Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Muslims Have No Answers to the Diatribe against the Prophet

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam 31 August 2022 The Only Answer Is To Silence People with Sar Tan Se Juda Slogan Main Points: 1. Anyone dishonouring the prophet has to be killed, this is the dominant position within Islamic theology. 2. The Hadith literature and biographies of the prophet are replete with examples that such was the practice during the prophetic times. 3. It does not serve the Muslim cause to obfuscate the matter; they should be dealing with it in a more reasonable way. 4. The first act should be to question parts of Islamic scripture which sanctions such killings. 5. But for that to happen, Muslims have to first get rid of the erroneous notion that their scriptures are divine and infallible. ------ Every time there is a perceived or real insult on the prophet of Islam, Muslims in India and elsewhere react with the slogans like Sar Tan Se Juda (A call to behead the offender). Thankfully, the call to action behind the slogan is not enacted, in majority of cases. But at times, the intention behind the slogan, which is to behead anyone insulting the prophet of Islam, is carried out in full horror. The Udaipur and Maharashtra killings are part of a pattern which has a long history. Salman Rushdie was lucky but the motivation of the young Muslim who attacked him emanated from the same source: avenging the insult of their dear prophet. After any such attack, it is customary for Muslims to argue that such acts are not sanctioned by Islamic teachings; that Islam teaches love and tolerance and promotes peaceful co-existence between different communities. Some dig into the biography of the prophet to argue that he forgave his own tormentors. But is the Islamic theology really what they proclaim it is? Or are parts of Islamic theology sanction such violence against anyone who insults the prophet? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Also Read: Blasphemy, Islam and Free Speech ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The Hadith and biographies of the prophet cite examples wherein people were killed simply for insulting the prophet. The poets who used to ‘dishonour’ him by composing poetry that were critical of his claim of being a prophet were summarily executed. Even a slave woman was killed by her own owner, a blind Muslim, for the reason that she did not stop the disparaging of the prophet. The case was brought to the prophet and he approved of the killing. This Hadith is narrated on the authority of Ibn Abbas and hence is considered authentic by most Islamic scholars. It is important to underline that the Medinan state had already been formed by then but the blind Muslim man did not take the case to the nascent state. He decided to execute the woman himself and the prophet did not take action against him. This shows that any Muslim can avenge the insult to the prophet and that it does not require the sanction of the state, as some have argued. This woman had borne two sons for this Muslim man. But then, the devotion to Muhammad is such that it breaks apart the most natural of bonds. It is true that the Quran does not prescribe the death sentence for blasphemy. But it certainly calls anyone insulting the prophet to be condemned. It prescribes eternal damnations for such people, both in this world and in the next. It also announces that such people will not be the neighbours of Muslims for long, advising them in a way to expel such people. The Quran in the same verse proclaims that such people will be seized and killed [33:59]. The verses, revealed in 627, which is before the conquest of Mecca, anticipate what is going to happen after the conquest in 630. Indeed, the satirical poets were all ordered killed, even while they were within the sacred sanctuary where violence was forbidden. Those having a different view of Prophethood were at times killed, at times exiled. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Also Read: Islam and Free Speech: A Reply to A. Faizur Rahman ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ It is dishonest to argue that these people were killed because of political reasons rather than religious. Prominent biographers like Ibn Ishaq do not cite that as a reason. Neither do prominent Hadith collectors like Bukhari. They all record the narration as one in which the honour of the prophet was at stake. But sections of Muslims are keen to rescue Islam from the label of intolerance and hence they will go to any lengths to argue that such killings are not part of Islam and were done for reasons which had nothing to do with religion. In a world which has become sensitive to the crushing of those who have an alternative opinion, it is understandable that some Muslims would feel ashamed of blasphemy related killings. But in trying to paint a picture of Islam that is compatible with modernity, they tie themselves in knots. More importantly though, they end up covering up what is written in our theology. This intellectual dishonesty does not allow such subjects to be widely debated within by Muslims. Or is it that Muslims are positively ashamed of what is written in their theology, especially with regard to their prophet? Precisely because they know about it and are too embarrassed by some of its contents, hence, they do not want others, especially non-Muslims to either know or discuss about it. Anyone who breaches this Muslim rule is either persecuted, forced to live in fear or is eventually killed. But does this strategy really work? In today’s day and age, is it really possible to stop anyone from accessing any written text? They are widely available, in many cases free, over the internet and other resources. So, if Muslims want to hide their religious literature, they will never be successful. People, both Muslims and non-Muslims, would be able to read them and arrive at their own understanding of Islam, some of which might not be charitable to Muslim sensibilities. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Also Read: The False Binary of the Secular versus Islamic Needs to Be Broken ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- More importantly though, why are the Muslims embarrassed about what is written about the prophet? In many ways, it is not so different from Jewish and Christian religious texts. If they are not embarrassed about the instances of polygamy and slavery within their texts, why do Muslims feel differently? Perhaps the answer lies in the status accorded to these religious texts. No one in the Jewish or the Christian community argues that their holy text was sent down by God Himself. They were written by men and hence carry the sensibilities of the times in which they were composed. The Quran claims a very different narrative for itself. Muslims believe that it is the very Word of God. And hence it is relevant for posterity. But things don’t stop there. Muslims treat even the Hadith as equivalent to holy books despite the fact that they were compiled by mortals more than two hundred years after the death of the prophet. And yes, these texts record in vivid details the enslavement of men and women, murder and loot, in which the prophet himself participated. How do we extricate ourselves from such a characterization of the prophet which is encoded in our own literature? Muslims do not have an answer to this question. The violent reaction and the slogan of Sar Tan Se Juda is precisely because they do not have an answer when uncomfortable questions are thrown at them. The only response they know is to shut up those asking such questions. But can there be another response? --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: Can Islamism Be Regarded as The Root Cause of Extremism? --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For Muslims, a rational approach to the situation could be to declare the inapplicability of parts of their religious texts in the current context. After all, what is the point of reading about jihad and slavery when majority of Muslims are themselves not enamoured of such ideas anymore. Why should our madrasas teach how slaves should be bought and sold when most Muslims do not indulge in such practice anyways? But for this to happen, we have to first declare that our religious texts are not infallible; that they are not comparable to divinity itself. Are we ready to take this plunge? ----- A regular contributor to, Arshad Alam is a writer and researcher on Islam and Muslims in South Asia. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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