By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
04 August 2017
Religions are, for the most part, bad, and therefore it is easy to take cheap pot shots at religion. Islamic theology stinks, and therefore it is easy to rubbish Islam based on its theology. Religion itself is however not bad - far from it, without religion, we would still be savages. It is religion which has civilized us.
The earliest philosophers were also believers. They believed in an afterlife, an immortal soul and in justice finding perfection in our afterlife. They took the moral principles from religion and the ample empirical evidence that was available from practicing these within religious beliefs, and discovered that these made immense practical sense. The moral principles from religion appeared perfectly logical in hindsight. They therefore used reason, and developed theories of ethics based on reason and pragmatism. We therefore have theories of Utilitarianism, Consequentialism etc in philosophy.
Over a period, as rationalism grew in strength, its connection with religion loosened. At first, the philosophers developed a condescending attitude to religion, and said that the religions are necessary since they lead the masses towards wisdom in a universal way. Religion was however unnecessary for the philosophers and the intelligent. Later, having appropriated the practical part of religion which was its moral principles, the philosophers have argued, that the revealed religions articulate the same insights that philosophers express in their teachings. The difference lies only in the fact that the prophets use the method of symbolization to make this wisdom more approachable for the ordinary people. The prophets are therefore now seen as no more than philosopher cum psychologists. This view, has today, become the dogma of the atheists. Now since the prophets are simply philosophers with charisma and mass appeal, they could appropriate all the practical part of the religion which is its moral principles without acknowledging their debt to religion.
The interesting fact however, is that in the entire recorded history of philosophy, starting from around 600 BC, philosophy has not contributed a single original moral principle, and all the moral principles have come solely from religion. This provides the evidence for the claim of religions, that they are inspired by God. This is examined in greater detail in my article:
What is Islam?
Islam can be understood through its theology, the beliefs and practices of its followers, or through its primary scriptures. The scriptures represent the idealized form of the religion and the theology what its scholars have made it. The practices of the followers or the masses are based on what they have made of their theology. The Quran itself is never accessed directly by the common Muslim for seeking an understanding of his religion which he takes from theology. The gulf between theology and the Quran is immense. The primary impetus for the development of Sunni theology has been the definition of Kufr forex-communicating other sects/Muslims from the fold of Islam. The Quran however, never treated even all the polytheists of Mecca as Kafir and therefore the question of Muslims treating other Muslims as Kafir based on their beliefs is against the message of the Quran and therefore this act of theirs is itself Kufr.
The Ash‘arite theology has given us the five pillars of Islam and the six Kalima which have become dogma for all sects of Islam. You are not a Muslim unless you recite the Kalima and you don’t remain a Muslim unless you practice all the five pillars. As far as the Quran is concerned:
(2:112) Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to Allah and is a doer of good,- He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
Theology is inward looking, simplistic and takes a bigoted view. Isn’t ‘shirk’ an unforgivable sin according to the Quran? Yes, it is. Then how come all the Mushrikin are not Kafir? Kufr, according to the Quran, is based on what you know and what you believe and therefore Kufr is an unforgivable sin for the Jew and for the Muslim but not for the Polytheist and the Christian who believes in Trinity with the caveat and these people act in good faith and without reason to believe otherwise. This is covered in detail in my articles:
All the contradictions disappear when the Quran is understood correctly and it remains a Book without a single contradiction. The contradictions are many if the Quran is read from the point of view of its theology. Discard the theology and the satanic Ahadith and it makes perfect sense. Strictly speaking, Islamic theology has become a theology of the Kafir, since it diverges from the clear message of the Quran on every subject.
The Quran is Kitabum Mubeen to many Jews and Christians for the simple reason that they are ignorant of Islamic theology and the Ahadith. This may raise the question why don’t these Jews and Christians then not become Muslim? Many of them do accept Islam formally and many don’t. As for me, I consider them Muslim in the Christian/Jewish tradition. You could be a Muslim in the Hindu tradition if you adhere to the common terms to which the Quran invites people of other religious faiths and these common terms are found in the Hindu scriptures.
Is the Quran really Kitabum Mubeen?
This question cannot be decided based on the observation that many views and interpretations of the text exist and people differ widely on every subject. People can, and therefore do make anything of anything. Whether the Quran is Kitabum Mubeen depends on the answer to the simple question “Is it possible to logically derive a single meaning of all its Muhkamat (commands and injunctions) verses?” If the answer is yes and demonstrably so, then it is Kitabum Mubeen, else it is not. So, we need someone to demonstrate that this is so. My articles based on the Quran are such a demonstration.
Having arrived at the single meaning of all its commands and injunctions, is there a problem if these are attributed to God? If the answer is yes, then we need to reject these as commands and injunctions from God. If the answer is there is no problem but on the other hand these promote morality in our lives, then accept and follow them.
Reform then becomes not a project to attack the Quran, God and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but to attack the theology and reform it in accordance with the Quran. There cannot be another benchmark for reforming Islam. Islamic reformation cannot be trying to turn every Muslim into an atheist which appears to be the goal of every atheist.
While religions such as Akbar’s Din-Ilahi and Sikhism and all reform movements are the people’s response to the social conditions lead by a charismatic leader, this is not true of every religion. Aren’t the atheists who treat every religion as a Social project being dogmatic when they do so? Unexamined dogma that does not yield to reason is lethal to the sciences as well as to religion. The philosophers have rendered a yeoman service by making us look at the practical value of the moral principles from religion. This has helped view religion not as dogma but as a science. It is ironical that later generations of the philosophers first adopted a condescending attitude to religion and finally rejected it altogether and progressively became dogmatic in their rejection. You could be a rational believer or a dogmatic one, but can you be a rational atheist? I doubt it. Only a dogmatic atheist is possible. I shall be glad if anyone can prove me wrong.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to www.NewAgeIslam.com
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