The Dilemma of Muslims
07 Jul, 2006
Muslims believe that the world is witnessing a significant phase of Islamic awakening (sahwa) after centuries of hibernation. Judging from what I hear and read, the vast majority of Muslims believe this wave of Islamic awakening is unstoppable and will continue to go from strength to strength until the word of Allah, that is, Islam is victorious with the complete annihilation of all other religions. The main reason for their belief comes from the Quran and ahadith, which promise Muslims with such victory towards the end of time (al qiyama,). The exact time of Al qiyama (or the hour) is a top secret, known only to Allah, but the majority of Muslims know that it cannot be very far because Allah has already given some signs that will help Muslims to tell that time is running out. Those signs of the hour are not the subject of this essay, but many Muslims believe they can see some of them in our time, which means the days of the infidels are just numbered. Another reason which makes Muslims believe in their imminent victory comes from the observation that Islam now exists almost everywhere in the world even in remote countries where people never embraced Islam before.
I personally accept that we live during a phase of strong Islamic awakening, but I also believe that Islam is currently facing what could be its most serious challenge. Indeed, this phase of awakening could only be the one that precedes death.
The natural habitat of Islam is darkness. These are: the darkness of ignorance, illiteracy and one-way indoctrination. Keep it in its natural habitat and Islam will thrive well and survive for thousands of years. But once exposed to the light of free and critical discussion it gets agitated and violent and demonstrates all signs of distress. The current age of the Internet is simply that light which shines on this ideology and it may bring about its complete disintegration. Islamic existence in the West is not all-good news for Muslims; now the West asks questions which Muslims never had to answer before.
Faced with this new culture of questioning every thing, an increasing number of Muslims find they are looking at Islam from a different angle and see an ugly and barbaric aspect of their religion. They are now uncomfortable with many traditional but authentic Islamic teachings. But their instinct is to cling to their religion (because other options are unthinkable in a Muslim’s mind) and try to deny or justify what they don’t like. In their frantic attempt to find a way out of this dilemma, some Muslims literally try to re-invent Islam; they go to the extremes to polish their rough religion to make it palatable to their own minds.
Just to demonstrate how far some Muslims are prepared to go to cover up Islamic blunders, let me refer to an Article published recently in a London based Arabic newspaper of wide circulation. The lady writer of this article was commenting on the Quranic verse Q.3: 14
(Arabic: zuyyna li nnassi hubbul shahawati mina al nissaai ….)
YUSUFALI Q3:14: Fair in the eyes of men (Allah said mankind) is the love of things they covet: Women and sons; Heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world's life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals. (The emphasis is mine)
The verse is about human desires; the first of those desires is women. It seems that Allah has revealed this verse in a hurry and did not notice that women are actually part of mankind. The Arabic word nass means people or mankind, which obviously includes women, it never had another meaning.
The columnist apparently belongs to those moderate Muslims who like to be seen as open-minded and a freethinker. Just like other freethinkers she believes that Islam is a forward-looking religion but misunderstood one and that all-human values are embedded in it. She doesn’t want to believe that Allah doesn’t even consider her as a part of mankind but puts her in a class with animals. The above particular verse has an obvious and clear meaning that few Arab readers would bother to look at its interpretation (tafseer). But this writer came up with her interpretation, rejecting the obvious meaning of the verse, which is repeated in all available tafseer books. She says that Allah could never mean to treat women like that. Then she went deep into the Arabic language and claimed that the Arabic word nissa (which means women) could have been derived from a word that means behind or late. She picked the word late and eureka! This is what Allah meant in this verse: He meant to say the latest or fashion! Apparently, Allah was talking about the latest fashion in clothes and furniture for the last 1400 years and nobody understood Him!
Even though Allah himself had confirmed in the Quran, not once but several times, the fact that He treats her as a man’s possession, this woman couldn’t come to terms with her instinct. She is desperate to protect her mental image, which she had developed over the years that a civilized Allah is fully aware of women’s rights. What is striking though is why she is picking on this lone verse when there are so many others which refer to women as secondary to men.
Those who read the Quran get a feeling that it is a book ‘revealed’ only to men. Women are only mentioned when they concern men, just like their other possessions. In the Quran, Allah doesn’t speak to women directly; He only speaks to men even in those matters that are of serious concern to women.
When Allah explained which women relations a man can or cannot marry, he spoke to men. When He explained about polygamy or divorce, he spoke to men. When He wanted to explain the sexual positions allowed in Islam, He explained them to men. Read this (again the emphasis is mine. Yusuf Ali and other translators try hard to make some verses more appealing to the English reader):
YUSUFALI: Q.2: 223 Your wives (Allah said women) are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will…
All tafseers I had read for this verse say: ‘men are allowed to have sex with their women in any position they (the men) like, standing, sitting, on the side, without mentioning what women like.
When Allah explained how to prepare for prayers (tuhur and wuddu) He explained it to men. Read this (Yusuf Ali)
Q.2: 43 O …..If ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. ….
Q4: 6. ….. if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, …..
The above lady writer probably did not read Mohammed saying that women are deficient in brain and religion. She will have to work harder to explain why, according to Mohammed, the majority of women will go to hell. The chances are that this lady will end up in hell just because she is a woman. Even if she happened to be one of the few women who make it to paradise she will probably reside in the hell side of that paradise. The Quran doesn’t promise women much in paradise; they will probably spend their time, bored in their houses just like they do in this life. Their desires, which have been completely neglected in this life, will also be neglected in the next.
The beauty of the Quran
There is an increasing number of Muslims who believe only in the Quran, they are called Quranyuoon. These Quran-only Muslims reject all ahadith and all sunna (Mohammed’s deeds) as well as early Islamic history (Mohammed’s sira) because they think they contain too much nonsense that is hard to swallow. Ahadith are narrated in various ways and repeated in various books, which leaves little room to change the meaning. Modern ‘open-minded’ Muslims can only avoid the embarrassments associated with ahadith by denying their credibility.
The beauty of the Quran is that although it is full with absurdities, it is easier to cover up by twisting the meaning in a way similar to what the above writer did. And there is no limit to what Muslims can do to excuse the Quranic blunders in language, science and history. When the Quran uses all the Arabic words that mean flat to describe the shape of earth, they say Allah meant round. When the Quran says the sky was adherent to earth until Allah split it, they say it’s a miracle that refers to the big bang! When the Quran orders men to beat their wives if they suspect disobedience, they say Allah meant beat them lightly.
Other Muslims do not go as far as to reject all ahadith and all sunna but make their careful selection and reject others. They base their selection on their own understanding which means occasionally they find themselves in trouble when they accept weak ahadith and reject more sahih (accurate) ones.
Theses groups of Muslims often claim that they thought deeply of Islam and are convinced of it, unlike the majority who inherited it. May be they thought of Islam but they were never convinced of it, and that is why they try to reinvent it. The natural response expected from a normal person who is not convinced of an ideology is to abandon it. But Muslims are denied of the luxury of responding in a natural way because of the extensive brainwash they have been subjected to since their childhood. It’s just too much for their brains to process the idea of leaving Islam, so they settle for a strange compromise which is to free themselves from the sunna and sira while at the same time they keep their faith in the Quran. They know that they will still be identified as Muslims even without the sunna and sira while at the same time they can handle the Quranic blunders using the Islamic genius invention of re-interpretation. In effect they make their own religions.
Such Muslims started thinking but they decided to stop halfway because their minds cannot cope with the inevitable conclusion that Islam is a cult. They deliberately turn a blind eye to the fact that the authenticity of the Quran itself is dependent on ahadith, sira and Islamic history. Once these are in doubt (which they are) then the narration and collection of the Quran is also in doubt and the whole Islam falls apart.
The problem for these groups of Quran-only Muslims is that they themselves are rejected by the majority of Muslims and considered by many as infidels. However their increasing numbers show that the seeds of doubts are growing in the Islamic community, although some of them just cannot pull themselves out from the circle of darkness without a helping hand. This is where the Internet’s role is crucial.
Mumin Salih is a Middle Eastern ex-Muslim.