The last post redirected into an entirely different discussion as the comments section often does. However, I feel that this topic deserves a post of its own. In many ways, it echoes this post I wrote when I was in my final days of Islam. I eventually, after several torturous weeks, decided to throw in the towel altogether. I gave up any belief in the Quran and the prophethood and along with the label of “Muslim”.
In the last post Sig left the following comment:
It is interesting to think about what labels we apply to us, and what meanings they hold and what a community or society at large says we are or aren’t, and what meaning that holds. There are people who call themselves “Muslim” who would not be considered thus by the mainstream sunni or shia or even some progressives. Are they still Muslims? Is a Muslim one who says he or she is? And my question always has been, if one rejects some of the core tenets of the faith, then why bother with the label unless it is for nostalgia or heritage? I think a lot of us – not all of us – go through a “still Muslim, but not like that…” phase. And then we get past it.
In response Zahura said this:
If someone says she’s a Muslim, let’s take her at her word. We can ask her why she chooses that label, what being a Muslim means to her, etc. To question all but conservative Muslims’ right to call themselves “Muslims” is what the conservatives do to everyone else. Why play into that?
Even though they seem to be on opposite ends of an argument I have to say I agree with both.
As we know labels are fluid and change and an individual rarely fits into any one box. If a person want to call themselves Muslim, no matter what they declare their beliefs to be, it’s not within my role, nor is it my responsibility to contend otherwise. However, labels are there to differentiate an individual from another; in other words, it is a name given based on certain descriptive characteristics. When one adopts a label, there must be a set of characteristics, beliefs, philosophy, etc, ascribed to the label, otherwise the label is meaningless. So when conservatives rail against progressives, and declare they are not Muslims, it’s because progressives seek to change the face of Islam. The underlying characteristics, the label, is threatened. When a progressive seeks to throw out 1500 years of scholarship, as well as the entire body of hadith (as some do), and seek out new and modern interpretations of the meaning of the Quran, it’s understandable that conservatives would think this philosophy falls outside of Islam, or in the very least see it as an imminent threat.
Because, to change something means you lose its original form. There has always been differing interpretation, rival schools of thought, and much variation in the fabric of Muslim societies. However, to my knowledge, the current “progressive” Islamic movement is the first organized group to ever seek to dispose of the hadith as a legitimate body of knowledge in Islamic jurisprudence. Nor, has any group collectively found such inventive reinterpretations of certain problematic verses such as the “wife beating verse” or the verse on homosexuality. These reinterpretations fit quite nicely into our modern values, but the question is, in my mind, is that truly how they were intended? Generally, when I read that dharaba means to separate and not to beat, or that the verse about Lut is speaking to rape and not sodomy, or that the verse about houris refers to golden raisins and not fair virgins with wide eyes, my gut feeling is that this is all wishful thinking; that’s not how they were intended, especially given the context and audience for which they were written. While I would like to see a more progressive, a “kinder and gentler” Islam gain ground, I don’t know that it is truly compatible with the verses contained in the Quran, and it certainly is not, in my opinion, compatible with the hadith. This is the source of my rejection with the “progressive” Islamic crowd, which left me no choice but to leave the faith entirely.
Which brings me to the nature of the Quran. The entire Islamic faith hinges on the assumption that the Quran is the direct and undisputed word of God. It is a revelation given directly to Muhammad from God through the angel Gabriel. This has to be true, otherwise Muhammad was not a prophet but a man with a propensity for verse among many in a society of poets. If one believes this to be the case, then it is an absolute duty to follow every letter of it. To believe it all to be true. This includes many concepts which might be hard for some to swallow such as the existence of jinn and black magic or even belief in a God who would constantly berate his creation with the threat of hellfire. While some verses may lend themselves to metaphor, others just do not, especially those addressing societal dealings such as inheritance laws, the necessity for two female witnesses in a financial contract, participation in riba, and certain dietary restrictions.
I think everyone can agree that the belief in one God, a profession of strict monotheism is a necessity in being Muslim. After that, the belief in the prophethood of Muhammad which implies belief in his divine revelation. I rejected the latter, and that was the catalyst for my apostacy. However, do you believe that is what is necessary to be a Muslim? If not, what else and why?