COMMENTARY
 
Bridging the Gap between Islamic Theory and ‘Muslim’ Practice
Weekly Pulse
May 30-June 5, 2008
Islam was the latest and the last of the Abrahamnic religions. It was meant for the entire humanity, and its message was eternal, as was the case with the other two revealed faiths, Judaism and Christianity. However, during the course of history, just as in the case of Judaism and Christianity, a section of the deviants have committed crimes against humanity by distorting the revealed message; the case with Islam has been no different. Al-Qaeda-led terrorism is only the latest phase in the crimes against humanity that have been committed in the name of Islam.

Still the fact remains that the history of three Abrahamnic religions has seen more instances of peace, tolerance and co-existence than examples of war, intolerance and confrontation. It is the former dominant trend that still depicts the global ground reality, which is why we can hope that whatever tensions exist today among the adherents of the three revealed religions would eventually be overcome.

As for Islam, even common sense knowledge makes it amply clear that engaging in violence against people, be they Muslims or non-Muslims, is not only un-Islamic but also anti-Islamic. For several centuries after the birth of Islam, Muslims dominated the world in every respect.

Islamic Heritage

The Muslims were able to establish an exemplary empire, not with the force of the sword but with their peaceful and benevolent conduct vis-à-vis the local population, including non-Muslims, the Jews, the Christians and others alike. Islam shows special respect towards Judaism and Christianity because of the common faith heritage. Islam expects the followers of these religions to live an upright life as the wish of the Creator.

It is true that since the fall of their great civilization, Muslims have largely been on the receiving end. Their glorious time was replaced by Western colonialism, whose end has also not made much of a difference. Most of the conflicts in the world today involve Muslims, but mostly as victims of aggression and suppression by others. From Palestine to Kashmir, and the political situation at home, the story of Muslim persecution in contemporary times is endless.

The crisis facing the Muslims of the world is, indeed, grave. How to overcome this crisis is the key issue. Can this crisis be tackled through reactionary militancy? Or, should it be resolved through an evolutionary process, aimed at harnessing the Muslim competitive ability to such an extent that they can stand shoulder to shoulder at least with their compatriots in Abrahamanic faiths?

Quranic Verdict

Throughout the holy Quran, the concept of Jihad is employed not to sanctify unbridled violence but to facilitate the realization of a political and social order in which peace might prevail. Even when war was imposed on the Muslim community, believers are counseled “not [to] transgress limits; for God loveth not [such] transgressors” (Surah 2: Verse 190).

In other words, war when unavoidable should be fought in a fashion to enhance the possibilities for peace, rather than in any way that might make the subsequent realization of peace difficult or impossible. Perhaps most famously, the Quran commands Muslims to accept peace even in the middle of hostilities if the enemy suddenly indicates a desire for it.

Thus: “But if the enemy incline towards peace, do you (also) incline towards peace, and trust in God: for He is the One that heareth and knoweth (all things). Should they [the enemy] intend to deceive you-verily God is sufficient to you: He it is that has strengthened you with His aid and with (the company of) the Believers” (Surah 8: Verses 61, 62).

Need of the Hour

Obviously, the stories of Muslim success in the modern era are also ample. Today, there are millions of Muslims living in Europe and North America who are contributing as much to the growth of these regions as any other people are. Moreover, from Persian Gulf to South-East Asia, Muslim countries are making their mark in modernization. Many more in the Muslims world are emulating such success stories within their ranks.

Yet a lot remains to be done. And this is principally because of the lingering clash of civilizations within the world of Islam. It is a clash between those few who have deviated from the path of Islam—who distort its sacred principles such as jihad and commit violence against fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike—and a vast majority of Muslims who adhere to the principles of Islam which strictly forbid violence in the name of religion.

Access column at weeklypulse.org