Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rabi-Ul Akhir / Jamadiul Awwal 1423 H
July 2002
Volume 15-07 No:187

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Opinion


Muslims are letting Islam die


Muslims are letting Islam die

By Tashbih Sayyed

If we look at Muslim actions today, it does not seem to reflect the divine message, but are rather products of its misinterpretation. Muslims are being misguided by the misinterpretations that have become more sacrosanct than the Quran

Osama bin Laden’s father Muhammad bin Laden never kept more than four wives at one time because he did not want to violate the sanctions of his faith -Islam - as prescribed in its holy book, the Quran. But his faith did not stop him from marrying more than fifty women. All he had to do is divorce one of his four wives and replace her with a new one whenever he chose. Saudi interpreters of the holy book told him that it was permissible.

Recently, a girls school in Makkah caught fire where more than ten girls were killed because the members of the Commission for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice (Religious police) forced the girls to stay inside the burning building. These girls were not wearing abayas (black gowns) and head-scarves so they were not supposed to be in public.

A videotape in current circulation follows a Palestinian mother preparing her son for a suicide bombing mission and saying that if she had 100 sons, she would send them all to kill the Jews. The Quran that she has been taught sanctifies suicide and the murder of innocent people.

The regional conflicts and territorial disputes in Kashmir, Palestine and Afghanistan are being termed in the Muslim world as Jihad (holy war). The people dying in its name are being honoured as shaheeds (martyrs). This is because the Muslim clergy feels free to interpret Islam’s holy book any which way they like to justify their political causes. In Pakistan, minority Shias, Christians, Ahmadis, and others are murdered every day and places of worship are regularly attacked because the Muslim perpetrators and murderers believe that their holy book commands such barbaric conduct in the name of the Muslim community. The above snapshots are a small example of recent events in the Muslim world currently intriguing non-Muslims and getting them to ask, “What is Islam?”.

Westerners do not know that these deeds do not reflect the true spirit of Islam. Rather, that they are the result of an age-old effort by a static Muslim clergy, who use the Quran to create a set of narrow-minded people who can then be manipulated to achieve their own particular political ends. Pointing the finger at the clergy does not mean that religion can be ignored if the Muslim world is to move in a new direction. We all acknowledge that while the human mind matures, it constantly looks for guidance and tutoring from persons and institutions it considers more learned than itself in matters of moral, cultural and religious affairs. And nowhere is this dependence more glaring than in the matters of religion. Traditionally, there are two ways to seek this guidance, first, directly from the source - the religious documents - and second, from the clergy who have taken upon themselves to authoritatively interpret scripture.

But Islam never made room for the clergy. Allah wants to have a direct relationship with his creation, without the meddling of the middleman (Clergy). In order to empower the individual, God commanded them to “Read”. Iqra or read, was the first word conveyed to Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) himself. This emphasis on seeking knowledge for human beings was a divine plan meant to free men and women from the clutches of the clergy. Allah knew that the middleman could never convey the real meaning of his divine message because they were working for themselves or their rulers first, not God. The traditional power structures of the Islamic world were rooted in a battle between rulers and clergy vying for influence over the common man. The rulers and clergy joined hands in the end to ensure that the common man could never equip himself with the knowledge to interpret Allah’s message himself. Once the ruler-clergy nexus succeeded in keeping the Muslim masses uneducated, it brainwashed them into believing that not only the holy book is divine, but the clergy’s interpretaiton of the holy book is also divine. And anybody not following the interpretation will sure taste hell-fire. In the words of Prof R. B. Perry, “ A book does not become a man’s “bible” unless it has been the principal quickening influence in his spiritual life and the source of his illumination, so that he returns to it when he needs to re-animate his purposes or confirm his belief.” According to this thought, a holy book, “ is the proved remedy to which a man confidently resorts for the health of his own soul. It becomes associated in his mind with all that he owes to it,and all that he hopes from it, so that it is not only an instrument, but a symbol.”

But if we look at Muslim actions today, it does not seem to be the case. Muslim deeds do not seem to reflect the divine message, but are rather products of its misinterpretation. In the Muslim world, men and women are being misguided by the misinterpretations that have become more sacrosanct than the Quran.

Until recently, the prevalent corrupted version of Islam was considered a threat only to Muslims, but after September 11, 2002, Muslims came under very tight scrutiny and have become a concern to everyone. Muslims everywhere are a target of scorn, ridicule and contempt. Muslims can deal with the situation in two ways. First, Muslims can continue to blame a “wide spread Judeo-Christian conspiracy” for their sorry state of affairs. Or second, they can start following the educated and civilised values found in the Quran and Islam itself.

As long as the killings of Jews, Christians, Hindus and other Muslim groups are justified by crude interpretations of the Quran, Muslims are letting Islam die. For its sake and for the sake of civilisation, Muslims will have to challenge each and every interpretation of the Quran that is in conflict with the values of common decency, respect and humanity.

Never has an interpreter of the Quran been divinely sanctioned, nor any of his interpretations. All interpretations are open to criticism. Only the Quran is divine and divinity can never be in clash with the civilisation.

The writer is from Pakistan Today and is the winner of the “The Best of Pakistan Award”.

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