By Ustadh Abdus Shakur Brooks
Imām Bukhārī narrates in his Sahīh Collection that the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said:
اصبرو فانه لا يأتي عليكم زمان الا و الذي بعده اشر منه
“Be patient, verily a time will not come upon you except that the time after it is eviler than it.”
Ibn Mas’ūd said about this hadīth:
ما ذاك بكثرة الامطار و قلتها و لكن بذهاب العلماء ثم يحدث قوم يفتون في الامور برأيهم فيثلمون الإسلام و يهدمونه
”That is not due to abundance or depletion of rain, but it is due to the disappearance of the ‘Ulamā [educated scholars] then the occurrence of a “people” [not ‘ulamā!] who give fatwā [verdicts] according to their own opinions [meaning unqualified opinions] corrupting/bending [the meaning] of Islām and destroying it”.
The fact that Ibn Mas’ūd used the word “a people will come” shows that they are not scholars but pretenders; which is inferred from the fact that he referred to the first group as “scholars”, whereas the second group, he referred to them as merely “people”. It also indicates that such people will be mistaken by the common folk to be scholars, since they “give fatwā” and because they are assumed to be scholars by the common folk, their opinions are respected; although they are contrary to the practice of Islam. In this way the pretenders distort and help in destroying a true representation of Islam, as Ibn Mas’ūd mentioned.
Much of what we see happening today under the claim of “contextualisation and reform” is a result of what Ibn Mas’ud is talking about. Anyone will notice that those who are consistent in such claims, tend to focus on issues that conflict with societies whose moral compass is dictated by godless people; who openly disregard religion as a premise altogether and openly show disregard towards Islam as a religion. Much of it is done as a desperate attempt to convince such societies that “our religion” is suitable for their standard of life, or to make permissible what is known to be forbidden in search for desirable ease.
There is no doubt some type of contextualisation must apply in the modern world when it is necessary, which is embodied by jurisprudence.
To “contextualise” means to take the foundations of something and make it applicable to the times in a meaningful way, or to grant dispensations in areas recognised by the Sharī’ah. Some of what we see today is not that, but rather unwarranted and unqualified reasoning by those who wish to change the rules and regulations of matters well established in Islam.