Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Moderate Muslim

The Anchoress referred to a post of someone she says may be a moderate/reformist Muslim.

Looking at his site, An Open Letter to Reformist Muslims says:

Unlike some of my fellow believers I don’t think that the recent glut of Westerners calling for the reformation of Islam is due solely to an imperial Western ambition. I believe that much of non-Muslim engagement with Islam is premised upon a well-intentioned impulse. I believe that some Western antipathy towards Islam is due to decency. It is quite plausible that a generation that faced off against two totalitarianisms might be right about a third.
You are absolutely right there.
It is also plausible that for every Westerner who calls for the destruction of Islam in order to defend the Western status-quo, there is another Westerner who agitates for change in Islam because has a Muslim friend who has been hurt by what passes for Islam, or has a glimpse (in Hafiz, perhaps in Ibn Rushd), of what Islam could be; and as such, is upset by what Islam today is not.
That is right. We don't oppose Islam. We oppose the twisted version the the Islamofascists have come up with. Surely true Islam does not call for someone to blow themselves up killing other Muslims, in expectation of going to Paradise. The Qu'ran seems to have a different end destination in mind for them: Surat an-Nisa,093 (Quran 4.93) says "If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (For ever): And the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him." I do not consider myself an expert in the Qu'ran, but I believe that same verse would also indicate a southerly destination for a homicide bomber that kills Jews or Christians, because we are all "People of the Book" (or ahl al Kitâb) Surat Al 'Imran, 64 (Qur'an 3:64) says "O People of the Book! Let us rally to a common formula to be binding on both us and you: That we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than God." and Surat al-Baqara, 136 (Qur'an 2:136) says Say ye: "We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them.
I believe that there are many in the West capable of recognizing beauty — and they have recognized the beauty that Islam was in the hands of Rumi, and also have recognized the potential of that beauty in Islam today, in Muslims today. This is another way of saying that I believe there are many in the West who are driven by the humanity of the Muslim, who faces daily in Iraq, in Punjab, in subversive mosques in Europe, the inhumanity of a utilitarian death theology.... If, then, there are those in the West who challenge what passes for Islam today, on the basis of their humanity with the Muslim, then we Muslims must embrace them as our brothers.
He certainly is not as far out as the Islamofascists, but I am not sure I would call him a Moderate Muslim. This post on Apostasy admits it is an absurd logic (it is a sarcastic post), but it says:
Since under Afghan Islamic Law you cannot be put to death for apostasy if you are deemed insane, it may be worthwhile to prove Abdul Rahman insane. The best way of doing this would be to argue that you’d have to be insane to switch religions in a country that enforces the death penalty for apostasy. Since Abdul Rahman has done precisely what everyone thinks to be an illogical thing, it must mean that he *is* crazy. As such, he cannot be put to death for apostasy. Put it another way: since he has not retracted in the face of death, it must mean he’s retarded. Therefore, he cannot be killed, and should be freed immediately
Given the absurd current state of Islamic Law, this defense might actually work.
This post on Apostasy is for adult eyes only. I will quote some of the cleaner aspects:
So where does apostasy come from? The Quran? Well, sorta, but not really. The Sunnah? Oh no, dear me, not the Sunnah either! Then what: well whenever you are looking for the fount of ignorance, look no further than the books of hadith, which seem to me the most painstakingly accumulated books of mistakes ever put together by non-Christians (with Sinead O’Connor, whose haircut I now have, we say: nothing compares to you, Reveletations).
I have got to agree with him, the Book of Revelation is a bit cryptic, even though I think it probably shows what we are going to be experiencing as the Islamofascists try for their World Caliphate, one where Arabs and Muslims are perceived as righteous leaders, scholars, recognized and catered to by others (which ain't gonna happen).
Traditional and Fundo Islam has given the following justifications for holding the position that apostasy is permitted and the apostate should be killed.... Anyway, the source that traditional Islam relies on is the hadith narration which says, and I’m not joking here: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.” Dammit! How do you address such explicitness? Basically, if you are a traditionalist or a fundo, since you recognize the hadith-narrations on the same level as the Quran and Sunnah, you’ll say: I got my justification in that narration right there. *I hope the astute have been noting that I am not equating the hadith with the Sunnah; those who haven’t noticed it, note it now, specious ineptitude!

Ok, other than that, you can’t really rely on the Quran to give you a justification for apostasy and its attached death penalty. Why? Well, whereas the Quran contains a few verses which promise hell-fire and all that after-wordly torment to those who disbelieve, it doesn’t actually legislate an *earthly* punishment for those who change their religion. *However*, in recent years there have been efforts to find the crime of apostasy and the attached death penalty in the Quran. Mawdudi (had to be him), worked on a few interpretations. He took verse 9:11-12 and twisted it to fit his purpose:
But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail our revelation for a people who have knowledge. And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief – Lo! They have no binding oaths in order that they may desist.”
His argument was that “pledges” refers to the covenant of Islam. Clearly this is ass stupid, because the pledges refers to the Treaty of Hudaibiyah. In addition to this Quranic argument, he uses an argument from common sense as well. Basically he says: look, we ought to eliminate those people from our communities who don’t think like we do. For this he cites the example of communities that sound weirdly fascist. Then again, it was in vogue in the 40’s to execute members of your own communities for being different.

So that’s the legal bases of apostasy: explicit hadith (there’s more than one), and spurious Quranic connection. I’m gonna go ahead and eliminate the Quranic rationale as viable. It has never been accepted by any scholars. Even if it was, it would be on the basis of a clear misreading of the Quran and history; as such, as its gone. That leaves us with the hadith. How do we address them? Could it be that we’re stuck with having to live in a religion which gives actual *legal* sanction to killing those who change their mind?

Well, if you stick to traditionalist Islam, you can’t get out of the death penalty for apostasy. The hadith-compendium comprises too important a part of the traditionalist discourse for anyone to say: well, uh, yeah, here we’re not going to use the hadith. Since you’ve been using hadith to give legal justification to everything from ablution to marriage, you gotta embrace the apostasy narrations also. The best you can ever argue is that in so and so particular case, the crime of apostasy doesn’t apply. But that’s not the same as saying: there is no crime of apostasy in Islam (which is my position). In other words, traditionalist and classical Wahhabists, and ahl e Sunnah will, even if they never exclaim “apostate!” will always recognize the *possibility* that an apostate could emerge, and as such, would have to be killed.

There are some modernist traditionalists (like Abu el Fadl and Sherman Jackson), who say, “yes there are hadith narrations about apostasy” but we don’t live in those kind of times.”
It sounds like there may be some moderate Muslims.
They add that apostasy was only valid when societies were religiously-organized and changing your religion was the same as treason. Since we now live in the nation-state, changing your religion is not treason; therefore, apostasy doesn’t come in. I don’t find this persuasive. One, because if there was a society that was religiously-organized, then we’re back to square one. Second, what happens in a nation-state which is only partially religiously-organized, i.e. Pakistan and Iran. What if 51% of the people in an Islamic Democracy favor apostasy? (Trust me, having lived in Pakistan, the number favoring apostasy is about 90%). What would a traditionalist say then?
Don't live there.
So we’re at an impasse. There is no explicit Quranic source for apostasy. It comes from the hadith. Yet we seem consigned to having to accept that apostasy will always linger in some way or another.

1 comment:

eteraz said...

thank you very much for your detailed reading of my blog. i think we can have a mutually pedagogical relationship.

one thing: your first cite to my apostasy post needs to be qualified: that post is *satire* and/or a mocking of traditional islamic law. i was twisting the logic of the afghan prosecutors. it was in abd taste i admitted but it was funny (especially if you are a reformist).

the other apostasy post comes from my sex speak series (the other entry in the series is about kant and democracy). the purpose is to speak of something important in sexual terms. its not that easy. hope that you visit again.