Reinventing and Redefining Islam
20 Nov, 2005
There is a new breed of Islamic writers gracing the Internet with their new brand of a tolerant and companionate Islam. These new writers are mostly western educated, live in western societies, work in western countries, and raise their children in the West. They are sophisticated, articulate, smart and knowledgeable. However, they are quite fiercely Islam minded. They write extremely lengthy essays on Islam and spare no pain to portray Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance, mercy, compassion, justice, humane and what not? You just name the good adjective and it is there in Islam. Reading such prolix essays could be strenuous and tiring, to say the least. However, if you have the patience to go through these enormous writings, you may be confused to think that these writers sound almost like secularists and freethinkers! In fact, if they did not include the lengthy quotes from the holy books we might even think that they are not really Islamists. Some of these Islamists even blame the Hadiths for such a sordid state of affairs in Islam by saying that it is the creation of human whereas, Qur'an is the creation of Supreme Lord. Thus, according to these writers not all Hadiths are authentic. How outrageous! Have they forgotten that rejecting a single word of Qur'an and Hadith is an act of apostasy and punishable by death?
So, why these new writers are so desperate to show to the world how beautiful the religion of Islam is? Their background answers the question. You see, by living in secular and freethinking western countries, they really wished that their religion conformed to the principles of secularism, democracy and freethinking. Alas! That is not an easy thing to expect from Islam. When they see how much inhumanity, bigotry, irrationality and tyranny is there in Islam, they simply feel ashamed of their religion. They know very well that those images of Islam cannot simply be refuted. They have only two choices, agree with these practices of Islam and turn into an Islamic fundamentalist or defend Islam by whatever means. They have very little courage to be a fundamentalist/ Jehadis because they like the creature comfort of this western lifestyle. At the same time, they are afraid to go against their faith. Therefore, they start to reinvent their faith. While they are at it, they reinvent many things in their religion. They will quote those verses from the holy books that are benign, tolerant, merciful, etc. These verses of the Qur'an were actually from that period when Islam was weak and had a handful of followers. The Muslims were then dependent upon the mercy of the non-believers. And that is what is reflected in these rather tame verses. When Islam became a bit stronger and the Prophet (pbuh) found that his dogma can really be forced upon people through fear, intimidation and slaughter, the verses of Qur'an became fiercer and frightening with no tone of mercy and compassion, whatsoever. However, these new writers will never tell this truth to the readers. If we quote those violent and cruel verses of Quran and seek an explanation on them, these Islamists simply keep quiet or just ignore the questions. But they do not fail to give their own interpretation many other issues. An example is the case of Hila marriage. Readers have learnt plenty about the Hila marriage by now through various sources and from the fundamentalists. However, these neo-Islamists have come to their own conclusions on this matter by saying that Hila marriage is not Islamic. What a joke! Another issue is the death penalty for apostates. These writers are really ashamed of this provision in Islam. Nonetheless, to save face they simply ignore this issue and write that changing one's faith is not an act of apostasy. The examples are communists, secularists, atheists, etc. They even let you have the impression that a Muslim is free to choose any religion. Of course, they are dead wrong on both these matters. Any person who spends a little time searching the web (for example www.golshan.com) will find out how wrong these new inventors of Islam are. In essence, these re-inventors of Islam are actually issuing fatwas that suit their purposes. If this trend continues, then there will be as many brands of Islam as there are Muslims in the world! This is not an understatement either.
If we ask these scribes who are the true Islamists and where can we find them, we get strange answers. Is Golam Azam, a true Islamist? No. Saddam Hussein? Rubbish. Talibans? Of course, not. Ayatollah? Hell, no! Maulana Azizul Haq? What the hell you're talking about? . Maulana Fazlul Haq Amini? Are you out of your mind? Is Saudi Arabia a true Islamic country? How absurd? How about Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan? No. No. No. True Islam has not yet been invented! After the Prophet it seems that there were no true followers of Islam and so far no true Islamic country have been established. What these writers really want to say is that only they (the writers) are the true followers of Islam. The rest are not. How do the readers feel with this attitude of these new pundits? I can tell one truth, though. The truth is that these professors of Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic history should consider themselves very lucky indeed for residing and writing in a secular country. If they happen to be in any Islamic country, they will surely have trouble with the Islamic authorities for interpreting the religion in their own way and possibly face harsh sentences.
Let us not be fooled by these writers. They try to confuse those believers of Islam who had no opportunity to learn the bitter truth about Islam and still believe in the purity and the divinity of the religion. These writers try to blur people's eyes from their twenty-twenty vision. They try to give a mystic and kind image of Islam, which is non-existent, so that innocent gullible people still cling to their age-old faith.
How absurd it is that the neo-Islamists have recently coined a new term. It is 'secular fundamentalism.' What a great display of intellectual apathy! To be a fundamentalist one must be a strict follower of a Scripture be that holy or unholy. I would like to ask these Islamists what is the Scripture that the secularists hold as pure and holy? They have also invented a new term called 'religious (Islamic) science'. Oh my! What a great compliment to science! After failing to defend the so-called scientific truths in Qur'an and Hadiths, they had no other choice but to invent their own brand of science (read voodoo science). They want to give the impression that the rigid methodologies used by modern science to verify facts and to establish scientific principles and laws are not Islamic. I would like to ask them a simple question. Please tell us just one scientific principle that is disclosed in Qur'an. Please do not use mumbo jumbo words and threadbare boring tricks of difficulty with translation of Qur'an. We are fed up with these flimsy excuses. Tell us please where in the Qur'an we can find the laws of gravitation, laws of planetary rotation, principle of atomic structure of matters, the periodic table of elements, principles of relativity, geological science and the modern science of space/rocket technology and inter-planetary travel, and elucidation of genetic code.
Readers, have you noticed that these Islamists often resort to personal attacks and flimsy pretexts when they cannot refute an argument by rational thinking? Very often they will find spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, punctuation errors and will delve in dictionary meanings of many words used by the secularist writers. This had really happened to some of my essays. One Islamist wrote to me that I had very little education since I made errors in spelling the word 'hypocrate'. These people will not accept that typing errors are very common. As for grammar, even Shakespeare made plenty of errors. How about Qur'an? Are there any grammatical and/or spelling errors in the Qur'an? I am not an expert in Arabic. So, I shall refrain from making any comment on this. But I would like to have an answer to this question, if I may.
Let us now turn to the other group of Islamists, that is the fundamentalist Islamists. I hardly need elaboration on this because the whole world is familiar with them. Humanity recognises them as the ultimate symbol of backwardness, misogynist, intolerance, bigotry, terror and oppression. But I must admit that these fundamentalists are absolutely honest in what they preach and what they want to achieve. They do not deviate from the source of all their actions, that is Qur'an and Sunnah (Hadith). In fact, these fundamentalists have shown the truth about Islam without any pretext or using intellectual summersault. They have exposed Islam plain and simple without any apology. Amongst many other things, they have demonstrated that:
- A mosque is really a place for murder, execution and a depot for hoarding arms and ammunition (Pakistan and Bangladesh)
- Women are nothing but child making machines (Taliban)
- Changing one's mind on Islam invokes death sentence (Iran, Taliban, Sudan)
- Stoning to death for adultery (Iran, Taliban)
- Cutting off hands and feet for petty thieves (Taliban)
- Possession of Bible invites death sentence (Saudi Arabia)
- Premarital sex between Muslim couple is punishable with lashes, but having sex with infidel women is okay
- Toilet paper is haram (don't laugh) even though our prophet used stones for the same purpose. This is the recent fatwa from the Talibans.
One can extend the above list to include more absurdities. There are many more. It is quite easy to see why it becomes simple to deal with the fundamentalists. Their thoughts and actions are very straight forward just like the Sirat-ul-Mustaqim. They have no pretence of decency and smooth talk. Their actions have produced worldwide condemnation. But they don't care. They are blind to their faith and carry out their actions to the letter of their Holy Scriptures. They are not wolves in sheep's skin. They are out and wolves and it is quite simple to identify them and take necessary steps to counter them. In a way these fundamentalists make the job of the secularists and freethinkers simple and straightforward.
But the neo-Islamists are different breed altogether. They really hate the fundamentalists for tarnishing the beautiful image of Islam. They are desperate to prove to the world that Islam is not what the fundamentalists project to the civilised world. The neo-Islamists are absolutely bent upon proving that Islam is in sympathy with secular thoughts. Thus, the fight to free humanity from the clutches of Islamic slavery becomes difficult with the presence of these Islamists. Many people may think that there may still be a true Islam somewhere, which is not as savage as the fundamentalists demonstrate. Clearly, these neo Islamists try to put a coloured glass in the eyes of the ordinary Muslims to obscure their views from the clear and true picture of Islam.
Qur'an and Hadiths are so ambiguous that it is quite possible to prove anything and possibly every thing by quoting from them. If you have time to search, you can really find whatever you want from these sources. I do not want to burden the readers by quoting endlessly from Qur'an and Hadiths about the various issues I have raised in this essay. However, I cannot help but to quote the following Hadith for the readers to judge the quality of mercy and compassion practiced in Islam.
Sunan Abu-Dawud Book38, Number 4348
"Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas:
A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the prophet (p.b.u.h) was informed about it.
He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man has done this action and adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up. He sat before the prophet (p.b.u.h) and said: Apostle of Allah! I am here master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it at her belly and pressed it till I killed her.
Thereupon the prophet (p.b.u.h) said:Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood".
A few weeks ago, I met a friend of mine who had spent a lengthy period in Saudi Arabia. Although not a fundamentalist Islamist, he is quite a religious person. He told me that recently he went to Bangladesh and got his daughter married there. Now he is trying to bring his brand new son-in-law to Australia as a spouse of his daughter. I was very curious to know why is it that her daughter did not follow her husband to Bangladesh so that the new couple could raise a family in a proper Islamic environment. His answer was quite interesting. He said, "When we are in an Islamic society (like Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia), we do not like Islam. We like Islam when we are in a non-Islamic society (like Australia)". I must appreciate his honesty in telling his inner feelings about Islam. Is not his statement a great tribute to all the secularists and the freethinkers of the world?
Abul Kasem is an Bengali ex-Muslim and academic. He has contributed in Leaving Islam - Apostates Speak Out and Beyond Jihad - Critical Voices from Inside and Why We Left Islam.. He has also written extensively on Islam in various websites and is the author of five e-Books: A Complete Guide to Allah, Root of Terrorism ala Islamic Style, Sex and Sexuality in Islam, Who Authored the Quran? and Women in Islam. Mr. Kasem leaves in Sydney, Australia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.