Islam: A peaceful religion

Co-Exist

A few days ago, Reza Aslan (an Iranian-American writer and scholar of religions), gave a fitting rebuttal to Bill Maher on his views about Islam. Reza rightly pointed out the ‘phobia’ which has taken it’s roots among ‘westerners’ (apparently after 9/11) to justify their hatred towards Islam. Reza is of the view that religion in itself isn’t violent, it is the violent nature of a certain follower which is covered up in in religious veil that gets the religion denounced. He quotes the example of the Buddhists, who claim to be the followers of the most peaceful teachings (of Buddha), yet they are involved in the brutal massacre of Rohangya Muslims in Myanmar (former Burma).

Video clip of the interview follows:

It’s a strong argument, if you take into account the fact that every religion in the world have had some sort of violent history in the past (Islam is still young compared to others). The infamous Spanish inquisition marks the darkest history of Christianity, the persecution of Christians in their early days by the Jewish depicts a period of ignorance on the part of Jews. Hindus persecuted Muslims for over a century in the undivided  sub-continent and the Buddhists’ current drive of ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Myanmar are accounts of violence in the name of religion.

What Reza’s interview did is reduce (if not eliminate) the negativity in the viewpoint of those who don’t fully understand religion, specially Islam. But, as usual some criticism was due. I came across this post, which is circulating the internet and is written by two ex-Muslims (I am guessing they are atheists now since the blogs are more about atheism). They go as far as to state that everything Aslan said is completely false. So let’s take a look at the argument they are trying to sell:

Shariah Law & Gender equality

Indonesia has increasingly become more conservative. (Notoriously anti-women) Sharia courts that were “optional” have risen to equal status with regular courts in family matters. The conservative Aceh province even legislates criminal matters via Sharia courts, which has been said to violate fundamental human rights.

Let me make it clear, Islam does not have a church (a governing body that interprets the holy scriptures and is the final authority on it), which means every individual or community have their own interpretation of the Holy text. That is why we see so many sections sprung out of it in the very early ages (The Shia Sunni conflict took roots as soon as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) died). True Islam keeps religion and state as affairs separate. We have examples of governing from the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) where verdicts were carried out according to the religious interpretation of the conflicting parties (Jews and Christians lived in those states governed by the Muslims). Justice system within Islamic states was heavily overhauled, eliminating conflict of interests, equality of justice for the peasant and the Calph were some of the features of early Muslim rule. Another example we see during the rule of the last ‘Rashid’ Caliph Ali (may blessing of Allah be upon him). Muaviya created an independent state and became it’s (self appointed) governor within what is now Syria (which became the center of the Umaiyyads later on) and Caliph Ali did not pose any challenge towards him.

Now the Shariah law in modern times is a separate issue altogether. These days, it has become a mean of strengthening one’s rule on the ‘throne’. Religion specific state laws were first implemented during the Abbasid Caliphate, prior to which we see little or no reference towards such laws. For example, the punishment for apostasy is no where to be found in the holy scriptures, but some how a Hadith (which isn’t even attributed to the Prophet) circulates regarding the punishment of an apostate. Regarding the issue of gender equality, Islam was the first religion to truly talk about women rights.

While talking on the issue, one must certainly keep in mind the time when Quran was revealed. It was a dark era, especially for women. Girls were buried alive upon birth in pre-Islamic Arabia. People of every religion or cast were accustomed to this ignorant practice. It will be worth while mentioning that many atheists of pre-Islamic Arabia were following these practices.

Women were denied heritage and were traded freely. With the arrival of Islam, the Arab society (of those times) saw a gradual change in their attitude towards women. The change was not abrupt, rather it eased into people over time. Muslim women fought with men at times leading them in battles, they were working on their own and traveling across the world without any man chaperoning them. Things were changing for the better until the in-fighting began once again and Muslims were forced back into dark ages.

It was then everyone started making up laws, defining them ‘religious’ and using them against rebellions and enemies of the state.

Religion promotes violence

On the contrary, take any religious scripture, you will always find messages of peace and compassion towards fellow humans, even plants and animals. The notion that religion promotes violence is truly baseless, and here’s why. All fatalities committed in the name of religion are still less than the fatalities committed otherwise. The wars fought in Europe during the dark ages, the massacre of innocent people by the Mongols, the atrocities of Alexander (apparently titled ‘the great’) and the persecution of Jews at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar are all but trailers to the crimes against humanity committed by the ‘non-religious’ states. Both the world wars are recent examples of ‘non-religious’ wars. So for all these killings, should the atheists be held responsible?

Female heads of states

The article states that famous leader’s like Benazir Bhutto and Sheikh Haseena Wajid had little to do to achieve their greatness, which is utterly preposterous. Mrs. Bhutto, even though she was the daughter of the former Pakistani Prime minister had to face tough circumstances in her country. Her father was hanged and she fought her way through a dictatorship to become the Prime minister of Pakistan. Surely, the Ex-Muslims of North America can tell us when was the last time a female head of state was chosen for America? In Pakistan as well as Bangladesh, women are free to work and have all the rights (at least in the constitution). The practice of these rights is a separate issue altogether. Pakistan is plagued with illiteracy and people are very narrow minded, it is important to note that these people still have ‘cultural’ (not religious) practices of sheer ignorance they are accustomed to in this era. Blaming religion for it is ridiculous.

FGM

You can clearly feel the ignorance of the author when he puts forth a Hadith (saying of a Prophet) to prove that FGM is supported by Islam. The Hadith of Abu Dawood clearly indicates that FGM was already a practice (within non-Muslims of that area), but the Prophet requested them to be more gentle towards the women who come with the desire for it. The article claims that ‘two major’ Sunni factions support FGM. They don’t quote their sources but let’s say even if they do support it, they will be around 25 to 30 percent of the total Muslim population. To suggest that Islam supports it is absurd.

Towards, the conclusion the author attempts to further malign Islam by articulating the age old ‘myths’ and ‘allegations’ on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I have written about them extensively in my previous posts which I hope will catch the authors’ eye.

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What “Mullah” want

Yesterday’s tragic incident, is nothing but a slap to the face of the nation. It wasn’t just a murder of a man, it was a murder of moral values given to us by Islam. It is not just the funeral of Shahbaz Bhatti, it is the funeral of Islamic principles, torn apart by the nation which claims to be the caretaker of this great religion. Every human, irrespective of their religion (except for many in Pakistan) has condemned this gruesome act of brutality. However, yet again, the clergy is quiet, none has come forward and condemned this heinous crime. Why? Because the killing machine called ‘Tehreek-e-Taaliban Pakistan” claims this murder in the name of the infamous, controversial blasphemy law.

I know, it came as a shock to me too. Not that the clergy failed condemn this act, but the fact that the atrocious Taliban are actually standing up for “rule of law”? There is a catch to this, they ONLY want to defend the blasphemy clauses while they are happy to break every other law in this country. All of a sudden, constitution is very important to them. Where is the mullah now? Are you happy ‘maulvi sahab’? Isn’t this what you really want? What else do we need to prove that this law is nothing but shame and misery towards Pakistan and the nation.

It is time to repeal this law once and for all, it has already claimed lives of many innocent people and have brought misery to others. Those who speak for it cannot bring forth a single piece of evidence neither from Holy Scriptures, nor from history. The facts they put forward are distorted and disgraceful, which have been proven over and over again. Yet the nation is unable to see through their disguise of ‘Holy men’, what deceiving and hypocritical beings they are.

Even if this incident doesn’t open our nation’s eyes, then I am afraid no Messiah is going to come for them. Pakistanis should understand the fact that these self-proclaimed religious scholars and these extremists, jihadist, ignorant and blood thirsty butchers (call them Al-Qaeda or Taliban) are one and the same. They have already hijacked our peaceful religion Islam and are using our beliefs against us, they want to rule the nation with fear and ignorance, that is what the Mullah want.

The worst creatures

atrocious

Make hay while the sun shines

The sun is shining on the (so called) clerics of Pakistan. Since the infamous murder of the ex-governor of Punjab, it has been a power show for them on the streets of every major Pakistani city. Every major religious group is involved in either protesting or striking. Their claim, stop amendment in the controversial blasphemy law. The government on the other hand has been repeatedly saying that it is not going to amend the law at all, yet the strikes and progressions continue, shutting down markets, schools and colleges in the city.

I fail to understand this, coming from the ones who claim to be religious and tolerant. Not only are they disrupting daily life in those areas, some of the legally banned organizations have joined their progressions and are active again. Shockingly, neither of the (so called) religious leader notice it nor they condemn their participation. Their followers, as always, illiterate and ignorant of their surroundings.

Rally against amendments

courtesy "The News Pakistan"

These (so called) clerics are ripping Islamic values apart by disturbing daily lives of thousands of people living in the city. Many people who live on daily wages are unable to go out for work, children are being deprived of education, yet no one is asking these clerics, are these actions ‘Islamic’? The nation is failing to understand the fact that Islam is being maligned by these (so called) clerics. They are ‘too busy’ expressing their emotions over the ‘intent’ of amendment in blasphemy laws which time and again have been clarified by the government.

Pakistan is already going through a rough period, inflation is rising, employment is drying up, murders are common, robberies are widespread, number of rape cases is increasing but they are non-issues to the clergy, which should be leading the standards of morals in any society. Sadly they are busy making hay while the sun shines.

Again in the end I will quote the same prophecy I quote every time I speak of the (so called) clergy.

The Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) told us 1400 year ago:

“There will be a decline in religious faith and nothing would be left of Islam except its name and nothing would be left of the Holy Qura’an except its text. Mosques though full of worshipers will be empty of guidance. The religious scholars will be the worst creation under the canopy of Heaven”.

(Mishkat-ul Masabih, p.88 & Kanaz-ul Ummal, vol.6 p.43).

If this is not that time, then I don’t know what is going to be worst than this.

An example of how to use blasphemy law

KARACHI: A doctor has been arrested on charges of blasphemy in Hyderabad, police said on Sunday.

Naushad Valiyani was detained on Friday following a complaint by a medical representative who visited the doctor in the city of Hyderabad.

“The arrest was made after the complainant told the police that Valiyani threw his business card, which had his full name, Muhammad Faizan, in a dustbin during a visit to his clinic,” regional police chief Mushtaq Shah told AFP.

“Faizan accused Valiyani of committing blasphemy and asked police to register a case against the doctor.”

Shah said the issue had been resolved after Valiyani, a member of the Ismaili community apologised but local religious leaders intervened and pressed for action. – Express News

This is what I have been bragging about. This is exactly why blasphemy law is not Islamic. A fine example how in Pakistan, one can cause distress to their foes on the basis of blasphemy law. This will be one of the many cases as the name ‘Muhammad’ is very common in the Islamic world.

What’s more alarming is that there are many manufacturing industries which are named Muhammad. Let’s assume for a moment there is a candy manufacturer named as ‘Muhammad industries‘, now a kid who is going to eat that candy from ‘Muhammad industries‘ and throw the wrapper away (which has the name of the company printed at the back), doesn’t know he is going to be accused of blasphemy and will be put into confined prison for God knows how many months.

Does Islam allow such lunacy and shallowness? All those who are for the blasphemy law “Do you still think it is Islamic?”. It doesn’t bring any glory to Islamic traditions, rather it deteriorates the image of a peaceful and tolerant religion.

The Blasphemy law: (From being unIslamic to Islamic)

Pakistan is again in the spotlight internationally, due to a controversial death sentence against a Christian woman. The woman was accused of blasphemy last year and has been prison since. Just few weeks earlier she was charged with ‘blasphemy’ under the article 295 -c of the constitution of Pakistan. The only crime she committed was act out of anger upon her discrimination by her fellow workers. Yes, it will cost her, her life.

The blasphemy law has been on and off the discussion table for some time, since its ‘renewal’ in the mid 1980’s, it has disturbed lives of many Pakistani citizens, even Muslims. Many individuals and human rights activists have protested against it, even demanded its repeal, but the manipulative religion-political fractions of Pakistan have always enticed the ‘Muslim emotions’ on this issue. They claim it to be an ‘Islamic’ law. Lets take some time to see what is Islamic about it.

Background:

The blasphemy law was first constituted in medieval Britain. From the 16th century to the mid-19th century, blasphemy against the Church of England was held as an offense against common law. Blasphemy was also used as a legal instrument to persecute atheists, Unitarians, and others. The law was considered ‘Biblical’ in that era.

Introduction of the blasphemy law in Pakistan:

The blasphemy law was first introduced to the Pakistan Penal Code in 1860 by the British government as the means to protect the Muslim minority against the Hindu majority but offering all religions equal protection (Section 295). Before that, there was no blasphemy law in the sub-continent of India. Hence it is safe to say that the law was derived from the British version of the blasphemy law with minor changes to be applicable within the sub-continent.

Re-birth of blasphemy law:

After the division in 1947, this law came in as a heritage, though it went somewhere in the background. In 1977, however, the dictator General Zia-ul-Huq began a process of Islamising the Pakistani constitution (with his version of Islam).  In 1982, a presidential ordinance made defiling the Holy Qur’an punishable by life imprisonment (Section 295-A and B), whilst in 1991, General Zia made Sharia Law became the supreme law in Pakistan.

The death penalty:

Under pressure from religious extremists, the blasphemy law was again amended in 1986 to include defamation of the Holy Prophet, whether directly or indirectly, both in spoken and written form, as well as by way of impersonation (Section 295-C).  For the first time, blasphemy also carried the possibility of the death sentence.  In 1991, when the Federal Shariah Court rescinded the option of life imprisonment, the death penalty became an automatic punishment for anyone found guilty of blasphemy.

Repercussions:

After its re-activation, Pakistani courts were filled with cases of blasphemy, Muslims charging minorities, even other Muslims for blasphemy. For a Muslim, blasphemy is a very emotional subject, hence many used this loop-hole on their enemies, murders were carried out in broad day light and the victim was convicted of blasphemy, which shadowed the murderer with the support from the local clergy.

Conclusion:

Blasphemy law is an amenity provided by the state for anyone to settle their contentions. The law is man-made, derived from another intolerant imperial law not from the Holy Scriptures. Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion. Practice of such laws in an Islamic state and labeling them Islamic has hurt the cause of Islam and Pakistan.

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