Nigeria: What is wrong with Islam?

By IndepthAfrica
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Aug 6th, 2014
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By Raheem Oluwafunminiyi

What is wrong with Islam? Lest anyone think the question meaningless or superfluous, this piece, without prejudice to any one religious institution or belief, comes at a time when the eyes of the world is currently on the religion and most importantly the millions who profess the faith. The apparent question put forward above may not only sound cynical to some but also appear appalling for others, especially for those who see Islam as an all embodying religion worthy of emulation. There is no doubt that Islam is a religion of peace and a total way of life. Each time the question “what is Islam?” is posed to adherents of the faith, the first response thrown at one, without mincing words, is that Islam is a religion of peace. Certainly, when one looks deeply into the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith of the Prophet, a number of significant verses and narrations highlight the very essence of peace which Islam preaches. For example, Qur’an 60 verses 8 and 9; 17 verses 53 and 54; 21 verses 107 to 109 among others respectively are some of the retinue of verses which serve as pointers of peace and peaceful conduct in Islam. If peace therefore, is one of the resounding virtues of this historic religion, what then could be wrong with Islam?

From the outset of Islam, stories of how the founder of the faith lived a life that today millions look up to for emulation continue to be told. Even in time of great persecution, the Prophet Muhammed was said to have treated his adversaries with love and affection such that many of them would eventually embrace Islam simply because of this singular moral character and virtue. The prophet would only act in defence of the new faith and was known to treat those who didn’t accept Islam with compassion. There was no compulsion or force to accept Islam and so those of other faith did not have to worry about any form of religious persecution and as such lived side by side with new Muslim converts in peace and tranquillity, so long they acted within the ambit of the law. One would have thought this form of religious tolerance would continue to stand the test of time in our contemporary time but evidently, this is not so. What then could be wrong with Islam?

It was that great philosopher and thinker, Karl Marx who was once famously quoted to have tagged religion as the opium of the people. Marx’s objective yet scientific perspective to religion is legendary and believed perhaps to be one of the most famous and critical quotes on religion used by atheist and non-atheist alike. Even as most who quote the word do not understand the underlying message, it is pertinent to state that Marx had a firm grasp of what religion was and its effects on people, hence such unpretentious quote. Marx was of the notion that religion is an expression of material realities and economic injustice and as such serves as a veritable platform by oppressors to make people feel less worried about the problems they encounter as a result of being poor or exploited. Despite the brief analysis of Marx’s view on religion above, one fact that is certain is that they are much more intricate than the way many assume it to be. What then could be wrong with Islam?

The idea of religion is firmly entrenched in our private conversation with whatever being we worship and just as Marx wrote: “the religious world is but a reflex of the real world”, so must it be seen as such. Anything beyond this is pure hypocrisy. Religion is a system which encapsulates the very essence of our lives. As human, we have been created to see ourselves not as the finisher of our destiny and so must necessarily look up to a higher or super being either for guidance, protection or any form of humanly needs. Every human at some point is bound to face one challenge or the other and so when the chips are down, it is the faith one professes through religion that brings one closer to his being to help surmount the challenge. It is here those who Marx identify as ‘oppressors’ quickly come in to exploit the situation. They form themselves into bands of religious groups and institutions and even gang-up with the state to form religious doctrines, ideologies, make new laws and edicts so as to bring the mass of the poor under their grip. This characteristic phenomenon for years had for long been in practice but assumed a frightening dimension recently where individuals or groups of people who claim to know God more than even the Pope assume the role of deciding what kind of religion one must practice through wrongful interpretation of God’s laws and arrogate so much powers to themselves for the sole purpose of meting out unfair, unjust and stiff punishments to erring ones. This particular experience is not only common in specific parts of the world but has taken a startling turn also in most parts of Muslim Africa. What then could be wrong with Islam?

If we have to go by the Quranic injunctions and Hadith which highlights issues pertaining to perfection of the faith, one would not but agree that Islam is a complete religion and a way of life bound by impartial laws, just like every religion, which its followers must adhere strictly to. It has however been discovered that a few elements, in order to satisfy their whims, lend new variations into these original and ‘perfected’ laws, using such indiscriminately, unjustly and unfairly in the most preposterous manner unbecoming of God’s natural laws to commit vice against the basic rights of man. Just as the state has imbibed this unholy attitude so are a number of its followers. Today in this part of the world, many see religion as a private property bequeathed on them by God and in essence, anyone who chooses to toe the other path is either ostracised, dehumanised or is made to face precarious situations. Some even lose their life in the process. What then could be wrong with Islam?

This particular scenario has become a common feature in some parts of the Muslim world and most especially in Nigeria where religious tolerance is fast waning. There are abounding examples to support the above presumption. The case of Mubarak Bala, a Chemical Engineer is quite interesting here. Bala not too long ago renounced Islam preferring to take to atheism. His action was greeted with a rude shock by Bala’s family members who thought he was mentally unstable and so forced him to a mental hospital. It would take the swift intervention of his online friends to get him out of the quagmire. Despite his release, Bala lives in hiding after receiving death threats. In Uganda, the case of a 17-year old girl beaten to death by her father sometime in April simply because she converted to Christianity is to say the least shocking while in Ibadan, Oyo State, 19-year old Kaosara Isiaka was knifed to death in a church for the same reason. Her father has been linked to the murder. As if that was not enough, in the same Uganda, one Wenene Nuru, a 23-year old lady was hospitalised after her Sheikh father tried to kill her for becoming a Christian. Not too long ago, the world was inundated with the shocking story of one Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman born to a Muslim father but raised by her Christian mother, who married a Christian man from South Sudan. Meriam’s family, to save themselves any embarrassment, quickly reported her to the authorities who in turn charged her for apostasy. The Islamic court in Khartoum was quick to sentence her to death by hanging and would only take an international outcry for her to regain freedom from the ordeal. In all of these, what then could be wrong with Islam?

There are hundreds of likely cases as the above which are not reported yet occur on a daily basis and within our respective societies. A writer once opined that leaving Islam is like passing a death sentence on oneself. This opinion cannot be far from the truth if the examples highlighted above are anything to go by. Islam is a religion of peace and so takes peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance, irrespective of faith, seriously. The fact that one of the Quranic verses openly identifies no compulsion in religion should have been an ample evidence for those who only seek to make mockery of Islam. Interestingly, there is no doubt in the mind of this writer and among millions of Muslims around the world that the Boko Haram sect which claims to be fighting for Islam are doing so for the most wrongful reasons. Islam represents peace and tolerance and therefore, anything contrary to those is pure extremism and extremism has no place in the belief system of the Muslims. What then could be wrong with Islam?

From all indications, it is best to aver that Islam is not only a religion of peace and tolerance but one that demands total submission to the will of God; therefore the simple answer that for the title of this piece is that there is simply nothing wrong with Islam. The reason for this apt answer is not far-fetched. Religion today is being manipulated by a segment of the populace not only to prevent worshippers from having a grasp of the many personal challenges they face but also confuse them into understanding how to solve them. In the end, most resolve to place their faith and fate on religious opportunists who further compound the problem of the people. Our total lack of understanding of what religion truly entails is why some feel others must practice their religion with force without which they are subjected to inhumanly treatments. The case of Meriam, Bala and many others across the world who face one form of humiliation or the other because of their choice of faith and belief despite the principles of Islam frowning against coercing one to accept Islam does not only paint Islam in the wrong light but causes disaffection and hate among an already religiously polarised state. It is an act that does not augur well for our collective existence. As the month of Ramadan ends, we must begin to have a change of heart before our condition is changed. There is however simply nothing wrong with Islam, its followers are!

Raheem Oluwafunminiyi wrote via creativitysells@gmail.com

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