Ateneo de Davao University

Ateneo de Davao

Challenge for Muslims today

THERE are many things that are happening in the Islamic world and Muslim societies today. Most of these are not pleasant because of making Islam as a political ideology.

Not known to many of us, according to Hamza Yusuf, “Islam is the only religion where you will find a king at the door of beggars asking for their prayers.”

As I write this article, there are pockets of armed conflict in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur. These conflict caused several displacements of innocent families. I always ask myself, do Muslims really understand Islam? Do we really follow its tenets, principles, and spiritual message to dialogue with our Creator?

In trying my best to find the answers, I realized that some Muslims today, especially most of our theologians, Imams and clerics refuse/fail to view the text within the Holy Quran, Sunnah, and Hadith of our prophet Muhammad (SAW), specifically the verses that promote fighting and jihad, within the frame of its historical context.

Some Muslims would rather keep them open-ended as part of an eternal and always relevant words of Allah. Thus, there are Muslims who are under the impression that binding many of the verses to its historicity might affect our faith, our lives, and our cultural and religious identity.

Also, some of us are saying we need to save Islam. But how can we even do that? How can we even claim that we can protect all the Muslims on this planet? Nowadays, Muslims are actually being killed by their fellow Muslims. Sectarian violence is spreading throughout the world.

This whole problem of literalist Muslims has been ignored for centuries.

This has led to more ways of justifying violence and opening more doors for ultra-conservative literalism, also known as violent Islamist (closest backdoor to violence and terrorism).

Like any religion, there will always be texts within the holy books that justify violence. Therefore, we need to have a more holistic interpretation and applying interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the message of Islam.

The more our society experiences poverty, injustice, and violence the more Muslim any Muslim conservative reads verses from Quran and memorize Hadith to take it absolutely literally and automatically apply it to his current life and affairs.

Take for example this verse: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority”. Quran (3:151)

We need to interpret the verse mentioned in its historical context which says that some Pagan tribes of the Arab Peninsula who were causing troubles with the Muslim followers of Muhammad (SAW) But if we to interpret it literally and maybe relevant to the present point in time, then we are talking about the Isis who casting terror, “by mass execution and beheading like the early Muslim fighters used to do, into the hearts of the followers of the infidels Bashar Al-Assad of Syria and Al- Maliki of Iraq, for they ruled not according to Islamic Sharia” (Dr. Ashraf Ezzat).

When Muslims read the Quran, it has a strange effect on their lives. According to Reza Aslan, “Reading the Quran can be a baffling experience.

Unlike the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), the Quran is not a collection of books recounting the mythical history of a community of faith. It is not, like the Gospels, a pseudo-biographical sketch of a particular prophet at a particular time. It does not narrate the life of Muhammed, nor does it chronicle the rise of Islam (indeed, Mohammed is barely mentioned in it). Though the Quran is divided into 114 chapters (called suras), these are arranged neither thematically nor chronologically but rather from longest to shortest, the lone exception being the first and most important chapter, al-Fatiha, or “The Opening.” The Quran itself states that its verses have multiple meanings, some of which are unfathomable to human beings and known only to God. And yet, in both style and content, the Quran is unique among scriptures”.

It is important to know and understand that the Quran two historical context: the Meccan verses and the Madina verses. Muslim scholars agree that the older Quran was written in Mecca while the later Quran was written in Medina.

With this two context in history, scholars (both Muslim and non-Muslim) must refer to the Quran by its two parts, the Mecca Quran, and the Medina Quran. Historians say “both were transcribed as told by Muhammad to a scribe, as Muhammad was illiterate as were a majority of his day. A majority of the Surah in the Quran were written in Mecca with the rest written in Medina”. Adding to the complexity of the Quran, “the Surah in the Quran are not placed in chronological order but are ordered as shown here, along with the city of origin of each Surah. By not ordering the Surah in their chronological order one must refer to the Hadiths and other Islamic texts to discern the original order as Muhammad received his visions from Allah. This added to the secretive mystery that was spun around the Quran making its reading less straightforward to non-Muslims”.

Muslim scholars also describe Meccan period as the foundation for the following: Allah and His unity (tawheed); The coming resurrection and judgment; Righteous conduct; The role of the Prophet in this phase is, in particular, that of an announcer and warner.

The present context of most Muslim communities shows the life of the Muhammad (SAW) in Mecca. The verses revealed to him in Mecca calls for tolerance, tranquility, spirituality, acceptance, and inner cleansing through submission to the word of Allah. The verses in Madina calls the Muslims’ growing together into a community and the formation of the Ummah.

Muslim scholars today are a task to make Islam more understandable to all humankind. We need to present Islam with multi and interdisciplinary approach. Muslim scholars recommend that we write a version of the Quran with the Surah in chronological order with footnotes to denote which Surah have been superseded by later Surah. Until then we are left to research these discrepancies ourselves. This is the challenge for all Muslims today. Al Qalam and our network organizations are making this lifetime commitment to do this.