Sunday, September 03, 2006

moore organized religion

following up on alan moore and organized religion:

I would say that there are two main trains of thought which push me towards Moore's way of thinking about organized religion. (And I'm not saying that I agree with him, just that I'm not unsympathetic.)

One "train" comes from thinking about the essential centrality of "La ilaha illa Allah" (no god but God) in Islam. Both too good to be true? and no god but God give orthodox references which strongly suggest that the only condition for salvation is sincere belief in "no god but God". That's it. The answer. The only requirement. Nothing else. And everything else is extra. I'm not trying to give a fatwa here. I'm just saying describing what comes to mind when I read those particular hadith.

But if tawhid is the only requirement, then what are the rest of the Islamic laws and principles for? Well, many of the religious practices (ibadat) like reading the Quran, salat, dhikr) are primarily means to reinforce and sustain a belief in La ilaha illa Allah. After all, mankind was made forgetful. Another portion of shariah's guidance provides sound advice for living a good individual life. And of course, much of the shariah is related to promoting a peaceful and justly ordered society (which some may think of as social control). In any case, I would say that the more an individual is impressed by "no god but God", then these other functions of Islamic law would tend to fade in significance along with every other trapping of organized religion. As the hadith goes:

Sahih Bukhari
Volume 1, Book 3, Number 131:
Narrated Anas:
I was informed that the Prophet had said to Mu'adh, "Whosoever will meet Allah without associating anything in worship with Him will go to Paradise." Mu'adh asked the Prophet, "Should I not inform the people of this good news?" The Prophet replied, "No, I am afraid, lest they should depend upon it (absolutely)."

A second train of thought which makes me sympathize somewhat with Moore's critical attitude towards organized religion starts with thinking about the legacy of Malcolm X. Malcolm is often presented as a "poster boy" for Sunni Islam, but if you stop to check, he actually spent much more time as a member of the Nation of Islam than he ever spent as a Muslim outside of the Nation. (He was assinated less than a year after he left the Nation). Secondly, I don't mean this as a criticism or insult in any way, but I honestly don't know how "orthodox" or "Sunni" he really was when he died. Yes, he left the clear shirk of the Nation and was disillusioned by Elijah Muhammad's adultery but I don't know what beliefs he had in terms of Abu Bakr or Ali, in terms of the validity of hadith, following a madhab, finality of prophethood, etc. For all we know, Malcolm X might have become an Ahmadiyyah had he lived longer (after all, the Nation relied on Ahmadiyyah literature in addition to the writings of Elijah Muhammad) And yet, in spite of his ambiguous orthodoxy, Malcolm X is (and rightfully so) considered one of the most exemplary Muslims America has ever produced. The fact that he was an individual commited to one God and social justice trumps more pedantic concerns about theological correctness, at least in the grand scheme of things.

6 comments:

DA said...

Even though I disagree with a LOT of things about the NOI, I think I understand why it started and its purpose, even if I think Elijah Poole was (and Farrakhan is) a conman, and the nation's beliefs obviously are not purely Islamic. Anyone who thinks the Nation did not do a lot of good things (and yes, some bad) for Black Americans is not looking at it realistically. There are many times, even today, when I think the FOI is doing more to lift up their neighborhoods than many Sunnis are. Also, as Malcolm himself pointed out to Sunni Muslims even after he left the Nation, it was the lack of willingness of the rest of the Muslim World to reach out to Black Americans which led to so many taking up Fard's second rate copy of Islam.

Tariq Nelson said...

DA wrote:

There are many times, even today, when I think the FOI is doing more to lift up their neighborhoods than many Sunnis are. Also, as Malcolm himself pointed out to Sunni Muslims even after he left the Nation, it was the lack of willingness of the rest of the Muslim World to reach out to Black Americans which led to so many taking up Fard's second rate copy of Islam.


Theology aside (as I have major problems with the NOI's belief system) what you say above is because many of us 'Sunnis' are more interested in what is going on overseas than right in front of our masjids. Even many converts have bought into this way of thinking.

After 9/11 there were more efforts by many Islamic Centers to do more outreach, but I think that we are beginning to revert back to pre-9/11 mode of not caring again.

kevin beck said...

Interesting post and very informative. Thanks. You may enjoy reading Jacques Ellul. He was a Christian anarchist. A very thoughtful scholar.

M. Shahin said...

Yes, Muslims in general have a lot of work to do.

Muslims are suffering from many diseases including nationalism, greed, and heedlessness.

Nation of Islam was probably more open to Black American converts than other Muslims.

Abdul Halim, although I disagree with some of your points about organized religion, I thought it was interesting.

I think we need the other parts of faith besides the testification of faith in order for us to really submit to God.

If we didn't, people would be doing what they wanted and saying they believe in God and they are free to do whatever they want.

Each person would define their own rules, which would create a lot of chaos, and I think that is what is currently happening in the world today.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

m. shahin,

I think I would try to partially address some of your concerns by saying that a thorough belief in tawhid in la ilaha illa Allah is more substantial than someone just saying the words and leaving it at that. One good explanation of this point would be the book Towards Understanding Islam by MAududi which really starts with the idea of tawhid and develops its implications

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Also, I would agree that the Shariah is more than just saying a few words or even just tawhid. But if the main issue is "what to do to be saved" I"m not sure how one could explain away the various hadith mentioned on this point.