Religions are Back (A GOOD NEWS OR BAD NEWS?!)

This notes was taken from ORSAM seminars presented by Prof. DR. Şaban Ali Düzgün from Ankara University, Theology Faculty, Turkey focused on the topic: “Theology and Question of Violence”. Through this paper, perhaps the readers could test the knowledge and prejudice on religions properly. Some sentences had to be modifiedly developed to get proper insight—happy reading.

In recent days, easily people mind become ruined by disinformation caused by media or social life. People become disoriented or more—phobia. Disinformation channels and islamophobia created by some institutions, for instance: Donors Capital Fund, Fox news channel, David Horowitz freedom center, Washington times, the national review, Christian broadcast netwok and Clarion fund.

Let me bring you flash back to the ancient civilization, this description declared by Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett-Packard when she delivered her speech tied to Islam Civilization. There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world. It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.

One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.

And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.

Its writers created thousands of stories–stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things. When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.

While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization mentioned by Carly Fiorina was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.

Although, we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.

And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population–that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions. This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.

In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must focus on the importance of leadership– bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership.

Yes, human civilization once had the great prototype of balance life, achieved many success story either in social, politic, religion, knowledge, science or else. Then, today we face critical world full with many problems connected by religion and issue correlated with faith whether it’s pure related to religion or somehow being exaggerated by circumstance. The best explanation why many human problems directly interpreted nearby the religion is due to the Holy Book.

Holy book is one text, but different contexts. Holy scriptures can’t speak but their interpreters do on behalf of them. For instance, Quran was brought down by 23 years in two different period. Then, it’s normal if there are various interpretations. The same case with Bible, at least 4 kinds of Bible spread out among the believers. They interpret them within an interpretive context that geo-historically, geo-culturally and geo-politically rather different from one another. This is the reason why there are conflicts not just among those who believe and don’t, but among the members of the same holy text, as well.

What is more, we also have to know about three building blocks in religious tradition. These building blocks help us to understand why many problems cracked out even among same members of the same holy text. Three building blocks in a religious tradition are: First, the scripture that constructs and produces Muslim mind. Secondly, the mind that interprets the scripture and thus creates the theological tradition. And, finally, the actions that this mind has created throughout history and still creating which are called historical phenomena of Islam.

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The idea that the behavior of Muslims through all centuries and countries can be explained primarily by reference uniquely to their belief system is conceptualized as ‘essentialism,’ which stands outside the sphere of cultural influence and historical changes’. It is merely a tight relationship between Neo-Orientalism, Essentialism and Contingencies about Scripture and Muslims’ Behavior.

Paul Perry, an anti-Islam writer and the author of recent book entitled Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives have penetrated Washington, reported recently that a Pentagon intelligence agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), has embarked on a project to understand Islam by studying the Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammad, a typical essentialist position. Robert Spencer is another figure in this kind, propagating war on Islam, not terrorists. An alternative comes from contingencists. They reject any universalistic framework and prefer to focus on the ‘contingent’ realities that exist in each Islamic country or socio-political situation. Essentialists focus on Islam, while others on Muslims.

Undoubtedly, there are Two Conceptions of Islam: Islam of Identity and Islam of Truth. Islam of truth looks for common grounds among peoples, while Islam of identity isolate itself from others.

Islam of truth is logocentric (seeking the truth), while Islam of identity is nomocentric (seeking identiy). Islam of truth can coexist with other truths; Islam of identiy, however, is, by its very nature, belligerent and bellicose. It is the Islam of war, not the Islam of peace. Two identities would fight each other, while two truths would cooperate.

Islamists are identity seekers, while ‘ulamâ are truth seekers. For more than a century religion has been transformed into ideology, a tendency that is called Islamism and further jihadism. Contemporary fundamentalism owes much of its success to Islam’s scholarly vacuum. Since the first centuries of Islam, the ‘ulama have often sought to maintain a careful distance from the ruling elite, jealously guarding their institutions and practices. In this progression, in order to prevent religion being exploited politically, there must be a clear cut division between religion and politics.

To differentiate religious aims from those of state, Muslim methodologists like Ibn Qutayba, Qarafî and Shah Wali Ullah underlined four aspects of Prophet Muhammad:

  • Muhammad as a prophet (binding all muslims)
  • Muhammad as the head of Madinan city state (historical and does not bind all Muslims)
  • Muhammad as a judge (historical and does not bind all)
  • Muhammad as a fatwa ( religious decree) giver (His fatwâs bind all)

Based on the Quranic period, prophet Muhammad divided his approach to deliver the values of Islam into two different periods: Mecca and Madina. The Holy Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad in two phases—first in Mecca, where for thirteen years he and his followers were a besieged minority, and then in Medina, where the Prophet established a rule in a city filled with Jews and pagans. The First period uses verses of peaceful persuasion and the core of Islam. The second period uses verses of compulsion because of its political character. While the former is universal, the latter was historical and local.

Then , we are coming to the crucial question at last: Is Jihad a Holy War? Although the majority of Muslims emphatically reject such an axiom, we must recognize that historically a straightforward answer does not exist in Muslim mind. Sometime in history, the Islamic states had to face a difficult decision: to interpret the Qur’anic teaching so that any imperialistic aspirations had to be renounced, or to venture into philosophical and theological sophism and combine earthly desires with Allah’s injunctions. Muslim leaders in history have a privileged political interpretation of jihad over the spiritual elements of Islam. Jihad cannot be understood outside the historical contexts and events.

The term jihad is derived from the Arabic root jhd, to ‘strive’. The same jhd achieve perfection in difficult tasks. Unsurprisingly, ijtihad, meaning ‘to strive for understanding and interpreting the Qur’an for novel conditions’, has the same jihad root. Jihad certainly represents a sense of totalizing effort. In the Qur’an there are many examples in which such effort (e.g. economic, psychological and physical) has been required by the new-born Muslim community (The Qur’an, Surah 2: 218; 4: 95; 22: 78; 25: 53). So, jihad has totally diverse meaning from qital or harb, i.e.war.

While jihad is related to the individuals or community, which does not require any communal action or attack, Qital (war) is related to land and its defense. Jihad was ordered in Mecca, while Qital (defensive war) was ordered in Mecca. Jihad does not mean a military action, unlike Qital which requires an organized body to offend or defend a land or expand it.

Interestingly, there are reasons stated by Quran verse for allowing a just war in the Qur’an. If people are deprived of their basic rights and if their life is threatened, then a just war is permitted: “They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, for no cause except that they say “Our Lord is God”. If God did not check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure … .” Sura Hajj 22: 40

In the context of Jihad(ism) against the ethical rules of any religion, ‘The Umayyad logic of state had lasting effects on the Islamic conception of jihad as a tool in the service of territorial expansion, rather than a religious struggle at the level of devotion to God’s cause’. It is easy to understand that no any ruler who is planning to expand his territories would adopt ethical rules of the religion that prohibits killing. Territorial expansion can’t be justified by quoting verses from the holy scriptures. This goes contrary to the very ethical values propagated by religion itself.

How and why does jihadism find ground: para-mosque structures and their development is easily explained by following sentences. The reasons why some Muslims militarize themselves in view of internal and external circumstances. There are some events that became catalyst for Muslims’ deep frustrations. Exclusionary and repressive political environments in their home country force Islamist to undergo a near universal process of radicalization.

The denigrated image of the prophet has a particular emotional value for Muslims, in particular when they are of South Asian origin. The perception that there have been different treatments of the three monotheistic religions triggers their frustration. To them, European anti-blasphemy laws protect Christians and Jews but not Muslims. They felt themselves to be the children of a lesser God. ‘Instead of pushing young people away from Islamist organizations, the explosions of 9/11 created a vortex into which some young European Muslims were drawn.’

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“If any one killed a person –unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed the whole people. And if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people… .” Qur’an, Māida 5: 35.

“Blessed are peacemakers.” (Mathew 5: 9)


Thanks to ORSAM, YTB, Saban Ali Hoca 🙂