Point the First:
The central problem of the democracy in Iraq is Islam. Islam has always had a political and social character, including a full program for government. In fact, the first year of the Islamic calendar does not mark the birth of dead of Muhammad, of the beginning of his prophetic ministry. It marks Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina, where he became a political and military leader and Islam became a state.
(Robert Spencer. Religion of Peace? Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2007, p. 165.)
This is most forcefully demonstrated by the fact that after Muhammad’s flight, Muhammad revelations take on a vastly more political tone (almost to the point of legal minutiae) and a much more intolerant tone (as, being the indisputed leader, he no longer had to tolerate or appease anyone).
Point the Second:
And of course there is no shortage of people who insist that Islam not only does not forbid, but in fact also actively fosters democracy. Abdulwahab Alkebsi of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, for instance, has declared that the essentials of democracy are “consistent with Islam’s clarion call for justice, equality, and human dignity. . . . According to the Qur’an, one of the explicit purposes of God’s messengers is to offer mankind liberty, justice, and equality.” Islam, he said, “lays the ground for the values of freedom, justice, and equality that are essential to democracy, more so than any other religion or dogma.” [Reference omitted.]
Not only as much as any other religion or dogma, but more so. Can this really be true? Iranian journalist Amir Taheri thinks not. Arguing in favor of the proposition that Islam is incompatible with democracy during a debate in 2004, he directly contradicted the assertions D’Souza would make three years later: “There are fifty-seven nations in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Not one is yet a democracy. The more Islamic the regime in place the less democratic it is.” He concluded, “Islam is incompatible with democracy.” [Reference omitted]
(Robert Spencer. Religion of Peace? Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2007, p. 166.)
Subpoint the First, explaining Spencer’s reference to D’Souza:
So can Islamic countries be democratic? Some commentators think so. Dinesh D’Souza scolded conservatives in 2007 for “holding silly seminars on whether Islam is compatible with democracy. In reality, a majority of the world’s Muslims today live under democratic governments–in Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Turkey, not to mention Muslims living in Western countries. There is nothing in the Koran or the Islamic tradition that forbids democracy.” [Reference omitted.]
(Robert Spencer. Religion of Peace? Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2007, p. 166.)
I am glad Spencer called D’Souza out. I am still absolutely confused why D’Souza would turn on us and support our enemies.
Point the Third:
The fundamental problem, according to Taheri, is Islam’s rejection of the idea that all people have equal dignity, a Christian idea that was central to abolishing slavery. But in Islam, it’s a very different story. The very idea of equality, Taheri declared, “is unacceptable to Islam.”
(Robert Spencer. Religion of Peace? Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2007, p. 166.)
Allow me to share an anecdote. Read the rest of this entry »
The first in a series of posts about the fundamentals of Islam, both as they exist ideally and theoretically and as they exist in reality, including variations among sects of Islam, and including consequences of the beliefs therefrom and of differences with other Muslims.
The first fundamental of Islam is the testification or proclamation or witnessing or confessing of the Islamic faith. This is known as (شهادة, shahādah).
The shahādah consists of two units; the shahādah exists in two forms: one form that is explicitly a testification (“I testify that…”) and another form that is more of a proclamation. Read the rest of this entry »
In the face of tragedy, we seek answers. Like Job, we feel justified in going directly to The Source and asking why He has done what He has done. Like Job, people will bring up divine justice and providence: those who suffer are being punished by God for their sins. But, like Job, we know that this is not true. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people — the Psalms have many such laments — and so it cannot be because of divine punishment. Job did not sin; to put it bluntly, he was given to suffering for no reason. One might say that in Job’s case, as in the case of many people, one’s righteousness is the source of one’s suffering as one is persecuted by the wicked, as one is further tested by God, as one lags behind while bad people take short cuts to success.
Okay. Let’s turn to a new page. Most people know the story of Job. Read the rest of this entry »
From the second reading of the Office of Readings for Thursday in the Third Week of Lent, being an excerpt from “On Prayer” by Tertullian, priest.
We are true worshipers and true priests. We pray in spirit, and so offer in spirit the sacrifice of prayer. Prayer is an offering that belongs to God and is acceptable to him: it is the offering he has asked for, the offering he planned as his own.
We must dedicate this offering with our whole heart, we must fatten it in faith, tend it by truth, keep it unblemished through innocence and clean through chastity, and crown it with love. We must escort it to the altar of God in a procession of good works to the sound of psalms and hymns. Then it will gain for us all that we ask of God.
The Liturgy of the Hours. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 1976, volume II, page 249.
I came across an interesting passage from Isaiah (Isaiah 33:14-15) in the canticle for today’s Morning Prayer. According to KJV (emphasis added):
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil
The official translation for The Liturgy of the Hours has it (again, emphasis added):
On Zion sinners are in dread, trembling grips the impious; “Who of us can live with the consuming fire? Who of us can live with the everlasting flames?” He who practices virtue and speaks honestly, who spurns what is gained by oppression, brushing his hands free of contact with a bribe, stopping his ears lest he hear of bloodshed, closing his eyes lest he look on evil.
(The Liturgy of the Hours. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 1976, volume II, p. 1424.)
This is sort of confusing. Why is it good to stop one’s ears from hearing of bloodshed? Are we not obligated to hear of bloodshed so that we can boldly speak up on behalf of victims of violence, so that we can admonish the oppressor and, if need be, end the oppressor’s evil acts? Isn’t stopping our ears to ignore such acts? It seems almost the opposite: ignoring news of bloodshed makes us shirk our responsibilities to defend the weak and oppressed.
I have often wondered what is meant by fearing God. The obvious meaning seems to be afraid of God. But if God is our Father, and He seeks to be close to us, how can He demand we be afraid of Him?
In the second reading of today’s Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours, Saint Hilary gives us one interpretation of what “fear of the Lord” may be referring to (italics in the original):
But of the fear of the Lord this is what is written: Come, my children, listen to me, I shall teach you the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord has then to be learned because it can be taught. It does not lie in terror, but in something that can be taught, it does arise from the fearfulness of our nature; it has to be acquired by obedience to the commandments, by holiness of life and by knowledge of the truth.
As such, perhaps fearing the Lord is a reverence towards Him that develops from cleaving close to His word and will. And so while anyone can be afraid of God, it takes a faithful one to properly fear Him.
For Thursday, March 8, anno Domini 2007, Thursday of the Second Week of Lent, Commemoration of Saint John of God, sixteenth day in Lent, fourteenth day of penitence of Lent.
I will begin by saying that I am an ardent Zionist. From the perspective of international relations, the international state system which currently prevails, World War III, and Cold War II, as an ardent American exceptionalist (please see “American exceptionalism” by Wikipedia for information on this term I just found) it only makes sense to be a Zionist.
You must have heard that term, “Zionist.” It is often used pejoratively by many peoples of the world. But it is something we ought to be familiar with, if only because of its rôle in world politics.
What Zionism is depends on which phase one is considering. In its early, initial phase, “Zionism” referred to the belief that Jews ought to establish an atonomous presence. In the beginning, a prevalent interpretation concerned itself solely with the establishment of a polity, anywhere in the world, wherein Jews could exercise autonomy. But this aspect condensed to themes that had run through Jewish liturgy, belief, theology, religion, expectations, and history for millennia: the reestablishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. Read the rest of this entry »
We towelheads were Christian long before Mo came and buggered up the Middle East. For a good time, go visit the Sufis. They always put a unique spin on Islam.
In the popular image of Islam, the Sufis1 are considered to be gentle, moderate, tolerant, spiritual Muslims in contrast to legalistic, rigid, intolerant Muslims who follow Islamic law very closely, paying no attention to spirituality. And to a degree, this may be correct. Read the rest of this entry »
I may have said this before, but we need to establish what really is going on in the world rather than being distracted by certain elements of what may be a broader, wider, larger movement.
Consider, for example, our obsession with terrorism (specifically, militant Islamist terrorism). The problem is that terrorism is part of a larger conflict: a war between The West and Islamism. (Not all Muslims are Islamists, although “true Muslims” inevitably are.) Along with terrorism, Islamism uses other techniques, some of which are even non-violent. Efforts by Islamist activists to have a special status given to Islam, Muslims, and Islam’s dictates by the governments of The West are one such strategy to bring to pass the triumph of Islam over The West. It is quite interesting (and perhaps one may say, even ironic) that the very states that stripped The Church (whether The Lutheran Church or The Church of England or The Catholic Church) of practically all of its authority and influence and clout in society, have accorded to Islam and its authorities and buildings virtual autonomy and independence. Although church tribunals would have no authority, Islamist courts have been empowered. Whereas asserting one’s Christianity has become something frowned upon, something untoward, something in bad taste, someone asserting one’s Muslim-hood has become something novel, unique, lauded, and applauded. Simply put: rather than making all inhabitants equal, many Western states have made some more equal than others. This granting of autonomy to and even special status to Muslims (meaning, Muslims following the dictates and laws of Islam as interpreted by traditionalists) is all part of Islamism’s goals to triumph over The West. And, indeed, look how they have succeeded! The very people who are ashamed of their Christian past (or even current identity) applaud those who embrace their Muslim-hood to the exclusion of everything else.
Fortunately, confidence in American culture and civilization has been resistant to this pernicious wave of anti-Westernism. But the Islamists keep trying: they keep trying to delegitimize The West, trying to prove that Islam is superior to The West and to its religions (Christianity and Judaism), trying to assert its mission as the “savior” of The West, and of course trying to make the case that The West is utterly lost and needs Islam to be saved. We Americans tend to scoff as such nonsense, for nonsense it is. It doesn’t take someone who is extraordinarily intelligent to see which of The West or the Muslim world has been successful, more true to its values, and a boon to humanity. (For those who may be blinded by some irrational propaganda, the better one is The West.) Indeed, unlike in other Western states, America has proved to be a formidable adversary to Islamism. Rather than infecting The West, The West has been slowly innoculating various segments of the Muslim world in The West against Islamism.
This all means that Islamists, whether militants or not, whether terrorists or not, will try ever the more harder to bring us down. In their world, there can only be one triumphant victor, and they are trying to ensure it is not us.
Orianna Fallaci has been warning us of this state of affairs. It is about time that we listened to her and act accordingly.
I’m going to go on a limb here and express confusion on something. (Usually I like to point out stuff I know, but this issue merits being discussed.)
It is quite easy to understand the modi operandi of states like China, Russia, The United States, and The United Kingdom. It is also easy–for those who are familiar with them–to understand the geopolitical strategies and policies (insofar as one can call them “political”) of militant and non-militant Islamists, terrorists and otherwise.
But one entity that seems to confuse many people is Iran. Now, it is important to understand the motivation, reasons, and ultimate goals of a state in order to determine why the state has such-and-such policy, how the state will implement it, and what other aspects can be expected, predicted, or considered most likely to occur.
The problem with Iran lies in our lack of reliable information close to the decision-makers. Whereas a similar lack of information exists regarding North Korea, we know what to expect from North Korea. North Korea will do what North Korea is wont to do, because that is what it has done for a long time now. The same cannot really be said about Iran. Read the rest of this entry »
In the November 12, 2006, issue of Magazine of The New York Times, letters to the editors were published which had some very good points. I present them here with some comments by me. Read the rest of this entry »
A common claim made is that religion has been the cause of the world’s worst atrocities, and that religion has had no greater negative impact than today (or in recent and/or modern history).
(I have heard many Muslims, for example, use this as part of their arguments against Christianity, saying that ever since The Crusades, Christians have been doing nothing but killing each other and killing Muslims. Or they will say so explicitly: not that religion has perpetuated such horrors against humanity but Christianity has. Nothing is said about Islam, however. By definition, anyway, Islam can commit no atrocities. Everything Islam does is justified and just and good and deserved.)
However, as far as recent and/or modern history is concerned, religion has, in fact, not been the main driving force behind violence and wars. In many cases, the driving force was greed for land. (In the era of the Conquistadores, converting to Christianity (specifically Roman Catholicism) had more to do with allegiance to and accepting the yoke of the Spanish/Portuguese crown than necessarily saving the infidels.) Read the rest of this entry »
In The West, there are a number of religious organizations/movements/denominations that strongly promote large families. Such groups believe that the first commandment of God to humanity (Adam and Eve) was to “be fruitful, and multiply.” Indeed, such it is written in the very first chapter of the Bible (in “Torah” according to Jews, in “The Old Testament” according to Christians, in the “Pentateuch” or “Five Books of Moses” or “The Law” or “The Hebrew Bible” according to both):
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth”.
The three groups amongst Judeo-Christian groups most associated with large families are Catholics, Latter-day Saints, and Orthodox Jews.
(Indeed, because of Orthodox Jews’ propensity to have large families, it may be only a matter of time before Orthodox Judaism would be the most populous form of Judaism, essentially coming to define Judaism at the expense of Reform and Conservative Judaism.) Read the rest of this entry »
Here is a post, inspired by what Robert Spencer wrote in The Truth about Muhammad, comparing justice, historically and currently, in Judaism to that in Islam.
In page 120 of his book, Spencer mentions a Hadīth. (From this point on, everything is my extrapolation.) Read the rest of this entry »
Back? Thanks. Had a fun time? I hope so.
No, that was not a joke. People actually have asked those questions. That website, Ask-Imam.com, is for real.
Muslims have traditionally asked their imams (from the Arabic إمام, imām, plural: أئمة, a’immah, “leader/leaders or guide/guides”; another word used in this regard is عالم, ‛ālim, plural: علماء, ‛ulamā’, “scholar/scholars”) questions related to Islamic law. And Islamic law has something to say about everything. Often, imams or groups will make a big deal about issues that we see as completely irrelevant or preposterous. As an example, Tablighi Jamat (Urdu: تبلیغی جماعت, tablīghī jamāt, “congregation or group for propagating” Islam) believes that it is mandatory for Muslims to wear pants that end above one’s ankle. Muslims who do not do this are in serious transgression. There’s a whole theory and reasoning behind why this ruling would be so, but I offer this example to show how seemingly trivial issues take on great importance.
From the very beginning of Islam, Muslims have been asking experts on Islamic law questions on how to implement it in certain cases. Indeed, a large number of aHādīth (أحاديث, sayings of Muhammad and other senior members of the early Muslim community) came about when someone approached another (usually Muhammad) with a certain situation and asked what one should do. The response is remembered and used as a template for further rulings on similar issues.
A World of Fatwas by Arun Shourie demonstrates how, frankly, ridiculous this situation can become. People ask all sorts of questions, some of which are outright weird and even perverted. The author gives examples of questions related to bestiality (no, I’m not kidding), minutiae of sexual activity, dead animals in water tanks, child abuse, spousal abuse – and these are not questions related to whether it is right or wrong but rather when it happens, what is to be done.
If you want some more entertainment, go to the Ask-Imam website (which Tim Blair links to) and see what sort of questions are asked.
Some day, I’ll expand on this issue.
From a book I bought in Pakistan. It’s a small book, meant to be carried around and consulted often. It carries a variety of information for a Muslim’s daily use (prayers, supplications, other issues). Quite insightful. (This book is not the one quoted in another post.) What is somewhat frightening is that “extremist” positions are being craftily justified and supported by quoting the Qur’an and aHādīth (saying of Muhammad). The original is in Urdu. Here is a translation: Read the rest of this entry »
Found this illuminating bit in a book I recently bought. I will provide the original Urdu and my translation thereof. An interesting perspective.
ایمان اور نفاق دو الگ الگ اور متضاد راستے ہیں اگرچہ بظاہر دونوں میں کوئی فرق نظر نہیں آتا۔ اہل ایمان بھی کلمہ گو، منافق بھی کلمہ گو، اہل ایمان بھی نمازی اور روزہ دار، منافق بھی نمازی اور روزہ دار، لیکن جو چیز کھرے اور کھوٹے کو، سچ اور جھوٹ کو، ایمان اور نفاق کو ایک دوسرے سے الگ کرنے والی ہے وہ صرف جہاد ہی ہے میدان جنگ میں پہنچ کر اپنی جان اللہ کی راہ میں قربان کرنا، جہاد فی سبیل اللہ کا آخری مرحلہ ہے، لیکن اس آخری مرحلہ سے قبل کتنے ہی ایسے مراحل ہیں جن میں انسان کے ایمان کی ایک بار نہیں بلکہ سو سو بار آزمائش ہوتی ہے۔
Faith and hypocrisy are two separate and opposite paths although on the surface there doesn’t appear to be any difference between the two. The people of faith testify the faith1, hypocrites also testify the faith; the people of faith pray and fast, hypocrites also pray and fast; but the thing that separates good from bad, truth from lies, faith from hypocrisy is only jihād[;] to sacrifice one’s life in God’s path2 on the field of battle3, is the last stage of jihād in the path of God4, but before this last stage there are so many stages that a person’s faith is tested not once but hundreds of times.
1. Lit. “kalmah go” (Urdu): “one who says the kalmah,” (کلمہ, “kalmah” (Urdu)) referring to the (شهادتين, shahādatayn (Arabic)) or the two Testifications of Faith (“There is no god but God…” and so on) which must be uttered to be a Muslim.
2. Lit. “allāh kī rāh maiN” (Urdu).
3. Lit. “maidān-e jang” (Urdu).
4. Lit. “jihād fi sabīlillāh” (Arabic).
Many people would like to read the Qur’an, especially as a way to understand Islam and Muslims. Anyone who embarks on such an endeavor will come to a realization that there are hundreds of different translations to choose from. Which one ought one to read? Read the rest of this entry »
Many people focus on the martial aspect of jihad. But maybe we are ignoring the other side of the coin, as it were, with regard to jihad. Is there is a non-martial aspect to jihad?
Some Muslims say that jihad is violent is non-violent. The former is the lesser jihad, the armed attempts by Muslims to exterminate injustice, establish the supremacy of Islam, and to protect Muslims from (supposedly) external attacks (that is, attacks in self-defense). The latter is the greater jihad, which refers to internal reformation, spiritual development, faithfulness to obligations imposed by Islam, and other internal aspects. But as Dr. David B. Cook of Rice University expertly explains in his book Understanding Jihad, this is a recent innovation and has no justification in the fundamental sources of Islam at least for the impression given that this has always been how Islam believed in and practiced jihad.
But this does not mean that there may not be non-violent means to help accomplish jihad’s goals (the supremacy of Islam and establishment of a worldwide Islamic state). Could organizations like CAIR, Muslim agitation for special treatment, insistence on respecting Islam, legislation permitting Islamic ways and laws – can these also be considered to forms of non-violent warfare? A psychological and fifth-column aspect?
Then, if we focus on jihad-by-violence only, are we missing half of the problem? This has certainly got me thinking. And I think—and I could be wrong—that this threat, this jihad without force that seeks to accomplish the very thing jihadis who blow themselves up seek to accomplish, is what Oriana Fallaci may have been warning us about.
The Qur’an says: “There is no compulsion in religion” (لآ إكراه في الدين, lā ikrāha fi-d-dīn; 2:256: verse/āyah 256, chapter/sūrah 2 (sūratu-l-baqarah)). This refers to conversion: “there is no occasion for employing coercion in the matter of adopting and embracing Islam as its excellence is self-evident. This is the doctrine of toleration in Islam.” (Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi. Tafsir-ul-Quran. Lucknow, India: Academy of Islamic Research and Publications, 1981, v. I, p. 178.)
The above verse continues: (قد تبين الرشد من الغي, qa(d)-ttabayyana-r-rushdu mina-l-ghayy; ibid.), “The correct has been distinguished from the wrong.”
As such, because anyone with a brain ought to tell right from wrong, and thus choose Islam over everything else, there’s no need to convert anyone to Islam. Those who refuse to convert are actively and consciously rebelling against God.
But then the question arises: what about the use of force or compulsion after conversion? Considering the widespread use of “religious police” – such as the (مطوّعين, muTawwa‛īn, also known as the “mutaween”) of Saudi Arabia, the (بسیجی, basījī) of Iran, and similar groups in other areas – there has to be a shar‛ī (شرعي, shar‛ī, “of or pertaining to (ألشريعة, ash-sharī‛ah) or Islamic religious law”) justification for the use of force and compulsion by Muslims on other Muslims. I will have to hunt down the specific ruling or interpretation that permits this.
My point: don’t let the verse “There is no compulsion in religion” mislead one. It refers to conversion only. After conversion, all bets are off, as it were.