in category Sciences

Is critical theory permitted in Islam?

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Following WW2, Muslim intellectuals were struggling with colonialism and its new forms along with dominance of Western political systems.

Many began to turn to what they thought were the best approaches to address Western intellectual hegemony.

They believed that by adopting anti-Capitalist critiques by Marxists, anti-colonial critiques by post-colonialist critical theorists and more recently new post-modernist creeds, which brought with them political programmes built around a core known as 'Critical Theory'.

What is Critical Theory?

Critical Theory is an intellectual tool that goes beyond describing the world, seeking also to change the world.

It seeks to bring about a certain sort of social change, one that critiques social discourse, structures and institutions to liberate the individual from “social domination” via a closer reading of "language" and “ideology”.

Critical Theory is based on the concept, there is no objective truth in society, language and values are created by power relations and designed to reinforce them.

Critical Theory and Islam

Instead of helping Muslims dismantle Western power structures, it has flooded Muslims with waves of new ideologically based theories, such as Feminism and Critical Gender Studies that argue absolute equality is the measure of justice, and patriarchical structures, literature and language have been designed to oppress women as a class and keep men on top, seeing Islam itself as unjust and a force that reinforces and maintains male supremacy over women, ignoring the fact most men are also oppressed in a variety of ways, justice absent for both genders.

In a similar fashion, Critical Race Theory reinforces “race consciousness” and even embraces it deliberately, seeing events through this lens alone.

A recent example saw Libya detaining sub-Saharan on the pretext they were “illegal migrants” heading to Europe, forceing them into slave labour. This was interpreted as anti-black sentiment in the Muslim world.

Looking at events only through one lens impedes understand the true problem, which is the anarchic and exploitative milieu that the Muslim world has become following colonial hegemony.

In his book, The Islamic Personality, the scholar Taqiuddin Al-Nabhani explains how Muslims made use of and benefited from such philosophies historically. The difference between benefiting but not being affected (corrupted) by them the lqatter entails adopting foreign ideological concepts, their assumptions taken without scrutiny. Non-Islamic ideas similar to Islamic ideas are blindly adopted, while contradictions with Islamic thoughts and even its aqeedah are ignored. At times, it’s done to the point of adopting a worldview contradictory to Islam, and even given preference over Islamic thoughts and standing in judgement of Islamic rules and injunctions. Benefiting from a foreign culture constitutes studying its thoughts and knowing the similarities and differences with Islamic culture. Contradictions with Islamic thoughts and foreign concepts about life, legislation, aqeedah are rejected. The ideas from the foreign culture are improved upon enriching the Islamic culture while the Islamic viewpoint about life is safeguarded.


The Muslim world is now best understood by an old Bedouin proverb:

“Me against my brother; me and my brother against our cousin; me, my brother and my cousin against the stranger.”

It is structured and organised by principles from secular European ideologies, ranging from the nation state built on nationalism, economies based on patronage and capitalism, kinship ties fragmenting under the onslaught of individualism, the growth of materialism driven by consumerism and so on.

If Muslims don’t study, rediscover and advocate political solutions from an Islamic lens, we’ll not only never be able to lift ourselves out from the hole the Muslim world is in, but young Muslims will adopt ideas that only confuse us.

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