Who is a ‘Muslim’

Those who call themselves ‘Muslim’ seldom understand the meaning of this Arabic word. When translated into English, ‘Muslim’ literally means ‘Submission’. A ‘Muslim’ is a person whose ‘Submission’ to the edicts as revealed to Moses in the Torah, David in the Psalms, Jesus in the Gospels and Muhammad in the Quran, is an important article of his/her faith:
‘Say [O Muslims]: We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and to the offspring of the twelve sons of Jacob, and that which has been given to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted’ (Quran 2:136).

Being a ‘Muslim’ is not a privilege extended exclusively to the Arabs or Arabic speaking people. It’s the refuge of the pious; as already practiced by people of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths:
‘Verily, those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve’ (Quran 2:62).

All Abrahamic faiths proximate toward a similar structure in terms of their beliefs and practices. An observant ‘Muslim’ should, therefore, feel no antipathy toward any in the Abrahamic faiths:
‘And were it not for Allah restraining mankind through the act of some opposing others, pulled down would be monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques wherein the name of Allah is mentioned in great profusion’ (Quran 22:40).

Isn’t it time we Muslims studied the Quran and reflected upon its teachings so as not to rely entirely on what our ‘Mullahs’ preach to us.

The ‘Hadith’ Debate

Muslims believe that the religion of Islam includes the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. They insist that Verses in the Quran endorse the sayings and teachings of the Prophet. ’Nor does he speak of [his own] desire’ (53:3). ‘Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow; for him who hopes for [the meeting with] Allah and the Latter Day, and remembers Allah much’ (33:21). I do believe in the Revelations of the Quran and in the perfect example of the Prophet. However, I do not believe that everything the Prophet said and did was inspired by the Almighty.

We know from the Noble Quran that our beloved Prophet made mistakes; are we to conclude that God made these mistakes? ‘O Prophet! Why do you forbid [for yourself] that which Allah has allowed to you; seeking to please your wives? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful’ (66:1). ‘Of him you are neglectful and divert your attention to another’ ‘Nay, [do not do like this]; indeed it [this Quran] is an admonition’ (80:10/11). If everything the Prophet said was a divine revelation; why did God admonish the Prophet and show him the correct way?

The Quran is emphatic that there is only Allah’s Sunnah; not the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. ‘[This was our] Sunnah with the Messengers We sent before you, and you will not find any alteration in Our Sunnah’ (17:77). ‘So no change will you find in Allah’s Sunnah, and no turning off will you find in Allah’s Sunnah’ (35:43). ‘That has been Allah’s Sunnah with those who passed away before. And you will find no change in Allah’s Sunnah’ (48:23). Would our beloved Prophet base his life on teachings and practices not consistent with the Noble Quran?

The Quran is the only authoritative and sufficient collection of all that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. ‘Certainly, We have brought them a Book [the Quran] which We have explained in detail with knowledge – a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe’ (7:52). ‘Allah has sent down the best Al Hadith, a Book [the Quran], its parts resembling each other [and] oft-repeated’ (39:23). ‘These are the Ayat of Allah, which We recite to you (O Muhammad) with truth. Then in which Hadith after Allah and His Ayat will they believe?’ (45:6). ‘And recite what has been revealed to you [O Muhammad] of the book of your Lord. None can change His Words, and none will you find as a refuge other than Him’ (18:27). ‘Verily, We, it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr [the Quran] and surely, We will guard it’ (15:9).

If Muslims believe it their duty to follow the ‘good example’ of Prophet Muhammad; shouldn’t they consider the ‘excellent example’ of Prophet Abraham? ‘Indeed there has been an excellent example for you in Ibrahim and those with him’ (60:4). ‘Certainly, there has been in them an excellent example for you to follow; for those who look forward to [the Meeting with] Allah and the Latter Day’ (60:6). In fact, it’s just not Prophet Abraham but also ‘those with him’ who make for an ‘excellent example’. What’s implicit is that even when ordinary ‘Muslims’ adhere to God’s Commandments, they are considered an ‘excellent example’.

We strive in the path of Allah and we endeavour to emulate the ‘Muslim’ qualities of our beloved Prophet; not mimic him.

Dictators, power and the blame for Muslim strife

Why do we Muslims always complain about the foreign policy of the U.S. and Britain? I understand that we may be upset about the loss of civilian lives, but both governments have now recognised the futility of their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Historically, nations have intervened to protect their geo-strategic and commercial interests.

Why don’t we Muslims ever complain about the foreign policies of Saudi Arabia and Iran? Wahabi Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran are using their immense oil wealth to wage a proxy war. Their attempts to change the realities on the ground are evident in the Yemen and the Levant.

This meddling has given licence to brutality and culminated in the indiscriminate killing of civilians. The displacement of sections of the population has created resentment and brought to the surface latent sectarian prejudice. This isn’t a religious war, as they would have us believe; it’s a murderous endeavour to seize political power.

Europe retired most of its monarchies because they were an impediment to the advancement of its peoples. We Muslims, however, embrace our monarchs and dictators as though they were our salvation.

Our rulers have always claimed to represent the Prophet or his progeny; we’ve never had representative governments. This concentration of power has resulted in nepotism and sycophancy and has suffocated the individual’s aspiration to achieve through merit. We refuse to take responsibility for our own problems and choose to hide behind ludicrous conspiracies.

Unfortunately, we Muslims are plagued with all kinds of divisions, owing to our own ignorance. In the Iran-Iraq war Arabs fought Persians. After the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan, Persian and Pashtu-speaking Pathans fought each other for control of the opium trade. In Darfur, Arabs from Sudan unashamedly killed Africans for control of that region’s oil. It’s expedient for both sides to blame ‘the West’ or ‘Zionists’, but, in fact, the leadership is exploiting ethnic and sectarian tensions to perpetuate its hold on power.

This sectarian hatred of one another is indoctrinated from childhood. The Shi’ites accuse the Sunnis of denying the Prophet’s cousin the position of the first caliph. The Sunnis accuse the Shi’ites of committing blasphemy by disparaging the first three caliphs. The leadership on both sides is apathetic to this bickering, but is astute enough to hide its incompetence and corruption in the cloak of divisiveness.

Our rulers don’t come from another planet and even if supplanted by other countries they are a product of our society. Their depravity should force us Muslims to contemplate what it is we believe and value that creates such individuals and enables them to abuse a position of trust and power.

Facets of Radicalisation

I agree that there is radicalisation amongst some in the Muslim communities in the UK and overseas. However, there are many facets to the emergence of this radicalisation. The crux of the matter is the inability of Muslims to reconcile modernity with their interpretation of Islam and an acute absence of credible role models.

The schisms appeared in the Muslim ‘Ummah’ soon after the death of Prophet Muhammad as evidenced by the arguments between the ‘Companions’ and those from outside the Hejaz region of Arabia. Ever since the death of the last ‘Righteous Caliph’ – Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, Muslims have been plagued by non-representative governments using the enlightened example of Prophet Muhammad to hide their corruption.

Colonisation of Muslim lands further exacerbated their plight as the new paymasters imposed compliant regimes; autocratic governments that provided stability by virtue of the doctrine of brutal suppression. Nepotism and cronyism became the cornerstone of government policy for advancement; the nation’s wealth was systematically siphoned off to distant lands.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are two sides of the same coin; police states masquerading as theocracies. Wahabi Saudi Arabia and Shia’ Iran are using their immense oil wealth to wage a proxy war. Mullahs in Iran and Salafists in Saudi Arabia are attempting to channel the frustration of Muslim masses into a focused hatred of the West. The Mullahs consider the US presence in the Middle East as an existential threat and the Salafists consider US attempts to democratise the region as unislamic.

These self-appointed clerics are the hypocrites in our communities that espouse violence in the name of a faith that highly values peace and considers human life sacrosanct. The ‘Arab Spring’ may deny the Salafists emotional support but will not dent the stream of petro-dollars that come primarily from the Gulf Co-operation Council countries.

We Muslims in the UK must vigorously denounce the subterfuge activities of such obscurantist fringe groups that by default claim to represent our interests. These radicals may even label us ‘Kafir’ but let me say this: There is far more Islam in the institutions here in the UK than there is in most Muslim countries.

Mocking Islam or the Prophet

‘If you ask them, they declare: We were only talking idly and joking. Say: Was it at Allah, and His Ayat and His Messenger that you were mocking?’ (9:65). ‘O distress on the servants! There comes not to them any Messenger but they mock at him’ (36:30)
Why is it that we Muslims are surprised at the derogatory ‘Films’ and ‘Cartoons’ about Prophet Muhammad. We know it not to be credible; it doesn’t damage his persona one iota in my opinion.

What really creates a stink is the blood lust as expressed by some in the community in the UK and the many overseas. Not just that but they back it up with ‘Hadith’ that they claim warrants violence against the perpetrators.
Ibn Taymiyyah says in ‘Mukhtasar As-Saram Al-Maslool Ala Shatim Ar-Rasool (Summary of The Drawn Sword Against the One Who Curses the Messenger) Pages 31-33: Whoever curses the Prophet (PBUH), Muslim or Kafir, must be killed. The methodology of the scholars is also listed.

These ‘Hadith’ were compiled some 200 years after the death of our beloved Prophet. How often we hear the expression ‘Authentic Hadith’; implicit that they have been corrupted. Anybody who has even briefly studied ‘Hadith’ will admit that there are contradictions. They are preposterous, misogynistic and an incitement to violence; at great variance with the Quran.

There is no justification in the Noble Quran for the violence condoned by proponents of ‘Hadith’.
‘Verily, those who believe then disbelieve, then believe and then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief; Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to the path’ (4:137). ‘And already We have sent down on you in the Book that if you hear Allah’s Verses being denied and ridiculed, then sit not with them, until they engage in a talk other than that; verily, you will then be like them. Surely, Allah will collect the hypocrites and the disbelievers all together in hell’ (4:140).

It is the prerogative of Allah Subhana to deal with those who ‘Mock’ or the ‘Apostate’; their killing is most certainly not sanctioned in the Quran. However, the misguided amongst us think it their religious duty to impose what they call the ‘Shariah’ on everybody else. I believe that there is a latent hatred amongst them stemming from low self-esteem and an absence of credible role models.

The only ‘Authentic Hadith’

I often hear Muslims categorically state that we have to embrace the Noble Quran and Hadith in order to follow the Sunnah. They say that it is ‘Kufr’ to separate the revelations that Prophet Muhammad recited from his sayings and teachings. They insist that even when he was in conversation with the companions, the laity or the Ahl Al-Bait; God was speaking through him. I would like to remind these Muslims that our Prophet sought guidance from what was revealed to him by the Almighty. Whenever he felt the great burden of responsibility and was distraught, he would turn to the verses of the Quran for solace. ‘And we have sent down to you the Book as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves’ (16:89). ‘We have explained in detail in this Quran for the benefit of mankind, every kind of similitude but man is in most things, contentious’ (18:54). ‘We have neglected nothing in the Book’ (6:38).

At a more personal level, I do believe in the Noble Quran and in the perfect example of our Prophet. The Noble Quran is the touchstone, an intellectual measure by which we confirm the veracity of Hadith. ‘Say: if the mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like thereof even if they helped one another’ (16:88). As the Quran was being revealed, the Prophet would commit it to memory and then recite it to his companions. During these recitations the companions would memorize the Revelations; scribes would record the same in writing. The scribes would then read what they had written back to the Prophet; he would in-turn correct their mistakes. With each new Ayah that was revealed, the Prophet would dictate its placement within the Quranic order. This effectual process of validation was resolutely adhered to during the period the Prophet received the Revelations. ‘We have without doubt sent down the message, and We will assuredly guard it’ (15:9).

‘This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you and chosen for you Islam as your religion’ (5:3). Does what the Prophet say in the passing after the revelation of this verse, still be considered ‘Divine’; and for how long. The question is that if the sayings and teachings of the Prophet are ‘Divine’ then why can’t we recite them during Namaz. Why did the companions not feel the need to compile these traditions during the lifetime of the Prophet or soon after? Even when many of the companions were killed in the Wars of Apostasy at the time of Caliph Abu Bakr, the concern was primarily with collating the Quran. From what I have researched to-date, I unequivocally believe that the Noble Quran is the only ‘Authentic Hadith’ – ‘He has taught man that which he knew not’ (96:5).

Ignorance in our midst

People I have spoken with often hasten to call Jews and Christians disbelievers. I am disconcerted at the ease with which people condemn whole communities. Are all Jews and Christians ‘Kafir’ and all those who call themselves ‘Muslim’, believers? The Arabic word ‘Muslim’ translates to ‘one who submits to God’ in English. By virtue of this those who submitted to what was revealed to the Prophets are all ‘Muslim’. Al Quran(3:52) “When Jesus sensed disbelief, he said: Who are my helpers toward Allah? The disciples said: We are the helpers of Allah; we believe in Allah, and bear witness that we are Muslims.” Al Quran(7:159) “And of the people of Moses there is a community who guide with the truth and act justly.”

The tradition-bound and the obstinately opinionated will state outright that Jews and Christians cannot be trusted. Al Quran(5:51) “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as friends; they are but friends of each other. And if any amongst you takes them as friends, then surely he is one of them. Verily, God guides not those people who are wrong-doers.” They will claim that Judaism and Christianity are not religions recognized by Islam. Al Quran(3:85) “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.”

But the Arabic word ‘Islam’ translates to ‘Submission to the will of God’ in English. Can we say with certainty that all Jews and Christians don’t submit but all who call themselves ‘Muslim’, do? Al Quran(5:69) “Surely, those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians – whosoever believes in God and the Last Day, and does righteous deeds, on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.” Al Quran(22:40) “And were it not for Allah restraining mankind through the act of some opposing others, pulled down would be monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques wherein the name of Allah is mentioned in great profusion.”

I am saddened by the ‘Jahiliyah’ of a people who have in their possession a beautifully written book of prose and poetry – The Noble Quran. Al Quran(29:46) “And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in a way that is good, except with those among them that transgress; and say: We believe in that which has been sent down to us and sent down to you; our God and your God is One, and we have to Him submitted.” The problem is that people in our community are often ill-informed; their prejudice mostly gets the better of them. Any attempt at dialogue/debate to rectify this imbalance is usually met with a volley of ‘Quranic’ rhetoric and threats of violence. Is it any wonder that our fellow citizens look at us with the greatest of suspicion; probably asking themselves what it is that we are doing in this country if we do not agree with its ethos.

An opinion on the ‘Schism’

I am trying to ascertain what exactly happened subsequent to the death of our beloved Prophet. From what I have researched I can summarise that there was a sudden and an acute power vacuum. The selection of a temporal leader turned into a battle of succession for the very soul of Islam. Clan/Tribal allegiances came to the fore as ground realities clashed with the naivety of the ‘Sahabah’. Sassanid Persia and Roman Byzantine were waiting in the offing and false prophets were raising their ugly heads.

It must be the case that the Prophet left no clear instructions as to who would lead the Muslims after his death. I believe he did this deliberately because an explicit appointment would have accorded sanctity to the individual/clan. This in turn would have set a precedence for the creation of a religious figurehead with the stature of a prophet. Our Prophet understood the pitfalls of leaving behind an institution that would have become a proxy for the Noble Quran.

What is surprising is that even those closest to the Prophet disagreed about who should lead the ‘Ummah’ after his death. It’s difficult to contemplate that if the Prophet did leave clear instructions, those closest to him would disagree so soon after his death. That’s my reason for insisting that power should’ve been devolved to the clans/tribes, not institutionalised in a Caliphate.

Religious institutions are inherently corrupt because they usurp power from the communities they claim to represent. The Caliphate by default would’ve acted as proxy for the Noble Quran and the Sunnah, creating resentment in sections of the ‘Ummah’. Those whose wealth and/or position had not dissipated in the struggle for Islam, would inevitably come to dominate the Caliphate.

Concentration of power mostly results in nepotism and sycophancy, suffocating the individuals’ aspiration to achieve through merit. Hence, the absence of an enlightened ‘Ummah’ through informed scholarship; instead a pervasive ‘Jahalat’ promoted by a leadership that only reflects the prejudices of the body politic.

The declaration of faith

I have often asked myself: What Shahadah did the Prophets and other ‘Muslims’ before Muhammad recite?

‘Allah testifies: La ilaha illa Huwa, and the angels, and those having knowledge – truthfully, equitably. La ilaha illa Huwa, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise’ (3:18).
‘And We did not send any Messenger before you [O Muhammad] but We revealed to him: La ilaha illa ana, so worship Me’ (21:25).
‘He has ordained for you the same religion which He ordained for Noah, and that which We have revealed to you [O Muhammad], and that which We ordained for Abraham, Moses and Jesus – saying you should establish religion and make no divisions in it’ (42:13).
‘The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. [They say:] We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers, and they say – We hear and we obey’ (2:285).
‘Muhammad is no more than a Messenger, and indeed Messengers have passed away before him’ (3:144).

The unity of the Godhead is at the core of that which was revealed to all of the Prophets. We believe that it is this God that revealed the Torah to Moses, the Psalms to David, the Gospel to Jesus and the Quran to Muhammad. Therefore, articles of faith as prescribed in these scriptures cannot contain contradictions. It would be inconsistent for each of the Prophets to have told their respective congregation to recite a different Shahadah.

‘When the hypocrites come to you [O Muhammad], they say: We bear witness that you are indeed the Messenger of Allah. Allah knows that you are indeed His Messenger, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are liars indeed’. ‘They have made their oaths a screen [for their hypocrisy]. Thus they hinder [men] from the Path of Allah. Verily, evil is what they used to do’ (63:1/2). ‘Have you [O Muhammad] not seen those [hypocrites] who take as friends a people upon whom is the Wrath of Allah? They are neither of you nor of them, and they swear to a lie while they know’. ‘Allah has prepared for them a severe torment. Evil indeed is that which they used to do’. ‘They have made their oaths a screen [for their evil action]. Thus they hinder [men] from the Path of Allah, so they shall have a humiliating torment’ (58:14/16).
The hypocrites do not bear witness that La ilaha illa Huwa, only that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. God acknowledges [does not bear witness] that Muhammad is His Messenger. Only then does He proceed to bear witness that the hypocrites are liars. An examination of the wording and sequencing of the statements in the verse allows for a better understanding.

Could our Prophet predict future events

From what I understand ‘Ghaib’ could either mean ‘Unseen’ or ‘Absent’; it mostly means ‘Unseen’. So did Prophet Muhammad have the ability to predict future events?

‘Say [O Muhammad]: I don’t tell you with me are the treasures of Allah, nor I know Al Ghaib; nor I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me’ (6:50). ‘Say [O Muhammad]: I possess no power over benefit or harm to myself except Allah wills. If I had the knowledge of Al Ghaib, I should have secured for myself an abundance of wealth, and no evil should have touched me’ (7:188)
Our beloved Prophet is admitting that he doesn’t have the ability to predict future events. The only knowledge in his possession is that which has been revealed to him. The knowledge of the ‘Ghaib’ is the prerogative property of the Almighty.
‘And with Him are the keys of Al Ghaib, none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in the land and in the sea; not a leaf falls but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record’ (6:59).

When God does reveal the ‘Ghaib’ to the Prophets, it is but the Verses of the Quran – knowledge of past events that the Prophets could not have known.
‘[He Alone is] the All-Knower of Al Ghaib, and He reveals to none His Ghaib’. ‘Except to a Messenger whom He has chosen, and then He makes a band of watching guards to march before him and behind him’. ‘Till He sees that they have conveyed the Messages of their Lord. He encompasses what is with them, and He keeps count of all things’ (72:26/28).

On those occasions where God relates to Muhammad the stories of earlier Prophets, He reminds him that it is knowledge that neither he nor his people knew.
‘This is the news of Al Ghaib which We reveal to you [O Muhammad]; neither you nor your people knew it before this’ (11:49). ‘This is the news of Al Ghaib which We reveal to you [O Muhammad]. You were not with them when they arranged their plan together, and they were plotting’ (12:102).

Again, only God has absolute knowledge of the ‘Ghaib’; the only reason we know with certainty some future events is because they were revealed to the Prophets to warn and prepare us.
‘Those who disbelieve say: The Hour will not come to us. Say: Yes, by my Lord, the All-Knower of Al Ghaib, it will come to you; not even the weight of an atom of less than that or greater escapes His Knowledge, in the heavens or in the earth but it is in a Clear Book’ (34:3).