Their Jihad ... Not My Jihad
by Raheel Raza
"They do Prophet Muhammad and Islam a great disservice", writes Raheel Raza in her first book
What has so galvanized the violent tendencies in Islam that the faith has been transformed from a religion of love to a culture of hate?
The answer is very complex. It is rooted in social, political and theological issues.
Stephen Schwartz, in his book Intellectuals and Assassins, writes: "Throughout history, political extremists of all faiths have willingly given up their lives simply in the belief that by doing so, whether in bombings or in other forms of terror, they would change the course of history, or at least win an advantage for their cause."
Karen Armstrong writes in her book The Battle for God, "Every fundamentalist movement I have studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced that liberal, secular society is determined to wipe out religion."
She further analyzes that fighting - as they see it - a battle for survival, these fundamentalists often feel justified in ignoring the more compassionate principles of their faith.
The theologically based attitudes of these absolute puritans are at odds, not only with a Western way of life, but also with the very idea of an international society or the notion of universal human values.
In amplifying the more aggressive passages that exist in all of our scriptures, the religious extremists distort the tradition and implement hardships and restrictions on women, which are not in any way or form part of the faith.
At the time of the revelation, Islam came as a saviour for women who were sold as slaves or buried alive in Arabia.
Islamic injunctions gave women freedom, equality, the right to vote, own property, do business and not be obligated to hand over their earnings.
They were also given freedom of choice in marriage and divorce.
Unfortunately, there has remained a huge gap in the preaching and practice of Islam in the sphere of women's issues.
In Islam, there is no formalized priesthood, so the Qur'an is open to individual interpretation. There are religious scholars, called ulema, who are experts in the scripture, so Muslims are advised to choose an imam or leader from amongst them, based on their piety and expertise in both secular and scriptural subjects.
Arabic is a rich and diverse language in which one word can have 10 meanings or interpretations and needs to be understood in proper historical context and supported by the practice and tradition of the Prophet called Sunnah.
The ability of human beings to interpret texts is both a blessing and a burden.
It is a blessing because it provides us with the flexibility to adapt texts to changing circumstances.
It is a burden because the reader must take responsibility for the normative values he or she brings to the text. Any text provides possibilities for meaning, not inevitabilities. Those possibilities can be exploited or developed by the reader's good faith. In other words, the meaning of the text is only as moral as the reader.
Misguidance is a universal phenomenon found in the outside world and within ourselves. Linking terrorism to Islam is like linking Pearl Harbour to Buddhism, Timothy McVeigh to Christianity or calling Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 worshippers in the Hebron mosque, a true martyr of Israel.
Similarly, guidance is also a universal phenomenon. In other words, the human race is not conceivable without both prophets and satans.
This leaves most of us between a rock and hard place. While we condemn acts of terrorism and sympathize with the victims, we find war against innocent civilians is not the solution to any problem.
War is a state of mind well-echoed in the UNESCO constitution, which notes, "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed."
In his message for the World Day of Peace on Jan. 1 2002, Pope John Paul II said, "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness."
This is the message of the ancient prophets and the bedrock of every true religion and true morality. The Prophet of Islam always looked for ways to eradicate injustice and inequity, looking upon them as the root cause of most evils.
The Pope went on to say that all world religions must co-operate to eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism by teaching the greatness and dignity of the human person and by spreading a clearer sense of the openness of the human family.
As an ancient poet once expressed it:
If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person
From Their Jihad ... Not My Jihad by Raheel Raza (Basileia Books). Available at the Toronto Women's Bookstore, and online at Amazon.ca, www.snowstarinstitute.org and www.raheelraza.com.
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