The first thing that strikes one about this lecturer of mine is the fluidity of his sentences. The second is his very peculiar accent. It is the type that leaves you lost and captivated, so much so that you are forced to focus on and listen to him. He had taken us a course during our first year, but it was halfway, and I had enjoyed it. I remember being particularly wowed by the fact that he came to class only with his car keys in his hands. He always bore no note or handout, he dictated notes directly from his memory and went back effortlessly to find a student where they indicated that they were three or four sentences behind.
However, what struck me this time when he came back to take us Islamic Law of Crimes in our third year was his persistence in communicating to us the need to let the outside world know that there is a misconception about Islam. That barely about 30% of Islamic Law dealt with punishment as opposed to the 100% that people seem to believe. That the rest is more concerned with the protection and regulation of contractual transactions. And that where punishments are capital punishments, their standard of proof are so tough that such punishments are not even realizable.
The second endearing thing is his consistence in leading us to question opinions we may have been following just because of the status of whoever is championing such an opinion. Of course I do not always agree with the things he says, but the fact remains that he is one brilliant man who has actively defined excellence for me in more ways than one. One day, I will write about him. Perhaps.
Once in a while, he abandons the topic for the day and opts instead to take on sensitive matters, seek our opinions, ask us totally unexpected questions about those opinions in such a manner that sends us into a maze of thinking which often times is tangled and would require critical and unsentimental reasoning from us in order to get out from. He would take care not to expressly state his own opinion on the matter at hand so as not to influence ours. He would prefer rather to ask us ours, make us justify them with authorities such as the Qur’an and the Sunnah, probe even further, our understanding of the quoted text. What this results into is personal individual doubting of our understanding of it, and the realization that knowledge is vast and endless, and that attaining it in absoluteness would be a farce. He takes care to remind us at the end of a heated discussion that the purpose is not to sway us away from conventional opinions or make us radicals, but to let us know that other opinions are not only possible, but also as valid as ours. And also to get us to think for ourselves instead of relying on what some Islamic scholar whose own knowledge might be flawed tells us. And here, it gets tricky. There are undoubtedly scholars whose pedigree have been put into standard testing before gaining acceptance and so when they give an interpretation of the Qur’an or an opinion, they are taken seriously. Granted. But the lesson in his lectures, lie in letting us know that to attain that status is no joke, and to recognize when such a status has been reached and when it is just a ruse.
One time, he walked into the class and asked,
“Who in this class believes that Islam allows a man to hit his wife?”. There was a wave of murmur like ripples across the face of water but no hands went up. Slowly, a few hands did. He asked again,
“Who in this class believes that Islam does not permit a man to hit his wife?”, a lot of hands went up.
And then he proceeded to hear the first set of hands one after the other and the verses -or “verse” I should say, they all relied on a particular verse- they had to back it up. At the end of the endless critical probing from him, one thing was clear :
That the one verse they all so staunchly relied on, the one verse they kept quoting now and again, that one verse had a key word. And not one of them knew the meaning of that word. Yet, they believed in their hearts that it was expressly commanding a husband to beat his wife. You may be wondering, why would they then believe so blindly? When they do not even know in entirety the provision of that verse? Perhaps because a renown scholar holds that position. Perhaps because they belong to a particular school of thought. Perhaps because they are brought up in a society that have held that position for centuries. There are a lot of possible reasons, really. In the third case, it would be difficult to blame them. It is also very hard, extremely difficult to change the mindset of such a person.
And even though the entire lecture unnerved me thoroughly because of the inhumane and degenerating opinions held by a few of my classmates, even though it broke my heart that a few spoke so confidently and righteously with a superior air against women, even though they objectified women, what gladdened my heart and gave me a tiny spark of hope was that this lecturer of mine was able to at least establish to them that those opinions of them were flawed heavily, that he was able to plant seeds of doubt in them.
And the thing about seeds like this, is that time has a way of growing them.