For me, it’s always interesting to read anything about Islam that is written in English, because it’s either written by a Western, non-muslim writer, or it’s written for the consumption of the Western world.
That was why when I saw this in print, I immediately read it, excitedly.
And of course, aside from learning so much about so many things, both Islamic and other general knowledge, I took couple quotes that were not only written excellently, but also spoken my mind.
Here they are:
Over the past century, a great many Muslims have come to regard themselves less as members of a worldwide community of faith than as citizens of individual nation-states.
At the same time, the religious and political institutions that once dominated the lives of Muslims have began to disintegrate as greater education and widespread access to new ideas and source of information allow individuals the freedom and confidence to interpret Islam for themselves.
The result: a cacophony of disparate voices vying with one another to define the future of what will soon be the largest religion in the world.
As with any shouting match the loudest voices – the extremists and radicals – get heard. Hence the abiding image in Western media of Islam as religion of violence and terrorism.
(anyway, if you’re as intrigued as I am about Reza Aslan, watch this video of him and a glimpse of his thoughts)
The truth is that while Islam is proudly monotheistic, it is fiercely, even violently, non monolithic.
Contemporary Islam tends to be viewed in two polar dimensions of light and darkness: a religion of peace and moderation that lives with the rest of the world, or a creed of hate and extremism that conspires to create its own world. Both exist, but the faith is also fragmented in myriad other ways.
Between fanatics at one end and reformers at the other lies a full spectrum of grades of belief and practice.
While the West asks, why do they hate us?
Muslims could well ponder, why do we hate one another?
It’s fair to ask, what’s the big deal? Other great religions are split too.
But it needn’t be that way for Islam, which can and should be more unified.
Being a Muslim is remarkably straight forward: you simply have to believe in shahada (whose second part is “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”).
There’s nothing as arcane as Christian’s Holy Trinity, as complex as Buddhism’s level of rebirth or as traumatic as Judaism’s pain over which to agonize.
Islam’s fractures have less to do with theology than matters of leadership, interpretation, and degree.
“The division of Islam,” Irish Scholar Malise Ruthven wrote in his seminal work Islam in the World, “have their origins in politics rather than dogma.”