The emergence of taqlid or indiscriminate imitation of the work of former scholars by later scholars was a major turning point in Islamic history. It created two classes of scholars, those who referred to the primary sources of the Shariah (the early scholars), and those that did not (the later scholars). As a result of the expectation to follow and build on the work of the early scholars, the Qur’an and sunnah attained the status of “remote” sources, at least as far as the later scholars were concerned. The works of the early scholars, by contrast, were brought forward and came to be treated, for all practical purposes, as “primary sources.” The distancing of the later Muslims from the
Qur’an was reflected in how Muslims came to relate to the sacred text. Scholars began to look outside of the Qur’an itself for the meaning of the Qur’an, more specifically in the commentaries of their predecessors. Other Muslims were advised to focus on recitation and leave the interpretation of the sacred text to scholars. As it was the Qur’an that provided the impetus to the rise of the Islamic civilisation in the first place, civilisational renewal will require a re-engagement with the Qur’an, by scholars as well as the wider Muslim community. Reopening access the Qur’an will have to begin with a reappraisal of learning methodologies currently in use. This will require first and foremost overcoming taqlid.