Too often I hear questions posed that imbed what might be unhelpful assumptions:
What does the Qur’an say about sin, free will, the nature of believers and unbelievers, etc.?
What is the basic psychology of the Muslim mind?
According to the Qur’an, should Muslims kill Christians?
What was the character of Muhammad?
What laws actually make up Shari’ah?
As a philosopher, I immediately begin to consider whether questions such as these assume as fact what may not be fact. For example…
Is there a single discernible position within the Qur’an about sin, free will, the nature of believers and unbelievers, etc.?
Is there a single discernible Muslim mind such that accurate generalizations about it can be reliably described?
Is there a single unarguable decontextualized position within the Qur’an about whether Muslims can justifiably kill Christians?
Was Muhammad a flat, consistent character or was he, what in literature would be called a round character, namely, a multidimensional character with growing trends and contradictions in various situations and in differing times?
Is there a monolithic, agreed upon authoritative voice among Muslims about what laws constitute Shari’ah, or are there multiple voices that have similarities and differences.
What Americans Don’t Understand About Charlie Hebdo
It seems that many in the West still haven’t caught on. Eastern thinking people will defend their honor. One of the worst things you can do to them is to bring dishonor or ridicule on them. In the case of Muslims, they uphold the belief that “with blood I can wash my shame away” (Abu Tammam). As such, when they are ridiculed in the western press, especially through cartoons that stereotype and ridicule them, they feel justified in their violent reaction. No amount of clamoring about freedom of speech will change this. It only makes Muslims more determined to bring Islam to Europe, so that the ridiculing and bullying will stop.
If I published a cartoon that criticizes a well-known person, perhaps making him out to be a pedophile, without any truth behind it, I should expect to be sued for liable. So if a Muslim feels his honor, and the honor of his religion, and the honor of his prophet have been robbed of him by someone’s libelous actions, how does he get the shame removed and honor restored? We do not think of this in our western society. Winning a court case may make some feel somewhat justified, but their reputation will have been forever damaged. Islam’s answer is: this is so important, that it is worthy of a death sentence. So when the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo published their cartoons, they committed an error worthy of the death penalty in some parts of the world. Unfortunately for them, people of that persuasion lived in their own country, and in their own city. Many Muslims just shrug and say: “They brought it on themselves.”
Although men and women are spiritually equal before God they have different functions and responsibilities. There are four ways in which the primacy of men over women is affirmed in the Qur’an: (1) man is physically stronger (Q 2:228); (2) men may discipline their wives (Q 4:34); (3) in a legal situation. In the 1980s there was much debate in Pakistan as to whether in a court of law the testimony of one man is equaled by the testimony of two women or of one woman. In the end it was decided that in each case the judge would decide – a solution which pleased neither the fundamentalists nor the liberals. The question of evidence in court stems from one particular Quranic verse ( 2:282). However, Muslims put a very high store on the Hadith or Traditions. Some hadith raise interesting questions about the position of women. Aisha, one of Muhammad’s wives, was not happy about being categorized with dogs. Bukhari, in his collection of Hadith (Vol.2, 135) records that Muhammad said that “Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people). I said you have made us (i.e. women) dogs.” (4) Finally, in the matter of inheritance (Q 4:11). Generally a daughter inherits half of what would come to her brother. The rationale is that the son has greater economic responsibilities. “Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God has gifted the one…
Can you trust your Muslim neighbor during this month of Ramadan (and beyond), when they show kindness to you? How should you respond if they invite you to an iftar (the breaking of the fast at the end of each day) this month?
The argument goes that we cannot trust in the good faith of any Muslim among us, since Islam permits them to dissimulate their real intentions at their leisure. This belief is held particularly by those nonMuslims convinced that Islam has the intention eventually to conquer the world. But is the fear factor triggered by such understandings justified?