Islam, like all religions, is one percent God-made….
Every branch of Islam holds that God, who revealed His message to the Prophet Muhammad, completed the Quran and the religion during the Prophet’s life. When the Prophet died, the revelation stopped. One of the Quran’s last verses, revealed to the Prophet but a few months before his passing, announces their fulfillment: This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (Q. 2.132). This is the purest “one percent.”
…and ninety-nine percent man made.
It took no more than 25 years after the Prophet died for political dispute to infect Islam, turning clans and families against each other. Mu’awiya, a powerful man of influence, threw Ali (the fourth Caliph and a relation of the Prophet’s) a military challenge for delaying punishment for the assassination of the third Caliph, Othman, who happened to belong to Mu’awiya’s clan. Many men perished in battle before both Ali and Mu-awiya agreed to end the bloodshed. Seizing the opportunity, Mu’awiya founded his Umayyad dynasty, his followers and the Islam practiced there were known as “Sunna”. Those who sided with Ali against Mu’awiya have come to be known collectively as the Shi’a, borrowed from the Arabic expression shi’iat Ali (supporters of Ali); Twelver Shi’is predominate.
The main bone of contention among these branches of Islam was the succession and who had the legitimate right to succeed the Prophet as leader of the Umma. The third group was the Khawarij. They rejected any truce between Mu’awiya and Ali, but their ideological stridency had no precedence. They deemed them both “unbelievers” and argued that it was fine to condemn and kill any Muslim as a kafir (infidel) who rejected their stance. This earned the Khawarij special distinction as the first takfiris (Muslims who accuse others of being infidels) in history. All they had to do was detach a few phrases from their original context for textual support, just as many clerics have done in their wake.
Early on, people were known to complement their interpretations of the Quran with the anecdotal evidence from the hadiths, which are testimonials about what the Prophet said and did, and have slipped fake accounts of the Prophet with an eye to political, military and even commercial gain. By the second Hijri century, hundreds of thousands of sayings had been conveniently placed in the mouth of the Prophet.
Several Imams at that time attempted to devise methods to deepen their understanding of the Quran. The most famous are Abu Hanifa (b. 80 AH, 69 years after the Prophet died), Malik (b. 93 AH), Shafi’i (b. 150 AH), and Ibn Hanbal (b. 164 AH). Later clerics declared them founders of the “four schools of jurisprudence” in Sunni Islam, mainly on the ground that they commanded the largest number of followers. Two more figures had wide impact on Sunni Islam, al-Bukhari (b. 192 AH, or a full 181 years after the Prophet died) and his student Muslim (b. 206 AH). These two men embarked on the impossible task of filtering hundreds of thousands of prophetic sayings 200 years or more after the Prophet died. Al-Bukhari collected around 7,000 hadiths. For each hadith they used a chain of eight or nine followers up to a companion of the Prophet’s who witnessed or heard it from the Prophet firsthand. Their criteria of selection assumed that no link in the chain of transmission could be lying, forgetting, getting confused or misunderstanding what he or she had witnessed.
Although the two compilations, along with the millions of books that were written later by the followers of the four Imams, are secondary next to the Quran (a 500-page book), generations of clerics consider them the primary source for interpreting the law and other aspects of Muslim life that are not very clear in the Quran. Literally everything a Muslim should do from the minute he or she wakes up down to with which leg he or she must enter the bathroom, is laid out. Ironically, in the second chapter the Quran admonishes the People of Moses for demanding ever-greater details before they could agree to discharge their religious duties. (Q. 2,67-71). When God orders them to sacrifice a cow, any cow, they ask Moses what kind of cow. Neither old nor callow, they are told. What color? Yellow. And they request more specifications, until it becomes harder and harder to find such an animal. How much easier it would have been to act without a roundabout to defeat the whole purpose of the sacrifice.
The status of clerics contradicts the intention of the Quran
Clerics past and present claim that without their authorized interpretations Muslims, would not understand the true meaning of the Quran and the hadiths. For example, assessing the qualities of the eight or nine persons that should be accepted in the hadiths’ chain of transmission, and miraculously, over a period of two centuries is called the “science of men”. A “science” which the Prophet himself died knowing nothing about. A person who dares question the credibility of this science is immediately ridiculed and belittled. To these clerics, us commoners are compared to blind men that should be led. Doing so, these self-styled experts established a barrier between God and the people. Even though clerics ceaselessly, and without the least sense of irony, reaffirms that, unlike Christianity, Islam has no need of priests to mediate between God and his people.
For centuries they have been quoting one particular verse from the Quran that they imagine establishes their high status: “Ask those who know the scripture, if you know not.” When asked who those knowledgeable in scripture are that one has to ask, the clerics point to themselves. They produce this verse whenever someone questions their authority. If the verses lying just above and below are considered, it would be clear that it tells a story of those to denied the Prophet claiming that if God wished to communicate with man, He would not have used a mortal like Mohamed as messenger and the message would have been accompanied by a miracle— “like the ones sent to old prophets,” the deniers used to say.
This aspect of the text is plain to everyone who reads the verse. It tells of God’s reply to the deniers: “For, even before thy time, We never sent [as Our apostles] any but the [mortal] men We inspired—hence, tell the deniers of the truth: Ask those who know the scripture if you know not,” (Q. 21.7). So “those who know the scripture” here simply refers to those people who, familiar with previous scriptures, understand that the ancient prophets could only be mortals in their turn. Clerics took it completely out of context to conclude that God must be referring to them.
Several verses also highlight the fact that the Quran was sent in Arabic so people of that tongue could understand it. “We have made it a Quran in Arabic, that all among you may comprehend it with your reason,” (Q. 12.2); “And thus have We sent it down as a Quran in Arabic, and have explained therein in details the warnings, in order that they may fear God, or that they may learn and begin to believe in it,” (Q. 20.113); and, “Before it the book of Moses was a guide and a mercy. And this is a book in Arabic that confirms [this], that it may warn those who are unjust and as good news for the doers of good,” (Q. 46.12). God asks all people (not just the clerics) to reflect and understand in these simple terms; without the need for a sham science. Included among the “people” are even the wrongdoers endowed with the power of reason are being warned.
Clerics even created the idea that not all of what is known should be told as a principle. This is derived from a hadith which depicts the Prophet telling a companion that everyone who believes in the one God and none other will go to heaven; he then asks that companion not to repeat this for fear of encouraging people for whom God has “guaranteed” a corner of Paradise to stop seeking the good (al-Bukhary 128, Muslim 157). The absurd result is that we are today forced to read this hadith with the knowledge that this companion disregarded the Prophet’s request by spreading the word.
Maybe the clerics have reconciled themselves to this glaring fact simply because it figures in the undisputed hadith collections of al-Bukhary and Muslim. But was the Prophet mistaken for trusting his companion Mu’ath ibn Jabal with such an earthshaking secret? Many Muslims believe that the Prophet could not possibly err. And why would the same companion who disobeyed the Prophet and betrayed his trust be taken for an authority in so many other prophetic sayings in those two collections? Especially when he is the same companion who contributed sayings about the killing of converts, as well. Anyone daring to question the “official” view could be declared an infidel, or given today’s unprecedented violence, murdered outright.
So, us Muslims are not only asked to follow our religious clerics blindly; we are asked to do so knowingly that parts of the truth could be withheld from us on the grounds that our simple commoner’s minds “cannot handle the truth” and cannot understand their so called sciences. How could any rational mind accept this when the Quran clearly says, “may you all reflect,” “may you all give thought,” “have you no sense?” “Will they not then try to understand the Quran?” “O ye men of understanding” over fifteen times and “that you may all understand” more than twenty times.
The Quran, hadiths and “holy war” against the unbelievers
The Quran addresses all of mankind, both believers and unbelievers, and contains numerous references to specific stories the past. One story in particular is about Joseph and his elder brothers. Towards the end, Joseph is finally reunited with his parents: “Then when they entered unto Joseph, he betook his parents to himself and said, ‘Enter Egypt, God-willing, in security,’” (Q. 12.99). The context should be clear to anyone who reads the rest of verses. They were uttered for a specific purpose to a specific people at a specific time. Taken out of context, however, meanings get distorted. For example, by reading “Enter Egypt, God-willing, in security,” full stop, one has the impression that God shall to the end of time keep harm from falling upon any that enters Egypt. This of course, is not the case.
And clerics interpret the “verse of the sword” (Q. 9.5) in equal absurdity, but far more devastating, terms to justify the spilling of blood. The ninth chapter (sura) of the Quran, containing 129 verses, describes how the Prophet should handle certain people. The sura’s title alone, al-Tawba (repentance), specifically refers to three men who, having refused to fight alongside the Prophet, were so guilt-ridden that God accepted their repentance. The chapter begins with the command that Muslims end their alliances with those pagans who fail to fulfill their obligations and who support anyone threatening the Muslims. In it, God also asks them to delay any confrontation till after the sacred months, which reiterates the specific context of the chapter. Only after the above commands have been issued does the so-called “verse of the sword” describe the action to be taken, but only against those who break their oath with the Muslims.
“But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them; seize them and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them with every stratagem [normal practice in any conflict] but if they repent and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Forgiving, Most Merciful,” (Q. 9.5). In isolation, these words would lead the selective reader to imagine the Quran ordering the killing of every single pagan — as determined, of course, by the clerics themselves — except during the sacred months.
The verse right after the verse of the sword tells Muslims to grant asylum to the pagans who seek it because, being without knowledge, they may then hear God’s words. God enjoins the Muslims to end their treaties only with those who violate the oaths they made near the Prophet’s mosque. Clerics have not only taken the verse out of context, but have also decided that it superseded most Quranic expressions of mercy, kindness and acceptance, toward the unbelievers, the Christians and the Jews; “God does not forbid you from respecting those who have not made war against you on account of [your] religion nor driven you from your homes that you may show them kindness and deal with them justly. Surely, Allah loves the doers of justice” (Q. 60.8). And again,
Say: O unbelievers…you have your religion, and I shall have my religion…(Q. 109).
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not commit aggression for God does not love aggressors, (Q. 2.190).
Those who believe in the Quran and those who are Jews and Christians and the Sabians who believe in God and the Last Day and do good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, and on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve, (Q. 2.62).
To every people We have appointed rites which they must follow. Let them not dispute with thee on the matter, but do thou invite [them] to thy Lord; for thou art on the right way. If they do wrangle with thee, say, God knows best what ye do. God shall judge between you on the Day of Judgment concerning the matters upon which ye differ, (Q. 22.67,68,69).
Invite mankind to the way of your lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious, for thy lord knoweth best who have strayed from his path and who received guidance. And if you punish your enemy then punish them with the like of that which you were afflicted, but if you endure patiently it is better for the patient ones, (Q. 16.125).
So the clerics took verse of the sword out of context, asserted that it orders Muslims to wage jihad on all so called infidels at all times, and that it replaced all other parts in the Quran that stated the opposite. Some clerics, apparently, have been able to detail how many times “offensive jihad” should be carried out against the infidels — some say once or twice a year even if unprovoked, to spread the Word of God.
The famous logo of the Muslim Brothers displays two swords and the Arabic for “And make ready,” from the Quran. This phrase has also been wrenched from its authentic context: “And make ready against them all you can with power in order to threaten the enemy of God and your enemy and any besides whom you may not know, though God knows. And whatever you shall be repaid unto you, you shall not be treated unjustly,” (Q. 8.60). The verse, too, refer to pagans that have broken their oath with Muslims. “Those with whom you made an agreement and then they break their agreement every time, not being conscious of God. If you find them at war, make of them a fearsome example to those who follow them, that they might take it to heart,” (Q. 8.55,56). But the words just above “And make ready” have no bearing on what the Muslim Brotherhood intends by its logo; nor does, for that matter, the verse immediately following: “But if they incline to peace, incline to it as well, for He alone is All-Hearing, All-Knowing,” (Q. 8.61).
Undoubtedly, there is plenty of good in the works of the four imams, their followers, and the collections of both al-Bukhary and Muslim. A lot of what has been recorded may well go back to the Prophet, but they should never be sacralized or taken as a whole, given the extent of possible errors. The unfortunate truth is that a lot of what is written in those ‘sacred’ collections have nourished the likes of ISIS and Al-Qaeda and other enthusiasts of mass murder around the world. And they will continue to spark mayhem as long as our clerics refuse to admit even a 1-percent chance that their religious interpretations may be wrong or in need of revision. Even though this 1 percent might suffice to make the deceived think twice before taking a life — any life.