Understanding Islam, not envying it

Maswood Alam Khan
A catholic by faith, the great playwright George Bernard Shaw, who had influenced the literary world in the later part of the 19th century and the earlier part of the 20th century and who is the only person awarded both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar for his contributions to literature and also to the film industry, in his opinion on Islam said: “I have always held the religion of Muhammad (PBUH) in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make it appeal to every age. I have studied him: the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness.” This quote of Bernard Shaw was cited by many scholars as being from Genuine Islam, Vol. I. No. 8 (1936).

Since 1936, many activists who perhaps felt uncomfortable with this citation glorifying Islam have been trying their best to term this quote as a kind of a “religious spam” and to prove their point of contention. They are also saying that the volume of “Genuine Islam” is not there even in the US Library of Congress catalogue, which covers most literature published in English. It is a mystery how this particular volume of “Genuine Islam” had grown legs and walked out of the Library of Congress premises!

However, that the quote is genuine can be cross-verified in many scholastic publications and the particular volume of “Genuine Islam”, before it grows walking legs, can still be found in the New York Public Library (NYPL) (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd Street & 5th Avenue, Main Reading Room [# 315], General Research Section). One may also visit the relevant link to the NYPL catalogue: http://catalog.nypl.org/ record=b15024015, before the link is killed or is mysteriously vanished into smoke.

It is quite understandable that the beauty of Islam, the unparalleled ideals left behind by the last Prophet of Islam and the universality of religious experience derived from the holy book of Quran are causing a lot of heartburns to a great number of people who do not practise religion in its true perspective. When hundreds of people are being impressed by the magnanimity of Islam and are embracing Islam as their religion, some quarters are horrified thinking that the renaissance of Islam will soon eclipse all other faiths under the sun. That they envy Islam is quite palpable.

Only 147 years back, on April 8, 1864, the 13th Amendment to the American Constitution was passed abolishing slavery in the United States. And only 91 years back, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the American Constitution was finally ratified, declaring for the first time that women, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. It took American activists and reformers hundreds of years before slaves were freed and women were granted their rights on a par with all American men.

On the other hand, about 1500 years back Islam freed the slaves and the women and guaranteed their rights on a par with all men. Islam first taught the civilization that all men and women are equal human beings and nobody is subservient to anybody.

No wonder a madcap named Terry Jones held a self-styled mock trial on March 20 at Gainesville in Florida, where as a judge presiding over a jury of 12 nuts, he found the Muslims’ holiest book Quran guilty of crimes and pronounced his judgment to set fire to the holy book. Another crackpot named Wayne Sapp ignited a kerosene-drenched copy of the holy Quran with a lighter. Members of a church where not more than a dozen Christians attend services watched the book burn and finally Jones in glee says: “That actually burned quite well.”

It is not difficult to understand why Terry Jones did this act. Terry envied Islam and sought publicity. Not only Terry Jones! People bearing Muslim names like Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen also satiated their thirst for publicity by decrying Islam. There are people who would declare war against Islam because they are afraid of Islam’s growing popularity, especially after 9/11, and particularly after it has been clear that all the Jihadi activities are actually being orchestrated by not Muslims, but by the enemies of Islam who are funding quarters to indoctrinate some wayward Muslim fanatics to go for suicide missions (that are completely banned in Islam) in order to defame this beautiful religion and to spread Islamophobia.

Islam is a religion to guarantee peace in humanity. Anything that serves the humanity should be deemed Islamic. Allah, in the after-world, will judge us not only by what we have done inside our mosques or by our activities in our homes and in our workplaces but also by our motives. I am verily a sinner if I cock a gun and aim my gun to kill a man even if the released bullet, instead of killing the man, kills a tiger; but I am not a sinner if I cock a gun and aim my gun to kill a marauding tiger even if the released bullet, instead of killing the tiger, kills a man.

Had our last prophet been alive today he would undoubtedly have appreciated the emancipation of women all over the world, all the beauties of humanity and all the progress science has made possible to serve humanity.

If we ensure equal rights for our women in areas where women have long been discriminated against, if we ensure that television is instrumental in acquisition of knowledge for the service of humanity, if it is convenient for us to wear trousers, shirts and caps, instead of Arabian dresses and if it is reasonable for people living in polar zones (where the sun takes six months to set from the time of its rising) to keep fasting in accordance with the clock instead of watching sun rising and setting, no Muslim, who believes in the true spirit of Islam, should stand in the way of women getting their rights equal to men, our viewing televisions, our wearing trousers and shirts instead of Arabian dresses or of people living in polar regions keeping their fasting during Ramadan by the time of the clock instead of by the sun’s movement in the sky.

(The writer writes from Washington DC, USA and can be reached at e-mail: maswood@hotmail.com)


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