Monday, June 29, 2009

Ad-Deen Approach of the Quran. – Part Four: QURAN IS FOR ALL WHO ARE WILLING.

Fourthly, I do not find that the Quran teaches that the Quran cannot be read by a professed non-Muslim. I use the word “professed non-Muslim” for two reasons. Firstly, many people profess to be, for example, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Christian, etc but they never practice nor, sometimes even understand Islam, Buddhism or Christianity. Secondly, in the same vein, I have met people who profess to be a non-Muslim but I see that substantially and in substance, they are good Muslims because they are practicing the fundamental teachings of the Quran! Thirdly, I have also met people who profess to be Muslims but have no desire/interest to know what the Quran teaches them.

Surely, on Judgment Day, the Creator is not going to ask for your passport/IC to determine whether you have lived you life righteously. Superficialities and formalities will count for nothing. It is substance that will matter. (On earth, we busy ourselves with superficialities and futile, childish formalities in the name of procedure, management and protocol. Another form of divisive and inhibitive culture.)

On the other hand, I find that the Quran addresses almost all categories of people - the believers, the disbelievers, mankind in general, the rejecters, the hypocrites, the seeker, the doubter, the ignorant, the knowledgeable, the rich and the poor, everyone. The Ad-Deen approach will enable the acceptance of a non-Muslim reading the Quran or asking questions or even debating about it. If you do not inquire how do you know and learn?

“We have sent you as a bearer of glad news and a warner to the whole of mankind, but most people do not know.”. (Quran: 34:28)

“O people! surely the Messenger has come to you with the truth from your Lord, therefore believe, (it shall be) good for you and If you disbelieve, then surely whatever is in the heavens and the earth is Allah's; and Allah is Knowing, Wise”.

“We have explained in detail in this Qur'an, for the benefit of mankind, every kind of similitude: but man is, in most things, contentious”. (Quran 18:54)

The religious approach on the other hand does not allow this. Only the professed Muslim can read the Quran. It puts some of the professed Muslims on the defensive and a proprietary mindset ie “the Quran is my property and you the professed non-Muslim have no business reading or talking about it”. The religious folks particularly want to have a monopoly over their religion especially if it gives them power, recognition, position or wealth. This is one of the reasons why you find that politicians tend to be religious, complete with the entire paraphernalia of religious qualifications, religious appearances, symbols and dressing.

These superficialities sell very well because the religious approach already would have brainwashed you not to question these folks. For those who read the Quran, this is not surprising at all as the Creator has already warned us about such tricks.

“Do you not see those who claim sanctity (purity) for themselves? Nay- Allah sanctifies (purifies) whom He pleases. But never will they fail to receive justice in the least little thing”. (Quran: 4:49)

Surely if the Quran is from the Creator it must be for all the created who want to read research or debate it? The Creator says that the Quran is a mercy for all mankind. Surely all mankind is entitled to this mercy from the Creator?

Peace !

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ad-Deen Approach of the Quran. – Part Three: NO COMPULSION!

Thirdly, I do not find that the Quran teaches you to compel others to follow your way or belief against their wish. This is one of the more emphatic teachings of the Quran that I respect and hold great admiration for – to you your way and to me, mine. The Quran acknowledges and allows for freedom of thought, conscience and faith. The Truth is clear and those who want to understand will. At the end of it all, it is the Creator that will judge between us.

Say: "Our Lord will gather us together and will in the end decide the matter between us (and you) in truth and justice: and He is the one to decide, the One Who knows all”. (Quran: 34:26)

In the meantime, let us live or co-exist peacefully (slm) without causing mischief. This is the Islam that I understand from the Quran.

It is arrogance and oppressive to compel your religious views on others. Today we find many modern day self-acclaimed religious people and scholars attempting to behave as gods. They wish to compel on the self claim that they alone are qualified or have authority. This is a frightening and dangerous phenomenon because they want to be the sole source of how you think. To me, this has nothing to with Islam since the Quran teaches self accountability and freedom of faith. (To me also, those who delegate their minds and hearts to others are also not really serious about what they believe in).

Indoctrination and compulsion of ideas and ideologies have caused much enmity, misery and sufferings throughout human history. Families have been destroyed, human dignity trampled upon, lives have been lost. This is not Islam to me. Attempts at indoctrination and force have in many instances had an adverse effect in that it pushes people away from the very ideology or idea that are being propagated. The Creator has predicted this too:

“Revile not you those whom they call upon besides God, lest they out of spite revile God in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did”. (Quran: 6:108)

The Creator clearly asks those who wish to play god on earth by compelling other to believe in things against their wish this question:

If it had been your Lord's will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! Will you then compel/force mankind, against their will, to believe?!” (Quran: 10:99)

And to those arrogant religious ones who insist on you following their views, the Quran teaches the following response:

“Ask you of them, which of them will stand surety (guarantee) for that!” (Quran 68:40)

Instead or compelling or threatening others into faith, the Creator proposes that we discuss with one another intelligently, wisely and with decorum. There is no need for aggressive outbursts. There is no need to get worked up if someone disagrees with your views – you are simply not his saviour. After all, it may be you that needs “saving” from mental delirium caused by over dosage of religion.

"Call them to the path of your Lord through wisdom and good advice and argue with them in the best manner. God knows well about those who stray from His path and those who seek guidance". (Quran 16:125)

The Ad-Deen approach is able to comprehend the realistic and psychological basis of the teachings of the Creator. It is impossible to force people to truly believe in something they do not. At the best, when you force people, they will become hypocritical.

The religious approach on the other hand cannot accept this position because, among other things, it will involve the views of the religious scholars and tribalism behaviour of some adherents. Religious people generally have a proprietary attitude towards their religion and hence if someone does not share their belief, they take it as a personal attack on their belief. They cannot be at peace (slm) accepting that it is a difference of opinion. It also never dawns on them that they could be wrong.

The often used excuse to compel others to accept their view is that their view is the majority view. However, it is a fact that a lie repeated a thousand times transmitted through generations do not make it a truth and vice versa. On the issue of majority, this is what the Quran says:

“And if you obey most of those in the earth, they will lead you astray from Allah's way; they follow but conjecture and they only lie”. (Quran 6:116)

Today’s information technology has enabled those who are keen to do research on religion to do so quickly, easily and effectively. It is easy to browse through the Quran by using a simple search engine to find out what it has to say on various topics. The amount of open discussion and sharing of information on the internet has raised the knowledge of those who are interested. In this sense, the internet has actually threatened the monopoly of the religious scholars on matters relating to facts and truth - hence the greater insistence by some religious scholars and religionists on blind faith religion and compulsion.

“To every People have We appointed rites and ceremonies which they must follow: let them not then dispute with you on the matter, but you invite (them) to the Lord: for you are assuredly on the Right Way”. (Quran: 22:67)

And what do you do when they reject your call to come to the Way?

“But if they turn away, your duty is only to convey the clear Message”. (Quran 16:82)


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ad-Deen Approach of the Quran. – Part Two

Secondly, I do not find that the Quran ever taught blind faith. Somehow, this “faith” element” seemed to have been given a twist and “hype” it does not deserve in the objective search for knowledge and Truth by the religious folks. “Faith” has also been equated with blind belief, it seems. I must clarify that I am not suggesting that “faith” and “belief” do not have any role. It is the blind “faith” and “blind belief” that I am unable to accept. Contrary to what some religious folks say, I find that the Quran emphatically require the seeker to evaluate and query even that belief which is held by our parents and forefathers.

“When it is said to them: "Follow what God has revealed:" They say: "No! we shall follow the ways of our fathers." What! even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance? (Quran: 2.170) [see also verses: 5:104, 7:70, 11:87, 12:40, 21:53 and many more with the same message]

Obviously parents deserve respect and love for they are good people. However, let us not confuse “good people” with people with wisdom and knowledge. They, too, like most us, may be blind followers. For example, we do not follow the ways of our fathers by posting letters all the time, do we? We now use emails frequently. Religious approach makes us illogical. Deen approach allows us to use common sense and thinking. Another series of verses from the Quran that is relevant and interesting to consider are the following:

“No! they say: "We found our fathers following a certain path, and we do guide ourselves by their footsteps." (Quran: 43:022)

“Just in the same way, whenever We sent a warner/giver of notice before you to any people, the wealthy and arrogant ones among them said: "We found our fathers following a certain path, and we will certainly follow in their footsteps." (Quran 43:23)

“He (the giver of notice) said: "What! Even if I brought you better guidance than that which you found your fathers following?" They said: "For us, we deny that you are sent (on a mission at all)." (Quran 43:24)

It should now be obvious that sincere and intelligent inquiry is encouraged by the Quran strongly. In fact, the Quran goes on to say that on Judgment Day, we cannot blame our parents for our refusal to evaluate and think.

“In the event you should say: "Our fathers before us may have taken false gods, but we are merely (their) descendants after them: will you then destroy us because of the deeds of men who were futile?" (Quran 7:173)

The religious approach on the other hand requires a total, unquestioning acceptance coupled with the dubious notion of “fear of being sinful if questions are asked”. The religious approach negates the fact that one may already be misled by never understanding what one believes in.

On the contrary, I find the Quran explicit on the requirement of thinking, verification and evaluation of whatever you experience or hear in life. You are not expected to believe or accept anything without rational basis and or that which cannot be made sense of by using any or all the five senses plus the cognitive process. For instance, it is by using some of the five senses plus the cognitive process that I come to believe that “wind” exists even though I am unable to see it with my eyes. If you believe something without thinking or verification, you are likely to be fooled. This is Reality.

“And follow/accept not that of which you have no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning). (Quran: 17:36)

Even though I was “born into a Muslim family”, I like to think that it was the above verse (17:36) that actually sparked my journey to delve into the Quran seriously and eventually led me to accept the Quran as a practical guidance from the Creator.

Anyway, back to our discussion, for example, it does not matter if you blindly believe that a knife will not penetrate your body. It will if it is sharp enough. Once you know the characteristics of the knife and the human body, you will understand the physics of why the knife will penetrate your body. You may then believe it when someone else tells you to be careful with a knife. This “belief” is grounded on facts. The Ad-deen approach of the Quran is precisely that – get your facts right in life.

In the case of the person who deeply believe that knife will not penetrate normal skin, he will certainly think that he is right. We tend to get carried away with “religious fervor” due to the religious mentality. I have often seen people who have abdicated the thinking process being called “very religious”. Some of them are admired and that baffles me. Believing that you are right does not and will not make you right. The only way you can be right is if your belief is consonant or consistent with the facts.

I admit there are certain matters that require belief that may not be contemporarily comprehensible yet. For example, the belief that it is possible for someone in Malaysia to talk with and see another person in America. It is possible today with internet. However, this idea may be unimaginable just 30 years ago. My point is that the religious approach emphasizes on blind faith in substantial and fundamental matters of practical life. The Adeen approach on the other hand emphasizes substantially on reasoning, common sense, knowledge and REALITY. Less hype and more facts.


NEXT: Ad-Deen Approach of the Quran. – Part Three

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ad-Deen Approach of the Quran. – Part One

CAUTION: This view is personally my understanding and NO ONE is expected or required to agree with it. Comments or contributions to further our understanding are welcomed. Since I will be referring to Quranic verses, I very strongly suggest that you double check with your own copy and do not accept my translation without verifying yourself. I am a learner and will never dare to call myself a scholar while I am alive.

Firstly, I find that the Quran contains practical guidance for practical living in line with Reality. It must be so if its claim to be from the Creator is true – the guidance must be applicable and relevant to the created and the environment in which the created is meant to live. For example, a car manual is useless if it is not relevant or applicable to the car. When my car air condition fails, I want to know how to repair it. No point in you telling me that I have to chant the car maker’s name for the air condition to work. Chanting “honda, honda, honda” will not make the honda move. It may relax me, but the car still will not move. The air condition works on a particular system as created and I need to know and understand that system. A good car manual must be able to provide that general information and guidance.

“This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear
God (muttaquun)” (Quran 2:2)

The word “muttaqun” has often been translated as “fear God” though there is no “God” mentioned in the verse. My preference is to translate the verse as follows:

This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who are most dutiful and guard against evil (muttaquun)” (Quran 2:2)

I find that the Quran says it is a clear guidance BUT there are prerequisites/preconditions if this guidance is to be useful to you – you must be a person who is responsible and you must be a person who is guarding against evil (for example: you do not drive recklessly such that people’s lives are at stake. That is an evil thing to do). To me, this makes practical sense. You can only take the horse to the water; you cannot force it to drink. Nothing religious. The best car manual is useless in the hands of a person who does not have good reading attitudes or worse, one who does not take it seriously. Or worse, he does not really care about the condition of his car ie irresponsible car owner. Makes sense. Nothing religious. How do you guide a car owner who has decided to be irresponsible about his car on good car maintenance? Impossible!

What happens if you really do not understand about cars or air conditions? Simple. Ask people who know. Ask the mechanic. Consult them. Better still, consult a few mechanics. In life, that is what we do. Each mechanic may specialize in one area. No mechanic can claim to know all about all cars. Sometimes, we change mechanics. We consult each other; we have meetings, discussions, etc. This makes sense. Nothing religious.

“Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish solaa; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for sustenance” (Quran 42:38)

I think the guidance of mutual consultation is good advice, especially in matters that are complex or involves other people’s interest. Realistic. Nothing religious. Also, the verse above talks about spending from what we have for ourselves or to assist others. Makes sense too. Why in the world do you want to borrow to spend? Had I understood this guidance much earlier, I would not have taken credit cards!

This kind of approach to me is the Ad-deen or realistic or lifestyle or “way” approach to the Quran. The religious approach to the Quran will be something completely different and mind-boggling! Let me give you an example of what I mean by considering the following verse:

“Those to whom We have sent the Book study it as it should be studied: They are the ones that believe therein: Those who reject faith therein, - the loss is their own”.(Quran 2:121)

Interpreting this verse, the religious approach will emphasis on the recitation of the Arabic, the taking of the ablution before touching the Quran, the manner of sitting and such physical things. Form is given prominence. The Ad-Deen or practical approach is to understand the following:

a) Reading something MUST include attempting to understand what is read – otherwise you are either a kid or a parrot or plain mad.
b) Since the verse says “read it/study it as it should be read/studied”, you have to refer back to the Quran to find out how it says it should be read. There are many guidance on this, for example, use your brain and think when you read. The Quran has convinced me (and this is common sense) that the Creator did not create brains merely for decoration.

The Ad-deen approach to the Quran places importance over substance. It emphasizes results in reality. If I read something in a language I understand, I benefit from the knowledge I gain. If I sing Hindi songs which I do not understand, I may enjoy myself but I do not get any knowledge. Apart from the emotional/psychological benefit of enjoying myself, I do not get any benefit of knowledge (ilm). Common sense. Nothing religious.


NEXT: Ad-Deen Approach of the Quran. – Part Two