As a Muslim, we are bombarded by various understandings of Islam these days. Hizbu-Tahrir leaflets are now commonly distributed in Malaysian mosques. The so-called liberals are now articulating a revival of ijtihad. And salafis are advocating what they claim to be a return to the Quran and Sunnah, rather than rigid reliance on the madhhab. There are also those who engage in takfir, and a small minority who justify violence and terror in the name of Islam.
All these approaches seem to ignore the wealth of our heritage of knowledge, built by centuries of scholarship by esteemed scholars who mastered the Quran and Sunnah. Their legacy is capable of dealing with modernity, but people tend to underestimate that, being more interested to reinvent the wheel. Rather than rigid or static, traditional scholars have undertaken ijtihad throughout the ages to deal with contemporary challenges, and many continue to do so without ignoring the depth and breadth of knowledge they inherit.
This debate between Sheikh Sai’d Ramadan al-Buti, a Syrian scholar and academic, and a Salafi brings many of the issues to the fore. It was translated by Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller.