Community (2 of 5)
Muslim Community – Opinion
The concept of a Muslim community (called Umma) varies and differs as to the nature of an all-encompassing Community, except for Allah as god. They are dictated to by their religious scholar, or Ulema. This leader instructs all Muslims to memorize the Quran, if they can, and know that there are rewards for those that do. Those rewards are as tickets, or as I have described in prior blogs, as green stamps[i], that can be collected. Doing ‘works’, which memorizing the Quran is a great accomplishment, is to be rewarded, along with being good, caring for the poor, being charitable, among others. The more the rewards, which can be offset by committing ‘evils’, good works vs. bad works, the better the opportunity for a life eternal in Allah’s kingdom. Thus the idea of ‘green stamps’, each good work results in benefits, a collection of “green stamps” the analogy, works, that can be presented at the gates of Allah’s heaven to determine entry. The final decision, however, rests with Allah, no matter the magnitude of works in excess of evils one might possess in their lifetimes.
All Muslims, as Christians, can be viewed as a single Community – call it the Umma-grand. Within the Christian community you have the church, a church that an individual may join or associate with. So the larger Christian Community is composed of many smaller Christian communities that have as their center the church. For the Muslim there is the Mosque. Also as there are many denominations in the protestant church (plus the Catholic Church), each having differences in interpretations of sacraments or aspects of words written about God and Christ; they are united behind Jesus Christ as Savior. So too there are a variety of sects in the Muslim world again sharing the Shahada (Allah and Muhammad), but expressing their thoughts as to what constitutes Islam in more than one fashion, some more moderate than others.
Separate from the mosque are imposed requirements, more rote actions to be taken as daily reminders, as repetitious actions, to maintain an identity, to ensure an association, but empty of an inherent and desired love for God. This repetitious mindless activity is embodied in the Five Pillars. It is a mechanical process to handcuff believers in Islam to Allah and the prophet Muhammad. It is effective.
As to Love, Allah seeks love, but Allah loving all mankind is another issue. “ ‘Obey Allah and His Messenger’: but if they turn back, Allah loves not those who reject Faith.” (Sura 3:32)
Not all Muslim communities are the same. This arises because of National differences, the governance of one country interpreting the Quran and the Sunnas through their leaders and their Islamic scholar advisers differently. As much as the Quran is a document that is purportedly cast in stone, to be read in its original Arabic to be properly understood, and having only one of its kind, it is interpreted differently by different communities. It appears also that the Umma tends to have a structure, a governance, that begins or evolves to that of Totalitarianism. Dominant control seems necessary to maintain the order as prescribed by the Ulema. For Muslims living in a democratic country, as a minority, they enjoy the freedom of their religion, not necessarily their Ideology (embodying Sharia Law), which may change as the Umma within grows and desires a voice to be heard, or within the micro-Umma itself calls for theocratic ideological constraints to be honored by the democratic surrounding culture.
Over a 23 year period of his life Muhammad received revelations through the angel Gabriel from Allah. These revelations were written down to form the Quran (mostly after his death by Companions that memorized the verses as related to them by Muhammad). It’s interesting that over the thousands of years from creation until the birth of Muhammad and his first revelation, at age 40, biblical statements and traditions and attitudes are unchanged. In the period of Muhammad’s revelations, however early verses of the Quran, earlier Suras, were changed by later verses (called ‘Abrogation’ [ii]). All this in less than 23 years! Was it Allah that changed his mind, or was it Muhammad? Or the Companions, those that recorded the verses?
Some Muslim communities prefer earlier verses as showing the Islamic faith as having “no compulsion in religion”, or suggesting an acceptance of other faiths, greater tolerance, whereas the Islamists rely on the later verses which allow for the effective elimination of “infidels”, to include not only Jews and Christians, but any others that do not believe in Islam. This reliance is based on Abrogation, whereby the earlier verses (during Muhammad’s time in Mecca), most often those of an objective nature, were superseded by the later verses (during Muhammad’s time in Medina), many now considered objectionable. Here again we are faced with a gray area as to what is “Islam”.
There are many tribes or sects within the Muslim world. Each tribe can be viewed as a community; its own Umma. They have their tribal traditions and history. Their Ulema may speak for them and instruct them in ways different from the Ulema of another tribe or community. One then accuses the other as “infidel.” There is no consistency within the Muslim community making, in my view, the idea of a global Muslim Community an amorphous, or gelatinous mass, composed of a vast array of colors, fabrics, attitudes, and distinct differences. There are so many foreign elements that comprise the Muslim Community that it can never gel properly. They congeal only as under the banner of Allah, and Muslim, thru fear. Even under the same banner, one Muslim, or Islamic sect, may consider another as ‘infidel.’ Muslims may see themselves not as Muslim, but as a countryman, Turkish, Pakistani, Saudi, Yemeni, Irani, Iraqi, Lebanese, Indonesian, etc. They are followers of Islam, yet more affiliated with Country that with a unified Muslim community.
Consider my statement. Saudi Arabia has a structure (mostly Sunni) quite different from other Sunni countries, such as Iraq. The Saudi structure is distinctly different, greatly influenced as Wahhabism, from Iran and its Shiite Association. Iran has gone so far as to have Khomeini become the Ulema scholar that actually dictates to the governance making the mosque and state as one (this occurred post the Iranian Revolution in 1979). Sharia Law is dominant, the judge the Khomeini. How can he act for God? In Iran the President of that country is subject to the proclamations of the Ayatollah. In Saudi Arabia and Iran the ideology of Islam is predominant in the culture, to include the government, and the police force enforces the strictest of the religious laws, Islamic (Sharia) Law. In a country such as Turkey or Tunisia the government is more secular, removed from the religion, yet the religion of Islam is the dominant religion in each nation. Who then is the infidel? Review Muslim country by Muslim country, not just looking at tribes, and the differences that exist make the pure strain of Islam impossible to decipher. Who is the infidel? Who is the number-one Ulema? There exists no supreme spokesperson for all Islam, thus a multitude of voices tell what is the correct path to follow and the enforcement procedures to be employed. There is inconsistency.
The Saudi’s have used their oil dollars in, what seems to me to be, an effort to educate and structure all Muslims, to educate (by building Muslim schools – madrassas), police (as to their religious ideology) and impose their religion not just in Saudi Arabia, but throughout the world, spending handsomely to engender change that creates unity of cultural understanding of the correct form (by the Saudi Ulema standards) of Islam.
Al Qaeda (Sunni extremism or pure Islam?) takes the position that all of mankind must be Muslim. To not be Muslim is to be an infidel, and to not be a Muslim thinking as the Al Qaeda Muslim is told to think (the Medina model) is to be an infidel. So the Community of the Muslim world is filled with infidels that are Muslims. Where is the community in this? Those more moderate (preferring the Mecca portions of the Quran) are sidelined and eliminated as they ignored the abrogation and are too tolerant in their thinking.
Is there Love in the Muslim Community? I wrote a blog on the subject of loving your neighbor, which is a Christian accepted concept. The Imam Rauf wrote about loving one’s neighbor in his book, What’s Right with Islam, and yet as the referenced blog outlines Love of Neighbor[iii] is not a prevailing concept in Islam, except to the extent useful for being accepted as a Muslim and as a neighbor. The Muslim concept evokes more tolerance and usefulness, as opposed to true love. Love of Neighbor need be considered in the Muslim world within the framework of Islamic law, or Sharia Law – Taqiyya, lying, if in the advancement of Islam is permitted.[iv]
The treatment of women alone within a framework of Islamic law mitigates a universal concept of Love. Similarly the wanton acceptance of killing infidels belies any concept of loving one’s neighbor, and mitigates what most people would consider godly. Inherent in the concept of being godly is loving – as God so loved the world. As Allah so loved, the world is not loved accordingly – unless it is Muslim, or ‘all are for Allah’ as suggested by whoever the dominant Ulema is at the time.
If I seem confused, it’s understandable. This is a confusing concept and one most difficult and trying for me to grasp. It also makes it most troubling for me to understand how anyone would be Muslim, except for the fact that is what their parents believed, taught them and raised them accordingly, and for the most part all that they have been exposed to; their exposure to anything else limited and subject to punishment. There are those that love Allah, and they love what is godlike. But they do not love the fighting, the terrorism, the oppression of women, the lack of freedom, restrictions on viewing the Bible (especially the New Testament), the inability, the constraints to be objective in thinking for oneself, and the nature of too many Muslims to attack “infidels.” They do not love having to be on-guard daily for anything that appears objectionable to the religious police, the powers that administer the Law, the Law as their establishment see it. Who is their Allah, their advocate? It does not seem to be the Allah they prefer or desire. They need to change their focus; wanting a loving community; not living in one suggests something wrong. Is it man’s desires that are oppressing and controlling? Is Allah consistent and man inconsistent using Islam as their tool for control.
Think about family and community and consider the needs to evolve a peaceful, loving, unified and objective neighborhood. Can pluralism exist within its boundaries? In what community can all peoples, of all manner of thinking, live free thinking, peaceful and secure? Freedom of speech is under attack by the sensitivity that communities are today expressing towards criticisms. Politicians are concerned criticisms may stir the pot of hatred and cause harm. Yet they are words not actions. Actions are different. Restrictions on freedom of speech are doubled sided – restricting one voice can lead to restricting other voices. “Between words and deeds stands a human being, with a mind of his own, an ability to judge between right and wrong and a responsibility to face up to his own actions. It is not the words themselves that cause things to happen, but our estimation of the value and truth of those words. Words have consequences only if we choose to make them consequential. Free speech empowers the speaker. It also empowers the listener, placing a premium on his or her ability to weigh up the arguments and draw their own conclusions.” – Kenan Malik (From Fatwa to Jihad) There is a distinction between words and deeds.
Prominent examples that have caused writers and film-makers and politicians to restrain free speech arose from The Satanic Verses, the Danish Cartoons, Theo Van Gogh’s death arising from his short movie about the treatment of Muslim women and Geert Wilders political statements, among others. Instead of being fearful for expressing yourself – note the comment from, From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Aftermath, by Kenan Malik, “The attacks on Rushdie showed that words can be dangerous. They also showed why critical thought is more important than ever, why blasphemy and immorality and insult need protection. But most people, most writers, want to keep their heads down, live a quiet life. They don’t want a bomb in the letterbox. They have succumbed to fear.” He also noted, “…. Censorship by fear… sets a very bad precedent….” But it does seem to be working.
Changes in attitudes towards freedom of speech are impacting community.
There will be more – To Be Continued…… next – Muslim Thinking – Community
Grace and Peace.
[i] Understanding Islam – Part 27 – The Virgins (https://tombalderston.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/understanding-islam-%e2%80%93-part-27-the-virgins/)
[ii] Understanding Islam – Part 68 – Abrogation (https://tombalderston.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/understanding-islam-part-68-abrogation/)
[iii] Understanding Islam – Part 41 – Love Neighbor As Self (https://tombalderston.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/understanding-islam-part-41-love-neighbor-as-self/)
[iv] Understanding Islam – Part 28 – Tariq Ramadan and Lying (https://tombalderston.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/understanding-islam-%e2%80%93-part-28-tariq-ramadan-and-lying/)