What type of Islam, I want?

By Bashy Quraishy: A journalist from Denmark, Secretary General – EMISCO -European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion, Chair-Advisory Council-ENAR – Brussels and Chair-Jewish Muslim Co-operation Platform – Brussels

Dear friend Munir Varraich

Thank you so much for asking this timely question. Unfortunately, after asking something, which all of the Muslims communities in 60 plus countries should be discussing, you punctured my optimistic balloon by so bombastically claiming that: Islam is modern since its first day.

Anyhow, since you have asked me, I owe you an answer, which you may or may not appreciate or even like, but here we go.

1. Let it be said once and for all that I do not believe in dividing Islam into sects and types. That is why I am against Firka bazi and terminology such as; European Islam, modern Islam or conservative Islam. During Prophet’s life and in Quran, there is no mention or discussion of Shia, Sunni, Alavi, Sufi or several dozen other denominations. Why and how – if it is correct or at all desirable – it became so is another discussion?

2. I read all kind of literature, books and texts, right from Socrates, Plato, Torah, Bagwan Gitta, Bible, Quran and Nahj Al Balagha to Goethe, Allamah Iqbal, Moudoudi, Pervaiz and anything in between. I also read modern philosophers and writers like Bulleh Shah, Khalil Geibran, Krishnamurti, Bertrand Russel, Karen Armstrong and many more. One thing, which I found and still find fascinating is the wealth of wisdom and soul nourishing material, one can find in all these great texts. Some words go straight in to my heart, while other take time to sink in. Then there are some texts; I can feel in my heart, has nothing to give me. That is why; I do not give grades or prefer one over other. I know, most Muslims would jump on this statement because for them, the world start with Islam and ends there, while I believe that knowledge has no religious or cultural monopoly. I am a follower of Holy Prophet’s sayings on learning; “Go in quest of knowledge even unto China and “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”.

3. Now the question of Islam and how Muslims should present and practice it. Since, there is no single country or empire, where Muslims live as one unit, we have to take into consideration the present socio-economic, geo-political, governing styles, religious divide and conflicts among 1.5 billion followers of Islam. It means that the wishful thinking of a Khalafat must be discarded. It would be impossible to have a collective solution, today or tomorrow. Muslims must face this reality boldly and wisely. As much as most Muslims believe or want to turn back the clock and bring the golden times of the Prophet and first four “Righteous Caliphs”. in this time and age, it is not possible for the simple reason of different times, huge populations, nature of the societies and obstacles from the powerful enemies of Islam.

4. That brings us to the topic of Muslims as individuals. We have to work on a model, which deals with an individual person, and how as a Muslim, one can deal with the very complex and present day problems and issues. This means that we need Ijtihad as a tool among Muslims, where the moral code and foundation of Islam is based on the teaching of Quran and the guidance of the Holy Prophet’s teaching and action – not political or economic – but to be a Momin, a decent and exemplary Insan. Islam does not teach its followers to remain cut off from or non-communicative with the followers of other faiths, like Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus or anyone else. The Holy Prophet interacted actively with believers of other religions and did not mind entering into contractual commitments with them.

5. Muslims have to free themselves from the established religious order, meaning that we should not follow intolerant Fatwa issuing Imams, hate preaching religious leaders, mosques, which are acting as centers of extremist ideologies as well as stop falling victim to the notion of violent Jihad. Every Muslim has his/her own responsibility to carry out an internal Jihad to purify the spirit.

In short, there should be a transparent value system among Muslims, partly because we are under a microscopic inspection by the rest of the world and partly because we need to enter the world of technology, inventions, progress and co-existence with others who are much more civilized and advanced in societal matters than us. Clinging to past history, glorifying the bygone times and referring every thing to religion is not useful for our survival.

Warm regards,

Bashy Quraishy

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Munir Varraich is a retired Commander of Pakistan Navy (1963 – 1973) and a retired diplomat (1963 -1978) from Pakistan. He landed up in Sweden after President Zia ul Haq exiled him and 54 other political prisoners to Damascus in exchange of the passengers of a hijacked PIA Flight. He is a free lance journalist now. He wrote:

Dear Bashy,

As for taking this discussion to a higher level, I have my own views about “Islam” and “Muslims”.

All revealed books taught the people of their times how to live as civilized human beings. The claim by Muslim scholars that “Islam” is “special” because it is “a complete way of life” is an error which gets developed in a society after it has reached its zenith.

It is at that stage that the revealed teaching gets sectionized from being a “complete way of life” into the “religious way of life”, controlled by the “priesthood” and the “secular way of life”. The power struggle begins. It is at that “moment in time” of “revealed teachings” that the downfall of civilizations begin. All the logic, reason and rationality in the “revealed teachings” is intentionally divorced by the priesthood and “blind faith” gets introduced to the human psyche. Built around this is the concept of “heaven” and “hell” – “Reward” and “Punishment”. The rulers use this instrument in state craft to control the ruled, the “moral” sanction is provided by the priesthood.

Over a time the civilization which had led humankind in every field of knowledge starts its “decline and fall”. And during that decline, as is the Law of Nature, the fall gains momentum. “The Blind Faith” psyche introduced by the priesthood gets stronger and stronger, until it swallows the whole of the humankind of that particular “ruling civilization”. Such a “fallen civilization” meets its “death” and try what you may that “dead civilization” cannot be revived.

The last “ruling civilization” was also built around “the revealed teaching” which is “Quran”. The “decline and fall” of that civilization started in the year 1100 AD, that is just after 500 years of the first revelation in Makkah. Within a hundred years, in 1200 AD the “declining civilization of Muslims” was met by Chengez Khan’s armies, who had claimed that “the heavens has appointed him to punish mankind”. The ruling civilization of Muslims at that point in time had bade farewell to the “logic and reason” in the teachings and had instead taken refuge in the “blind faith” concept and the belief that the Muslims are the chosen ones (an arrogance). History is a witness that Chengez Khan’s armies swept the known world with such ferocity and ruthlessness that no “religion” – whether Christianity or Islam – had the strength to face the onslaught of the “barbarians”.

The last 300 years of the “Muslim Civilization” had nothing to offer to humankind, neither at the “moral” plane nor at the “material plane”. The Law of Nature declares such a “life form” as “dead” and it gets buried by new life forms, irrespective whether it is plants, animals, human beings, nations or civilizations.

The new “life form” which emerged on the “death bed” of “Muslim civilization” had no place for “blind faith” but reverted back to the “urges” of “human nature” of “questioning” and “curiosity” of the world around, including the universe. The evolution of the “human being” pushed him to a higher stage, which required a “morality” which could cater for his evolved urges.

That is where the search of a concept of “Absolute Morality” comes in.

In this search, all religions which claim to be “revealed”, including Islam, and which over time were taken over by the “priesthood” will be rejected by human nature (humankind) because all such teachings do not have “the strength of uplifting a tottering society”. Even “new religions” like “Scientology” and the like have failed to meet the expectations of the searching “human nature”.

In such a scenario, to discuss one “religion” or another, in isolation, is an exercise in futility. What is the way out is the logical question.

Historically “superior religions” are born when any society (humankind) comes under attack. From the earliest “pagan religions” to the “new religions” of today, the cause is the same, to defend against an impending danger which could cause death not of an individual but of the human species.

The challenge today is at two levels. One is the material level which includes technology to undertake the next leap – space travels. The other level is at the “moral and spiritual” level. While away from this planet earth what morality and value system can meet the requirement of the human urges, which are bound to be different than what those have been on planet Earth.

As far as technology is concerned, the latest break through at CERN, would contribute to the material aspect of this “new religion” which is in the process of getting evolved. Then comes the abstract part of “matter”, the human thought, which has a built in tendency or a need to have a “moral code”. Every revealed religion has termed that part of the human nature as “Soul”. And it is claimed that the “soul” follows the “body” and a time comes when the “body” becomes helpless, and starts following the “soul”. That is the highest form of existence of the human being (that is the claim of all religions).

If Humankind today is taken to be as the “body”, then the “soul” of today’s human kind should follow the actions of the “body”. And, now that the “body” is about to enter the inter planetary travels, the question arises: Is the “soul” of this “body” prepared to follow? Or, is the evolution of the human species evolved enough that the “soul” of mankind can take the command of the “body”.

If such is the case then human mind is desperately searching a linkage between “body and soul” the two aspects of existence. The inter- changeability of “matter” into “non-matter” and vica versa, and which can be proved experimentally by science. Thoughts and dreams materializing into “matter” and vica versa. That evolving into a stage where the “Body” and the “soul” become interchangeable.

But if science is unable to perform this break through then science would have to come up with better instruments. Which ever “revealed religion” can contribute to meet this “challenge” will be branded as the “superior religion” because only such a breakthrough will satisfy the “basic” urge of the human animal to defend itself from this “new danger” or the “challenge” of space travels.

The “sciences” and the “principles” mentioned in all revealed religions have to be brought to the forefront and all the “superstitions” done away with. If Islam as a religion can meet this challenge, why not. But an evolved species of humans (with any brand name, Muslims, Hindus, Christians etc) such a psyche is required. And as I see it, the new species of the human being will be a combination of “religion and science” psyche. One example being Dr.Abdus Salam of Pakistan, who merged “science and morality” and talked about eleven dimensions.

Warm regards,

Munir Varraich

Categories: Europe

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