By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
20 July 2017
This is a response to the very touching, passionate and honest article by Hassan Radwan titled “Is Islamic Reform Possible?’Should We Just Accept That Quran Is Not Perfect, Infallible Word of God, If Nearly All Muslims Misunderstand It?” Hats Off to Hassan for his bold and honest article sharing his innermost thoughts (soul). This is not a rejoinder but only an attempt to help Hassan Radwan on his journey of discovery by sharing my perspective. Except the Quran, I reject all else that comes with the label of Islam. I reject the Ahadith, the imams and the theology of every sect of Islam as not only fallible, but perhaps worse. My response is in green to what Hassan has written which is in black.
The question “Is Islamic reform possible?” pre-supposes that reform is necessary. Many Muslims would say it is not.
Islamic theology is mostly un-Islamic and needs extensive reform of a fundamental nature. It is full of utter nonsense. It is not very much different from what the extremists believe which is why it can never effectively counter them. To give you an example, in Islamic theology, Kafir has come to mean a non-Muslim which is not the meaning of the word in the Quran at all. Now if you read the Quran giving the word such a meaning, and when this word in its various grammatical forms appears in the Quran more than 300 times, you can imagine the havoc it plays with the meaning of the Quran! What is the solution? The solution is to show exactly what meaning the Quran gives to this word with the help of the Quranic verses. Is that possible? It is possible to very precisely define what it means and what it does not mean after which the Quran reads very differently and makes very good sense. With the wrong meaning it sounds absolutely grotesque. By changing the meaning of one word, the word of God can be transformed into the word of Satan. Is the Quran to blame for this? Certainly not since anyone with the necessary motivation can find the exact meaning of every word and verse. How did this transformation happen? My guess is that the word infidel was mapped by the new converts to “kafir” and since everyone was a convert from another religion in which the concept of infidel for the “other” was deeply ingrained, the meaning of infidel stuck. Please read:
The word martyr was mapped to Shuhuda to mean both witness and slain in the cause of God. The Quran does not use Shuhuda for those slain in the cause of Allah at all. It is always the descriptive “Qutelu Fi Sabilillah”. The Quran does extol the Siddiq, the Shuhuda and the Saliheen but the Shuhuda are not martyrs but paragons of Islamic virtue who through their word and conduct are living proof of the religion of Islam and provide evidence (witness) to God that His religion has been communicated to the world through them. By changing the meaning to mean a martyr, Islamic theology has transformed the word of God to extol the martyrs or those slain and to treat them as paragons of Islamic virtue to be held as an example to the non-Muslims. What a travesty! Should we blame the Quran for this? I have a series of articles aimed at bringing out the meaning of the Quran which is covered layer upon layer with falsehood by our scholars and theologians. By the way Kufr means “to cover the truth by falsehood”.
Thankfully, the Quran is such a perfect book and demonstrably so, that it allows you to clean up all the dirt thrown on it over the past 14 centuries and get to the meaning of every word and every verse without ambiguity and without doubt.
The author talks about cognitive dissonance. He is therefore also aware of cognitive bias. Such bias can be based on very strong beliefs and concepts that people from other religions brought into Islam and from meanings to words that they themselves gave which is not the meaning that the Quran gives to the same word. In academics, there is something called theory induced blindness. An existing theory which is defective, can blind you to the truth. Bad theories therefore survive longer than they should. One example that I can think of is belief in an immortal soul. The Quran categorically rejects such belief and yet everyone believes in it. This is covered in my article:
Religious reform requires being anchored in the scriptures. It is essential therefore, to get the meaning of the scriptures right.
Yet it has to be asked if Islam is perfect and has absolutely nothing to do with the actions of extremists like ISIS or regimes like Saudi Arabia - then why is it that these Muslims have so grossly misunderstood their religion? When one points out actions such as execution of apostates and gays they tell us this is completely against Islam and Islam is very clear about it.
The Quran is extremely clear that it is not apostasy that is to be punished but treason. The Quran itself talks of many Jews who became Muslim in the morning and reverted to Judaism by evening. Also, they did this with deliberate intent to spread mischief and to create the impression that they did not find the new religion worth abandoning their own. No one was punished for it. No hypocrite was punished for deliberate acts of mischief designed to harm the new faith. If some people or sects today treat all forms of apostasy as treason and give the punishment for treason, it is not the Quran to blame.
Regarding gays, there is a clear verse:
(4:16) If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and amend, Leave them alone; for Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful.
There is no capital punishment for homosexuality.
If it is true that they have completely misunderstood Islam - what does that say about Islam & the Qur’an - the clear book Kitabun Mubeen - the final and complete revelation to man? If the message has been so badly misunderstood by so many Muslims what does that say about the message?
The Quran answers every question with clarity and without ambiguity. It is indeed Kitabum Mubeen. There is no need to interpret the Quran but to find its clear meaning without a shadow of doubt. Every other interpretation, except the clear meaning that can be very logically established, can be shown to be invalid and defective.
Liberal and Progressive Muslims of today are forced into absurd linguistic gymnastics in order to claim that God’s perfect word never actually said what it appears to have said - and what 1400 years of scholarship believed it said.
Hassan is partially right. Yes, the progressives do play to the gallery and use euphemisms and are clearly embarrassed to own up certain parts of the Quran. For example, they have difficulty owning up that the Quran did allow sex with your own female slaves. However, the fact that the Quran did allow sex with your own female slaves does not make it imperfect. Nor does banning of slavery make such banning against the Quran.Please read my article:
The Morality or the Immorality of the Institution of Slavery and the Quranic Permission That Allowed Sex with Female Slaves
But by playing this game within the rules of a perfect divine Qur’an they only hand victory to the traditionalists and fundamentalists because it is the traditionalists who have by far the greater evidence to support their views.
There is no need for any workarounds. The traditionalists and the fundamentalists can be proven to be wrong with the help of the Quran itself and with perfectly logical arguments based entirely on the Quran. Take for example the verses relating to fighting. For what were the Muslims given permission to fight according to the Quran? The Quran provides a clear unambiguous answer and yet I am appalled by the arguments of even the moderates who show little understanding of the Quran. They give answers like “To defend their faith which was in danger of extinction”. That sounds laudable and understandable but the Quran does not give you permission for it. The answer is incorrect. The Quran permits fighting against any kind of oppression and to help any other people who are oppressed. There is no other cause that can be called fighting in the cause of Allah. Now is this a matter of mere interpretation? No, this can be clearly established beyond doubt with the help of all the verses where the subject is fighting in the cause of Allah. It is as simple as that. So, if fighting is permitted only against the oppressors and the persecutors, do we need to know the context of the verse on fighting to know that it does not apply to any peaceful person? Do we need to duck under the peaceful verses?
Quran clearly informs us who is a Kafir and this definition is faith neutral since not all polytheists were ever considered Kafir in the Quran in any verse and some among all including the Muslims are considered Kafir for their specific acts of Kufr mentioned in the verse. Now if people give a meaning of non-Muslim to Kafir and read the Quran accordingly, they will get it all wrong. The Quran clearly defines the meaning of all the key words it uses in a logically perfect manner. The meaning that we derive of the word (what it means and what it does not mean) following the rules of logic is then beyond doubt. Establish using rules of logic, the clear meaning of often used words by the Quran with the help of the Quranic verses. Establish what it means and also what it does not mean. Then use the correct meaning to understand the Quran. You cannot go wrong then in correctly establishing the meaning of any verse or getting an answer to any question.
So, who were the Muslims fighting? It was the Kafirin who practiced religious persecution in all its forms. The Quran never says that the Mushrikin must be fought against. It is always the Kafirin with the sole exception of verse 9:5 which will be discussed later. And what were these Kafirin against whom fighting was permitted? They were religious persecutors. The Quran clearly forbids fighting against the peaceful Mushrikin. In battle, there was no problem in identifying a Kafir. All those who stood in battle against the Muslims were Kafir. Or any attacker in the sacred mosque was Kafir by his very deed. However, if you translate Kafir as disbeliever in these verses, it would be incorrect, because it wasn’t their disbelief that was being fought against nor were they permitted to fight the peaceful disbelievers. So, one must translate or understand as “fight the religious persecutors until there is no more oppression and the law of Allah prevails”. The law of Allah includes “Let there be no compulsion in religion”. Ironically, Kafir which is translated as disbeliever does not mean a passive disbeliever at all in the Quran. It means one who actively rejects and opposes faith and the faithful believers.
Many Muslims defend the Quran’s integrity and consistency against all reason.
I have shown in several of my articles that it is possible to arrive at the meaning of any word and any verse in the Quran, following strict rules of evidence, logic and reasoning. While we may interpret the Quran any way it takes our fancy, the Quran lends itself to only one meaning which is why it is Kitabum Mubeen. You don’t have to take my word for it. Read my articles and follow my methodology or any other methodology that you can show to be better and tell me if what I say is untrue. My articles do not express my opinions. They present the meaning of the Quran as made clear by the Quran itself and not any interpretation. What I say is easily verifiable with reference to the Quran itself and proved to be incorrect if it is incorrect.
The Quran is fundamentally and literally a religion of peace. So, you can take the most extreme position as a fundamentalist and literalist and prove the bigots and the extremists to be frauds. It is they who interpret and are neither fundamentalists nor literalists. They are simply bigots, extremist, liars and frauds who twist the meaning of the Quran.
In the context of the Quran, a fundamentalist is one who will polish his Quranic fundamentals by getting at the precise meaning of every verse and a literalist is one who sticks to the literal meaning given by the Quran to every word and not take any other meaning of the word outside of the Quran such as current usage, dictionary, Islamic theology etc.
I defend with perfect reason. If so many people misunderstand, the problem could still be the people and not the Book Take the simple question “Do we have a soul that is immortal”? The Quran gives an unambiguous answer that what we consider as “soul” dies with us and has no existence independent of our body and that too in a state of wakefulness. Haven’t all Muslims including all the scholars and imams believe/believed in an immortal soul? Should we blame the Book or the people for taking their own meaning disregarding the clear answer the Book provides? Read: the article “Islam and Mysticism” in three parts cited above.
Ironically many far-right anti-Muslim bigots also insist there is only one “True Islam” and they say it is the Islam of ISIS and the extremists.
The bigots can be easily defeated on their own ground. The pity is that there are so few to throw them a real challenge and those few have no supporters. It is far easy for the Muslims to give up.
The far-right anti-Muslim bigots and the Muslim extremists such as the ISIS, are the two sides of the same coin. They are both bigots and extreme in their bigotry.
When liberal and progressive Muslims accuse the Salafis of being selective in how they interpret Islam, choosing to overlook the more peaceful and tolerant verses, they are right. But what they forget to mention is that they are just as selective when they choose to overlook the more harsh and rigid verses.
The author is mistaken. When we can prove with the help of the verses on fighting alone, that fighting is permitted only against oppression, against any oppressor, even if the oppressor belongs to your faith and the oppressed is a polytheist, where is then the question of overlooking anything or cherry picking? You can look at what you call “the harsh and rigid verses” without reference to any context outside of the Quran, and without hiding behind the peaceful verses
What Muhammad did and said varied at different points over the 23 years of his Prophethood. His message changed shape and direction as events did. The Qur’an contains contradictions, ambiguity and vagueness leaving the door open to a multitude of interpretations.
There is unbroken continuity and consistency in the message. There isn’t even a single contradiction in the Quran and it is a book without ambiguity and lends itself to finding the true meaning after which any other interpretation will clearly appear to contradict the Quran. I am not making an empty claim. It is backed by more than 50 articles covering every difficult topic/question. As for the continuity and consistency, read:
The Story of the Prophetic mission of Muhammad (pbuh) from the Qu’ran (part 1): The early opposition
The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) From the Qu’ran (Part 2): The Clear Warning to the Meccan Pagans
The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In the Qu’ran (Part 3): Important Pointers from the Stories of the Prophets
The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) From the Qu’ran (Part 6): The People of the Book and Jiziya
Some argue that the principle of abrogation means that the more peaceful and conciliatory verses are no-longer valid. For example verse 106 of al-Baqara says:
“Any revelation We cause to be abrogated or forgotten, We replace with something better or similar.”
Abrogation does not apply to the Quran at all. It applies to previous scriptures. To give you an example of abrogation to explain the verse “Any revelation We cause to be abrogated or forgotten, We replace with something better or similar”, take the maxim of reciprocity “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This is the very first moral principle given by God to mankind to every people and region where a civilization developed without which we would not have made the transition from savage to civilization. It is found in all regions and religions and is as old as civilization since civilization was not possible without it. This is replaced by the maxim of “Ahsan” “repel evil with what is better and forgiveness in place of retaliation”. Since the Quran is the last in a series of progressive revelations, you may not find anything new but in a form that is better. The punishment for adultery for example, is not stoning to death but a 100 stripes and 80 stripes to those who accuse without establishing the charge. There is no capital punishment for homosexuality.
The moderates cannot decisively defeat the fundamentalists using scriptural arguments because the harsh literalist interpretations of the fundamentalists will always have the greater weight of classical scholarship on their side.
Can the weight of defective classical scholarship which has heaped falsehood on the Quran withstand the power of the Quran? The Quran makes its point categorically and leaves no scope for any contrary view to prevail except the single meaning it is trying to communicate. All that you need is to empower yourself by uncovering the meaning.
(21:18) Nay, We hurl the Truth against falsehood, and it knocks out its brain, and behold, falsehood doth perish! Ah! woe be to you for the (false) things ye ascribe (to Us).
Do you need anything more than the power of the Quran to destroy falsehood?
Even the so called harshest verses are not harsh unless we give our own meanings to the words disregarding the meaning that the Quran itself gives. I explain the so called sword verses on their own merit without relying on “peaceful verses” and fully consistent with their literal meaning as defined by the Quran. I reproduce the same below:
The Final Judgment on the polytheists of Mecca
These verses were revealed 18 months after the conquest of Mecca allowing people to settle down and assimilate. Mecca was taken without a fight and there was no bloodshed for 18 months. These verses pronounce Allah’s judgment that was repeatedly warned in the Meccan Surahs. Allah had spared the Meccans destruction by an act of God when Muhammad (pbuh) was driven out of Mecca.
Surah Taubah the second last Surah in chronological order was revealed after the conquest of Mecca. The war was mostly with the Meccans and their allies and the Meccans were all Mushrikin. Notice when Mushrik is used and when Kafir is used in these verses.
Verses 9:1 and 9:2 declare amnesty of four months to all Mushrikin but with a warning that the Kafirun among them will be covered with shame at the end of the period.
9:3 and 9:4 announces dissolution of all treaties with the Mushrikin except with those who never broke their treaty and warns the Kafirun (not Mushrikin) of a grievous penalty.
Verse 9:5 is a command to kill all Mushrikin at the end of the four month period with the exception of:
1. Those who never broke their treaty or never fought the Muslims
2. Those who accept Islam offer prayers and pay Zakat
3. Those who seek asylum
If the command was to kill only the Kafir, then the problem would have been how to identify them since there was no longer an enemy standing in battle. The verse identifies the non Kafir among the Mushrikin through the exceptions listed above. The rest of the verses are by way of justification and evidence of the Kufr practiced by those who are to be killed which covers all the Mushrikin except those who never broke their treaty with the Muslims or never fought against them or those who seek asylum. Asylum seekers are not defiant and therefore not Kafir.
The following verses are proof that the cause for fighting is not for the Kufr of faith or belief which is known only to Allah, but for the Kufr of violating oaths and covenants, for having plotted to expel the Messenger, and for being the first to assault the Muslims :
(9:12) But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith,- fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith ( a-Immat-al-Kufri) : for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained.(13) Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first (to assault) you?
Those “Kafaru” who had actively opposed Islam, fought wars, broke their treaties and remained defiant even after the four month amnesty period were to be put to the sword if they remained in Mecca and did not use the time to either migrate or accept Islam. Not a single person was to be killed for simple unbelief and the principle of “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and “To (peaceful rejecter of faith ) be his way and to me mine” was never violated. How many people remained both defiant and in Mecca at the end of the 4 month period? Not even one it would appear as there was no need for anyone not to use the 4 month period of amnesty to migrate to a safe place outside Hejaz. What is harsh in these so called sword verses? Oh yes, the verse on slaughtering is very harsh. Let us assume that this verse is made less harsh while saying that the Mushrikin who fought in violation of treaties will be killed if found in Mecca at the end of the amnesty period. This is however said as lightly as possible using euphemisms. Will that not result in some people taking the warning lightly and remaining in Mecca and getting slaughtered? Is it not better to scare the devil in them and avoid any bloodshed at the end of the amnesty period rather than make them stay and get killed? Let us measure harshness by outcome. The so called sword verses avoided bloodshed altogether. This lesson of achieving your objectives by minimizing bloodshed was learned very well by the Muslims. You will not find in history another empire of the same size built with such little bloodshed.
However contrary to popular belief all the Arabs at the time of Muhammad did not swoon at the words of the Qur’an believing it to be of divine origin. Even after Islam there were Muslims who rejected the Qur’an’s claim to be inimitable. During the Islamic Golden Age many prominent scholars and poets openly questioned the view that the Qur’an was of divine origin.
To claim the inimitability of the Quran on its linguistic excellence is truly ludicrous. The criterion is subjective and everyone can have his own opinion. The challenge of the Quran has however been misunderstood. Its inimitability is on the substance of the Quran which is covered in my article: Science and Religion
The Golden Age was what I call the period of Islam’s innocence. It lost its innocence when it discovered that rationalism was turning out heretics. They clamped down on rationalism and therefore the Golden Age came to an end.
If the challenge of the Quran is correctly understood, it insulates the rationalists from turning heretics. Revelations have given us something so valuable, that without them, we would have remained savages. It gave us moral principles and a moral way of living. The maxim of reciprocity that I spoke of was first practiced as a religious duty and became a shared value among people who followed their religion leading to trust and cooperation within large groups of people. This was the beginning of a civilization. Religion gave us deontological ethics or ethics based on reverence for God and the moral code. The benefit to the individual and to the society from practicing the religious moral codes soon became apparent and measurable. These principles became understandable in hindsight from the empirical evidence. The philosophers turned deontological ethics into pragmatic ethics based on reason since with experience; these moral principles from religion could be presented logically without talking about God and Divinity. Now since every moral principle from religion is logical in hindsight (if it were not so, the principles would have perished), the later day philosophers behave as if these are available in foresight also without proof or evidence. The earliest philosophers had no problem acknowledging that the moral principles that were discussed based on reason, came from religion because they also held religious beliefs. This connection with religion however loosened over the centuries and the later day philosophers carry on the charade that religion itself is a construct of the human mind since all the things of practical value that religions have given us, are amenable to our understanding. So, what is understandable by the human intellect must be amenable to human beings in foresight also is what they assume. The fact of the matter is that in the entire recorded history of philosophy, starting from 600 BC, it has not contributed a single original moral principle while giving us any number of theories of ethics and moral arguments.
The Quran says that it is the inspired word of God. It therefore contains what is not possible without God’s inspiration and therefore inimitable. The Challenge stands undefeated and is discussed in the article cited above.
Al-Razi was particularly scathing about the Qur’an saying:
“You claim that the evidentiary miracle is present and available, namely, the Koran. You say: 'Whoever denies it, let him produce a similar one.' Indeed, we shall produce a thousand similar, from the works of rhetoricians, eloquent speakers and valiant poets, which are more appropriately phrased and state the issues more succinctly. They convey the meaning better and their rhymed prose is in better meter. … By God what you say astonishes us! You are talking about a work which recounts ancient myths, and which at the same time is full of contradictions and does not contain any useful information or explanation. Then you say: 'Produce something like it'‽”
Oh these miserable puny braggarts who mock God! Let us see what the best among them is worth - these shameless plagiarists of God. Immanuel Kant gave us what he calls the “supreme principle of morality”. The formula of the Universal law is :"Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law [of nature]."
Isn’t that the maxim of reciprocity “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” rephrased? Kant has argued that it is superior to the maxim of reciprocity. He has argued that the maxim of reciprocity does not help if one is a masochist. Does his formulation work with the masochist or the psychopath any better? What Kant has said perhaps sounds better and more scholarly but who except another academic can understand it? Of what practical value is it to the ordinary man who the scriptures are trying to address? Must an ordinary man think in terms of universalizing his simple decision into a law binding on all at every step? He will simply be unable to act!
Kant is perhaps the most famous of the moral philosophers. Even a modern philosopher of the 19th century could go no further than the maxim of reciprocity from religion. He did so without acknowledging that he was merely rephrasing the maxim. Kantian morality is deontological and he ended up admitting that without belief in justice finding perfection in the Hereafter, his moral philosophy does not make rational sense. Absolute moral values cannot exist outside religion. Practical ethics is doing what is practical under a given set of circumstances based on utilitarian considerations of cost/benefit or of consequences (chances of getting caught and suffering the penal consequences) and is not morality. There is no morality in practicing honesty in business in which repeat business constitutes 95% of sales. Honesty here is a utilitarian principle since the customers won’t return if the business is dishonest. We find very little honesty in businesses where the customer is not likely to return such as tourist places unless there is effective control by the government to prevent unethical practices. That is the difference between honesty as a moral principle and as a principle of pragmatic ethics. A business which practices honesty as a moral principle will act honestly even if it is in business where 100% of its sales is to new customers who will not return.
However with the rise of Europe during the Renaissance came the decline & stagnation in the Islamic world and what little free-thought had existed during the Islamic Golden Age came to an end. The doors of Ijtihad were closed and scholars no longer braved new frontiers. Instead they concentrated on preserving and imitating the past.
That is true and is a pity. The rot started much earlier. The Muslims had a head start over Europe by about 1000 years and lost out. To my mind, this was because they had not discovered the antidote to the Muslims turning heretic while studying logic, philosophy and the Sciences. They therefore developed an antagonism to these subjects which persists to this day. The Muslims opted for preserving their religion and all credit to them for it. It is the rationalists who failed us by getting carried away by the claims of pragmatic ethics and not realizing that this was plain and simple plagiarism from religion in rationalist garb. The human intellect is capable of advancing the moral principles in a rational manner by framing appropriate laws and other improvements of an incremental nature, but is incapable of producing a single moral principle on its own. All of them are inspired by God and that is why the challenge of God to produce anything like the Quran. The substance of the Quran is the Deen. Its excellence is captured in my article:
.Perhaps the irony is that most Muslims already pick and choose - the only difference is that I’m simply proposing they do this openly and unashamedly without the ridiculously tenuous and disingenuous apologetics that are ultimately self-defeating.
I will give you an example from verse 34 of Sura al Nisa which in microcosm reflects the dilemma Muslims face and how belief in a perfect Qur’an prevents us from reform. The verse says:
“As for those women from whom you fear rebellion (first) admonish them (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) hit them.” (4:34)
This has been the cause of endless problems & cognitive dissonance for rational and liberal Muslims in this day and age where humanity has evolved beyond such a barbaric mentality and where the relationships and roles of men and women have changed drastically from 7th century Arabia.
The Quran is not wrong on 4:34 either. Read my article:
There are many beautiful and mystical verses such as Ayat u Nur, Ayat ul Kursi, verses about giving charity, helping others, seeking comfort and strength from prayer, helping the poor, good behaviour and character, honesty, personal responsibility, kindness, humbleness and so on…
Ayat al-Nur is a beautiful verse but very much misunderstood I am afraid. I have covered this in my article.
But there are also verses about eternal torture in Hell, chopping hands off thieves, flogging fornicators, and keeping slaves.
There are no verses about enslaving people while there are numerous verses about freeing slaves, marrying them and treating them kindly.
Except Saudi Arabia, I doubt if the Hadd punishments are implemented anywhere else. I am not sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. The good thing about flogging is that there is no prison sentence to serve and loss of one’s freedom. The family does not suffer because the bread winner is serving a sentence. What happens inside the prison is often much worse than flogging with sexual assault being so common. It is better to take a few lashes than get buggered every day of your sentence by fellow cell mates. Do prisons reform the prisoner? What comes out is a more hardened criminal. What about the cost to the society? What happens behind prison walls however does not bother us.
We get fined for traffic violations? Does that deter us? What if we were given just one stripe for every traffic violation beyond three in a year? I am sure traffic violations will become a thing of the past without many people undergoing the penalty. The thought of it is enough to deter.
As regarding punishments in hell, it is for the Kafirin and not all people belonging to any faith are considered as Kafirin by the Quran. The people who will be in hell will come from all faiths and so also people in heaven. The Kafirin are the ingrate rebels. They are not good ordinary folks from a different religion from yours.
And if there is so much evil in the world despite the dire warnings, imagine how much more evil there may have been without it? Get it out of your mind that the Kafir is some dear Hindu friend of yours. That isn’t the meaning of Kafir. Each one of us will be judged by how we dealt with our cognitive dissonance. When we deal with it with honestly, we are guided along the “straight path” and when we deal with it dishonestly “we are allowed to stray”. You can understand that as your cognitive bias progressively hardening your acceptance of “what is bad” as good.
The Quranic prescriptions are based on human psychology or the laws governing our behaviour. Take our prayer and the 50 Rakats daily and in each Rakat we pray “Guide me on the straight path”. Why do you have to say this 50 times a day? The prayer works as auto-suggestion provided you are not heedless in your prayers and pray in a devout frame of mind.
Take the verses on help during battle provided by Allah with a thousand Angels or 3000 or 5000. Allah Himself says that it was to strengthen your heart and it worked as a charm as if there were indeed angels helping you.
Allah has laid down the laws and the laws work perfectly and the Universe is mostly self-governing. So if something is not working, figure out why and change what needs to be changed because:
13:11 Allah does not change a people´s lot unless they change what is in themselves.
It’s time we Muslims realise that recognising the human origins of the Qur’an do not mean we have to lose comfort and solace Islam gives us. It means we will have the dual benefit of eradicating extremism while preserving that which is worthwhile.
You make two assumptions here – that because you reject the divine origin of the Quran, the extremists will follow suit. It is a naïve assumption. The second one is that his belief in the Quran as of divine origin is what makes him an extremist! I believe in the divine origin of the Quran without a shadow of doubt and am both a literalist and a fundamentalist and at the same time moderate, modern and progressive and also a rationalist to the core. Why do you think the word of God would require you to compromise on anything least of all your rationality and your humanity?
To those who say that is impossible to combine faith with doubt &skepticism I would say firstly I myself have reached that point. Secondly why should such a pragmatic realism be harder than the massive efforts most believers put into struggling with cognitive dissonance?
Disbelief is certainly better than blind belief. It is blind belief that makes a bigot or an extremist and I would any day prefer a sceptic to a bigot. However, belief that does not take leave of the senses or rationality is certainly superior to disbelief. Skepticism is not bad but unresolved and unexamined scepticism is bad.
Muslims must take the bold & essential step of challenging the belief that Qur’an is infallible.
The only weapon that can defeat the extremists is showing that what you say is fully backed by the Quran and it is they who are twisting the clear meaning. For this you have to be convinced first.
As far as trying to convince that the Quran is not divine, not flawless and not without contradictions, go-ahead and give it your best shot. Don’t however base your arguments on what others say unless you are yourself convinced. If you go about it honestly, you will discover how mistaken you were.
Islam is far more than the Qur’an and Sunna. It is the fundamentalists who are destroying Islam by stripping it of the very things that has made religion relevant to human beings.
The extremists are people with poor education. It is the educated who have failed Islam. A little education turns their head. No wonder, the Golden period did not last. Take Al-Razi, he mocks God! Is it any wonder that the traditionalist Muslims turned against such education which makes them turn out like Al-Razi?
The Quran expects you to examine it critically and with all sincerity and by dealing with cognitive dissonance most honestly by changing your view rather than by rationalizing or discounting.
The Golden period would never have ended if the Muslims who excelled in the sciences had kept their heads and balance and not mocked God and religion. It is those who pursued the Sciences who have let down the Muslims and Islam. The traditionalists for all their faults have at least been loyal. They turned blind believers after seeing that the eyes have done no good to those who used the telescopes and the microscopes. I don’t blame the rationalists either. Arrogance comes easily to man and there was no antidote to their arrogance. Such arrogance was based on very little appreciation of the contribution that religion made to civilizing us without which the same scientists and philosophers would have been no more than savages. I have tried to capture the reasons for the golden age and its decline in the following article:
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to www.NewAgeIslam.com
Is Islamic Reform Possible? 'Should We Just Accept That Quran Is Not Perfect, Infallible Word of God, If Nearly All Muslims Misunderstand It?'
Some Muslim Intellectuals of This Era Cry Lies or Half-Truths against Islam Creating Doubts and Suspicions against It – Ignorantly or Fraudulently - God Knows Best