Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I've said many times I've no problem with the concepts of Imamat, Taawil
and all the attendant intricacies that go with it. As the fundamentals of Bohra faith I have no quarrel with them, if this is what Bohras accept as true. In fact, I appreciate the deep intellectual history and literature associated with the origin and evolution of these concepts.
My problem is that in the modern world they have no practical or even religious value. They are fine as historical artefacts, and as topics of research and academic discussion. Outside the academia and scholarship, in the real world where Bohras practice their faith and live their lives Imamat and Taawil
are as useful as dodos. You say taawil
is used in the explication of Sharia. If that is the case then how the recent Dais, the sole custodian of taawil
, have been explicating the Shariah? Is there any particular instance where we can say "this is the plain, zahiri ayat, and this, here, is the taawil
explanation of it." I'm really curious, I want to know. I've not studied taawil
literature as you have, but I really would like to know if there is a book of taawil
as there are compendiums of tafseers. Surely with so many Imams and Dais we must have a large collection of taawil
literature penned by them. And I'm hoping that there are no contradictions among them, or are we to assume that even taawil
commentary for, say, one particular ayat can differ from Imam to Imam, Dai to Dai?
You see the difficulties we get into the moment we begin to scrutinise these concepts. We all know that "aa taawil
nu bayan chhe" is more of a ruse used by the clergy to deflect inquiry. Imamat and Taawil
are no more than props that the clergy uses to legitimise itself. Including Mufaddal and the rest of them. By harping on these concepts as fundamental to faith we are unwittingly protecting these fraudsters, accepting their legitimacy, and doing their dirty work for them. It doesn't mean we should reject these beliefs but instead take them with sackfuls of salt when these grandees mouth them. The best response would be to laugh in their faces.
Here's what prompted me to call you gushing acolyte:
My general feeling is that very soon we will see a new efflorescence of knowledge, like that done by the secret society of "Pure Brethren" in their Raasail.
Like the Raasail? Really?
Final thing, it is sad that you should dub Asghar Ali Engineer as a social reformer. He was a Islamic scholar in his own right. He was not attached to academia, and did not live a comfy tenured life, writing unreadable dissertations. In that narrow sense may be was not a "scholar". But despite that, his study and scholarship of Islam is voluminous and extensive and fairly deep. I believe he has done more than any contemporary academics to bring the enlightened interpretation of the Quran and Islamic history to the reading public. By calling him a social reformer you devalue his scholarship and his sterling contribution to Islamic literature.