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LIBERAL LESSONS OF ISLAM

By T. H Shah

The issues of being liberal and interfaith harmony are of antiquity; not a new
phenomenon. But the same have assumed phenomenal significance; thanks to astounding
revolutions in the era of info-techs. History is witness to ethnic cleansing of the Jews by
the Nazis, committed under the guise of religious bigotry, which can be comprehended
having a look on Exodus. Genocides in Bosnia by the hands of Slobodan Milosevic and
the worst riots of Gujarat and Ahmed Abad in India between Hindus and Muslim can be
linked to religious intolerance and hatred. Even in developed countries of the world like
Denmark, Holland and Norway, such incidents happened which portrayed extreme
religious intolerance. Making caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) can be quoted
as an example.

After the publication of book “The Clash of Civilisations”, which was penned by
Samuel Huntington, dissolution of USSR, incidents of 09/11 in USA 07/07 in London,
Islam is the only religion considered to be the propagator of extremism and intolerance
particularly when looked into the Taliban context,

Unfortunately, a sizeable portion of population in Western countries and framers of


human rights conventions believe that any person, community or sect following Islam has
links to extremism and terrorism. Following questions necessitate urgent intellectual and
rational response to clear the misconceptions about Islam:

• Does Islam teach and preach terrorism?


• Whether the killings of non-believers is justified in Islam?
• Whether the suicidal attacks are justified and could be rendered as sacred acts in
Islam?
• Is the education for women prohibited and considered sin and are the women not
allowed to go for employment?
• Whether the women have no voice in their personal affairs of life or their rights
are determined by the men as usually happens in many tribal societies in Pakistan,
especially in NWFP and Balochistan.?
• Can forced marriages and conversion be acts of sacred reward in Islam?

As a matter of fact, a cursory glance on basic teachings of Islam brushes aside all these
negative thoughts.

The very meaning of word Islam is submission and peace. Quite convincingly when
comes the word peace, it allows no room to any of such tendencies like intolerance and
prejudice. Holy Quran is an authentic book for all the Muslims; its each and every word
is accepted and believed blindly by the belivers of Islam. Holy Quran is full of such
verses which emphasise upon its followers to be tolerant and liberal in almost all matters
of life particularly with regard to the religious beliefs and creeds of other people. In Holy
Quran, Almighty Allah says;

“There is no compulsion in matters of religion.” [Surah al-Baqara]

“Tell those who believe, to forgive those who do not look forward to the Days of Allah: It
is for Him to recompense (for good or ill) each People according to what they have
earned.” [Sûrah al-Jâthiyah: 14]

'The truth is from your Lord, so whosoever wants let him believe and whosoever wants
let him deny’) (An-Nahl 16:29)

These verses of Holy Quran are decisive in nature and even a slight deviation from these
is considered blasphemy.

The conduct of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) sets scintillating examples for followers of
Islam to be tolerant and liberal in their treatment towards believers of other religions and
creeds. His acts not only display tolerance and liberality towards non-Muslims but
towards those who have been utterly and blatantly hypocritic in enmity of Islam.

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) in one of his hadiths said;

“A true believer is one with whom others feel secure. One who returns love for hatred.”

A person named Abu Salul was the staunch enemy and hypocrite and left no stone
unturned in throwing mudsling on the family of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). When he
suffered from illness, prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) visited him and on his death, he
went to his grave and dressed him his own shirt.

Killing of human beings is unpardonable sin in Islam. It is unfortunate to say that


meanings of Jihad are perceived in a very narrow sense whereas its implications should
be understood in wider perspectives. It is meant for not killing innocent people, but
allowed to be launched only against oppression, social injustice and cruelty.

In present international laws including the Convention on Elimination of all forms of


Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), International Convention on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR), International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (ICESCR), , and International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of
Apartheid (ICSPA) stress upon elimination of racial discrimination, gender equality,
protection of rights of women.

Quite convincingly, the last sermon of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is a glorious


expression of the protection and promotion of noble cause of human rights in the world
and adopting liberal and tolerant approach towards all strata of life. Succinctly, it
admonishes upon kind treatment to women, prohibition of murders calling is
unpardonable sin, elimination of apartheid, ending usury, most important of all
extermination of social classes (Social Stratification) on the basis of any privileged status
like race, caste, and wealth etc.

Ironically, women have been willingly ignored in many tribal societies of Pakistan,
while Islam is the only religion exhorting protection of women rights. Women have been
given protection in different guises like mother, sister, wife, and daughter and with
passage of women roles, the degree of rights keep on increasing in society. In matter of
seeking education, prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) made it duty of every man and woman
to seek knowledge. In Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the basic right of
education was recognised in December 1948 while in Islam, it was granted to the women
centuries ago. In matter of matrimonial life, Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) warned
Muslims men and husbands of severe consequences. Whether it is matter of education,
property, inheritance, marriage, and employment etc. men are supposed to be defender of
women rights under all circumstances. In one of his sayings (hadith), the Prophet
Muhammad (P.B.H.H) says,

“A man, who has three daughters, reared them in nice way, had them educated, and
married them as per their choice, that man will be in heaven with me.” Al-Bukhari

It is an established fact that under Pious Caliphs rules in Caliphate, the wife of Prophet
Muhammad (P.B.U.H), Hazrat Ayesah Saddiqa (Razzi Allah Hunha) been usually
consulted in numerous theocratic matters of Islam. It is opinion of all the Muslim
Fuqahas (Religious Scholars) that if the services of Hazrat Ayesha Saddiqa (Razzi All
Hunha) are excluded, then only twenty five percent Islam is left.

Can any confusion remains after such crystal clear explanation of gender equality by the
great preacher and prophet of Islam. All these simple examples depict liberal and tolerant
image of Islam in all those matters negatively perceived by the propagandists.

The question is why most of the people in Islamic societies peculiarly in tribal areas
of NWFP, and Taliban controlled regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, appearantly depict
a different picture of Islam.

Even in many Arabian countries women are not allowed to enfranchise, and
participation in political and economic affairs of the states. It’s not the fault in the
preaching and teaching of Islam, but the main flaw is to interpret its universal nature
within cultural or normative structure of the societies.

In mainly man-dominated societies, ironically some values and norms have gained
the divine status like barring women from every walk of life, forces marriage and
conversion, enforcing minorities groups to adopt Muslim culture, shattering their temples
like under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, even some Islamic sects commit suicidal attacks
on each other like bomb blasts on Imam Bargahs (Religious places of Shia Sect) in
Sunni-shias’s religious riots etc.
In similar, the absence of civic education and proper understanding of social sciences
has also been responsible to bring about such mess-up in religious matters of Islam. The
Mudrassas’s Education (stereotypical system of Education) has certainly blocked all the
venues to independent thinking promoting blind imitation and introduced obscurantist
thoughts in Islam. That is why the interpretations and exposition of many enlightened
religious scholars in Islam are regarded to be based on blasphemous in nature.

The only solution to rid the Islam of obscurantist thoughts is to interpret the modern
sociological thoughts within the perspectives of enlightened teaching of Islam, instead of
narrow-mindedness or Taliban version.

Moreover, the stereotypical system of religious education needs reformation with


introduction of modern education trends. Above all, the most important of all is making
sure that cultural norms and values do not overlap Islamic teachings.

(The Writer is associated with Press For Peace (PFP) as Director Research. He could be
reached at: tajammulhs@gmail.com )