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The story of the conversion of Dr. Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr., Ph.D.
from Christianity to Islam, followed by his reflections on various topics
Well, here is my story
Bism Allah, Al-Rahmen, Al-Raheem.....
I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic grade school and high
school-- in the U.S. grade school is roughly age 5-14 lasting 8 years and
high school is roughly age 14-18 lasting 4 years. Many then go on to 4 years
of college. I am of Irish-American ethnicity and from an upper middle class
I was always interested in religion, as well as things like psychology,
and was reading rather broadly in the subjects even in late grade school. I
often prayed the rosary and asked for faith, because that is what the
Catholic nuns said one should pray for: faith.
At the same time, as I grew, I was rather wild: the whole American "sex,
drugs, rock 'n roll" scene, as the saying goes. What can I say? I like to
party! Nothing too outrageous for a young American, but wild just the same.
Anyway, in college I studied philosophy and focused on areas such as
philosophy of religion and existentialism. I also studied a lot in
Christianity as well as Buddhism and other religions, and psychology. (My
background in psychology is strong enough such that I have done
hospital-based clinical work.)
I very strongly considered being a priest or a monk. I would visit a
particular monastery once in a while and have twice begun the entrance
procedure into a seminary for the priesthood. (Indeed I was in this process
when I accepted Islam. Isn't that ironic?)
So, after college I wasn't quite sure what to do: continue school, but
wasn't sure if I wanted philosophy, theology or psychology. I ended up going
to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which is in the
Mideastern United States. Very pretty-- hills and rivers and forests. I
studied what is called Formative
Spirituality-- which you can read about at my web site. Essentially, it
attempts to look at human spirituality as a natural human function-- prior
to any theological or specifically religious discussion of it. I have a
Master of Arts degree (M.A.) and a Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in
this subject. These are among the highest academic degrees in the U.S.
educational system. (In college you get a Bachelor's degree-- B.A.)
So, that is my background.
I was religious as a child and read the Bible, which often Catholics do
not actually do-- relying on the priest for the interpretation and
understanding. In college I practiced yoga and Buddhist/Hindu styles of
meditation for about two or three years. Near the end of my first year in
college I made a very conscious and ritualized type of personal vow to "go
all the way" with religion. To reach enlightenment. To find God. I promised
myself I would not stop.
I did not practice Catholicism at that time, but later did renew my
practice of it.
However, as I studied various theologies, traditions, and other general
religious studies I began to have major, major problems with Christian
thought. For instance, it seemed clear to me that Prophet Jesus (God love
him!), as a good Jew, would never have claimed divinity for himself. I
concluded he did not claim to be God and that the Gospel accounts contained
much more theology than biographical history. But I believed that through
Jesus' life and personality God did indeed reveal His Will...... and that
Jesus is Christ. (As Muslim, I still do believe that, of course.)
But this was problematic. I didn't really fit anywhere! And actually, it
was rough to know what to believe, or even if any of it was true. I had
many, many years of really fighting for just a naked faith in God. Years of
praying at night: "If You are there give it to me. You said ask and you
shall receive. Well, I'm asking. You said knock and the door will be opened.
Well, I'm knocking. You promised guidance to those who ask for it. I'm
asking for it."
And later I prayed like this: "I am sending this prayer out to the One
True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Jesus. If You
are there guide me, make me Yours..." and stuff like that. I specifically
used this kind of a phrase naming these people for a good length of time.
During all this I consciously chose faith in God. This was pure
naked faith-- not really having reasons to believe, but choosing to do so
anyway. I did this because the saints in the Catholic tradition said to do
so. They would say that often God seems far away or non-existent-- so keep
the faith! Trust God even though you don't see Him at all. So, that is what
I remember one time with particular clarity. I was standing in the hall
between my living room and bedroom-- it all really hit me: I had no reason
to believe in God. None at all. But I remembered all I had read and said to
myself: "I say 'yes' to God in spite of the fact I have no reason to believe
in God. I choose to say 'yes' and have faith that it is all true."
I was not really practicing Catholicism. (The last time I began
application to the seminary it was because I was thinking where else could I
go? It wasn't a perfect fit, but it would be the best fit.)
When it came time to write my dissertation for the Ph.D. I had to include
a section about a religious tradition that was not my own-- i.e. something
other than Christianity. I chose Islam. Believe it or not, it was the one
religious tradition I knew nothing about! This struck me as somewhat odd.
But I noticed I did indeed have a prejudice against it. I felt somewhat
repulsed by it, actually. (Stuff left over from the Crusades just "gets
into" Euro-Americans, I think.) And plus it couldn't possibly be true-- how
could there be revelation after "The Jesus Event"? It had to be just another
guy who felt "inspired by God" and really effected the people around him. No
It was difficult finding decent books on Islam. I had to get most by
mail-order. There was an Islamic Center here so I began to go there and
learn some things. (I finally learned what happened to Cat Stevens!
I had a bunch of his recordings but never knew why he disappeared
from the scene.)
The people at the Islamic Center were very nice. Not really what I
expected. No one put the slightest pressure on me to convert. It was nothing
like being around born-again or evangelical Christians, which was what I
half expected. I mean, aren't all Muslims supposed to be a bit on the
crazy-fanatical side? Well, they weren't like that at all. They simply
presented the information and answered my questions. No one called me or
bothered me or anything like that. It was rather refreshing, I must say.
I repeat: there was nothing even resembling pressure to convert. Just a
warm openness and a friendliness not often encountered in the States. One
guy did try to get me to say the words, but everyone else jumped on him
immediately and told him to be quiet. (And of course, I would never make a
ritual declaration like that unless I thought it was true.)
This went on for a few years. I was reading a lot ABOUT Islam, but did
not read the Qur'an. Slowly, my prejudices and repulsion faded away as I
learned the true stories about Muhammad (God love him!), as well as Muslim
history, beliefs and theology.
Then I stopped for a few years as I wasn't going to finish my
dissertation. (It was resumed after I accepted Islam.)
A few years pass. I read things about Islam here and there.
At the behest of a good friend (non-Muslim) I read "The Autobiography of
Malcolm X." After reading this I had a very strong urge to go and get and
read the actual Qur'an. I called around to some bookstores and ran out and
got the translation by Dawood (the one in the proper order).
I will never forget that day. Ever. I can still see it happening. Little
did I know what I was in for-- that my life and total world-view would be
changed-- that I myself would be changed.
I read the whole thing through in one sitting. I don't think I even
Right from the start it grabbed me. The very beginning-- called Al-Fatiha--
is a prayer. I immediately liked it as a prayer. It was, in essence, what I
already prayed: You are God the Creator. Guide me, make me into one of those
You love. I certainly couldn't argue with those sentiments!
Then, in the beginning of the second chapter, it gave the description of
who this book was addressed to: people who believe in God, establish prayer,
give in charity, believe messengers were sent to us, and that we will return
to God-- well, that was me-- and that this book was not to be doubted-- that
it was truly and sincerely from God to these people-- like me-- precisely to
guide them-- which was what I had wanted for years.
So right off, it was speaking directly to me as an individual.
Right off, it wasn't just some ancient 1400 year old text.
It really grabbed me and did not, would not, let go.
As I read a thought began to form and then started going through my head
over and over and over: "Oh my God! This is from God!" It was like
being slammed in the head with a brick or a hard plank of wood. I was
stunned. It was real. Not the "inspired writing" of the Bible. It was
direct revelation--- it really was the Word of God. Literally.
Oh my God! This really IS from God!
Well, needless to say, I was floored. I knew there was something very
extraordinary here. Quite amazing. Something was happening.
Imagine how bizarre it would be to really see a UFO. How unusual and
fantastic something like that would be. Or what if someone just started to
truly levitate and fly around right in front of you? Or what if you really
truly did see a miracle? Your view of the world would necessarily change
after such a non-ordinary experience.
What was happening to me as I read the Qur'an was beyond that.
Way beyond that.
So much of what I was reading in the Qur'an was stuff I was already
thinking due to my academic studies in religion. The Qur'an not only
confirmed things I was already thinking, but completed thoughts and ideas I
was only vaguely aware of-- like things I was "half-thinking" if that makes
any sense-- and then it also opened up to me an entire new universe of
meaning and possibility. Suddenly, it was as if I was standing in a whole
new vista-- like the open plain of a whole new world stretched out before
me. Quite stunning and amazing.
There was nothing that gave me pause-- I kept saying "yes" to all that I
read. One thing pulled me up short and that was that Jesus did not die on
the cross. But by that time, the evidence was so overwhelming to my heart,
my soul and my mind that this Book was indeed EXACTLY what it claimed to be
that I had no trouble accepting this as the truth from God Himself.
And none of this is the slightest exaggeration whatsoever. I am not
sugar-coating or embellishing my story to make it more attractive, or pious
sounding, or dramatic, or whatever. I am telling the truth.
(I was especially struck by how contemporary the Qur'an is-- remember my
academic background. Everything about it is just absolutely brilliant! I
don't know why Muslims are so afraid of contemporary philosophy, psychology,
or textual criticism. There is nothing to fear. The Qur'an is very "today."
Actually, it is very "tomorrow."
Two weeks later I declared in public that I bear witness there is no god
but God and I bear witness that Muhammad is a messenger from God.
I was always able to say the first part of that. Note the two week wait.
I was nervous-- was I really going to get involved with these people? This
was not my cultural background, to say the least. White Americans do not
become Muslim, do they? I remember standing at the masjid during this period
watching them pray salat. Indeed, a news camera was there filming for a
story which was then shown on the local news. It showed everyone praying
salat, except for that one guy standing in the back-- and in a bright red
shirt no less. C'est moi!
I thought: "Who am I kidding? I really do think that Muhammad was a
messenger from God." So, that was that. I would have been dishonest with
myself if I did not declare what I now thought to be true, and I thus
entered the Muslim ummah.
This was during Ramadan/April 1992 CE. The first time I ever met a Muslim
was in Turkey during Ramadan when I was around 20 years old. (I am almost 40
So, all those years of prayer for guidance were answered. For real. Even
today, five-six years after these events I am still amazed by it all-- not
only that I'm Muslim (who would have ever thought that?)-- but all those
prayers really were answered by means of my encounter with the Qur'an in
light of the sunnah of Muhammad.
Islam is truly the best-- and I say this coming from a background of
formal study in religious issues. I am rarely at a loss for words, but I am
when it comes to describing how I feel and think about Islam, the Qur'an and
the sunnah of our beloved Rasool Allah, may God love him greatly. It is
simply astounding. Beautiful like a work of art. Dynamic and vibrant.
Brilliant in how it all unfolded. Mature-- no magic, no superstition.
Excellent! What can be said but alhamduli 'Llah-- Glory to God in the
Highest? Nothing! Nothing else can be said! Alhamduli 'Llah!
Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr., Ph.D.
Sha'ban 1418 AH/December 1997 CE
Being a Muslim
I am a Muslim since 1992. This followed a number of years of studying Islam.
I have already experienced discrimination because of my acceptance of Islam.
Undoubtedly, the Jesuits who were partially responsible for my Irish-Catholic
upbringing would be shocked, but this does not surprise me. I have learned that
we in the West tend to form our opinions of Islam while still under the
influence of the propaganda wars originating with the Crusades (Do you remember
where Dante placed Muhammad?). Few of us have sought understanding. Recent
newsworthy events only add to our misunderstanding. Do you form your opinions of
Christianity based upon the theological ramblings of the White Aryan Separatist
KKK crowd? How many are aware that 'Alija 'Ali Izetbegovic, the Muslim president
of Bosnia, has written a book entitled Islam Between East and West? It
can hardly be described as a call to arms against the infidel.
How to communicate, in this short space, the beauty, the kindness, the
gentleness of balanced, healthy Islam? Muhammad said to "Make things easy for
the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm with glad
tidings and do not repulse them." This saying, or hadith, of Muhammad
captures the type of man he was. Not a violent, lustful, sword-wielding
Antichrist, but a gentle and flexible man. He would shorten the daily prayers if
he heard a baby crying. We know more about Muhammad than any other founder of a
What was his understanding of God (al-Lah, THE God)? "A man sinned
greatly against himself, and when death came to him he charged his sons, saying:
'When I have died, burn me, then crush me and scatter my ashes into the sea,
for, by Allah, if my Lord takes possession of me, He will punish me in a manner
in which He has punished no one else.' So they did that to him. Then God said to
the earth: 'Produce what you have taken'--and there he was! And God said to him:
'What induced you to do what you did?' The man said: "Being frightened of You'
and because of that Allah forgave him."
A religion of violence and terrorism? A religion of the sword? No. A religion
of peace-- from which the word "Islam" is derived. Are Muslims to kill and
persecute Jews, Christians or others? Here, from the Qur'an itself, which we
have faith was literally dictated by God, through the angel Gabriel, to
Muhammad: "Those who believe in the Qur'an. Those who follow the Jewish
Scriptures, and the Sabians and the Christians-- any who believe in God and the
Last Day, and work righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they
It has recently been reported that about 95% of Americans claim to believe in
God. The current state of our country (and the world) would seem to belie this.
I ask you who make such a claim: how much time and effort do you expend studying
and learning about religion? As much time as you spend memorizing sports
statistics or following fashion and diet trends? Is not the "question of Deity"
the most important issue in human life? No wonder there is so much hate and
misunderstanding between people who "believe" in God!
Perhaps you will begin to look seriously into the issue. Perhaps you will
also search out quality books on Islam. It is, after all, the fastest growing
religion in the United States. And perhaps the Qur'an is exactly what it claims
to be: the final message from God to humanity, "...confirming the scripture that
came before it..." (5.48).
Islam: Its Not What You Think
Because of historical occurrences and certain current events, Islam may be
the most misunderstood-- and simply unknown-- religious tradition in the
No, it is not a "religion of the sword," nor is it inherently violent. The
overriding goals of Islam are:
For the purpose of understanding we need to distinguish between two uses of
the words "Islam" and "Muslim". Islam1 and Muslim1
mean "submission to the will of God" and "one who is in submission to the will
of God", respectively. Islam2 and Muslim2
refer to the 1400 year tradition that goes by that name. Its foundation is the
text of the Qur'an and the example of Muhammad, called the sunnah.
Thus, Islam1 calls all people to monotheism and encourages all to
strive to be Muslim1 as best they can. It is not strictly necessary
for all people to be Muslim2-- though of course we think it is the
best way to be truly Muslim1. We accept Jews and Christians as
believers and accept that there are hanifs: legitimate
monotheists outside of a tradition. We consider Abraham to be hanif.
The opening of the Qur'an is considered to contain its essence:
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful...
Glory to God! Lord of the worlds!
The Compassionate, the Merciful.
Master of the Day of Judgment!
You alone we worship,
You alone we turn to for help.
Guide us to the straight path,
the path of those whom You have favored,
not that of those with whom You are angry,
nor of those who have gone astray.
Muslims2 pray this at least 17 times a day!
The Qur'an is the compilation of utterances by Muhammad following certain
episodes of unique experience. Muslims2 believe that during these
times the text of the Qur'an was dictated to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel. We
consider it to be the verbatim Word of God-- the same Deity referred to by
Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Here is what
Karen Armstrong, a non-Muslim2, wrote about the
first of these experiences:
Muhammad had had that overpowering apprehension of numinous reality which
has devastated prophets and seers in most traditions. In Christianity it has
been described as the mysterium terrible et fascinans and in Judaism it
has been call kaddosh, "holiness", the terrifying otherness of God.
...The Hebrew prophets had also cried out against the vision of holiness,
fearing that they were close to death: "What a wretched state I am in!" Isaiah
had cried when he saw his vision of God in the Temple, "I am lost!" Even the
angels shielded themselves with their wings from the divine presence but he
had looked on the Lord of Hosts with his own impure eyes. Jeremiah had
experienced God as an agonizing pain that filled his every limb; like Muhammad
in the embrace of the Angel, he experienced revelation as a sort of divine
rape. It invaded his being with a fearful force, doing violence to his natural
self... What all these prophets had experienced was transcendence, a reality
that lay beyond concepts and which the monotheistic faiths call "God".
These "episodes of revelation" continued periodically for 23 years. Muhammad
was about 40 when they began and he died about age 63. Before this began his
nickname was al-Amin, "the trustworthy". He was an orphan, made a living
as a merchant, and grew to be a good-looking, responsible, and well-liked man.
Before these episodes began he would have been considered a hanif.
Interpreting the Qu'ran
As we all know, any religious Scripture may be interpreted in a way that
satisfies one's own whims or desires. Indeed, some seem to engage in actual evil
and then use religious Scriptures to rationalize their behaviors! The Qur'an is
no different. Here are some guidelines for a proper understanding:
1. Linguistic Integrity. It is only considered "the Qur'an" in the
original Arabic. Arabic translates poorly into English and so this must be taken
into account. Often, there is no English equivilent for an Arabic word.
2. Historical Context. Each "episode of revelation" was in response to
a specific question or specific situation. When it comes to Qur'anic
interpretation "context is everything".
3. Reference to Muhammad's Actual Behaviors. Called the sunnah.
It is derived from the hadith ("sayings") literature and the
practice of Muhammad's companions. The foundations of
Islam-as-religious-tradition (Islam2) are comprised of the Qur'an and
the sunnah of Muhammad. Muhammad is considered to be a "walking Qur'an". His
example displays or embodies Qur'anic principles.
4. The Totality of the Message. Any particular interpretation must fit
within the total ethos presented by the Qur'an as a whole.
The Qur'an describes itself as having both clear and ambiguous passages.
Thus, there are differences among Muslims2 about its proper
interpretation. There are also differences concerning the interpretation of the
hadith literature from which we derive the sunnah. Because thousands of people
came to accept Muhammad's claim to be a messenger from God the hadith literature
contains detailed, and sometimes graphic accounts of his words and deeds. Some
of today's Muslims2 seem to emphasize aspects of the sunnah such as
beards for men and certain types of clothes. Some consider these of foundational
importance for Islam1. Others consider these accounts to be of
secondary or no importance for Islam1. They look more to Muhammad's
character and personality-- taking into account his cultural context as a sixth
century Arab-- more so than others. The personality characteristics exemplified
by Muhammad are listed by one author as:
Love and Mercy
Honesty and Truthfulness
Fulfillment of Promises
Piety and Righteousness
Courage and Bravery
Muhammad, in general and especially early on, did not permit the writing down
of his extra-Qur'anic sayings during his life-time, being fearful they would
become confused with the text of the Qur'an. Many intra-Muslim2
fights are over the sunnah.
Jihad is not properly translated as "holy war" but as "struggle of
good against evil". Jihad is the attempt to fully establish Islam1 on
the planet, in our communities, and in ourselves. It contains Islam2's
theory of just war, but also contains much, much more.
Because Islam2 is firmly wholistic (the Field Model), it
encourages jihad in all arenas of human expression: psychological, social,
physical, political, and economic as well as spiritual. It is wrong to reduce
jihad to but one area of life as we often see some Muslims2 doing
Islam2 allows physical warfare only against aggressors after
attempts at change, treaty and reconciliation have failed. If peace is offered
it is to be accepted.
from "Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet" by Karen Armstrong:
The Qur'an began to urge the Muslims of Medina to participate in a jihad.
This would involve fighting and bloodshed, but the root JHD implies more than
a 'holy war'. It signifies a physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual
effort. There are plenty of Arabic words denoting armed combat, such as
harb (war), sira'a (combat), ma'araka (battle) or qital
(killing), which the Qur'an could easily have used if war had been the
Muslims' principal way of engaging in this effort. Instead it chooses a
vaguer, richer word with a wide range of connotations. The jihad is not one of
the five pillars of Islam. It is not a central prop of the religion, despite
the common Western view. But it was and remains a duty for Muslims to commit
themselves to a struggle on all fronts-- moral, spiritual and political-- to
create a just and decent society, where the poor and vulnerable are not
exploited, in the way that God had intended man to live. Fighting and warfare
might sometimes be necessary, but it was only a minor part of the whole jihad
or struggle. A well-known tradition (hadith) has Muhammad say on returning
from a battle, "We return from the little jihad to the greater jihad," the
more difficult and crucial effort to conquer the forces of evil in oneself and
in one's own society in all the details of daily life.
Tawheed is an untranslatable term that contains within it the Muslim2
understanding of the implications of strict monotheism. According to some
writers who bridge the gap between East and West tawheed is not easily grasped
by those coming out of Euro-American traditions. It expresses a radical
monotheism that severely restricts symbolic, figurative or anthropomorphic
language to explain the relationship between Deity and creation. The Qur'an
contains descriptions of God's activities and attributes often compiled as "The
99 Names". Prime among these is an absolute and total Uniqueness and Unity.
Tawheed anticipates the current fascination with "wholistic" thought or
health. Tawheed is the means by which Islam2 expresses a wholistic
conception of human life and the cosmos; integrating physical, social,
psychological and spiritual concerns into a consonant whole. The parts of
experience "fit together".
According to Isma'il Faruqi, tawheed implies the following about reality:
God and creation are ontologically separate. There is no pantheistic,
panentheistic, or anthropmorphic tendencies permitted in our discourse about
Human beings can comprehend what God wants us to do.
Human life and all of creation is imbued with meaning and purpose.
Human beings are capable of molding life and the world according to the
dictates of Islam1.
The individual is responsible for molding life and the world according to
Tawheed also contains within it a foundational scientific approach to reality
containing three principles:
Rejection of all that does not correspond with reality.
There are no ultimate contradictions.
Openness to new and/or contrary evidence.
Under Muslim Rule
Ahmad Hashem, a great guy I'm glad to know, has written in
reference to Muslim writer
A fundamental principle of Islam is that Islam is fairness and mercy to
all--Muslims and non-Muslims. The Prophet (SAW) was sent "not, but as a Mercy
for all creatures" (21:107). This Mercy extends even to non-Muslims, who will
continue to co-exist with Muslims forever. After all, "If it had been your
Lord's Will, they would all have believed, -- all who are on earth!" (10:99).
Thus, Muslims are one of many nations. The verse "Nay, you are but humans,
--of the humans He has created" (5:18) applies equally well to Muslims and
non-Muslims. Muslims cannot give themselves special privileges or favor
themselves just in virtue of their being Muslims. Muslims are supposed to be
"witnesses over the nations" (2:143). A "witness" must be fair. "Say: 'My Lord
has commanded justice'" (7:29).
The political system in Islam has justice for all as its supreme principle.
"When you judge between mankind, judge with justice" (4:58). "If you judge,
judge in equity between them. For God loves those who judge in equity" (5:42).
Note that one principle of justice is spelled out in Quran as "No compulsion
in religion" (2:256). Now, only the person who rejects the principles of
justice for all mankind is considered an apostate. According to Sa'id, if a
person converts out of Islam we should congratulate the group that s/he
joined, for apparently they had something to offer that we Muslims didn't.
BUT, if a person rejects the political Islam, i.e. rejects the principles of
justice which include "no compulsion in religion", then (and only then) this
person is an apostate and must be dealt with as such.
An important lesson must be learnt from the verse that permitted Muslims to
use force for the first time in their history: "To those against whom war was
made, who were subject to injustice, permission is given (to fight)" (22:39).
Note that these people were subject to injustice. Further, note the
"compulsion in religion" part: the verse goes on to describe those to whom
permission was granted to fight as "those who have been expelled from their
homes in defiance of right, (for no other cause) except that they say 'Our
Lord is God'."Only when we stick firmly to these principles of justice", Sa'id
claims, "would we fulfill the role of "witnesses over the nation."
Sexism & Violence?
There is no doubt that some Qur'anic passages, especially in translation, are
very disturbing and might seem to the person of good will to contradict Islam1.
This is especially the case with gender relations. There are passages that seem
to allow domestic violence and sexism, and there are certainly men who use those
passages to justify and rationalize various attitudes that are abhorrent to men
and women of good will. However, a proper approach to the passages show these to
be empty rationalizations and misinterpretations, not to mention a blindness to
the totality of the Islamic ethos.
The Qur'an addresses human behavior as it is, and strives to improve it. It
does not deny the presence of various types of behavior. So, it acknowledges
that people who are harmed may want some kind of revenge or retribution. This is
allowed, but "it is better" to forgive. It acknowledges that slavery exists and
so then directs slave-holders to feed, clothe and treat them as brothers. It
also continuously encourages the freeing of slaves. So, we can't say that Islam2
necessarily approves of slavery-- the ethos is against it-- but IF a culture has
slaves it gives ennobling guidelines on their treatment and encourages change.
The Qur'an does not deny human behavior, but seeks to change it.
The same is true for passages that seem to encourage sexist and violent
behavior. The Qur'an directly addresses the bottom line in human behavior--
there ARE men who beat their wives, so the Qur'an says this can only be done
lightly (Muhammad explained with a toothbrush, not on the face or head, not to
leave a mark) and only AFTER arbitration and separation have been tried.
Essentially, it is addressing the situation of a couple who are not very Muslim1
to begin with. ALL social relations are to be based on mutual consultation,
kindness, courtesy, good-will, and regard for justice.
Islam2 could certainly make use of a good PR consultant these
days, couldn't it? More often than not, Muslims2 appear far, far from
Islam1 and thus engage in inappropriate behaviors towards our Jewish
and Christian cousins. Some reasons for extremism are given by
Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Islamic Awakening Between Rejection
Extreme irreligion will produce extreme religion.
Lack of knowledge of, and insight into, the purpose, spirit and essence of
Failure to contemplate Qur'an and sunnah in their entirety. Unable to see
relation between the parts and the whole. ("grasp the ethos")
An inability to differentiate between the figurative or metaphoric, and
the literal meanings of texts. (the "fundamentalist-gnostic" duality)
Partial knowledge. This can show as failing to take into account original
purposes and circumstances.
Intellectual shallowness showing as an intense interest in marginal issues
and as excessive extension of prohibitions.
Emphasis upon allegorical texts-- inappropriate conjecture.
Failure to recognize the sunnan (patterns or natural law) of God's
creation. (failure to engage in science)
Often, when we view Islam through the eyes of the popular media, we are
seeing complaints of social-political-economic injustice that are being
expressed in religio-spiritual language. It would be a grave error to presume
that the majority of Muslims2 share the sentiments portrayed in the
popular media, though they may be sensitive to the cause of the complainants.
But much of the extremism is our own fault: a centuries-long decline in
intellectual engagement with the sources of the tradition and with God's
creation. This decline can be represented by the phrase "closing the door to
ijtihad" and the concurrent rise in taqlid over the course of
centuries. "Ijtihad" is the interpretation of the Qur'an while "taqlid"
is a blind following of past modes of interpretation. Many are beginning to
recognize this problem.
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