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.

Religion and hatred Part – 2

Previous

The three Abrahamic religions are at war with each other for ‘world domination’ due to this in bred hatred. The clergy craves a bigger congregation, wider audience and more control, be it Judaism, Christianity or Islam. To achieve their goals, the clergy starts breeding this hatred into their subjects at an early stage.  Christians are told how someone who doesn’t holds the hand of Christ is bound for hell while Muslims tell their young ones, anyone who doesn’t pray like they do will be a hell dweller.

I do not know if they (the clerics) are playing God, sending people through to heaven and hell at their will. It is God who will decide on the day of judgement. Not some funny dressed cleric! Who has given them the right to dub anyone as an infidel? Every cleric has his own criteria of infidelity, which is just insanity. It is the most easiest way to ignite one’s rage towards another one, by dubbing them as infidels but, are they out of this world? Or aliens to earth? They are the same flesh and bones everyone is just because they differ in opinion doesn’t mean we go on a killing spree.

The most worrying phenomenon of this hatred breeding is using it at a later stage. Today, we see Islamic militants, Christian extremists, Jewish radicals spewing hatred constantly for each other. The clergy is the center of this manipulation, they use those seeds of hatred put in at a younger stage, to their own advantage. Their subjects work as a remote-controlled Robot (with flesh and bones) for these clerics. The subject is overwhelmed with so much passion, the pain of death, humiliation or retaliation seems very tiny to them.

Fellow readers, hate is good for nothing. None of the religions were based upon hatred for someone else. The founders of the three Abrahamic religions proved to us that love and friendship is what is required to spread the message of God. The sword might win the battle on ground, but it is love and friendship which will give you control over hearts and minds.

Religion and hatred Part – 1

Hatred, is a very strong sentiment. It is what fuels one’s anger and outrage. Though it can be controlled and neutralized but, when coupled with religion, it is pretty much uncontrollable. Almost every religion preaches hatred towards every other religion of the world. This hatred is what fueled the forces of the Pharaoh against Moses (P.B.U.H.), the people who crucified Jesus Christ (P.B.U.H.), the Jews and pagan worshipers of Arabia against Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.), the  crusades, world wars, the murder of minorities in many countries, exiles and many other wars which are not know to the world.

Though I can confidently say that none of these religions, in their pure form, preached hatred towards any other fellow being. I will speak for myself, I didn’t observe it in the ten commandments, Jesus (P.B.U.H.) never preached it and Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) never propagated it. The lives of these Holy beings is filled with events where they showed compassion, love and mercy towards their fellow beings. In present times however, we observe the clergy doing exactly the opposite.

The only conclusion I come to for this inclusion (of hatred) is that, for ages, religion has been dominant in every civilization. Be it, Aztecs, Incas, Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and Sumerians. It was their religions that brought these civilizations together to become the greatest powers in the world at that time, at the center of which were their respective clerics, but these religions also brought about the demise of these civilizations. Today, many Christians are taught to hate Jews and Muslims, Jews are taught to hate Christians and Muslims are taught to hate everyone who is not Muslim. I understand if this doesn’t sound weird to the reader but trust me it is. This hatred is included just for the purpose of domination over other religions.

Part 2Next

Jihad: The misconception

IN modern times, Muslims have been at the center of criticism due to their ‘violent’ concept of Jihad. In the following post I will try to explain (both to the Muslims and the non-Muslims) that Jihad is not the name of violence rather it has a much wider meaning.

Today, Jihad is understood as a ‘holy war’ waged by Muslims to conquer land and implement Shariah, which a ridiculous and stupid concept because Islam doesn’t promote violence at all, it is a religion of peace. The word ‘Jihad‘ literally means ‘exerting one’s utmost power contending with an object of disapprobation which can be a visible enemy or can be one’s self’.

While Islam was still young, it was threatened by the powerful forces of the Arab tribes who were known for their fierceness in battles. They persecuted the Muslims mercilessly in the streets of Mecca, until it was unbearable. The Prophet (peace be upon him) with his followers migrated from there, he didn’t raise his sword or even his hand on anyone. But the Arabs weren’t content with this, they wanted blood, so they came to Medina with an intention of eradicating this new-born religion from the face of the earth.

It was only then Qura’an called upon Muslims to defend themselves, it taught that when war breaks out, it should be waged in such a way as to cause the least possible amount of damage to life and property; and that hostilities should be brought to a close as quickly as possible.

2:191 And fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely, Allah loves NOT the transgressors.

2:192 And kill them wherever you meet them and drive them out from where they have driven you out; for persecution is worse than killing. And fight them not in, and near, the Sacred Mosque until they fight you therein. But if they fight you, then fight them: such is the requital for the disbelievers.

2:193 But if they desist, then surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (hence show mercy to them)

2:194 And fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is freely professed for Allah. But if they desist, then remember that no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors.

One can clearly see from these verses that God is asking Muslims only to defend themselves. The Qura’an in no way permits violence rather it asks the followers (Muslims) to respect other religions.

60:9 Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable.

The most important thing about fighting in Islam that people often neglect is that it is ONLY allowed if certain conditions are met.

22:40 Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged — and Allah indeed has power to help them.

22: 41 Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ — And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated.

Islam forbids violence, but if it is brought upon by others, only then Muslims are allowed to fight i.e. only in their defense. It is not Jihad if it is the Muslims who become violent. It will clearly be in defiance of the Qura’an.

Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 10: Militant elements)

PreviousPart 9 Read from the beginning

The growing talk of militancy and the use of force which we hear, needs to be carefully analyzed before we can understand the importance of this bizarre phenomenon. The narrow, non-tolerant attitude is certainly becoming more popular with the Muslim ‘clergy’ in almost all Muslim countries. The responsibility for this mainly lies on the shoulders of Saudi Arabia, which is attempting to capture the imagination of the whole Muslim world and seems resolved to spread its political influence under a religious guise. As it enjoys the unique advantage of being the custodian of the two holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina, it is certainly in a position to exploit this situation to its best advantage.

The religious philosophy of the Saudis emanates from Wahabism, which draws its inspiration from the non-tolerant world of medieval Islam rather than from the more understanding and benign Islam of the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The spread of Saudi influence is aided by Saudi petro-dollars and the colossal size of Saudi bank balances in major banks throughout the world. It is to the credit of Saudi Arabia that part of the interest accruing from these colossal investments is being used to form channels of aid from Saudi Arabian coffers to the poorer Muslim nations with sizable Muslim populations. More often than not, this aid is provided not to boost their ailing economies, but to build mosques, training schools and institutes producing scholars of a Saudi brand.

Hence, wherever you follow the flow of Saudi aid, you will also observe a rapid increase in the narrow, non-tolerant attitudes of Muslim ‘clergy’. No doubt, when the Christian world hears these voices roundly condemning all non-Islamic values and preaching jihad (that is, holy war), against non-Islamic governments, they are led to believe that the talk of this holy war will readily be translated into actual belligerency. What is happening is in fact completely different.

The Muslim ‘clergy’ talks highly about holy wars and the utter destruction of non-Islamic forces. What they actually mean by non-Islamic forces is not Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or atheist forces. According to their view, all Muslim sects other than their own are either no Muslim in their character or hold to doctrines that render them liable to earn the wrath of Allah and His true servants. The real enemies of Islam, as they discern them, are not non-Muslims but some sects of Islam within the world of Islam. The awakening militant tendencies are much more directed by Muslims of one sect against Muslims of another sect than against non-Muslims. This is why so much stress is laid by them on capital Punishment for Apostasy. That is their weapon against Muslims who differ on some doctrinal issues from the majority sect of a country. These sects are, in fact, dealt the death-blow in two steps—first, their doctrines are declared to be non-Islamic, which earns them the title of apostates; and second, the doctrine of death being the penalty for apostasy, they are considered liable to be executed.

A neutral observer will agree that this growing militant tendency is creating disorder among the Muslims themselves and that it is responsible for generating extreme hatred in the hearts of adherents of one sect against the adherents of another. No one who has even a remote understanding of modern warfare can imagine a real threat from so-called ‘Islamic’ militancy. Of course, there is danger in these growing tendencies and one is bound to be perturbed by them. The danger from ‘Islamic’ militancy is a threat to the world of Islam itself; it is an inward-looking threat which is destroying the peace of Muslims everywhere. All the intolerance, narrow-mindedness and bigotry which we observe in the Muslim world today is playing havoc with the peace of the Muslim world.

Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 9: Khomenism)

PreviousPart 8

There is a long history of growing Iranian consciousness of its exploitation and enslavement by foreign powers of one type or another. Despite the fact that a very large majority of Iranians are Muslims.  One cannot ignore the fact that Iranians have never been able to forget or forgive the conquest by Arabs of their homelands. Although the wounds appeared to have been healed long ago and many potent factors such as commonality of religion and common enmity against other countries have played an important role in cementing the Iranians to the Arabs, it cannot be denied that there is still an undercurrent of dissatisfaction at the Arab domination of Iran for the past few centuries. One must also bear in mind that in the pre-Islamic era, Iran could boast one of the most powerful and illustrious civilizations ever to have influenced mankind anywhere in the world. At the inception of Islam, the Arabs knew of only two worlds—that in the West, dominated by the Roman Empire, and that in the East, commanded and governed by the Chosroes of Iran. The memories of that remote and glorious past, though subdued to some extent by the strong influence of Islamic brotherhood, could not entirely be wiped out. There always has been along and lingering shadow of the great Iranian civilization in the hearts of Iranian intellectuals.

The long history of Iranian-Arab feuds and Iranian punitive excursions into Arabia also left ugly and irritating scars on the Arab minds which even the great healer, time, could not obliterate. This is only human. People throughout the world may sometimes find it difficult to dissociate themselves from the past or to forget injuries and insults to their honor. Such chapters of history are never permanently closed but are opened again and again.

Let us now turn to more modern times It is not against the Arabs alone that the Iranians have been nursing their grievances. During the Second World War, the Iranians were subjected to a worse kind of domination by predominantly British forces. Whilst in the Arab case there had at least been the redeeming factor of a common cultural and religious bond, in the case of the British the chasm between the ruler and the ruled, rather than narrowing grew wider. Nor could it be bridged by any social, cultural or religious similarities.

After the decline of British influence there followed an era of indirect control and subjugation of Third World countries by the major powers through stooges and puppet regimes. It was in this period of neoimperialism that the Iranian protégé was transferred from the British lap to the American lap. The Shah of Iran thus became a symbol of American imperialism which supported conflicting ideologies to its own as it does today, for example, in Poland, Nicaragua, Israel and South Africa.

The fuel of hatred which was ultimately sparked off by the Khomeinian revolution was not only a product of American oppression but had been accumulating for centuries, like the subterranean reserves of oil and gas. The important point to note is that this hatred was not essentially religious in origin. If Khomeini had not exploited the hatred in the name of Islam, some communist leader would certainly have exploited it in the name of social justice. Whatever religious or irreligious name was given to the revolution, the underlying forces and factors would remain the same.

I have pointed out many times to those who regard excesses committed by Khomeini against some of his own people, and acts of revenge perpetrated in other countries, as Islamic in character that Islam as a religion has nothing to do with the expression of Iranian dissatisfaction. In a manner of speaking, the West should treat Ayatollah Khomeini as their benefactor rather than as their enemy. I say this because I am quite positive that if Khomeini had not exploited the situation and given it an Islamic face in order to support and perpetuate a junta of Muslim ‘clergy’, the situation would most certainly have been exploited by Iranian leaders of leftist inclination. The same Iran which we see as green sprinkled with red today would have instead appeared to us entirely red. It would be naive to say that the communist leadership created and trained by Dr Mossadeq had been weakened and enfeebled to such a degree at the time of the Shah’s overthrow that it could not have played an effective and revolutionary role at this epoch-making juncture of Iranian history. In fact, the communist leadership was well supported and trained. It was entirely ready to seize an opportunity. But for Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran could well have ended up as a radical Marxist regime. Such an event would have had disastrous consequences for the oil-rich but militarily weak Middle East. So even Khomeinian Islam—however gory and loathsome it may appear to the West—could be seen as a blessing in disguise. The role of Ayatollah Khomeini should be seen in this perspective.

It would be naive to say that the communist leadership created and trained by Dr Mossadeq had been weakened and enfeebled to such a degree at the time of the Shah’s overthrow that it could not have played an effective and revolutionary role at this epoch-making juncture of Iranian history. In fact, the communist leadership was well supported and trained. It was entirely ready to seize an opportunity. But for Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran could well have ended up as a radical Marxist regime. Such an event would have had disastrous consequences for the oil-rich but militarily weak Middle East. So even Khomeinian Islam—however gory and loathsome it may appear —could be seen politically as a blessing in disguise. The role of Ayatollah Khomeini should be seen in political perspective.

NextPart 10

Islam: Religion of Peace (Part 8: Examining Terrorism [Iranian Revolution])

PreviousPart 7

Let us turn to some particular illustrations of terrorism in order to diagnose the underlying maladies. We shall begin with Iran and see how Khomeinism came to be born. It is common knowledge that in the days of the Shah there was great prosperity. The highly ambitious industrial and economic development plans augured a bright future for the country. But can man live by bread alone? As far as Iranians under the despotic rule of the Shah were concerned, the answer was an emphatic ‘No’. They wanted to have a responsible share in the running of affairs in their own country. They could no longer just be satisfied with full stomachs. Their hunger for self-respect, dignity, their craving for freedom and liberation from a highly regimented system of oppression made them continuously restive and volatile. This situation was ripe for a violent and bloody revolution.

If the nature of this imminent revolution had not been essentially Islamic, it would have been a communist revolution and could have been even bloodier and more extreme. The turmoil which was to shake Iran from north to south and east to west was a natural and inevitable consequence of a long political oppression.  The negation of fundamental human rights and liberties, were also a subversion and exploitation by a great Western foreign power. Iran was aware of the fact that the despotic regime of the Shah was fully backed, supported and sanctioned by the government of the United States of America. The people’s hatred and urge for revenge did not stop at the toppling of the Shah’s regime and the destruction of all internal forces which in one way or another had been responsible for the maintenance of the monarchy.

The consciousness of American support had brought out the Shah the very worst of his despotic tendencies. He had been held in awe to begin with, but gradually awe gave way to terror. The fear of revolt stiffened his attitude even more with the passage of time. Gradually a police state of the worst type came to be born in Iran. With the passage of time Iranians became aware that the police state was fully and unequivocally supported by the government of the USA. The Shah played the part of a mere puppet whose strings were tied to the subtle, manipulating fingers of the USA. This, as it was mentioned above, led to a situation ripe for revolution motivated by a consuming fire of hatred.

The situation was capitalized upon by Ayatollah Khomeini. The ideology which he propounded to give color and complexion to his revolution was Shi’a Islam. But was it really the love of Shi’a Islam which generated hatred against the USA, or was it the name of Islam a mere facade to hide the underlying motives? Had Khomeini not raised the banner of Islam, would there not have been a revolution in some other name? Is it not a fact that had Khomeini not exploited the situation and given it an Islamic color and complexion, the same situation of hatred could have been equally exploited by a non-religious philosophy such as nationalism or scientific socialism?

In fact Khomeini outpaced forces which were coming fast at his heels and a given time might have overtaken him and all he stood for. That is why the situation in Iran became extremely complicated and confused. The basic urge of the revolution was not against communism or any leftist philosophy, but was aimed at the Shah and his mentors.  Though because there was a real likelihood of leftist leadership taking over the reins of revolution from Khomeini, he had to fight on three fronts simultaneously. After toppling the Shah, he not only undertook to eradicate and exterminate all supporters of the former Shah, but also to root out American influence wherever it was suspected to be. That in itself could have lent support to the leftist ideology, which if permitted to flourish unchecked, might have succeeded in snatching the power from Khomeini’s hands and replacing the Islamic ideology with Marxism-Leninism.

Fortunately for Ayatollah Khomeini, he was shrewd and powerful enough to wield the double-edged sword of Islamic ideology not only against American rightism but as effectively against Russian leftism.

But when all is said and done, it is clear that whatever else it was, it certainly was not Islam which guided and instructed the Iranian revolution. At best, you can if you wish, call what happened and is happening in Iran Khomeinism. The real forces at work are not truly and essentially religious in character. Political powers have exploited the reaction of the Iranians against the Shah to achieve purely political ends.

continued

NextPart 9

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