Fundamentalism and tolerance

I read a good article issued by the Institute of Islamic Understanding in Malaysia. It attempts, however, to legitimize fundamentalism when it says:

  • Fundamentalism is the most abused of words. It is equated with extremism. Yet if the teachings of Islam are studied, it would be clear that the best Muslims are the fundamentalists.
  • That’s not what fundamentalism is. Do you agree?

    You are right. That’s not what fundamentalism is. The mutual misunderstanding comes from the fact that the West means something completely different by fundamentalism from what Muslims means. The West means the belief that the fundamentalist’s opinion or view is the only correct one and all else is false, while Muslims mean by it the return to or insistence on the basics of the religion: the Quran and the Sunna.

    The Arabs translate fundamentalism as الأصولية (Al-Usooliyya) and that is where the error is made! The word has nothing to do with Usooliyya, which means foundationism.

    Fundamentalism is indeed evil, because it assumes that one interpretation, made by mortals who by nature are prone to error, is the only acceptable interpretation and all other are heresies. This can only cause animosity between people with different views. The article discusses verse 3:7, but neglects to mention its epilogue,

    “…As for those in whose hearts is a bias, they follow what carries multiple meanings of it, seeking discord and seeking its ultimate meaning. And no one knows its ultimate meaning except God. And those established in knowledge say, “We believe in it. All [of it] is from our Lord.” And no one remembers [that] except those of understanding minds.” (3:7)

    Yet, despite the clear declaration from God, countless scholars tried to interpret verses that carry multiple meanings, which God says is something that only He can do! See this discussion for more details about this verse.

    The lesson I think should have been learned form 3:7 is that a verse that carries multiple meanings was revealed that way because all of those meanings are intended! To confine such a verse to one meaning is to narrow down what God has widened.

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