Times Union article on Fiqh Institute: Giving ‘Fiqh’ to the world

I opened my email and a video popped up of a young man wearing traditional ‪#‎religious‬ dress who claimed to be speaking about ‪#‎Islam‬. What he had to say shocked me.

“It is permissible to kill all disbelievers, even if they are women and children,” he said in ‪#‎Arabic‬.

I knew what he said was ignorant and false. It also flew in the face of the ‪#‎Quran‬, which states, “Whoever kills a soul for other than murder, or spreading corruption in the earth, it is as if he killed all of mankind.”

Yet he supported his argument quoting a hadith, a prophetic saying:

“The ‪#‎Prophet‬ said about an enemy’s women and children (that) ‘They are from them.'” The young man claimed this meant that all people are the same in wartime, combatants and civilians. In his mind, the brutality of war spared no one.

However, his diatribe was based on a blatant distortion of the religious texts. What this man lacked is ‪#‎Fiqh‬

Fiqh is an Arabic word for comprehension and deep understanding as well as the ability to arrive at the intended meaning of things.

Religiously, it means a ‪#‎scholarly‬ and expert understanding of religious law. One principle in Fiqh is that one should never draw a ruling from a single text; rather all available texts on a given subject must be analyzed. Another is that patience and moderation are required in all religious acts.

Without Fiqh, information and religious texts can be distorted in order to fit anyone’s whims.

As a religious teacher who spent years in a transformation from layperson to imam by studying Fiqh, I believe our interconnected world requires ‪#‎institutions‬ that educate ‪#‎scholars‬ who can sort through the massive influx of information on the Web and clarify the truth to the public.

In the video, the young man grossly took the words of the Prophet out of context. A quick glance at a scholarly commentary on the quoted hadith by the classical sage Ibn Hajr states, “It is not permissible to deliberately target non-combatants, including women and children. … If the direction of the war hinges on such a situation, and innocent lives are at risk, then it would be permissible to engage the enemy while not intending to harm the innocent and taking every precaution to avoid it.”

Today’s world requires ‪#‎scholarship‬ that can counter the ignorant voices of belligerence and strife. That is why I helped found the Fiqh Institute, a nonprofit educational academy in Albany, dedicated to understanding, enlightenment and moderation, and producing the true Islamic scholars of the future. At this critical stage, we need to support and empower true Islamic scholarship and help institutions dedicated to restoring leadership and authority to those who truly deserve it, the scholars.

Faisal Ahmad grew up in Albany, graduated from RPI, studied at Abunur University in ‪#‎Damascus‬‪#‎Syria‬, and led congregations in Texas and Connecticut before returning to his hometown. For information about the new Fiqh Institute, go at www.fiqhinstitute.org.