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Islamic Ideology ( 16 Aug 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Cognitive Dissonance in Contemporary Populist Islam That Needs to Be Addressed Urgently as The Worst Creatures in God’s Sight Are Those Who Do Not Use Reason – Q 8-22

By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam

17 August 2020

(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.m)

This article is a rejoinder to Feroze Mithiborwala’s following article dated August 6 and is otherwise congruous by itself

How Those Indian Muslims Who Support Erdogan On the Hagia Sophia, Oppose Modi On Ram Mandir?

The article cites some glaring examples of hypocrisy and double standards in the response of the Muslim community to some of the sensitive religious issues, invokes their dangerous consequences and concludes with an urgent call for a public debate on such issues involving the Indian Muslim community and the secular, progressive sections to arrive at honest answers.

Why This Rejoinder?

Simplistically, the article brings across the double standard of some extremist Muslim scholars and bigoted Ulama for their claiming a monopoly in the right to build places of worship, to worship publicly, to proselytise, and above all, to enter paradise and barring the non-Muslims of all these rights.

This line of thinking goes far beyond double standard and is nothing short of cognitive dissonance or disorientation – a brazen self-contradiction in thought process that can lead to a person’s coming to a conclusion that may be diagonally opposed to his own acclaimed beliefs and values and in stark defiance of rational thought and logic. As this is a grave charge against many scholars and popular preachers of Islam (Dr. Zaki Naik for example) of this era, let me illustrate further

1.       The notion of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful, the Most Wise and the Best of all Judges consigning to hell all non-Muslims from all across the unfolding world, speaking hundreds if not thousands of different languages and oblivious of the Qur’an or Islam - for no fault of theirs is simply untenable and those who hold such a view are beyond an iota of doubt cognitively disoriented.

2.       The Qur’an affirms that God’s name is regularly proclaimed in monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques and condemns their demolition (22:40 ). So none but a cognitively disoriented Islamic scholar or Alim can bar the non-Muslims from constructing their houses of worship

3.       Worshipping is an inborn instinct to communicate with God or one’s deity according to one’s own belief. Accordingly, the Qur’an commands the Muslims to refrain from insulting those whom others worship and leave the matter to God:

“Don’t insult those whom they invoke besides God, lest they ignorantly insult God in enmity. Thus We have made their action seem pleasing to every community; then their return is to their Lord, and He will tell them what they had been doing” (6:108)

Therefore, none but a cognitively disoriented Islamic scholar or alim will prevent a non-Muslim from worshipping publicly.

4.       Any definitive claim that non-Muslims will not be admitted to Jannah purports to self-exaltation of the claimant as the Final Judge (ahkamal hakimin) of all humanity – a position that God and God alone commands. Any argument on the basis of severity and recurrence of Qur’anic warnings against the mushrikin is untenable as God retains the prerogative to judge the mushrikin on Day of Judgment. (22:17) and to grant pardon to anyone He wishes. This attitude verges on playing God on earth and is an open case of cognitive dissonance.

5.       Some exclusivist Muslim preachers quote the statement “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” appearing in the middle of a passage (verse 5:3) and argue that since the Qur’an is made perfect, all other scriptures must be imperfect and therefore any human being that does not believe in the ‘perfected’ edict will be sent to hell, thus reserving the paradise only for the Muslims. But this is simply an absurd proposition – a cognitive disorientation of great order – if not a blatant manipulation of Qur’anic message – because:

•        The long passage (verse 5:3) relates to dietary regulations– except for the above quoted announcement.

•        None of the renowned exegetes of recent times - Abul Kalam Azad, Abu Ala Moududi, Muhammad Shafi, Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Asad for example connected this statement with the acclaimed exclusive theological speculation.

•        Reserving the paradise only for Muslims will render all pluralistic verses and announcements of the Qur’an null and void, militate against the Qur’an’s repeated claim to be a book of wisdom (10:1, 31:2, 43:4, 44:4) and a mercy to all believers in God (7:52, 16:64, 27:77) and negate the role of the Prophet as a mercy to all mankind (21:107).

•        Practically all scholars regard the above statement as the Qur’an’s foretelling of its completion that happened about three months later with the death of the Prophet.

•        Abul Kalam Azad connects the statement with its succeeding statement: But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful” and says the issue of lawful and forbidden had remained contentious and therefore in its concluding legislative passage (5:3), the Qur’an clarifies that “if a person is dying of hunger, and has no halal food to eat, he can save his life by eating the haram food.”

6.       Many, scholars and Ulama quote partly from the passage 3:83-85 to claim that “If anyone seeks other than Islam as a din (religion), it will not be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be among the losers (3:85).”

But they skip the qualifying two preceding verses that bring across the universal dimension of the above pronouncement: “Do they seek any (religion) other than the din (religion) of God, to whom all in the heavens and on earth have submitted (asslama), willingly or unwillingly, and to whom they will all be returned (3:83)? Say: ‘We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us, and in what has been revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and to Jesus and Moses and (other) prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them; and surely to Him do we all submit (muslimun)” (3:84).

Such claim of exclusivity by partly quoting from a passage and ignoring the pluralistic connotation of the word Islam (as preached by all great Prophets) is a patent misinterpretation of Qur’anic message if not cognitive dissonance.

7.       The Qur’anic dire and repeated warnings against the non-believing direct audience of the Qur’an (mushrikin, munafiqin, People of the book) represented the verbally terrifying instruments of the Qur’an against its non-believing audience. This is illustrated below with a few examples from Yusuf Ali’s translation. To regard the applicability of such verses for all time to only mushrikin and non-Muslims to the exclusion of the munafiqun who were Muslims and were warned likewise is a gross distortion of Qur’anic message that reeks of cognitive disorientation

“Allah hath promised the Hypocrites men and women, and the rejecters, of Faith, the fire of Hell: Therein shall they dwell: Sufficient is it for them: for them is the curse of Allah, and an enduring punishment” (9:68)

“Whether thou (O Muhammad) ask for their forgiveness, or not, (their sin is unforgivable): if thou ask seventy times for their forgiveness, Allah will not forgive them: because they have rejected Allah and His Messenger: and Allah guideth not those who are perversely rebellious” (9:80).

“Nor do thou (O Muhammad) ever pray for any of them that dies, nor stand at his grave; for they rejected Allah and His Messenger, and died in a state of perverse rebellion.” (9:84).

“(With the result) that Allah has to punish the Hypocrites, men and women, and the Unbelievers, men and women, and Allah turns in Mercy to the Believers, men and women: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (33:73)

“And that He may punish the Hypocrites, men and women, and the Polytheists men and women, who imagine an evil opinion of Allah. On them is a round of Evil: the Wrath of Allah is on them: He has cursed them and got Hell ready for them: and evil is it for a destination.” (48:6)

“They (the hypocrites) have made their oaths a screen (for their misdeeds): thus they obstruct (men) from the Path of Allah: therefore they shall have a humiliating Penalty.” (58:16)

8.       The Qur’an does not bar a Muslim from praying for his parents, dead or alive: “Your Lord has decreed that you lower your shoulder (of humility) to them (your parents) with affection, and say: ‘My Lord! Have mercy on both of them - as they nurtured me (when I was) small’” (17:24). The Qur’an is also a living testimony to Prophet Jesus’s praying for his followers who committed shirk by deifying him and his mother, in these words: ‘If You punish them, they are Your servants; if You forgive them, You are Mighty, Wise’ (5:119).

Hence preventing a Muslim from praying for the dead among the mushrikin (to whom either or both his parents may belong) amounts to restricting the infinitude of divine mercy and is nothing short of cognitive dissonance.

So the problem with the present day supremacist preachers and Ulama is not merely double standards but far more grievously, cognitive dissonance or disorientation.

In today’s pluralistic world where Muslims are living as minorities in most countries and are being increasingly treated as the ‘others’ largely because of their divisive and supremacist views not supported by the Qur’an, Muslim scholars need to use their reasoning and question such views on the strength of the Qur’an as attempted in this article - rather than passively allow the proponents of such views to preach and promote them by quoting selectively or out of context from the Qur’an and from renowned theologians and secondary sources dating from the Medieval era.

To conclude with a short prayer, may Allah increase in wisdom the present day supremacist and bigoted Muslim scholars and Ulama who may be foremost in theological and Qur’anic knowledge but wanting in wisdom (hikmah) for no scholar in any field – no matter how well read he may be, can fully grasp his subject without the mental faculty of hikmah – and this is probably more true of the Qur’an which lends itself to diverse interpretation unless probed with reasoning and wisdom:

“Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.”

“He gives wisdom to anyone He wishes, and he who is granted wisdom has indeed received a great bounty; yet none is mindful of this, except the prudent” (2:269).

Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.


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