Posted by: mjaga | July 1, 2015

Is Islam Irrelevant Today?

The question mark in the caption above says it all! There is a widespread undercurrent of doubts, even among Muslims, on the relevance of Islam in the world today. Muslims may not give expression to those doubts openly, but the doubts do assail a majority of them.

  1. They see that Islam, as they understand it, prohibits interest; and the highest court in the Muslim country of Pakistan had even directed its government to realign its economic policies on that basis. The government was given some two years to do that; but at the end of the stipulated period the government pleaded its inability. The matter is dragging on indecisively there for years now!

  2. In Islam, homosexuality is a crime that militates against the divine scheme. The Qur’aan speaks of an entire people – Prophet Lot’s – destroyed because of their open advocacy and virulent practice of this crime. But, in this modern world, nation after nation is coming up to accept the aberration in sexual behaviour as natural. Same sex marriages are openly celebrated. Open practice of homosexuality is no longer considered a crime.

  3. The Qur’aan says that natural calamities like the earthquake happen with the knowledge, and under the direction, of the Creator of all things, Allah. HE uses these to punish people transgressing divinely laid down law beyond a limit, and to warn others against such transgression. But the modernists dismiss the Qur’aanic assertions as superstitious beliefs. They claim that the calamities are geophysical natural phenomena and have nothing to do with any Intelligent Power exercising any conscious power over them. They, in fact, tend to deny the very existence of any such Power!

  4. The Qur’aan prescribes cutting off of hand as punishment for theft and lashes for adultery. Except for a very few countries like Saudi Arabia, such punishments have been abolished in all other countries. The Qur’aanic punishments are now considered barbaric and inhuman.

  5. A sister gets half the share of a brother under the Qur’aanic Law of Inheritance. And, one man’s evidence is equated to two women’s, for financial transactions, in the Holy Book. The modern world considers that Islam thus perpetuates an obvious gender inequality.

  6. Mentioned above are the points, that occur to me presently, on the basis of which modern world generally considers Islam irrelevant now. Readers may like to apprise me of other points they have come across. But, in the meantime, let me critically examine the points mentioned herein above, one by one.

  7. First and foremost, there is the economics question of levying interest on money lent or borrowed. If this interest is prohibited, the entire banking business, as it now stands, would come to a grinding halt. Some Islamic countries have obviated this problem by establishing what they call sharia-compliant banks. What these banks do is instead of lending money on interest as any other commercial bank does, they adopt other means like buying their clients’ requirements themselves and handing over these to their clients. For example, if a client wants to buy a residential flat, the bank will buy it and then give it to the client for use. The client then repays the bank in several instalments extending to a longish period of time. By the time all instalments get paid, the client ends up paying more than what the bank had paid originally for the flat. The difference could even be more than the total amount of interest that a commercial bank would have charged for the deal. So, the sharia-compliant bank gets its dues – not as interest, but as its margin of profit! There are other dubious ways in which such banks carry on their business by getting their dues anyhow, but nominally not as interest.

  8. But is it interest that Islam prohibits? This is the question that Muslims themselves have unfortunately failed to examine critically. Their religious leaders have said that the Qur’aan does not define Ar-Riba it prohibits. So these leaders have themselves defined it to include interest in its ambit. But the Qur’aan repeatedly reiterates that it explains or clarifies everything so that its edicts are easily and clearly understood and implemented by the common people (refer Qur’aanic Verses 6:38, 16:89, 18:1, 18:54, 41:3, 54:18, 57:17 and there are other such Verses besides). So all those who say that the Arabic term Ar-Riba is not defined in the Qur’aan, do in fact contradict the Book they consider divine and therefore incontrovertible.

  9. My studies of the Holy Book reveal that it does define the term Ar-Riba in Verse 30:39. I have detailed my findings in the book ISLAM AND INTEREST, the first chapter What is Ar-Riba of which explains how the said Qur’aanic Verse defines the term as gain that any party to a transaction contrives or manipulates to get by usurping the rightful dues, earnings or possessions of others. It is this Ar-Riba so defined – and not interest per se – that is prohibited in Islam.

  10. As regards homosexuality, one need not be extraordinarily knowledgeable to understand that Nature has imbued the sexual urge in living beings for the specific purpose of propagating their respective species. Normally, this sexual urge is heterosexual between males and females, the two being suitably fashioned for playing their respective roles in propagation of the species. In such a circumstance, sexual attraction between two persons of the same sex is obviously an aberration. So long as this aberration remains shrouded in privacy, the society in general need not be proactively antagonistic, but if it is practised openly and aggressively, society can ill afford to simply sit back and wait for its inevitable ill effects. The Qur’aan speaks of the destruction of the ancient people of Lot, as those people had become aggressively homosexual en masse. It would be wrong to condone this aberration as an individual’s natural inclination or orientation. One could then even say that an individual is naturally inclined or oriented to have sexual relations with all sexually attractive individuals of the other sex. But human society, as we know it, cannot bear the burden of such unbridled heterosexual relations. It will no longer remain human. Homosexuality, if unchecked, too has similarly the potential to destroy human society.

  11. As regards the point raised in paragraph 4 above, it is essentially an offshoot of the belief in a super-intelligent Creator of the entire universe and of all things therein. Being the Creator, He has absolute control over every item of His creation. Naturally, those who do not have this belief, condemn it as mere superstition. The inevitable question then that arises is as to why one should have a belief in such Creator. It is a vast subject, which can only be dealt with in no less than a book. Let me then present you the online booklet WHY DO I BELIEVE IN ISLAM. I have tried therein to deal with this question here as succinctly and briefly as possible. Human knowledge is pitiably limited. It cannot provide answers to many, many things that happen. A renowned scientist had once admitted that what scientists are doing is just pick up some pebbles in the vast seashore of knowledge. They are in no position to predict accurately when, why, where and how strongly an earthquake will happen next. In the dismal absence of such wherewithal, mankind cannot but believe in what the Creator says in revealed Scriptures.

  12. The Qur’aanic Verse 5:38 prescribes hand-cutting of a thief as an exemplary punishment from the Wise Creator. In view of the very next Verse 5:39, this punishment is to be meted out only to such an incorrigible thief who is unrepentant for his crime or indulges in it repeatedly despite declaring his repentance of earlier crimes. The punishment to such a thief has necessarily to be exemplary, so that others, seeing his amputated arm, are effectively discouraged from committing the crime. Modern-day governments, in the name of humanitarianism, have very light penal provisions of imprisonment for a limited period. A hardened criminal takes it in his stride, goes to prison, and duly resumes his criminal activity afresh after being released. And, with his ill-gotten wealth, he may grease the palms of the police, and thus evade imprisonment again. And seeing his apparent prosperity, others may emulate him. Allah-given law is always better than man-made laws. So is the Allah-given penal provision of giving lashes to a person indulging in adultery! This latter punishment is to be meted out in public. The shame of such a punishment would be an effective deterrent for anyone inclined to commit the offence. And remember, the crime, to deserve this punishment, has to be so openly committed as to provide witnesses thereto!

  13. A family constitutes the basic unit of society. The Qur’aan confers on the husband the position of the head of this unit. One cannot but admit that it is a natural conferment in view of the undeniable fact that he has been endowed with a greater physical strength than the wife. The Qur’aan, however, makes it abundantly clear that the wife has rights over the husband just as the husband has over her. The husband’s authority is only a shade above the wife’s just as the prime minister, in a parliamentary form of government, has over other ministers. This slight difference in their respective powers is essential for the smooth conduct of affairs within this basic unit of society.

  14. Along with the conferment as head of the family, the Qur’aan puts the responsibility of adequately providing for the entire needs of the family on the shoulders of the husband. That is even when the wife may have her own source of income! In the circumstance, it serves due ends of justice for a man to have a greater share in ancestral property than a woman.

  15. The Qur’aan, moreover, generally envisages a distinct division of work between a man and a woman. And their bodies are suitably fashioned accordingly. This does not mean that a woman cannot do a man’s job. She can, but the divine scheme apparently is to make it an exception rather than the rule. In the divine scheme of things, giving evidence on anything, monetarily related or otherwise, is normally a man’s job. A woman comes in only as an exception. It is only in such a situation, where she is obliged to do a thing to which she is not accustomed to, another woman is brought in as an additional help.

  16. Once when I was hospitalised for some ailment, the doctor remarked that the count of my white blood corpuscles (wbc) was high and that it was a worrisome factor. I couldn’t understand. The wbc is the body’s defence mechanism. The more, the better, I said. The doctor laughed at my ignorance and informed me that the higher wbc count was indicative of greater infection. God is ingenious, he told me.

  17. Allah is indeed ingenious. But the trouble is, man thinks he is more ingenious!

Mohammad Shafi

Author of QUR’AANIC STUDIES

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