Phenomenon of Community, Not Phenomenon of Islam
By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
10 April, 2015
The Wall Street Journal of New York published an article, Why Islam Needs a Reformation on March 20, 2015 by a Somalian writer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The writer speaks about the violence perpetrated in the name of Islam. She claims that this violence has theological sanction in the religion of Islam.
But careful reading of this article leads one to believe that the writer is confused between two different aspects of the issue: the teaching of Islam and the practice of the Muslim community. Any scholar of religion will accept that Islam is based on two authentic sources, that is, the Quran and Sunnah (the practice of the Prophet Muhammad). So it is more than correct to judge Muslims in the light of the Islamic text and not vice versa. If some Muslims are engaged in violence, it is certainly not due to the teaching of Islam.
The writer has divided Muslims into Mecca Muslims and Medina Muslims. Again, this division is wrong. The fact is that Muslims of both the periods are one and the same. The only difference is that, when the Prophet was in Mecca, he received those revelations that pertained to the basic principles of Islam, but when he was compelled to migrate to Medina, he faced a new situation, that is, an unprovoked military attack by the Meccan people. This was a compulsive situation and therefore the Prophet had no option but to engage in defensive war. Due to this aggression some fighting broke out between the Prophet and the Meccans. However, none of these battles, which were few in number, reached the extent of a full-fledged war. The Prophet managed to minimize hostilities and the result was that fighting was reduced to mere skirmishes.
The writer claims that Islam is not a religion of peace. This statement has no sanction in the text of Islam. The target of Islam is not to establish political rule. In fact, its target is to make people aware of the creation plan of God. This was the sole mission of all the prophets, including the Prophet Muhammad. This mission can be carried out only in a peaceful situation. Because of this, the Quran declares, “Peace is the Summum Bonum” in Islam. (4:128)
Those who want to establish political rule in the name of Islam have been misguided by the political interpretation of Islam given by certain Muslims of the twentieth century. This interpretation is in itself wrong. Anyone who objectively studies the Quran will find that there is not a single verse in the Quran which enjoins Muslims to establish political rule on earth. Islam enjoins Muslims to become followers of the teachings of Islam, however, the political interpreters have wrongly shown Islam as a subject of imposition.
What is the political interpretation of Islam? It is to give a political meaning to the non-political teachings of the Quran. For example, the Quran enjoins the people of faith to follow the principle of justice. (5:8) This commandment is in the intransitive form. The political interpreters have turned it into the transitive form and have taken it to mean that Muslims have to impose justice in society. This is an example of the incorrect interpretation of Islam.
It is right that those Muslims, who are engaged in violence, give reference to those wars in which the Prophet was engaged in the Medinan period. But the actions of those Muslims who do violence by citing the Prophet’s Medinan period can be termed as ‘putting the cart before the horse’. Because, the Prophet never started his mission by adopting the violent method. He started his mission through the peaceful dissemination of the ideology of Islam. In the later period of his mission, when his opponents opened hostilities, then in the aggressive situation he opted for limited defence. At the same time, he started negotiations and in the end he was able to finalize a peace agreement with his opponents, called the Hudaybiyyah Treaty. The period of war came to an end after this agreement. Then, the Prophet sent his message of peace not only to the Arabian tribes but also to adjacent countries. All those Muslims who take the Prophet Muhammad as their religious leader must acknowledge that they are now living in the post-Hudaybiyyah period, and not in the pre-Hudaybiyyah period.
Other much-debated topics with regard to Islam are laws on apostasy and blasphemy. But, these laws are totally absent from the Quran. They were developed by Muslims of the later period and are thus only to be rejected as innovations in Islam.
In conclusion, I would say that the community is prone to deviation, but the text of Islam has been preserved intact and requires no change. Therefore, it is the Muslim community that needs to be reformed and not the religion of Islam.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is an Islamic Scholar and Founder of Centre for Peace and Spirituality International.