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.

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.

The art of deception

Fareed Ahmed ParachA few days ago, I was watching a recorded program called “Faisla aapka” recorded on 8th January 2011 by Samaa News. The topic was tolerance, two participants of religious views and two participants of liberal views were invited to debate on the after math of the incident of 4th January 2011. One of the clerics while defending blasphemy law justifies it from the Holy Qura’an quoting verses from Chapter 33 (Surah Al-Ahzaab).

I was shocked to see that Mr. Paracha (from one of the politico-religious parties) was so confident when he was distorting the verses and the audience was applauding him for that, while the show host and the other cleric (from Sunni Tehrik) was backing him up referring to Chapter 9 of the Holy Qura’an. Let me explain to you what Mr. Paracha was referring to from the Holy Qura’an:

[33:56] Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! you also should invoke blessings on him and salute him with the salutation of peace.

[33:57] Verily, those who malign Allah and His Messenger — Allah has cursed them in this world and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them an abasing punishment.

[33:58] And those who malign believing men and believing women for what they have not earned shall bear the guilt of a calumny and a manifest sin.

[33:59] O Prophet! tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers that they should draw close to them portions of their loose outer coverings. That is nearer that they may thus be distinguished and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.

[33:60] If the hypocrites, and those in whose heart is a disease, and those who cause agitation in the city, desist not, We shall surely give thee authority over them; then they will not dwell therein as thy neighbors, save for a little while.

[33:61] Then they will be accursed. Wherever they are found, they will be seized, and cut into pieces.

— Surah Al Ahzaab

As you can see here, clearly Mr. Paracha is deceiving the crowd and imposing his views of the Qura’an. What he does is, read the first two verses and then joins verse 61 with verses 57 and 58, which ofcourse changes the entire context of the message. Allah (God almighty) is clearly saying that He alone is the one to punish those who malign Allah and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). To understand the rest of the argument one must know the pretext of this chapter(Surah Al Ahzaab). It deals with the vicissitudes through which Islam had to pass during the early years of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Medina. The Jews of the surrounding tribes gave a hard time to the Muslims, even those tribesmen who were included in the pact of Medina didn’t leave any opportunity to create mischief. Those are being referred to as hypocrites. The main weapon in their armory against Islam, was spreading of false news to friendly tribes. This was an act of treason not blasphemy, the punishment for treason was capital punishment.

Now let us see what is written in Chapter 9 (Al-Taubah) to which the second cleric is referring to.

[9:12] Will you not fight a people who have broken their oaths, and who plotted to turn out the Messenger, and they were the first to commence hostilities against you? Do you fear them? Nay, Allah is most worthy that you should fear Him, if you are believers.

[9:13] Fight them, that Allah may punish them at your hands, and humiliate them, and help you to victory over them, and relieve the minds of a people who believe;

— Surah Al Taubah

Again, if viewed in context of the verse number 12, it makes total sense. It isn’t directed towards blasphemers, it is clearly saying about those who break their, oaths, these were the Jewish tribes which were included in the pact of Medina. No where in the above two verses does Allah (God almighty) asks the Prophet (peace be upon him) to kill any blasphemer. None of the Muslims try to research the references these clerics give out. This points out to two things, Muslims lack knowledge of the Holy Qura’an and Islamic History and two, they blindly follow what the mullah tells them. It was for times like these the Prophet (peace be upon him) predicted.

“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).

5 Ridiculous Things you Probably Believe about Islam

This here sums up all the ‘MYTHS’ about Islam. Read Cracked.com article

FREE ISLAM FROM PAKISTAN (via IJQURESHI’S ThinkPad)

FREE ISLAM FROM PAKISTAN A nation was born in 1947 name Pakistan. It was created on the basis of 2 nation supposition Muslim and Hindus. Muslims of sub continent under the leadership Quaid-e-Azam liberated Pakistan from British Raj. Since 1956 this country ,that was formed in the name Islam doing injustice with Islam. Pakistan is the only country who has damaged and maligned Islam more than any other Islamic country of this world. In the land of Pure Muslims whether shia … Read More

via IJQURESHI'S ThinkPad

To be or not to be

I have traveled around the world. The one difference I have seen in other countries, be it middle east or far east is a sense of security and tolerance among the natives, something that was found in Pakistan till year 2000 or 2001. Now everyday brings news of death of innocent Pakistanis.

Violence in Pakistan

Pakistani population is highly dominant with lower middle class, yet it is being ruled by those who are filthy rich who don’t even know their basic duties to the people of Pakistan. This government has failed miserably and yet neither the President nor the Prime Minister is brave enough to accept this fact.

Today, if you are in Pakistan, you take a step out of your residence and recite all the prayers you possibly can because you don’t know whether you will be coming back or not. For the people of Pakistan, it is a norm, they can hear the bomb blast in the back alley and still continue their work. It is very sad to know that we are becoming so insensitive. The state machinery has utterly failed, there is no value of a human life in our state.

On the other hand, when you go to England, France, Germany, Korea, U.A.E. or Malaysia, you get a certain peace of mind, a sense of freedom and security. There is only one question that comes to mind then, why are we like this? Why can’t we make our home like this? What’s missing back there? Why aren’t we free? Yes, life in Pakistan is no longer free. Life of a common man is enslaved by fear, tensions and misery.

PovertyThis isn’t an Islamic society, it certainly isn’t an active and caring government, tolerance is nowhere to be found, the rich are becoming richer and the poor are dying everyday. Suicides have increased, lawlessness has increased, corruption has reached new heights and adulteration is in every aspect of society. No longer can a common man live or (in today’s Pakistan) die peacefully. Where is Pakistan headed? Is there any bright future for us? For our new generation? Why are we becoming so insensitive?

If we are to survive in today’s competitive world, we have to change our course, we have to stand up for ourselves, we have to bring this system on track, perhaps change the system if required. There is a saying ‘God helps those who help themselves’, its time to help ourselves or in the future all of us will be wondering if we should be or not be in Pakistan.

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