Critical thinking: the new antidote to the parts of the Muslim community. The Muslim community, a diverse population consisting of various cultures, ethnicities and of course highly heterogeneous beliefs! When it comes to Muslims we are no different to our Christian counterparts in this regard who also differ in certain aspects of theological beliefs and divine law. However, one common factor that opposing sects share is the fear of absolute critical thinking. Of course, we have some Muslim Theologians that impressively challenge the discourse, but my focus are the narrow-minded Muslim leaders and the actual communities themselves, I mean…from the dude in the local mosque to your own mother.
A couple of months ago I took part in a Muslim gathering, a very lovely and welcoming gathering! This group presented Islam in a very beautiful way there is no dispute there. However, the issue arose when a BBC documentary aired regarding Muslim girls leaving Islam in the UK. The members of the Muslim group attested that no one should watch this, especially younger girls, they even cited this would encourage their girls to ‘question the deen’…. ironically our religion invokes reasoning. My experiences with some individuals my age is no different, while they may be the kindest and loveliest, when I attempted to challenge concepts of the Hijab, the concept of the afterlife or any other theological issue they instantly became uncomfortable and shut down the conversation. Therefore, I firmly believe from these experiences and many others that individuals who aim to question or rationalize aspects of scholarly interpretations of Islam are side-lined and deemed ‘influenced by the West’. Let me give you an example, when Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (Pakistani scholar and philosopher) questioned the second coming of Jesus on various occasions he was met with hostility from the majority of the Pakistani community, with many verbally attacking and threatening him. Unfortunately, he had to emigrate for his own safety. Bear in mind, he is a Sunni Muslim possessing majority of the mainstream Islamic beliefs, but due to his logical reasoning on a few grey areas he was forced to exile.
Why do questions scare people? They scare those who have weak foundations in their faith. They scare those who want to silence academic discourse. They scare those who wish to remain in a box.
Muslim women’s rights Activists face no different treatment. The silencing of women even within South Asia is rife. When speaking to Pakistani women regarding their status, some firmly believed they were less important compared to men in general, some believed veiling was a method to deter sexual abuse and this has no actual Quranic basis, this constant misogyny is derived from some patriarchal power hungry maulana preaching sexist ideals on his mimbar. From this very method is how the vast population of women feel entitled to less rights due to their fear and obedience to male religious clergy as they feel sinful for even doubting their fatwas or ideas.
On the 13th of April, a Pakistani student and activist with enlightened ideals, named Mashal Khan was publicly lynched, flogged and mutilated, with his body immersed in blood by his classmates accusing him of blasphemy. Just based on a fake allegation this disastrous human rights violation occurred. Mashal’s close friend claimed that during class Mashal would always ask questions of religious topics and socio-economic issues. One key question he once asked was regarding Adam and Eve, whether their offspring resorted to incest to induce reproduction of succeeding generations. His classmates began to target him due to his constant reasoning of Islamic text and his belief in class equality and women’s rights. Who knew, this young man’s questions would result in his lynching one day.
Not too far away from me, a Scottish shopkeeper named Asad Shah, a beloved integrated community member from Glasgow and the Ahmadi Muslim community, was repeatedly stabbed and murdered in 2016 by a so called ‘Muslim’ who believed it was his duty to murder the ‘blasphemer’. The Ahmadi community believe in a different interpretation of Islam starkly contrasting mainstream Sunni ideals of the coming of Jesus and the finality of prophethood.
When then room for questioning is shut down, individuals are accustomed to a lack of dialogue with different people and beliefs, harbouring suspicion and deep-rooted hate. Therefore, shutting down questions is the initiation and proliferation of more bigotry and ignorance. Of course, the example of Mashal Khan and Asad Shah are on the extreme end of the spectrum, but lack of tolerance and freedom of thinking results in the slippery slope to hatred.
Islam is very straightforward. A religion that taught man to open their eyes and minds, a religion of Ijtihad (reasoning) and questioning. Our path forward is free thinking, knowing that the only way to understand God, this universe, this life and our rights is through Questioning.
Thanks for reading,
Quran [20:114] High above all is Allah, the King, the Truth. Do not be in haste with the Qur’an before its revelation to you is completed, but say, “O my Sustainer! Increase my knowledge.”