By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
Some Muslim scholars and Muslims as well, give the notion that Islam is very intolerable when it comes to certain subjects and issues, and they are considered taboos, which should not be talked about at any time. Topics like, God’s existence, essence, attributes, origin and other topics like historical events, theological debates, philosophy and authenticity of some Islamic figures. Therefore, the question that arises from this introduction would be: Is there any unaskable question in Islam? Are Muslims and even non-Muslims allowed to ask questions about the religion of Islam, which might be considered very sensitive? Nonetheless, if anyone is allowed to ask any question, are the answers available? Who are the individuals that have the answers to these taboo questions, and are they even legitimate questions?
Islamic Topics & Sensitivity
Unfortunately, Muslims have developed a series of topics and subjects for themselves and places them under the category of TABOO, which has opened a huge gap in their ability to outreach. By dissecting the historical narrations from the time of the Prophet and his holy household, we shall see that Islamic nation and non-Muslims were able to ask some of the most sensitive questions. Imam Ali, had numerous debates with the Jews and Christians, who were eager to ask some of the hardest and sensitive questions, and Imam Ali would answer the questions thoroughly and precisely. Imam Al-Sadeq is known for his debates with atheists and agnostics in the Mosque of Prophet Mohammad in Medina, as some of the tensest and deep theological and philosophical debates have been recorded from that era. Therefore, the issue of sensitivity was not even an issue for that period, which shows Muslims and non-Muslims were able to raise any issue, without any fear of being labeled as infidel or astray. Nevertheless, there must be a set of reasons and variable that transformed the Islamic nation to a nation, which fears to question, criticize, dissect and analyze.
Historical & Political Factors:
The transformation of a Muslim individual into its current reality is rooted back to the history of Muslim empire and the political oppression, which was dominant during the era of after Prophet Mohammad. Many of the dynasties that ruled the Islamic nation developed a condition, which made the notion of questioning subjected to penalization and persecution.
The notion of penalizing the act of questioning and criticism was introduced during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Omar, when Muslims were banned from writing down, memorizing and teaching the narrations of the Prophet. During that period of time, these two Caliphs punished anyone who would talk about the narrations of Prophet Mohammad, or mentions them in the public. Even history books narrate that one of the close companions of Prophet Mohammad was lashed because he read some of the narrations of the Prophet in public. Therefore, by using compulsion and coercive force, the notion of intellectual development and traditional enlightening was banned for several years. As a result, the Muslims were exposed to numerous heresies, which even contradicted the Islamic pillars and teachings. During the time of Omar, Muslims developed new types of prayers that did not exist in the time of Prophet, and many of the teachings of Prophet Mohammad were altered. Therefore, the notion of opposing a direct order and teaching of the Prophet was legitimized and capitalized, and Muslims were not able to do anything about it as well. In addition, even when Imam Ali tried to correct some of the wrong deeds and annul the heresies, which were introduced during the era of the past three Caliphs, he was faced with protests and objection.
Nonetheless, during the Umayyad dynasty the notion of not questioning was taken to another level, when theologians affiliated with the state introduced new interpretations and definitions of Islam. These scholars introduced the ideology of necessitarianism, which developed a new meanings and definitions for many of what circumstances and actions that were taking place in that era. Necessitarianism is the notion that all things (good & bad) are the will of God, and humans have no control over them. Therefore, if a Muslim ruler happens to be a tyrant, it is the will of God, and Muslims cannot arise against him, as such an action would be considered arising against the will of God. In addition, this type of ideology would result in total authority for the ruling class to limit and minimize many of the Islamic teachings, and contain the Muslims masses to prevent them from any tendency to rise against the Muslims tyrant. Unfortunately the implications of this ideology was not only political, as it disseminated into a wider range of aspects and Islamic beliefs. This type of ideology fueled the radicalization of Muslims to an extent where, if someone was punished, persecuted or killed due to his/her belief about a specific issue, it was believed that his belief was responsible for his/her destiny and not the one who killed or persecuted him/her.
The other ideology that was introduced by the Umayyad and Abbasids, was the notion of Fatalism, which argued that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable, which made free will impossible. Therefore, these kinds of ideologies killed any tendency to question and criticize, since persecution and death was inevitable due to the notion of fatalism. The Islamic nation, which was known for its intellectual superiority and advancement was gradually transforming and becoming an irrational and illogical nation that would accept anything and anyone.
Contemporary Culture of Ignorance:
The current state of unnecessary submission that Muslims seem to be going through, is associated with numerous contemporary political and ideological religious variables, which prevents any notion of intellectual advancement and reform. The continuous confiscatory policies of the regimes in the Islamic world, has left a large portion of Muslims without any apprehension of their true religious duty, which is spread of equality, intellect, prosperity and fighting oppression. Therefore, a culture of ignorance has emerged and this situation is similar to a black cloud that is following Muslims regardless of their efforts to better their conditions. Unfortunately, even the Arab Spring was a re-action to a lengthy implementation of wrong policies, due to economic and social hardships, which created substantial grievances. Therefore, Muslims are still afraid to question and criticize their literature and taboo subjects, which is paving the way for radical groups to misuse this gap and recruit uneducated individuals for their purposes and agendas. Majority of Muslims are unable to determine whether a specific Islamic figure had a positive of negative impact on Islamic history, and most of them lack any knowledge about the pillars and foundations of their religion. The primary source of any information for majority of Muslims are the books and literature, which were written centuries ago, by the scholars associated with the regimes that were ruling the Muslims. Therefore, the possibility of advancement and reform is similar to running in a circle.
The Muslims must come to a decision to separate their religious institutions from the states, and force them present the true teachings of Islam far away from the influence of political tendencies and agendas. The notion of taking advantage of religion is an important tool for governments to seek legitimacy and containment means. Therefore, it would in the best interest of the religious foundation and the masses to separate religion from politics, which will enable the scholars to present different picture for Islam. Religious innovation would enable the Muslims to revive their faith and abide by its teachings, which would make them able to understand the necessities of their period and ultimately answer all the unanswered questions.
Islam has the answer to all questions and as any Muslims believes, it is a way of life that presents a solution for any equation and hardship. Therefore, by returning to the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet and his holy household, Muslims will be able to uncover new dimensions and approaches for many challenges, which the world is facing.
The Quran orders Muslims to ASK the people of knowledge if they don’t know. The notion of ASKING is not limited to any aspect of specific boundary, which encourages them to seek knowledge and advance themselves on all levels. In addition, the Quran and Prophet Mohammad have identified the people of knowledge for Muslims and gave a guarantee to Muslims that they will not go astray if they abide by them. Therefore, Islam has given Muslims a complete package, which enables them to fulfill their potentials and live up to their full abilities and wealth.