Islam is in shambles for a variety of reasons. A major problem
with Islam is that there are as many different versions of Islam
as there are Islamic pundits and there are legions of them.
Another reason why Islam is in shambles is that it is all things
to all people. Even a cursory study of the Qur’an, the immutable
word of God, as Muslims see it; the Hadith, the authoritative
sayings of the Prophet; and, the Sunna, the Prophet’s life
conduct, present a body of contradictory and even outright
erroneous information. This body of Islamic doctrine enables a
person to pick and choose the parts he likes and ignore those he
doesn’t like. This feature explains why some of the good as well
as the most beastly people are Muslims. Amazingly enough, both
types justify themselves and their behavior by selectively citing
from the Qur’an, the Hadith and the Sunna.
Here is only one example of taking an Islamic teaching as you
prefer it. The Qur’an admonishes the believers: Jahedoo fee
sabeel-u-llah—make jihad for the cause of God. Literally
translated, this phrase directs the believers to exert themselves
in service to the cause of God. The catch is in the word “exert.”
Some Muslims understand it as spiritual exertion. Other Muslims
take it as a commandment to exert themselves by the sword. And
both can be right because the rest of the Qur’an not only fails to
clarify the statement, but adds further substance to each
position. It is in cases like this that the pronouncements of the
Islamic high divines can sway the balance in favor of one or the
other. Unfortunately, not many voices of Islamic authorities are
raised on the side of tolerance, peacefulness and other positive
teachings of Islam. The most one hears from Islamic apologists are
time-worn and banal pronouncements such as “Islam is a religion of
It is a sad fact that generation after generation of Sunni Moftis—highest
ranking Sunni clerics—and Ayatollahs—highest ranking Shiite
clerics, over the years have indoctrinated their underling clergy
as well as the masses with selective teachings that promote
intolerance, exclusion and hostility toward non-Muslims—people
labeled as heathens, infidels, unbelievers and apostates.
Selective choice of the scripture, combined with a siege mentality
endemic to the cradle of Islam, the Middle East, generate a fury
of hatred that has the potential of devouring the world. If only
Muslims could purge the negative aspects of its scripture and
practice its positive teachings, the world would become a diverse
community of humanity at peace with one another. The question is:
Is that possible or are we headed for the clash of the
There are some wonderful statements in the Qur’an. One, for
instance, says: The most beloved amongst you in the sight of God
is the one who is the most virtuous. Not the rich, not the
powerful and not the hateful. The most virtuous is most beloved,
it says. Yet the radical Islamists have come to interpret killing
and maiming the infidels as great acts of virtue, acts that would
make them most beloved by God.
Reforming Islam is unfortunately not a realistic possibility.
About the only universal agreement that exists among Islamic
authorities is that every word of the Qur’an is the word of God
and is not subject to human modification, ever. The ‘Hadith’ also
enjoys a similar sacrosanct standing. And of course, the faithful
Muhammad’s conduct as recorded in the Sunna is the model to be
emulated. Hence, one can pick and choose, but one can not discard
or revise any part of the scripture. For this reason a Martin
Luther type reformation has not happened and will not likely ever
happen within Islam.
Islam’s detractors point out numerous absurdities in the Islamic
scripture. In fairness to Islam, we can find just as many
perceived absurdities in other religious scriptures. Many of the
scriptures’ absurdities may, in fact, be allegories, metaphors,
similes and symbols. Islamic scripture, for instance, records that
Muhammad split the moon in half with his sword. Clearly, splitting
the moon must be taken symbolically. Some claim that in this case
“moon” stood for high ranking religious divines of the time and
Muhammad destroyed them by the sword of his new faith. It was the
material sword that sallied forth out of the Arabian dessert and
forced Islam on people far and wide.
The fact that Islam is a splintered house complicates matters
greatly. The faith is divided into Sunni and Shiites sects with
numerous sub-sects. The divisions and contentiousness are so
profound that members of one sect consider the other Muslims as
apostates worthy of death. The division goes back to the time of
the Prophet himself. Shiites believe that the enemies of true
faith subverted its chain of authority at Muhammad’s death. They
claim that the Prophet, while on his deathbed, asked for a
parchment to dictate his will and to appoint Ali, his cousin and
son-in-law, as his successor. The Shiites claim that Omar, an
influential disciple and commander of the faith, declined the
request saying to the Prophet: hasbena ketab-ul-llah—sufficient
unto us is the book of God. Before long, division and infighting
started in earnest and continues to this day. Oppression of Shiite
minorities in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are only two glaring
instances of this longstanding and irreconcilable intra-faith
hostility. The Shiite majorities in other lands return the favor
to the Sunni minorities, as is the case in Iran. The recent
horrific sectarian killings in Iraq represent glaring instances of
irreconcilable differences among the various claimants to the
mantle of true Islam.
The Bible says, “By their fruits shall ye know them.” The fruits
of Islam are there for everyone to see for himself. Islam may have
given the world some choice fruits. It has assuredly given the
world many poisonous fruits as well.
Some claim that Islam is inherently good, the majority of Muslims
are good and only a small minority has hijacked the good faith of
Muhammad by engaging in acts of intolerance, hatred and violence.
The question is: why is it that the good Islam is not ruling in
the world and the bad Islam is engulfing it in fire? Human nature
is the culprit, in part. We humans are attracted to hate like
flies are to honey. Hate is an easy sell. It is appealing and
little effort is required to hate. Hate gathers up the person’s or
the group’s frustrations, anxieties, fears, paranoia and many
other negative emotions in one handy bundle and hurls it at a
convenient target. History is replete with instances of hate
energizing the masses into commitment of small and large scale
Sell hate and people queue several blocks to buy. Sell love and
you will be mostly by your lonely self. Is this a cynical view?
No, it is a realistic one. It describes human’s lower and
primitive nature which must be painstakingly overcome through
persistent education and awakening of man’s higher nature.
Religious high authorities play a critical role in steering the
masses toward or away from hate. The late Pope’s public
pronouncement, for instance, absolving the Jews as the Christ
killers has reduced anti-Semitism among the rank and file
Christians. Fatwas—religious decrees—by Islamic Moftis and
Ayatollahs carry considerable weight with their respective
followers. Sadly, most decrees and adjudications of these high
Islamic authorities are exclusionary and even hostile toward the
out-groups. These high divines are the suppliers of opinions as
well as the teachers of the rank and file clergy who take the same
ideas to the masses in villages and cities. Madresehs in Pakistan,
schools in Saudi Arabia and Maktabs—religious schools—in Iran, as
well as numberless mosques serve as places where the disease of
hate can be transmitted with considerable success to the just too
This virulent disease of hate of “others,” is now leaving its
traditional Muslim lands and infecting cities, towns and villages
of the larger world. Muslims believe that the earth is Allah’s and
all of it rightfully belongs to the Muslims. Non-Muslims in any
land are simply usurpers and occupiers who must either convert to
Islam or give way to the legitimate people—the Muslims.
In Islam’s theocracy, religious authority is conferred by an
informal consensus of the peer group. One becomes an Ayatollah,
for instance, by demonstrating to other ayatollahs his undeviating
devotion to the dogma they hold. If one deviates from the accepted
line, he is not likely to make a village mullah, much less an
Ayatollah. This is a systemic problem that is not amenable to
change. It is a pathological theological inbreeding.
Islam or religions in general are sources of energy. The energy
can achieve magnificent things or destroy anything. It is up to us
to put religion to good use, as people have done for millennia,
and to avoid using it as a weapon of death and destruction—again,
as people have done so for millennia.
In the Islamic theocracies, everyone pretends publicly his
undeviating belief in the faith, as preached and promoted in his
locality. If there are any unbelievers, doubters or atheists, they
have to hide, not in closets, but in deep subterranean holes.
Pressure to be religious is so great that pretending piety is an
art form. Yet, much of religious ado is per forma rituals.
Admittedly, things are hardly any better in the non-Islamic lands.
People, once a week, go to a religious service, repent of their
sin, pay up and go back to a life of sin for the next six days in
a sinful world.
Perhaps there is a way out of the present impasse with Islam.
Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has invited President George W. Bush,
albeit in a convoluted eighteen page epistle, to embrace Islam.
Ahmadinejad seems to think that Bush is the most powerful man in
the world. He must have concluded that if Bush were to embrace
Islam, the masses of infidels would follow his example.
Let us for a moment accept Ahmadinejad’s summon. Question: Which
sect of Islam and which one of its numberless sub-sects should we
join? Beside the two major branches of Sunnis and Shiite, there
are dozens and dozens of sub-sects, and schools, each of which is
mortally convinced they represent the only true Islam.
Ahmadinejad’s own brand of Islam is alien to the majority of even
the Shiites. He is reportedly a devout member of a remodeled and
secretive hate-based Hojjatieh which is presently operating under
the guise of the Haghani sect under the leadership of a most
close-minded fanatical leader—Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi.
Further complications present themselves. Space limitation does
not allow presenting all of them here. Only one should suffice for
now. One of the issues Muslims, worldwide, are in general
agreement on is the status of women. It places women squarely
under the thumb of men. It says in the Quran: Alrejaalo qawaamoon
al-alnesa—men are rulers over women. Women of non-Islamic world
have valiantly worked to attain a degree of equality with men.
They are not likely to barter their hard-earned rights for the
privilege of becoming head-to-toe covered second class citizens,
deprived of education and opportunities. We, non-Muslim men, are
not going to leave our emancipated, fully participating and
contributing members of our society behind and subjugate ourselves
to a barbaric set of Shriah laws which were enacted by stone-age
In conclusion, Islam is not only divided, it is shattered. It is
in shambles, long past fixing itself, much less ruling the rest of
the world. It is time that Muslims, those who consider themselves
good and peaceful, as well as those who want us to accept their
ideology of barbarism at the point of the sword, to take the
fateful step and join the free and emancipated family of humanity.
There is no going back. Barbarism is in our past.