Monday, April 27, 2020

This Ramadan: Resist Rigid Ritualism; Recognise Divine Receptivity

by Adis Duderija 
(Ph.D.) Senior Lecturer in the Study of Islam and Society

As a theoretician and proponent of progressive Islam, I often don’t see eye to eye with mainstream expressions of contemporary Islam on a number of ethical, socio-political and theological issues. This became painfully apparent, once again, on the topic of how to approach Ramadan in the time of a pandemic. While a number of traditional clerics and major institutions have, for the most part, taken COVID-19 seriously and mosques in many Muslim majority countries remain closed, there is a lack of appreciation that the various physical distancing restrictions associated with the virus seriously affect the mental, psychological and physical wellbeing of many people — and hence that this factor should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not fasting and the spiritual practices associated with it should go ahead as normal. I have not come across a single religious voice from traditional Islamic institutions that has expressed this opinion in the public.

As I ponder why this is the case, I think that one explanation is the huge emphasis mainstream Islam places on ritualistic forms of devotion, in general — so much so that alternative interpretations or practices which that depart from the “norm” are tantamount to unbelief and are liable for punishment in this life and in the life to come.Therefore, one practice that I think we need to resist — especially in the era of pandemics — is to conflate the spiritual practice of devotion with rigid ritualism. Muslims need to be accommodating of a broader range and variety of forms and expressions of devotion, such as intellectual forms of spirituality that invite us to continue to explore and interrogate our very concept of God.

I do think that the issue of ritualistic devotion is strongly correlated with the concept of God believers have internalised. As process and feminist theologians have maintained for some time now, traditional forms of theism have constructed a concept of God as an “Arbitrary Cosmic Moralist,” an “Unchanging and Passionless Absolute,” an “All Controlling Power” and a “Male” — and have accordingly ignored doctrines and theological depictions that portray God as a creative, receptive and responsive Power who is truly touched and affected by the suffering and ailments of humanity; a God who, amid a pandemic, is our Partner in healing us all and our planet. This, I submit, is a concept of God that we need now more than ever.

Published as a part  in a series of reflections on Ramadan in the era of Civod 19 on ABC Religion and Ethics Website

No comments:

Post a Comment