Friday, April 13, 2012

ISLAM: misrepresented and misunderstood

A colleague at work recently told me about a chance encounter with a Muslim man who had shaved his head and had grown his beard very long. According to what this man had told my colleague, that weird appearance was a religious requirement for a Muslim! Knowing little about Islam, my colleague believed all the rubbish he had been told. I laughed and gave a reply along the following lines:

"The man you met was crazy. It is a pity that quite a few people in England base their opinion of Islam and Muslims on the antics of a tiny minority of Muslims. Do I or a majority of Muslims that you see around you look remotely like the specimen you describe? Doesn't a ready willingness to draw general conclusions about Muslims, based on the observation of an unrepresentative minority, indicate the prevalence of prejudice against Muslims in Europe?"

My friend conceded that I had a point. As an atheist he was inclined to believe the worst about religion, any religion. I told him that it was a mistake to think of Islam as a religion. It wasn't a religion in the sense that Christianity or Judasim were. Islam's Book of Guidance, The Qur'an, refers to Islam as Deen, a system to be followed in life, which does not require the services of priests. The existence of a Muslim clergy today is not supported by the Qur'an, which does not recognise an intermediary between God and human beings. A person attains nearness to the Power of God through his/her actions while living in this world of matter. Some points that came up in this pleasant conversation were:

1. Life in this world of matter is a preparation for the next stage of our life's journey in the world of non-matter. If our material existence on earth were the only reality, ending in death, then there was no need for us to follow any moral principles. We should live thoroughly selfish and self-indulgent lives, enjoying the good things of life and trampling other people's "rights" underfoot. 

2. The phrase "the world of non-matter" was a bit much for him. Does it exist or is it a figment of imagination? Take any object, I said, and start breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces, ending up with the sub-atomic universe of Quantum Physics. Where do electrons and photons come from? 

The current theory is that as sub-atomic particles, which have no mass, pass through an invisible energy field, called Higgs field, they pick up mass, forming electrons, protons, atoms, etc. The particle that gives them mass is called Higgs boson, popularly referred to as "God particle", presumably because it gives shape/size/mass, leading to origin of life. 
[It is said the Higgs boson was originally referred to as "god-damned particle" because it explained many things in theoretical physics but physicists couldn't find it through experiment. Hence the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator in Switzerland, to prove the existence of Higgs boson].

So, matter is essentially created out of non-matter - waves of energy, Power of God - which, if anything, is more real than matter. One of the attributes of God given in the Quran is NOOR, heavenly Light. I happen to think that physics is gradually converging into metaphysics.

3. The tragedy of Islam is that the lives of Muslims are being manipulated by an oppressive clergy, which has no place in Islam. These clerics are obsessed with appearances. They ape the dead Arab culture of some 1500 years ago, and they measure piety in terms of the length of a man's beard. Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, lived his life in accordance with the Arab culture of his time. His outward appearance was similar to that of the people around him, and he did not stick out like a sore thumb as do the clerics who have set themselves up as experts on the "Islamic religion". 

4. The Book, Al-Quran, is for all humanity. The lazy Muslims no longer make any attempt to read it, preferring to  indulge in the many "religious" rites and rituals that the priests of their particular sects have laid down for them. This dead religion is a negation of Islam. Just take a long hard look around you. Today Pakistan is a byword for corruption, and Syria is competing with the Americans (in Iraq and Afghanistan) for sheer barbarity. 

This post is simply an account of a general conversation I had with a colleague. People who wish to know about Islam in depth can click on the following links to previous blog posts. 

Islam                               metaphysical aspects

The best book about Islam that I know of is Allama Parwaiz's Urdu book اسلام کیا ہے؟ (What is Islam?). He also wrote a book in English called "Islam: a challenge to religion", which can be read here:

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