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Ex-Muslim

  • Author(s):

    Summary: 

    Most people living in Belgium assume that Islam is a religion like any other, that brings a mostly spiritual message to which each adherent tries to live up as well as possible. They are mistaken. Islam deeply permeates the daily life and social interactions of a Muslim. It is true, as Muslims tend to say, that Islam is an all-encompassing system, that at least includes the following human activities:

     

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    CULTURE: the way in which people perform daily routines: e.g. how one should greet the other, who should greet first, personal hygiene (showering, toilet, …), how to eat and drink, how to treat guests, …

     

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    SOCIAL SYSTEM: Islam determines the relationship of the Muslim with other Muslims and Muslimas, with those of different religions, with slaves (Islam did not abolish slavery), …  

     

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    LEGAL SYSTEM: a good part of what a society needs in legislation, such as family law, inheritance law, property law, transactions, contracts, legislation regarding slaves, … is provided for by the Qur’an and the traditions/Hadith of Muhammad. Believers can only make new laws for matters that are not provided for in the Qur’an and the Hadith.

     

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    RELIGION: rules for prayer, fasting, making the pilgrimage to Mecca, almsgiving to the poor, being good to your parents and fellow Muslims, …

     

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    MILITARY: The last 10 years of his life, Muhammad was constantly at war. His successors have continued this permanent state of war. So, the Qur’an contains quite a lot of rules pertaining to war, and these are an integral part of Islamic law. The ideology of Jihad, waging war to protect Islam and to spread it, sometimes called “holy war”, is very well-developed and is a part of Islamic law. No other religion has such an elaborate war doctrine as Islam has.

     

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    JUDICIAL PROCEDURES: islamic scholars have compiled law books based on the Quran and the traditions of Muhammad. Quite a bit of attention is given to procedures of witnesses. Islam did not bring an organized judicial apparatus with procedures of defence, appeals, ... Muhammad himself was the judge and what he decided was executed. He even had people executed without putting them on trial. His successors have simply continued in the role of being a judge as well. Saudi Arabia tries to copy the situation that Muhammad instituted (or didn’t institute) as much as possible, resulting in a condition where in the 21st century they still don’t have a judiciary where the rights of citizens are protected. And they still carry out punishments that were common in the 7th century, but that are now regarded as abhorrent.

     

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    POLITICAL SYSTEM: in an Islamic system there is no separation of powers, all power (political, judicial, military, …) is in the hands of the Caliph or his representative. Citizens in this Islamic system must be unconditionally obedient to the Caliph, unless he deviates from Islamic law. The system of a Caliphate is a continuation of the principle that Muhammad held all power. One of the shortcomings of Muhammad is that he didn’t institute a system with elections or democratic representation, resulting in a lot of problems with his succession, especially the fourth Caliph, Ali. These problems caused the split between the Shiites and Sunnites.

  • Author(s):

    Summary: 

    1. Sources. An article that fails to quote authentic Islamic sources is without value. For instance, many texts have been written on the concept of ‘Jihad’. Jihad is explained therein as a spiritual struggle. Generally, these texts tend to omit references to the generally recognized Islamic sources, since such ‘spiritual’ references are well nigh non-existent. In contrast, there exist hundreds of references depicting Jihad as a war against non-Muslims, in both a defensive and offensive sense.

    2 For or against Islam: identical sources.  You will not fail to note that articles severely critical of Islam are rife with quotes from the Koran and the authentic traditions passed on by Muhammad. In turn, articles in defence of Islam quote generously from the self-same sources to prove exactly the contrary. As a rule both versions make cogent points, for, indeed, what they proclaim stands written! You can choose material from the Koran and the authentic traditions, applying some creative interpretations of your own, to  back up just about any argument you wish to make. Here we see the Koran as a supermarket of ideas, and the gullible Muslim believer as the shopper whose shopping cart is loaded with products of his or her own choice. This has led us into a somewhat disturbing situation. We all are familiar with people who commit terror acts in the name of Islam. They volubly quote from the Koran to justify their acts. And on the other hand there are the peace loving Muslims,  coexisting harmoniously with ALL of their neighbours, irrespective of religion, race, appearance,  who also say they base their actions on the Koran...

    3 Abrogation. There is in Islam a principle called abrogation (nasikh wa mansukh in Arabic), both in the Koran and in the Hadith (pronouncements by Muhammad, the traditions as they have been handed down by him). This principle is used to explain away contradictions. For it does appear that there are contradictory instructions in both the Koran and the traditions. In principle, the instructions that were issued last are the valid ones; they cancel the ones prior to them. In general, articles with a positive view on Islam tend to quote the earlier passages, seeing that these are milder in tone. Critical (negative) articles tend to make references to the later passages, seeing that they are more militant and lean more towards violent behaviour. Islamic scholars, however, are agreed that only the later passages are valid. Since the principle of abrogation is truly important for our understanding of the Koran, we have devoted a separate page to this topic. See here.

    4 Context 1. Articles that are positive towards Islam tend to dismiss violent or hostile passages from the Koran as being contextual, i.e. only applicable to a given specific situation in the life of Muhammad; whereas positive passages from the Koran are interpreted as having general application. Naturally, the aim is to ease people’s minds and eventually persuade them to join Islam. However, a book that calls for hostile action and even contains warlike instructions (such as large sections of Surah 8 and 9) without making it clear that these instructions are no longer applicable, is a recipe for disaster. To Islamic scholars, all passages from the Koran contain a message, the mild as well as the violent ones. Moreover, their view on the milder verses in the Koran is generally not as positive as one would assume. What is striking is that these scholars generally hold to an interpretation of Islam that corresponds very closely to that of non-Muslims and ex-Muslims who are critical of it.

    5 Context 2. When studying Islam, one quickly notes that most of the Koran consists of revelations that followed on from specific events in the life of Muhammad: these events thus form the foundations of the message that Allah proclaims in the Koran. That is to say, the Koran cannot be compared with the stone tablets containing the ten commandments handed over to Moses, by which God passed on His law at that single and singular moment without regard to any attendant context. The fact that the Koran was revealed by way of concrete happenings does not, of course, mean that the message in the book is valid only in the context of those events; if that were so the Koran could be categorized as a historic work, leaving Muslims at liberty to disregard and dismiss it at their whim. That this is not so is proven by the death threats uttered against those who dare to criticize the Koran, as in the case of the Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders. Muslims consider the Koran so holy and untouchable that any negative act or criticism directed against it, either physical or verbal, enrages them.

    6 Context 3. Violent passages in the Koran are, as mentioned, mostly tempered and toned down by making reference to their specific context. Without being explicit, their advocates tend to create the impression that if such passages are considered within their context, they will actually turn out to be far less violent, even peace-loving, or at least are representative of understandable or acceptable human behaviour. Nothing could be further from the truth – the context rather makes these passages appear even less palatable, and confirms the aggressive nature of the Koran verses in question. Apologists may try to excuse the violent character of these passages by reference to the fact that Muhammad had many enemies and was forced to defend himself. However, anyone who studies Muhammad’s biographies (books written by Muslims for Muslims) cannot escape the impression that the founding of Islam was accompanied by excessive violence, and that Muhammad shirked neither verbal nor physical abuse and assault. The least one can say is that Muhammad failed to spread his new religion in a peaceful and peaceable manner, with equanimity and acceptance of the “feelings and sensitivities of people that held other beliefs – the unbelievers”. This stands in stark contrast to the preachings and practices of, say, Jesus or the Buddha.

  • Summary: 

    There is a huge misconception that I am progressively angrier about, largely because of the way it is wielded. It concerns 2:256, the famous Qur’anic verse that states ‘There is no compulsion in religion’, which is often quoted in part* and taken as evidence that Islam is tolerant of non-Muslims. .... The full context reveals that the verse is at least directly talking about faith and conviction rather than treatment of non-Muslims, making both a claim to the (purported) self-evidence of Islam and a rather self-evident point about how someone can’t be compelled to actually believe and it’s up to them to have faith, to choose the path of truth–being Islam here–over the path of error, a discussion that does not necessarily entail anything about how to treat those who don’t believe (though framing faith in Allah as the true path is itself already arguably judgmental of disbelievers). In short: while you can’t compel me to believe according to this verse…that doesn’t mean you can’t punish me if I don’t.

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