By Zan Azlee
August 15, 2013
So I’ve been threatened and warned to watch my back because I tend to question issues regarding Islam. And guess who are the ones threatening me? My fellow Muslims, of course!
Apparently, only those with immense religious knowledge and high paper qualifications are allowed to delve deeper into the religion and the rest of us should just shut up and listen.
I think I shall choose not to listen to these people because I strongly believe that they are wrong. Islam is pretty cool actually, and I don’t believe that it would preach such a thing.
For one, Surah Luqman mentioned that the Quran and Islam are for everyone:
“These are the verses of the wise Book. A guide and a mercy to those who do good, those who establish regular prayers, and give regular charity, and have in their hearts the assurance of the hereafter.”
And the first word of the Quran that was passed down to Muhammad was ‘Iqra’, which means ‘read’. Surah Al-Alaq goes on to state:
“Read! Read in the name of your Lord who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the most generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.”
And Surah Taha states:
“Ask of him: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge!”
Ahh... so it looks like Islam actually does encourage people to gain knowledge. And how else can you gain knowledge if you don’t question, criticise and analyse?
I remember a quote from Muhammad also encouraging people to constantly question and work towards topping up their knowledge, and how important it is not to keep quiet:
“Whoever conceals knowledge would be muzzled on the Day of Resurrection with a muzzle of fire.”
Holy crap (apologies for the pun... I couldn’t help it!)! So, if we go by Muhammad’s teachings, it looks like censorship is actually quite un-Islamic!
You see, everyone, regardless of formal or informal educational background, has a right to gain knowledge and to increase their understanding.
It doesn’t matter if you have a PhD, a secondary school certificate or even if you never had the chance to attend a proper school. If you want to learn, you have the right to do so.
And the only way for people to learn and understand issues is by questioning, challenging, debating and discussing. It defeats the purpose if people are just supposed to shut up.
The responsibility of those who are more learned then is to engage and share their knowledge to those who are questioning so it can spread. Hence, a more learned society as a whole.
There should not be a gap between those who have more knowledge and those who do not. Share it because intellectual elitism is Zalim (cruel)!
Why do you think Islam allows anyone to be an imam and lead prayers (as long as that person is of age)? It’s because it doesn’t promote that kind of separation between mankind.
So I will continue to question and challenge issues that I am interested in to broaden my understanding even if I don’t have a degree from Al-Azhar University.
And I call for everyone to do the same when you have doubts or questions about anything that is lingering in your mind and thoughts.
To stop a person from questioning is to stop and deny that person from acquiring knowledge and understanding.
I think it’s actually good to be critical of Islam. As stated by one of my favourite Muslim writers, Ziauddin Sardar:
“All varieties of Islam need a healthy dose of scepticism to avoid degenerating into authoritarian outlooks.”
Do not be afraid to be labelled blasphemous. Now, that’s an accusation that many shallow-thinking Muslims like to throw about as well!
In actuality, blasphemy has no basis in Islam. It was created by man just to control and maintain the gap between those who are educated and those who are not.
It was created so that the masses would not know any better and be afraid. It was created so the people would not rise up and challenge authority.
It was made to protect those in power and to oppress those who are not in power. How un-Islamic!