By Azza Heikal
One of the components that constitute and shape the culture of any given society or community is religion. Nowadays we are living in a period of turbulence and chaos and people are striving for something spiritual to cling to. We have to discuss religion from a cultural perspective rather than a merely fanatic or fundamentalist one.
Our Islamic religion requires the activation of the mind ( ijtihad ). Every reading of the Holy Quran could be interpreted and read differently according to the reader, time, place and culture. In addition, there is no mediator between the person or subject and Allah. People now feel that they are pressured by religion in every aspect of their daily life; yet it is impossible to refer every daily activity to men of faith for a fatwa or ruling on what is permissible and what isn't. Life encompasses a variety of approaches to the same issue. We behave, think, feel and act according to our culture, which is deeply rooted in history, habits, customs, traditions, education, social class, the political system and religion.
A manic striving for fatwas would hinder society's diversity and evolution and might capture it within the rigid tenets of a certain sect or dogmatic mind. The fatwa ought to be limited to major topics of concern to the nation, like war, policy and economy, or to regulate dealings among people in tune with the set laws of given countries. It is enough that people must refer inwardly to what is halal (permissible) and what is haram (forbidden). Indeed, fatwa mania reflects the weakness and fragility of Islamic societies that lack democracy, freedom and enlightenment.
Diversity in viewpoints liberates the mind and thus contributes to the development of society as a whole.
This week's Soapbox speaker is a writer and critic.