Apostasy, Blasphemy and Heresy The Holy Qur'an

The Qur’an and Muslims Today – part 2

37The Review of Religions – November 2006 The Qur’an and Muslims Today The fate that befell earlier revelations as previously mentioned is that over time the corrupting influence of man distorted their original message and introduced alien doctrines. According to Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru), a common form of distortion of religious truth is the deification of a prophet by his latter day adherents, making him a god or son of god8 usually after his death. The distortion may not stop at religious practices; it may even be incorporated into the religion’s scriptural texts. It is this latter type of distortion from which the Qur’an has, by divine ordinance, been protected. But distortion of religious practice or deviation from divine teachings has also crept into Islam. Muslims too now do and say things that are manifestly against Qur’anic teachings. The relationship between the Qur’an and Muslims today will be analysed from two perspectives – their treatment of the physical text and their adherence to its injunctions. A cursory observation shows that the Qur’an, still exerts a very strong hold on the average Muslim all over the world, but this is manifested more in his outward display of respect for the text than to its real essence – its teachings. The average Muslim invariably respects the Qur’an, many refusing to touch it unless they first perform an ablution, perhaps in obedience to: Which none shall touch except those who are purified. (Ch.56:V.80) The Holy Scripture occupies a pride of place in the Muslim home and no object is allowed to be placed on it. It is perhaps the most sacred physical object for today’s Muslim. It is so highly revered that Muslims consider uncomplimentary remarks or mishandling of the Book a sacrilege. But when we consider Muslim adherence to the sterling teachings The Qur’an and Muslims Today – (Part 2) By Dr. Abd-Latif Busari, Abuja, Nigeria 38 The Review of Religions – November 2006 of the Holy Book, it is a different reality. There are countless examples across the world of Muslims making statements and doing things that negate Qur’anic injunctions. A few examples will serve as an illustration. Muslims on Blasphemy and Apostasy Blasphemy is any act, writing or speech that shows contempt or lack of respect for sacred objects or religious personages or God, while apostasy is abandoning one’s belief or faith. While the first demonstrates a lack of regard for other people’s religious sensibility, the second is a demonstration of personal choice. In spiritual terms, they are both condemnable. Islam of course frowns on the twin evils and regards them as grievous sins. Some relevant Qur’anic teachings on them are highlighted below. On Blasphemy And He has already revealed to you in the Book that, when you hear the signs of Allah being denied and mocked at, sit not with them until they engage in a talk other than that; for in that case you would be like them… (Ch.4:V.141) And revile not those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus, unto every people have We caused their doings to seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return and He will inform them of what they used to do. (Ch.6:V.109) On Apostasy Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them nor will He guide them to the right way. (Ch.4:V.138) Whoso disbelieves in Allah after he has believed except the one who is coerced beyond the limit of his tolerance while his heart remains firm in faith – but those whose hearts are content with rejection, upon them will fall the wrath of Allah and for them is a great chastisement. (Ch.16:V.107) Of such [those who disbelieve after believing], the reward is that on them shall be the curse of Allah and of angels and of men all together. They shall THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 39The Review of Religions – November 2006 abide thereunder. Their punishment shall not be lightened nor shall they be reprieved. Except those who repent thereafter and amend. And surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Ch.3:Vs.88-90) It is clear from the above teachings that while Islam regards both blasphemy and apostasy as grievous sins, the Qur’an does not specify any punishment to be meted out by man against those who commit them. It regards blasphemy as being the result of ignorance and requires Muslims to avoid such people or their company. Muslims are also enjoined to preach to them to desist and repent in order to avoid God’s wrath and punishment. According to the Qur’an, the apostate has earned himself God’s curse and punishment, especially if he persists in disbelief. If the apostate repents and seeks Allah’s forgiveness, he would be forgiven. In the light of these teachings, the resort to various types of punish- ment by today’s Muslims, ranging from excommunication to death for blasphemers and apostates, do not find any scriptural basis in the Qur’an. An apostate has chosen to refuse to believe in God, according to a particular creed and it is for God to deal with him as He wishes. It cannot be right and proper for another man to arrogate to himself the power to compel his fellow man to retain a belief in God or in anything for that matter, if he chooses not to. But this is exactly what some Muslims today are seeking to do. In the world today, the often violent attitude and response of many Muslims to blasphemy is a veritable cause of social tension between Muslims and their neighbours, while at the same time, it earns Islam and Muslims an unfair reputation in many other countries. Muslims are portrayed as intolerant and quick to draw their swords. Muslims should ask themselves if this kind of provocation by blasphemers occured in the life of the Holy Prophet(saw) ? If it did, how did the Holy Prophet(saw) handle it? Because it is in following the Holy Prophet’s(saw) guidance and advice in all matters that we can truly lay claim to being his followers. The Qur’an says: And it behoves not a believing man or believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 40 The Review of Religions – November 2006 decided a matter, that there should be a choice for them in the matter concerning them… (Ch.33:V.37) We know it is a historical fact that the Holy Prophet(saw) was the object of innumerable insults, abuse and invectives by the idolaters and hypocrites of Makkah, Taif and Madinah during his life. Instead of prescribing a punishment, we read several accounts in the Ahadith where he preached patience and forbearance in the face of such injuries or taunts. And in the Qur’an, the Holy Prophet(saw) was reminded repeatedly by Allah that this was the experience of all the past prophets and none had escaped taunt, disrespect and even injury at the hands of the disbelievers of their time: Alas for mankind! There comes not a Messenger to them but they mock at him. (Ch.36:V.31) And there is no record to indicate that the Holy Prophet(saw) or any of the prophets before him meted out any punishment by themselves, as the Muslims of today are doing, often at the slightest provocation. The Qur’an only reports Allah always telling them to patiently bear all the difficulties and that at His Divine time, He would deal with the disbelievers. We read thus: Have patience, then, as had the Messengers of strong determination; and be in no haste about them. On the day when they see that with which they are threatened, it will appear to them as though they had not tarried save for an hour of a day. This warning has been conveyed; and none but the disobedient people shall be destroyed. (Ch.46:V.36) Apostasy is treated in exactly the same manner in the Qur’an. That there was no earthly punishment for this sin is clearly borne out by the graphic description of apostates as we read in Ch.4:V.138 already quoted above. These unfortunate people had ample opportunity to continuously fall into and out of belief. It stands to reason that, if a death sentence had been passed or meted out to them, such people would never have had the chance of swinging from a state of belief to unbelief several times. The Holy Qur’an in Ch.3:Vs.88-90 (above) also acknowledges that it is possible for a person who THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 41The Review of Religions – November 2006 renounced Islam, to realise the error of his way and come back into the fold. Such an avenue would have been foreclosed if he was killed the moment he renounced Islam. According to the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), the cardinal Islamic concept of ‘no compulsion in matters of faith’ (Ch.2:V.257), is clear and unequiv- ocal and it cannot be interpreted as a one-way principle which only allows people to join the fold of Islam but forbids them from opting out, if they so wish. If people who are not Muslims are free to convert to Islam without let or hindrance, justice and fairness demands that if and when they decide to leave the fold, they should be free to do so. No doubt, blasphemers and apostates are disagreeable to Muslims as they are indeed to the believers of other religions but Muslims should remember the Qur’anic injunction which states: O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness…(Ch.5:V.9) Clearly, in the matter of declaring death sentences, fatwas and the like on blasphemers and apostates, today’s Muslims have not followed this Qur’anic injunctions. Jihad and Muslims Today The concept of Jihad is perhaps one in which the majority of Muslims – whether as individuals, groups or even nations – are at variance with the Qur’anic teachings the most. One may go as far to say that it is perhaps the most misunderstood of Qur’anic teachings today. The erroneous notion is so widespread that even the Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Jihad’ as ‘holy war’ and further explains that a Jihad ‘is holy war fought by Muslims against those who reject Islam’9. In other words, Islam has to be accepted by force! As one writer put it: ‘Unfortunately, throughout the last millennium, some extreme Muslim groups and leaders have interpreted the word Jihad as holy war and applied the word to all their wars whether they have been fought for political, economic or expansionist motives.’10 The concept of Jihad as beautifully presented in the Holy Qur’an is clear. We read as follows: THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 42 The Review of Religions – November 2006 And as for those who strive in Our path – We will surely guide them in Our ways. And verily Allah is with those who do good. (Ch.29:V.70) So obey not the disbelievers and strive against them with it (the Qur’an) a great striving. (Ch.25:V.53) Surely those who have believed and left their homes and striven with their property and their persons for the cause of Allah, and those who have given them shelter and help – are indeed mutual friends… For them is forgiveness and an honourable provision. (Ch.8:Vs.73-75) In the above verses and in many others where the word Jihad is used in the Qur’an, it always means ‘striving in the cause of Allah’, which of course can take many forms. Islamic scholars agree that any act undertaken for the advancement of one’s soul is Jihad. In this regard, striving has been categorised into three types – striving against one’s base instincts, evil desires and propensities; striving with one’s endowments e.g. wealth or knowledge in propagating the truth of Islam; and striving against those who prevent Muslims from exercising their fundamental freedom of professing and practising their faith. It is the third form of striving that many Muslims today seem to emphasise to the neglect of the first two which, according to the Holy Prophet(saw), are actually greater in spiritual terms. The problem with this narrow and erroneous interpretation of Jihad as holy war is that it is giving Islam an unfair and unjust reputation as a war-like religion which procures converts by forceful means. Nothing can be farther from the truth. It is unfortunate that this could be happening now just when Western scholars are beginning to change their long held fallacious notion that Islam was initially spread by the sword. Today’s Muslims seem to be playing into the hands of the enemies of Islam. The poor understanding of today’s Muslims with regards to this concept is easily seen in situations where two Muslim nations are at war with each other and each claims it is fighting a Jihad! For the avoidance of doubt, Islam, as portrayed in the Qur’an, is a religion of peace and its true THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 43The Review of Religions – November 2006 adherents are peace-loving and do not take up arms against anyone under any circumstance except against religious oppression. Such Muslims comply strictly with the following injunctions of the Qur’an: And fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely, Allah loves not the transgressors. (Ch.2:V.191) Shariah and Muslims Today The Islamic Shariah is derived from three principal sources, viz; the laws embodied in the Qur’an; the Sunnah or practice of the Holy Prophet(saw) and the traditions of the Holy Prophet(saw) as compiled in the authentic Ahadith. For Muslims, these three sources provide proper guidance on all the fundamental issues confronting mankind which is why the Qur’an directs: O ye who believe! obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority over you. And if you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day… (Ch.4:V.60) Thus ultimate guidance is to be sought from the three sources and if there are matters in which differences of opinion occur, they are to be resolved in light of Qur’anic teachings or failing that in the light of the Sunnah and Ahadith or failing that still, the matter should be resolved by those charged with exercising authority among Muslims. The above is applicable in matters between the rulers and the ruled as well among the ruled themselves. The rulers in particular have to adopt Qur’anic teachings in exercising authority. When viewed critically, this is another area where many Muslims and especially Muslim nations have continued to deviate from Qur’anic injunctions. For instance, the Islamic practice is to elect a Khalifa who is the spiritual head of the Muslim community. The electors who themselves are required to be God- fearing Muslims who comply with the teachings of Islam as set out in the Holy Qur’an, seek Divine guidance before making their choice. At the demise of the Holy Prophet(saw), this was how Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra), Hadhrat Umar(ra), Hadhrat Uthman(ra) and Hadhrat Ali(ra) became Amir-ul-Mumineen (Commander of the Faithful), one THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 44 The Review of Religions – November 2006 after the other. It was only after the caliphate of Hadhrat Ali(ra), the fourth Khalifa, that the principle died out. Muawiyya who became the leader after Hadhrat Ali(ra) as ‘Khalifa’ in 661 CE made the position hereditary and was himself succeeded by his son, Yazid. Although a few Muslim countries like Pakistan still make some pretensions at electing their leaders (that is, when such leaders do not get into power by coup d’etat), hereditary monarchy is practically the norm today across the Muslim world, from Saudi Arabia to Jordan, from Morocco to Syria and from UAE to Kuwait. It is so widespread that the impression created is that this is the recommended ‘form of government’ by Islam! Nothing can be further from the truth. While Islam may not have expressly forbidden this particular form of government nor recommended any particular form of government, it nonetheless lays down certain basic principles and tenets of good governance such as social justice, equitable access to national wealth, responsible freedom of choice and effective consultation, all of which are in short supply in the so-called Muslim states of today. Islamic countries that should ordinarily be models of good governance and unassailable integr- ity are instead reviled and mocked at for their backwardness. Western nations whose forebears actually learned statecraft from Muslim countries now turn round to scoff at Islam. This is because the inheritors of the Holy Prophet’s(saw) legacies have abandoned their heritage and have chosen to ignore valuable and Divinely inspired Qur’anic injunctions and guidance. The point being made here is that while the Qur’an enjoins upon Muslims the adoption of Shariah in their social, religious, economic and political interactions, many Muslims and Muslim nations choose to ignore them and adopt something else. THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 ‘THE POINT OF NOTE HERE IS THAT NO CHRISTIAN TEACHING SUPPORTS ANY OF THESE HISTORICAL ACTS WHICH, BY STANDARDS TODAY, WILL BE SEEN AS CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. IN THE SAME WAY, AL-QAEDA AND SIMILAR ORGANISATIONS MAY CLAIM THEY ARE ENGAGED IN JIHAD BUT ISLAM REPUDIATES THEM.’ 45The Review of Religions – November 2006 Qur’an and Religious Terrorism Those who coined the term ‘Islamic Terrorism’ and gave it currency do a great injustice to Islam and do so either out of mischief or ignorance of the history of world religions. The terror attacks on the World Trade Centre on 11th September 2001, the bombing of the commuter trains in Spain in March 2004 and the more recent bombs that exploded in the London under- ground and commuter buses in July 2005 were dastardly acts that were roundly condemned by the whole world with one voice. All were traced to the terrorist organisation – Al Qaeda or its offshoots – which profess belief in Islam and in their warped world view claim to be righting the wrongs done to Islam. But any Muslim with the most rudimentary knowledge of Islam knows these dastardly acts that resulted in the death of thousands of innocent lives – including those of children and women, and fellow Muslims – cannot find any basis whatsoever in Islam. From religious history, there have always been two contending schools of thought about religion and violence. i) religion, because of its emotive influence on man, is the cause of violence and ii) religion opposes violence, at least as seen in its teachings, but people hijack and use it to achieve pre-determined ends, through means that are violent. Where there is no mischief, this contention ought not to have arisen in the first place. What religion teaches and stands for should be known and clearly differentiated from what its adherents choose to do. Among the adherents may be extremists and malcontents who use their religion to justify such actions. For instance, the Crusades, which took place intermittently from 1095 to 1798 CE, were instigated by some Popes. Apartheid as a state policy was endorsed and justified on Christian principles by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. Even slavery that ravaged Africa until the early 20th century was equally so justified, to the extent that slave merchants sometimes went to Rome to obtain Papal blessings for their expeditions. The point of note here is that no Christian teaching supports any of these historical acts which, by standards today, will be seen as crimes against humanity. In the same way, Al-Qaeda and similar organisations may claim THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 they are engaged in Jihad but Islam repudiates them, as the Qur’an in Ch.25:V.53 (above) and similar teachings already highlighted clearly show. Concluding Remarks By way of conclusion and as noted earlier, every Divine revelation in history has suffered the fate of gradual corruption of its teachings, with its latter day adherents deviating further and further in their religious practices. This had usually been the signal for the advent of another Prophet, who would either come with a new revelation or simply come to reform the people, calling them back to the guidance already with them and thereby settling the differences of opinion that had crept into religious practices. Viewed in this way, are today’s Muslims any better than the recipients of earlier revelations in the treatment of their own revelations? Certainly not! Indeed, with the passage of time, if history is to be our guide, such deviation is likely to become more widespread, with different groups upholding different interpretations of Qur’anic injunctions. As a result of the widespread deviation from Qur’anic teachings and widespread corruption of religious practices amongst some Muslims, very few examples of which had been highlighted above, a section of the Muslim world believes that God has out of His Mercy and in line with His usual practice under such situations, raised a Prophet whose main duty would be to call people back to the true Islam, as preached by the Holy Prophet(saw) centuries ago. The Imam of the Age raised for this onerous reforming task is Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) of Qadian. He founded the Ahmadiyya Musli Community in 1889 and announced his advent in 1891, exposing the various Signs and arguments that would herald his advent as the Imam, as already prophesised. May Allah open the eyes of mankind, especially Muslims all over the world, to enable each and every one to see where and how we are deviating from Qur’anic guidance and may He out of His Mercy grant us the wisdom and strength to mend our ways, in order for us to truly earn His pleasure. References • Excellent Exemplar by 46 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 The Review of Religions – November 2006 Muhammad Zafrulla Khan. • Introduction to the Holy Qur’an with Commentary by Maulana Muhammad Ali, 6th Edition, 1973. • What the Bible Is and How It Was Written by H.R. Horton. • History of Dogma by Adolf Harnack. • The Nazarenes by John Toland. • What Is Christianity by Adolf Harnack. • Muhammad – A Mercy to All the Nations by Qassim Ali Jairazbhoy, 1937. • Distortion of Religion by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, The Review of Religions, January 2002. • Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 5th Edition, 1995. • Jihad in Islam by Bilal Atkinson, The Review of Religions, September 2002. 47 THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS TODAY – PART 2 The Review of Religions – November 2006 References to the Holy Qur’an item count ‘Bismillah…’ (In the Name of Allah…) as the first verse of each Chapter. In some non-standard texts, this is not counted and should the reader refer to such texts, the verse quoted in The Review of Religions will be found at one verse less than the number quoted. In this journal, for the ease of non- Muslim readers, ‘(saw)’ or ‘saw’ after the words, ‘Holy Prophet’, or the name ‘Muhammad’, are used. They stand for ‘Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam’ meaning ‘Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him’. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or ‘as’ after the name of all other prophets is an abbreviation meaning ‘Peace be upon him’ derived from ‘Alaihis salatu wassalam’ which are words that a Muslim utters out of respect whenever he or she comes across that name. The abbreviation ‘ra’ or (ra) stands for ‘Radhiallahu Ta’ala anhu and is used for Companions of a Prophet, meaning Allah be pleased with him or her (when followed by the relevant Arabic pronoun). Finally, ‘ru’ or (ru) for Rahemahullahu Ta’ala means the Mercy of Allah the Exalted be upon him. In keeping with current universal practice, local transliterations are preferred to their anglicised versions, e.g. Makkah instead of Mecca, etc.