ISLAM closed its mind to save its empire. The empire is gone, but the mind remains closed. It is time to open it.
To criticise Islam was to invite death. Which is why no Muslim ever dared to bring out a critical book on Islam. And yet when Muslims go abroad today to lands that are free, the temptation to let go at Islam is so great that they end up with prized books.
?The Trouble with Islam? is one such book. Again written by a South Asian. Irshad Manji, its author, opens her book with a quotation from a French writer. The Frenchman calls Islam ? the most stupid religion?. But how is it, wonders Manji, that it is the least discussed religion in the world! Naturally, the book is all about what Muslims feared to discuss.
Examples? How can Islam accept Jesus as a Messiah, and at the same time annoint Islam as the ?true faith?? How can the Quran call upon Muslims to ?honour the mothers who bore you? and yet exhort them to ?beat them (mothers) ? if they are disobedient. What is consistent with Quran, says Manji, is its inconsistency. It is the claim of Islam that equality is its most distinctive feature. No, says Manji. ?Equality cannot exist in the desert, not if the taxonomy of the tribe is to remain in tact,? she says. Nor can freedom exist, for ?dissent is seen as treason? in tribal societies.
Manjit quotes Tsleema Nasrin. Nasrin says: ?As a child I was told that Allah knows everything. ?She wants to know why Allah does not know Bengali, why Bengali Muslims have to learn Arabic. But the most galling myth to come of Arabia is the story of Jahaliyya and the moral darkness that is said to have existed before Islam. True, 7th century Arabia was wreathed in violence and depravities. But the Arabs assumed that the peoples they conquered were also morally ignorant before the advent of Islam! (This explains the vast destruction they carried out in India.) All Wisdom begins with the advent of Islam, they believed. This is not true of at least the Greeks, Hindus and Chinese. They were wise 2000 years before Mohammed was born. ?There was no room in the heart or mind of these believers for their pre-Mohammedan past, ?says Naipaul in his book ?Among the Believers?. For this ?affront? Muslim call him a ?racist?.
According to Manji, this explains why teachers in madrassas never ever mention the source of the Jewish and Christian traditions in Islam.
Naipaul made major discovery during his journey: that ?no colonialism had been so thorough as the colonialism that had come with the Arab faith.? It was and article of Arab faith that everything before Islam was ?wrong, misguided.? After this can Muslims appreciate India'spast!
It was the claim of Muslim Spain for the post of the Khalif ( Commander of the Faithful), which made Baghdad close ranks. But it also closed the gates of iftihad (12th century) All initiatives became suspect in the eyes of Baghdad and were banned. In the guise of protecting the world-wide Muslim ummah from disunity, Baghdd formed a consensus to freeze all debates within Islam to prevent it from imploding. That strategy has lingered on to our times. Manji asks: ?What is the point in keeping the gate closed when the empire ceased to exist??
So, what did Islam achieve, Manji asks, and she answers: ?It created the most dogged oppression of Muslims by Muslims.?
As the gates closed, the right of independent thinking became the privilege of the mufti the lawyer-priest. The still retain their power over Muslims. They issue the Fatwas.
How is one to account for the hatred of Muslims for non-Muslims? ?The point is, ?says Manji, ?Muslims have always hated others.?
After the death of the Prophet, a document appeared (pact of Omar? which said that non-Muslims must stand up when a Muslim wanted to sit down, non-Muslims must not repair their places of worship, and so on. And Jews and Christians were to wear yellow badges to proclaim their identify. Muslim legislators and judges said that these were ?divinely sanctioned.?
Manji says: I began to grasp how Islam came to be a hated religion? when she read the discriminatory provisions in the hadiths against non-Muslims.
This hatred, Manji says, went to the extent of treating black dogs, women and Jews in the same manner! And yet Judaism is the basis of Islam!