Islam has become a huge question mark in recent sociopolitical debates. Is Islam a religion of peace or a religion of war? Does Islam promote hatred and all forms of perversion? Is it a religion that justifies terrorism? Is Islam inherently weak and will it bring its own downfall? There is no doubt that certain concepts of Islam are severely problematic like Jihad, subjugation of women, polygamy. The Prophet seems to have at times expressed aggression through the Quran and there are pages devoted to glorifying war or Jihad. We know violence sells as this is a base instinct and is it because of this that the Quran is so popular, because it feeds not on the higher ideals but on the baser instincts of humans? Possibly not.
Islam is like any other religion, a religion that searches for peace and social order. The Quran emphasizes on the Oneness of God and this is one of the very ideals in the Quran that seems to have placed it among the world’s most popular and higher religions. But the Quran might come as a shock to most people as it seems to be the most belligerent of all religious texts that glorifies war and polygamy. Do you call this a religious text? To answer this, maybe we have to understand the Quran in its historical context. The Prophet himself had a life of war and strife, he had his own struggles and composed the words of God according to his perspective. He was a human and like every other human he had his flaws and this was reflected in a possible lack of foresight that the Quran could be used to justify violence, aggression and hatred in an otherwise civilized society. But we cannot blame the Prophet or Islam, just like we cannot blame the Bible for glorifying miracles, phenomena considered absolutely unscientific. Every single religion has its flaws but we cannot blame religions, they have to be examined from a historical perspective and it is our fault if we cannot move forward and transform religions according to our social context and the need of our times. Religions are the pillars of all forms of knowledge and we have to save the wisdom of religions but in a different and contemporary form. The West has been considerably fortunate as scientists like Galileo and Newton have helped us moved beyond Christianity for that matter and there has been phenomenal social progress because scientific revolution has been possible. Yet the Muslim world is stuck in the traditional philosophy of the Prophet and instead of Einstein and Newton, we have Bin Laden and terrorist groups, here civilization seems to be moving backwards. In the West, religion has led to science, in the Middle East religion has led to terrorism. Is the flaw too deep and too dangerous in the Quran? An eradication of the religion is no solution as there are more than a billion Muslims in this world and the Quran has a lot of good to offer to this world. The only solution may be to save the religion in a contemporary form that is more appropriate for a civilized harmonious society. The political systems of several Muslim countries are based on the Quran and this is where a sociopolitical reform may be necessary, the concept of an ‘Islamic State’ is wrong and detrimental to social progress. Like a scientific revolution in the West, we need a sociopolitical revolution in the Middle East and the Muslim countries and political and education systems will have to move beyond the Quran. We also need religious discussions and possibly a centralized organisation in the Muslim world that would moderate all forms of extremism. Islam today is controlled by illiterate terrorists, yet it has to be controlled by scholars who should emphasize on the higher ideals in the Quran such as the Oneness of God and ultimate social order rather than focusing on the flaws such as Jihad and polygamy. The best of Quran has to be drawn out as against the worst that has been successfully usurped and adapted by terrorists.
Islam is the most vulnerable of all religions, it has too many weaknesses and can easily be misrepresented and become the manual of fanatics, anti-socials and criminals, albeit in a perverted form. Considering a historical sketch, many wars have been caused by Islamic fanatics and fundamentalists. Intolerance maybe one of the basic tenets that some people seem to learn from the Quran but Quran has also called upon tolerance for all other religious texts. It is unfortunate for the Prophet, that his teachings are abused and that the flaws in the Quran seem to have simply eclipsed all the higher ideals that he tried to establish. Today the Prophet is primarily recognized for his flaws and Islam is considered a religion that promotes and spreads hatred. Islamic fundamentalism stems from the traditions of Abd-al-Wahab although Wahab had himself focused on higher ideals of the Quran. Islamic fundamentalism is a trend among some Ayatollahs and clerics who seem to be intolerant of any transformation or change in the religion. Fundamentalists are found in every historical period and in every religion, they are the ones who adhere too strongly to their religion and are resistant to change or any form of social or spiritual progress for that matter, religion provides them with a basic sense of security which they are not ready to give up. Fundamentalists are adherents of their faith, they do not have a motive to go against the purpose of religions but they do hinder social progress. Yet fundamentalists are not terrorists.
This is a relatively new phenomenon and a radical departure from the purposes of Islam justifying the means (or war) rather than the end (peace and social order). Terrorism has defeated the purposes of Islam in a definite way by blowing the aggression out of proportion. Elements of aggression are also present in other religious texts like say the Bhagavad Gita, but if illiterate unwise individuals exaggerate this, any religion will begin to crumble. Islamic terrorism is largely based on a different terrorist philosophy which uses certain concepts from the Quran to appeal to religious sentiments but terrorism is not Islam. Terrorism has its roots on the flaws of Islam rather than Islam itself. Suppose, if anyone begins a group that promotes and glorifies miracles in Christianity and considers science as utter nonsense, would you call this group as representing Christianity? Of course, not. In a similar manner, you can’t say that terrorism represents Islam. Then how do you justify fanatics and terrorists and their mindless indiscriminate killing that seem to be based on the teachings of the Quran? These terrorists are purely criminals and anti-socials, they are not Muslims, they are not following the entire Quran but simply using the weaknesses in the Quran to justify their own goals. Islamic fanaticism and terrorism thrives so wonderfully simply because Islam is too flawed and too vulnerable for the modern civilized world and also hugely misunderstood and it is necessary that scholars establish a platform for debates and discussion, so that Muslims can begin to move beyond their religion towards social progress rather than destroying it completely through terrorism and fundamentalism.