The Problem with Doctrinal Islam

The problem with doctrinal Islam is essentially that Muslims believe most of what they believe to be pure.
Most Muslims think, I believe validly, that Christianity and Judaism were altered over the years and thus are not true to the message they originally revealed.

The question I always ask, is what do these people think protects Islam from such alteration?
Let's start from the premise that the Koran itself is the unaltered word of God.  

Yet the Koran generally only covers general concepts.  Just reading the Koran itself, one cannot even find justification for praying 5 times a day.  At best there is a general concept of prayer... at best 3 times a day.

The real guts of practice are in the Hadith.  What are the Hadith?  The Hadith are essentially a historical record of the actions and words of the prophet Mohamed (pbuh).  They were largely passed down through oral traditional, but some were written.  They were compiled by men for centuries after the death of the prophet.  As with any history, there were many wars, political assassinations, conflicts of all sorts.  Essentially, regular political history.

Why does one think the Arabs were any less prone to political use of religion or corruption than the Europeans, Christians, Jews, Pagans...?

So the Hadith should always be viewed in this light.  Their authenticity always viewed carefully.  Now I don't want to overstate this aspect.  Various leaders and scholars made an effort to make sure the Hadith are classified as strong or weak...

The next level comes the interpretation of the Hadith.  What does the Hadith mean in practice?  Let's remember the Hadith are just the words and actions of the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh).  This all occurred in the context of 7th century Arabia.  What things were relevant just for that period of time?  What are eternal lessons?...

For example, to clean his mouth, the prophet used the misqak.  Does this mean that to this day, we should be using a wooden stick to clean our teeth when technology has advanced?  We have toothbrushes and tooth paste these days.  Yet, to this day, there are Muslims who think using a misqak is somehow 'Islamic'. 

That's a rather simplistic example, but it exists for most things people associate with Islam today.  Growing beards, religious dress, how the community operates.

It becomes a real mess when drawing from the Hadith as it becomes virtually impossible to separate the 'lessons' from 7th century Arab culture.

When people speak of doctrinal Islam, they speak too much of 7th century Arab culture.
Whether it's brushing one's teeth or the expected political system or the way people should dress.

Indeed, even the notion of the Ummah comes into question.  At the time of the prophet, the political system and Islamic society were one in the same.  But Ummah simply means nation.  Should a Muslim consider his Ummah to be his own country?

The Koran itself was revealed in parts as the needs of the community needed it.  The Medina versus for example contain most of the versus of law and governance.  How much applies specifically to the people in Medina at that time?

Is holding onto the notion of a global Muslim Ummah instead of focusing on building one's nation like holding onto brushing one's teeth with a wooden stick?

There is also the issue that the actions of the Prophet Mohamed might not be 100% free from error.  Most Islamic scholors would say that in the deliverance of the message, the actions are free from error.  But not in the actions of the prophet.

So what exactly is the point of following the actions of the Prophet in such detail especially in regards to practical issues like politics, punishments... if they are not guaranteed to be error free?

Indeed the Koran itself makes an explicit point of showcasing the diversity of humanity.

“O people! Beh“Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you …” [Qur'an 5:48]

old, we have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes to that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” [Qur'an 49:13]

[3.7] He it is Who has revealed the Book to you; some of its verses are decisive, they are the basis of the Book, and others are allegorical; then as for those in whose hearts there is perversity they follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation. but none knows its interpretation except Allah, and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord; and none do mind except those having understanding.

In any case, my point is simply that so much of Islamic doctorine today is premised on 7th century Arabia.
This is not to say one should reject the Hadith in any way.  But they must be viewed for what they are.  Historical documents that need to be understood and interpreted constantly.

Indeed tradition is important.  The Koran speaks of prayer.  But how do we know how to pray?  It is from tradition.  But why make a big deal if someone's tradition differs from your own in how they pray. 

To use the Hadith as a way of life is why many Muslim communities remain backwards.  They keep trying to live like 7th Century Arabia... and that is the result they get.  It applies just as much to minor details like how to brush one's teeth to political culture and rituals.

The other major problem with doctrinal Islam is it ignores the very practical nature present in Islam from the beginning.  For example, slavery is not allowed, but how do you resolve the issue where huge business transactions involved slaves.  You could not simply free all the slaves.  It would bankrupt many people.  So freeing slaves is encouraged.  Similarly, while alcohol is a bad thing, it was not simply just banned.  First it was decreed that being intoxicated while at the mosque is banned.  Then later, the general statement that alcohol is bad is given.

So why is it that a Muslim convert in Australia is whipped for drinking.

The answer is quite simple.  These people want to live in 7th century Arabia.  There is a hadith where the prophet ordered a drunk person beaten.  The koran itself prescribes no punishment.  Yet they think it should be law that anyone caught must be beaten.  There is no thought given to the society they live in, whether the prophet's actions were towards complete drunkeness, or just just drinking itself, whether it was a private matter of discipline, whether they even have the authority to prescribe the punishment themselves...

All these are valid questions, but what is astounding is the arrogance and degree of adherence that they don't even consider they might be wrong.  They are willing to deal out punishment and beat, whip and in many countries stone, kill... based on such things.  That is astounding part.


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