In my many searches for wrong-headed notions of Islam, I’m just as often disappointed by Muslims as I am by incredibly bigoted fools like Daniel Pipes and his acolytes. One recent example is an article on an Islamic website I found via a Google ad.
As is routine with Muslims explaining the faith to non-Muslims, the article begins with the contention that “becoming a Muslim is a simple and easy process.” It then goes on to describe a process that is not simple or easy. And, even more pernicious, they lay the groundwork for radical ideologies that come from their rigid worldview.
The article’s very first quote from the Qur’an, for example, is presented in a way that leads directly to intolerance, which is the very opposite of Islam’s intent. Here is what the article says:
“…The only religion in the sight of God is Islam…” (Quran 3:19) In another verse of the Holy Quran, God states: “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter, he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (their selves in the Hellfire).” (Quran 3:85)
This, of course, paints a picture of Islam as stunningly intolerant, just like the people who espouse this view of the faith. To believe the way they do, they have to ignore several facts that render their interpretations contrary not just to the spirit of the religion, but also to its letter.
- The very word “Islam” means “submission,” so when God tells people that no other religion will be accepted, it does not mean one must adhere to the narrow prescription for “proper Islamic” practice demanded by the Wahabbis of Arabia or the Taliban of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It means that worship of God alone and submission to his laws. And what does THAT mean? On to the next point…
- The Qur’an specifically states in several places that Christians, Jews, and others have been given the word of God, and as long as they aren’t making stuff up that clearly contradicts God’s law, they’re are on the right track. In fact, God specifically tells Muslims to not bother Jews and Christians (“People of the Book” in the Qur’an), and if Muslims discuss religion with them, to do so “in the best way.”
The next problem with the article is that it conflates the word of God, as noted in the Qur’an, with the words of mankind, called the Hadeeth. In fact, right after the Qur’anic quote about people being lost in the hereafter (and you’ll notice that the translators added their own flourish about hellfire that isn’t in the original), the article makes a telling revelation:
In another saying, Muhammad, the Prophet of God, said: [the article goes on to cite a Hadeeth, or a "saying" of the Prophet Muhammad]
So in other words, the article exposes the view of many faithful: the alleged sayings of the Prophet (which were compiled over hundreds of years and may or may not be accurate) are on par with the word of God as contained in the Qur’an. This is a trend that, in my opinion, has led to the ruination of Islam as a faith of tolerance, respect, charity, and peace. These Hadeeth, or “sayings” of the Prophet, have been used over the centuries to justify damn near anything you can think of. Anyone with an ax to grind could make up a Hadeeth, claim it can be traced back to the Prophet, and voila, their preferred worldview just became legitimized by God and his messenger, even if it directly contradicts the words in the Qur’an.
The sad situation of women in conservative Islamic countries is a prime example of this: honor killings, prohibitions against driving, depriving them of the right to marry or divorce whomever they want… women’s rights were enshrined in Islam over 1,400 years ago, and yet still today there are cultural throwbacks who prevent these rights from being implemented.
For anyone seriously interested in Islam, these websites are no help. Ignore these intermediaries who will “teach” you how to be a “good Muslim.” The whole notion behind Islam is that there are no intermediaries between mankind and their God. Read the Qur’an and decide for yourself how to apply its lessons in your life. Learn the context in which the Qur’an was revealed, to see the social problems it was addressing at the time, and then let those lessons guide you. For example, if it says you should free a slave to repent for a wrongdoing, figure out what that means in today’s terms. If it says women should be beaten, then for God’s sake get a translation that accounts for the fact that such a prescription is wrong. You get the idea?