Back2Quran Ramadan Series: Summary of Chapter 3 (Imraan)

What this project is: This Ramadan, rekindle your spirituality and relationship with God by reading the Quran in a language you understand! To facilitate those who find reading the Quran for the first time daunting, we, at Quranalyze It, will be posting short chapter summaries to get you acquainted with the basic theme and content of a particular chapter. It is important to note, however, that these summaries are no substitute to reading the Quran, and should be used as a bridge towards the Quran, or as an additional tool.

If you like the idea behind this project, and would like to read the summaries of the subsequent chapters in the coming days, then subscribe to our blog to receive an email whenever we publish a new summary. Please read, and share it far and wide!


Chapter 2 starts with defining the behavior traits of Muttaqeen (Those who take guard) and declaring them as Muflihoon (Successful) in 2:5. Very interestingly, Chapter 3 ends with the idea of achieving this state of Falah (success). Therefore, both chapters seem to be complimentary.

While chapter 2 mainly dealt with the theoretical aspect of Islam, Chapter 3 is more interested with the “on the ground” realities. It talks about the implementation of “Islam” and prepares the reader for the resistance that is bound to come.

There are some general themes in the chapter that are often repeated:

  • Zoom in and look at the bigger picture. Material things are temporary and are bound to perish, while what lies with God is everlasting.
  • Some of the people who possess the book will try their best to deviate you from your path. So be wary of this, and remain attendant by not taking “protectors” outside of your ranks. However, not all are wicked, so avoid generalizations.
  • Unity is encouraged throughout the chapter, while division is discouraged. Unity is key to success.
  • Fight those who fight you, and don’t seek to appease your enemies who only seek your downfall.
  • Some people seek to distort the book, claiming what they say is from it, while most certainly it is not. Therefore, don’t invent ordinances in the name of God.

 

Narrates the accounts of: Maryam, Eesa, and Zakaria. (Verse 33-63)

 

Unique aspect of this chapter:

  • The only chapter to categorize verses as Muhkamat (Ordinances) and Mutashabihat (Historical accounts & Allegories). Muhkamat verses are the “mother of the book”, meaning these clear-cut verses should give birth/guide our way to understanding the Mutashabihat. Only God knows the “true” meanings of Mutashabihat, therefore there is no “correct” interpretation of these verses. Key to understanding these verses is to be humble, and sincere. (3:7)

Calls to People who possess the book (V64-99):

  • Resolve differences between each other and come to a common word: Not to serve anyone except God, and not to set authorities with Him.
  • Don’t dispute on things you have no knowledge of.
  • Why do you conceal signs that you’ve witnessed on a personal level?
  • Why do you mix truth with falsehood, fully aware of what you’re doing?
  • Don’t hinder people from path of God by making it seem crooked.

Calls to Believers (100-200):

  • If you obey some of the people who possess the book, they will misguide you from the path of God.
  • Be conscious of God.
  • Don’t divide yourselves.
  • Be a community that advocates all that is good, and discourages all that is bad.
  • Seek purity.
  • Pay allegiance to God, not Mohammad. He will die, while God is ever living.
  • Don’t take protectors outside your ranks because those people only seek your downfall.
  • Don’t consume Riba (usually translated as usury).
  • Seek protection from sins and spend in the way of God
  • If you commit an error, immediately become mindful and seek forgiveness.
  • Short-term trials will come, but don’t lose heart. If you are truly believers, you will succeed
  • The chapter ends beautifully by asking the believers to exhort patience and support each other so that they may become successful.

 

Back2Quran Ramadan series: Summary of Chapter 2 (Baqarah)

What this project is: This Ramadan, rekindle your spirituality and relationship with God by reading the Quran in a language you understand! To facilitate those who find reading the Quran for the first time daunting, we, at Quranalyze It, will be posting short chapter summaries to get you acquainted with the basic theme and content of a particular chapter. It is important to note, however, that these summaries are no substitute to reading the Quran, and should be used as a bridge towards the Quran, or as an additional tool.

If you like the idea behind this project, and would like to read the summaries of the subsequent chapters in the coming days, then subscribe to our blog to receive an email whenever we publish a new summary. Please read, and share it far and wide!


I believe Chapter 2 and 3 are complimentary. While Chapter 2 is a very action-oriented and a practical chapter outlining the system of Islam, Chapter 3 is more about it’s implementation and preparing the reader for the “on the ground” situations and resistance that is bound to come.

In a nutshell, Baqarah is geared towards creating “paradise” on earth and within ourselves. This can only be achieved when human beings undergo a major character and paradigm change. Hence, it contains numerous ordinances on a variety of topics for the social life of the community. If we adhere to these laws, we will create a “garden” on earth, so to speak.

Furthermore, it repeatedly emphasizes on spending in the way of Allah, which tells us how important this aspect is to create a flourishing society.

 

Narrates the account of: Musa, Ibrahim, Sulaiman, and Dawood. (Peace be upon them all!).

 

Passage Breakdowns:

 

Verse 1-20:

  • Behavior traits of Muttaqeen (God-conscious), disbelievers & hypocrites.

 

21-29:

  • First call to mankind – Service to Allah (shows our foremost duty).
  • Our inability to produce a chapter similar to the Quran.
  • Allah does not shy away from speaking in parables and metaphors [only those who are inactive in engaging with the message (Fasiq) are misguided by these).
  • Behavior traits of Fasiqun.

 

30-39:

  • The fall and redemption of ‘Adam’.

 

40-48:

  • Summary of the calls to Bani Israel which are expounded later in 49-103.

 

49-103:

  • Detailed narration of the struggles of Bani Israel – the privileges they receive, and how they abuse them. Thus illustrating, again, the general story of man.

 

104-123:

  • Second call to mankind – do not ask to be shepherded (discouraging blind following).
  • Others might get jealous of your firm faith.
  • Heaven and bliss is open to anyone who seeks God and not a specific religion.
  • God not in the distant heavens but wherever you turn your gaze.

 

124-141:

  • Ibrahim and Ismail purify the ‘house’ of Allah and raise its foundations.
  • Individual accountability.
  • We are to follow the faith of Ibrahim who was a monotheist, not a ‘Hood’ or ‘Nasara’.
  • Never make distinction between messengers.

 

142-152:

  • The Direction of belief of those who come to believe in this message changes.
  • Believers are expected to know the Quran as they know their children.
  • Focus on doing good, God will unite you with like-minded folks.
  • We are to focus on ‘Masjid Al-Haraam’ wherever we are.
  • Passage ends by asking the reader to be grateful and not ungrateful.

 

153-167:

  • First call to believers – be patient and establish connection with God!
  • God will try you by short-term tribulations
  • There are some disgraceful people who deliberately conceal Allah’s signs/verses.
  • Reader is told to ponder over the universe.
  • People take idols (Prophets/scholars/things) and love them as they should love God alone. However, they will regret this.

 

168-171:

  • Second call to believers – Consume good things and do not follow Shaitan who invites towards evil, injustice/immorality and that you speak about God what you do not know.
  • When people are asked to believe in what God has revealed, alas, they reply by saying ‘we follow what our forefathers followed’, however misguided they were. These people do not employ critical thinking.

 

172-177:

  • Third Call to believers – Ordinances on food.
  • The people who conceal signs/verses for a meager benefit inflict self-injury on their soul.
  • Righteousness does not consist of “formalities”, but in faith, kindness, charity, connection with God, purity, staying true to one’s pledge, and patience under suffering.

 

178-182:

  • Fourth Call to believers – Ordinances on Retribution–Financial compensation of an eye for an eye and so on, and dispensation of property.

 

183-207:

  • Fifth Call to believers – Ordinances on Fasting.
  • Do not devour the resources of others in a wrong manner, nor bribe the “officials”to get what is not yours.
  • Ordinances on fighting (No transgression & only self-defense) and Hajj/Umrah.
  • Do not be impressed by the dazzling speech of leaders who spread corruption.

 

208-253:

  • Sixth Call to believers – Be wholesome and do not follow Shaitan.
  • Mankind were one single community, their selfishness divided them.
  • Be prepared to face challenges in the way of life you have adopted, but God’s help will eventually come.
  • Ordinances on spending on the poor, fighting in self defense.
  • Intoxicants and gambling forbidden.
  • Ordinances on marriage, orphans, menstruation, oaths & divorce.
  • The struggle of Bani Israel against Jaloot.
  • Allah raises some messengers in degrees, but we are not to make any distinction among them. All have an equal right to be respected the same way.

 

254-263:

  • Seventh call to believers: Spend in the way of God lest you become an oppressor.
  • “Verse of the Throne”
  • No compulsion in religion
  • God brings people towards light, but false authorities drag them towards darkness.
  • Narration about Ibrahim.
  • Similes on spending.

 

264-266:

  • Eighth call to believers: Do not cancel your charities by constant reminders or hurting the generosity of others.
  • More similes on spending in the way of God.

 

267-277:

  • Ninth call to believers: Spend in the way of God and don’t give something you’ll not like to receive.
  • Avoid Riba (usually translated as usury).

 

278-281:

  • Tenth, and last, call to believers: Give up the Riba you have.
  • Be charitable.

 

282-283:

  • Ordinances on conducting business transactions.

 

284-286:

  • A summation of the mindset required to carry out this program.
  • Ends beautifully by outlining that Allah does not burden any soul beyond its capacity.

Back2Quran Ramadan Series: Summary of Chapter 1 (Fatiha)

What this project is: This Ramadan, rekindle your spirituality and relationship with God by reading the Quran in a language you understand! To facilitate those who find reading the Quran for the first time daunting, we, at Quranalyze It, will be posting short chapter summaries to get you acquainted with the basic theme and content of a particular chapter. It is important to note, however, that these summaries are no substitute to reading the Quran, and should be used as a bridge towards the Quran, or as an additional tool. Please read, and share it far and wide!


Chapter 1 (Fatiha) is possibly the most read chapter of the Quran. It is an integral part of Muslim prayers and is repeated tens of times in a day. Yet, we must ask ourselves, what purpose does it serve? Why is it the very first chapter of the Quran?

 

I think the answers to those questions lie in Ch2 V2: “Quran, as a revealed message, will only serve as a guide for the Muttaqeen (those who are conscious of God).” This is because everyone else wouldn’t embrace the message holistically to allow it to have a meaningful and drastic impact in their life.

 

So, to me, Chapter 1 demonstrates the attributes of a person who has figuratively awoken from sleep, suddenly becoming conscious of God (Muttaqi). These 6 verses could be considered as universal truths of a spiritual awakening, regardless of the faith one subscribes to. They immediately grab the attention of the reader, and go onto demonstrate Islam in a nutshell.

 

(Note: I am not referring to the bismillah as verse 1.)

 

Summary

Verses 1-4 deal with the symptoms of a spiritual awakening. What are they?

 

1st symptom: An immense feeling of praise and gratefulness for God, who is:

 

  • The Nourisher-Sustainer of the universe.

 

  • The Almighty (Rahman), and at the same time, The Merciful (Raheem).

 

Since both of the above words come from Rahm (literally: womb), these attributes outline the protective and evolusionizing aspect of The Beloved. The Muttaqi has experienced these attributes on a personal level. (V1-2)

 

2nd symptom: The realization of being dependent on a Higher Being (Maalik), and the fact that he is accountable for his actions. Therefore, it is only Him that he would seek to serve and only His aid that he would seek. (V3-4)

 

V5-6 is the prayer of the Muttaqi. What does he ask for?

 

He only implores God for guidance towards the straight path: A path on which there is positivity (favor and blessings); not a path involving negativity (wrath) and misguided people.

 

This, again, signifies the utmost importance given to God, while moving away from human authorities (idols). Furthermore, Islam is defined:

 

  • It is a straight path (without contradictions)

 

  • It is path on which you encounter positivity

 

  • It is a path devoid of negativity and misguidance

 

This short chapter includes much repeated key words in the Quran such as deen, ibadah, rabb and includes major themes of the Quran such as:

 

  •    Being grateful.
  •    The oneness and other predominant attributes of God.
  •    Accountability for our actions.
  •    Dependence on a higher power.
  •    Avoiding Shirk (Association).
  •    Seeking guidance and aid.
  •    What Islam is as a system.

 

Conclusion

A grandeur introduction, isn’t it? So rich with detail, despite its briefness! Needless to say, I am completely awed!

 

At the risk of repeating myself, I would say that Chapter 1 is the Quran in a nutshell! If your Quran reading can be considered a spiritual workout, then Fatiha is the nutrient-dense pre-workout snack.


A beautiful song by Ani Zonneveld on AlFatiha. Very spiritual:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftFngSwgj-k&list=UUNzuc5HTJJTxTdkxXC9ddjA&feature=share&index=5


*If you like the idea behind this project, and would like to read the summaries of the subsequent chapters in the coming days, then don’t forget to subscribe to our blog, so you could receive emails whenever we publish a new post!

3 Things You Should Avoid This Ramadan To Make It More Spiritually Meaningful!

As I sit here writing this, I am exuberated with joy that Ramadan is almost here! We, Pakistanis, are always fashionably late; so that should explain why we start fasting a day after most other countries.

Anyhow! Personally speaking, Ramadan is my favorite time of the year. A month I exclusively dedicate to my relationship with God, focusing on spiritual growth and reflections. It would be great if every Muslim tried to make a conscious effort in changing some part of their personality that needs to be improved during Ramadan, but this, unfortunately, is not the case. It is sad to note how each year Ramadan is wasted, and so the primary purpose of this blog is to address those issues.

As Ramadan approaches, Muslims suddenly change character. They fast, occupy the mosques, read the Quran, give away in charities, and try to avoid all the detrimental things they’ve become accustomed to. But as soon as it is over, they revert back to their ways of old, happily content that they’ve performed their religious rights and have pleased God. It’s almost as if Eid liberates them from their moral responsibilities they so fervently upheld in Ramadan!

So, here are the three things you should try to avoid in this Ramadan:

  1. Don’t Take Fasting As An End In Itself

I’ve always thought of Ramadan as a training program, and this really helps me keep things in perspective. To convey my point, let’s take the example of an intensive revision class set up by your university to help you achieve your goal: passing the exam.

Now here’s what happens: The students make it incumbent upon themselves to attend every class, but pay no attention whatsoever to what they’re doing. Having sat in these classes for a month, they expect the professor to be pleased with them for attending all his classes, hoping that he would pass them in the exam because of their dedication. Unprepared as they were, they miserably fail the exam, and thus repeat the year. For many, this becomes an on-going process. But, any sign of progress is nowhere to be found!

You probably understand the analogy. A major factor of why this happens, though, is because religious people tend to take their rituals and rights as an end in themselves, rather than taking them as a means to an end. They think, albeit naively, that performing these rituals somehow pleases God, and so they have no incentive to make an effort and derive any values from the rituals they perform.

The mere act of fasting, in no way, pleases God. This is an idea alien to the Quran. Rather, the purpose of fasting is that it should teach us self-control, make us more conscious of God (2:183), and develop an attitude of gratitude (2:185)! It is by these values that we attain during Ramadan, that boosts our relationship with God and helps us in connecting with It.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

  1. Don’t Read The Quran In A Language You Don’t Understand

This is something that needs to be stressed a lot, before we come out of the Arab supremacy complex.

I realize how hard it is to pick up the Quran and read it, for the first time. So, for those of you that have never read the Quran, the month of Ramadan provides an excellent platform. Presumably, your family members would already be reading the Quran this month, so the environment is all set up for action! However, I implore you not to make the mistake of reading the Quran in Arabic if you don’t understand it. Indeed, that defeats the whole purpose of sending down revelation!

 

A book we have revealed to you so that it may bring people out of ignorance, towards enlightenment.” Quran, 14:2

The purpose of the Quran has never been to encourage people to read it for the sake of it, or to attain rewards! Needless to say, you don’t become enlightened by reading it in a foreign language.

As I wrote in a previous blog,

“What was supposed to be a book with a revolutionary message, you revolve around it, not understanding a word of what it says.

What was supposed to be a book that was meant to transform your heart, you don’t even let it cross your brain.” (I encourage you to read the entire blog here)

[Side note: You’d probably have a translation of the Quran in your home, but if not, you should download this translation here.]

If you’re looking to read the entire Quran this month, then let me do the math for you. There are 30 Juz (parts) in the Quran, each Juz consisting of roughly 20 pages. So, 30 days and 30 Juz. Still with me? Good. 1 juz every day. 20 pages. Yeah, not so much, is it? Of course, there is no “rule” that you have to read the entire Quran. Read whatever is easy to read. Quality over quantity, always!

Moreover, if you intend to attend Taraweeh, do realize that although these are optional, they’re a great way of reviewing the message of the Quran in Ramadan. I’ll repeat this again: Please don’t just stand there for the sake of it, having no idea of what is being recited. It defeats the purpose. Take your translation with you to the mosque, or if you don’t have one, you could always download it on your cell phone and take that instead. Whatever you do, make good use of it!

If things go as planned, I intend to start a BACK2QURAN project, in which I will be writing short summaries of every chapter in the Quran. Be on the lookout for those! (The first part is up! Read it here)

  1. Don’t spend in charities to accumulate rewards

As per popular opinion, spending in the month of Ramadan supposedly earns more rewards as it is deemed to be a “blessed” month. But to donate money in hopes of accumulating rewards is very paradoxical indeed!

The purpose of giving is just that: giving! No more, no less. We should help others, not only in Ramadan but all year round, simply because it is the right thing to do. It is what the soul yearns for! Expecting “rewards” for our service makes the whole process unnatural. It’s no more about benefiting others anymore, it becomes self centered. The ego comes in: “What can I get from this?”

Spend, because the other person deserves it. Understand his condition, and give selflessly. Suppress the ego, and boost your soul! Be altruistic!

In the famous words of Rumi: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy!”

Final Thoughts

It’s always best to maintain a balance, and Ramadan is no exception. Don’t burn yourself, but don’t waste it either. What are the goals you wish to achieve this Ramadan? Jot them down, now! Written goals are easier to review and evaluate progress.

A major theme of the Quran is that of accountability, self-control, and being conscious of God. If you think about it, these are the values that fasting should help us internalize. And if one internalizes these values from the core of their being, then nothing could steer you towards wrong-doing.

This Ramadan, re-gain control of yourself!

Ramadan-and-change

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On the Language of the Quran

“If one reads and interprets the Koran as a kind of information medium – as many contemporary Koranic researchers do – one does not do justice to it. The Koran is heavily poetic and contains a whole range of messages that it imparts at a semantic level – not at all explicitly, not at all unambiguously; it gets these messages across through poetic structures; if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be as vivid as it is. What makes the Koran unique is its complexity, its multiple layers, the fact that it speaks at different levels. On the one hand, of course, that is the huge aesthetic attraction. However, it is also, if you like, hugely attractive in rhetorical terms or in terms of its power of conviction.

 

While it might be possible to sum up the mere information in the Koran in a short newspaper article, the effect would not have been the same. It really is about enchantment through language. Language itself is also praised in the Koran as the highest gift that humankind received from God. Naturally, this is related to knowledge. Language is the medium of knowledge. This is why one should never on top of everything else accuse the Islamic culture of being averse to knowledge. The entire Koran is basically a paean to knowledge, the knowledge that is articulated through speech.” – Angelika Neuwirth

Quran: The Book That Weeps, Hidden Inside Its Shelf!

The Quran is truly an amazing book. If there is one investment I have made that I will never regret in my life, it is the time I invested in understanding the Quran. The thing about the Quran is that it speaks to me like no other book I’ve read. Such is the magnificence of the book that there is never a hollow reading session; each time I walk away with some truly amazing insights I overlooked before. What makes this possible is that there are, at least in my opinion, infinite layers to the Quran. The more time you spend with it, the more it seems to give you. And so, as I went deeper into the Quran, I was just mesmerized by its structure, cohesiveness, and the metaphors it employs that reflect my being so precisely.

 

What’s heartbreaking for me, though, is how Muslims have abandoned the Quran, turning it into an object of service. You don’t pay reverence to the Quran by kissing it and keeping it on the top shelf, covering it with beautiful cloths. No, that would be akin to showering your parents with hugs and kisses, but not paying any heed to what they ask of you. Would you not call such a relationship hypocritical and selfish? Indeed, you would. But that’s what our relationship with the Quran is: one of hypocrisy and selfishness. It is used as a tool to gain rewards by reading it in a language that most Muslims don’t even understand, and comes out of its fancy covering only at “blessed” times such as Ramadan, or at times of need – when someone has passed away.

 

As Ramadan is just around the corner, I implore you to read the Quran in a language you understand this time around, so that you could start disassociating cultural Islam from Quranic Islam.

Here is a passionate response I wrote, outlining all that is wrong with the way we approach the Quran:

What was supposed to be a book that would bring mankind out of ignorance towards enlightenment–bringing with it a revolutionary message–you revolve around it, not understanding a word of what it says.

What was supposed to be a book that was meant to transform your heart, you don’t even let it cross your brain.

What was supposed to be a book with a universal message, you utter religious statements in Arabic, somehow supposing that Arabic language is holy and advocate Arab supremacy.


 

What was supposed to be a book that discouraged dogmas, you drink from a glass of water that you blew Quranic verses in, expecting it to heal you.

What was supposed to be a book advocating skepticism and critical thinking, you fear that thinking in matters of faith may lead you away from Islam.


 

What was supposed to be a book discouraging sectarianism and promoting unity, you kill your fellow Muslims in its name, and yell “Allahu Akbar!”

What was supposed to be a book advocating freedom of belief, you disregard it and demand blasphemers and apostates to be killed.

What was supposed to be a book advocating pluralism, you feel threatened by differences and push for uniformity.


 

What was supposed to be a book prohibiting child and forced marriages, you justify them through fabricated accounts of the messenger and sometimes, your culture.

What was supposed to be a book that advocated self-control, you partially blame the women who are raped and hasten to cover your women from head to toe.

What was supposed to be a book that encouraged you to follow the character of the messenger, you have twisted it to imply following the cultural norms that were prevalent in the time of the messenger.


 

What was supposed to be a book that advocated activism, you remain passive and pray for divine intervention to happen.

What was supposed to be a book that was fully detailed, you attach numerous books to it – claiming, without these books, the Quran is incomplete and hard to understand.


 

What was supposed to be a book that asked you to be wary of religious leaders,you have changed it into a book that can only be interpreted by these religious leaders.

What was supposed to be a book of values, you have changed it into a book of hollow rituals and shortcuts to heaven.

What was supposed to be a book advocating accountability for your actions, you have changed it into a book that will intercede on your behalf.


 

 

Quran is a book that is read widely, a book that is– at times– interpreted wildly, a book that is understood hardly.

 

Sometimes, on a quiet night, I can almost hear the Quran weeping.

Will you then, embrace it holistically, and release itself from its sorrows?

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A Monolithic Islam? Forget About It!

People trouble me, sometimes. Why are people so judgmental, I often find myself wondering? Perhaps, it is because a judgmental heart lacks introspection. I think that’s it. Yes, lacking introspection!

One of the most troubling trends I see within the Muslim community is the amount of hatred and suspicion towards Muslims who adopt different approaches and interpretations of Islam. With the Takfeeri ideology (ex-communication) on a rise, nearly every Muslim considers himself to be “rightly guided” and others, even if they differ on minor issues, to be “deluded by the devil” or a “Fitnah”, greatly hindering co-existence and mutual respect between Muslims. Sectarianism, which for this very reason has been severely discouraged in the Quran, has destabilized the Muslim community from within, resulting in every group happy with their version while looking down upon others.

We must realize that Islam is not a monolith, and that it’s impossible for nearly 2 billion Muslims to share the same interpretation of it. There is no “true” Islam, I would argue. Rather, what we have are Islams. At best, the “true” Islam, in my opinion, is relative to the person and is the interpretation that allows you to grow and evolve the most as a person, provided—a very important distinction to make–provided that the core of the Quran is not tempered with. And the Quran makes the case for this on the basis of the following verses:

“Who listen to the Word and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding.” Quran, 39:18

“And follow the best of that which is sent down to you from your Lord, before the torment comes on you suddenly while you perceive not!” Quran, 39:55

These verses, which definitely demand more attention and pondering from the mainstream Muslims; speak against a monolithic, institutionalized Islam as they ask the reader to follow the “best” from what is revealed. If there was supposed to be one “official interpretation”, there would absolutely be no point in asking us to follow the best therein. How do you follow the best of what’s already best, anyways?

Most people are unaware of this, but the Quran itself talks of a plurality of paths to Islam:

Through this Book, God guides to paths of Islam (peace), those who seek His Approval. He brings them out of darkness into the light of His grace, and guides them to the straight path. Quran, 5:16

This is because God acknowledges our diversity, calling it one of His Signs (30:22); and unlike the clergymen, does not want us all to be identical robots.

Combining these points together, the Quran provides a comprehensive rebuttal to the idea of there being a “true” Islam that is supposed to be shared by all of its adherents.

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Dealing with differences

Naturally, when we talk of nearly 2 billion Muslims, there are going to be theological differences. What matters though, is how we deal with these differences. We may have intellectual disagreements within the diverse Islamic thought, but we must not foster hate towards this diversity. Either we can acknowledge our differences and embrace them for the common good, focusing rather on the fundamental values that Islam teaches us, or we could continue with the “my way or the highway” ideology that is the main cause of sectarianism, again – which is severely discouraged in the Quran. (I delve on this further here)

Not being honest and true to ourselves, I believe, is at the root of sectarianism. We condemn others for their views, knowing full well that there was a time when we, ourselves, didn’t know what we know today. The problem, then, is that we’re overly critical of others, and fairly passive of ourselves, when it should totally be the other way around! We are quick to judge others because we only see things from one perspective–our perspective–which is limited and biased. We don’t try to analyze the reasons why people are the way they are because that is a hard task, requiring effort and broad mindedness.

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Now, there is this weird idea people have that being blunt is the same as being provocative, insulting, and demeaning. Some people, who like to think of themselves as being “straight-forward” believe that speaking “truth” to a person with a different point of view doesn’t require you to be polite, understanding, and reasonable. No, these characteristics are seen as attempts of “sugar-coating” or being “diplomatic” (as if that’s a bad thing). Well, guess what? Even if you’re right, no one would bother listening to you sincerely if you come off as snobbish and condescending. Doesn’t that negate the whole point of dialogue? If you are so keen on spreading your truth, don’t be in it to praise your ego and making a fool out of others. Because ultimately, you’re only fooling yourself!

There are some ethics of dialogue, and the Quran lays them down most wonderfully:

Invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and argue with them in the best possible manner. Your Lord is fully aware of who is misguided from His path, and He is fully aware of the guided ones. Quran, 16:125

Socrates once said, “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” In other words, when there are no intellectual points left to make, people resort to ad-hominem attacks to get the impression of superiority. Again and again, we must remind ourselves the purpose of Islam. It is not to look down upon others, but to bring yourself up. It is not to criticize others, but to prime yourself. Islam seeks to suppress the ego, not to magnify it. In fact, the Quran repeatedly reminds the reader that he is not sent as a “guardian” or “watcher” over the people (6:107, 88:22). Why then, is the focus not on ourselves, but on others?

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Conclusion

Gradual as it was, I realized over the course of my journey as a Muslim that there are many spiritual paths leading to the same destination: peace and serenity.

Just because I disagree with X and Y on some points, does not mean that I discount their spiritual journey as “invalid”, or that I start calling them other derogatory labels. The important thing, rather, is that you keep on treading the path you have chosen for yourself, growing with each step. Growth should be the priority, not the means by which you grow. Yes, we can all help in correcting each other by having a dialogue on a variety of theological and spiritual aspects, but the only person who’s utterly wasting his time is he who himself won’t move, but will block the way of others; advising them that they’ve taken the wrong path.

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As the Quran beautifully puts it:

Each of you chooses the direction to follow; then strive together toward all that is good. Whatever stand you take, God will bring you all together. Indeed, God is Able to do all things. Quran, 2:148

 

A monolithic Islam? Forget about it!

An inclusive and pluralistic Islam? Yes! And much more Islam will come to you that way!

 

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