Tuesday, April 04, 2006

40 Days of Lent - Day Thirty-Five

The Trouble With Islam

As I mentioned on Day Nineteen, I've been reading Irshad Manji's The Trouble With Islam, which was sent to me by Carol Sulcoski. (Thank you, Carol). Manji was raised as a Muslim but had questions which iniitally sprung from the woman's second class status in Islam but soon led her to question many facets of her faith. This tale of heretic youth is a familiar one to those who grow apart from their religion. There are two kinds of non-believers: those for whom the end of faith is the end of the story and those for whom doubts are just the beginning of a lifetime of rearching, soul searching and unanswered questions. I can identify with Manji's movement from "but why..." to "why do people believe this" to "I don't think I can accept this." It also reminds me of the funny Philip Roth story about a little boy who climbs on the roof of his Hebew school and refuses to come down until the rabbi agrees to consider the possibility (not the fact, but just the possibility) that Jesus was the messiah.

Manji's questing has lead her to several ideas about what the trouble with Islam is. In essence, the religion is a closed system, still following rules and beliefs developed over 1000 years ago. Every religion has its orthodox or fundamentalist wing; only in Islam is fundamentalism the mainstream of the religion. Not only is Islam ruled by a book said to be the sacred word of God, but accounts of the Mohammad and his followers founding of the religion, are considered beyond doubt or questioning. Imagine if Christians could not only not challenge the New Testament as the word of God, but couldn't discuss how the book came together. Manji sees Islam in need of a reformation, similar to what Judaism and Christianity went through hundreds of years ago. It is time for Islam to catch up. Such change will not come from countries like Saudi Arabia, countries ruled by those who have no need or interest in social or spiritual progress. Instead, Manji sees the hope of Islam's future coming from Asian countries with large Muslim populations and less repressive governments.

The Trouble With Islam did give me some hope for progress in the Islamic world, whereas before I had none. Reading the Koran has been a rather disheartening experience, in that verses dedicated to justice, love, and treating others fairly are sometimes followed by a section preaching distrust of non-Muslims or oppression of women. I know the Bible has some hateful passages, too, but in the West there is a tradition of questioning the Bible and studying it as a text that reflects the age in which it was created. One can only hope as the world continues to shrink that Islam will go through a similar process.

For those who are interested, Irshad Manji's website is http://www.muslim-refusenik.com/

Today's reading from the Faithful Words Promise Box:
A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
- Luke 12:15

1 comment:

Carol said...

Having converted from Catholicism to Episcopalianism, (which, admittedly, some might not see as a tremendous change) I am always fascinated and respectful of people who are willing to try to hang in there notwithstanding questions and criticisms of their birth religion. Our friend Molly is like that; although she shares our difficulties with Catholicism, she's grappled with those questions and arrived at different conclusions. I respect her for that even though I just can't get to the same place. That is just one reason why I liked "The Trouble w/ Islam."