Islam Comes Face-to-Face with Its Own Fundamental Contradiction in Coronavirus pandemic
It is often asserted that Islam is incompatible with one or another of civilisation’s Enlightenment achievements, such as freedom, human rights, equality, democracy, Western society, individual autonomy, etc. All such claims are, of course, correct. Yet they present only a limited picture, for each of these incompatibilities represents only a particular manifestation of a far more fundamental incompatibility: that between Islam and humanity. Herein lies the fundamental contradiction of Islam.
Unfortunately for Allah’s final religion, Muslims are no more or less human than anyone else. And there’s the rub. Human needs, human desires and human passions drive human social evolution; it is the motor of history. It is what makes humans zoon politikon, political animals, as Aristotle put it, Muslims as much as anyone else.
Islam, as any other utopian ideology — the final and perfect society — presumes an end to human social evolution, and more than that, presumes itself to be that end, to be that final and perfect society. This would not be so bad if it left open the possibility of finding that it continued to evolve, after all. But this is not so.
Not only does Islam not admit any further evolution (“This day have I perfected for you your religion,” Qur’an 5:3), it is so arranged as to foreclose any possibility of such evolution. Subjugate and dominate the world “until all religion is for Allah alone,” (Qur’an 2:193) in not just an idea, it is an action. Islam is not Islam without Muslims, and Muslims have human needs, desires and passions.
For Islam to sustain itself, all human needs, desires and passions must be expunged (“There is no fun in Islam”) and replaced by one, single disembodied need-desire-passion: to please Allah. The form that this pleasing of Allah should take can be meticulously prescribed and set in stone on pain of death, thus abolishing Muslim social evolution at a stroke, later reinforced by the abolition of cause and effect from Muslim thought. Thus frozen in mediaeval barbarism, is the Muslim’s humanity; creativity and moral judgment abolished in favour of “We hear and we obey,” (Qur’an 24:51).
The fundamental contradiction of Islam is that it demands of humans, who inherently evolve, that they not evolve, and that they subsume their inherent needs, desires and passions within the purported need of an abstraction, Allah, to be pleased by them. This can be achieved either for so long as Muslims accept to live on the basis of “We hear and we obey,” which in turn, is only sustainable for as long as Islam is able to regulate and channel Muslims’ needs, desires and passions through the contrived need to please Allah, or a way is found for Muslims to not obey while seeming to obey.
Consider this chilling Qur’an verse that “scholar” Yasir Qadhi enthusiastically commends: “Allah is closer to you than your jugular vein,” (Qur’an 50:16). A Muslim should cut his own throat before displeasing Allah. This imperative was grimly captured at a thousands-strong Islamic gathering in Indonesia the other day. “Because everyone’s human, we fear illnesses, death,” said an organiser, “But there’s something more to the body, which is our soul.” He explained, “We are more afraid of Allah.” Instead of a knife, it is a virus that will cut them down, the “small soldier” of “scholar” Ustadh Baajour’s gushing admiration, dismissed by “scholar” Saajid Lipham as merely something from “the unseen world.”
Certainly, this is a case of competing fears, which we will see more of as it gradually dawns on larger proportion of 1.6 billion fatally ignorant and superstitious people that their lives truly are in danger and that they can do something about it if only they would listen to the infidel who knows what this problem is. But this does presuppose that they accept there is such a thing as a dangerous virus and that it is coming their way.
The initial response of Muslims in the Dar al-Islam is to take offence at the idea that the CoVID-19 pandemic has nothing to do with Allah, which is compounded by the suggestion that infidel science can save them and Allah cannot. It is quite clear, and their “scholars” are doing everything to ensure it remains clear, that whatever the infidels say, Allah’s will shall prevail and it is incumbent on the Muslim to observe the Islamic tenets and rituals with all the more fervour and determination. It is a simple matter of defying the ignorant infidel who seeks to trick the Muslims away from their religion. There was no dilemma here.
But the news has been relentless. In the Dar al-Harb, the virus is claiming more and more victims, so much so that, “Even Muslims are wearing masks now,” complained one New York imam. Muhammad having said that if you die of a contagion, you become a martyr and go to Heaven, and “scholars” all over the Dar al-Islam repeatedly driving this message home, does not necessarily make martyrdom the motivation for Muslims avoiding masks and continuing to congregate for prayers and attend mass gatherings. They do so because they do not want to die. The Muslim within them might yearn for Paradise, but the human within them is in no rush to get there. I dare say that to the Muslim mind, becoming a martyr in this way would be a pointless waste of a martyrdom that could otherwise have killed any number of infidels along with the martyr by more tried and tested means (“They fight in His cause, and slay and are slain,” Qur’an 9:111).
Muslims in the Dar al-Islam now accept that the disease is out there and that this is no time for bluster. But now they find themselves in a dilemma not yet of competing fears, but of competing defiances. Do they defy Islam or do they defy their own governments who seem to be equivocating between Allah and the methods of the infidels? The certainty of being Muslim before being human persists, but the certainty of the Muslim response to the crisis of a few weeks ago, while still widespread and widely entrenched, has become a little less than clear-cut.
The Dar al-Islam’s “scholars” are a breed unto themselves. Many make it onto the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) videos, a veritable treasure trove of Islamic tragicomedy. Those who hold them in reverence are of the most backward Muslims on earth and such “scholars,” even by the mediaeval standards of Islam, can be embarrassing to Muslims who have had some exposure to the modern world. It is with such “scholars” and the billion or so Muslims who hang by their every word, that Islam’s greatest peril now lies, having eclipsed the “tsunami” of apostasy that can now only increase.
All the governments of the Dar al-Islam, including the government of Iran, know by now that it is time to change gear. There is a very big difference between sheiks, mullahs and imams bellowing unshakeable faith in Allah and affirmation of Muslim superiority in blind acceptance of “whatever happens, happens,” on the one hand, and their citizens dying by the tens of millions, on the other. When you are bulldozing tens of millions of your citizens into mass graves, you are not sending tens of millions of Muslim martyrs to Paradise, you’re bulldozing tens of millions of human beings into mass graves. It is not tens of millions of Allah’s decrees taking effect, it is tens of millions of deaths that could have been avoided had you acted decisively.
As the government of a Muslim nation, whether you call yourself an Islamic Republic or not, you face the very real prospect of standing condemned in the eyes of the world of the most appalling crimes against humanity in all history, while at the same time standing condemned in the eyes of surviving Muslims of having lacked the necessary faith in Allah, thereby incurring his punishment.
Every Muslim government is in crisis. They are going to have to turn against Allah and against Muslims in order to save Muslims. And the Dar al-Islam “scholars”, unencumbered with infidel moral corruption, will do all in their power to keep the people on the side of Allah. In other words, the cosy arrangement between the ruling elites and the “scholars,” an element of the hypocrisy that keeps Muslim societies ticking over, is facing its greatest threat ever, a foreshadowing of which has been in evidence in Saudi Arabia in recent years.
The Muslim governments are going to have to act to prevent a repeat of the catastrophe in Iran. But these are not democratic societies. No one will take any initiative for fear of blame and they will procrastinate and prevaricate until events act for them or a pretext presents itself. In the meantime, the “scholars” and the one-point-something billion Muslims who all hear and obey, will act. To their mediaeval minds, it would be arrogance in the face of Allah to not congregate for jumu’ah Friday prayers. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to gather in huge crowds to show Allah just how fervently they can make du’a. With large-enough crowds and fervent-enough supplication they can earn Allah’s pleasure and he might spare them a death that has gone viral.
The Turkish government, already ensnared in several traps of its own making, needs a coronavirus crisis like it needs a hole in the head, and it has so far managed to keep attention away from its own public health situation. But the fact that its TRT propaganda outlet has so blatantly and without provocation mocked Iran for its incompetence in dealing with the crisis suggests that there is more to this action than their Sunni-Shi’a enmity and their proxy confrontation in Syria.
The failure of Muslim governments to publicly acknowledge the crisis is one response. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan implies that his government would do something, if only the West would finance their cash-strapped health services. In Pakistan it would be blasphemy to suggest that Allah cannot solve the coronavirus problem. So Imran has found a way, he thinks, of escaping blasphemy charges now and blame later, when millions of dead Pakistanis are bulldozed into mass graves: the West refused to give us money. The very culture of Islamic madness that the Pakistani state has nurtured and encouraged for decades has finally come back to haunt them.
All other Muslim governments who take any action at all, can do so only tardily, partially and for very limited periods, so they are seen to be doing something, but not so much as to provoke the anger of their Muslim populations. They might, for example, ban flights (Egypt), but then do so for only a short period, or do nothing else. They might impose quarantines (the PA), but only a few and not interfere with congregational prayer. They might close shrines (Iran), but avoid quarantines. They might shut down schools (Bangladesh), but be powerless to stop mass gatherings. And so on… while the public gatherings grow ever larger and the disease is spread ever wider.
The full complexity of the conundrum in which Muslims find themselves ensnared on account of CoVID-19 and their primitive mentality is perhaps most starkly on display in Israel, where democracy and science are in high gear to bolster the human response to the virus. Israeli authorities have mistakenly taken it for granted that “all the citizens of Israel,” bar individuals here and there, would act responsibly and comply with the government-mandated emergency measures.
Arab-Muslims within the borders of Israel, a virtual exclave of the Dar al-Islam, like all Muslims, see the response to the crisis as a matter of Allah versus the infidel. But in their case several added layers of complexity are added. The infidels in question are Jews. Additional to all the other Muslim concerns raised against infidel solutions, Israeli Muslim Arabs isolating themselves in their homes means not congregating at Al-Aqsa for jumu’ah Friday prayers, which means leaving Al-Aqsa to the Jews (never mind that the Jews are also isolating themselves in their homes). Israel’s Muslims are the glaring weak link in the country’s otherwise formidable CoVID-19 countermeasures.
The complete and utter inappropriateness of Islam even existing in the modern world will be brought home with brutal starkness should Israeli scientists be the first to produce a CoVID-19 vaccine, but find their achievement undermined by the country’s own Muslim Arab population.
Jerusalem is where Islam, in all its ossified barbaric nihilism, comes face-to-face with the very best of vibrant civilised l’chaim. It is something from which the Muslim Arab must daily avert his gaze for fear of slipping from Muslim into human, all the more so during this CoVID-19 pandemic. Israel, for its part, is still making the mistake of assuming that its Muslim Arab population will behave like Israelis and not like Muslims. It is offering all the help it can to the Palestinian Authority and its personnel, and rightly so, while taking it for granted that its own Muslim Arab population will adhere to the government’s measures just like all other Israelis. The Israeli authorities can no longer escape that this was a mistake. It can turn into grave mistake, depending on how the Government handles it from this point in.
Many Jewish Israelis smother all guardedness towards the Muslim Arabs in their midst with the mantra, “They are Israeli citizens.” Such Jews owe it to their nation to now prove the substance, if any, of that confident assertion. Of all the citizens of Israel, Muslim Arabs are the only ones making an explicit point of being Muslim as opposed to being citizens of Israel. While Israeli citizens resist the virus, Muslim Arab Israeli citizens resist Israeli citizens resisting the virus. Will such delusional Jews allow their government to take such action against the Muslim Arabs as are necessary to save the country?
Unhitching Muslims from the social evolution of humanity, as Islam has done, does not, of course, mean that Muslims magically cease to be human. Their needs, desires and passions do not disappear just because they’ve been commanded to no longer have them. Muslims are commanded to “Fight against those who… forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden,” (Qur’an 9:29). For fourteen hundred years, Muslims have accommodated their very human needs, desires and passions through an elaborate system of hypocrisy, of looking the other way, of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and of never talking about it. It is a system of intricate norms and protocols, understood by all but acknowledged by none, that allows the Muslim to address his needs, desires and passions, and, away from prying eyes, to be human. Muslim hypocrisy is covert latitude given by all to all so they can function day to day, so society can function. It is the invisible mortar that allows Islamic society to be a society. The alternative is ISIS.
Any society constructed and run strictly according to the Qur’an and the hadith, i.e., without the necessary hypocrisy to get around what Allah has forbidden, will inevitably self-destruct through dysfunctional chaos, whether it takes four years, as in the case of ISIS, or forty years, as in the case of Iran (the latter’s relative longevity coming down, in part, to the extent to which the Qur’an and the hadith are not adhered to, and in part through the self-serving interest of some Western governments).
It is not just that Islam is incompatible with Western society; it is incompatible with all society, including Islamic society, for the simple reason that all societies are composed of humans, and Islam requires humans to be what humans are not. For Muslims, response to the coronavirus is either appropriate for Muslims (consistent with Islam) or inappropriate for Muslims (consistent with humanity). A great many Muslims will remain consistent with Islam, and risk ceasing to be human altogether, i.e., dying, rather than saving their human selves and risk ceasing to be Muslim, i.e., sinning, blaspheming, or even apostatising.
The Muslim’s CoVID-19 conundrum comes at a time when Islam is under siege both from critics and from apostates. It remains an open question how many Muslims in the Dar al-Islam will prefer dead Muslim over living human. One might justifiably guess that the numbers will not be insubstantial; although indications are that the choice is an increasingly fraught one. The coronavirus has forced the contradiction between Islam and humanity into the open. It is the ultimate irony that the epicentre of this rupture should be the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The author is an ex-Muslim British atheist, was raised as a Muslim in Africa