Monday, May 19, 2008

Islam and The West-2

Islam 101

Islam is better than today’s Muslims. Words may be used to the point of being abused and remain true: Islam is a moderate religion. There is, however, an extreme minority that has hijacked the faith, with the vast majority of Muslims silent, disinterested, or in a state of denial.

Every religion has traditions of tolerance and prejudice. The Los Angeles Times carried a story on Oct. 20, 2007, under the headline: Scholars try to reconcile ‘problematic’ religious texts. Staff writer K. Connie Kang wrote that Christian, Jewish and Muslim experts met in Los Angeles to add context to passages that have been perceived as hostile toward other religions.

The Koran say of itself: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are not of well-established meaning. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is not of well-established meaning … (Surah 3, Al Imran, verse 7).

)هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنزَلَ عَلَيۡكَ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ مِنۡهُ ءَايَـٰتٌ۬ مُّحۡكَمَـٰتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَـٰبِهَـٰتٌ۬‌ۖ فَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ فِى قُلُوبِهِمۡ زَيۡغٌ۬ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَـٰبَهَ مِنۡهُ ٱبۡتِغَآءَ ٱلۡفِتۡنَةِ وَٱبۡتِغَآءَ تَأۡوِيلِهِۦ‌ۗ وَمَا يَعۡلَمُ تَأۡوِيلَه ۥۤ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ‌ۗ وَٱلرَّٲسِخُون َفِى ٱلۡعِلۡمِ (…

The fourth Orthodox Caliph Ali famously said that the Koran carries many interpretations.

It is unfortunate that in the case of verses of no well-established meaning, the most restrictive, or narrow, interpretation is almost always adopted. Terrorist organizations, like Al-Qaeda and its offshoots, and extremists supporting terrorism have, at times, gone against basic, or fundamental verses. The Koran says: … Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah hath been to you most Merciful! (Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 29).

…)وَلَا تَقۡتُلُوٓاْ أَنفُسَكُمۡ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُمۡ رَحِيمً۬ا(.

It also says: If a man kills a Believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (forever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him (Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 93).

)وَمَن يَقۡتُلۡ مُؤۡمِنً۬ا مُّتَعَمِّدً۬ا فَجَزَآؤُهُ ۥ جَهَنَّمُ خَـٰلِدً۬ا فِيہَا وَغَضِبَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيۡهِ وَلَعَنَهُ ۥ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ ۥ عَذَابًا عَظِيمً۬ا.(

I understand this to mean that God forbids a believer from killing himself, like in suicide bombing, or killing other Muslims. In fact, a Muslim is not allowed, or requested, to kill a non-believer.

The Koran says: If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the Word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge. (Surah 9, Al Tawbah, verse 6).
)وَإِنۡ أَحَدٌ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكِينَ ٱسۡتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرۡهُ حَتَّىٰ يَسۡمَعَ كَلَـٰمَ ٱللَّهِ ثُمَّ أَبۡلِغۡهُ مَأۡمَنَهُ ۥ‌ۚ ذَٲلِكَ بِأَنَّہُمۡ قَوۡمٌ۬ لَّا يَعۡلَمُونَ(.
The Koran also says:
Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has indeed transgressed all bounds; but speak to him mildly…(Surah 20, Taha, verses 43 & 44).
(ٱذۡهَبَآ إِلَىٰ فِرۡعَوۡنَ إِنَّهُ ۥ طَغَىٰ٠ فَقُولَا لَهُ ۥ قَوۡلاً۬ لَّيِّنً۬ا ...)

Let there be no compulsion in religion…(Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 256)
(لَآ إِكۡرَاهَ فِى ٱلدِّينِ‌ۖ...)

…Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject … (Surah 18, Al Kahf, verse 29)
(...فَمَن شَآءَ فَلۡيُؤۡمِن وَمَن شَآءَ فَلۡيَكۡفُرۡ...)

…Wert thou severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about thee…(Surah 3, Ali Imran, verse 159)
(...وَلَوۡ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ ٱلۡقَلۡبِ لَٱنفَضُّواْ مِنۡ حَوۡلِكَ‌ۖ...)

If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people…(Surah 11, Hud, verse 118)
(وَلَوۡ شَآءَ رَبُّكَ لَجَعَلَ ٱلنَّاسَ أُمَّةً۬ وَٲحِدَةً۬‌ۖ...)

On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 286)
(لَا يُكَلِّفُ ٱللَّهُ نَفۡسًا إِلَّا وُسۡعَهَا‌ۚ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتۡ وَعَلَيۡہَا مَا ٱكۡتَسَبَتۡ‌ۗ...)

We have not sent down the Qur’an to thee to be (an occasion) for thy distress. (Surah 20, Taha, verse 2)
(مَآ أَنزَلۡنَا عَلَيۡكَ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانَ لِتَشۡقَىٰٓ)

The tradition of the Prophet and his first Orthodox Caliph Abu Bakr adds to the above. There are several instructions to Muslim armies and they all say: Keep your word. Don’t kill women, children or old men. Leave monks in monasteries to their dedication. Don’t cut trees. Don’t kill animals except to eat.

Abu Bakr’s armies were involved in the Ridda (apostasy) wars, when the polytheist tribes of Arabia returned to worshipping false idols after the death of Mohammed. Had the Muslim armies lost then, there would be no Islam today. Still, Abu Bakr restricted the operation of the armies to what was almost modern day practices. Muslims today are about 1.2 billion and there is no danger to Islam whatsoever, to justify any killing.

I said earlier that in explaining verses with no well- established meaning, one interpretation becomes dominant and others are suppressed. As a student of Islam, I would like to offer three of the most talked about subjects today (I am not saying controversial because to most Muslims the argument is settled).

To be continued...


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