Whenever I have asked questions in an attempt to understand “the message” Muslims are propagating, I have been personally attacked and accused of “fighting Islam,” or of being disrespectful to (A) Allah (B) the Prophet (C) the Qur’an (D) Islam (E) all of the above. I have received vague, “poetic” answers from Sufis who are doing what my oldest daughter calls “spreading the murk.” These people do not accuse me of anything, however they provide no clear answers.
Islamic conservatives in Bangladesh have been demanding, among other things, “…the reinstatement of ‘Absolute trust and faith in Allah’ into the constitution of Bangladesh…” according to an article by Andrew Buncombe dated 06 May 2013 in The Independent. “Absolute trust and faith in Allah” is not only their demand, but also an expectation of most of the Muslims I have met. And yet no one can explain what they mean by “Allah,” even though they expect everyone to respect “Allah,” the Qur’an (verbatim word of “Allah”), Prophet Muhammad (messenger of “Allah”), and Islam (belief in “Allah”). When people demand trust, faith and respect for someone/something, it is their responsibility to explain that someone/something as clearly as possible and not the job of everyone else to try and guess what they are talking about. Over the years I have been told Allah is One God, however, is not God The Father and is no part of the Trinity (the Jews and Christians changed everything, went “astray,” and “earned God’s wrath”), has nothing to do with the Hindu gods, or Buddhism which has no God, is not “in everything” because that would be Pantheism which is some sort of Neopaganism, and so on down the line. So what are we left with? A “Muslim God” introduced by Prophet Muhammad? No, absolutely not; to even suggest such a thing is blasphemous. Also, “Allah” cannot be referring to Prophet Muhammad, because although Muslims go on and on about him when asked questions like this, they completely reject the terms “Mohammedan” for themselves and “Mohammedanism” for their religion. Are there any clues to help solve this mystery? Two concepts that are referred to repeatedly in speech after speech and article after article by scholarly Muslims are “better” and “moral high ground.” Perhaps these are important clues telling us that “Allah” is “a better God who claims the moral high ground.” I do not know how this one will go over–have not tried it out on any “Muslims” yet. The mystery continues. People ask if I am “Muslim.” How can I know when “Muslims” cannot explain to me who/what they are worshiping?
I read an article Omid Safi posted on his blog “What Would Muhammad Do?” titled “Justin Bieber…The Islamist” in which he wrote about Justin Bieber stopping his concert twice during the Islamic call to prayer–the azan. He wrote, “The crowd was at first puzzled, and then delighted at the Biebster’s display of religious sensitivity.” Then says,”Why would the Biebster do that? Out of respect.” I have never understood who or what Muslims are thinking of, or “respecting,” when they hear the azan (call to prayer). At first I was told we all believe in the same God and that is what they are relating to. However, it became very clear, after marriage and the arrival of our first children, that this was not the case. Allah has nothing to do with the Trinity–is not God The Father and never spoken of like that because Prophet Muhammed made it clear his followers were not to refer to himself or Allah in those terms and this was recorded in the Hadiths. Also, Allah is not Prophet Muhammed or Jesus or anyone like that–Allah does not beget nor is begotten. And finally, most definitely is not the Holy Spirit or Ghost–every time I tried to go down that road I got an incredibly strong negative reaction and was very emphatically told all of the Trinity is wrong because it depicts three gods the Christians invented, and Christians are the ones being referred to in the azan as having gone astray, as they became idolaters after coming up with it. Also, my collection of scriptures and books on spirituality were disposed of without my knowledge or consent because all the ideas of God contained within them were wrong or non-existent. So who/what are Muslims respecting and expecting others to respect? Not God The Father, not Jesus or any other human, not the Holy Spirit (or Ghost), definitely not the God of any other religion such as Hinduism, not the God in the Old Testament (The Father again), and not any Pagan god/s. Is it a guessing game? A riddle? What on earth are we expected to respect? Their culture? Their history? Their feelings? And why, when they do not seem willing to respect cultures, histories and feelings different from their own? After reading many books about Islam written by Muslim scholars and talking with a variety of people in the Muslim community over many years, I finally came to the conclusion they are worshiping “that which debunks all other religions and concepts of God.”
When I first heard the terms Islamophobia, Islamophobe, and Islamophobic I simply thought of them as something that was made to scare people off from criticizing Islam. Yet one more Muslim defense mechanism that does not make much sense because the people they use it against fear Muslims and the way they are using Islam, not the ideology itself. Then I realized that the people who came up with and use these terms have created the perfect way to describe the current state of the Muslim community. It is full of Islamophobes suffering from a severe case of Islamophobia–they are the people scared to death of Islam. First and foremost they are scared of Allah because they are constantly told to “fear Allah,” then they are afraid to question anyone claiming “Islamic” knowledge and authority. The most Islamophobic behavior can be found in Muslim communities which do not know and show no interest in learning Arabic, the language of the Qur’an, and instead do the bare minimum of memorization and recitation with no curiosity in the meaning of what they are reciting, happy to rely on the interpretations and explanations of “Islamic” authorities. And the religious authorities want to keep it that way because their biggest fear is anyone questioning them and their support of a huge edifice built up over hundreds of years by successive “Islamic” governments. At this point in time they are the only ones holding up something that could easily come crashing down at any time, so they are probably the biggest Islamophobes of all–the very people who most frequently use the terms Islamophobia, Islamophobic, and Islamophobe.
Getting people to question and change their behavior, even if it is clearly harmful and self-destructive, is incredibly difficult, and in their efforts to do so prophets and spiritual guides sometimes said things that sounded as if they were speaking of some future time, but they were always focused on the “here and now.” Nothing was far away, in space or time. The words to Moses were, “I AM WHO I AM.” …”Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Not I WAS, or I WILL BE. “Being” is spoken of here—existence. It is not easy to find examples of a very basic idea spiritual guides are trying to convey that would increase caring while reducing suffering and grief. I found one excellent example of it in an article by Gita Sahgal on the openDemocracy site titled, “Who wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?” In the last paragraph she quotes Hernán Santa Cruz of Chile, “I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing—which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from want and oppression and to fully develop one’s personality. In the Great Hall…there was an atmosphere of genuine solidarity and brotherhood among men and women from all latitudes, the like of which I have not seen again in any international setting.”
Instead of fighting “the other,” it is possible to use it to see the larger picture that promotes caring for all mankind, not just “our own.” If we did this perhaps we could stop kicking the can down the road into whatever afterlife we believe in, whether it be rebirth here, somewhere else, or our progeny.
The most remarkable aspect of the prophets’ lives is the descriptions of whom and what they were fighting against. It was always their own tribe or the society they were born and raised in and were a part of before they began having major issues with widely accepted beliefs and practices of their time. It was not “the other.” The story of Abraham is told as if it were some Big Deal that he was going to obey God’s order to sacrifice his son, but this was the commonly held belief among his tribe, which is why his wife—the mother of his child–raised no objection. Her reaction in every version of the story I have heard seems to have been that if God told him to sacrifice his son then, by all means, he should do it. And no one finds this odd. When he did not kill his son, sacrificing an animal instead, he was going against the pagan human sacrifice beliefs and practices of his tribe. The prophets all questioned the high priests and pharaohs in their own societies who were either God or heard and transmitted the “voice of God” to the laity. Who does that? It is always “the others’” God we must question, never our own. To question our own is blasphemy, heresy, apostasy! God Forbid!!
According to the religious authorities of their time, the prophets were blasphemers and were treated as such. Every religious group has a different concept of God, or what is sacred, therefore every group is going to have different ideas about what constitutes blasphemy. Even within a single religious organization there usually exist factions with differing opinions on these matters. And since most “believers” leave their thinking about religious matters and contact with their God in the hands of a small selection of authority figures, and since these in turn usually answer to one supreme authority figure, the issue of blasphemy comes down to a fight between two individuals, a sort of pope vs. the heretic situation, every time. The most puzzling aspect of any blasphemy controversy is the motivation of the crowds of people who become involved. Are they being paid to protest and riot? Are they bored to death and looking for some excitement? Are they angry about a lot of other issues and using this as an excuse to vent their anger? Because rioting about what is basically a dispute between two people over some amorphous religious argument makes no sense.