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Islam in Desperate Need of a Little Bit of Idolatry

by Alamgir Hossain

02 Dec, 2005

The Abrahamic religions€”prominently Judaism, Christianity and Islam€”have been founded on the fanatic hatred towards idolatry, worshipping God in the image of various man-made idols. Idolatry had once been the universal form of worshipping the God amongst until the modern anti-idolatry religions turned people, often through cruel and bloody enforcement, away from it. These religions have replaced arrays of Gods of polytheistic idolatry into a unified and invisible monotheistic God, who go by the name Allah, God or Jehovah etc.

The modern Abrahamic religions had displayed extreme hatred and often violent incitement against the practice of idolatry that had been prevalent in areas where these religions took root. Hatred against idolatry in the Bible has been presented in the following verses: Zec 11:17, Isa 66:3, Act 17:16, 2Ch 15:16; Gal 5:20-21, Col 3:5-6 [Act 17:16: Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry]. According to the Koran, the Jewish patriarch prophet Abraham had displayed avid hatred towards idolatry and had violently demolished the idols of the temple his father (Azar) was the custodian of. This story is described in the following verses of the Koran: Q: 6:74+, Q: 21-51+, Q: 26:68+.

Koran also describes the hatred of Moses toward idolatry (Q: 7:138). Taking the lead and inspiration from the hatred expressed by earlier Abrahamic religions, the Koran has indeed been made abundantly rich with verses expressing hatred and hostility towards idolatry. Indeed, the launch of the new religion by Muhammad, as allegedly revealed by Allah, was mainly aimed at exterminating idolatry from amongst the polytheistic pagans of Mecca in the early 7th century.

This extreme and violent hatred of Islam towards idolatry has been concisely presented by an Islamist writer, Mesbah Uddin, in a recent essay published in the web-magazine "New From Bangladesh" (Click for the article), which received great attention and admiration of the readers such that the articles was posted twice within a week on the readers request. Mr. Uddin wrote of Islam's Prophet Muhammad: "He must have despised idolatry so much that he faced towards Jerusalem for his prayer rituals until those 360 idols in the Ka'ba, were totally destroyed." This statement simply represents the most accurate picture of how much idolatry was hated by Prophet Muhammad! His fanatic hatred of idolatry as suggested by Mr. Mesbah Uddin is precisely corroborated by the verses of the Koran:

And he said, You have only taken for yourselves idols besides Allah by way of friendship between you in this world's life, then on the resurrection day some of you shall deny others, and some of you shall curse others, and your abode is the fire, and you shall not have any helpers [Q: 29.25].

Thus there is no doubt about Mr. Uddin's assertion that Muhammad had harbored virulent hatred towards idolatry so much so that he had relented only after destroying all the idols that were kept in the Ka'ba - considered the "house of God" in the pagan's belief. Not only that - with his conquest of Mecca, he made the doors of Ka'ba shut to the idolaters forever. Yet, Mr. Uddin's article has been totally misdirected in his identification of Muslims reverence to Prophet Muhammad as a kind of idolatry. And he is evidently indignant towards the Muslims for their ceaseless effort to emulate the words and deeds of Muhammad which Muslims do to show deep respect to the Prophet. Mr. Uddin's splendid article, however, does not clearly explain a few points as listed below:

  1. It does not explain how the Muslims' reverence of Muhammad can be likened or compared to the idolatry of the pagan of the 7th century Mecca?
  2. Even if it could be likened to idolatry, Mr. Mesbah Uddin does not explicate why idolatry towards Muhammad itself is such a problem for Islam?
  3. Most importantly, it does not explain why idolatry should be so fanatically detestable by Muhammad and Islam and by him for that matter including him.

Idolatry was so hated by the Abrahamic religion or its God that Prophet Abraham is said to have not forgiven his father Azar for his sticking to idolatry as explained in the Koran:

"The prayer of Abraham for the forgiveness of his father was only because of a promise he had promised him, but when it had become clear unto him that he (his father) was an enemy to Allah he (Abraham) disowned him. Lo! Abraham was soft of heart, long-suffering [Q 9.114].

Taking cue from this verse the Prophet of Islam Muhammad also had not forgiven his dying uncle Abu Talib, who loved and protected the orphaned Prophet like a father.

[Bukhari: 6:60:295] Narrated Al-Musaiyab: When Abu Talib was on his death bed, Allah's Apostle came to him and found with him, Abu Jahl and Abdullah bin Abi Umaiya bin Al-Mughira. Allah's Apostle said, "O uncle! Say: None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, a sentence with which I will defend you before Allah." On that Abu Jahl and 'Abdullah bin Abi Umaiya said to Abu Talib, "Will you now leave the religion of 'Abdul Muttalib?" Allah's Apostle kept on inviting him to say that sentence while the other two kept on repeating their sentence before him till Abu Talib said as the last thing he said to them, "I am on the religion of 'Abdul Muttalib," and refused to say: None has the right to be worshipped except Allah. On that Allah's Apostle said, "By Allah, I will keep on asking Allah's forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden (by Allah) to do so."

So Allah revealed in the Koran:

It is said that Prophet Muhammad had stopped at the grave-yard of his mother Amina on the way to the first journey to Mecca for Omrah (the lesser pilgrimage) in 628 when Muslims had signed the allegedly unfair Hudaibiya Treaty with the Meccans. Yet, because of the above verse that was revealed earlier he could not pray for the soul of his own mother, who had died a Pagan before the birth of Islam, These stories once again affirm Mr. Mesbah Uddin's assertion as to how virulently Islam hates idolatry. Indeed, Islam can only rest once all forms of idolatry have been annihilated from the surface of the earth.

Were Pagans of Mecca Cruel and Uncivilized?

Muslims claim that the people of Mecca were an uncivilized people and were extremely cruel and harsh on Muhammad in order to justify Muhammad's destruction of the Pagan religion in Mecca. Muhammad himself has repeatedly called the pagans of Mecca Kaffir, meaning cruel, as evidenced in the Koran and Hadiths. However, it is very hard to substantiate this claim of cruelty. The Meccan pagans, confronted with the helpless arid environment and hardship of the days, used to be deeply religious people. Ka'ba was considered the "house of God" by them in which they had assembled allegedly 360 idols for worshipping. Ka'ba used to be held in similar esteem and veneration as it is being held by the Muslims today. After Muhammad allegedly received revelation from Allah, he termed the religions of the pagans wrong and also groundlessly made the claim that Ka'ba is the house of his own God Allah built by Prophet Abraham and hence belonged to him and his Muslim converts. Despite these insulting, offensive and audacious comments and claims, Muhammad and his small gang of converts were allowed to live and preach in Mecca for 13 years. Although there might have been a sense of hostility and opposition to Muhammad's claims, there was no report of any kind of assaults or bodily injury caused to Muhammad or to any of his disciples by the pagans. In stead, the pagans had allowed Muhammad and his gang of followers to pray inside Ka'ba. It is learned that the Muslims used to pray inside Ka'ba three times a day facing the main pagan deity, named Allah, before his banishment from Mecca. Now, consider a similar situation in present-day context:

Suppose a man from any community from Mecca or elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, or from elsewhere in the world including president of the United States tomorrow goes to Mecca and declares that he has received the true revelation, Islam is false, Ka'ba is the house of his own God and he is the true messenger. The Muslims should hand over Ka'ba to him or at least allow him to say his prayers inside the Ka'ba.

Can anyone figure out what would happen to this person, even if he was an unguarded President Bush? Isn't that person going to be slaughtered into pieces on the spot? Why Ka'ba - even if some non-Muslim person openly makes such claim on any major mosques anywhere in the world, that person would be slaughtered on the spot by the fanatic followers of Islam even in today's world of excellence in civilization, science, humanism, free-speech and human rights. If, we compare the fanatic mentality and tendency towards violence of the present-day Muslims with those of pagans of Mecca of that so-called barbarian age, who never made any kind of physical assault on Muhammad for almost 13 years, despite Muhammad's continued insult of pagan's religion and his demand on Ka'ba which was of similar reverence to the pagans as it is today to the Muslims today. In stead, the pagan allowed Muhammad and his gang of converts to enter and say prayers inside Ka'ba for years. And even in today's civilized world, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter any mosque (forget about Mecca) even for a visit. Such is the fanatic teachings of Islam which had transformed such amazingly tolerant and civilized Arab pagans into such a murderous and intolerant lot - the legacy of which the modern-day Muslims continue to carry forward with the same strain of intolerance and bigotry. Yet, Muhammad used to call those excellent human beings of Mecca Kaffirs and all sorts of names - so do the Muslims of modern days. But the truth is: Muslims of today's civilized world are much more intolerant, cruel and uncivilized human beings as compared to those pagans of the early 7th century.

Pagans of Mecca - A peerless example of tolerance and harmony

Given that helpless harsh reality of a desert town, the Pagans of Mecca must have been a very religious people - so much so that Mecca had become the centre of religious activities of the entire populace of the nearby regions and countries. Despite this religious devotion, it is tolerance, harmony and accommodation but not intolerance and hatred towards other religions that became the hallmark of the so-called barbarian people of the 7th century Mecca. This is evidenced in the fact that the Ka'ba - despite being the heart of the Pagan religion and venerated as the House of God - the Meccan Pagans never considered it their sole property. Indeed, Mecca pagans had allowed all the religious sects of the region and neighboring countries - Southern Arabia, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Syria and other places further afar - to place their religious symbols and idols in and around the Ka'ba [Foundations of Islam, Benjamin Walker, Rupa Press (New Delhi), p44]. As Mecca became an important center of trades and stop-over for merchants of regions, those merchants used to bring their favorite idols with them to Mecca so that they could worship them during the stay there. And the Pagans of Mecca were so accommodative, tolerant and sympathetic to these foreign merchants that they housed these idols inside and around the Ka'ba - so that they remain in a safe hand and those merchants could come to the Ka'ba and pray to their own idols. There was also a symbol of Abraham as well as of Mary inside Ka'ba - representing the faith of the Jews and Christians of the region. Not only that allowing Muhammad and his Muslim converts to pray to the chief pagan deity, named Allah inside the Ka'ba also substantiate the accommodative nature of the Meccan pagans. Even the Hindus of India who worshipped very different set of idols seem to have had access into the Ka'ba as Indian traders were said to have brought an idol monolith from Ka'ba to Somnath in India where it was worshipped as the Linga of Shiva, which was destroyed by the Muslim conqueror Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024. These ancient idols from various lands and faiths were believed to have formed a circle of 360 monolithic figures in and around the sacred shrine of Ka'ba.

Given these facts, the Pagans of Mecca were evidently more tolerant, generous, accommodative and civilized people than even today's Hindus, Christians and Jews. For example, if someone goes to major Hindu temple, Christian church and Jewish synagogue and declare in front of the assembled faithful that he has received true revelation from God, their religion is false, that temple/church/synagogue belongs to his God (like Muhammad's demand on Ka'ba) and they should hand it over to him. What is going to happen to this so-called new prophet? If it happens in any third world country, say in Hindu temple in India, it is likely that this guy would be immediately assaulted and he might even end up being brutally killed by the Hindu faithful. Nonetheless, one thing can be said for sure that this so-called prophet will not step onto the backyard of that temple, church or synagogue for a second time - forget about letting him come in with his followers and say regular prayers.

If compassion, tolerance, accommodativeness and nonviolence are to be the foundation of civility of human beings - the Meccan idolaters must have been a thousand folds more civilized people than the Muslims of today. The pagan of Mecca had also been of much greater tolerance and harmony than any other religious sect of the modern world. Even the non-theists of today are neither going to allow any religious person to place his/her religious symbols nor allow him/her to say prayers in their property. In a nutshell, the pagans of Mecca - who were so vilified by Prophet Muhammad - had been a peerless example of tolerant people for any time.

The idolatry and Tolerance

In reality, idolaters have always been the more tolerance, harmless and civilized people than the monotheists even today. Let's analyze this assertion a bit more in detail:

According to Mr. Mesbah, today's Christianity and Judaism too have become religions of idolatry. Although this claim is highly disputable, yet Prophet Muhammad himself used to think in exactly the same way of these religions. According to Muslims chronicles, after returning from Mecca signing the Hudaibiya treaty, the Prophet had sent multiple emissaries to nearby tribal heads and foreign rulers. One letter to the power emperor of Rome, Heraclius commanded him to abandon the idolatrous worship of Jesus and Mary and accept the mission of his.

Despite the extreme hate towards idolatry in Islam, there is no doubt that the idolatrous Christians of today remain very tolerant people as compared to Muslim. Judaism is a bit of a controversial issue vis--vis the Israel-Palestine conflict - which is more political than religious - yet Jews living outside Israel are definitely much more tolerant than the Muslims. Even within the territory of Israel, the Muslim and Christian minority people are many folds better treated by the Jews if compared to the status of the minorities in Muslim-dominated countries anywhere in the world. Even at of war-front between Israel and Palestine, can anyone fathom which Muslim country would have given a better treatment to a people of another faith who are committed to destroying that Muslim state and continuously launching missiles, sending suicide bombers etc. Consider a Muslim army tank being faced by stone-throwing children, young men and boys of a minority people who are hell-bent on destroying that Muslim country. What kind of treatment are those stone-throwing non-Muslims people going to get at the hands of the Muslim soldiers?

Although the Jews and Christian can hardly be called idolaters in the real sense of it, the true idolaters remain to be the Hindus, Taoist and Buddhists etc. Evidently, Buddhists remain the most tolerant people in the world, so are the Taoists. Hindus, have historically been a non-threatening religion towards another faith until the rise of Hindutwa incited by the fanatic Muslims when they started demanding for division of India to create Pakistan as the British were preparing to leave India in the early 20th century. Yet, the minority Muslims of India are much better treated than the minority Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Rapes, including gang rapes of minority women are a common thing, so is the eviction of Hindu people from their homes and properties in Bangladesh. In time of peace, incidents like rapes of Muslim women by Hindus might occur in India but incidence must be many folds lower. Let's not bring Pakistan in the discussion where things are much worse for minorities. However one simple statistics would make the picture clear: the Hindu population has been reduced from ~30% to ~10% in Bangladesh and from ~15% to 1% in Pakistan whilst the percentage of Muslim population might have increased in India - definitely have not decreased in India.

Why Idolatrous Obsession towards Muhammad is a Problem?

It is now evident that the idolatrous Meccans were a highly civilized, tolerant and accommodative people as compared to the purely monotheistic Muslims of that time. It is also evident that the idolaters remain the more tolerant and civilized people today, so have they been throughout the last 1400 years of history of Islam. Not only that they have also been much greater contributors in science, technology, medicine and economics - at least in modern days. Mr. Mesbah has quite debatably sought to show a strain of idolatry that has sneaked into Islam. This idolatry is Muslims' obsessive devotion to Muhammad which can hardly be called idolatry in the true and traditional sense of it. Even if his assertion is considered valid, he has been unduly worried about this issue which should be appreciated instead of being worried about as will be explained below.

In Islamic doctrine, Muhammad was the greatest and only perfect man for all time. If that is the case, what is wrong in giving due praise and showing great respect to the greatest-ever man? It is a commonsense that every man should strive hard to emulate such a man. Einstein and Newton et al. hold an idolatrous status in aspects of science amongst the scientific community and if every scientist passionate work to reach the status of them - what is wrong in it? Instead, if every scientist strives to emulate the scientific careers of Galileo, Newton and Einstein et al. and contributes like scientific greats did, that will be of immense benefit for the world. Such things should not be discouraged by raising the sword of idolatry but instead should the encouraged. By the same token, since prophet Muhammad was the only perfect man for all times in every aspects of a human being, all Muslims should seek to emulate him which will be of immense blessings to the humanity. Thus Muslims have only done the right and logical thing by seeking to emulate the deeds and actions of prophet Muhammad - you call that idolatry towards him or not.

Islam - an atypical and virulent idolatry

Is the doctrine of Islam above idolatry? The answer is a firm no. Although the idol worship of the Mecca pagans, or Hindus of India for that matter, is evidently the traditional and true acts of idolatry - the religion of Islam, in reality, is based on a form of idolatry which in atypical and virulent and malicious. The only difference is that the man-made idols of the pagans, Hindus and other idolaters have been replaced by the some vague, unseen and unperceivable idol what they call Allah - which indeed was the name of the chief deity of the Pagans of Mecca. The pagans had multiple idols each signifying different aspect of the faithful's imagination. In turn, these pagan idols were a bunch of tolerant and harmonious deities who were extremely willing to share the authority over the various aspects of the life and the Universe amongst them - truly democratic in a sense. The Islamic idol, on the other hand, turned himself a lone owner of everything on earth like a real tyrant. He does not want to share the authority and propriety over vast aspects of life and the Universe with anybody else. Not only that but also, like a real tyrant, he threatens to punish those with who wish to share the ownership with multiple deities or want to give ownership to another deity - just because that there is no solid evidence of the Islamic idol Allah himself is the sole proprietor of this universe. His punishment is astonishingly harsh and unbelievable: he wants to burn those who do not accept Him as God with hellfire and all other sorts of extraordinarily cruel punishments both here and in afterlife. His intolerance and cruelty would have beaten the cruelty of any human tyrant and psychopath that have appeared on earth - including Hitler, Nero, Saddam or Genghis Khan by millions of folds. Suppose, Saddam or Hitler would punish someone by setting him on fire on the streets of Baghdad or Berlin, respectively. That would have made them greater cruel tyrants that what they were. But the Islamic idol, Allah, will put those, who deny him as the God or doubt his being the God - by setting him/her on fire which would not finish in minutes nor would it ever kill the victim but continue for eternity. It does not end there, from the burning hellfire they would be transferred to ultra-cold water and bring back to fire and many other forms of punishment to follow with them. Can anyone fathom the level cruel barbarity of this monstrous idol of Islam?

In a nutshell, the man-made idols of the pagans and Hindus, who are many in number, are a tolerant lot of supposed Gods/Goddesses - who strike a chord of harmony and peace amongst themselves and similarly, let the faithful live in peace and harmony amongst themselves and with those who follow other idols including Allah. But the lone Islamic idol is an absolutist tyrant - he is unbelievably intolerant, barbaric and cruel. He does not only put those who disbelieve in Him into eternal torment and turmoil but also his own followers, who makes harmless mistakes, with all kinds of cruel and barbaric punishment such as stoning and beheading.

Bring some idolatry to Islam

It has been proven that Muslims' obsession for Prophet Muhammad can hardly be called idolatry, neither should anyone be unduly worried about it. However, Islam clearly is a religion of an atypical and virulent strain of idolatry. Yet, in respect to the true and traditional forms of idolatry, Islam remains the least idolatrous religion on this earth. And the least idolatrous people are evidently the most intolerant, violent, cruel, destructive, unproductive and uncivilized people on earth today. Historically, the legacy of true and traditional idolatry has been associated with greater civility, compassion, tolerance, harmony and nonviolence whilst greater non-idolatry (oneness of God, monotheism etc.) has been associated with greater cruelty and violence - Judaism, Christianity and Islam being the clear proof.

But by invoking the virulent hatred of Muhammad and Allah towards the traditional idolatry, Mr. Mebah Uddin is spreading a dangerous message for the idolaters of today - who according to him include Jews, Christians and all other traditional idolaters. He has expressed his extreme hatred towards the idolaters in the most ominous words of his own: "He (Muhammad) must have despised idolatry so much that he faced towards Jerusalem for his prayer rituals until those 360 idols in the Kaba, were totally destroyed." Mr. Mesbah Uddin is only doing his religious duty as a perfect Muslim by stoking violence towards the idolaters of today - a promise of which forms major the foundation of Islam. Mr. Mesbah Uddin's living in the largely idolatrous society of UK also gives it a similar background to Prophet Muhammad's expressing the desire to root out idolatry from the 7th century Mecca. The startling point is the vitriolic language in which Mr. Mesbah has spelled his first expression of hatred towards idolatry. It is learned that Prophet Muhammad used to be relatively tolerant in expressing his hatred towards the religion of the idolaters of Mecca at the beginning, although to care for his safety only. But thanks to the freedom of speech, an invention of the idolaters of the West, which Mr. Mesbah Uddin has exploited in his maiden expression of hatred towards idolatry of the West and of the wider world. The notable point is that when Muhammad had first started (~610 CE) expressing his dislikes for pagan's idolatrous religion in a rather soft and civilized tone at the beginning, nobody could realize that this man would one day be able to destroy everything of their life and faith. And the inevitable tragedy that befell the Meccans 20 years later is known to all. Mr. Mesbah Uddin's style of expressing his hatred towards idolatry should definitely send a stronger message to the idolaters of today's world. The people of Britain should take note of it in the historical background of the 7th century Mecca. Else you never know!

Because of the nature of the Islamic doctrine, it is only expected that there will always be fanatic inciters of violence amongst the 1.4 billion Muslims against the idolaters, who are otherwise nice human beings. Yet, there are other Muslims - the moderates who seek to live in peace and harmony, instead of in hatred and violence against the harmless idolaters. This latter group of lesser Muslims should understand that introduction of a little bit of true and traditional forms of idolatry into Islam will do themselves and the wider humankind a great deal of good in terms of civility, peace, harmony, progress and prosperity. Given the kind of terror, violence and destruction being unleashed by the Muslims worldwide inspired by the true non-idolatrous doctrine of Islam - introduction of the desired bit of idolatry into Islam has become a desperate necessity. It has been told that the allegedly moderate and peaceful Muslims are an overwhelming majority. If that be the case, there will be little difficulty in introducing the required bit of idolatry into Islam. There are certainly a few meek and faint voices such as a gay Muslim leader's speaking up in the UK recently (see Islam blasted by gay Muslim peer). Such voices need to precipitate and strengthen to do the job. The time is limited if we want to see the future of our children saved from the sword of fanatic hatred of Islam towards idolatry. It will be a test of whether the so-called peaceful moderate Muslims are really an overwhelming majority or a desperate minority. Time only will tell.

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