O, You Muslims! Do you want to be religious parrots?
T.O Shanavas MD
An article that I read a few months ago cautions Muslims that Medieval Muslim scholars closed Ijtihad and contemporary Muslims must not use their brain, logic or reason. The author states “nobody has the right to give religious verdicts on their own behalf or say something on religion in the light of their common sense.” What is a religious verdict? I thought that the religion of Islam encompasses all aspects of life that includes one branch of the knowledge, called science. If science or any other branch of thought is not included in the knowledge of the religion of Islam, Islam will become incomplete. The Mujitahid of the medieval ages did not have any knowledge of quantum physics and chemistry. These sciences impact and even control every aspect of human activity in the contemporary world. As far as I know, these scholars did not issue fatwas on these branches of science. So, based on the author’s opinion, we must not issue fatwa in the matter of physics, chemistry and psychology or any other branch of science.
The author further states: “Our function, as sincere Muslims is simply to receive and deliver the law…And this function is, itself, based on certain authority and qualifications and should not be left to the whims of individuals.”
This is what I call the blind faith not faith informed by logic or reason. The author of the article wants the Muslims to be parrots that repeat what is told to them. Unfortunately, most Muslims in this world live not by reason or logic. They have reduced Islam to a blind faith. Alas! They have become religious parrots.
I do not believe that Islam is a religion of blind faith. I refuse to become a religious parrot. Islam, as I understand, is a religion based on observation, contemplation and analysis as well as logic and reason. Observation does not mean seeing an object only. It also means, “look and see and understand.” For example, in contrast to human understanding of nature of water, fish experience water but does not understand that it is made out of hydrogen and oxygen. The Qur'an states about those who do not use their intellect: "They have hearts wherewith they understand not, eyes wherewith they see not, and ears wherewith they hear not. They are like cattles--nay, they are in worse error: for they are heedless." [7:179]. The Qur'an makes it more clear by the following verses:
"Here is a book which We have sent down to you, full of blessings, that you may meditate and reflect on its signs (ayaths), and that people of understanding may receive admonition." [38:29. “In the sight of Allah, people who know are not equal to those who do not know." [39:9] Allah chose Talut as king of Jews on the grounds of his knowledge and physical ability. [2:247]. Similarly, Prophet Daud [2:251 and 2:80], Yusuf [12:22], Prophet Musa [18:65] were selected by Allah due to their knowledge.
So, the study of Qur'an is not limited only for Imams of Medieval times, but its wisdom is available to all Muslims of today and of all times. Knowledge of all kinds [scientific, philosophical, historical, as well as any other knowledge] is rewarded by Allah. He raises those who have knowledge above those who have no knowledge. Get rid of blind faith; Fill the mind with Islam based on faith informed by reason and logic.
"Behold! In the creation of the heavens and earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are signs [ayath] for people of understanding and intellect." [3:190]. "Do they see nothing in the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and all that Allah has created?" [7:185]
The “signs [ayath] “of God, to which the Qur’an in the above verse and other verses constantly refers, are primarily the phenomena of the natural world. The Qur'an is Allah's speech and a book of guidance in human vernacular form and its parts are called ayath. Similarly, the universe is a book of Allah in the material form and its parts are called ayath in the Qur’an. Islam does not draw a clear line of demarcation between the natural and supernatural. The physical universe is an integral part of the Muslim's religious universe. Humanity has to explore the universe and its laws in order to know God. Therefore, understanding the spiritual significance of an active nature (kiyan) is an important stepping-stone on the road to Islamic spirituality. The sun, moon, and stars are not mere heavenly bodies but religious realities that participate in the Islamic vision of the universe. In the Qur'an, Allah even takes them as witness on the Last Day: “So, I call the receding stars to witness.” [81:15]. Both Qur'an and nature urge human beings to worship God: “We shall show them our portents on the horizon and within themselves until it will be manifested unto them that it is the truth...” [Qur’an 41:53]. Therefore, a contemplative attitude towards nature is a form of worship.
What is the end-result for most Muslims who live as religious parrots practicing a blindly adopted faith? Most of them live in poverty and ignorance in the East. We, in the West, investigated and learned from the "ayaths" of the universe. We found the chemistry of life [DNA]. We make more food and better medicine for them. We sell these to Muslims of the East for exorbitant price to get rich ourselves. Sometimes we feed them feeling pity for their starving children.
We, in the West, read the ayaths of the universe and created computers, the internet, cars, trains, and planes and laser guided weapons and gave our out-dated weapons to Muslims of the East to kill each other. We, in the West, learned ayath about the laws of radiation written in Allah’s book, the universe. Then we created microwave ovens and satellite for communication and data collection.
Wake up Muslims! Do not live by blind faith alone and stop being a religious parrot. Study, contemplate, and extract the deeper meanings of the ayath written in Allah's book of the universe. This study is not for an attempt to conquer the West, but to encourage humans to live together sharing the wealth with each other, working to promote friendship and goodwill and make life meaningful for all humanity.
Our function, as sincere Muslims is NOT simply to receive and deliver the law, but to understand the law better than our ancestors by the use of our collective minds.
The author also states you have to have a degree as the doctor of law in order to understand the religion of Islam. Which university issued a PhD to Al-Biruni, the great Muslim geologist, Al Hasan al Basri, the great theologian, Ibn-Khaldun, the greatest historiographer, Bukhari, the great Hadith collector, Imam Abu Hanifa and many other great Muslims? All of them studied on their own and actively participated in discussions to develop an internally consistent understanding of Islam. They did not have PhDs or training in a university. Even Shah Waliullah (died 1730AD) did not go to a university to receive PhD. He was great scholar in his own right and by his own effort.
To conclude, the ideas, expressed in the article to which I initially referred, would keep Muslims in poverty, sickness, and colonialism by proxy. Let Muslim not be parrots, but be future Al-Biruni[s], Shah Waliullah[s], Ibn-Rashid[s], and Ibn-Sina[s], and others who used their intellect to bring Muslims to their unsurpassed Golden age.
Religious parrots and other birds by their own free-will would remain in the cages, while the world outside the cage reads and decodes the meaning of ayath in Allah’s sacred Book of the universe. While those who strive with their intellects grow rich and reap the treasures of Allah’s bounty, they also continue to work to assist the caged with inventions of medicine and technology to cure their maladies. As a result of feeling pity for the religious parrots in their cages, the free-world sometimes feeds the parrots with their left-over food and sells their medicine at exorbitant price. Therefore, my message to those who ask Muslims to be religious parrots is: Parrots among Muslims do not and would not uplift the unfortunate among them from the current state of poverty, ignorance, fanaticism, and proxy colonialism; let us not be parrots, but emulate Al-Biruni, Ibn-Rashid, and Ibn-Sina who used their intellect to take Muslims to their Golden age; let us work together to promote well-being for humanity-at-large, not just for Muslims alone.
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