Liberalizing Islamic Thought: Fracturing Ima'n or
The News From Bangladesh forum produced another of
Syed Kamran Mirza's analytical essays that we saw on September 12 (Why We
Critique Only Islam!). I want to add some more points on Islamic thoughts
that already exist in most of the Muslim countries.
It would delight many non-Muslims to see more than a handful of genuine
secular Muslims in Muslim majority nation. To their dismay, they would
however find plenty of closet Mullahs or so-called seculars of Islamic
heritage. On the contrary, number of Muslims who gave up the religion
totally is few far between.
Why is this scenario more common in Islamic scene? Why would the crops
of enlightened Muslims abandon their ancestral religion totally? I have a
hypothesis. I would like to put forward a few of the salient features of
fundamentals of Islamic thinking process.
Islam did not come from another planet, neither has it been
transplanted on earth from living species from a distant galaxy. It is a
human religion meant to serve people of this planet. So, it has to have a
history, it has to have a tradition. Islam has to have connection with
other belief systems prior to its arrival. That means Islam must have been
indebted not only to Christianity, Judaism or Zoroastrianism, seemingly,
it is rooted in Arab Paganism as well.
The problem however is, the basic premise of Islamic belief system
seldom acknowledges this truth. What is so wrong acknowledging the mere
fact that Islam is a unique amalgamation of Judaism and Pagan teachings?
Will it offend someone if we say that the rituals like praying, pilgrimage
to Ka’ba mimic age old Pagan practices, while portions of the Islamic
jurisprudence resemble ancient Judaic legal mores?
Most Islamic scholars are too embarrassed to admit the historical
indebtedness of Islam to other religions that came before Mohammedanism.
Although it is often cited that the scriptural similarity of different
monotheistic faiths are not accidental by any chance, there is a
deliberate effort to portray the Islamic divine book as an independently
revealed one. That defines the contextual validity of Qur’an not being
successor of prior divinely inspired books.
While the believers of other monotheistic faiths now consider their
holy books as divinely inspired, Islam views Qur’an as the direct word
from God. And there lies the problem. I think that is the reason when any
believer in Islam loosens his/her Ima'n, he or she cannot stay any
longer under its fold. In short, either take it one hundred percent or
leave it. There is no scope for a weak Ima'n in Islam. In this
context I am quoting a scholar’s recent comment about the evolution of
religious legal teachings. "No Jew in the
world today would follow the commandments in the book of Leviticus that
tell us to stone adulterers or homosexuals. But Islam appears stuck in a
mindless literalness that keeps it stagnant, and that religious stagnation
fuels a much larger cultural and intellectual stagnation."
Present construction of other monotheistic or polytheistic religions
depends on a softer ground. That means a typical Christian or a Hindu does
not have to be bombarded with such dogmas that in order to practice the
religion, the Ima’n or belief system ought to be tightly pure. It
is true that the liberalization process in Judaism or Christianity did not
occur in a few short years.
It is also true that it took hundreds of years of inner struggle to
make the religions more pragmatic, humane, and open. But the inherent
problem of Islam – the tendency of keeping it within the fold of a
puritanical dogma - the assumed "finality" of the "one
god" premise is more than merely rhetoric. The constant imposition of
threat and coercion is enough to subdue Islamic dissidents anywhere on
earth. The root cause of intolerance and violence is imbedded in Islamic
Other than persecution of heretics or murtaads, even a
non-conventional Islamic clergy endangers his life deviating from the
altruistic path of traditional Islam. Rashad Khalifa, an Imam in an
Arizona mosque was executed here in America. The assassin has not been
apprehended until today. Khalifa’s biggest "sin" was that he
used numerology to interpret religious dictum. Even a slight deviation is
not tolerated in the house of Islam, Dar-ul Islam.
Now, juxtapose this with media mogul Ted Turner’s encounter with the
fundamentalist Christians. By the way, Ted is a vocal atheist and he makes
no bone about letting others know it. He made, on the record, too many
disparaging remarks about Christians and Christianity. I am not aware if
any Christian fanatic put any bounty on the head of this flamboyant
personality who happens to be an avowed ex-Christian.
People from other religions may not fathom the degree of frustration
and hopelessness a Muslim may encounter as he or she knows more about the
intricacies of his or her forefathers' faith – which is being taught
from the childhood days as the only religion of peace, the ultimate and
perfect way of god's wishes, etc. Because the inherent weaknesses of Islam
are never exposed to average believer, any rational argument against the
tradition usually wins against the forefathers’ blind belief.
While many deities of Hinduism are left in the realm of mythology,
Islam exposes an unusual dichotomy since its birth. Rama, Laxmana, Ravana
story, or Krishna’s sexual escapades may not leave the cocoons of
mythological tapestry. An average Hindu’s Ima’n may be as solid
as a sponge.
Islam embraced more than its share of mythology. Story surrounding
Noah’s arc, Zamzam fountain, or the Prophet Muhammad’s miraculous Miraj
journey, or even Adam and Eve story could be construed as nothing short of
mythology or folklore. Muslims simply have to believe in those myths along
with the historical epics of war, the rules of the Caliphs and the
narratives of Prophet’s disciples as depicted in Ahadiths. The
dates and places of those events are interlaced with so much of history
that many Muslims tend to feel proud as if they are following a rather
modern religion, which is liberated from the mythological mumbo-jumbo and
Nevertheless, the reality indicates otherwise. The amalgamation of
mythology and history in Islamic thinking could be a serious weakness of
the religion. Also, the Islamic clergies leave no stone unturned to keep
Islam beyond the purview of history.
Any effort to scrutinize Islam through the prism of history is not only
discouraged, but is brutally suppressed. That is why, if someone raises
the issues of Islam’s linkage with Paganism on the Arab soil or make an
effort to analyze the history of Qur’an, he or she would then put his or
her life in jeopardy. In essence, then, the religion is kept within a
shade of dark ignorance.
When a Muslim loses faith in the religion, he or she faces more of a
withdrawal than people of most other faiths do. The fracture of Ima’n
demolishes the total belief system. Because of the enormity of
propaganda in the house of Islam, the rational thinking leads to
skepticism. The gulf of difference between the rhetoric and reality shows
the utter hollowness of the religion – as if the religion was nothing
but a big hoax.
The deprogramming stage for a Muslim is more arduous and painful than,
say, an average moderate Christian. Most Muslim believers’ mindset can
be equated with Evangelical, Pentecostal Christian, or Hassidic Jews. In
other words, the mainstream Muslims are not as liberal as average people
of Christian heritage are. From childhood days, the clergies bombard the
innocent child’s mind with lots of misinformation. They are groomed to
evolve into adults thinking their religion is the most humane and the most
scientific one. They think that Islam had liberated women and slaves.
While the humanistic side is grossly misrepresented, there is constant
infusion of parochial dogma.
Muslims are programmed to think all Muslims are brothers and sisters,
irrespective of race, color, and creed. They also gloat over the false
claim that Arabic is a sacred language and Arabian Peninsula is a holy
land. In the same vein, they think that the followers of other
monotheistic religions are less than human beings. And polytheists are
hated to the extreme. Have you also noticed that the anti-Semitism is part
and parcel of Islamic teaching? I told one of my Jewish friends not too
long ago that even if there were no Israel, Jews would still be considered
the eternal enemy of many Muslims of the world.
It is noteworthy that most of the world’s Muslims are certainly very
much ignorant about their own religion. The reason for holding such
insular view is that a great majority of them live outside the territory
of Arab land without any knowledge of the language of that region.
Conniving Mullahs know it far too well that many cultures in South Asia do
not endorse Arab Bedouins' historical treatment of women and slaves.
Thus, lack of knowledge of Arabic language helps the cause of Islamic Ummah.
Otherwise, many adherents would be shocked to know that the situation
surrounding Prophet’s marriage to his adopted son’s divorced wife
became a Qur’anic ayah. Also, the Prophet’s marriage to a young girl
Ai’sha may sound repugnant to many. Although the time and context were
not the same as today, the emphasis on literal interpretation of holy text
imposes a moral dilemma on the enlightened devotees.
How about the custom of uttering religious books, persona, etc.? The
mullahs inject in the innocent minds of Muslims that the word Allah should
be followed by SWT, a term to enhance divineness of Supreme God.
Similarly, Prophet Muhammad should not be called without PBUH (peace be
upon him in unadulterated Arabic).
Not only that, many Muslims in South Asia calls Mecca the Makkah Sharif
(a simple Makkah won’t do), In the same vein you have Ka'ba Sharif,
Qur'an Sharif, Hadis Sharif, Medina Sharif, and even Azmir Sharif. That
means a shroud of sacredness is deliberately coated with the terminology.
Now, if a Muslim fails to address Muhammad without PBUH, immediately he
could be considered a heretic or outcast. Definitely, he would be
ostracized in no time.
In some countries, he may even be sent to a jail (Saudi Arabia and
Pakistan, for instance). Do you know that it is prohibited to touch the
Holy Qur’an without ablution? Followers of no other religions exaggerate
the status of their deities or holy books like those that the Muslims do.
It seems that the piousness can be found only in the tent of Islam.
It could be clearly seen that the religion of Islam is built on layers
of multiple political agenda. Here contradictory goals are knitted into
the layers. When any western media shows the innocent faces of hijab-clad
Muslim girls with the comment "Islam is a religion of peace,"
any ignorant westerner might mistake the religion as just another
innocuous conservative religion something closer to the Amish community.
But that doesn’t tell all the stories. Buried beneath a innocent
scarf-covered sweet faces of young Muslim girls lay the agenda setters
like bin Laden, Mullah Omar et al. Muslim societies all over the world are
very much throttled by Sha’ria (Law) supporter mullahs. They are nothing
more than a bunch of unabashed crooks with above average intelligence in
In pure theological sense, Islam has serious vulnerability and
fragility. Thousands of years ago, a geo-centric or Arabian
Peninsula-centric religion was not a far-fetched idea. So, it was not
difficult to pray in the direction of Makkah and go for pilgrimage in that
city. Who could think then some day man would go to the moon or roam
around this planet on a spaceship? Today, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu or a
Buddhist would have no trouble practicing his or her religion on the
A Muslim however will have a fit because he or she will lose his or her
Muslimness if the person ever decided to settle on the red planet. Similar
situation applies about living on Moon or on a zero gravity structure
300-400 miles high above the earth (similar to Skylab). Why so? Because
the basic tenet of Islam is based on facing the Kiblah and
performing Hajj. If somebody forgoes those, he or she may not be
considered a bonafide or pucca Muslim. Without the presence of the
Holy Ka’ba, the traditional Islam can hardly survive. What a bizarre
How about the improbability of fasting during the Ramadan in a place
outside the blue planet of ours? Many Hadiths say to break the fast during
the month of Ramadan somebody has to wait until the sun sets in the
horizon. In Scandinavian countries and in
Russia, the Sun hardly sets at night in some seasons. The so-called
White Night is a common celestial phenomenon in polar region. In such
circumstance, how many hours does someone have to starve to practice this
"scientific religion"? Also, the five times a day prayer has
serious practical problems.
If someone follows the sunrise and sunset for the prayer time, then
living in Antarctic or in the North or South Pole would be an
impossibility. Again, who would guarantee a clear Arctic sky during Eid-ul
Fitr so that a devotee can view the crescent moon with naked eyes?
Aren’t these the underlying weaknesses of a religion that is professed
to be relevant for all ages of mankind? In this day and age, a medieval
religion ought to be recast even if that deviates from the strings of old
and threadbare teachings. Otherwise, someday, there would be an exodus of
freethinkers coming out of this religion. And they would not be inclined
to call themselves Muslims under any pretext.
In summary, in this write-up I tried to bring certain inanities that
are very prevalent in Islamic belief system. These are not quite obvious
to eyes of believers. In Islam, dissension are not only allowed but are
dealt with very summarily. As probing of Islam becomes an ordinary and
mundane exercises in this day of openness (thanks to the Internet!), more
of Islam’s inanities will be revealed and one day not too far from now,
Islam will also join the ranks of other faiths and in the process it will
become a benign religion. In the meanwhile let us hope that Islam will
shed its Jihadism to make our earth a place where people belonging to all
faiths could live harmoniously.