Can religion breed terrorism? Can a spiritual order spawn militancy? You’ll laugh at the suggestion – and rightly so – unless you’re someone with little knowledge of Islam and its scriptures. Religion – often viewed as an organized system of faith, belief and values that usher human beings into the realm of spirituality – is considered to be a liberating force that takes one away from the shackles of ignorance and bigotry. You’ll find that each religion puts forth a set of moral ideas that train humans in the values of love, sacrifice, kindness and altruism. Then, you’ll wonder how a religion can become a nursery of militancy, terrorism or hate? You’ll ask in disbelief how a religion can breed violence.
It can, if it’s Islam.
Though, it’s not all wired that way. Paradoxically, Islam talks of peace, kindness, harmony and love and glorifies the virtue of showing mercy and graciousness towards all living and non-living beings. Oxymoron, eh? But, true. Read Quran and Hadith reports to discover how Prophet Mohammad commands Muslims to live by the ideals of charity, truthfulness, piety and simplicity and disciplines them by the specter of a judgment day (Yawm-al-Qiyamah) when the dead will rise up from their graves and face God who’ll judge them on their past deeds and would hand down reward or punishment accordingly. Cool! [Personally speaking, I’m swooned at the philosophy of Quran and Mohammad and wish everyone reads it at least once. But do it after going through at least the New Testament (I mean the synoptic Gospels, if not the full Bible) and the Vedanta literatures (and if possible, Kitab-i- Aqdas of Bahaullah, which I find a little voluminous but more powerful on ideological part) to have that necessary pinch of salt to set things in perspective.]
Well, with such terrific values to guide as beacon, one expects the adherents of Islam to stand out as shining example of human values displaying the highest standards of moral behavior and act as role models for misguided humanity. But, the same isn’t happening. Islam, today, is far from being that spiritual guide for humanity and instead it’s increasingly being identified with everything that is anti-thesis of these noble ideas. Today, in the eyes of non-Muslims Islam represents a set of ideas that is antiquated, regressive and obnoxious which thrives on the ideology of hate, violence, intolerance and terror. In short, an average man-in-the-street finds Islam a dangerous idea. I must aver that Islam, per se, is not dangerous but it has few deadly chips in its architecture that carry the potentials of subverting the hearts and minds of its naïve, less-discerning or misguided adherents to turn fanatic, intolerant and militants.
I sifted through the scriptures and philosophy of Islam and came round to 10 things that could make its gullible adherents violent, militant and fundamentalist:
1. The principle of ‘Tawhid’ (singleness): Tawhid, meaning singleness of god, is a weird idea of uncompromising monotheism. It is the fundamental principle of Islam on which the whole idea of the religion exists. Tawhid believes in the ‘oneness’ and ‘uniqueness’ of god, i.e. Allah, who is universal, absolute and transcendental with no equal. Quran 112:1-4 (Sura Al-Ikhlas) says
Qul huwa Allahu ahad
Lam yalid walam yoolad
Walam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad
Say: “He is Allah, [who is] the One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.”
Islam can’t compromise with the notion of oneness and uniqueness of god. Thus, if you swear by Jehovah or Ahur Majda or Jesus or Krishna or a Shinto kami, you’re raising the hackles of a Muslim by venerating a god other than Allah. Islam hates polytheism and considers all polytheistic religions to be false – the list, apart from Hinduism and Pagan religions, also includes Christianity because of its Trinitarian belief in the god as God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit.
To associate anything or any being with that one and unique god or creating partnership in him is considered the greatest sin (shirk) in Islam which stands unpardonable even after death. Quran Sura 4 ayat 48 says:
‘GOD does not forgive idolatry, but He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up idols beside God, has forged a horrendous offense.’ (Quran 4:48)
Such was his hate towards polytheistic gods that after the conquest of Mecca by Muslim forces, Prophet Muhammad refused to enter the city so long as all the idols of the Kaba, close to some three hundreds that inhabited it since centuries, were not removed and destroyed. This uncompromising monotheism distinguishes Islam from any other religions of the world and the rabid intolerance in-built in the idea of Tawhid foments fanaticism and hate that breed militancy and extremism in a Muslim’s worldview.
2.‘Kufr’ and fanatic disbelief in other’s faith- Islam professes a narrow definition of ‘faith’ according to which those who believe in Allah and his Quranic teachings are ‘faithful’ and the rest are Kafir (infidel) as they commit Kufr (disbelief in the authority of Allah). Muslims are declared as the ‘community of faithful’ (Umma).
Allah is described as the most benevolent and most merciful (ar-rahmaan nir-raheem) (Quran Sura 1:1-2) but to avail his mercy and benevolence you need to get into his fold or else Allah’s mercy and benevolence would turn into wrath and vengeance if you drop the name of any other god or show disbelief in his authority (Kufr). Islam can put up with everything except Kufr and hence, Quran offers a luscious recipe for the kafirs (Unbelievers):
“Fight in the cause of Allah those unbelievers who fight you…and kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out…and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.” (Quran 2:191)
Doesn’t it remind you of Churchill exhorting his people on the eve of Nazi invasion during WWII? (‘We shall fight on the seas and oceans, in the air, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills…’). Oops! Sorry for the analogy. Churchill was fighting for survival, not for some perverse dogma of monotheism.
Islam’s inherent hate towards false gods has remained standing motive behind the conquests of Muslim forces throughout the history of Islam. The sword of Islam, throughout the rule of Rashiduns, Umayyads, Abbasids, Safavids and the Ottomans, has been guided by the ideas of Tawhid and Kufr. This hate, over the ages, has permeated into the DNA of Muslim psyche and has fomented extremism that is visible throughout the world now in a cumulative manner. The inveterate hate, instead of saying ‘my god is better than yours’ goes even farther to say ‘Dude, only my god is god and your god is a fraud.’
3. Over dependence on Quran in the mundane affairs of Islamic life: Quran, which is believed by the Muslims to be a book of divine guidance revealed from God to Muhammad over a period of 23 years, is the sourcebook of Islamic ideologies and philosophy.
Because of its perceived divine origin, the Muslims treat it as an everything- inside-and-nothing-beyond-it entity and defend fanatically whatever it says. The words of Quran, being the words of Allah is not open to any critical scrutiny. Hikmah (wisdom) is a celebrated virtue in Quranic traditions but the same is a dirty word if you meant to apply it as a tool for scrutinizing the scripture in an objective and rational way. Any re-interpretation of the scriptural sayings in the framework of objectivity, rationalism or contemporary reasoning is vehemently opposed and the doer is regarded to be under the influence of Satan. As a result, any word of wisdom, rationality or difference coming out against the spirit of Quran or the Prophet is the word of Satan and hence needs to be silenced. The classic example of intolerance is the Anti-blasphemy laws of many Muslim countries, especially of Pakistan which shoves the perceived offenders to the lifelong darkness of prison if at all they’re spared death sentences by courts. However, in all likelihood, the accused would be hounded, lynched and liquidated by the people from wider society even before the court could hand down such a pronouncement.
Such intolerance not only forces people to follow religious legacies without questioning but radicalizes society and glorifies violent actions against dissenters.
4. Restrictions on individualism and free-will: Individualism, in western philosophies, is about the ideas of personal freedom i.e. right to think freely, freedom from indoctrination and freedom of choice. Every individual must have freedom to choose how to live so long his choice doesn’t come in conflict with the laws of the land. But, individualism of the modern man can run in conflict with the Islamic codes.
Islam doesn’t offer individual freedom, as understood in the context of modern western philosophy, for its adherents; rather a Muslim is a “prisoner of faith” in Allah. The meaning of Islam is ‘Submission’ and a Muslim is one who has ‘submitted himself to the will of Allah’. Here I’d like to quote Ahmad Reza Taheri, who during his presentation on ‘Individualism in Islam’ had argued:
“In sura Baghara (2), verse 256, Quran says “let there be no compulsion in religion”, but in sura Imran, verse 178, Quran threatens the non-believers for not following what Allah says. In sura Nisa, verse 14, Quran clearly says, “but those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and transgress His limits will be admitted to a Fire, to abide therein: and they shall have a humiliating punishment.” Based on such edicts, in a number of Islamic states like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc., if a Muslim converts himself/herself into any other religion and leaves Islam, his/her punishment will be death sentence.” (Ahmad Reza Taheri; ‘Individualism in Islam’ at the University of Pune (2008)
In Islam, people have defined limits for freedom of speech which should never be transgressed in any circumstances. This implies people do not have freedom to “question, criticize, negate, or deny Islam”. As per Islamic ideologies Politics, art, literature and even architecture – everything should reflect the values of Islam.
Enlightenment, as per Emanuel Kant, “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity” is something that, at one point of time or another, happened in most of the major religions of the world in the modern times. But the same didn’t happen in Islam. The reformation movements, if ever happened in Islam, have, on the pretext of establishing the puritanical form of religion, degenerated into further radicalization of society as it is evident in the Salafi, Wahabi or Deobandi movements of 18th-20th centuries.
5. Unfair treatment of Women: Ladies! If you’re Muslim, I’m sure it’s hard for you being there. Islam believes in a patriarchic, masochistic, male-chauvinistic social order grossly biased against women.
The social laws of the Muslims, drawn heavily from Quranic sources, stop women from enjoying equal rights with men. For example, women have no protection against polygamy as a man can have multiple wives if he can so afford (sura Nisa, ayat 3); Women can be easily divorced (Sura Baghara, verses 227-233 ) whereas their right to divorce is extremely limited; women are required to wear hijab – what the Islamic feminist Fadela Amara calls “visible symbol of subjugation” – to cover themselves as per Islamic traditions (Sura Noor, verse 31).
Muslim Brotherhood considers sleeveless women as “naked”. Further, Muslim women have limited testimonial rights (Sura Baqara, verse 282) as they aren’t considered dependable!
A Muslim woman’s movement in society happens to be under severe restrictions.
All such restrictions on women are heavily enforced in Muslim world that subjects them to a lower social status. Even, the women’s political ambitions are also restricted as according to Sahih al-Bukhari (the most-relied Hadith across the Muslim world for its authenticity), Muhammad is mentioned as saying that people with female ruler will never be successful (5:59:709).
Even despite a global headline grabbing act of Amina Wadud, who led a mixed-gender Friday Prayer in New York in 2005, the Muslim majority disapproves of woman acting as imam (prayer leader) during salat (namaz) gatherings.
By the oft-quoted verse of Sura al-Baqara, where Muhammad, while approving anal intercourse (sex from behind the woman), had declared “Your women are like a tilth for you (where you plant seed to obtain produce), so come to your tilth as you wish…” (Quran 2:223). Thus, it is certain that Islam interferes to support men even in such intimate and private matter as sexual positions. The men have the right to use a sexual position in the ‘manner, time and place’ they wish (Quran 2.222) while the women have no choice than to submit to the men’s whims ignoring their own preferences during such acts. The bottomline is that Quran and subsequent Hadith excluded women’s choice from the debate disregarding and degrading their position in Islamic society.
Such unequal treatment handed down to the half of population of Muslim society is regressive. It results into emergence of a skewed social order dominated by bigot, masochistic and fanatic men forcing women into violent submission.
The stories of Afghan Talibans abducting Tajik, Hazara and other non-Pashtun women from war zones and sending truckloads of them into sexual slavery throughout the Taliban rule is just a chilling reminder of the Islamist mentality that treats women as nothing more than sex objects all over the world (e.g Boko Haram in Nizeria, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Haqquani network in Af-Pak regions).
6. Jihad: Whoa! It is the most influential principle of Islamic ideology. The concept of Jihad has been drawn from Quran where it is mentioned in 164 verses while in the Hadith report of Sahih al-Bukhari, Jihad appears at 199 times. However, to define the term I’d single out Quran Sura 4 ayat 74 which describes it as al-jihad fi sabil-allah i.e. struggle in the way of Allah. Though later it has been interpreted in multiple ways among which a struggle against one’s inner evils is interpreted as the highest form of Jihad (Jihad-ul-akbar), nowhere in the 164 verses of Quran the term is associated with any spiritual or divine significance; rather Jihad has been used as a constant and consistent call to unremitting war against every soul on the earth who don’t believe in Allah. Quran sanctions, glorifies and lionizes all acts of aggression, plunder, killing and terror against innocent non-believers without any iota of mercy (as insinuated by verse 5 of sura at-Tawbah).
The association of Allah with struggle (Quital) makes jihad a religious war (holy war), which is the only form of war permitted in Islam. In almost all 199 references of Jihad in Sahih al-Bukhari, the term is associated with war where it is meant to be directed against non-Muslims (kafirs), robbers or Muslim apostates. In theory, Jihad is to continue till all men and women embrace Islam or submit themselves to the authority of an Islamic state.
No any other element of Islam has spawned extremism more than the principle of Jihad has done. It’s a romantic notion that infects the minds of naïve and gullible believers as they believe that a war for the sake of Allah would ensure them Jannat and the company of hoors in the heaven should they die in the middle as mujahideen (the jihadi fighter). Thus, Jihad as a holy warfare to please Allah is considered as the noblest thing to do in life.
Almost all the terrorist organizations of the world you hear today -whether it’s Al-Quaeda, Talibaan, the ISIS, the Hamas, the Hezbollah, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Haqquanis or the Muslim Brotherhood (that cultivated the theory of global jihad under the influence of ideologues like Abdullah Azzam, Yusuf al-Quradawi, Ayman al-Jawahari, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed etc, culminating into misadventures of Osama bin Laden) – all are quintessentially Jihadi organizations fighting in the name of Allah for establishing Islamic rule and imposition of Sharia law within their territories to please him.
Thus, the next time you hear the name of a dreaded Islamic terrorist, don’t blame his poisoned heart in isolation rather blame the cumulative hate and venom administered into Muslim psyche through centuries of systematic indoctrination. A jihadist, at best, is only the symptom. The source of the actual disease and its viruses lie in Quran – in its 164 verses – and in subsequent Islamic texts inked in the venom of hate to strengthen the sword of Islam.
7. Fatwa: Fatwa, the legal opinion given by Islamic scholars on religious matters, are helpful instruments in explaining the intricacies of religion and guiding the Muslims in unresolved questions of their modern lives that were not previously tackled by scholars or specifically addressed by the Quran or the Hadith or Prophet Mohammed. However, many a times fatwas happen to be controversial because of insinuations that foment hate and violence such as, fatwa against Ahmadiya Muslims, fatwa giving death sentence to Salman Rushdie, fatwa against child vaccination in Sudan or the Fatwa of Bin Laden asking Muslims to kill Americans all over the world.
Such Fatwas incite the fundamentalist elements in Islam and goad them into violence and killings.
8. Lack of Secularization in Islam: You take pride in telling people that you’re secular. But you won’t bandy the idea if you’re a Muslim because Secularism is as incongruous a concept in Islam and as sacrilegious as private property is in the circle of the Socialists. A Muslim is one who has submitted himself to the will of Allah hence being a Muslim entails meeting religious obligations on round-the–clock basis concerning nearly everything that happens in his life. A Muslim can’t do what is un-Islamic meaning he can’t do a thing that is religiously not permitted.
By secularization I mean anything and everything that takes you away from religious considerations and allows you to act independently in the mundane affairs of your life. Unlike in the case of all the major religions of the world, the process of secularization never took roots in Islam though there are evidences that scriptures encouraged ‘almaniyyah’ or ‘dunwaiyyah’ (secular matters) to happen independently of religion. Sahih al-Muslim, the second most authentic book on Hadith after Sahih al-Bukhari, refers to a statement of Prophet as follows: “Come to me if it’s a matter of religion because then it belongs to me but in the worldly matters you’d know better about it. Whatever I say in matters of religion must be followed, but this does not apply to worldly affairs.” Sadly, this bugle of freedom couldn’t sound longer as brawny waves of subsequent Islamic traditions drowned out secular voices and stifled progressive ideas in the later centuries.
In fact, the popular theory that modernity and techno-industrial development would lead to eventual secularization of societies all over the world, has been defeated in case of Islam which has, instead, strengthened its control over Muslims in the past 3 and half decades since the Iranian revolution and the Afghan war; rather I’d say Islam has been increasingly de-secularizing Muslims in the last 3 and half decades. This growing grip of religion on the community has contributed in radicalizing Islamic societies and creating fundamentalists out of it.
9. Non-separation of religion and state: The structures of politics and religion in Islam are as finely mingled as Sodium and Chlorine in salt. A Muslim political order (state), theoretically, is inseparable from the religion as Muslims can’t believe in any authority other than Allah. A Caliph (khalifa) So long he existed till the end of World War I, used to be the supreme leader of Islamic religio-political system. A Muslim’s world-view is guided by the notions of Islamic vs Non-Islamic, hence the political system of Muslims can’t be based on structures that are non-Islamic. While most of the non-Muslim societies are based upon modern political ideas of liberalism, rationalism and democracy, the Islamic world is still rooted in the Islamic traditions set up by the Muhammaddan Quran and Sharia laws and hence a call to set up Al-dawlah al-Islamia (Islamic State) happens to be the most romantic call for Muslims.
That’s why many Muslims chose to bury their heads in sand at the excesses committed by the ISIS in Syria and Iraq just because they were the fighters of Al Baghdadi, the Caliph of Al-Dawlah al-Islamia fi Iraq wa al-Sham. Lack of secularization and modernization in political structures of Islam is a great factor that contributes to irreversible radicalization of society leading to intolerance and extremism.
10. The myth of peace in Islam: Islam is propagated as a religion of peace by Muslim theologians but the proposition is as bizarre and untenable as the assertion that the polar bear is the natural inhabitant of the Kalahari. Islam, contrary to what is propagated, comes etymologically through the root word ‘s-l-m’ meaning ‘submission’ and it has nothing to do with ‘peace’ for which the Arabic word is ‘Salam’.
If you still believe to the contrary, give a re-look at Quran (read 2:190,192; 4:74,75,76; 5:34; 8:39,65; 9:5,29,73; 47:8 for few examples) and various Hadiths which will scream in your ears that Islam is primarily a religion of violence that evolved, consolidated, sustained and expanded through violent wars many of which were internecine. In order to sustain the warring and killing instinct among its flock Muhammad and his theologians evolved the concept of jihad linking the sanction of Allah with the mindless violence and killings. Muhammad himself ordered wars and justified it in the name of Allah.
The association of Allah with all acts of aggression, invasion, violence, plunder, rape and terror gave ideological sanction to the violence and killings, as the leitmotif (in Quran) of Allah being Al-rehman (the most benevolent) and al-rahim (the most merciful) who forgives all sins of believers working in his way, gives ideological sanction to the violent wars and acts of terror. See, what Muhammad commands in Quran:
“When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.” (Quran 9:5)
Why! The existentialists and post-modern individualists will shout in bewilderment. Let idolaters live in peace, guys! Stay away from them and leave them in their own existential bliss. Period!
Through the promise of Jannat and 72 beautiful virgins or hoor al-Ayns to comfort those who reach Jannat after dying in the cause of Allah during Jihad (as per Hadith of Soor as narrated from Abu Hurayrah), Islam glorifies the ideology of hate, violence, intolerance and killings but at the same time demeans women by its lustful description of hoors in heaven as a divine sex objects. .
No wonder the believers kill not only kafirs and idol-worshippers but anyone and everyone including innocent children, as we recently saw in Peshawar (Pakistan), with impunity because they believe they’re working for the straight path of Allah (Tehriq-e-Taliban Pakistan believes it is working for establishing Islamic rule and Sharia which is an act in the path of Allah and hence any sin, including killing of children, shall be forgiven by Allah as he’s ar-rehman nir-rahim (most benevolent and most merciful) for the believers.
How can a religion that gives license to kill in the name of its god can be a religion of peace? How can that death-warranting god can be most benevolent and merciful?
‘majhab nahi sikhata aapas me bair rakhna’. While you hum this line next time, please ask Md. Iqbal: Iqbal sahib! After years of your madarasa education how could you say this? No wonder as you progressed in your studies of Islam, you had repudiated what you’d said in those Tarana-i-hind couplets (1904) and turned fundamentalist to write ‘Cīn o-ʿArab hamārā, Hindūstāṉ hamārā, muslim hai hum watan hai sara jehan hamara’ (Tarana-i-milli, 1910). Islam teaches bair (enmity) and Md Iqbal knew it well while ruling out any co-existence with Hindus and conceiving Pakistan. Today, he must be turning in his grave while agreeing.
1. I haven’t talked about Muslims as individuals; I’ve only talked about Islam as constructed through the Quran and other Islamic scriptures. In my personal life I’ve come across many Muslim individuals who have been among some of the finest human beings I’ve ever seen and I believe a majority of Muslims are like that only. It’s just that, while their fundamentalist and extremist brethren hit the global headlines for all the wrong reasons, they don’t stand up and count.
2. My knowledge of Arabic is zero hence my interpretation of Quran is based upon available English translations renowned for their authenticity.
Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2014