"The Ink of the Scholar is more holy than the Blood of Martyrs".
One of the largest kingdoms in the history of mankind was no less influenced by this Hadith of Prophet Mohamed. Call it false or at least bizarre â€“ the Islamic empire at its very peak was a major intellectual centre around the world - unrivalled for its dispensation of Science, Agriculture, Geography, Medicine and Philosophy.
Talk about knowledge â€“ the Islamic empire was the global citadel for learning, idealising and intellectual advancement. The â€˜Bait al Hikma', call it the â€˜house of wisdom' was based in Baghdad. A global melting place of ideas - where major knowledge around the world were gathered, taught and translated into Arabic and then later formed into Latin, Hebrew and other languages.
The classic works of Aristotle, Plato and several ancient Mesopotamian, Persian and oriental texts were made to circulate around the world through the ancient scholars of Islam. In another marked contribution of the religion as noted by Bernard Lewis, a British Oriental scholar: "the Caliphate was the first "truly universal civilization," which brought together for the first time "peoples as diverse as the Chinese, the Indians, the people of the Middle East and North Africa, black Africans, and white Europeans".
Talk about rational experiments, free thoughts and human discoveries - the Islamic world was no less than the very best in its golden era. Mathematics, Technology and Architecture were the bedrock of this once very prosperous society.
This developments and advances continued at the periods when individual Christian denominations suffered persecution at the hands of other Christians under the charge of heresy. Countless Christians were imprisoned, tortured and ostracised from society for various reasons which contradicts the position of the church (See, Gaddis Michael, 2005; Droge and Tabor, 1992; Walter Laqueur, 2006).
At the golden age of Islam â€“ where was Europe?
One recent historian writes that: while dogs and pigs still roamed the dark and muddy streets of Medieval Paris. The streets of Baghdad were paved, drained by covered sewers and illuminated while knowledge, international trade and science peaked at its very best.
A prominent French author: Seignobos in one of his works Histoire de la Civilization au Moyen Age also wrote that "there is no doubt that the Muslim and Byzantine worlds were richer, better policed, better lighted than the Western world. In the eleventh century, these two worlds began to become acquainted; the barbarous Christians came into contact with the civilized Muslims in two ways; by war and by commerce. And by contact with the Orientals the Occidentals became civilized." (The occidentals are the western peoples).
The intent here is not to draw distinctions against or between Europe, Christianity and Islam. Rather â€“ the focal point is to illuminate some dark alleys of history - perhaps to remind the reader that Islam is not the stupid, bigoted and unreasonable religion as has been misconstrued in modern social and religious discourse.
In practice and in theory â€“ the same Islam which peaked at it's the very best in its golden age some 600 years ago is still the same today. Albeit, a political Islam which carries the baggage of individual sentiments, egotistical culture and often times, immoral ideologies.
The problem therefore is not that of Islam, its concept, ideology or its main principles. The problem is that of contemporary Muslims and their gradual shift from the fundamental principles of Islam. But not only is Islam to blame for its problems today. The fallacious propagandists also carry a huge baggage of fault
Before deconstructing the two which in my view has led to another decade of Islamophobia â€“ one must admit that the first problem is the internal baggage of Islam and only Islam within itself can find a realistic solution. However, for the second we'll attend to it in full circle.
On the first â€“ there has evidently been an attempt by contemporary Muslims to preserve the way of life in which the early people lived when the religion was officially introduced and that is an issue which has often resulted in cultural clash especially between Muslims and the West. From the perspective of one Avid Muslim Blogger, "the problem is that Muslims hold strong to their values, their work of life, their aims in life and keeps out many new progressive information and lifestyles that now fully exists in the rest of the World, because the new religion, and ways of life they found seemed to have found them at a better status of having a peaceful life.".
While one cannot but agree with the thoughts of this commentator â€“ one apparent fact is that the problem transcends his conceptualization. Call it political, western or moral â€“ many of today's Muslims exist under huge pressures which has pushed many to the brink of abandonment. No not an outright abandonment of the religion, but that of its inherent fundamental principles.
Peruse the chapters of the Quran â€“ the, principles, values, virtues and ethics of a Muslim are clearly spelt.
From the enjoinment of Generosity and Wisdom, Righteousness to Good Speech, Tolerance and contentment, a Muslim cannot be made without possessing many of these virtues, so preaches the Quran. But where has tolerance and many of these virtues gone amongst many Muslims?
Many would rather seek vengeance in the face of slight oppression, even when the Quran preaches patience and forgiveness.
Ideologically, a Muslim must live under the following fundamental precepts.
Knowledge backed with proofs and evidence
Acting upon it
Calling people to it &
Being patient when faced with affliction
Sadly, the dogmatic and uninformed order of Muslim apologetics today reflects not an iota of these principles.
Another major problem of the Muslims is that they often misplace their priorities. Many leave their home countries where they can practice their religion unhindered and travel to the west and other countries around the world where secularism and other belief system is the order. This Muslims instead of minding their own business, still go on to challenge the status quo in their new society where it is not tenable to their own religion. While this may not necessarily be an issue, what makes the matter worse is that many use violence and terrorism to convey their discontents.
In academia, there are increasing conjectures, assumptions and hypothesis which seek to understand and theorize some of the inherent causes of terrorism. An example is the theory of ruthlessness which argues that terrorism emerges as a result of "modern society", being "too stressful and uncreative" and a result of problem with oneself. But I do not necessarily agree with many of these theories as many of my readers will also do. In fact, many who are not Muslims will argue that terrorism is what Islam preaches in the Quran and that is exactly what its adherents are doing irrespective of what any conjured theory would say.
Before attending to that, it is pertinent to assert that the Muslim countries of today are too weak and are part of the problems faced by contemporary Islam.
The weakness being that they don't honestly follow the real principles of the religion which they overtly profess to practice.
We know of many Muslim countries like Bangladesh, Sudan, Yemen, and the rest where education and human right is at its very low. In Saudi Arabia for example â€“ less than 60% of children attend school and are not under compulsion to do. While things may be gradually changing in Saudi Arabia of today - emphasis is still rather placed on religious education rather than the knowledge of science, engineering, philosophy, etc which are the golden rules of Islam.
Prophet Mohamed once said that ignorance is humanity's greatest poverty, that a mind without education is like a brave man without arms, and that knowledge brings people -- irrespective of gender, age, race or religion -- into the highest rank of human accomplishment. Would anyone say that Saudi Arabia or Lebanon, or Yemen is driven by knowledge today?
By perusing the chapters of the Quran one would also note that there are couple of verses where Muslims are ordered for example to attack and if possible lay ambush and main others. But unfortunately this verses as many apologetics have often interpreted is not commanding Muslims in whatsoever manner to attack anyone or force themselves against others.
I would come to that in the second problem but one must admit that some of these verses are taken out of contexts by mischievous Muslims often to suit their own ideological sentiments.
The second problem is the ganging up against Islam by those who wilfully and ignorantly misconstrue the principles, ideologies and fundamentals of the religion. The fallacious propagandists are well supported by Academia, Media and in the internet age of today, false and weak pundits on the idea behind Islam.
Many opponents or haters of Islam have recently propounded the argument that "People from the country of Islam do not build things, they simply blow them up".
One author had recently written that: "Actions speak louder than words." If the nature of Islam is not sufficiently clear from the words of the Koran, its nature should be abundantly clear from the shocking, outrageous crimes of violence, brutality and mass murder that its adherents are perpetrating against non-Muslims all over the world".
To express the depth at which Islam is in the bad books of the author as well as many - he further wrote that: "the Koran is a harsh, cruel, uncompassionate book and Islam is a product of that book". He continued "the Koran tolerates no other religion but Islam. All other religions are false and evil. According to the Koranic outlook, the only good and righteous government is an Islamic government and all other governments are evil and should be overthrown".
Before coming to expose the absurdity, fallacy and misapprehension of such ill notions about Islam â€“ it is pertinent to again look at some of the craziest and the most bizarre acts of terrorism, violence and mass murder in the history of mankind.
But where do we begin?
In history, we know of the Cham group who were wiped out through complete genocide and ethnic cleansing by the Vietnamese during the 1471 Vietnamese invasion of Champa. The Vietnamese ransacked and burnt down Champa, slaughtering thousands of Cham people, and forcibly assimilating them into Vietnamese culture. Was this perpetuated by Islam?
In Argentina, Julio Argentino Roca in 1870s in his military campaign called: the Conquest of the Desert - dominated over the land and people of Patagonia and killed thousands of people in what historians have also described as ethic cleansing. This was not a brutal act of Muslims. Was it?
In another mass genocide attempt, the French author Reynald Secher (1986) wrote in his work titled: A French Genocide: how the actions of the French government during the revolt in the VendÃ©e (1793â€“1796), during the French Revolution, was the first modern genocide. This has no Islamic affiliation does it?
In a different case of mass murder â€“ history has it that in the country called Namibia today â€“ nearly 100,000 Herero people were killed alongside the Nama ethnic group in what was known as an organized state murder between 1904 and 1907. A UN report reveals that 80% of the total Herero population and 50 % of the total Nama population were killed in a brutal scorched earth campaign led by German General Lothar von Trotha. Where was Islam?
What about the very popular transatlantic slave trade which lasted between the 16th to the 19th centuries. During this period, record has it that over 7 million Africans were forcefully taken abroad against their wills. Thousands who resisted were maimed, killed and fed to the Monster Sharks in the Atlantic seas and the Pacific Ocean. Before being taken abroad, African ancestors were padlocked on their lips, chained with heavy ship anchors on their legs, arms and their necks.
As noted by William Wells Brown â€“ the Son of a White plantation owner. "Slave-owners in Virginia smoked slaves. This involved whipping them and putting them in a tobacco smoke-house".
Slaves were also used to various horrors and inhumane punishments by the Americans and their British masters during the slave trade era. The son of one slave owner recounted the experience that "nails were driven into a hogshead so as to leave the point of the nail just protruding in the inside of the cask. Into this, slave masters used to put his slaves for punishment, and roll them down a very long and steep hill."
For the whole entire two millennia of active slave trade, the horror, pain and disaster that attended millions of African families cannot be explained in plain words. 200 years after, Africans are still suffering from this irreparable loss. Where was Islam?
Just down memory lane â€“ let's talk about the brutality of Nazi's. It is no news that over 6 million Jews were exterminated in what was known as one of the crudest holocaust in modern history. In the Nazi horror, hostages were murdered publicly in broad day lights; there was starvation, terror bombing, and reprisal raids. According to Rummel (1990), "the Nazis murdered nearly 31 million people, most likely 20,946,000 men, women, handicapped, aged, sick, prisoners of war, forced labourers, camp inmates, critics, homosexuals, Jews, Slavs, Serbs, Germans, Czechs, Italians, Poles, French, Ukrainians, and many others. Among them 1 million were children under eighteen years of age. And none of these monstrous figures even include civilian and military combat or war-deaths".
Apart from the horrors of Second World War and those listed above - there are numerous cases of war, genocide, terrorism, ethnic cleansing and all sorts of crimes which have been committed against humanity in pre-modern, medieval as well as modern history.
We know of the Rwandan Genocide between the Tutsi's and the Hutu's which claimed over 1 million innocent lives. What about the second Congolese war where over 5 million Congolese citizens were killed. One can go on and on to account for mass murders, genocides and other inhuman crimes with which Islam has no relationship in any way, but since this is not our theme of discussion, let's come back to the main issues.
These wars and conflicts have been outlined here to discredit the erroneous, misleading and forged notion that Islam is the cause of war and the road block to global peace. If these claims are true, then we must go back in time or re-write the books of history so that Islam can take all the blames of human brutality and mass murders.
No one is denying the escalating scale of terrorism and the shocking magnitude of nuisance that such acts has caused to the innocent people of the world. But what is 9/11 compared the occupation and annihilation of thousands of people who have lost their lives, homes, families and sanity since the occupation of Iraq by America and the allied forces. The website, http://www.iraqbodycount.org, accounts that about 108 thousand people have lost their lives in Iraq since the War led by the United States to oust Sadam Hussein. Would anyone argue that the war is justified? If not, then - don't the Muslims have the right to resent and fight in every way they can?
Such resentments and hatred of America and Europe is what has continued to breed all forms of terrorism, violence and hatred.
But let's go the Quran and its main verses which many have argued provide basis for terrorism activities and violence amongst Muslims today.
Quran 9: 5 - Fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them. The full verse reads:
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. If one amongst the Pagans asks thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.
This verse was particularly referring to a period when the pagans of Mecca were hostile to Muslims and conflicts ensued as a result. During this period, the Muslims entered into a four month peace treaty with the pagans to stop the war and hostilities against Muslims but â€“ the pagans still defied the peace treaty and continued the hostilities and killings against Muslims under the Muslim's territory. This was when this verse was revealed to Prophet Mohammed.
As the chapter shows - God still commanded that Muslims must respect the four month peace treaty before anything can be done. It should be noted that the verse is only meant for that period and cannot be used in any other context. In a Yusuf Alli translation of the Holy Quran, one would note the emphasis placed on the first clause: It is only when the four months of grace are past, and the other party show no sign of desisting from their treacherous design by right conduct, that the state of war supervenes - between Faith and Unfaith.
Let's look at another verse which is often used to argue that Islam is a breeding ideology for hatred and intolerance.
Quran (2:191) kill them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for persecution and oppression are worse than slaughter.
The full verse reads:
Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors. And kill them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for persecution and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, kill them. Such is the reward of those who reject faith. But if they cease, God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.
The verse like many was revealed when the Muslims who lived in Medina Saudi Arabia were constantly attacked by Medinans especially at the period when Prophet Mohammed and his companions moved from Makah to Medina and the Islamic state began to exist. They harassed and greeted the Muslims with hostilities, hatred and killings; one of such occasions was when they crucified one of Prophet Mohammed's companions (Khubaib bin Adi).
According to the American Muslim online "After migrating to Medina and the establishment of the Islamic state, Muslims were concerned with how to defend themselves against aggression from their enemies and the hostile people of Medina
The aforementioned verses were revealed to enable them to protect the newly formed state by fighting in self-defence against those who fought them. However, the Qur'an clearly prohibits aggression as well as transgression. It only allowed self defence.
But for time and space, we can go on and on to disprove and discredit each and every chapter in the Quran which many Fallacious Propagandists today have chosen to erroneously use to argue that Islam is a religion of hatred and intolerance.
The hatred and hostilities bred by these propagandists is not helping matters either.
Many throw up false claims and provide lifted chapters of the Quran entirely out of its context to convince the world that Islam is against peace. They quote the verses of the Quran literally, blindly and uninformed when such cannot be done to many ancient, classic texts.
Besides, normally under statute laws, ordinary people cannot simply interpret the laws in their own ways; there are tools for statutory interpretation and that is exactly what the Quran is.
You have to have sufficient understanding of certain rules, knowledge and tools to interpret it in the required way.
In case any one is curious why there is need for interpretation of the Quran with certain knowledge and tool like the statutory law. Here are some reasons.
Words are an imperfect means of communication
Words very often have more than one meaning i.e. they can be ambiguous
A broad term may be used in a statute which can give rise to confusion and uncertainty
New developments in society can make the words used in a statute out of date and they may no longer cover the current situation
Finally, what many fallacious propagandists must understand is that, the Quran was revealed over a course of 23 years, in bits, stanzas and lines and not as a book.
The Quran was also revealed in the course events; hostility, development, peace time, war and growth. For those who would peruse the book with care. The book is not based on sentiments, or ideologies which would favour individuals. It is purely based on the principle of collectivism, freedom, knowledge and development.
The Quran has explained the big bang theory 1,400 years ago before Edwin Hubble theorized his idea of a big bang in 1929 (Quran (21:30). It has its economic and financial model which is not based on interest which has got the world into continued financial contagion today (Quran 2:282, 2:282). The Quran emphasizes knowledge, the continuous pursuit of it. The Quran talks about morals, etiquettes, peace and understanding.
In conclusion, one must admit that contemporary Islam is faced with numerous challenges both internally and externally. However, it must also be remembered that the Catholic Church faced the same hatred, conspiracy and animosity during the medieval times. Today, the Catholic Church - next to Islam is the largest Christian denomination with the biggest followers.
Someone recently asked - why I am a Muslim and why I bother myself so much about an ideology of the Arabs. He retorted. Are you Arab? â€“ No I am not Arab - I replied. Then I asked. Where do you live? He replied: "United States". I asked again, what system of government the United States practices. He replied "Democracy" Then I asked: "is democracy your grandfather's ideology? Because of course, he's my friend. He replied no? Then I said- If not, then what have you got to do with an ideology of the Greeks.