Thursday, August 21, 2014

Getting to the Crux of the Matter

The problem with Islam is that it sees itself as the final revelation that replaces and thereby supersedes the monotheistic understandings of earlier theologies (Judaism and Christianity). While Christianity went through a similar phase during the dark, medieval and early renaissance periods this initiative lost steam with the passage of the reformation, enlightenment and nationalistic phases that characterized western history.

 The Religious Wars, the French Revolution and Germany’s Kulturkampf negated clerical zeal replacing it temporarily with excessive nationalism and destructive socialism that culminated in the two world wars. However it also allowed as well in the long term for the necessary growth of liberal democracy and free markets that have guaranteed the standard of living and openness to debate that we enjoy today.

 Islam in a sense remained frozen in time, wedded to an ideology grounded in medieval simplicity, it essentially escaped the age of reason and now struggles as an unwanted anachronism in the modern world. Unlike Judaism and Christianity, which have opened themselves up to critical intellectual interpretation, Islam continues to resist this trend.

 While there are a select few who have tried with an honesty to breach this barrier, the bulk of the discourse and certainly its mainstream voice is dominated by an orthodoxy not far removed from the expansionist belief that characterized Islam’s rapid ascendancy in the latter part of the first millennium. However as a belief system, Islam does bring in some positive attributes from Judaism and Christianity. It incorporated into its ethos charity and prayer both of which have origins in the Torah and it does champion equality before God.

 Where I think Islam deviates most from the other two religions is in its central core teaching of submission. In fact the word Islam means submission. This is a dangerous tenet, in that it discourages questioning of God, the necessary wrestling with the higher power that Abraham, Jacob and Moses exemplified. It is in this wrestling that we most exercise our free will, the philosophical notion that makes us human.

 The first great initiative in a real Islamic revolution would be to reject the submission notion, a necessary step towards clear thought and enlightenment.
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