Leaving Islam



Yes, study the Quran! 

A response to Mr. Daniel Pipes


By: Ali Sina

In an article titled “Study The Koran?”, Mr. Daniel Pipes, a historian and director of the Middle East Forum, states that to understand the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism one should not read the Quran. “Instead of the Koran,” Mr. Pipes urges “anyone wanting to study militant Islam and the violence it inspires to understand such phenomena as the Wahhabi movement, the Khomeini revolution, and Al-Qaeda.” He adds, “Muslim history, not Islamic theology, explains how we got here and hints at what might come next.”

To reject the claim that the Quran is responsible for the rise of Islamic terrorism Mr. Pipes asks: “If the Koran causes terrorism, then how does one explain the 1960s, when militant Islamic violence barely existed? The Koran was the same text then as now.”

He also goes on to remind his readers “Muslims have read the Koran differently over time. The admonishment for female modesty meant one thing to Egyptian feminists in the 1920s and another to their descendants today. Then, head coverings represented oppression and exclusion from public life. Today, in the words of a British newspaper headline, ‘Veiled is beautiful.’ Then, the head-covering signaled a woman not being a full human being; now, in the words of an editor at a fashion magazine, head-covering "tells you, you're a woman. … 'You have to be treated as an independent mind.’ Reading the Koran in isolation misses this unpredictable evolution.”

With all the respect that I have for Mr. Pipes I beg to disagree with him on this issue. It is true that forty years ago Militant Islam was not very common. The reason is that at that time Muslims were not very religious. A person can be a Muslim by name but not practice it. During the sixties, most Muslims were Muslims by name. Few went to the mosques. They were more interested in modernization. Wearing veil was deemed as backward thinking. The youth were interested in western culture and as unbelievable as it may sound today the same women who later wore the chador and shouted after Khomeini, death to America, used to wear mini skirts just a few years earlier, listened to the beats of the Beatles and rocked and rolled with Elvis.  

This liberation did not happen by reinterpreting the Quran. It happened because prior to that, during the twenties, Muslim world gave birth to men such as Atta Turk and Reza Shah who banned the veil, jailed the trouble making and hardliner Mullahs and forced secularization on their respective countries, (Turkey and Iran) challenging and undermining the nefarious influence of Islam in all spheres of the society and at all cost.

Great thinkers emerged that openly challenged the Sharia and blew new breath of secularism and modernism into the ailing body of the Ummah (Muslims). Sheikh Ali Abdul Raziq, an Egyptian scholar confined Islam to spiritual functions and tried to free mundane matters from strict religious or priestly hold. Dr. Taha Hussain, a leading Egyptian scholar, rejected the theory that the political system of early Islam was prescribed by God through His revelation to the Prophet. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a prominent Indian scholar, argued that the Quran did not demand of the follower of any religion that he should accept some new religion. It demanded of every single religious group that it should stick to the real teachings of its religion, shorn of all perversions and interpolations. Asaf Ali Fyzee, an Indian Moslem thinker, agreed with Abul Kalam Azad that the object of religion was service of humanity and that a static law was unsuitable to a progressive society. In Iran the scholar Ahmad Kasravi denounced Islam and called it the main cause of ignorance and backwardness of the people. He called for modernizing of the country through secularization. At the same time Ali Dashti published his book on the prophetic career of Muhammad revealing the fact the he was not a prophet but an ordinary man with little or no virtues and knowledge worthy to be followed. A few decades before them, the Iranian Mirza Agha Khan Kermani openly stated that Islam was good for “barefooted desert-dwelling camel-herding lizard-eating bloodthirsty savages of Arabia and not for people who were the architects of great civilizations such as the Iranians.”  

If in the early half of the twentieth century the militant Islam was almost non-existent, it was not because Islam was interpreted such as to become tolerant and progressive. It was because Islam was attacked and undermined.  During those days Muslims prospered and Islamic countries modernized because Islam was not taken into equation.

I agree that one has to read the history to understand the Islamic violence. However I can’t agree with Mr. Pipes when he says that only Muslim history, not Islamic theology, explains how we got here.” 

The Islamic violence is a direct result of the Islamic theology. It is naïve to believe the Wahhabi movement, the Khomeini revolution, and Al-Qaeda have nothing to do with the hatemongering teachings of the Quran. History, also includes the history of Muhammad and his terrorizing wars.  

I agree with Mr. Pipes that the Quran is a confused book, that many verses are abrogated and one has to have a sound knowledge of sha’ne nozool (context) to understand that book. However learned Muslims such as the Mullahs do have that knowledge and they know all the so called soft teachings of the Quran that were “revealed” when Muhammad was weak are abrogated. And the valid teachings are those that were "revealed" later, those that call for the murder of the disbelievers (9:123), not befriending with Jews and Christians (5:51), subduing them until they pay the Jizya (9:29), regarding them as najis (filthy, untouchable, impure) (9:28) and so on. 

In brief, Quran is a violent book. The message of the Quran is a message of hate. This message is very clear and loud. It is inevitable that those who believe in the Quran and follow it be filled with hatred of those who do not believe in it. It is absurd to think that the hate inspiring teachings of the Quran have no relevance in the rise of the militant Islam.  All one has to do is to listen to the sermons given in the mosques to see the kind of hate that is being taught there and where is the source of that hate. Yes, study the Quran to see where militant Islam takes its lessons. 

It is possible to veer Islamic world towards moderation again. This can happen ONLY if Islam is weakened. Quran need not be reinterpreted, it must be denounced, scrapped and rejected. Scholars and politicians in Islamic countries must join force and challenge the authority of the Quran, the infallibility of its author and the legitimacy of his claim. They must secularize Islamic countries and stand strong against the Islamists. Islam must be attacked both on political and ideological grounds. It is insane that a billion people follow an insane man of the 7th century. It is insane that the rest of humanity go along with that. This insanity is bringing our world to the brink of destruction. Only when the belief in Islam is weakened, Muslims will turn towards moderation and modernization. With Islam and Sharia in the way, the only future awaiting Muslims is more bigotry, more poverty and more violence. And the only future awaiting the rest of mankind is more terror and more war.    


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