- ular state law then the lex loci must prevail. Indeed, on controversial issues such as head-scarves, these scholars have had either to keep silent or to advocate the state’s position.

A civil ijtihad committee: The Islamic Shari'a Council UK (ISC) 43

The British state’s non-recognition of Muslim identity in terms of law increased the number of problems the community has encountered. 44 These problems paved the way for the emergence of the Islamic Shari'a Council. 45 The phenomenon of limping marriages, whereby some Muslim marriages were not recognized, had a catalytic function in the establishment of the

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ISC. 46 Muslim leaders tried to deal with this problem “in a manner that would resolve the dispute without breaking either Shari'a or the law.” 47 The ISC has an eclectic approach to Muslim law. 48 It is not tied to any particular madhhab and it is prepared to oer the parties the benets of any madhhab that suits their particular need. 49 When needed, minority views are chosen to resolve a conict. The ISC’s verdicts are “based upon rulings derived from the main four schools of thought together with other sources within the Sunni Tradition, as well as the Literalist School.” 50 These decisions exemplify modern takhayyur. The ISC is concerned to apply the underlying spirit and general principles of Muslim law, and takhayyur and ijtihad are given free rein. 51 In the British case, too, we see the problem of legitimacy and doctrinal authority. People do not feel comfortable that the rulings of the Council can easily be followed as communal pressure often dictates otherwise. The ISC lacks the popular support of Muslim communities in Britain. Moreover, even though civil ijtihad on most matters was the case in the classical period, for centuries Muslims have obeyed their state’s Muslim law, and in their perception legitimacy is mixed with state approval or reinforce- ment. Thus, the ISC’s neo-ijtihads do not easily gain ground and earn legitimacy in the wider community.


In these arùra times, some young people have developed adaptive strate- gies to cope with the challenges of modern life. These young Muslims nav- igate at the madhhab level across unocial Muslim law. The legal pluralism inherent in Islamic jurisprudence helps them to nd answers to their every- day life dilemmas. They select, eclectically and also pragmatically, a con- venient answer from one of the mainstream, that is, Sunni madhhabs. By employing this kind of modern individual takhayyur, a Muslim “becomes his/her own mufti,” 52 or a micro-mujtahid, making sometimes swift decisions in face of a minor but instant problem. As a result, one can observe many Muslims surng on the inter-madh- hab-net. A Hanafollows the Sha'i madhhab and combines the noon prayer with the afternoon one or the evening prayer with the night one. 53 Normally Hanalaw does not permit this. Or, surng in the area of ablu- tion is also possible: 54 according to al-Shà, if a man touches a woman, he is no longer clean, but if he bleeds, he still is. In the Hanamadhhab, these two instances are diametrically opposite. Also, in the Hanamadh- hab, when performing ablutions one has to wash one’s feet completely;

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then if the person wears a tight leather sock during the next 24 hours, it

is enough that he touches this leather sock with a wet hand symbolically

instead of washing his foot. In the Hanbali madhhab, one can do this with

a normal sock as well. It is thus not surprising to see some Hanas tak-

ing advantage of this Hanbali view when they perform ablutions in non- Muslim environments where it is not convenient to wash the feet. A golden tooth or lling is not permitted under Hanalaw, so Muslims follow the Sha'i view. 55 Regarding alcohol, although there is a consensus that drink- ing is prohibited, the external usage is permitted by some Hanaschol- ars. 56 Thus, surfers from other madhhabs usually benet from this. 57 Regarding interest, Abù Óanìfa and Mu˙ammad al-Shaybànì are of the view that in dàr al-˙arb, it is permissible between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Others oppose this opinion, so if an individual wants to accept interest, he follows the former view. 58 This is not an exhaustive list of examples. Moreover, with regards to individual surng on the inter-madhhab-net and micro- mujtahids, at this stage evidence is only suggestive but not compelling, and this area merits further research. While some of these micro-mujtahids conne their rulings to the bound- aries of the four madhhabs, many others claim that they can deduce their own interpretations directly from the Quran and Sunna. 59 It is even sug- gested that “in the absence of sanctioned information from recognized insti- tutions, Muslims are increasingly taking religion into their own hands.” 60 Thus, one frequently hears young Muslims say that one can now nd all the necessary information on Quran and hadith on CD-ROMs that even imams could not access. 61 It is obvious that at the end of the day this approach will lead to mil- lions of madhhabs 62 and there will be a postmodern fragmentation. 63 In traditional Islamic jurisprudence, consensus (ijmà' ) served as a brake on the vast array of individual interpretations of legal scholars and contributed to the creation of a relatively xed body of laws. 64 In 'aßr al-arùra, there is a danger of post-modern fragmentation as individuals claim to be and act as mujtahids. In this context, a leading British Muslim scholar, Dr. Abdal- Hakim Murad of the University of Cambridge, strongly asserts that “with every Muslim now a proud Mujtahid, and with taqlid dismissed as a sin rather than a humble and necessary virtue, the divergent views which caused such pain in our early history will surely break surface again. Instead of four madhhabs in harmony, we will have a billion madhhabs in bitter and self-righteous conict.” 65 The leading qh expert in Turkey, Professor Hayrettin Karaman, points out another danger in that if there are no clear answers to contemporary questions, then Muslims might be confused and

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follow un-Islamic ways. 66 To prevent this, a new activity is required that will respect the tradition but will also satisfy the demands of Muslims in the postmodern age. The examples of the Islamic Shari'a Council of Britain, the Higher Committee of Religious Aairs in Turkey, and the work of micro-mujtahids show that the question is no longer whether the gate of ijtihad is open or not but which ijtihads are necessary and which ones are to be followed. Many people and institutions claim a right to exercise ijtihad and indeed do practice ijtihad. Whether these are legitimate in the eyes of the people or not is another question. The problems of doctrinal authority, legitimacy, and postmodern fragmentation will still need to be dealt with. To prevent postmodern fragmentation but at the same time implement new changes and ijtihads without confronting problems of civil disobedi- ence or lack of legitimacy, it seems that faith-based movement leaders with eective organizations to implement their ideas have a role to play. Fethullah Gülen has found a wide audience for his ideas, which are described as reformative by some scholars. 67

Ideas implemented in the public sphere: Gülen and his movement

Fethullah Gülen is an Islamic scholar, thinker, writer, and poet. He was born in Erzurum, in the east of Turkey, in 1938. Although he did not receive any formal education after nishing elementary school, he was trained in the religious sciences informally by several Muslim scholars and spiritual Sumasters. In 1958 he was awarded a state preacher’s license and in the following years expanded his audience base. In his sermons and speeches he emphasized the pressing social issues of the times. He has inspired many people in Turkey to establish educational institutions that combine modern sciences with ethics and spirituality. His eorts have resulted in the emergence of the Gülen movement, a faith-based collec- tivity whose boundaries are extremely loose and dicult to specify. The movement depends on its members’ recognition of Gülen’s ideal cognitive schemas and the Nur (Light) doctrines. 68 By exercising ijtihad without agging it as ijtihad, Gülen reinterprets Islamic understanding in tune with contemporary times and develops a new Muslim discourse that is based on “the synthesis of Islam and science; an acceptance of democracy as the best form of governance within the rule of law; raising the level of Islamic consciousness by indicating the con- nection between reason and revelation; and, achieving this-worldly and other-worldly salvation within a free market and through quality educa-

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tion.” 69 Stated summarily, Gülen’s interpretation of Islam seeks a compro- mise with the modern living world. He claims that an understanding of secularism existed among the Seljuqs and Ottomans: they employed ijti- had in worldly matters, and enacted laws and decrees to respond to the challenges of their times. 70 Some of the elements, if not all, in Gülen’s discourse may not be unique to him; there have been a number of Muslim intellectuals and mujtahids who developed new ideas and understandings in the face of the challenges of modernity, without making concessions from the Islam of the past. Yet what makes Gülen unique is that as a leader he has successfully persuaded and mobilized many people—numbering a few million at the present time— to establish institutions and to put into practice his discourse in over 50 countries. Given his strong inuence in particular on his followers and in general on Turkish society, Gülen’s ideas regarding legal pluralism, renewal, takhayyur, and ijtihad are likely to nd an appeal and to have a chance of being implemented in the future. What follows is an outline of some of his ideas on these issues. Gülen sees diversity and pluralism as a natural fact. 71 By making refer- ence to the Turkish Islam of the Seljuqs and Ottomans and to their prac- tice of religious pluralism, he underlines that a legally pluralist system existed during these times as well. 72 Gülen believes that there is a need for ijtihad in our age. He says that he respects the scholars of the past but also believes that ijtihad is a necessity: to freeze ijtihad means to freeze Islam, and imprison it in a given time and space. He argues that Islam is a dynamic and universal religion, which covers all time and space, and renews itself in real life situations; it changes from one context to another, and ijtihad is a major tool for this. But he strongly arms that sometimes the ideas about ijtihad are luxurious, as there are many more serious prob- lems challenging Muslims, and that everybody could claim to be a mujtahid in today’s circumstances. He puts a strong emphasis on raising and edu- cating strong believers, and is of the opinion that it is important to raise individuals who would meet the criteria of a mujtahid. 73 Regarding takhayyur, Gülen believes that under arùra an individual can follow another madhhab by judging the situation with his conscience, ensur- ing that he is truly under arùra. While opposing talf ìq (the combining of doctrines), Gülen argues that keeping madhhabs separate will always give people a chance to navigate across these madhhabs if any problem arises. 74 With regard to the denition of arùra, Gülen underlines that an indi- vidual can dene whether a particular situation is one of arùra or not. Yet he goes on to say that if everything is left to the individual to dene

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what arùra is, then there is a danger of arbitrariness, and this could pos- sibly be against the spirit of Shari'a, which states that believers should

sometimes endure diculty as life is essentially a test. Gülen emphasizes that in the name of public interest (maßla˙a) and arùra, people are inclined to follow the easiest option at all times; 75 if everything is permitted in the name of arùra, then the essence of religion will not remain. He argues that if the earlier generations had given permission to everything and relaxed the requirements, then today we would not have anything remaining as far as religion is concerned. 76 Gülen suggests that a consultative body or

a group of scholars can dene specic arùra conditions in detail, which individuals can use as guidelines. 77

Gülen strongly advocates ijtihad committees. 78 He is of the opinion that

it is no longer possible for individuals to be mujtahids on all matters (muj-

tahid-i mulaq); ijtihad committees should perform this task instead. In Gülen’s view, it is quite possible that in the future people from all sorts of disci- plines will come together in research centers and constitute ijtihad com- mittees. He argues that these committees should consist of scholars from dierent subject areas who advise on particular issues. They should also use the latest technological advances of the age, including computers, cyber- space, CD- or DVD-ROMs, and so on. 79 To Gülen, even today some scholars can come together and try to answer some contemporary questions put to them. In the future, he says, if more suitable mujtahids emerge, they can come up with their own better solu- tions and ijtihads. For ijtihad committees, theology faculties could be suit- able bases or the Directorate of Religious Aairs could set up such a committee or could evolve its already existing fatwa committee into an ijti- had committee. The state can espouse one of these ijtihads and can enact it. Then Muslims could follow such enacted ocial law, since they are ordered to obey their rulers (ulù l-amr), as long as the latter act within the realm of Shari'a and are not against its spirit. In Gülen’s view, states should establish these committees as a service to society, and he gives as an example the Directorate of Religious Aairs Higher Committee of Religious Aairs (HCRA). Yet if a state fails to do this, Muslims should employ civil ijtihad. 80

Implementation of the new discourse and ijtihad in the public sphere

Gülen’s discourse is not only meant on a rhetorical level; he encourages all his followers and sympathizers to realize his ideals and to put into prac- tice his discourse. He is now “one of the latest and most popular modern Muslims which Republican Turkey has produced.” 81 His biography, pub-

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lished in 1995, has entered into its ftieth edition. Roughly every year in the print media, about 1,000 news items are reported on Gülen. 82 The actual size of Gülen’s millions of followers and sympathizers is not known, but it is agreed that it is the largest civil movement in the country. 83 He is now described as an opinion leader in Turkey. 84 In newspapers he is at times referred to as the unocial civil religious leader of Turkey. 85 His movement is deemed to be moderate; it “can be considered ‘mod- ern’ in the sense that it espouses a world view centered around the self- reexive and politically participant individual’s ability to realize personal goals while adhering to a collective identity, and it seeks to shape local networks and institutions in relation to global discourses of democracy, human rights, and the market economy.” 86 The movement has a television network (Samanyolu TV) and two radio channels (Burch FM, Dunya FM), broadcasting in Europe, the Near East, Central Asia, and the Indian sub- continent; a daily newspaper, Zaman, with a circulation of 300,000 in Turkey, and is also published in 16 countries including Europe and the USA; a number of periodicals specialized in various elds; and a news agency (Cihan News Agency). Gülen has also been successful in transforming and even revolutionizing the Muslim educational discourse by taking it from its traditional form as practised in the madrasa and Quranic literacy courses to the modern high school and university format. He has encouraged people to establish mod- ern schools rather than traditional ones. Businessmen who follow Gülen’s message are very active in education and have “built up a vast educational empire in over 50 countries.” 87 People inspired by Gülen have established more than 500 elementary and secondary schools, of which almost 250 outside Turkey: in Europe, the USA, the Central Asian republics, 88 Tanzania, Senegal, Nigeria, Russia, Japan, South Africa, Australia, and Cambodia; a number of language and computer courses; hospitals and health clinics; tutoring chains, six universities in Turkey and Central Asia; and almost 600 student hostels. The movement has also an Islamic bank (Asya Finans), and an insurance company. Some companies of the movement are in the music industry. Modern sciences are taught in the schools operated by Gülen’s follow- ers. Another progressive aspect of the Gülen movement in the eld of edu- cation pertains to the raising of the educational standards of women. In the words of Yavuz, “A decade ago, this religious community was not even willing to allow their daughters to go to secondary or high schools. They preferred to send female students to the Quranic courses or the strictly female Imam Hatip schools. For years, Gülen publicly and privately encour- aged the community to educate all their children regardless of gender.

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Today, there are many all-female schools and many of their graduates go on to universities.” 89 Gülen has changed the traditional tutoring practice of teaching by mak- ing available printed texts and audio-visual material. 90 Recently, the cyber- space has also come into play. 91 Moreover, millions of copies of these materials have been sold and distributed. The daily Zaman alone has dis- tributed many of Gülen’s books and audiocassettes, free of charge, to all its readers in several promotional campaigns. The movement’s radio chan- nels and TV station have been broadcasting Gülen’s speeches and sermons as well. Gülen’s media and publishing houses have been propagating and disseminating Gülen’s discourse on several issues, such as science, moder- nity, democracy, secularism, dialogue, modern education, etc., as well as his “ijtihads.” Zaman also distributed an inter-madhhab text, Zuhayli’s Encyclopedia of Islamic Fiqh. 92 300,000 copies of this book were distributed to Zaman’s sub- scribers free of charge. In this work, the author cites views of the four Sunni madhhabs. In some cases even, he cites the fth madhhab. Interfaith dialogue all over the world is on the movement’s agenda. In the countries where it operates, it either establishes interfaith organizations, associations, and societies or is in close contact with men of faith. In the schools Gülen encouraged to establish, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Shamans, and others study together. 93 Zaman employs Jewish and Christian columnists, who contribute regularly. The movement brings together scholars and intellectuals regardless of their ethnic, ideological, religious, and cultural backgrounds. The Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation functions as a think tank on related issues. The Abant Platform is a result of the attempt to nd solutions to Turkey’s prob- lems regarding sensitive issues such as laicism, secularism, and religion. A new theology, as it were, has been created in the Abant Platform. Gülen has also encouraged his sympathizers to work on contemporary issues such as genetic engineering, organ transplantation, music, art, mod- ern theology, Quranic exegesis, Muslim-Christian dialogue, and secularism, and possible Islamic responses to these issues. 94 The movement’s publish- ing houses—Nil, Kaynak, Tov, Truestar—have supported and published these works. Many of Gülen’s followers publish papers and books and write Ph.D. theses on these very topics. New fatwa books are published by these publishing companies, too. The theology journal Yeni ümit has been dis- seminating these ideas for the last decade. A new intelligentsia in the lines of Gülen’s discourse has also been evolving. In short, “Gülen is the engine behind the construction of a ‘new’ Islam in Turkey.” 95 Even though there has not been any discussion of ijtihad,

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neo-ijtihad or tajdìd within the movement, it is obvious that all these devel- opments and activities are results of Gülen’s ijtihads, even though he would neither claim nor admit that they were so. Put dierently, what he does can be labeled “ijtihad (and tajdìd ) by conduct.” People in his movement, believing that he is capable of reinterpreting Islam to respond to the neces- sities of the time, follow in his footsteps, put into practice his discourse, and realize his ideals.


Muslim legal pluralism is an everyday reality in both Muslim and non- Muslim environments. By surng on the inter-madhhab-net, Muslims have successfully responded to the changing social and cultural contexts and have found solutions within Islam without abandoning their Muslim iden- tity and law. Even though such surfers are not always psychologically com- fortable with what they do, at least it helps them to feel that they are still operating within the boundaries of the Shari'a. Muslim legal pluralism, skillful legal navigators, surfers on the inter-mad- hhab-net, and postmodern micro-mujtahids paving the way for possible socio- legal fragmentation will be part of our lives for years to come, and the challenge of the future will be to accommodate this reality within tradi- tional Islamic jurisprudence. It is crystal clear that at this point a new understanding and application of ijtihad, responding to and reecting the Zeitgeist, will take place. 96 To prevent postmodern fragmentation but at the same time implement new changes and ijtihads without inciting civil disobedience, it seems, as the Gülen case exemplies, that civil faith-based movements have a role to play. Having almost replaced the ulema’s doctrinal authority, faith-based movement leaders exercise or advocate ijtihad and, most importantly, have the means to implement their ideas in the civil realm, even though in most cases they do not label or ag this as ijtihad or tajdìd. Individuals are not coerced into following a faith-based leader and tend to judge the leader with dierent criteria: the level of piety, appearance, honesty, knowledge, sincerity, and so on. Whether these criteria are relevant, scientic, or cor- rect is beside the point; they are enough to legitimize a faith-based leader and his discourse and practice. 97 The function of a faith-based movement leader in relation to tajdìd could present itself in three ways. First, the leader is a mujtahid himself and makes ijtihad. Second, he follows ijtihads of certain other individuals or institu- tions, and by following such ijtihads of others he, in a way, legitimizes

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them. Third, the leader sets up an ijtihad committee, the ijtihads of which will (may) be followed rst by the leader and then by his followers. In this way fragmentation of the Muslim socio-legal sphere as a result of activi- ties of postmodern Muslim surfers and micro-mujtahids can be avoided while Muslim legal plurality and diversity are maintained.