POWER OF PEACE | Daily News

POWER OF PEACE

As a professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University in northern California, USA, I enjoyed teaching a course entitled, “The Politics of Religion.” The simple and crude hypothesis focused on the presumption that how a particular religion made decisions, that affected the whole community of faith (“politics”), determined what adherents believed. In field testing this presumption by my students in churches, synagogues, and mosques, this premise proved to be a highly relevant insight.

When on sabbatical in Bandung, Java, Indonesia, I was asked by the members of the Rotary Club to speak to them on “Why the USA invaded Iraq after Iraq invaded Kuwait.” I confessed that I had no idea why, but suspected that it had something to do with oil. Instead, I offered to talk on what a “Muslim Peace” might look like. They wondered, with interest, what I meant. “Give me twenty minutes at your next meeting and I’ll explain.” They agreed and I spoke.

The presentation evolved from my course on religious decision-making, but the model in Islam had never been articulated. Drawing upon two of the pillars of Islam, Charity and the Hajj, I outlined a behavioural path that creates Islam. As a community of faith, an aggregate of individual Muslims, responding to the Qur’an becomes Islam.

Origins of Islam

Unlike other major religions, Sunni Muslims, the dominant majority of Muslims, do not have clergy priests or a theological hierarchy. Consequently, they rely on individual Muslims to act out their understanding of the Qur’an. The hadith, the comments and the behaviours of the Prophet Muhammad, serves as a behavioural prompt for believers. Much of it has been written down, some confirmed by the earliest companions of the Prophet, Others have been manufactured by latter-day zealots who, otherwise, had no authority to speak on the topic. (In Christianity, the populist assertion, “What would Jesus do?” serves this same latter function.) The Qur’an, however, stands alone as the revealed word of The God (Allah) and cannot be denigrated by false assumptions. As a result, the practices of the faithful in aggregate make manifest a tentative, contemporary meaning of Islam.

Thus, as a living faith, Islam exists as a behavioural witness of those who submit to the One God and act to make it manifest in the world. Islam in our world becomes a social plasma of human interpretations that, like the null hypothesis in science, evokes new insights but lacks the reassuring validation of being isomorphic with the teachings in the Qur’an. Consequently, four schools of hypothesizers have emerged to justify which behaviours can claim the greatest legitimacy. Without further revelations, they presume but do not even attain the level of law. The contradictions between the four schools serve to affirm that their interpretations remain inferences. They lack the authority of anything like canon law in Christianity.

Sunni Muslims hold that a Muslim must adhere to the Revelation in the Qur’an and not to interpret it to accommodate local circumstances. How then does one know what constitutes good Muslim behaviour in all circumstances? Islam itself split on this issue.

The Shia Muslims distrusted adhocracy and wanted more continuity and balance in the interpretation of the Qur’an after the death of the Prophet. They sought to give the power of hadith, to the practices of those who were descended from the Prophet.

When the two interpretations clashed, a war broke out with the Sunni Umayyad Dynasty in Damascus and the Meccans allied with the Caliph Ali, a cousin of the Prophet, who married Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, and produced two sons, Hassan and Hussain.

The Umayyads won the battle. All was defeated; Fatima was captured and returned, but such an abduction in Arab customs constituted statutory rape. Overwhelmed by force and humiliated as a man, Ali lost all legitimacy and Sunni Muslims in Damascus triumphed.

To remove any future Shi’a possibilities, the Syrians pursued the two grandsons of the Prophet, who with their religious teachers had fled to the East. One was captured in Iraq and the other in Iran. Both boys were martyred. The dynastic line of the Prophet thus was expunged from Islam.

The “sore losers,” nevertheless, remained as Shi’a Muslims loyal to the family of Caliph Ali and Fatima—a minority. The dominating Sunni majority celebrated their defence of the Qur’an. Both of the factions remained alienated from each other. The extremists in each faction believed they could and must purge heretics within the community by murdering them. This persists even today.

Islam today

A Muslim Peace must overcome this historical tragedy, to deserve any legitimacy. For thirteen centuries, this has not occurred. Adherents in both Muslim camps Insist that the alienation must remain.

As a non-Muslim, a Protestant Christian--Lutheran--I have also seen the same schisms in Christianity and Judaism. I have no standing among Muslims. Consequently, I claim no authority from the schools of religious law, but merely propose to show the absurdity of self-righteousness in all Semitic religions. Peace, as a reconciliation across all three major Semitic faiths, can be attained if we shift from dogma, history, and certainty to see the obvious behavioural alternatives.

Make no mistake, I focus on Islam, not as a target, but as a model that has within it the capacity to create such a universal reconciliation.

Peace is not the absence of war, but the discovery of a more abundant life worth sustaining. Hoarding the traditions as hardened norms prevent the reconciliation sought and merely preserves the status quo as superior. Unmoved by its unacknowledged failures, the orthodoxies persist in defending, not the faith, but their versions of it.

Let us begin to reveal what a Muslim Peace would look like as an attempt to liberate the Qur’an from its various captors.

The new context for recreating Islam emerges out of the community of Muslims (The name, “Muslim,” translates as “One who submits to the One God.”) Islam is the plural social manifestation of the Qur’an made manifest in the behaviour of all.

Charity

To be a good Muslim, one must give of his/her time and treasure to those in need. The poor and handicapped may respond by consoling and helping to find a solution to the need by redefining and clarifying the actual need. Others may have insight and means to answer legitimate cries for help.

To identify fraudulent prayers, all faithful responders should clarify the needs, then discover their actual wants. The proper response to those persons who plea for help, but have not addressed their actual needs, thus, is “No.” Suggest that they seek help elsewhere. The act of answering prayers of the needy makes Muslims servants of Allah, the One God. Those who deceive themselves and the servants of The God shall bear the burden of the false witness of their need.

On hearing the prayers, the rich Muslims may first react by deciding that it is too costly to come to the mosque on Friday and revert to private prayers, instead. Thus, they alienate themselves from the Family of the One God, the Plural Manifestation of Islam--a community of faith that by its behaviour makes manifest to all the meanings in the Qur’an.

Like the poor and handicapped, they can take the steps necessary to faithfully answer the need. Charity, however, is not a token gift, but a meaningful act of giving to another in need. The benefits become shared by both the giver and the receiver. It transforms both lives to be in harmony with the Revelations in the Qur’an.

In this light, the giver becomes someone similar to the Good Samaritan (a non-Jew, non-Hebrew, and non-Israeli) who did according to the Christian Bible, what any practising good Jew should be doing.

The Hajj

Middle-Class Muslims, the majority, suffer from ritualizing their faith by making it routine. Moving beyond routine makes them uncomfortable. Responding to a real need draw them off their pedestals of faith and makes them behaviorally unique and socially beneficial.

For all who take the steps from where they are, to where they are needed become meaningfully helpful in the lives of others. They undergo a “hajj,” not The Hajj, The Pilgrimage to Mecca, but they become “pilgrims” of the faith. This small step unites all Muslims in an Islam that is One and the Same-One God-One Whole Community.

Behaviour-not belief alone-defines the community. Failing to act sustains disbelief, but does not damn the non-participant but leaves them isolated and inadequately defined-a Muslim in name only.

Consider, therefore, life with a beginning and an end as a journey of discovery (a hajj) and not a test of faith. A life lived in a family greater than your own immediate tribe becomes a more abundant form of life.

Having elaborated the means to create a more abundant and meaningfully real community of Islam, let us now use it as the tool to bring Peace to the world.

Peace on Earth

As a student travelling home through the Middle East, I spent several days in Teheran walking among the Iranians. To rest, I would go into a mosque, as was my practice in all Muslim-majority nations, and sit quietly.

In Teheran, a mullah approached me and asked in English, “What was I doing here?” I responded: ‘This is a house of prayer, a place of peace. I have come to rest in its shadow.” He said nothing but quietly walked away.

Like the Prophet’s home in Medina, the first mosques were “homes” for the faithful—a place to gather, socialize and pray. Here too, Islam becomes socially manifest. As the congregation of the faithful relates to each other and spills out into the larger community, the Peace of the Mosque becomes a model of peace for the larger community.

As discussed above, schisms destroy and break apart the communities of faith. The two main factions of Islam, Sunni and Shi’a--many more if you include the Sufi’s and the other Semitic religions, Judaism and Christianity--build walls of dogma and rules of behaviour to prevent the common reunion as the One Body in the One God, i.e., Allah. All should be reconciled, but we must start at the core and work out to the perimeter, starting with the reconciliation of Shi’a and Sunni Muslims.

Sunni and Shi’a Become One in a Community of Prayer

The break that separates them has been sealed with blood and violence, now is the time to heal the wounds with prayers.

If an unknown Shi’a enters a Sunni Mosque will an imam confront him/her and turn them away? From my experience, they never did that to me. (Increasingly, however, mosques in Europe ban non-Muslims from entering.) Not all Muslims on Friday come and pray together. They are kept away for lesser reasons. Why then block the path for those who come willingly?

If my Shi’a Muslim does enter and participate in the prayers, and responds to the last prayer that he/she hears, and takes the few steps in a hajj to respond to his/her fellow Muslim’s need, he/she becomes a participant in the community of Islam: One God/One Faith.

No one may brand them as heretics and raise a hand to purge them from the community. Whereas the Shi’a Ayatollahs, mullahs, and imams all use Plato’s deductive logic to interpret the meaning of the Qur’an, they do not define Islam, but merely satisfy themselves, and thus remain alienated from interacting in the wider community of faith. Therefore, do not declare them heretics, but recognize them as “alienated Muslims” who need deductive logic to fulfil their need for a faith that they can understand.

No one purifies Islam by killing an alienated Muslim, but merely reduces their number and re-enforces yet another reason for them to remain alienated.

Tolerance does not weaken Islam but allows the alienated to rethink and reunite. Forgiveness equals acceptance; purging them poisons the life-giving waters. Intolerance prevents the more abundant life as one community with one God.

Similarly, what happens if a Christian – even an Israeli Jew – enters the mosque to pray? First, they do not know how to pray as a Muslim and become immediately visible. Since many mosques segregate women from men, likewise they will need to reserve space in the mosque for “People of the Book, as well.” In the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the Tomb of John, The Baptist, a cousin of Jesus, and a sacred shrine to both Jews, Christians, and Muslims has a space reserved for it within the Great Mosque.

Who would dare come to pray with Muslims? Only the brave, adventurous and innocent. Non-conformity in the manner of praying does not equate with heresy. Consequently, tolerance within the faith makes Islam the family of the One God, Allah. It becomes obvious that in contrast to other Semitic faiths, the assertion that others are wrong and not welcome to come to pray is itself the heresy.

Given the polarization of “disbelief’s”, however, some may come with malice and hatred. In any hajj, a Christian, Jew or Muslim must be properly dressed in white robes with no pockets or possessions, i.e., as pilgrims. Outside the precincts of the mosque accommodation for “People of the Book” to change, store their possession and don the robes of the pilgrim need to be developed. Then they would be free to wash and enter the mosque.

As with all Muslims, Shi’s and Sunni, now all who come to pray, and respond to those pleas voiced in the final prayers become faithful participants within the Community of Islam. No membership card, no Baptism, no circumcision but a participant in the Family of Allah. Ali cum Salam is realized if we “Just do it!” Nike sells sports clothes with this slogan, but if all Muslims did it, we would create peace.

The Family of the One God Foundation

By establishing “Family of the One God Foundation,” it gives to those who practice their faiths, the opportunity to sustain and to re-establish as in Islam a plural rendering of their faiths. It provides a means to achieve this, first, through the sharing of their individual talents and, second, sustains it through reciprocated economic sharing. The Foundation, thus, creates a micro-finance resource that supports the answering of prayers by caring believers who act to satisfy the voiced prayers of the need expressed aloud in their unique congregations.

The Foundation establishes an economic reserve fund at the Amana Bank that charges no interest on the loans granted to those in need, on the condition that they or their friends and family will replenish the amount so that others may benefit from it as they have.

The loans thus, do not generate profit nor extort interest. but serve to answer legitimate prayers. When uttered in the mosque, church, or synagogue they become the revenue of faith. All defaults, thus, become a loss to the faith. Eventually, if the reserves erode to nothing, it serves as a warning to the faithful that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism themselves can dissolve from indifference and neglect, as well. Thus, the Foundation serves, not as a memorial gift, but as a measure of the viability of these faiths in the lives of all peoples.

The failure of one unable to restore the debt has two causes:

* No one in the community came to help, and as a last resort, the needy prolonged their lives only to default in their ability to generate the amount owed. There are no real defaults, but the only evidence of the extent of indifference in the community of faiths.

* To remain a living faith, all Semitic faiths must sustain themselves in the real world--a larger, indifferent community--if they wish to establish the community of the One God on earth as it is in Heaven. 


 

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