Is This Idea Really That Radical?

At first brush, discussing about innovation in ummatic context seems paradoxical. It doesn’t help that the current image of innovators celebrated by the world are potrayed to be iconoclastic individuals. Such image is perceived to be at odds with a way of life that puts a premium on communal ties and brotherhood.

However, it is possible to innovate while maintaining a mindset of putting the community before the individual. Perhaps we are uncomfortable to put out our best self since we are ‘overdosed’ in brotherhood until it induced groupthink.

The world is moving too fast, the changing dynamics of society, politics, technology and economy are even challenging the so-called first world countries. Even they are unsure how to deal with this changing fundamentals.

We can’t wait for them to figure it out, we need to think for ourselves. We need to innovate our society, not innovating Islam. What we are changing is how the wisdom of Islam is being manifested in this world, the core teaching will remain intact.

The perceived radicalism is that sometimes we conflate the customs we practiced as the core part of Islam. But at the same time, we readily accept and follow new customs and way of life created outside Islamic framework. As if we are not confident to use our Islamic heritage as a source of solution to the challnges brought upon by the changing times.

The root word of radical is exactly that, a root. From the latin word radix, which means root. However these days, radical is usually taken to mean being root-less. But it also radical (from Western/post-Modern standpoint) to be deeply rooted in past tradition (ie: Quran, Sunnah, wisdom of elders, etc)


I paraphrased the above passage from a lecture by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad. This seemingly innocent wordplay strikes deep to the heart of the matter. What kind of radical idea we have – deeply rooted or completely uprooted? Challenging the ‘West’ or challenging ‘Islam’?

At times, we don’t even know what we are up against. Take capitalism for example, it is used as a convenient catch-all word to describe what’s wrong with the current economic system. But what if the arrival of Islam through Muhammad s.a.w itself means the beginning of capitalism? Does the unjust economic system we currently face is really capitalism?

We’ll let it linger for a while. But for the time being I suggest dear readers to watch this video by Benedikt Koehler deliverng his lecture entitled ‘Early Islam and the Birth of Capitalism’.

p/s: You can also get the transcript here