Wednesday, April 19

A response to Mirvat

PREAMBLE from Mirvat
"... the biggest problem is how flexibly interpretable the koran is which makes it the miracle it is but ironically enough, also it makes it dangerous once misunderstood. That's always been my other problem with the book and for a verse to be misinterpreted for political gain tends to be the norm now since, as we all know, it's been used as a steering guide of people blinded with hate and ignorance and poverty by people of weak faith ..."


I am keenly interested in the history and the evolution of human consciousness and that by default leads to, or includes, the understanding of religious concepts - in particular "organized religions". This post might be biased and has a scent of predigest, but my personal approach is such, that the "religious history" of human development is often directly connected to what people have done or have experienced in different time segments at different locations on earth during the making of their own "cultural epoch." Islam is just one of them.

Without getting into much further detail for now (though I agree with the theological point of view that the Qur'an is the "purest" and newest scripture of them all as "dictated" to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel) I proclaim that the Qur'an also is the scripture which has outdated itself the quickest from all religious concepts in present human evolution.
The state of consciousness we are in today asks for freedom, not submission as the Qur'an preaches in every aspect of its writing and that what is seen true by any follower of the Muslim faith today, exactly the way it was conceived roughly 1400 years ago.
Freedom is first of all a non political concept, it is a state of mind. Freedom reigns when people are awaken to see the full range of their capacities ... and given inwardly and outwardly the opportunity to pick a path that makes it right for their own well-being, their own determinations on the road they walk on. Islam spits onto that kind of thinking.
The fact is, that all main religious beliefs still alive today from epochs past have evolved, they have become "secular" or separated in a sense that they leave it up to each individual of how to proceed ... or not.
It is Islam as we speak though, that barks against evolution of human understanding by cohering to practices that belong to times long gone. This religion has "retarded" itself in a short (relatively spoken) time. Islam is the only major religion who proclaims that it is a MUST that the organization of the state (outer affairs of society at large) and the organization of the mind (inner affairs of individual humans) MUST BE ONE and the same. Of course that is absurd as it leaves no freedom of either self-development of the individual, or a sociopolitical embrace between nations and cultures at large.

Yes, extremism and fundamentalism exists in every religion, but I am sore to say that the avenues of Islam do lag behind tremendously, I would say "they still live in the Middle Ages."
Besides, Mohammed was a warrior and conqueror - not a saint in the imagery of delivering forgiveness and tolerance. What kind of prophet is that?
His proclaimed law of Dihmmi (submission) is surely not the path of what humanity yearns for in the present. To stick to these ancient concepts may turn out to be fatal to a world already amidst an identity crisis.

All this said: PEACE!


Lindsay Lobe said...

The development of the frontal lobes (our consciousness) occurred rather late in our evolutionary cycle and caused much confusion in early communities.

According to psychiatrist Elkhonen Goldberg, Clinical Professor of Neurology of NY School of Medicine, memory of deceased tribesperson were attributed as the ghost of that person and not just a memory of that person.

So I think the more literal religions contain remnants of earlier difficulty to distinguish between other people (internal representations) and those people themselves. Apart from that we have different philosophers influencing writers of the Texts versus the transformational unknowable type God of the Greek variety.

This also gives way to misinterpretations of what Jesus said in the Bible, particularly in relation to judgemental type passages by its authors rather than the “Ethic of Love” and to meditate by way of the Sermon on the Mount as the most likely outcome of his teachings.

So I think these literal translations are way off beam as you say, but on all ancient Texts. Literally taken its can be an unpleasant potent judgmental brew.

Best wishes

Mirvat said...

at work, i'll respond tonight :)

Zee said...

Lindsay, your contributions seem to be always "down to earth" - I very much appreciate that!

Mirvat said...

" and we sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus son of Mry, confirming the Torah before him; and we gave to him the Gospel, wherein in guidance and light, and confirming the Torah before it, s a guidance and an admonition unto the godfearing- And we have sent down to thee the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that was before it and assuring it
So judge between them according to what God has sent down, and do not follow their caprices, to forsake the truth that has come to thee. to every one of you we have appointed a right way and an open road. If God has willed, he would have made you one nation"

i really don't know which islam you talk about Zee. and on the life of mohammad, i suggest you read the 'al-sira'

as for the fact that islam has outdated itself the quiskest-- reason is, as opposed to previous most ancient religions, Islam took the basic teachings like do not kill...a step further into social and economical and family organization and values which is bound to fall apart quickest if you will.

Anonymous said...


What is striking about the intensity and aggression in your rhetoric is its unmistakable resemblence to the blinded violence you condemn in the Muslim Other.

Muslims are as diverse in their interpretations of Islamic principles as other religious group. FACE IT! by actually meeting Muslims, traveling in Muslim countries, studying more rigorously and reading more widely.

You're right, though, that progressive intellectual discourse has been sluggish in Islamic scholarship in the recent past, but it is certainly there, and beginning to flourish. Islam was a religion that encouraged scholarship and debate, not judgemental quick-reads.

May I recommend a reading list?

1. Karen Armstrong's biography on the prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
2. Amin Maalouf's Crusades as Viewed through Arab Eyes
3. Albert Hourani's Arabic Thought in the LIberal Age
4. Progressive Muslims by Omid Safi which includes one of my favorite muslim scholars of all time, Ebrahim Moosa of Duke Univ.; Moosa's book on Ghazali just came out
4. The writings of Ahmed Dallal at Georgetown Univ.
5. Edward's Said's Orientalism and also Covering Islam

Zee said...

As far as I understand the "suras" of the Qur'an, they are arranged chronologically, not by date but by length. However, they are also divided into the "Meccan" and "Medinan" verses. The Meccan one come from the first segments of Muhammad's career when he simply called upon the Meccans to convert to Islam and they were short. Later, after he had fled to Medina, his positions hardened. The Medinan suras are less poetic and generally much longer than those from Mecca. They are also filled with the appeal to jihad and and warfare against unbelievers.
Why does this distinction matter? Because of the Islamic doctrine of abrogation (naskh) that Allah can change or cancel what he tells Muslims. According to this idea, the violent verses of the ninth sura, including the verse of the Sword (9:5), abrogate the more peaceful verses of Meccan suras, simply because they were revealed later in Muhammad's prophetic career. Told by Ibn Juzayy, a scholar whose works are still read in the Islamic world: The Verse of the Sword's purpose is abrogating every peace treaty, every term found earlier in the Qur'an.

Anonymous said...

reading list continued

6. Mohammed Arkoun's Rethinking Islam: Common Questions, Uncommon Answers.

7. Karen Armstrong again: Islam: A Short History

p.s. Khaadija, the prophet's first wife, was not only fifteen years older than he was, but had been previously married and was a business owner. A more progressive female figure for a prophet, no?

Zee said...

Hello anonymous and thank you for your reading lists. I am certain that all the books you mention have very fine and insightful authors. I hope I will get to at least some of them in the near future. Presently I am occupied to read the Qur'an itself and try to make the best of it (and have my own opinion of the content before I sway to other secondary sources).
If you have at all sensed aggression in my posts, it would never be directed towards the people of Muslim faith - only the doctrine they adhere to. Its merit, or lack thereof.

Haider Droubi said...

Although Muslims don’t reflect the best image of Islam but it doesn’t mean that Islam is based on violence ..if the driver is so careless and drunk it doesn’t mean that there is a problem in the car…never mentioning the effort of some parties just to make the accident as bloody as possible … the number of victims that died (from both parties) during the first 2 decades of Islam is nothing compared to that of one battle of the crusades war (which the political leaders used religion to seduce the innocent ppl) ,or during the 2nd world war (based on discrimination)…in Quran it is Cleary mentioned that Muslims shall respect and protect other religions ,and believe in other prophets..and they managed to livein peace for decades..
The question that should be asked now: why the viloance of muslims is only where oil is ….first Afghanistan, then Iraq. Why not in other countries where the government is completely approving the new world order…who is next…will it be china and the far-eastern religions under the scope???
I am not defending any negative sides in muslims ,,,but you cant ask a hungry,beaten,angry man to think and act wisely?
Again …peace……..

Mirvat said...

i agree with haider 100%

zee, which version of the translated koran you're reading?

Zee said...

Thanks Haider for your comments! I truly appreciate conversation on this topic.
I somewhat disagree with your statement that Islam is not based on violence, it's very origins and implementation was based on that notion and the "protection" and tolerance of other religion are based on the law of Dhimma 'til this very day, which I am sure you are familiar with (so I have not to repeat myself).
I try hard to distinguish in my thinking and observations between peace searching Muslims of today (actual people) and the teachings of Muhammad (the source of the Muslim faith). It must be extremely hard to be one of the former while embracing the latter and my good wishes and sympathy radiates out to those people who are in this "struggle"!

Anonymous said...


Islam is not a static doctrine, it is a religion with firm principles (pillars) that is also purposefully ambiguous in places. In many suras it is mystical and allegorical, while in others it is quite practical and concrete. You can't understand Islamic theology without a firm understanding of the Quran, the Sunna and the Hadith; you can't understand the way Islam is actually practiced without making some anthropological effort to get to know Muslims.

If you study the history of Islam you will see that scholarship and education have always been an intense element in Islamic tradition; the idea of a total social system was meant as a way to take a more humanistic and socially conscious view of society as a whole, organizing care for the ill, the poor, the orphans, etc. The religion was relentlessly discussed and debated in the past, and that needs to continue in the modern and postmodern age.

Please take the reading list above seriously; if you are really seeking in-depth understanding, those authors are an essential place to begin. You might also consider reading some Rumi, to get a glimpse of the mystical tradition in Islam, which has often been the gate through which Western scholarship first finds beauty in the Islam.

The intimacy of the connection between the individual and God is one of the hallmarks of Islam; there are no intercessors. Unfortunately, the religion has grown static due to lack of intellectual discourse, and has been co-opted by various factions as we are well aware. But most Muslims are moderates, and there is a growing progressive movement that you should be aware of...


Anonymous said...

To gain a better understanding of the beginnings of Islam, esp. the life and struggle of the prophet Muhammad, I highly recommend the film "the Message" with Anthony Quinn. I think it would help clarify the "violence" you're finding in the Quran.


Anonymous said...

p.p.s. "politically incorrect guide to islam" is not a subsitute primary text for any of the above books... dude, what are you reading??

Zee said...

I was putting quite a bit of effort into my post, detailing my train of thought about Islam the religion, not people etc. as viable and expansive as I thought fit in into a format of a blog.
Somewhat disappointed I see the responses now focusing on "I should read this or that, watch that movie, sense the esoteric backbone of Islam" and so on in order to REALY understand this religion. What I hoped for was something different, namely addressing the particular troublesome issues within Islam that just happen to still be an obstacle today - and perhaps find future avenues of transformation.
To assume that I have no connections to "real life Muslims" or that I have never physically visited a Muslim dominated country is somewhat predigest - I have (done) both...
It is also hard for me to swallow statements that say: "The intimacy of the connection between the individual and God is one of the hallmarks of Islam..." when actually the opposite is practiced, preached and written. Islam in my eyes is foremost an ideology that aims to control the religious, social, and political life under one "hat". Islamic law (the Sharia) is an all embracing system of duties to God, and it controls the entire life and intrudes into every corner and cranny of each individual. That leaves not much space to think and or act out of an impulse of freedom.
Strange is also that the statements I put out here, admittedly sometimes bold and simplistic, never find a direct answer, denial or rebuttal. Somehow I must therefore believe it can't be done...
You see as long as men for example, read and believe in the Qur'an literally, women will be despised, second class citizens, subject to polygamy, the threat of an easy and capricious divorce and worse.... These are not phenomena of a group, a culture, a specific country or anything so ephemeral. They are consequences of regarding the Qur'an as the absolute, eternal valid, and perfect word of Allah.
This is just one of many examples I am pondering about.

(the translations of the Qur'an I study are the ones from N.J Dawood and Abdulah Yusuf Ali)

Anonymous said...

What makes it so hard for you to see the beauty in the Islamic religion?

I'm sure you're wincing to hear this, but I'm gonna drop some more knowledge on you...

Fatima Mernissi's "The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feninist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam"

"In Mernissi's reading, Muhammad's wives were dynamic, influential and enterprising members of the community, fully involved in Muslim public affairs. The women were Muhammad's intellectual partners. Accompanying him on his raid and military campaigns, they were not just background figures but shared with him his strategic concerns. He listened to their advice, which was sometimes the deciding factor in thorny neogitations."

Tansu Ciler, Benazir Bhutto... Muslim countries, female leaders. How long do you think it will take America to say the same?

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