The Rational and Progressive Islam
Dr. Maqsood Jafri, June 2, 2007
Dr. Maqsood Jafri, June 2, 2007
1. Reason and Scriptures are on equal standing. The Qur’an time and again stresses the dire need of using the brain to resolve issues and to achieve the secrets of the cosmos. It says, “Why do you not meditate"? At another place it says, “My verses are for the men of mind.” Islam lays much stress on intellect. Man is superior to animals only because of mind. The holy Prophet (peace upon him) in the Qur’an has been asked to preach with wisdom and intellectual advice. “There is no compulsion in religion.” Islam negates ignorance and promotes reason. The concept of Ijtihad, which means rational analysis and soul searching, is the key principle of Islam.
2. The Islamic concept of state is universal and democratic. In Surah Shoora, the Muslims are ordained to get engaged in mutual consensus. The difference between the Western secular government and the Islamic government is that the former can make any law whether it is moral or immoral. The parliament has all authority to repeal, abrogate or pass the law as it wishes. In England sodomy has been legalized. In America some courts have permitted gay marriages. But in an Islamic society no law can be passed or implemented that is against moral or human established religious laws. In Islam the right of sovereignty lies with God. The Muslim ruler cannot be a dictator or autocrat as he is only a representative of God. He cannot exceed the limits of divine laws. The Islamic state is bound to be an ideal state based on the Qur’anic principles of justice, equality, freedom and tolerance. No undemocratic government can be regarded as an Islamic government. In Islam there is no place for militarism and monarchy. People belonging to all faiths are protected and promoted in an Islamic state. The Islamic state lives up to its obligations to religious and ethnic minorities. It does not impose its ideology on the non-Muslims but gives them full freedom of faith and religious practices. The religious extremism, terrorism and fascism are un-Islamic vicious practices.
3. Islam supports the concept of providence and free choice. Having the understanding of the vicissitudes of Muslim history, we deduce the conclusion that nowhere did the holy Prophet of Islam pressure any tribe to accept Islam by the sword. People were given free choice. The other religious communities were free in their religious matters. Religious persecution is strictly prohibited in Islam. In the Abbasid and Ottoman periods, the Jews were given not only asylums but were fully protected by the aggression of some Christian hardliners. There are different terms used in bad sense such as foundationalism, fundamentalism, radicalization, dogmatism and ritualism by the modern Muslim thinkers and the Orientalists. The reality is that Islam is pluralism, not particularism. It is principialism based on the everlasting progressive articles of faith. The present tug of war between the moderates and the radicals must stop otherwise there will be unprecedented bloodshed between these schools of thoughts. As the foundation is necessary for a building similarly the pillars and roofs are necessary. The modern Muslim thinkers must bring harmony between the radicalism and the modernism.
4. There are two kinds of the Muslim states presently working: one, the dogmatic, and other, the liberal. The dogmatic states like Saudi Arabia and Iran interpret the laws on traditional lines. In these states the dogmatic interpretation of the Islamic laws has become the end-all and be-all of religion. In Saudi Arabia there is monarchy in the name of Islam while in Iran there is priesthood. Turkey is a modern and secular country interpreting Islam on modern lines. These countries are victims of extremism in one way or another. Islam believes in moderation. In an Islamic state the laws are made and implemented for the general interest of humankind. The non-Muslims have the right for religious dissent. But it must be noted that Islam does not give the right of insulting any prophet as the Western media has in the name of freedom of the press as some publisher have done by publishing defaming cartoons of the Prophet of Islam. The differences must be expressed in a logical way within the boundaries of decency. The Qur’an asks the holy Prophet (peace upon him) not to abjure the false deities of the heretics but rather they abjure your true God. The differences should base on the principles of rationality and decency.
5. So far as the question of the situation of contemporary Islam, in terms of power and justice is concerned, it can be said that in Islam justice is the yard stick for judging other traditions. There is concept of misuse of power in Islam. At least at thirty-four places in the Qur’an, the need of justice has been narrated. Even the Qur’an exhorts to do justice with your enemy. In some Muslim countries, the media is not free or the minorities do not feel comfortable. It is all because of the policies of the autocratic rulers. Islam has nothing to do with such dictatorial policies. So for the question of the impacts of the wave of hegemony as manifested in the variety of contemporary political situations is concerned, it is twofold. First, it is the natural reaction of the state imperialism. The Muslims feel that America is unreasonably supporting Israel against the Muslims of Palestine. The Kashmir issue between Pakistan and India is also not being resolved because of the duplicity of the Americans. The Muslim rulers are with America but the Muslim public is anti-America. The suicide bombing is the outcome of such thinking. It is in the interest of America as well as in the interest of world peace that America should play its positive role to amicably get these serious issues resolved on the principle of humanity and justice. The second reason for terrorism founded in the teachings of Mohammad bin Abdul Wahhab of Saudi Arabia. He was a puritan and a radical. He preached religious extremism and terrorism. In the Muslim history, Mouwiyya was the ruler who managed to kill his political opponents. Wahhabism is officially being supported by the Saudi government. It is the greatest menace for the peace of the world. The young people are brained washed in the mosques of the Wahhabi sect to kill the Muslims and the non-Muslims who do not agree with their interpretation of Islam. Islam is being branded as the religion of terrorism only because of some of the Wahhabi hardliners and extremists. It is the human and Islamic duty of the moderate Wahhabis to defuse the impact of extremism and preach the glorious peace-abiding tenets of Islam.
6. Islam believes in universalism, not particularism. It is pluralistic. To date the Muslim Ummah is divided into numerous sects. The Qur’an has condemned sectarianism, regarding it heresy. The Qur’an warns Muslims, “Hold fast to the cord of Allah and do not become divided into sects, and do not create differences." A difference of opinion is permitted in Islam. It is not a communist state where a difference of opinion means death. But, on the basis of the difference of opinion, we are not permitted to divide into warring factions. Islam is a Semitic religion and an Abrahamic faith. It respects Moses and Jesus. It is an exclusive faith. It shares roots with Judaism and Christianity. The God of Abraham is the God of Muhammad.
7. All divine faiths share a common belief in spirituality and morality. Divinity is spirituality. The basic purpose of all divine faiths is to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, which is to establish a welfare state in which human values are restored and human rights are established. The basic aim of all religions is the same; hence, there is no need to fight in the name of religion. The dire need of our time is to give the clarion call of interfaith dialogue and mutual harmony and coordination.
8. The simple and concise answer of the question of self-image and the image of others, regarding the problem of proper knowledge of others and the distortion in image of the Muslims in the present world, is to introduce Islam in its real form. True Islam is moderate and progressive. The imperial and the ritualistic interpretation of Islam won't serve the purpose. The Muslim world is full of traditional sectarian clerics but badly lacks rational and progressive thinkers. The Muslims should study others' religions, and the non-Muslims better study Islam. It is tragic that in the West and America, the media for vicious ends is misrepresenting Islam. In this modern age of science and humanism we must study the faiths of each other and show respect and tolerance for each other.
9. The matters pertaining to education and attitudes to others must signify the importance of positive and human values. It has been noted that, in the religious seminaries of different faiths, the message of discrimination and hatred is being inoculated into the brains of the youth. It is a dangerous trend. The purpose of universal education should be to fathom the deep secrets of matter and mind. It is not the age of superstitions. It is the age of science and technology. In the words of Bertrand Russell, it is the “age of reason.” Our attitude to other communities should be fraternal and friendly. We are all humans. We are the members of the family of one God. We are the creatures of the same God. We should not shed the blood of each other in the name of God. God is love, and we must love God and His creatures. No true religion teaches hatred or bloodshed. We must declare that whosoever preaches bloodshed or performs bloody deeds is not the follower of any religion. Such a person is the friend and follower of Satan.
The core message of all the prophets is peace, love, justice, and humanity. We must preach fraternity, liberty, and humanity. This is the only sacred message of God. Islam is the religion of peace and prosperity. Its mission is the mission of humanity. All religions preach humanity. It is the seed of hatred which has been sown by the so-called custodians of different religions for their petty interests. Let us spread the fragrance of peace and love as said by great Persian Sufi poet Hafiz Sherazi: “Every foundation you see is faulty, but the foundation of love is without fault.”
Dr. Maqsood Jafri is an author of some books on politics, philosophy, literature and Islam. He is the Chief Editor of Pakistan Weekly New York.