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From the Desk of Editor (03 Sep 2012 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Coping With Critics Of Moderate Islam




By Sultan Shahin

4 Sept 2012


It seems some readers of New Age Islam, in discussions on various threads, have been for the first time introduced to early biographies of Prophet Mohammad (saw) by Salafi Arabs written within a few decades of his demise. Also, perhaps they were not aware of the pornographic portions of what is considered authoritative Hadees like Bokhari and Muslim. 


I remember the outrage I had felt when I first read them. But I have found that though one respected Arab chronicler in those days did call Ibn Hisham a liar, Hisham, Ibne Ishaq and Tabari continue to be respected sources of Islamic history, Prophet’s biography and even Qur'anic exegesis in the case of Tabari. No Islamic library is complete without books by or on or quoting from these despicable figures. Saudi Judges give judgments allowing, indeed forcing rape of young girl children based on what they learnt from these books. Sharia laws are based on what was reported by these and other contemptible Salafi Arab chroniclers of those times.


Those who collected these abuses of the prophet (saw) are considered authoritative chroniclers by nearly all Muslims today and respected as imams. “Maulana” Abul Ala Maudoodi (many Muslims around the world write rahmatullillah or r.h. against his name today) wrote his entire book on the status of women in Islam based on what are called weak Ahadees.


 If at all we question the authority of any hadees, we call them weak, not concocted or fabricated, thus maintaining their “sanctity” while reducing somewhat their authority. But these normally considered non-Sahih (non-authoritative) books of ahadees (other than Bukhari and Muslim) too, at least six compilations of ahadees (Sihah-e-Sitta), continue to be taught and discussed in madrasas at the level of Aalim and Fazil, etc.  


It is only natural for enemies of Islam as well as those Muslims who have left Islam at least in their hearts to throw these books in our faces, ask us believers in Islam to read them, if we haven’t. Immediate angry response apart, it would serve no purpose to lash out at these people and question their motivations.  What if they are being paid by committed Islamophobes in the West or elsewhere! Does that make their quotations wrong?


 In every research work the earliest biographies and chronicles, either written by the contemporaries of the subject we are studying or the writers of the nearest generation are accorded the greatest respect. Why do we moderate Muslims keep repeating that one of Ibne Hisham’s contemporaries called him a liar? Obviously because that is very relevant and buttresses our point of view if we want to discredit Hisham. So whatever contemporaries or near contemporaries of the prophet said about him or reported him as saying is relevant and will be accorded recognition by those whom it suits. Why do we ourselves respect ahadees? Because it is purportedly a collection of chronicles, legends, even myths reported by early generations of Islam.


Let us not forget that the most dynamic and growing force within Islam today is that of Salafis and Hadeesis. They go under various names. They are very well funded by Arab petrodollars and protected by the West. An offshoot of this group is that of armed, militant, radical Islamists which is being installed into power in most parts of the Middle East and North Africa with support from the Arab petrodollars and Western firepower.


The second growing group is that of those moderate, thinking Muslims who are leaving Islam quietly, at least in their hearts. They may retain Muslim affiliations for pragmatic reasons. Some fear their wives leaving them. [Salafis may be misogynists but many women just love them.] Some fear daughters not getting married, etc. Some may see safety in staying a nominal Muslim for the time being. They have begun to believe that Islam is what Saudis, Salafis, Hadeesis, Tableeghis present Islam as, and since that is not a religion that any sensible person can accept, so it is best to leave. The more moderate Muslims are beaten up for watching TV and listening to music, as was done by Tableeghis in Karachi yesterday, the more this group will swell.


Mostly these people have not read Hisham and Tabari, Bukhari or Muslim, but go by what Muslims are reported as doing in various parts of the world. They are also influenced by what they see as the Muslim character. They had been told in childhood that Islam meant possessing good character and decent education.  Rabbe zidni ilman was one prayer they were asked as children to recite hundred times a day. It means, God increase my knowledge. Now they see rampant corruption and ignorance all round in the Muslim world. What difference has Islam made to Muslims, even to Arabs, even after 1400 years? Are Muslims any less corrupt, any more educated than others? Are Muslims achievers in any field? Islam has failed like all other religions and philosophies, they conclude, rather simplistically.


Some from this group, particularly in Africa and recently in Kashmir, are converting to Christianity.


A very dynamic, though still very small, offshoot of this group is that of ex-Muslims who do not accept any other religion and are not prepared to remain silent. They want to loudly tell the world why they left Islam and why other Muslims too should do so. This group has memorized Hisham, Ibne Ishaq, Tabari and pornographic portions of Bukhari and Muslim by heart. They can quote chapter and verse from these books at the drop of a hat.


In this scenario all that is happening, is that the number of moderate, mainstream Muslims is dwindling. Are we still mainstream, I now have doubts. The reason I say so is that while if you did a survey in India or perhaps even in Pakistan, majority of Muslims would refuse to accept that they are Wahhabis now. But their thinking, language, idiom, practice, everything has changed. Many do not know it yet, but hey indeed are Wahhabis. The tens of billions of petrodollars spent in their radicalisation have not gone in vain.


We send our children to either religious schools (madrasas) or secular educational institutions, Christian-run schools, colleges, convents or private schools. A curious thing is happening. The radicalisation that takes place in madrasas is widely documented. But the reasons behind even greater and even more dangerous radicalisation of secular school graduates is not well understood. It’s only now coming to be widely noticed too. None of the 9/11 terrorists were madrasa graduates; all had gone through secular education. Osama bin Laden himself was an engineer, Aiman al-Zawahiri a medical doctor. In the earlier generation of fathers of Islamist radicalism “Maulana” Maudoodi was a non-madrasa-trained journalist, Syed Qutb received British style of schooling with a slight early brush with religious education which made him a critic of madrasas. While different factors may be responsible for different individuals in the past, massive propaganda on the internet and the almost total reliance of the present-day secularly educated youth on this resource is, however, considered the main culprit for the modern phenomenon.


Our numbers are depleting fast. Wahhabies are trying to convert us, radicals trying to kill us in our mosques and shrines, silent ex-Muslims ignore us, not-so-silent ex-Muslims crucify us with their memorized quotations from early biographies and pornographic portions of “authoritative” hadees. How do we respond?


 It will not do to lash out at critics of Islam from either side of the growing divide. If we want moderate Islam to survive even till the end of the 21st century, not to speak of the present millennium or beyond, we have to urgently come together and brainstorm.


This is what New Age Islam is for. It has already brought many thinking Muslims from all over the world together. Let us stay together and think together. Let us feel grateful for the gift of some articulate critics. They give us an opportunity to try articulating our own ideas. We may passionately believe in something and yet not be able to express that with any degree of eloquence.  We need sounding boards. God has given us a few. Let us use that. Who knows we may bring some of them back to the fold of moderate Islam.


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/from-the-desk-of-editor/sultan-shahin,-editor,-new-age-islam/coping-with-critics-of-moderate-islam/d/8557




  • @ Hasan Abbas, You need not bother about neither thackeray nor modi.  Hindus basically are not violent people and they adapt and grow.  If you look at carefully the post independence, the manu smriti has completely been eradicated on law and people have accepted.  We might still have problem in villages which are slowly changing due to economic prosperity percolation.  Can you please tell me one Muslim country which had the back bone to change the norms in Muslim medieval practices.
    Yes, it will be problem in places where Muslim are majority. You must have read about a village in up giving dictat like taliban, it is a Muslim dominated villages. 
    In fact fundamentalist element like bal thackery is required in my perception [ in a controlled fashion ] to put down the Muslim fundamentalism where they thing destroying public asset is a bravery.
    Further in hinduism there is no do and donots. Whatever balthackery might say, please visit bandra church and many will be hindus.  Even i visit and take blessing at ajmer dhargah. 
    In fact the first country to be bothered about Pakistan more than India is Israel and they are good enough to handle them with the big brother america, who created it.
    By satwa gunam - 9/21/2012 11:47:40 PM

  • Dear Satwa Gunam: This shit is so offensive that it will irritate your noses. So you cannot afford to be complacent. So protect your democracy and secularism, rule of law and take care of your minorities. Beware of persons like Ball Thakray and disciples of Nathu Ram Godse. What happened after murder of Mrs Indra Ghandi should not be allowed to happen again. After murder of BayNazir Bhutto, we witnessed similar incidents of violence and vandalism in Pakistan.
    By Hasan Abbas - 9/21/2012 10:47:36 AM

  • @ Hasan Abbas, Taliban can try their best. Pakistan army has tried many time, India is fine with the Taliban  as they are the offspring of Pakistan army.  So india need not clean the shit which was created by pakistan and america.
    By satwa gunam - 9/21/2012 5:11:26 AM

  • In the aftermath of violence and disruption wreaked to show anger against the notorious film, Innocence of Muslims, my prediction--though I do not claim to be Nostradamus---is that a Taliban-style government would be installed in Pakistan in 2020. Demonstrators have destroyed public property. Private cars have been burnt. Examinations have been postponed. National holiday was declared by the Government to pacify irate crowd.Gun-tottering bandits are ransacking cinema houses. Peshawar witnessed exchange of firing between police and demonstrators. Hundreds of person have been injured. Heavily armed demonstrators forced people to come out their houses to join them. Nobody is there to stop all this nonsense.It seems that Pakistan can never come out of this chaotic situation. Lawlessness is the order of the day.

    Once Talibans capture power in Pakistan, they will export their ideology to India. So Indians cannot afford to stay aloof from this happening or revel in this mess.

    By Hasan Abbas - 9/21/2012 3:41:57 AM

  • yaar mohammed yunus 
    meri jaan
    i agree with so much you say. but, what is the proof that there is a god of the sort you ardently believe in?  kya pata yeh sab manghadat ho! just because you have been born in a muslim family you feel impelled to think islam is true....it gives you some consolation. 

    By Ratatatata - 9/20/2012 4:59:08 AM

  • Dear Mainhihun,what absurdity did you find in the Bhagwat Gita?
    By Kesav das - 9/19/2012 1:01:05 PM

  • i have not the faintest clue if there's really a god, and, if there is some such thing, if it is the same that various scriptures describe 'him' as.....why cant people just live sensible lives instead of forcing themselves to believe in something that cant be verified by them? and in forcing themselves to believe in all sorts of absurdities which are found in their scriptures, they make their lives [and that of others as well] a total HELL.....so, their religiosity becomes the way to HELL.....in this and [if it exists] in the next world too
    By mainhihun - 9/19/2012 11:27:25 AM

  • Dear Ratatatata,

    I fully agree with you that “only when we move out of this meaningless debate and throw off the chains of theological slavery that people can become truly human.”

    Among the earliest poetic lines I remember of is: “yehi hai ibadat yehi din o iman = ki kaam aa-ay duniyan may insaan ke insaan.”

    Incidentally I have authored an exegetic work, MS approved in 2002 and publish in the States mid 2009. It’s Chapter 7.1 has the title: ‘Service to humanity as the essence of din al-Islam:” incorporates the following statement: “din al-Islam may be connoted with a faith system that calls for orienting oneself (asslama) to God for the doing of good deeds, or serving humanity. Accordingly the Qur’an describes ‘din al-Islam’, as the universal faith that was enjoined on earlier prophets, who were all true muslims (2:131-133),3 and conveyed the same essential message. ........ Muslims ardently believe in the ‘five pillars’ and are very particular to comply with them, but they are by and large not pro-active in serving humanity as required by their faith.


    By muhammad yunus (1) - 9/19/2012 10:20:21 AM

  • if you look at almost every muslim country, and at muslim minorities in every other country, you will find ignorance, oppression of women, fanaticism, bigotry, supremacism, etc ---all in the name of islam and nothing else.....critics will say it is because of islam itself, while people like sultan shahin will claim that it is because of 'wrong' interpretation of islam....i have no idea who is right here---it actually doesnt matter because i strongly believe that only when we move out of this meaningless debate and throw off the chains of theological slavery that people can become truly human
    By Ratatatata - 9/19/2012 6:55:11 AM

  • The Universal religion -essay authored by Swami Vivekananda is worth publishing in New age islam.

    By C.Sugumar - 9/19/2012 5:30:25 AM

  • Yoginder saheb says, "Listen to your heart--whatever appeals to it is right for you."
    I agree. Most of us have listened to our hearts and know where we stand. Our participation in this discourse is occasioned by our concern for our community. We are social animals and have community affiliation. When our community is plagued with intolerance, violence, blasphemy laws, persecution of minorities, suicide bombers, sectarian strife, backwardness in education, superstition, obscurantism and suppression of women we naturally are restless and come to forums like this to exchange views and to entertain hopes, however vain they may be, that something can be done.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 9/19/2012 1:08:13 AM

  • Mohd Yunus Saheb
    I think a lot of your anguish could possibly be addressed by reading this book: http://www.ksridhammananda.com/pdf/HOW%20TO%20CHOOSE%20A%20RELIGION.pdf

    By maihinhun - 9/18/2012 11:07:38 PM

  • Of course Mr Yoginder Sikand ji: You are right, there isn't  and should not be any inner or outer force or coercion in the matters of FAITH.
    By Raihan Nezami - 9/18/2012 10:21:35 PM

  • Why should anyone force himself to believe this or that, this religion or that one? Listen to your heart--whatever appeals to it is right for you, and you need not bother about the rest. Religion ought to be for man, rather than the other way around. So, whatever in your religion or other religions/ideologies conduces to your good, your joy, accept it, and forget about the rest!
    By yoginder sikand - 9/18/2012 9:13:21 PM

  • Respected muhammad yunus (1) sahib. I can't reject your appeal to me to read your 5 articles. I will start reading again.
    My journey started with Islam. Whatever I read was written by Muslims. I lived and live among Muslims. I maintain some distance because I fear a extreme reaction from Muslims even if I don't say a word against the prophet Mohammed. With Non-Muslims I have no such fear, because they are not intolerant as the Muslims are.
    Today I went through:

    ‘No Religion’ A Buddhist Monk’s Approach to Universal Religious Harmony

    By Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam.

    My response in few words: It touched my heart and acted as balm.

    Thank you sir for your generosity towards me.

    By mohd yunus - 9/12/2012 10:57:19 AM

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