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Islam and Pluralism

Islam is often viewed as an inherently violent and intolerant world religion. This misconception is fuelled in part by the miscreant deeds of some Muslims, particularly toward those of other faith beliefs....

Indian Muslim orthodoxy's response to demands of modernity: Can Muslims co-exist with other religious communities in plural societies?
Sultan Shahin, Foundidng Editor, New Age Islam
Indian Muslim orthodoxy's response to demands of modernity: Can Muslims co-exist with other religious communities in plural societies?
Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

While the evolution of this comprehensive and coherent theology of peace and pluralism will remain a continuing process, the already available essential elements of this theology should be brought to the Muslim masses. Since support for such a venture cannot be expected from clerics, of any hue,  popular acceptance of this theology should be gained through the use of media as well as genuine grassroots movements.

Essentially, Jihadism is a Muslim problem and Muslims must tackle it. But the societies in non-Muslim majority countries can help kick-start the debate.  It must be understood that a madrasa graduate who has been brainwashed into believing, as most are, that "life begins in the grave," is a ticking time bomb that should be defused with the same urgency as other bombs are. A secular government should not allow anyone to spread the poison of intolerance and xenophobia either in mosques or in madrasas. A study of what is taught in Indian madrasas, and the content of sermons delivered in mosques, is urgently required. If found intolerant, supremacist, exclusivist and xenophobic, the ulema, madrasas and imams should be confronted with them and asked to change.

Also, the least the government of India can do to ameliorate the plight of Muslim women today is to promulgate a law similar to Pakistan's  Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961, with just one difference, fixing the age of marriage of girls at 18, instead of 14, as in the Ordinance. This should have been done along with reforms in Hindu personal laws in the 1950s, or at least immediately after reforms in Muslim laws in Pakistan. But better half a century late than never. Male chauvinist Indian Muslim ulema will still howl in protest. But they will not have much to say as these reforms have been acceptable to their counterparts in Pakistan and Bangladesh for over half a century. ...  Muslims have to start reclaiming the Islam that the Prophet had brought and rethinking how it can be lived and practised in the vastly changed circumstances of the 21st century.

Nizamuddin Aulia, who is considered to be among the first secular theorists, advocated love for people of all faiths. He also directed his protégée to compose poetry in the language of the commoners and started celebrating Holi at his monastery. Khusrau was not only an enthusiastic Holi player but also composed verse for the occasion....

 

Transition to local languages has not been easy for other religions too. A certain holiness does attach itself to some languages. Vedic Sanskrit, for instance, is sacred for Hindus, Hebrew for Jews. Christianity’s struggle to retain the Bible in Latin and Greek was intense and bloody, with a powerful Church putting up a stiff resistance. Eventually, the Bible did speak to the people in their language. The Ulema in India refuse to accept as Quran an Urdu or English translation of the holy book....

But the Sri Lanka terror attacks by a terrorist organization of Sri Lanka with the active support of the ISIS has destroyed the euphoria among the Muslims by killing more than 300 innocent Christians and other non-Muslims. Some of them are Indians. The attacks smack of the modus operandi of the Al Qaida who tried to win the sympathy of the Muslims by conducting terror attacks on emotional issues close to the hearts of the Muslims....

A proper approach to the interpretation of Quranic texts, involving a correct contextual understanding of its meanings and the study of Islamic history, will reveal that tolerance and acceptance of Christians and other non-Muslim minorities were the norm.....

 

Many Indonesians who want to repel the forces of increasing Sharia calls for a Sharia compliant state have been invoking Pancasila or the Five Principles, the Indonesian state philosophy...

Is Allah, the God of Muslims, a different deity from the one worshiped by Jews and Christians? Is he even perhaps a strange “moon god,” a relic from Arab paganism, as some anti-Islamic polemicists have argued? What about Allah’s apostle, Muhammad? Was he a militant prophet who imposed his new religion by the sword....

Moreover, Jesus, or Isa Peace be upon him, is a Prophet of the highest order in Islam. Moreover his birth is mentioned in various places in the Qur’an extremely cordially - some accounts are not found even in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke...


The story offers not just a wholesome but a holistic perspective of the Muslim faith’s approach to the icons of other religions ....

So, pity the likes of Zakir Naik while you go out and build bridges of love with Christians. ...Here’s my admission of Kufr: Merry Christmas, ya’ll...

“Homosexuality is a major sin in Islam,” he said. “To walk around and to tell everybody your sins and to ask them to accept these sins is not okay. We will not accept someone coming in and saying that this sinful act (homosexuality) has to be a part of the mosque, it doesn’t work like that.” But a rising trend is welcoming LGBTQ members in Muslim communities....

The Quran is teaching balance and equity — to enjoy the bounties and share them with others. Do good and seek to benefit others. Those others are not necessarily always Muslims, for the Quran teaches that respect is owed to every human being regardless of religion. Dignity and freedom are guaranteed to each person regardless of origin or whether they are a part of a majority or a minority....

The most innocent of comments on this topic would be to say that what is intended by a “European Islam” is to create a kind of Islam that would not “act up” and would remain a docile part of the social fabric of Europe....

When looking at the history of Muslims at al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir and the "History of Baghdad" of Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, and the process of transformations and developments of the Islamic state we can also find bright patterns of coexistence of Muslims with other religions, depending on the political circumstances, the policy of each caliph and the path of each stage....

It is said that Shah Abdul Latif had spent around three years in the company of the wandering ascetics. His travels with the Yogis left a deep impression on him and the theme of Yogis as perfect practitioners of spiritual life feature prominently in his Risalo, a large collection of Sindhi lyrical poetry considered to be the greatest classic of Sindhi literature.

 

So if the friendship with Jews and Christians was indeed forbidden, how does that jive with marrying them? You cannot make friends with them but you may marry them? The truth is that the ‘friendship’ was never meant to be forbidden. Additionally, the allowance of food in the same verse as marriage is a call for social interaction between people of faith and implies inviting each other for, and sharing meals....

The Qur’an has a clear view of the prior Abrahamic Scriptures: The Scriptures, as set down to Moses and Jesus and other prophets, are sacred and to be respected. Muslims are commanded to “believe” in all Scriptures. The Qur’an is considered a continuation of the revelations from the same God....

 

Here, thanks to God given freedom, humans can continue to be atheists (I recall a famous statement, “Thank God, I am an atheist.”) or theists. Lord is conceived by/addresses every believer in his own way and Personal God is not the Absolute. It is God understood in trans-theistic context as Absolute and One that we find religions from Buddhism to Islam in agreement. So-called non-believers have problems mostly not with the Absolute but with theism presented with anthropomorphist tinge. Theologies as human attempt at formulating divine science can’t but differ...

 

In the nineteenth century there was nearly universal consensus that Jews in the Islamic Middle Ages—taking al-Andalus , or Muslim Spain , as the model—lived in a “Golden Age” of Jewish-Muslim harmony, an interfaith utopia of tolerance and convivencia. It was thought that Jews mingled freely and comfortably with Muslims, immersed in Arabic-Islamic culture, including the language, poetry, philosophy, science, medicine, and the study of Scripture—a society, furthermore, in which Jews could and many did ascend to the pinnacles of political power in Muslim government...

 

Christians and Jews believe the hill is Jerusalem. Muslims believe the valley is Mecca.I believe they are both right and God willing, someday everyone may see these two cities and their sanctuaries as a pair of spiritual lungs; that are central to our religious inspiration by, and connection to, the One God of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac....

 

The Old Testament too has been a target of same type of criticism: “The God of the Old Testament is harsh and full of vengeance, and the God of New Testament is loving and kind.” Once again, reading the scripture, it becomes clear that the God of these scriptures indeed has the same attributes, for He is the same God....

 

The similarity of Quran verses 3:190–191, quoted above, and Deuteronomy 6:4–9 is striking: Both command the followers to remember God in all phases: sitting, standing, and lying. In addition to submitting to Him, the constant remembrance throughout the day is meant to encourage one to do good deeds and eschew bad deeds as ordained by God....

The idea that God's message is universal, but its manifestations plural, provides the basic underpinning to the manner in which the Quran relates itself and the faith that it preaches with the religious traditions that preceded it in the Middle East, namely Judaism and Christianity. Far from denying the validity of these predecessor traditions, the Quran repeatedly affirms their essential truth, acknowledging that their message comes from one and the same God, and that it (the Quran) is only the latest of God's revelations to affirm and confirm the revelations that preceded it....

Muhammad (ﷺ) was married to Safiyya – a Jewish lady. On one occasion she came to Muhammad (ﷺ) in tears after being taunted for being Jewish by Arab women. After consoling her he said, “If they discriminate you again, tell them that your husband is Muhammad, your father was the prophet Aaron and your uncle was prophet Musa. So what is there in that to be scornful towards you”. It is well documented that Muhammad (ﷺ) had Jewish wives, friends and many subjects. And it is the treatment of these Jewish subjects in lands under his control that laid the blueprint of tolerance and protection that Muslim rulers have shown Jews throughout the centuries....

 
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