a young pakistani doctor blogs...
Friday, June 23, 2006
  Choice
For some time now I’ve believed that a large part of why many Muslims have an exclusivist, insular bent of mind was because they believed in an interpretation of Islam that (incorrectly) stressed such a mindset. The “Understanding Islam” excerpt that I posted a couple of days ago was an eye opener for me when I first read it. My heart sang because this is what I truly believed and here was an Islamic scholar who stated the same thing. God loves all of mankind, not just the Muslims, and everyone has a fair shot of entering paradise, irrespective of his religious creed. I thought that if only more Muslims believed in this idea, tolerance and open-mindedness would quickly flourish in the Muslim world. More Muslims would aggressively reject the likes of Al-Qaeda and sectarianism would die out. Having achieved that, it would only be a matter of time when socioeconomic prosperity was ushered in.

These days however, I’m beginning to feel that I’m thinking about this backwards. It’s not because of a particular Islamic interpretation that has Muslims thinking narrow-mindedly, but rather they feel comfortable with this outlook and therefore gravitate towards a particular interpretation of Islam that allows them the luxury of this mindset.

A few hundred years ago, as the Western world rose to dominate, perhaps the Muslims gravitated towards a belief that allowed them to feel good about themselves while being subjugated by a foreign power. How many Palestinians would feel comfortable if told that the Jews had as good a chance of entering Heaven as they do? Not an awful lot, I’m sure. It’s easy to hate. Hatred is a quick-fix balm - something that serves to release the rage. It’s far more difficult to quell that anger, to remain calm and look inwards for strength to overcome what we feel is unfair subjugation. If somehow an interpretation of the Quran allows you to keep feeling that hate, then what more do the Muslims need? God Himself has spoken. We are better than they. We have something to feel good about in ourselves. I don’t think then that if more Muslims were made aware of Islam’s non-exclusivist approach that it would really make much difference. Too many of them are mired in a comfortable mindset of exclusivist hate because of the present global situation.

I think being a good Muslim is hard work. It’s about making difficult choices. It’s about taking the high road. Its about saying no to anger and hate because that is what Islam teaches us. It’s what Martin Luther King, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi all did.

Once while I was living in Peshawar, a tableeghi jamat told me a story of one of the sahabas, I think it was Umar (ra). Umar was fighting on the battle field with the leader of the opposing army. He overpowered the man and was about to kill him when the man spit in his face. Umar was enraged and got up, disengaging without striking the man again. When the man got up from the ground, he asked Umar why he didn’t kill him and Umar replied that he was furious just then at him and it would have been wrong to kill him in anger, if the larger purpose of doing God’s work was subjugated to his anger. Ironically, the tableeghi didn’t really appreciate the deeper implication of this anecdote because he went on to talk about the infidel non-Muslims and how they would all rot in hell if we didn’t save them.

It’s about choice. We can choose to live righteously, centering ourselves with worship of God, or we can choose to use flimsy interpretations of the Quran to provide an excuse for our pig-headedness. We could choose for Islam to be about a personal connection with God, and about living life with an uncompromising sense of morality, or we could choose for Islam to be some sort of secret password we need to give at the doors of Paradise. It’s far easier to believe the later, as it suits man’s base instincts, but the road to Paradise is most certainly not paved with seething anger.
 
Comments:
Assalamu Alaikum,

For one thing, there are very clear verses in the Quran that state quite bluntly that if anyone accepts a way of life ('Deen') other than Islam then it will not be accepted from him. I think the UI interpretation comes in when it is supplemented with certain Ahadith (for a fatwa he, hasn't quoted a single piece of daleel, but yes in general I like UI).

But really if everyone is going to Heaven why would I want to give Dawah (such an important tenet of our religion)? I mean, Islam is so much more difficult compared to say atheism or even Christianity. Who, in this age of speed and efficiency, would want to pray five times a day?

And what if my religion is hedonism? What if I believe that purpose in life is to attain pleasure, whatever the cost and I truly believe that? What if I'm part of a cult that believes in raping? In fact according to that interpretation all religious terrorists are destined for heaven as long as they kill well.

Frankly, it's not easy trying to understand justice when the justice we're talking about Absolute Justice. I don't have an answer unfortunately but the way I look at it is that people who have never heard of Islam or who have a distorted understanding of it will not be entering Hell (there is a hadith I think in which it is stated that these people will be sent a messenger on the Day of Judgement and there test based on how well they follow him). Those who have heard and know the truth, yet reject out of arrogance and/or selfish reasons are destined for Hell as was mentioned in the UI article as well. Then there are people who searched for the truth and didn't think that Islam was it, but their sincerity was impeccable. The way I look at it, it all boils down to how you can answer God on the Day of Judgement. And Judgement is His. Not ours. We need to concentrate on what we'll be able to answer

And Allah (AWJ) knows better.

And it was Ali (RA), not Umar (RA).
 
This was an excellent post and I agree with you!
 
"For one thing, there are very clear verses in the Quran that state quite bluntly that if anyone accepts a way of life ('Deen') other than Islam then it will not be accepted from him."

All verses need to be looked at in their context. The excerpt that I quoted said that anyone during the prophet's time who knowingly rejected the truth and practised a different religion would go to hell. The prophet was there to achieve itmam-ul-hujjah, the state where all doubts are removed about the veracity of his message. It is these people the Quran is referring to.

"I mean, Islam is so much more difficult compared to say atheism or even Christianity. Who, in this age of speed and efficiency, would want to pray five times a day?"

All religions are supposed to give us a framework within which we can reach God. I believe Islam, when practised correctly, gives us a perfect framework. It offers the best spirituality we can possibly hope to attain. That in itself would be a reason to want to promote Islam (although not in the passive-aggressive way the tableeghis are doing it).

If someone thinks praying 5 times a day is difficult, then he's probably not praying right or he's probably not genuinely interested in wanting to enhance his spirituality. It about choice after all. Free will is the power to choose one path from another knowing fully well what you're choosing. You can choose to lose yourself entirely in this world or you can choose to make a concerted effort to get closer to God.

If on the other hand, Islam is not about God, but a huge laundry list of dos-and-don'ts, then praying 5 times a day will indeed seem like a difficult and empty effort.

"And what if my religion is hedonism?"

That's not a religion. By religion I mean path to God.

"I think the UI interpretation comes in when it is supplemented with certain Ahadith (for a fatwa he, hasn't quoted a single piece of daleel, but yes in general I like UI)."

Firstly, it wasn't a "fatwa" (which in my opinion are being churned out like candy from gumball machines these days), it was an answer to a question posed by a person who visited the UI site. Further, I provided a link to a far more detailed paper on the subject written by Khalid Zaheer. You can check that out.
 
"although not in the passive-aggressive way the tableeghis are doing it)."

Then you have probably not met the right people. Muslims are not always the best examples of how Islam should be practised. Similarly, the actions/words of those particular tablighis you came across might not be respresentative of the tablighi jamat. Before ignorantly bashing something, I suggest that you carefully study it.

http://www.islam.tc/ask-imam/view.php?q=5924


Refer to this article for a clear and concise understanding of the tablighi jamat.

It is not involved in any ghyr-shar'ai, forbidden or even makrouh activity. On the contrary, it is practising a sunnah of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h), i.e Dawah. The only reason we're Muslims today is because the Holy Prophet sent his sahabah all over the world to spread the word of Deen. Their graves located in different parts of the world are an evidence to this. As far as their technique is concerned, that is composed by ulema. But in its essence it conforms with the teachings of quran and sunnah. Thousands and thousands of people; both Muslims and non-muslims have reverted back to Islam by this mode of dawah. If their method of dawah was colossally wrong or even slightly misleading then so many people who have been out in jamats would not be seeing the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) in their dreams giving them his blessings. My own mother saw a similar dream, so this is not a rumour.
 
"Before ignorantly bashing something, I suggest that you carefully study it."

ha ha... what an excellent example of passive-aggressiveness.

I'm not "ignorantly bashing" it. I'm not bashing it at all. I'm not anti-tableegh. I don't agree with some of their beliefs but have no problem with them otherwise. I don't agree with many Christian beliefs, but don't have a problem when them either.

I lived in Peshawar for 6 years. There is an enormous tableeghi presence over there. For a time I seriously considered joining the tableegh myself and earnestly studied their ideology. I went to an ijtimah, I would regularly sit with them in their gatherings, and I read most of Fadalay-amal. I know what the tableeghis believe, I took a keen interest in them during my time in Peshawar. I just didn't agree with some basic assumptions of theirs so I decided it wasn't for me.

I've seen the prophet in a dream as well, but I don't believe it has any significance. The understanding-islam site answered a question pertaining to this and I happen to agree with the reasoning of their answer, the link to which is:
http://www.understanding-islam.org/related/text.asp?type=question&qid=57&sscatid=71
 
Salam from Manchester to Islamabad,

you have already explained it very well, the Qur'an needs to be read in context. If one follows this rule, it becomes fairly clear that paradise is not only for us, but for the righteous. Furthermore there are no obstacles to happy and fruitful interfaith friendships, which we so urgently need in this day and age.

May Allah bless you.
 
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Recent med school graduate from Peshawar, Pakistan. Started blogging when in throes of final year exams. Currently studying for USMLE Step 1. Aiming for the 2008 Match. I blog about my studies, my worries, and my thoughts on life. I live in Islamabad.

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Aya's Randomness
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Crow's Nest
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