WHAT IS ISLAM?
By: Kassim Ahmad
24 June, 2006
Although the question jars on some Muslims ears, to pose it in the context of the current international situation is both valid and acutely relevant. Not only Muslims, but the West, and therefore the world, for different reasons, of course, are confused as to what Islam is.
To put the answer first, succinctly, the answer is this: We must clearly distinguish the Islam as taught and propagated by the prophets, at least from the time Prophet Abraham right down to the last of the prophets, Muhammad, solely represented by the last perfected of God’s scriptures to mankind, the Quran. This is the true Islam. The other ‘Islam’ that most Muslims inherited from their great-grand fathers, is codified and falsely sanctified in the tombs of traditional theology and jurisprudence, from around three hundred years after Prophet Muhammad’s death. Simply put, it is the Islam of the Prophets versus the ‘Islam’ of the theologians.
What are the major differences between the two? It is extremely important that Muslims and the West understand this now in order to avoid further pain and disasters for both.
Firstly, the first and true Islam is first and foremost inclusive, whereas the second practices exclusivity. This is because Islam recognizes and acknowledges all the prophets and messengers of God, from Adam to Muhammad, including Moses and Jesus, to whom God gave the Old and the New Testaments. Verse 62 of Surah Al-Baqarah (2) of the Quran acknolwledges, among many other similar verses, the original monotheism of the Jews, Christians and other religions, whose adherents are promised salvation, as revealed in these verses.
Secondly, the first and true Islam accepts and practices toleration of other religions, whereas the second does not.. The verse “To you your religion; to me my religion.” ( Quran, 109: 6) unequivocally testifies to this.
Thirdly, the first and true Islam accords perfect and absolute freedom of belief, whereas the second does not. This is because the second ‘Islam’ interprets the Quran by the Hadith, the so-called Prophetic Traditions, made compulsory on Muslims after Imam Shafie so enunciated it in his book, Al-Risala, two hundred and fifty years after Prophet Muhammad’s death.
Fourthly, the first and true Islam proclaims itself the Religion of Truth (Quran, 48: 28; 9: 33; 41: 53 & 61: 9) and the Religion of God (Quran, 110: 2), which will naturally prevail over all false religions in the future. This will come about, not through force, but through the inevitable but natural triumph of truth over falsehood.
Fifthly, the first and true Islam propagates a world legal system based on justice and compassion, whereas the second’s legal system, the so-called Shariah is arbitrarily based on many mistaken perceptions by traditional legal practitioners, as witness the so-called fixed Hudud laws. The Arabic word ‘hudud’ (sing. ‘had’) actually means ‘boundary’. It has nothing to do with law. The word clearly refers to the parameters of the Islamic worldview, or in today’s terminology, ‘paradigm’.
Sixthly, the first and true Islam places human welfare as the highest priority on par with obedience to God, as witness God’s elevation of the human being to a status of His vicegerent in the Cosmos. Whereas the ‘Islam’ of the theologians almost crashes the human being beneath the weight of Divine Omnipotence, of course, under their self-proclaimed tutelage.
Seventhly, the first and true Islam has no priesthood, whereas the second has, giving themselves the false title of ‘Guardians of the Faith’. In the first and true Islam, the individual approaches God directly without any intermediary, for the very idea of intermediary automatically nullifies monotheism.
Eightly, the first and true Islam teaches and propagates democratic governance as opposed to a theocracy as propagated by the second ‘Islam’, as witness Iran under the mullah. Moreover, the first Islam teaches and propagates a humanistic and moral governance. It also advocates a just and fair economic and financial system, free from blood-sucking usury, the bane of the present bankrupt Anglo-American system. In Medina, Prophet Muhammad set up the first city-state (later to become the first nation-state to cover the whole of the Arabian Peninsula), with a written constitution in the history of the world. This nation-state is not to be counter-posed to the idea of either a universal Ummah or an international society, just as nationalism is not contradictory to internationalism.
Ninthly, the first and true Islam allows pluralism in religion, culture, politics and law, as it believes firmly in the triumph of truth, justice and compassion in the end, as this is actually the Grand Divine Plan for mankind. So the likes of George W. Bush, Tony Blair and the rest of their criminal gang of fascists, who are presently strutting the world presuming to police it, will soon disappear.
Tenthly, the first and true Islam, seeks, works towards and struggles for a just world, where as the second ‘Islam’ is a hotch-potch of confusion, leading mankind to nowhere. It also envisions an unending moral and spiritual ascent for Man. The first and true Islam had been that way at the time of the prophets and it has been that way since. It shall be realized, as this is God’s Grand Plan for His Humanity. None can frustrate it.
It is obvious that corrections must now be made to bring forth the first and true Islam to Muslims themselves and to the world. This clearly cannot be done by the detractors of Islam, the enemy from without and from within. The Muslims themselves must reclaim this Islam of the Prophets from the theologians who have falsely arrogated the power of God unto themselves. Muslims must also realize that there exist true believers in the One God in other religions and we must work closely with them to bring about a better and just world for our children and for posterity.
Kassim Ahmad is a Malaysian free-lance writer based in Penang. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.kassimahmad.blopgspot.com