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Consciousness is not a phenomenon of the observable universe. It is that which makes the universe observable. Consciousness is the physical manifestation of God within us!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

If I ruled the World #7: How to fix the problem with Islam!

 From my book: "An Exploration of Religion and the Meaning of Life!"

When looking at Islam, we have a community that has at its heart and core, a most precious and distinct possession: “A Book.”

This is a scripture that sets forth the teachings and legislation for the community and the essential themes for the faith. This is the material that the followers of Muhammad could gather from various sources after his death and has come down to us as the Koran. It is the fundamental document for the religion of Islam and is regarded by the faithful as the holy, revealed, eternal Word of God.

Muhammad called his new religion “Islam,” a word that means submission to the will of Allah.  One who accepts Islam and makes such submission is a Muslim and termed a mu’min. (Believer) One who does not accept Islam is kafir. (Unbeliever) Islam means devotion to God, and is regarded as a newer version of the religion of Abraham.  

(This original religion declined, and was then renewed by Moses.  After Moses things were renewed once more by Jesus, and then again by Muhammad.  Jews, Christians and Muslims are all “People of the Book,” but according to Islam, Muhammad is the “last of the prophets!”)

Islam is a very structured religion!  To live in submission to Allah and in obedience to the teachings of the Prophet, a Muslim must follow certain rules formulated for him.  

There is a certain hierarchy of rules that are to be followed.
         In the first instance, these rules are provided in the Sharia, which is the Koran.

         In the second instance comes the Hadith, or “The Traditions”  

If something was not addressed in the Koran, guidance was sought in the “Traditions.”  (What the Prophet had said and done.)

This vast accumulation of traditions was digested into the collections of the Hadith, six of which are considered the canonical collections.

(It is well known that much of the Hadith material was spurious, but for the study of Islam even those traditions, which the community invented and attributed to Muhammad, have their value!  Often as much value as those that may actually have come down from him.)

         The third instance is “Ijma,” which is the consensus of community standards.

         The fourth instance relies on Giyas, which is the application of analogical reasoning to the other three sources for the deduction of new rules.

This combination of rules, starting with the Sharia, combines to form a religion that is structured in such a way as to give adherents a strict set of guidelines on the method of proper conduct.

There is great comfort in the structured environment of Islam. It places importance in the observance of daily routine and ritual.

This, combined with the strong family and social ties (tribal) that are encouraged, makes for a religion that is both vital and dynamic in its zealousness, while at the same time fostering a strong inertia and resistance to change from outside sources.

Therefore, the main obstacle to growth and development in Islam is the overwhelming sense that there is absolutely no need for change. 
In fact, by its very nature, Islam preaches that it is complete and fully developed as the personal word of God.

(This has also been the case in the Christian church, which means we have religions that are stuck in the nineteenth century in the case of Christianity, and the twelfth century in the case of Islam.  Where we have a conflict with most Christian and Muslim fundamentalists is that the answer to these criticisms will always be met with the question; “Well, what’s the matter with that?”)

One of the greatest drawbacks to Islam is that it operates on the surface as being infallible, much as Christianity does. Among Muslims however, it is acknowledged that the Prophet Muhammad left no actual interpretation of the Koran, but rather said it should be read and taken literally as the word of God. 

(This way, anything that goes wrong is obviously “God’s Will.” It is also one of the main reasons that a Muslims will end every second sentence with the phrase “Insh-Allah” - or –“God willing!”  Being as pragmatic as they are, this puts the onus back on God for whatever happens, and absolves them of being in “Shirk.”)

This interpretation by various individuals depends on everyone’s personal understanding and experience, as well as their social, political, and economic environment. 
(In fact, this happened almost exactly the same way among the early Christians.)

This means we have a divine text that is adding to the confusion by being interpreted differently from scholar to scholar, and person to person.  Naturally, the clergy interprets and decides which part of the Koran they want the general population to use.
They are also the ones that give guidance to; “what it really means.” (This is also the reason that Radical Islam can justify almost anything to conform to their toxic message.)

The sad truth of the matter is that in Islam, as in every other religion in the world, there are no shortages of people who try to put themselves in positions of influence and power.

All this for the purpose of spreading their own version of reality amongst the masses.

Traditional authorities, beginning in the time shortly after Muhammad, viewed holy law as the revealed will of God and subordinated politics to holy decree.

Historically however, it was politics (tribal or otherwise) that invariable shaped Islamic law and led to a complex discourse on a subject that was contentious on the surface, but at its base rather simple.

The religious precepts are pretty straightforward, but the task of explaining them and choosing a method for their application is left in human hands.

This means they are automatically constrained by human limitations!

On top of this, Muslims became politically divided early in their history with the division into the Shiite and Sunni sects, (see below) and that influenced their respective understandings of the law and its applications.

After Muhammad’s death, Islam also got off to a rocky start when warfare was used to spread the faith, and three of the first four Caliphs died by violence.

The fourth Caliph, Ali, was a cousin of Muhammad and his followers then tore the community in two by claiming that Ali should have been the first caliph by virtue of his blood ties to Muhammad.

These people came to be known as the Shiite sect, (Iran, Pakistan) while the great majority of the followers of Muhammad, who claim that succession does not rely on blood ties, are known today as the Sunni. (Everybody else, led by Saudi Arabia.)

A great many differences exist to this day between these two main sects of Islam, and the distinctions go far deeper than just who should have succeeded Muhammad.

In fact, it was in the interpretation of the Koran itself that there were already differences.

Because of this, we find different “creedal statements” circulating amongst the communities of both the Shiite and Sunni’s, as well as amongst the Sufi, who are a mystical branch of Islam.

These became the subject of discussion and commentary that in time grew into different Islamic theologies.  

This also led to a condition within the faith where almost anyone could at one time or another could consider a person of another sect to be a non-believer and heretic.

One result of this was that Islam developed divisions, and so part of the task was to distinguish orthodox belief and practice as opposed to various schools of heretical teaching.

(The similarity between this and the situation between the Catholics and Protestants is not mere coincidence, but the result of the schisms that can develop between different groups of similar beliefs!)

Perhaps what Islam needs is a “Reformation” along the same lines as the upheaval of the Catholic Church by Martin Luther.