By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Islam is derived from the Arabic root S-L-M, the same root as Salaam, and means Peace. As true peace can only be obtained through aligning one’s will with that of the Creator, it also means “submission to the Divine will”. As one would expect with a religion of 1.5 billion adherents, there are many different expressions of Islamic faith, some grounded in scripture and tradition, others very unorthodox or even heretical.
Recently, a well respected orthodox Muslim scholar, Shaykh Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, published a comprehensive fatwa, confirming the suspicions of many Muslims, that the Al-Qaeda and Taliban types are not representative of Islam. Furthermore, he goes much further, by stating categorically their actions take them outside of Islam; in other words it is they who are the infidels, not others as they claim. Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s fatwa is well grounded, with copious references from the Holy Qur’an, hadiths (accounts of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), and other relevant recognised sources.
Even Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, warned his companions, “Don’t go to extremes in religious matters, for you will not be able to continue in that way.” A very sensible piece of forgotten advice… There were individuals even in the time of the Prophet and early days of Islam, who practised religion too strictly. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, warned his companions not to follow them, because even if outwardly they appear more devout, the Holy Qur’an hasn’t penetrated their hearts. Imam Ali, peace be upon him, even had to confront such people, because they wouldn’t see reason and come to a sensible resolution. Imam Ali is well recognised as one of the most notable companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, a very eminent, knowledgeable, wise scholar and leader, by both Sunni and Shia denominations of Islam.
The status and quality of life women enjoy, is an important marker of the degree to which any given society is civilised. Today, the position of women in many supposedly Muslim nations, is appalling compared to the rights they enjoy elsewhere, such as in Europe or the US. Though, there is much evidence to suggest Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did his best to elevate the status of women in his own time. Surely, it’s unconscionable, immoral and unethical to treat women any less than the equals of men, as well as being against the teachings of Islam. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught “Paradise lies at the feet of your mother”.
In my experience, over a decade since I embraced Islam, I’ve come to realise many Muslims have little idea what the Holy Qur’an really teaches. Even though Islam is not supposed to have any form of priesthood, Muslims tend to have developed an “ask the Imam” complex, instead of learning Islam and thinking for themselves. Is it any wonder then, terrible things happen in Muslim communities all over the world?
Many today will see Christianity and liberal society, have built a better world for women to live in. Which in many respects is true of course! However, in Europe and North America, things haven’t always been as good as they are now… A hundred years ago, we were still backward in many aspects, even though growing evermore technologically advanced. At that time, women didn’t even have the vote or the right to own property! Christians just a few hundred years ago, used to burn suspected “witches” at the stake and persecute scientists, heretics and mystics. Hence, why our ancestors needed to develop a more liberal and all embracing form of culture. At that time, it’s probably true, many Muslim countries even if less than ideal, were somewhat nicer places to live. But we cannot live in the past, or pretend it was some kind of ideal utopia, when even a fairly cursory study of history, will reveal this was far from so…
There are those who claim we should live under God’s law, but here there is a problem, what exactly is God’s law? Shariah is man made, not divine! This is a misconception of many Muslims. Only the Holy Qur’an is universally recognised as God’s word in Islam. Everything else, including the hadiths, biographies of the Prophet and the books on shariah, were compiled by human beings and therefore subject to human error. If one reads the Holy Qur’an, they will find advice on every aspect of human life, including law and governance, but not a complete codex of laws! Shariah is simply law based upon this advice, together with advice contained within the hadiths and legal science. We cannot follow a medieval interpretation of this in the 21st century (or 15th century AH) and it’s absurd for anyone to suggest we try!
To be overly religious, is I believe a fault; especially if this be without spiritual insight! Religious structures like daily prayers in Islam, are meant to provide a framework, within which one can spiritually grow. A great historical Muslim scholar, Imam Malik is reported to have said, “whoever studies Jurisprudence and didn’t study Sufism will be corrupted; and whoever studied Sufism and didn’t study Jurisprudence will become a heretic; and whoever combined both will reach the Truth.” [the scholar ‘Ali al-Adawi , vol. 2, p 195.]
If you have a house, just the structure, without any decoration, it is far from being a home. Alternatively, if one doesn’t bother with a house, but lays out all their furniture and decoration in a field, it will be ruined by the elements. One needs both to create a beautiful home. Truth is to be found in the balanced harmony, that lies between extremes…
I’d hate to live under a theocratic dictatorship like Iran or Saudi. There are very good reasons to doubt the claims to legitimacy, of the Wahhabi scholars and Iranian Ayatollahs; both of whom represent very extremist interpretations, of what only they claim to be Islam.
When Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, drew up a constitution for the people of Medina – the first Islamic government – the rights of the Jews were recognised, especially the fact they had their religious freedom and Muslims had theirs. In other words, Jewish citizens were only required to recognise Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as head of state, as they’d originally agreed. (Tribal leaders invited Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, to Medina to act as an arbiter, to ensure peace between constantly feuding tribes.) The Jewish al-Aus tribe especially, were recognised as having equal rights as Muslim citizens, so long as they didn’t commit treason against the state.
In a time long before secular¹ concepts had been adopted in Europe, this is a remarkable concession for a religious leader to make. While I recognise this isn’t the same as modern democracy and recognition of universal human rights, it is a good foundation in Islam’s history, which lends support to forms of government based upon these principles. Bear in mind, around this time in Europe, Jews were still being persecuted as the “Killers of Christ”! A few centuries later, a Muslim scholar and philosopher, Averroes went on to suggest a separation between religion and state. Hence, the fact enlightened principles have not adopted in today’s “Muslim” nations, has little to do with Islam, and more to do with corruption and holding on to power; which couldn’t be further from Islam!
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught “the greatest struggle (jihad) is with one’s ego (nafs)”. Even Islam means peace, through submission to the Divine will. So how on Earth, can power greedy mullahs, politicians and warlords be representative of Islam??? They don’t represent the Holy Qur’an or Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, any more than the popes who started the crusades or inquisition represent the Gospel or Jesus Christ, peace be upon him! Corrupt mullahs, terrorists and intolerant dictators are simply misusing the label of Islam and misquoted scriptures, as a way of trying to disguise what they really are – vicious imposters, who have no right to represent Islam, for there is nothing to be found in them that reminds us of the teachings of the Holy Qur’an or the noble example of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. By their own actions, they condemn themselves!
“Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed.
All men, including this one.”
– Cardinal Strauss, in ‘Angels and Demons’ (2009).
¹ secular :
- adjective 1 not religious, sacred, or spiritual. 2 (of clergy) not subject to or bound by religious rule. 3 Astronomy denoting slow changes in the motion of the sun or planets. 4 Economics (of a fluctuation or trend) occurring or persisting over an indefinitely long period.
- noun a secular priest.
DERIVATIVES secularism noun secularist noun secularity noun secularize (also secularise) verb secularly adverb.
ORIGIN Latin saecularis ‘relating to an age or period’, from saeculum ‘generation’, used in Christian Latin to mean ‘the world’.
Source : The Compact Oxford English Dictionary