Intolerance shows ignorance of Islam
|Wednesday, October 14,2009 02:39|
|By Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti|
Eighty years ago, Marmaduke Pickthall, the British scholar of Islam and translator of the Quran, wrote: "It was not until the Western nations broke away from their religious law that they became more tolerant, and it was only when the Muslims fell away from their religious law that they declined in tolerance."
While tolerance was regarded as irreligious in the Christian world, it was an essential part of Islam, but it is no longer credited to Muslims.
Nowadays, the more "religious" some Muslims regard themselves to be, the less tolerant they are. The cause is a troubling intellectual decline of the Islamic civilization.
While Muslims complain about the Western lack of understanding of Islam, this misconstruction in the interpretation of religious texts is unfortunately prevalent in the Muslim mind today.
The conversion to Christianity by Abdulrahman, the Afghan recently pardoned from his death sentence after much pressure from the West, and its repercussions illustrate this confusion.
Pertaining to the Islamic texts and principles, whether the Afghani apostate was mentally ill or not, the whole trial was nonsense.
Killing a person because of his intellectual choice contradicts the essence of Islamic principles of freedom of faith and worship, repeatedly emphasized in the Qur'an and the practice of Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him.
No compulsion in religion
Changing one's Islamic faith is a grave sin. It is a gross violation of the individual covenant with his God, but it does not, in any way, violate Islamic law.
The Qur'an repeatedly condemns those who change their Islamic faith, and warns them of a severe punishment on the Last Day.
But the Qur'an never prescribed a worldly penalty for apostasy. Therefore, if a Muslim wants to change his faith, so be it. Belief by definition emanates from the individual's heart. Islam is for brave believers, not fearful hypocrites.
The Qur'an is unequivocal that faith is a matter of personal choice and conviction; therefore no compulsory power should be used to compel people to adopt a certain belief or prevent them from changing their faith.
The Qur'an says: "Let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from falsehood" (2:256); "Say (O Muhammad): This is the truth from the Lord of you all. Then whoever wishes, let him believe, and whoever wishes, let him disbelieve" ( 18:29 ).
Moreover, Muhammad was told in the Qur'an that his mission was to teach and preach, not to impose or compel: "remind them, for you are only a reminder. You are not a coercer over them" (88:21-22); "You are not one to overawe them by force. So admonish with the Qur'an those who fear My Warning!" (50:45).
Following this Qur'anic guidance, Muhammad never punished people for abandoning Islam, even though some of his contemporaries renounced their faith repeatedly, as recorded in the Qur'anic condemnation of "those who believed, then rejected faith, then believed again, then rejected faith again, and went on increasing in unbelief …" (4:137).
This is clear evidence that Muhammad did not want to punish people on account of their spiritual and intellectual choice.
Consequently, judgment of the matters of faith should be left to God on the Day of Judgment.
Morality vs. legality
One of the most unfortunate phenomena in Islamic culture today is the lack of distinction between morality and legality.
Only about one per cent of Islamic teachings fall under the category of legality. This category is a set of laws (family laws, civil laws, penal laws, etc) that the legitimate Islamic government must impose, by exercising the authority of the state.
This includes the punishment for murdering innocent people or stealing their property.
It is generally agreed, in divine and secular laws that the primary responsibility of governments is to protect people's lives and possessions.
Unfortunately many Muslims today, including some self-appointed "scholars", do not clearly distinguish between morality and legality, a distinction that any keen student of law understands well.
By doing this, they simply cover up their illegitimacy and irresponsibility by infringing upon people's rights, and delving into issues that are not within their area of jurisdiction in Islam.
Treason vs. apostasy
A question might arise: If the Quran explicitly affirms the freedom of faith, why is there all of this controversy about killing apostates? Good question.
The source of this confusion is that the term "apostasy" (riddah in Arabic) was used in Islamic scripture with two distinct meanings: The first was private apostasy, which is an intellectual choice and has no punishment in Islam. All that Muslims are asked to do with a person who decides to renounce his faith is to remind him of the sacred covenant with his creator (God), and to advise him to repent.
Any person judged guilty of this crime is punishable under Islamic law, unless he repents and surrenders himself before he is caught by the authorities. This kind of apostasy is the equivalent of what we call high treason today.
Betraying one's society, through acts of high treason and military rebellion against its peace and harmony, is punishable under all divine and secular laws. Islamic law is no exception in this regard.
Some of them are now among the "respected" leaders of the new Afghanistan . Abdulrahman is evidently not one of them.