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One Islam, Three Sets of Muslims
As we begin our new Bible study Heretic by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, there are several things that we must know before delving into the core of Islam. The central question and/or theme that we will constantly ask ourselves is "why Islam needs a reformation now?" The key word now contains a sense of urgency that must be remedied in present time, not the near future or later on. Ali includes now in order for us to understand the grave danger that current Islam ideologies present. Therefore, when we delve into the core beings of Islam, I must ask you to keep in mind in what context Ali has written Heretic from. Ali explains why Islam needs reformation now through her own experiences from being a Muslim and through a variety of world issues that have occurred that fuels her stance on this matter.
In the introduction of Heretic, Ali gives us an exercise to do:
On ________, a group of ___________ heavily armed, black-clad men burst into a ________ in ________, opening fire and killing a total of __________ people. The attackers were filmed shouting "Allahu akbar!"
Speaking at a press conference, President _________ said: "We condemn this criminal act by extremists. Their attempt to justify their violent acts in the name of religion of peace will not, however, succeed. We also condemn with equal force those who would use this atrocity as a pretext for Islamophobic hate crimes."
I am sure as you were reading this, you were already thinking of many incidents that could have been filled in the blanks. For example, it could have been filled in with the attack at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It could have also been filled in with the attack at the school in Peshwar on December 2014. Unfortunately, there are so many attacks that are rooted in the same "religious ideals that inspire them." It is impossible and irrational to separate the two. These attacks are fueled by Islam ideologies itself in which Ali simply states that "Islam is not a religion of peace." In every attack, the attackers utilize Islamic language and symbols. For example, "Allahu akbar" which means "God is great" and "the Prophet is avenged." How can the attacks be separated from the Islam religion when the attacks are motivated by the very ideals of Islam?
While other religions like Judaism and Christianity allows for public debate and discourse, Ali highlights that Islam is one of the only religions that "stifle discussion." Why is that? Nowadays, many Muslims categorize this as "hate speech." This occurs when Muslims feel uncomfortable. This idea that Islam cannot be discussed and or if it does it cannot make anyone feel "uncomfortable" has become acceptable in our society and even among our government. For example, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) decapitated an American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff, Vice President Joe Biden and then President Barack Obama were outraged, ordering air strikes and sending military personnel's to Iraq. However, what President Obama says in his statement embodies the attitude that most people have when concerning these attacks. He states,
"Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not 'Islamic.' No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state... ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way."
How can this be when these attacks were orchestrated in the name of Islam? The reason why this is continuing to happen is because of the lack of understanding of "one Islam, three sets of Muslims." Islam itself is based on the Qu'ran. The Qu'ran contains the words of the Prophet Muhammad. Along with the Qu'ran, the hadith explains Muhammed's life. Those that wish to become Muslim must profess their faith by saying "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah; and Muhammad is His messenger." This is known as the "Shahada." Ali explains that while the Shahada may appear to be a profession of faith, it carries a "religious and political symbol." Over the years, there has been a tug-of-war of who owns the Shahada. Due to this fight for ownership, Ali explains that there are three sets of Muslims:
1) Medina Muslims- Medina Muslims believe in the "forcible imposition of sharia as their religious duty." They believe that other religions like Judaism and Christianity are false and that those who do not choose Islam should be murdered. Therefore, they stand firm in the beheading of non-believers. They believe that those that commit adultery should be stoned and women who are not properly dressed should be beat. Ali writes, "Medina Muslims believe that the murder of an infidel is an imperative if he refuses to convert voluntarily to Islam. They preach jihad and glorify death through martyrdom."
2) Mecca Muslims- Mecca Muslims believe in the Islam creed and are devout but do not believe in practicing violence. They follow all the rituals of a devout Muslim (e.g attending service, attire and what they eat). However, the Mecca Muslims are caught in between the modern world and what it has to offer and following their Islam creed. Ali writes that "these Muslims are engaged in a daily struggle to adhere to Islam in the context of a secular and pluralistic society that challenges their values and beliefs at every turn."
3) Modifying Muslims- Modifying Muslims are reforming believers of Islam and continue to discuss and engage in Islam's future. Modifying Muslims realize that Islam needs a radical reformation. Notable modifying Muslims are people such as Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari (former dean of Islamic law at Qatar University). Al-Ansari questions the attitude to hate those that are not Muslims. He questions, "Do they expect me to hate the Jewish scientist who discovered insulin, which I use to treat my mother?" Al-Ansari and many other modifying Muslims believe that they need to "reinterpret Islam practice in order to make religious discourse more human."
How can Islam be reformed? There are five tenets in which Ali highlights. Ali writes that the five tenets should be:
1) Muhammed's semi-divine and infallible status along with the literalist reading of the Qur'an, particularly these parts that were revealed in Medina;
2) The investment in life after death instead of life before death;
3) Sharia, the body of legislation derived from the Qur'an, the hadith, and the rest of Islamic jurisprudence;
4) The practice of empowering individuals to enforce Islamic law by commanding right and forbidding wrong;
5) The imperative to wage jihad, or holy war.
In the following chapters, we will discuss the tenets in the context of Ali's story and why Islam reformation is needed now. As we continue our understanding of Islam, we must keep in mind the three different types of Muslims that Ali presents to us. We must also remind ourselves of the one Islam that the three types stem from. Next week we will look closer at Ali's story of a heretic.
1) Ali gives us an exercise to do in the beginning of the chapter. What is the point of this exercise? What have you realized through this exercise?
2) Why do you think Islam is the only religion that successfully "stifles discussion?"
3) What do you think about then President Obama's statement, "Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not 'Islamic.' No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state... ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way."
4) What are the three sets of Muslims?
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