A Fils for Your Thoughts

July 26, 2008

Understanding Islam: Is Islam a Divine Religion?

Filed under: Understanding Islam — Haider @ 11:58 pm

I have already stated that, in order to understand Islam correctly, we must take into account the meaning God intended to convey to mankind, and the message brought by Prophet Muhammad as he understood it, and not as the Muslims understood it.

Our intention is to bridge the gap between the Muslims’ (and the non-Muslims’) understanding of Islam and the meaning God wants us to understand.

However, does this mean that we must begin with the assumption that Islam is a divine religion, and that God has conveyed it to Prophet Muhammad? What if someone, say a Christian, for example, doesn’t wish to base his understanding of Islam on such an assumption, but rather begins with the premise that Prophet Muhammad pretended to be a messenger to exercise (divine) authority over the Arabs. Can this serve as a starting point for the understanding of Islam?

The short answer is no. The long answer is also no.

Allow me to explain:

When you wish to understand the teachings of an individual, the validity of the teachings is besides the point. What you are trying to understand is how the individual himself understood his teachings, and what he was trying to convey.

We cannot say: Islam is what the Muslims believe, when what the Muslims believe conflicts with the understanding the founder of the religion had of the religion.

Similarly, you do not need to prove God’s existence in order to determine what God intends to convey through Islam. To understand Islam, you must form an understanding of what kind of deity is being presented in its teachings. Is the God of Islam a just God or an unjust God? If He is just, then we must interpret Islam’s teachings from that perspective (i.e. Islam cannot promote injustice, because the God of Islam is a just God).

Therefore, we need to form an understanding of what the attributes of the God of Islam are, so we can interpret Islam in a way consistent with His attributes. I will prove the validity of this approach further during our discussion of what the valid criteria for interpretation are.

To sum up, Islam is:

– The message God (i.e. the God of Islam) wants to convey to mankind

– The religion as Prophet Muhammad understood it

Our role is to determine what that message is and how it is to be understood correctly.

Understanding Islam: Islam and the Muslims

Filed under: Understanding Islam — Haider @ 11:33 pm

To begin our discussion about, and study of, Islam, it is important to begin with a definition. It seems that today Muslims are offering different definitions of what Islam means, such as “Peace” or “Submission to the will of God.” What interests us at this point is not the linguistic definition of the word “Islam.”

This is because the word itself carries a range of linguistic meanings. Besides, the book isn’t dedicated to the study of the word, but of the religion referred to by the word. However, the distinction I would like to make clear is this:

– Islam, which is what we are trying to reach a better understanding of, is not the religion the Muslims are practicing, but the message God wanted to convey to mankind through His messenger Muhammad

[whether Islam is, in fact, a divine religion, or Muhammad is a true prophet is irrelevant to the discussion, as I will explain in the next post]

– What the Muslims adhere to is their understanding of Islam, whether their understanding is correct or not. Therefore, when the Muslims disagree over an issue, or an interpretation of a verse, we cannot say that the verse has contradictory, yet equally valid, meanings. Where there is a dispute over the interpretation of a verse, some Muslims would have interpreted the verse incorrectly, and so their understanding of Islam is not consistent with the message God is trying to communicate to us. Their interpretation is not the divine message we must follow

To understand Islam, we must be able to draw a distinction between what the Muslims believe, and what God wants us to believe. The gap between the two is what we try to bridge by using a valid method of interpretation that can extract the meaning conveyed by God, without any distortion to that message.

And for us to do that, we must determine whether the approach the Muslims are using for the interpretation of Islam is valid in the first place, and how we can prove the faults in their approach to their understanding of Islam.

What is clear at this point is that, given the differences that exists amongst the Muslims, and the fact that one group rejects the interpretation of the other, we cannot accept what the Muslims believe is Islam to be Islam (as intended by God). In the least, not all the Muslims are correct in their interpretation, and we must be able to determine which groups amongst them have used a valid approach to the understanding of Islam, and which ones have not.

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