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From the Desk of Editor

Is It Time Muslims Standardize A Contextual Qur'an, Asks A Reader. Yes, Perhaps, But Building A Quran-Based Islam, Shorn Of Deviations, Will Not Be Easy.
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

What do you mean by logical order, Hamza Saheb? Do you mean chronological order, which would also restore primacy to Meccan verses of universal significance? After all, it's in a chronological order that early Muslims including the Prophet (saw) must have understood and memorised the Quran. They could not have memorised contextual verses that had not been revealed yet, as those situations had not arisen by that time.

 In any case read chronologically, Quran reads like a beautiful book of spiritual and moral guidance, relevant in the 21st century, not requiring much contextual knowledge to begin with.

 I am saying this, as, for the last several years I am in the process of collecting essential verses of the Quran in a chronological order. Have not gone very far yet. Mainly shortage of time. Far too many duties requiring immediate attention. I wish Hazrat Usman had not destroyed those versions of Quran that early Muslims in Mecca used to recite. I imagine it as a beautiful Quran which would invite everyone, except the exploiters and the tyrants. It had no calls to war and defence and offence and punishment. ...

The misuse of the word Kafir is a major issue of discord between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Apparently, the Mullah community got word; they knew what would happen, if this conference were to go through, even though I was inviting Mullahs from all denominations to discuss the subject. If it could be proven that kafir in Quran does not mean non-Muslim or polytheist, or idol-worshipper or infidel, but it is a religion-neutral term simply meaning the oppressor, religious persecutor, particularly the one who is engaged in stopping people from practicing their religious freedom, much like the Arab kings today or other Muslim countries, much of the strife could be wiped out.

Fighting Jihadism With Heads Buried In The Sand!
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Fighting Jihadism With Heads Buried In The Sand!
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Now, I think, we Muslims should acquaint ourselves with the Jihadi narrative that is taking our children away from us. It is attracting even our daughters who have received the best of education. Students of private schools in Britain, professionals, products of best universities in Europe and America are choosing to join and serve these terrorists, not just as killers but also as wives and concubines. They couldn't be doing this for money or any worldly gain. They are going on suicide missions in their own lands or joining al-Qaeda and IS.

If we are Muslims we should be worried. Killing the terrorists, fighting with them militarily is a short term answer. International; community and the victim governments are  engaged in that. This, of course, has to be done. But that clearly is not the answer. You kill one, you  create ten more.

I believe we must confront and refute the ideology behind Islamist terrorism. We must develop our own moderate narrative, a progressive theology, if you like. In order to do that we must acquaint ourselves with what it is. The reason so many readers are opposing this, is that they are ashamed. For, what the Taliban scholar is saying is based on Quran and Hadees and Sharia, which nearly all Muslims consider divine.

Not one reader is saying that the Taliban scholar is misquoting any Hadees or verse of the Quran or misinterpreting them. Only question being raised is why publish this dialogue between a Pakistani Army Official and a Taliban scholar.

As I see it, I am being asked why have you not buried head in the sand like all of us. Well my answer is: I am worried and am trying to do something about it. If you have a better way let me know. Don't ask me to go back to sleep, like all of you.

Do you think you can bring back the Scottish private schoolgirl Aqsa Mahmood by going deeper inside you blanket? Do you think you can keep future Aqsa Mahmoods from becoming Jihadi suicidees by hiding your heads in the sand?

Even what I am saying, refute the Jihadi ideology, counter their systematic theology of violence, is easier said than done. Particularly in this climate when most Muslims don't give a damn, are in a suicidal mood. Products of Deobandi madrasas that the Taliban are, it is natural they will quote Deobandi elders like Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani in their defence. But even Barailwi-Sufi ulema will not say that the hadees the Taliban are quoting are concocted, fabricated.

The Rising Threat of Islamic Extremism in India: Moderate Intellectuals Must Join the Battle against Supremacism, Exclusivism, Sectarianism, Fascism and Violent Takfirism in Muslim Society
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Dear Ghulam Mohiyuddin Saheb, What kind of resistance can one recommend to the intellectuals and leaders of Indian Muslim community who do not even show any consciousness of the rising threat of Islamic extremism emanating from various sectarian ideologies related to Salafism-Wahhabism. Muslims may behave in an appalling manner in India or abroad but you will not find the slightest sign of introspection in our leaders, and of course, no self-criticism ever. Indeed you will be declared a Murtid the moment you even speak of a Muslim, particularly a Wahhabi Muslim, doing anything wrong anywhere. ...

The long and short of it is that moderates should expose and refute extremist ideas of those ideologues who claim to find extremism and violence and totalitarianism and fascism inherent in Islamic teachings. And at the same time we should keep articulating a moderate, tolerant, spiritual, peaceful narrative of Islam coherently and consistently. ...

Do you notice a certain dispiritedness and defeatism in my voice? That will be a wrong impression. I do get deflated at times, but I am not defeated. Two reasons. I firmly believe in the strength of peace, moderation and pluralism and acceptance of other religions and ideas in Islamic thought.  Two, the general tendency of human mainstream is towards peace,... humans always get back to supporting peace, wanting a peaceful life, in harmony with others. Muslims can be no exception. Khwarij have always been defeated by mainstream Muslims. They will be defeated again. So there is no reason for us to lose hope. But the battle has to be joined, risks taken.....

Do knowledgeable Indian Muslims tacitly support Jamaat-e-Islami's bid for reprieve to Bangladesh's war criminals? Does this amount to treason or is it merely inhuman and un-Islamic?
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Reacting to my statement in the recent brainstorming session New Age Islam Foundation had organised among some Sufi-minded Indian scholars, Muhammad Yunus Saheb shared the following thoughts with me in a personal letter but he allowed me to choose whether to share it with readers. So I am putting it below in this column for wider dissemination.

My comment: As far as I am concerned I continue to believe that by supporting the war criminals of Bangladesh who were involved in the killings of tens of thousands of innocent fellow Bengali Muslims Indian wing of Jamaat-e-Islam is revealing its anti-national, inhuman and un-Islamic character. Also, that by keeping quiet at Jamaat-e-Islami's public demonstration of its demonic face, the larger Indian Muslim community, certainly the knowledgeable among them, are participating in this treasonous, inhuman and un-Islamic act. Let us not forget that we are talking here about mass murder, genocide of Muslims by a fellow Muslim Army that should have been there to protect them and their religious leaders whose job it was to protect them rather than point them out to the marauders so they get killed. I know these are strong words, possibly revealing my own intolerance. But, be that as it may, I do have very strong feelings about what happened in Bangladesh. I will try briefly to explain why. Perhaps one should not tolerate everything.....

Jamaat-e-Islami has its own ideology. It believes that Islam is a totalitarian political philosophy out to conquer the world. As Maulana Maududi, its founder-ideologue said: "Islam wishes to do away with all states and governments which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam. ... Islam requires the earth - not just a portion, but the entire planet."

 I consider Islam a spiritual path to salvation and am grateful for God having created such a beautiful multicultural, multi-religious, multi-colour, plural world.  I want to co-exist with people of all hues in this world.

 I repeat, I do not see any reasonable possibility of Muslims like me having any rational dialogue with such fanatical people who are prepared to kill any number of innocent people including fellow citizens and fellow Muslims and interpret Islam whichever way suits their politics in their crazy bid to conquer the world for establishing their rule in the name of restoring God's sovereignty.

Why Identify Islamist Terrorists With Wahhabi Ideology, Ask New Age Islam Readers: Is This Not Promoting Sectarianism In Islam?
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Dear Mr. Sadaf, You are spot on: “New Age Islam takes the name of Wahhabis, only to push the silent and peaceful Wahhabis to take a stand and oppose these people ... being violent.” I wish some other intellectuals on the site also had the sense to understand this. I am quoting you from another thread. Your comment is being quoted in full below along with some other comments to provide a perspective.... If I may add a word, New Age Islam is not happy to do that. We do that with a very heavy heart. Only because it has to be done. At least we feel so. We may be wrong. But we feel that the time for pussyfooting is long past. Pakistan is a gone case. But Indian Muslims may perhaps be brought back from the brink. The total Indian Muslim silence over West Bengal Muslims demonstrating in support of Bangladeshi war criminals has shaken me up. Until today I haven’t heard a single voice of dissent, except, of course, a few on New Age Islam. I hope there is still time for us Indian Muslims.

 Wahhabism has been spread aggressively since the 1744 pact between Muhammad bin Saud and Muhammad ibn ʿAbdul Wahhab which marked the emergence of the first Saudi state. But even before that Mohammad Abdul Wahhab had started implementing his perverted ideas of stoning women to death and destroying Islamic heritage buildings with the help of Uthman ibn Mu'ammar, the ruler of his native village Uyayna in Najd. He had personally organised the stoning of a woman accused of committing adultery a la Taliban and Boko Haram in our times. Even before meeting Ibn-e-Saud he had destroyed the grave of Zayd ibn al-Khattab, a companion of Prophet Muhammad (saw), whose shrine was revered by the local population. After the pact with Ibn-e-Saud, of course, a wave of killings and destruction of Islamic heritage sites started. ...

New Age Islam May Suddenly Go Offline: Even If That Happens We Will Be Back Online Soon, Insha Allah; Please Bear With Us
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Dear Readers,

Ever since we started our journey about five years ago, we have been under attack. First it was a series of hacking attempts. Then numerous attacks on our newsletter mailing system. Our site was once deleted from the server at a time when we were just not prepared for this. We didn’t have backups. However, we recreated and have been going on since then. Once we managed to provide the site with some security, though nothing online is ever completely safe, complaints to domain registrars and webhosts started pouring. All sorts of complaints from hate-mongering to spamming. One domain registrar even suspended our domain name without any notice. As propagation of this suspension throughout the internet takes a few days, what started happening was that some computers in some parts of the world will show NewAgeIslam.com, some others would say it did not exist. We had no idea for a couple of days what was wrong. We kept shifting from one domain registrar to another, one webhost to another.

So it has gone on. I was hounded out of India. I shifted my domain name as well as hosting to America. But our enemies have long arms. Businessmen of any country are only concerned with money-making, not even prepared to spend a minute glancing through the newsletters sent to them as “proof” of our “hate-mongering” or “spamming”. Now I have notice from my webhost that the site has been suspended and can be removed any moment. Another set of complaints. Notice came in my inbox 15 days after the suspension. During this time I was frantic not able to understand certain things that were happening with the site. I have not been able to send any newsletter for more than a week. Our mail server is not working. Other systems are functioning so far. Solution is to have a private server and manage it ourselves. But buying and managing a private server capable of handling a million or more hits per day is not easy for us, a group of professionals, somehow eking out an existence. We are thinking of various solutions. But I can assure you, that Insha Allah, we will be back, even if we do go offline suddenly. I thought I must warn you of this possibility, while I can. God has always helped. He will help again. I am certain. Do please bear with us, pray for us or send us good wishes, according to your belief systems, in the event of a sudden shutdown.

To give you some further perspective, I am quoting below a few paragraphs from a speech I made on issues of internet governance and cyber security at a parallel seminar in The United Nations, Geneva. ....

Coping With Critics Of Moderate Islam - II
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Coping With Critics Of Moderate Islam - II
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Dear Muhammad Yunus and Ghulam Mohiyuddin Saheban, You both are terribly concerned about the agenda of ex-Muslims or near ex-Muslims or would-be-ex-Muslims who talk on this “unmoderated” site about why they have left Islam and why we too should leave Islam. But I do not have a clear guidance from either of you what the site should do to become “moderated.”

Obviously, I must start censoring. But what, who, how much, which particular sentences. One hint I got was from one of Mohiyuddin Saheb’s comment. He wrote, quoting a certain “Rationalist,” not “Rational Younus”: "Internet will hasten the fall of Islam." While he (Rationalist) has the right to hold that view, the only websites which would publish such a comment are the bitterly anti-Muslim apostate hate websites.”

Personally I have no problem with the sentence quoted here. This is some one’s wishful thinking, irrational belief or maybe intuition: how can I know. He should have the right to express his view or even wishful thinking.  I believe that it is internet that will save Islam from the depredations of Saudi, Salafi Islam. Now my view too could be just wishful thinking, irrational belief or intuition. This is neither here nor there. I just don’t see why I should be worried about someone wishing or believing in the fall of Islam. I also did not find any problem with this person finding Islam and even Quran problematic. This is again his view. My faith in my understanding of my religion is far too deep and strong to be shaken by such remarks.

However, the sentences preceding that were indeed just a part of standard hate speech that we have routinely deleted and have now been deleted. ...

Coping With Critics Of Moderate Islam
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Coping With Critics Of Moderate Islam
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Our numbers are depleting fast. Wahhabies are trying to convert us, radicals trying to kill us in our mosques and shrines, silent ex-Muslims ignore us, not-so-silent ex-Muslims crucify us with their memorized quotations from early biographies and pornographic portions of “authoritative” hadees. How do we respond?

 It will not do to lash out at critics of Islam from either side of the growing divide. If we want moderate Islam to survive even till the end of the 21st century, not to speak of the present millennium or beyond, we have to urgently come together and brainstorm.

This is what New Age Islam is for. It has already brought many thinking Muslims from all over the world together. Let us stay together and think together. Let us feel grateful for the gift of some articulate critics. They give us an opportunity to try articulating our own ideas. We may passionately believe in something and yet not be able to express that with any degree of eloquence.  We need sounding boards. God has given us a few. Let us use that. Who knows we may bring some of them back to the fold of moderate Islam.

Baitul Muqaddas-Masjid-e-Aqsa complex: Why are we Muslims so obsessed with it as our Qiibla-e-Awwal contrary to Qur’anic teachings?
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

… This is what most Muslims remember and follow. But the very next verse explained to them that Baitul Muqaddas was the Qibla for Jews and Christians, something Muslims have forgotten. Our self-righteous ulema are of course in the habit of ignoring inconvenient Qur’anic verses, verses that do not support their rapacious, self-righteous, male-chauvinist, Islam-supremacist attitudes. Let us read this verse and see what it says:

Sura Baqra: 2: 145: “Even if thou wert to bring to the people of the Book all the signs (together), they would not follow thy Qibla (Kaaba); nor art thou going to follow their Qibla (Baitul Muqaddas) nor indeed will they follow each other’s Qibla. If thou, after the knowledge hath reached thee, wert to follow their (vain) desires, then wert thou indeed (clearly) in the wrong.” …

Were we thus to read the entire Qur’anic exhortation on the issue of Qibla, we would not have fallen into the ever deepening morass of intra-Ahl-e-Kitab conflict. We can continue to revere the sacred places in Jerusalem according tour traditions while recognizing God-ordained rights of the Judaeo-Christian religious communities to their Qibla in Jerusalem as we have ours in Mecca. Exactly what shape our expression of reverence for our original Qibla takes and whether we are allowed to visit and when and how frequently, etc, can be peacefully and easily negotiated once we concede their God-given right to their Qibla. …

Deoband Muftis Neither Know Islam Nor Indian Customs
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Deoband Muftis Neither Know Islam Nor Indian Customs
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

It's a bit unsettling that Deoband cares more for Indian customs than for Islamic injunctions. It has reversed an earlier fatwa arguing for polygamy and is now saying that it is better to avoid second/third marriage, despite permission in Sharia, as it is generally not acceptable in Indian custom.

 

Deoband respecting Indian customs is greatly welcome. ...

 

Polygamy, I believe, is not permitted in Islam in ordinary circumstances. It was allowed, at one time, even under strict or maybe impossible conditions of giving equal treatment to all wives in all respects, only for exigencies like war and dealing with questions of large number of women prisoners and war widows. ...

 

Anyway, there is not much point in taking too much notice of Deobandi fatwas. If by Indian custom, they meant Indian law or a general civil society view in India, and they want to respect the same, that is most welcome. But our Mullahs, of any colour really, neither know Islam nor Indian customs nor the implications or complexities of either.

 

Let us let the Mullahs be and get on with our own affairs. Let us keep trying to refine our laws, seeking direction from divine guidance that has come to us from time to time in different parts of the world; but let us also be aware that as long as humans are simply human, we will never have a perfect law or a perfect society.

Is this about time dear readers, we asked ourselves, should we allow such horrific demonstrations of so-called Islamist madness to continue in our midst. I will not write any more. I have just watched the video linked below and I am in any case speechless.

 

Salman Rushdie was not allowed to speak to the litterateurs, and their fans gathered at Jaipur literature festival even through a video link today. This is a shame for our country and even more so for our community. Shame for our country because we do not have the resources or the will to protect a literary festival, the best of its kind in the world, from gangsters and Mafiosi and their threats of violence. Shame for our community because we have religious thugs among us who would threaten an innocuous event just because an author who is supposed to have blasphemed our prophet – something we keep doing every day, every minute, routinely, without even realising it, by just being the kind of corrupt people we are, by defying God and giving Islam a bad name through our misconduct. The event was going to be harmless because Salman Rushdie was not going to raise any controversial issue, speak about or read from The Satanic Verses.

It is unfortunate that politicians and media treat as our leaders intellectually-challenged bullies who are, unable to read and appreciate literature or arts. One such bully was asked at the Festival why did he not challenge Rushdie to an intellectual debate on the Jaipur platform. This was actually a question he could not possibly have an answer for. If this person were capable of appreciating the beauty and majesty of Rushdie’s prose, he won’t be there threatening the organisers with violence, though, of course, he did that in a very peaceful manner and language, as all Mafia dons do.

At a panel discussion at Jaipur Festival following the announcement of Rushdie’s video link too not being allowed, Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal asked the Maulvi: “Can anything that any one can say might even begin to dent the glory and beauty of Islam?” Is Allah threatened by even a virtual presence of Salman Rushdie, asked  Tehelka’s Shoma Chaudhury, who was moderating the discussion, when the bearded bully could not understand Tejpal’s question. Of course, he could not possibly have had any answer. -- Sultan Shahin



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