Saturday, September 22, 2007

Contemporary Islam?

Some people incorrectly use the phrase "contemporary Islam" to prove that the actions of Al Qaeda are not discordant with Islam as practised in this day and age. Whatever tranformation has come has been with Muslims and not Islam, so the assertion that Islam was itself transformed in the 12th Century is a shot in the dark. What we call "Islam" is the religion based on the Qur'an and the Ahadith. With these unchanged, it is impossible for Islam to "change". Hence, Christianity and Judaism cannot be compared to Islam in this essence. Instead what has happened is the muddling of interpretation with nationalist ideologies and sometimes revolutions or the rejection of some of its teachings. In this regard, which considers it isn't just 12th Century but all the centuries after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) there has been an array of Muslim movements, whether proggie or salafi or sufi, that have constructed their own Islam. But true Islam has always been there unchanged, open to dialogue, tradition and revivalism.

Summing it all up, one commits the crime of "generalisation" when one boxes the experiences and ways of living of more than a billion people on this planet into one phrase -- "contemporary Islam" -- which one then argues is not discordant with the heinous actions of "some of its adherents". In fact, there is nothing like "contemporary" Islam. Islam is as diverse as there are Muslim communities around the world. The actions of some of its adherents can be understood by placing it in a colonial context, mostly nationalist struggles that have learned to strike back at centres of power, mostly killing innocents (thereby replicating the actions of the centres of power), but always uncaring of the system of war in Islam. In my philosophy class, our tutor told us about what inspired Osama bin Laden to plan 9/11 from a documentary he had watched. According to Osama bin Laden, it was the Hiroshima bombings. This doesn't justify his brutal act of terrorism amd neither does it fully reprieve centres of power, but it does show the "roots of Muslim rage", contrary to what the person who coined the phrase says to his enlightened readers.

This rescues Islam from being framed by some as a religion that fosters terrorism. On the other hand, there is credible information of brainwashing of little boys in schools in tribal regions of Pakistan who chant "Osama" far more than they chant "Allah". They are taught hatred of Jews, Christians, whites, Westerners and other non-Muslim communities. I guess I've made my point that Islam is far too great and the Muslim community is far too diverse to be hijacked by Al Qaeda's Islam, which is falsely replaced by "contemporary Islam". The many Islams cannot be generalised, but so often they are as is evident in the writings of Melanie Philips, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer et alii.


Anonymous said...

Salaam Aleikum.
Informative and very interesting website,masha'allah.This demonising of all Muslims as being jihad-oriented is a worrying trend.Even if a Muslim has a legitimate grievance and is angry about it-there is a good chance that non-Muslims will begin to smear,slander and insult him-or her,as the case may be.It appears that,owing to a misguided and warped minority of Salafi/Wahabbi extremists and their horrific actions,all Muslims seem to be a collective 'enemy within'in the West. A similar status was held sadly by the Jews in Western Europe,prior to the Holocaust.Hatred became so engrained in a lot of non-Jews' hearts that mass murder could be carried out in certain countries with great ease.
In one way,we are responsible-that there was no ostracisation of the extremist elements in our communities.Largely,though,the Press and its coverage of all things Islamic often concentrates on the misguided elements' behaviour,so Islamophobia becomes an accepted prejudice.The political analyst Butler,in his book 'Elections and Voters'states that people take their political opinions from the media-and don't tend to think much about them,taking as much time to do so,as they might on the subject of football/music,for example.
Our 'jihad',then should be to highlight these instances-be they in the press or in day-to-day life.Its unacceptable that Muslims have been spoken of in terms that,were the words 'blacks' or 'Jews'substituted,would earn the author or the speaker a lot of attention from the authorities-and quite rightly,too.And to give da'wah by example-even helping non-Muslims close to us/protecting them from the more'extremist' elements in our communities if and when able to do so,inshallah.For example,i know of a brother in Ladbroke Grove,London,who collects medical equipment and sends it to wherever it is needed-to Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
Allah protect us all and give us the means to do so,inshallah.

Salaam aleikum wa ramadan karim,
Brother Concerned.

Azooz said...

alSalaam alaykom

Islam changes Muslims, sometimes Muslims need a push, sometimes a kick - but it is how we, as a people, develop. Too slow for some but moderen comunications, satalite TV and the internet have made things better - now more of us can talk to more of us :)

Here is an important article that had a great effect in bringing much needed dialog to the question of Jihad - I saw it on Arabic TV and glad someone translated it:

Saudi Cleric's Ramadan Letter to Osama Bin Laden on NBC


Anonymous said...

Oh Please ---
So while Muslims call out Islamophobia, Islam is allowed to impose itself onto the western psyche unchallenged.

Fat chance!

Peaceful or violent Islam - we don't want to be Muslims. And we definitely don't want political Islam ruling our lives.

People are intelligent today no one is spooked out by some dodgy God - minus his three daughters and a few jinnis - from the Middle East.

Abdullah said...

O You who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as Auliyâ’ (friends, protectors, helpers, etc.), they are but Auliyâ’ to one another. And if any amongst You takes them as Auliyâ’, then surely he is one of them. Verily, Allâh guides not those people who are the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong­doers and unjust). (5:51)

sindbad said...


Abdullah, the correct translation of Auliyâ’ is not friends but "patrons". It means that Muslims must first seek guidance among themselves. Here is the explanation:

Scholar Says


The Qur'an does not say that non-Muslims cannot be Muslims' friends, nor does it forbid Muslims to be friendly to non-Muslims. There are many non-Muslims who are good friends of Muslim individuals and the Muslim community. There are also many good Muslims who truly and sincerely observe their faith and are very friendly to many non-Muslims at the same time.

Islam teaches us that we should be friendly to all people. Islam teaches us that we should deal even with our enemies with justice and fairness.

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