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Debating Islam ( 25 Apr 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Can We Ignore Questions Like: Is Islam A Political, Fascist, Totalitarian Ideology That Prohibits New Ideas Or A Spiritual Path To Salvation That Accepts Myriad Interpretations Of Islam?

 By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam


In the course of a discussion on the subject of Jihadism, on another thread, I had asked a regular contributor: "Do you consider Islam a political, fascist, totalitarian ideology or a spiritual faith that accepts not only myriad interpretations of Islam but also other faiths and calls them all Islam?”


The person concerned did not reply despite repeated reminders. But Mr. Ghulam Mohiyuddin responded, thus helping our discussion go forward, though in a different though related and important direction:


“An honest answer would be that we want to underplay or explain away the political aspects and emphasize and re-affirm the spiritual and moral aspects of Islam. There may be disagreements on what Islam is, but there should be no disagreement on what we want Islam to be. As I have said before, all religions are works in progress.....”

By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 4/23/2013 12:41:25 PM


My response was the following:  


Dear Ghulam Mohiyuddin Saheb, “You are saying and indeed practicing what Sufia-e-Karam, Oqala-e-Islam have been doing through the ages, just hinting at some reflections, even guiding us in a certain direction and leaving it at that, either keeping quiet or saying that this should not be discussed in public: “that we want to underplay or explain away the political aspects and emphasize and re-affirm the spiritual and moral aspects of Islam.”   


 Poet-philosopher of Islam, Allama Iqbal, for instance, merely said in his “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam,” "In fact, revelation, as Bergson rightly says, is only a higher kind of intellect4" and moved on without discussing the nature of revelation further. Shah Waliullah’s Hujjatul Balegha is similarly full of reflections on the nature of prophets’ work, not just Prophet Mohammad’s but that of prophets in general, hinting that they were perhaps great reformers of their era in some way in touch with a divine source of inspiration and so scriptures should not be treated as tape recordings of Divine instructions to be followed literally. 


 These and some other basic issues have been reflected upon by the authorities in Islamic learning and left un-discussed, un-elaborated in public. 

  I would like to submit that this is no longer possible. Today, everything is public. We are living in an age of media, internet. There is an explosion of communication facilities available to all. Books that could be found only in some remote libraries in big cities are available in our homes, on our cell phones, even if we are living in a remote desert village or on a mountaintop. The result is that many Muslims today who were content to be social, cultural Muslims before, have now started articulating their questions in an erudite manner. Erudition is on one’s fingertip today. 

By Sultan Shahin - 4/24/2013 3:29:53 AM



 Mr. Hamza responded:


Three days have passed on this valuable post by Mr. Sultan Shahin but not a single word from the so called Islamist rationalists so far. It seems they are afraid of discussing such vital issues in public.


Mr. Shahin pointed out: "Allama Iqbal said, in his “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam,” "In fact, revelation, as Bergson rightly says, is only a higher kind of intellect4"

Iqbal also said, “is mein shak nahin ki uske (prophet) ke samne laghzishon aur iltebasaat ke maqaam theek waise hi aate hain jaise ki tajzia-e-ilmi (scientific analysis) ke liye hawaas par bharosa karne wale sainsdaan (scientists)laghzishon aur iltebaas se do char hote hain…. aur iltebasaat ki aamezish se apne tajrabah ko pak karne ke maamlon mein who sainsdanon (scientists) se kam chaukas(alert) nahin rahta.”


(No doubt the Prophet has his pitfalls and illusions just as the scientist who relies on sense-experience has his pitfalls and illusions.). Ref: The Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam, Urdu version: Tafkeer-e-Deeni par Tajdeedi Nazar, P 199.


Another great Islamic thinker and Aalim Allama Shibli Nomani writes in his famous book, “Ilmul Kalam”: “Imam Ghazali ki tasneefat se saaf nazar aata hai ki wahi ki haqeeqat( revelation )ke bare mein saikron khayalaat dil mein bhare hain lekin zabaan tak nahin la sakte. Jawaherul quran mein (Ghazali) likhte hain,”baaz kitabon mein maine kuchh asli khayalaat bayaan kiye hain kekin qasam delai hai ki bajuz khaas logon key eh kitaben aur kisi ke haath mein na jane payen”



(“The writings of Imam Ghazali reveal that hundreds of thoughts come to his mind regarding the reality of revelation but he cannot bring them to his tongue. Ghazali writes in Jawaherul Quran or the Jewels and Pearls of the Quran: “I have come out with some of my real thoughts in some of my writings but have made the readers to swear an oath that these thoughts are not shared with the common public and remain confined to a few scholars.”

Do the blind defenders of the divinity of Quran have something to say?

 By Hamzah - 4/25/2013 10:15:21 PM


Mr. Ghulam Mohiyuddin responded:


Mr. Hamza, The question of the divinity of the Quran is something that each Muslim has to decide for himself/herself. Our heritage, the religion of Islam, is what binds and sustains our community, so it is incumbent upon us to try to resolve any apparent or real contradictions in it, to negate any contents that go against its basic teaching of peace, justice, equality, rationality and compassion, and to try to align it with modern precepts of democracy, secularism and human rights.


As I said before. "Many of us will agree that we have self-contradictory messages coming from the scriptures as well as from sectarianism. We need to deal with this the way other religions have dealt with it, namely de-emphasize and ignore what is unfair or fascistic, and underline and expand on what propels us towards being good human beings and good societies. We should be honest enough to be able to say at times, "We do not believe in that anymore."


Absolutist doctrines such as jihadism and apostasy are of no interest to me.


By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 4/26/2013 12:00:16 AM



I am bringing it on a new thread now to facilitate further discussion in a more pointed manner.


----------  Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam




The original question had been posed in the following context:


Today’s global Islamist terrorism is related to a fundamental and age-old issue in Islam. This is a case of terrorism and mayhem in an attempt to eliminate from the world all non-Kharjis, or in contemporary context, all non-Wahhabis, all those people who interpret Islam differently than Wahhab and Ibn-e-Taimiyya or for that matter Syed Qutb and Abul A’la Maudoodi. This is in pursuance of a basic tenet of Wahhabi ideology, derived from Ibn-e-Taimiya’s writings that no two interpretations of Islam should be allowed to exist. There should be just one interpretation of Islam, of course, what is known as Wahhabi Islam. 

 But for mainstream Muslims, Islam is a faith. Its Sufi interpretation is the one that spread it around the world. It’s a message of love and peace and broadmindedness, acceptance of a multi-faith, multicultural world. Sufi Islam is conservative, orthodox Islam. Its conservatism also needs to be debated and even confronted in some cases. It’s not free from faults. No human venture is. 

 But Wahhabism-Salafism is a totalitarian, fascist ideology of political Islam that wants to establish an Islamic Khalifa to rule the world, a world in which there will be no non-Wahhabi human being. Once this Khilafat is established, it would be called Islamic Khilafat, with no other interpretation of Islam there to challenge it. 

  Do you want this fascist ideology to appropriate our faith? Do you want to rule the world, having eliminated all other faiths, including all non-Wahhabi interpretations of Islam? If so, then the totalitarian ideology of Wahhabism suits you. But if you want to share this planet with myriad viewpoints, freely expressed, without fear of retaliation, then the faith of Islam is for you.

 As for Islam, when it allowed Muslims to defend themselves with arms, it told them that their jihad (struggle, endeavour, project) was to protect religious freedom per se, religious freedom of all human beings. Worship houses of Jews, Christians, Tribals, Muslims, all the communities that lived in what is today called Saudi Arabia were particularly mentioned. 

But in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia you do not find a single church, temple, monastery, synagogue, though you have there people of several faiths serving the country for years and decades.

 If there is one case of legitimate Jihad, therefore, today, in the light of Qur’anic teachings, it is of Muslims around the world, forcing the Wahhabis to allow building of temples, churches, synagogues, etc. in that land of Islam where the laws of Quran should prevail. The only constitution for governance that Prophet Mohammad left behind, the Meesaq-e-Medina was a secular, multi-faith constitution on which modern constitutions can be supposed to be based.

Then there is terrorism to eliminate all non-Wahhabi interpretations of Islam and all other faiths. This is against Islam.

Our holy book Qur’an says:

 “No Compulsion in religion 2:256”;

  “Do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully.” 6:151;

 “Whosoever kills a soul,  unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.” 5:53;

 “But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God!” (8:61);

  “Begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors,” 2:190;

 “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whosoever believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness, their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow” 5:69;”

  And you will find the nearest in love to the believers [Muslims] those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud (arrogant).” (5:82):

 So on and so forth.

 I know that many of you know Quran better than I do. Why do some of you then defend Wahhabi terrorism? Why do you want to call it Islamic terrorism? You keep diverting the issue to Sufi-Bareilwi conservatism, even takfirism and exclusivism pronounced by some of their ideologues in the long past. Of course, these are issues to be tackled.  

 But you must appreciate that Sufis cannot be compared with Wahhabis. You may disagree with some of their practices, but they don’t stop any one from visiting Sufi shrines. Despite their conservatism on various issues, they are willing to live in a multi-faith, multicultural world. Indeed, they welcome all to their institutions. 

 Of course, the ills of various strains of Sufi thought also need to be confronted, debated. Of course, we need to engage with them too as some of them go too far in their veneration of Sufis and perhaps reach the level of grave worship, though, of course, even the most illiterate, ignorant Muslim believes in One God. Even if he does not comprehend the Sufi concept of God and of Oneness of Existence (Wahdatul Wojood). But they are not doing any harm to others. They are not forcing other Muslims to do what some call “grave worship.” They are not running terrorist groups to eliminate all non-Sufi interpretations of Islam. They are not fighting for a fascist, totalitarian polity to run the world.

 The main question we should then ponder is: Is Islam a political, fascist, totalitarian ideology or is it a faith that accepts not only myriad interpretation of Islam but also other faiths and calls them all Islam?

 By Sultan Shahin - 4/20/2013 12:15:52 AM




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