For years now I amongst all people have said, “I am a moderate Muslim and my muslim family practices Moderation”. I have however, on occasions questioned the lifestyle of the more Conservative Muslims? The ones with the beards and hijab… and who dress as if they still belong to the 7th century? Are they living a lie? Does today’s society mean nothing to them? They would argue otherwise and then the question of who am I would never really be answered. So I’ve decided to reframe my question and divert it to the so called moderate society of Islam itself. Who are these so called moderate Muslims? And does Islam preach, understand and accept moderation?
I claim to be one of them so I figured who better to question than myself. Okay question number one: Where do you draw the line on religion? Or better yet, is religion a way of life, a set of rules we are governed by, or is it just a cult we want to be a part off? Moderate Muslims claim to believe in the Oneness of God (Allah) and all moderate Sunni Muslims believe in the Last most beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). We read the Quran, on and off don’t completely understand it, pray five times a day or at least we try sometimes we are just too lazy. Fast during Ramadan but don’t really devout all our free time in prayer or dhikr of Allah. Perform our Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca, and get back to our normal daily routine as if we had just had an outing or a vacation and live life by what we choose Islam to be. We create our own rules, we believe in only what we choose too, we say we believe only in the Quran and the Quran asks us to believe in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) but yet we have no way of following his teachings because we don’t really believe in Hadiths. Those are for the conservatives you see, because Hadiths are written by men and men hate women so they want to rule over them and so on and on and on! Thus basically we create our own way of life and yet call ourselves Muslims. Am I just mad at what we’ve made Islam to be? Possibly. What is it that I have begun to dislike about the way I follow my religion? Islam has become too commercialized for us moderate Muslims and I think that is what bothers me the most. Us not understanding Islam and just following it for the sake of following it, believing what we understand, changing rules as we like so we can fit in to today’s society. Honestly we are just too afraid to say it but in our minds Islam is outdated. If Islam is complete submission to Allah (The Most Merciful), and if we really believed in Heaven and Hell would we not then fear Hell. Would we go around living the way we do. Would we not rush to our daily prayers like the so called conservative do? Would we not also ask for Allah’s mercy during Ramadan and not just fast to prove we are Muslims? Would we not perform Hajj as if it were our last chance to life and forgiveness? Maybe for a lack of a better word, I have become a little more conservative, if there is such a thing. But is that really so bad? And why are we so afraid of being judged? Why is it that the minute I say the word hijab I will get the “Oh my God she’s lost it look?” (from family first) Why is it that people are so quick to judge? And if how we perceive others is so important and if judging someone is equally important shouldn’t that give us more of a reason to believe in Judgment day? Shouldn’t we be the most worried about Allah’s angel judging our actions/intentions every day? Sad but we even take our work more seriously than life. We are afraid to miss work but we aren’t afraid to miss our prayers. We are afraid of losing our jobs but aren’t afraid of losing life. We take God’s mercy for granted and become too lazy to submit to him in prayer but are always there to answer our bosses call. We truly have made religion a set of rules that we should live by and have forgotten Allah in the process. We have made a mockery of every aspect of Islam including Hajj. We pay to spend comfortable nights at Hajj as if we are there for sight seeing. Think about it… VIP tents at Mina who are we kidding??? Hajj has become as commercialized as religion itself and it hurts me. I agree there are people who pretend to be very religious but yet live life for their own benefits. They are people who give religion a bad name but shouldn’t that be a reason to prove that it can be otherwise. Should one wrong be corrected by another wrong? Maybe I am only attacking moderation and there is a whole other side to this conservative Muslim society, but shouldn’t that give us more of a reason to change it? Shouldn’t we follow Islam the way it is supposed to be followed and not just sit back and say “oh you don’t know what all those bearded and hijabi women do behind their disguise so I am better off than them”. Shouldn’t we stop criticizing and using that as an excuse to do what we want to do?
Perhaps I am one voice in a million and will be shunned forever in the out roars. But the truth has to be told.
Falak Zaffer, September 16, 2007.
6 thoughts on “Liberate Islam??!!”
As I get older each year, I ask myself the same questions. The only answer I am able to give myself is that Islam is the perfect religion and all of us are aware of that. But, the attraction of a modern lifestyle pulls us, or prevents us from fallowing Islam the way it should be fallowed. Today, we choose what we want to fallow in Islam and we ignore the things we don’t wish to fallow because it conflicts with our modern lifestyle.
That is true, as you get older you question your beliefs even more.. It’s like if we believe in our religion so much then why are we so shy of following it completely… and how long before we die and are questioned for our doings. How much older do we have to get before God says I’ve given you enough chances. I guess what it really comes down to is we need to start helping each other out… we need to become MUSLIMS as one and stop giving ourselves so much leeway. Me.
I want to make the perhaps radical suggestion, that rather than debating the different ways of looking at things that we have from other people’s interpretations of the Qu’ran, let’s look at it ourselves.Ok, let’s talk first about “Hell”, and what that is, and whether the answer to that question really has an impact on what we should do. There’s a fair amount of talk about Hell in the Qu’ran, mostly referenced as fire or flames. Since there are so many, I picked 2 arbitrarily, one towards the beginning, one towards the end. (Note: unless I say otherwise, my English translation is the Shakir translation, even though I use Abdullah Yusuf-Ali’s commentary. This way, I get to put in the poetic stuff in the commentary, but no one gets to accuse me of being overly romantic with my ayah.)Surah al-Baqara, 2:24: “…then be on your guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers.” And what does Yusuf-Ali have to say about this: “If by your own efforts you cannot match the spiritual light…then there will be a fire in your souls, the Punishment that burns up your cherished idols.” Hmmm, now, he mentions that there in a fire in our souls, not our souls in a fire. And he talks about the fire consuming our cherished idols, not us. Is it possible that what he thinks this verse is referring to is that unbelief (believing in nothing) leaves us with nothing? Is it possible that we’re talking about this in an emotional or psychological sense, in the sense of relationships we have with other people? Or do we think we’re speaking about a non-provable metaphysical realm of torment that The Most Merciful, The Most Compassionate chucks us into if we get hit by a bus on Saturday and were unlucky enough to have missed jum’aa on Friday? Could we be talking about God preparing or setting up life so as to purify us, like you polish metal to make a mirror, that could reflect the love He already has for us (hold back on the accusations of Sufism, I haven’t said anything too heretical yet).Surah al-Humaza, 104:6-9: “It is the fire kindled by Allah, which rises above the hearts. Surely it shall be closed over upon them, in extended columns.” And Yusuf-Ali: The Fire of Punishment mounts right up to the hearts and minds of such men, and shuts them out of the love of their fellows. “Heart” in Arabic means not only the seat of affection, pity, charity, but also of understanding and intelligent appreciation of things.” Now, that word sure as hell (haha) looks like “qalb” to me, which the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Standard Arabic has as – “heart, middle, center, core, essence, best or choicest part, mind, soul, spirit”. Now, “humaza” means slanderer, gossip-monger, liar, basically. Could it be that this is really a pretty basic warning to watch what comes out of your mouth, particularly taken in the broader context of being careful of how one treats one’s “fellows”, whether that’s your friends, family, ummah/deen, whatever. How many times does the Qu’ran warn muslimeen not to set up divisions amongst themselves, or even amongst them and the other People of the Book?If anyone thinks that perhaps I’m taking too much liberty in what I’m reading, then I have two texts I would suggest: 3.7 “He it is Who has revealed the Book to you; some of its verses are decisive, they are the basis of the Book, and others are allegorical; then as for those in whose hearts there is perversity they follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation. but none knows its interpretation except Allah, and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord; and none do mind except those having understanding.” The second is The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists by Khaled Abou el-Fadl. He maintains that much of what is viewed as the “proper” or “correct” way of Islam, both in practice and belief, is greatly divorced from both what he thinks it should be, and what most people actually practice it as. The reasons for this are complex, but to summarize: for some time, there has been a distinct lack of accomplished jurists expressing the full breadth of opinions/interpretations, generally due to states/empires/people in power suppressing anything they viewed as heterodoxy, in the interests of preserving their own power. More recently, this has been very thoroughly and vehemently done by Wahhabists, through Saudi Arabia, leveraging all their oil money, their government’s secular support from Britain and the US, and the chance circumstances that led to them exclusively controlling access to Mecca and al-Medinah. This serves a multitude of purposes, in maintaining a modern nation’s power in the secular government world, keeping the rest of the Umma subservient to them politically (why is it that they’re really concerned with whether women drive or someone chews gum during Ramadan, rather than whether fellow Muslim Arabs in the Levant have anything to eat [Palestine?]), along with making them feel better about their historical military losses (Ottoman empire, anyone?), and consider themselves more quintessentially “Arab”, and more pure muslims than anyone else (otherwise why is it that huge chunks of the Qu’ran, Hadith, and history are ignored in order to perpetrate silly jahliyya (pre-Islam Arab) customs, like throwing small rocks at big rocks on the Hajj, or for that matter, throwing rocks of any size at adulterers, which is a part of Jewish/Torah law, and contrary to the Qu’ran, which prescribes 100 lashes (Sura an-Noor, 24:2). What I’m trying to get at it is, the question of “extremism” is a tricky one. I think that we should be particularly careful about the words we use on the subject, for our own benefit. I think if we’re looking for truth, or purity (hmmm, saf….Sufism) then we should really look for that, for what it means to US, right NOW, right HERE, not just to Muhammad (pbuh) (I think fluoride toothpaste is a great idea), and certainly not to some jerk in Saudi Arabia (he may be able to grow a better beard than me, but I’m still better looking). I think that may require a lot of going back to the sources, what we still have (the Qu’ran, some of the Hadith, etc.), and what may require more research to figure out or re-discover (is Rumi actually talking about photon entanglement? Does it do something useful for us to run back and forth between 2 hills?)Since it is now well past midnight, and I came to this coffee-shop to work (on my only day off from work this week), I’m going to end with one more “sign”, and a question I think may be worth considering.Sura an-Noor, 24:35: “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost gives light though fire touch it not– light upon light– Allah guides to His light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth parables for men, and Allah is Cognizant of all things.” And why the heck is that in the middle of a bunch of stuff that deals with rules regarding marriage, sex, and being married? I have some ideas on that for another time.But then again, what do I know? I’m just in it for the bacon, beer, and easy women.Much love and salaams,JoePS. On this occasion, a ghazal, composed spontaneously, by me. Except it’s in English, being that I unfortunately don’t have either Urdu or Dari under my belt. And since I can’t remember the scheme for ghazals, it’s actually a haiku.I just think that ifAllah wanted a KhalifHe would have said so.
Speaking to my step-monster after I posted, she pointed out to me that I had applied post-Enlightenment theological critique, like a scholor would do to the Bible. The problem with that, I suppose, is that Islam didn’t have an “Enlightenment” or “Reformation”, like Christianity did, or even like the Jewish did with the continual struggle to bring meaning from Talmudic law to Rabbinical law.I see this as no reason not to start right now. I’m not suggesting that we apply the same exact methods to the Qu’ran as Luther or Calvin did to the Bible. And I take as constructive criticism people who point out that Semitic language texts generally don’t hold well to Hellenistic (Greek) modes of analysis (different axioms in their logic systems). But the same is true of the Old Testament, and there has still been a lot of interesting work done from that point. Futhermore, we’re now at a point even farther than that with textual analysis (“post-modern”), with even more to gain by a good hard look at what we’re actually reading.For a quick look at someone who is already doing this, see Neil Douglas-Klotz, http://www.abwoon.com/pdf/RehearingQuran.pdf . Also worth checking out, is his book about dhikr/zikr on the 99 Names, here: http://www.sufibookoflife.com/ .Perhaps all I’ve said so far has been a little abstract, so here’s something more practical: While it is not necessary for your hijab to match your shoes to match your purse, it looks good, so try it anyway. The Desi girl next to me at Mamoun’s the other day was rocking a lot of blue, but it worked. And Converse are available in a lot of different colors.Joe
I think people misunderstand islam since they dont grow up in the islamic sciences environment so they make lots of mistakes on the interpretation of verses and concepts of this perfect religion. Firstly, as MUSLIMS we have complete faith in the doctrines of Islam, the basis of which are the Quran and Hadith (there are thousands of hadiths and not just some I think this is also misunderstood). Firstly, the reason we the Muslims do not interpret the religion ourselves is because the One who revealed it to us, Allah, ALSO gave us the interpretation through His messenger. As it states in the Qur’an “Similarly, We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, reciting to you Our verses (the Qur’an) and purifying you, and teaching you the Book and the Hikmah, and teaching you that which you used not to know. (2:151-152). The word Hikmah here refers to the hadith as many scholars of Islam have indicated. And there is a hadith of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which says “I have been given the Qur’an and something like it” that someting like it is the hadith. Hence, we learn and preserve our religion and will continue to do so until the end of time through the interpretation that the prophet gave us and not what the ignorant want us to believe about our religion. No one goes up to a doctor and says “hey III think u should give me such and such medicine” or “i think you should operate me such and such way” because the patient is ignorant and does not have the qualifications to make such judgments. Similarly, religion is knowledge and it cannot be handed to ignorant fools to make judgment based on how they “feel” or “think.” And as Muslims we believe 100% fully with our hearts that the religion is complete and Muhammad (PBUH) explained it completely before his death and no further interpretation is needed if he’s already done it. And Allah tells us in His book in a verse which was revealed DURING the time of Muhammad that “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (5:3). So Allah here Himself tells us that no subtraction and additions are needed and the religion is complete and perfect.With regards to the translations, EVERY BASIC STUDENT OF KNOWLEDGE in Islam knows that there is no such thing as a translation of the Qur’an, its not possible. You can only do an interpretation of the meaning. If you really want to learn the Qur’an then learn classical Arabic! And there is no accurate translation of the Quran in existence. Since it is established that hadith is a major part of Islamic understanding, then we should actually read them. For example, there are references in hadith from the Prophet’s own mouth which talk about hell as a punishable place where torture does occur, for example he said, “The Prophet said, “Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the (Hell) Fire falling down into it and abiding therein perpetually forever; and whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, he will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever; and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon, will be carrying that weapon in his hand and stabbing his abdomen with it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever.” (Bukhari). And as Muslims we believe everything that comes from his mouth from our hearts and soul as it is told to us in the Qur’an “And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it), and fear Allâh. Verily, Allâh is Severe in punishment(59:7).” The point is that interpretation MUST go back to the prophet first and foremost since it was revealed to him and why would HE not understand it since it was given to HIM. Secondly, after him it should be sought what his companions (sahaba) said regarding them since they were his students. Then after which the interpretation goes to the students of the companions. The best book for this is Tafsir Ibn Khatir which focuses on the interprettation of the Quran based on these first three generations solely. And who said there is something wrong with using toothpaste (lol)? With regards to stoning of the adulterer, then it is correct that it is not in the Qur’an at all BUT again we must read the hadith to understand the religion because its THERE! Let’s read this HADITH carefully “A man from the tribe of Bani Aslam came to the Prophet while he was in the mosque and said, “I have committed illegal sexual intercourse.” The Prophet turned his face to the other side. The man turned towards the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and gave four witnesses against himself. On that the Prophet called him and said, “Are you insane?” (He added), “Are you married?” The man said, ‘Yes.” On that the Prophet ordered him to be stoned to the death in the Musalla (a praying place).” (Bukhari)Last but not least with regards to “And why the heck is that in the middle of a bunch of stuff that deals with rules regarding marriage, sex, and being married?” I think brother Joe that you are not familiar with how it was gathered are you and its history? I HIGHLYYYYYYYYYY suggest you take a class or get a book on the topic of The sciences of the Qur’an it will answer alllllllll of your such questions.Rameez 😉
Hello all, I wouldn’t want you to think I was evading the conversation, but I also don’t want to weigh in with any heavy considerations. Here’s my one thought: As a protestant Christian, I can only stand in favor of asking critical questions of religion and/or faith (certainly religion, but I would also say questioning faith is a good thing too). However, when Christianity began to ask these critical questions that you all seem to be hinting at, it evolved into what seems to be the splintered faith tradition that we see today in those who claim to believe and follow the teaching of Jesus. When Martin Luther wrote down his 95 questions, I believe he thought he was simply going to engage in some great discussion, maybe press the envelope a bit, maybe chnage some tradition that hadn’t been fully thought through/ changed with the times. Instead, he created a movement that was aided by the invention of the printing press of course. I’m not sure if Rev. Luther was alive today, he’d be happy with the results of his questioning religion/faith. But if I am asked, I’m incredibly grateful that he employed his questions toward his faith so that I and others in the 21st century can claim it as our own. Peace, Beth