Allow me to give you guys a little background about myself since this is my first time posting here. I was born and raised in the United States a member and follower of the Ahmadiyya Movement. When I was seventeen years old I converted to orthodox Islam, and while I claimed to be non-sectarian my theology was Sunni. For the next eight years I practiced Sunni Islam and had particularly accepted the Salafi understanding and emphasis on Tawheed. I had spent a number of years studying sectarianism within Islam. Coming from an Ahmadi/Qadiani background, the field of Islamic sects and schools of thought was my expertise. I also became a Muslim activist and apologist, defending orthodox Islam, particularly against Qadiani and Christian missionaries. I had the opportunity to publicly debate on an academic level, at numerous venues from Universities, Conventions to Churches. Some of the scholars I had the opportunity to debate include Dr. James White, Dr. David Wood, Sam Shamoun, Professor Tony Costa and Dr. Nabeel Qureshi. I have also been active on YouTube, offering video blogs or vlogs to about 800 subscribers.
As of the past 5 or 6 months I continued studying the history and theology of Islam and Muslims and I came to some major realizations which eventually led me to this website. I want to engage with fellow 'progressive' and 'rationalist' Muslims to see where we agree and possibly disagree on a number of issues. I am open to a wide range of schools of thought and opinions, which I think is the best approach.
First and foremost, I'd like to speak on the history of Islam. After the Prophet (sa) passed away there was obviously a political divide - and not so much an immediate theological divide. Getting into the specifics of the politics won't be necessary, although there is no doubt that some major figures within the Ummah had seriousl disagreements between themselves. Nevertheless, moving forward to the time of the Abbasid Dynasty and the arrival of what many call the Golden Age of Islam, we learn that the first very theological school of thought was formed and those who followed it called themselves Ahlul Taweed wal Adal - People of Divine Unity and Justice. The approach of these Muslims was to follow revelation (Quran) and rationality (Aql) as the two sources would together paint our reality. The Khalifas of the time had also accepted this approach. In the mean time the Asharis and Maturidis were formed and they called these rationalist Muslims the Mu'tazilah - or the Separatists. Ilm al Kalam, or respectful debate within the Ummah was initiated, in order to figure out which approach and which interpretations seems more reasonable. Eventually the followers of the Ashari and Maturidi schools of thought, who were more into tradition and dogma than rationality, formed four specific schools of thought which would later become known as Ahle Sunnah wal Jama'ah. Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal and Imam Abu Hanifa were both particularly staunch opponents of not only the Mu'tazilah, but also the political party of Ali ibn Abi Talib or he Shia of Ali who would begin evolve theologically as well by this point.
One important thing to remember is that it was at this point in time that the Sunni Ahadith started to be compiled, the first of which was the Muwatta Imam Malik, and other Ahadith compilations started to shape form over the next hundred years. The thing to remember is that these collections were extremely biased in the sense that they would only narrate from those whom they - the Sunnis - felt were theologically consistent with what they believed. In other words, the narrations from the Shi'a and Mu'tazilah or Ahadith from anyone who was not Sunni, would not be accepted into their compilation. Their entire science of Ahadith, which targeted authenticity according to the reliability of individuals in a chain (isnad) of narration, was therefore biased in the sense that the narrators had to agree with Sunni theology and perspective in order to be considered reliable in the first place.
So who were the Mu'tazilah? The Mu'tazilah happened to be the Muslims who were responsible for the Golden Age of Islam when numerous discoveries and inventions were made in areas of science (astronomy, chemistry etc.), philosophy, mathematics and medicine were made and preserved by these rationalist Muslims. Not a single Sunni contributed to these discoveries in secular sciences. Instead, the likes of Hamid al-Ghazali and other prominent Sunnis were responsible for stopping progression in these fields when they and their dogmatic mentalities eventually took power. The following Ottoman Caliphate would adopt the Hanafi-Sunni ways, would stop the use of Ijtihad and Ilm al Kalam, and would pave the way for Western secular entities to take over where the previous rationalist Muslims left off in those fields.
Hamid al-Ghazali is an important Sunni figure. He considered philosophy and mathematics from shaytaan and even wrote a book called Tahfat al Falasafiya - Incoherence of Philosophy, in response to Ibn Sina's works. He attempted to use philosophy himself and break the premises of Muslim rationalism. Eventually a Muslim philosopher from Spain named Ibn Rushd responded to that book with one of his own works called Tahfat al Tahfat - Incoherence of the Incoherence, where he countered Ghazali's arguments. The 'debate' was perhaps one of the most important ones in the history of Islam.
Nevertheless, historically speaking the Muslim philosophers were always opposed by the rigid Sunnis who worshiped their traditions and seemingly the Prophet (sa). Since the Ahadith compilations refused narrators other than those deemed reliable by the Sunnis, they are biased. The Shi'a have their own collection of Ahadith according to narrators they deem reliable, whereas the Mu'tazilah never compiled their own set.
My position on the Sunni or for that matter even the Shia collection of Ahadith is that the compilations are sources good enough to read in order to broaden our understanding of history and tradition. I cannot blame a people for wanting to document their history and tradition. However, to try and incorporate tainted history - as all history is tainted and biased realistically - those who win the war tell the story and in this case those who win the conversions tell their version of a story - thus history and tradition should not be mixed in with, nor be viewed at par with revelation from God (the Quran). I believe that the two primary sources for Muslims should be the Quran (revelation) and the Aql (rationality), and that Ahadith should be viewed as a valid but tainted documentation of history and tradition, and not a necessary source for Islamic jurisprudence and/or practice.
What do you guys think?