Moin Qazi, New Age Islam
11 May 2022
Prescribes the Principles of Justice and Equity for Peace and Human Development
and Compassion for All of Mankind
1. Islam is a
universal religion speaking to humanity.
2. For some,
the peace of God is through his sword; for others, it is found in his unbounded
3. If you want
peace, you can find peaceable verses.
Islam is a
religion of peace. That is its aim and goal. The Qur’an's powerful commandment
should leave one in no doubt, "Whosoever killeth a human being for
other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as though he
had killed all of mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if
he had saved the life of all mankind" (Q5:32).
At its very
core, Islam prescribes the principles of justice and equity for peace and human
development and compassion for all of mankind. Not to mention that the very
root word of Islam itself is derived from the word salaam (peace). Islam is a
universal religion speaking to humanity. The Prophet in his last great address
at Arafat summed up his philosophy by decrying barriers between people. Islam,
for him, transcended divisions of caste, colour, and race. “All mankind is from
Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any
superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a
black has any superiority over white except by and good action.”
Much of the
strife and misunderstanding of the Qur’an is primarily on account of selective
reading of verses that promote the adversaries’ agenda. The voice of the text is the fruit of
dialogue. For some, the peace of God is through his sword; for others, it is
found in his unbounded mercy. The entire paradigm is built around human
interpretation. The pacifists and the terrorists read the same text but present
fundamentally different interpretations. It is important to consider the reader
and interpreter of the Qur’an. The voice of the Qur’an heard by Islamic fundamentalists
is not the same as the voice heard by progressive Muslims. The entire verses of
the Qur’an must be read and understood in conjunction with each other. Reading
and interpreting verses in isolation is an incorrect way of engaging with the
Qur’an. It would yield a meaning that conforms to your own worldview.
contains injunctions that call both for peace and for violence. The problem is
that non-violent and militant Muslims appear equally justified by the logic
they expound for their actions in the particular situation in which they have
to interpret the words of the Qur’an.
Part of the
problem is that there are concerns about religious content that are not dealt
with openly. There are just too many hard conclusions made about religious
texts often made by those who know less than they claim. Many of them may be
outright non-believers of any organised religion.
dilemma can be resolved by using a simple understanding which can be used for
avoiding too much of unnecessary bitterness. The fact is that a religious text
contains violent verses doesn’t make it a violent religion.
of peace is not religion, but those who pursue acts of terror and violence
against the innocent in the name of religion. For them, their religion is not
their guide; it is more of a tool for justifying their own selfish and
been several strands of thought on the fate of people who abandon Islam. But
even here the last word is still awaited. Moreover, the entire issue has been
discussed widely over the last many years and there are clear and convincing
opinions from jurists. The scholars are still combing historical chronicles and
their own expertise in reaching a consensus that is just and at the same time
doesn’t tinker with the basic Qur’anic injunctions on apostasy.
At the same
time Muslims endorse that people in every country should be free to choose and
live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the
soul. Freedom of religion is central to the ability of people to live together.
Faith is an
intensely personal issue and each person should be allowed to find their path
in life. An oft-quoted Qur'anic passage (2:256) famously declares, "There
is no compulsion in religion, the right direction is clearly distinguished from
probably true that in every faith ordinary people will pick the parts they like
best and practice those, while the scholars will work out an official version.
In Islam, the scholars had a particularly challenging task, given the mass of
contradictory texts within the Qur’an. To meet this challenge they developed
the rule of abrogation, which states that wherever contradictions are found,
the later-dated text abrogates the earlier one. To elucidate further the
original intention of Prophet Mohammed, they referred to traditions (hadith)
recording what he had said and done. Sadly for the rest of the world, both
these methods led Islam away from peace and towards war.
point, we must understand that the Qur'an was revealed over a long time? We
will explore the ones provided by Allah in the Qur’an itself.
“And said those who disbelieved, ‘Why has the
Qur’an not been revealed to him all at once?’ (It has been sent down) in this
way (i.e. in parts) so that We make your heart firm, and We revealed it little
by little.” (Qur’an
“And We have divided the Qur’an into portions,
so that you may recite it to the people gradually, and We have revealed it
little by little.
bone of contention between those who represent the pacifist face of Islam and
those who talk of violence is that many of them are not aware of the context.
There is no hierarchy of verses in the Qur’an. Those who privilege the first
verse over the second will wage war to fight injustice. And most militant
Muslims invoke this verse in the defence of their actions. But then there are
Muslims who privilege the second verse and seek a diplomatic end to persecution
through forgiveness. The two verses above are exemplary of the tension between
realism and idealism in Islam. But in the final analysis, Islam is what Muslims
make of it.
are very often snipped out of context by mischief-makers to inflame emotions,
foster misunderstandings, and perpetuate violence on all sides.
example, the current modern definition of jihad is contrary to the linguistic
meaning of the word and also contradicts the beliefs of many Muslims, who
equate it with religious extremism. The word jihad stems from the Arabic root
“J-H-D” which means “strive”.
derived from this root include “effort,” “labour” and “fatigue”. Essentially,
jihad is a struggle to stand by one’s religion despite persecution.
Muhammad explained that true jihad was an inner struggle against egotism. There
is a lot of misunderstanding on account of this verse, “Slay them wherever
you catch them…” (Chapter 2, verse 191). But who is this referring to? Who
are “they” in this verse? They are those who persecute and kill the innocent
for their faith.
By far the
majority of Muslims today live their lives without recourse to violence. If you
want peace, you can find peaceable verses. If you want war, you can find
bellicose verses. You can find verses that permit only defensive jihad, or you
can find verses to justify offensive jihad. In chapter three verse eight the
Qur’an calls out people who cherry-pick verses as “perverse”. It is this reason
why modern Islamic reformers like Fazlur Rahman have asked for a contextual
understanding of the Qur’an and pleaded for differentiation between historical
and normative Islam.
adversaries of Islam draw on selected Islamic texts and examples that suggest a
militant Islam bent on conquering the world for Allah. This is a false
narrative, one that misses the variegated mixture of ideas, doctrines and
historical experiences that exist in Islam—as in every major religion. In
particular, it ignores the innumerable positive developments large and small,
grassroots and doctrinal, that in our time is leading to a more tolerant Islam.
promotes and teaches humans to practice balance in all aspects of life with
moderation. As humans we are influenced by our culture and traditions;
political, economic, and psychological experiences not only shape our attitudes
and behaviours but separate and divide us. Consequently, our world views and
religious views differ from place to place, era to era, and across cultures and
thereby irresponsibly link religion, in this case, Islam, to the oppression of
retrograde practices of the community take the world’s focus away from
understanding the overwhelming problems of the Muslim world and the cause of
its troubles. Not to mention, it provides an easy scapegoat for those looking
to legitimize their illegitimate actions which are detrimental to humanity.
This is one of the reasons for this unnecessary bitterness over plainly
innocuous customs and practices like hijab, which have culturally bonded these
cultures over the years.
Prophet Muhammad returned victorious to Mecca after twenty years, he bore no
animosity for those who had persecuted him and his followers and forced them to
migrate. The only condition he imposed was that universal freedom of conscience
should be accepted in Mecca.
Stanley Lane-Poole said, “The day of Muhammad’s greatest triumph over his
enemies was also the day of his grandest victory over himself. He freely
forgave the Quraysh all the years of sorrow and cruel scorn in which they had
afflicted him and gave an amnesty to the whole population of Mecca.”
denuded religion of its humanist content, compassion, piety, tolerance and
fairness, and reduced it to a rigid set of social codes and practices
considered the only valid credentials for attaining salvation. Fake religious
leaders have adopted the responsibility of collective salvation, freeing
humanity of its own individual moral and spiritual accountability. We need to
think and act at our level and abandon this trend of seeking salvation in herds
if we want to achieve our moral redemption. This is the distilled essence of
all divine revelations.
books are the work of an infallible God, but human-mandated practices that have
shrouded the original divine message are products of the minds of fallible
human beings. This is the root cause of misunderstanding about religions and
the wrong beliefs that abound in adherents, most of whom are illiterate or are
intellectually incapable of comprehending the scriptures.
tells us that politics plays a vicious role when there is a clash between
beliefs and truth. Society has paid a heavy price for allowing politics to have
its sway. We should grow wiser from the lessons of history. Let history not
repeat itself. Let us not play with precious human lives.
poet Sa'adi, from the 13th century, is one of the major influential Persian
poets of the medieval period. He is recognised in the literary world for the
quality of his writing style and in the spiritual realm for the depth of his
best known for his works 'Gulistan' and 'Bostan', where his
poetry emphasised unity in mankind, and independence for every individual
regardless of social barriers and labels. Many of his poems greatly impacted
India and influenced Central Asia.
particular poem written eight centuries ago became a motto and decorates the
gate of the United Nations building entrance. Bani Adam, the Children of Adam,
is an aphorism calling for the breaking of all barriers and was quoted by
President Obama in a meeting with Iranian leaders.
A simpler translation of the poem goes like this:
The sons of
Adam are limbs of each other,
created of one essence.
calamity of time affects one limb
limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have
no sympathy for the troubles of others,
unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.
have the famous verse signifying the essence and spirit of dialogue:
Na Ho Baat Se Baat Chale
Adavat Ke Guzar Jayenge
Dariyaon Se Hum Paar Utar Jayenge
dialogue going, one word leading to another,
rendezvous lasting till dawn
cross the deserts of hate
the rivers of blood).
Qazi is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker.
He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades.
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