When I say my religion is Islam, then Christians and Jews hate me. They say Islam promotes violence and intolerance. They say Islam is a false religion.
When I say my mazhab (sect) is Islam, Muslims hate me. They say I must choose between being Shiite or Sunni. Islam is not enough. They say I must also join a sect.
After carefully looking at all of their beliefs, I have discovered the answer, and decided… My religion, my Madhab and my code is ISLAM. Let them all go ahead and hate me for that.
How did I come to this decision? They all say that I must spend thousands of hours mastering each of their systems in order to know enough about it. Only then can I be in a position to reject it. I disagree. I do not need to spend thousands of hours studying Sunnism, Shiism, Christianity or Judaism to find them to be false.
There is another easier way. I am using that easier way here to establish my position that pure Islam (minus Sunni or Shi’i) is all that is needed, no matter what the haters and the dividers say. Before I upset the Christians and the Jews, let me add. Islam is the word I use to refer to the religion which Jesus, Abraham and Moses brought. Islam is the term the Quran uses to refer to the religion of the One God. A follower of these prophets is, according to the Quran a Muslim.
Look at this verse:
“Abraham was not a Jew nor a Christian but he was upright, a Muslim, and he was not one of the polytheists.” (3:67)
Now here follows my reasoning for rejecting the false labels.
In Mathematics, you don’t have to analyze an entire theorem to disprove it. You don’t even have to know much mathematics to disprove it. All you have to do is demonstrate a case where it fails to hold true; just ONE case and the theorem loses validity. Universal claims are presented in Mathematics as theorems. A mathematical theorem is a claim to a truth. The universal truth-claims of mathematics must hold under all circumstances, times and places. Where there are exceptions, these should be mentioned as part of the theorem. The other point about a truth-claim in mathematics is that any one theorem must be coherent with all other co-existing valid theorems and laws. If I am able to show just one case where a claim to truth breaches another proven truth, then one of them must be erroneous.
Let us take an example.
The theorem of Pythagoras is an accepted universal rule for any right angled triangle. For the three sides a, b and c in a right angled triangle, Pythagoras’ theorem says that
Where a and b are the length of the two sides that form the right angle of the triangle and c is the third side of the triangle. All triangles of this type must always follow this rule. Now let us suppose for a particular triangle that side a =1, side b=2 then the equation for the triangle will be 1^2+2^2=5= c^2. The third side, c, squared, must be 5. So the third side c cannot be 3 as 3 is not the square root of 5.
No let’s say that I go and measure the sides of a right angled triangle, and find them to be of lengths 1,2 and 3, then there is definitely a mistake somewhere. Either the triangle is not a right angled triangle or either my measurement was wrong or either, Pythagoras’ Theorem is wrong. Now if I can show that the triangle is a right angled one, and that I have measured absolutely correctly, then, unfortunately, the great Theorem of Pythagoras has been shown to be false.
What is my point? My point is that a claim of universal Truth must be internally coherent, and errors can be uncovered by almost anyone who can expose internal inconsistencies. In the above case, I show that the mighty Theorem of Pythagoras can be disproven or falsified by anyone. All that is needed is just a simple ruler. The fact is that in 2500 years, no one has been able to do so, and therefore Pythagoras’ truth claim remains intact.
For me, any other claim of universal truth must pass the same test. The true test of a genuine true religious/philosophical life code must be its consistency. There must be no loop-holes, inconsistencies or compromises across the various aspects of your life, across society as a whole and across centuries of time. By “aspects of your life”, I mean ALL the facets of the life of any human being. By “across society”, I mean your worldview must be compatible with others that share the world with you, even those with different worldviews. By “across centuries of time”, I mean that core principles that hold today cannot become obsolete tomorrow. The core beliefs must remain timeless.
Let me explain a bit more what I mean. In simple terms, if you cannot practice every single element of your life, without at some point finding it impossible to contradict your religious code, then its claim of being a universal truth is false. Having fun, loving, fighting, competing, building, breaking, nurturing, laughing, crying and risking are among the activities that a truly fulfilled life engages in. If you cannot do all of these, throughout your life without finding it impossible to breach your code at any point, then your code may well hold as true or valid.
Let us take an example. The Islamic code makes the eating of pork forbidden. However, the code is accommodates a situation when there is the risk of starvation. The code accommodates the eating of pork in a time when failing to do so will lead to death. If there is nothing else to eat, then pork becomes lawful. The code is therefore wide enough to be applied under all circumstances.
This verse from the Quran explains the code:
“And why should you not eat of that on which Allah’s Name has been pronounced, while He has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you, except under compulsion of necessity?” (6:119)
My point is that, as with the above example, the code must be so broad, that it works under ALL circumstances, with no exception.
If I can therefore find a case where a religious or philosophical code does not work for its followers, then I have disproven that code.
Let me put this to the test with some religious and philosophical codes I have come across.
Before I do so, let me raise a relevant question. Is there a need for a code? I heard someone say that they do not need a code. If you do not need a code of life, then does that not also define your code? In that case “I do not have any personal boundaries or rules” would be the code. That makes no sense, because even when you have no rules, you still have to refrain from eating poisonous food, which means you DO have a code.
Let us deal however with those who claim that they have no code. Funny enough, that is a common social world view / code in society today. I will refer to it as Nihilism. Many people today seem to adhere to this code. It basically says that you should act with absolute freedom, in your own best interest.
Nihilism is defined by Google’s quick word definition as “the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.” Much of the youth regard this as the default position, given all the trouble caused by religion and believers in God. Nihilism is often coupled with Hedonism, defined by Google as “the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.” Those who adhere to this code believe that their satisfaction and pleasure come first in all matters. Most people who embrace this code are quite good members of society. The problem lies at the extreme. A person who takes this code to its logical extreme would pursue pleasure and satisfaction even at the cost of other human beings. When you try to get ahead in your career, do you then undermine your colleagues? When you try to become rich and successful, do you then harm others? Sadly, for many, harming others in pursuit of pleasure has become a norm.
To feed their own need for satisfaction and happiness, how far will some nihilistic and hedonistic people go? The hedonist may rightfully argue that taking drugs gives him pleasure and is therefore justifiable. How do you convince a hedonistic society that over-indulgence can be dangerous, if pleasure is all that life is about?
What about the hedonist that crosses the boundary into sadism (getting pleasure from others’ suffering)? The most extreme cases are the serial killer or the mass shooter. The serial killer or mass shooter is a person who kills for personal pleasure. If my pleasure is the only principle that counts, then the world becomes a scary place. Welcome to a world of sadism, torture, expropriation and murder. No person can be an extreme nihilist hedonist without at some point getting into trouble with other people, or even cause his own death or incarceration. Having no personal code is therefore clearly a path that has led us to the world we currently see; a world of mass shootings, serial killers, drug abuse, suicide and unfettered crime.
Let me consider another modern-day non-religious code.
Let me look at the Liberal Humanistic / Secular world view. This worldview places the overall well-being of humanity at the core of its belief system. The undeniable fact is that this worldview is a modern interpretation of Darwinism, which preaches the survival of the strongest amongst species. One of the great guru’s of this worldview, Richard Dawkins regards evolution as a process devoid of morality, compassion and transcendence. Where, in this worldview does one find legal justification for social compassion? Where in this worldview does one find the legal de-legitimization of the despot and tyrant, who acts clinically in the interest of the human species as a whole? Hitler, and Stalin are good examples of men who followed very clinical processes of strengthening the species, even when it meant abandoning millions of humans beings which led to their death. Another problem with this worldview is that it becomes clumsy and unstuck when trying to answer the most profound questions that face us. Questions like, how non-existence became transformed into existence? The simplest mind knows that non-existence is the primary state, and that existence is the secondary state. For non-existence to become existence, requires an independently existing creative agent. They waffle when it comes to this question, pushing natural existence further back to more complex origins, instead of explaining it through a credible theory.
Let’s move on to a religious claim to universal truth.
I posed the question whether Christianity preaches non-violence and pacifism. The answer was, “yes indeed”, Jesus preached that turning the other cheek is the suitable Christian response to a provocation. It took Thomas Aquinas somewhere around 800 years ago to introduce into the overall Christian philosophy the concept of a Just War. This preaching against violence and war poses an obvious problem to theologically pure Christians. It would appear that most of them however simply opted to ignore this element of their religious world view, and simply go on practicing the rest of Christianity as if all is okay. It’s also interesting to notice that the most religiously steadfast Christian region of the US, often referred to the Bible Belt, is also the most ardent supporter of the American military. Can you therefore really be a good Christian and an eternal pacifist? If the answer is “no”, then you have disproven the Christian code. If you answer “yes”, then the Christian code becomes contradictory with basic human nature, which is to defend yourself and your loved ones from a violent attack. I believe that there is no person or country in the world that can uphold the standard of “turning the other cheek”, without being destroyed at some point in time by a violent enemy.
Probably the most contradictory Christian core belief is the absolution of the individual from personal accountability for his actions. The Christian belief that God sacrificed of his only son, Jesus, to absolve all humanity of their sins, offers blanket immunity to all from sin. Even the believing murderer, who confesses that Jesus died for his sins, is forgiven. Christianity also releases its adherents from complying with the ancient Jewish covenant with God; a covenant that included many earthly laws that were meant to ensure the smooth functioning of society. In place of the earthly laws promulgated in the Old Testament, Christianity placed the Law of Caesar; or the Secular Law; thus creating an earthly sphere of governance, independent from the divine sphere. Christianity therefore calls for a retreat from the earthly sphere, and even go so far as to concede that earthly realm to Satan. Does this core belief then not render Christianity irrelevant to the mundane earthly existence of its adherents? Sounds to me like a complete surrender of all earthly existence to Satan. If you are a good Christian, you have to believe that the earth as fallen to Satan (at least until the second coming of Christ.) Does being a good Christian not then mean offering Satan victory on this earth? Seems like a code of despair and surrender to Satan to me.
Muslims have also invented codes to further define their understanding of Islam. Today, many Muslims feverishly defend their Sunni or Shi’I identity. Each one claims that his understanding of Islam is the authentic understanding. Let us look at these Islamic codes.
Sunni Muslims face a crisis today, because it has no religious conception of the qualities and principles of societal governance and leadership. Imam Nawawi, in the classic Sunni jurisprudential work, Umdatus Saalik, spells out the requirements to be a leader in a Sunni worldview. Those qualities are three: 1. being a man, 2. puberty and 3. sanity. These are the Sunni preconditions for someone to be fit for high office. Sunni religious law allows anyone that possesses these three qualifications to get into power. Sunni law also allows any means, I repeat, ANY MEANS to get to power, including usurpation. In terms of Sunni Law, power legitimates itself. “Might makes right” in other words.
Under what legal proviso does one remain a steadfast, practicing Sunni, while at the same time condemning Saddam Husayn, and every other corrupt leader that dominated Muslim governance for the past 14 centuries? That, in a nutshell lies at the very heart of Sunni Islam and its difficulty to co-exist with modern human rights and democratic systems today. A good Sunni has a religious obligation to respect the man in power.
A peculiar belief in Sunnism is the sanctification of both parties in a war. The bloody war between Ali (the fourth Caliph) and Muawiya is a case in point. The orthodox Sunni belief is that both these man are virtuous and above reproach. This belief they hold, even though thousands of men died in the war between these two men. This belief sets a precedent for all future times, and opens the door widely for bloody internecine strife and civil wars, which incidentally characterized much of Muslim society, then and now.
I spoke to a Twelver Shia Muslim friend the other day, who told me that she is comfortable that her religion is the ultimate system by which she is able to lead a fulfilling life. She explained to me the concept of accountability through an earthly representative of God, namely the Imam of the age. Under the Imam of the Age, there is a hierarchy of leaders going down to her local cleric, who provides her with guidance on every aspect of her life. My question to her was, is it possible to comply with the “one universal leader” Imam of the Age concept when you live on a remote, undiscovered pacific island? If not, then that means that the “one leader” for all humanity is only realistic in a time when universal communication is possible; making it unrealistic, say 1000 years ago. In that case, the concept of one universal leader is definitely not possible at all times and places, rendering it not universal and thus making the claim to universality false.
My other problem is the following with this claim to universal truth. Twelver Shi’ism is based on the core belief that God will not leave humanity without a divinely appointed leader even for one minute. It goes on to claim that the present person who occupies this lofty office is Imam Mahdi. The Imam is however not physically accessible, since he exists in a state of occultation. This occultic state is beyond the perception of ordinary human beings. Does a person that is inaccessible then not render that person beyond reach, and therefore irrelevant to the mundane earthly needs and demands of ordinary people?
Probably the saddest response of adherent of false codes is when they refer me to their spiritual leaders to answer and explain some of their core beliefs. If one cannot yourself justify and explain the most fundamental beliefs you hold, then that should be clear warning sign. Imagine asking a fruit vendor why he charges more for the apples than for the oranges, and he refers you to an accountant to explain his decision. Following anything blindly is an immediate disqualifier, as the blind believer clearly professes that she or he has no problem believing something that makes no sense.
The reason I have exposed the weaknesses in these religious-philosophical codes was not to declare whatever of contained in them as completely invalid. Rather, I am trying to say that their claim to being a universal truth is false. They may have many elements that are true on their own, but the global claim to truth is false.
Is there a philosophical / religious grand worldview or life code that can stand the test of consistency and completeness at a universal level? In the interest of brevity, I will name the one worldview that stands up to any test; a universal truth that can find no point of contradiction with reason, human fulfillment and overall social order; a code that is the very definition of social order, personal fulfillment, nature and reason. I will name it and challenge the reader to explore and test it further.
Quranic Rational Theism aka PURE UNADULERATED ISLAM is a worldview that shows no flaws of inconsistency, relevance or scope. By Quran is meant the scripture that can be traced back to a credible human testifier as a medium or channel of such scripture. By Rational is meant coherence and compliance with the innate human faculty of reason. Reason serves as corroboration of Scripture. No scriptural position is allowed to contradict Reason. Any such scriptural claim (contradicting Reason), is immediately exposed as false. By Theism is meant the recognition of the existence of a supra-cosmic creative agent; i.e. a Creator that exists independently of all created existence; the necessary existence, the supreme embodiment of all reason, benevolence, justice, truth and morality.
I am not presenting something new here, my dear reader! Every authentic biblical Prophet (Peace on all of them), came with this message! Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad all brought this simple message to us earthlings. ‘Recognize and revere your Creator, God! Recognize and comply with His natural laws! Recognize His messengers! Comply with reason! Establish kindness and compassion within society!”
Every other sincere rational seeker of truth in history arrived at a similar position. Men and women like Emmanuel Kant, Isaac Newton, Plato or Socrates. Their undeniable positions were: “Behind the origin of the universe is a single Creator. The Creator has created an internally rational and consistent system. Morality is innate to Man, and connected to Man’s recognition of God.”
A word on terms we use. Terminology often illicits negative sentiments. This is so because words often have a stigma because of the images they seem to be referring to. We may hate a thing, and the word that refers to that thing will evoke a negative sentiment. “War” and “killing” are two examples. A generation ago the word “gay” had a meaning much different to the current meaning. If you called someone “gay” in 1960, it was no problem, because it only meant “being happy or jovial”. In 30 years much changed for the world, and in 1990, if you called someone “gay” it could illicit a strong, even violent response. By that time, the word had acquired the new meaning of being a homosexual.
The same goes for Islam and Muslim. When I say the word “Muslim” today, it may evoke a negative feeling in some. It is therefore more useful to refer to a concept rather than a word.
The religious/philosophical worldview that I am presenting here is age-old, and has surfaced under different names throughout history. Let us look at the word “Islam”. Morphologically the word comes from the root “sa-la-ma”, which has these meanings: surrendering, complying, being peaceful or being wholesome. The word “Muslim” refers to one that surrenders, complies or upholds peace. In its religious context, compliance with human nature and the Divine Will is implied. Now take the word “Quran”, from the word “qa-ra-a”, meaning: reading, rendition, proclamation or announcement. At numerous places in the Quran, as a proclamation from God, the reader is challenged to consider various phenomena in nature to confirm the integral connection between God, Nature and Reason.
Look at the following verses:
Surah An-Nahl, Verse 12:
وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ وَالنُّجُومُ مُسَخَّرَاتٌ بِأَمْرِهِ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ
And He has made subservient for you the night and the day and the sun and the moon, and the stars are made subservient by His commandment; most surely there are signs in this for a people who ponder;
(English – Shakir)
Surah Sad, Verse 29:
كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَارَكٌ لِّيَدَّبَّرُوا آيَاتِهِ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
)It is) a Book We have revealed to you abounding in good that they may ponder over its verses, and that those endowed with understanding may be mindful.
(English – Shakir)
Surah Al-Hadid, Verse 8:
وَمَا لَكُمْ لَا تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولُ يَدْعُوكُمْ لِتُؤْمِنُوا بِرَبِّكُمْ وَقَدْ أَخَذَ مِيثَاقَكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
And what reason have you that you should not believe in Allah? And the Apostle calls on you that you may believe in your Lord, and indeed He has made a covenant with you if you are believers.
(English – Shakir)
Surah Az-Zumar, Verse 28:
قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِي عِوَجٍ لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ
An Arabic Quran without any crookedness [discrepancy], that they may guard (against evil).
(English – Shakir and my square bracketed insertion)
Before Sunni Islam and Shia Islam, there was just islam, more as a descriptive noun (small letter) than a proper noun. That means there was natural, peaceful compliance with nature under the will of the Creator of Nature. Before the Church and all its creeds, there were just People of the Covenant as Jews were referred to. The Covenant with God referred to compliance with the will of Yahwe, the Supreme Creator in return for a society blessed with harmony and prosperity. Before Rabbinical Judaism, the Talmud and countless man-made complicated mosaic laws, there was simply the Covenant: Worshipping the One God, who created the universe, and shaping all voluntary human activity in line with the gracious, nature that Man is naturally supposed to have.
I am not inviting to a new religion here; only pleading for a rededication to the original, unadulterated, uncomplicated call of the Creator, to our rational mind and to nature.
Almost every major religion started out as a means to achieve harmony with the universe under God. For a few centuries each of these were practices in its pure form, and then unfortunately underwent deviation under the influence of those in positions of power. For Christianity, the deviation to a religion preaching Trinity and other alien and unnatural ideas was brought about by the senior church fathers after about three centuries, and culminated in the Nicene Creed, which was adopted after about three centuries of the departure of the noble Messenger of God, Jesus Christ (peace be upon him.) For Judaism, this deviation took the form of attaching an infinite number of complex and infinitely difficult laws when the Rabbis developed the Talmud as a non-revealed additional “divine” source of law. For Islam, this deviation took place approximately two to three hundred years after the noble Messenger of God, Muhammad (peace be upon him.), when scholars incorporated a corpus of about a million reported sayings of the noble Prophet into the fabric of the religion. The “Hadith”, as a corpus of claimed sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (p), became a second holy source of Divine Law, even though it lacked all the powerful bases for authenticity that the Quran had.
Some Muslims refuse to see that Islam became deviated. They refuse to see Hadith as a problem. They even go to the point of raising Hadith to the level of sanctity of Quran. For the benefit of these Muslims, let me explain briefly the difference in authentication methodologies between Quran and Hadith.
Every verse from the Holy Quran is transmitted through multiple oral chains of narration from the Prophet himself, and was further corroborated by a written record, also recorded from the mouth of the Prophet, at his instruction. The Quran is universally accepted in its present form, and there exists no rival versions of the book. Before his death, the Prophet himself authenticated the complete copy, and there has never been a dispute amongst the leaders that followed the Prophet about the text of the Quran. This was the case even though there were several civil wars, which presented an ideal opportunity for rival claimants to the office of Caliphate to come up with spurious versions of the book. This never happened, which substantiates the point that the Quran is the authentic words from the mouth of the Prophet, by universal and consensus. The nonsensical claims of some critics that Uthman burnt some rival versions is bereft of any real substance. The other claim by a German scholar (Puin) that the ancient Sana’a manuscripts differ from the Quran in use, really amounts to nothing. If anything the Sana’ manuscripts reinforce the reality that the Quran is very authentically preserved.
But the best test for the Quran is the book’s own challenge to any reader to come up with any discrepancy, contradiction or flaw in the book. This challenge is easy enough. After all, even the great Shakespeare was found to have made grammatical errors in his works. The tougher challenges, which the Quran has stood up to is the challenge to find an internal contradiction in the text. This should be easy enough to find, since the book comprises 6236 verses, revealed over 23 years, which presents a strong opportunity for internal contradiction. None has been found to date. Detractors point to the contradiction of Quranic facts with Biblical facts, but this claim does not amount to a charge of internal contradiction. So the challenge remains. Then, finally, there is the challenge to expose any contradiction with a known fact of nature. This should be easy enough, since the book was written long, long before the time of great scientific discoveries. I have recently been confronted with several apparently “unscientific” assertions in the Quran. In the book download sections of this site (thecall.co.za), I gave a detailed response to these charges, which all turn out to be puny attempts at impugning the reputation of the Quran.
Why is the Quran so important? The Quran describes itself as a “criterion”. If we can establish, beyond every shred of doubt, the authenticity of at least one divine scripture, it becomes possible to authenticate every other scripture in its light. With a perfectly preserved Quran, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Hadith and every other claim to divine communication can be verified. The Quran in fact becomes as a rescuer and a redeemer of every claimed sacred text. The Quran is the ultimate alignment tool, to regenerate the authentic, rational, naturally harmonious religious philosophical worldview that was brought by every great Prophet and every great truth seeker.
The power of a rational, Quranic society is displayed in all its glory when one reflects on the Golden Age of scientific and intellectual progress of Muslim society in its initial years (750-1258 CE), prior to the full sacralisation of Hadith as a belated grafting onto the sacred core of Islam. The next great era of human progress can be seen only around 1500, when the shackles of illogical Christian beliefs are loosened, thanks to an imbibing of fresh intellectual breaths from Islamic thinkers such as Averroes. Enlightened Christians, clearly under influence from their crusader adventures to Islamic lands led a new wave of intellectual and scientific progress, placing mankind on a new renewed progress trajectory.
Mankind was great when it professed a clean, simple, rational, theistic code of existence, freed from priesthood, senseless dogma and ignorance. That is the call of this essay. That is my own profession, whether the haters like it or not.