Islamic State

Islamic State June 30, 2014

I wrote a version of this poem some time ago; this revision seems appropriate to the declaration of “the Islamic State” in what used to be parts of Iraq (and may yet again be parts of Iraq).

When Prophet Muhammad came to rule in Medina, he established a multi-religious state where Christian, Jew and Muslim were free to follow their religious beliefs.  We are told over and over in the Qur’an that the sins of our brothers, neighbors, co-religionists, and people of other faiths are not our burden; we are responsible only for our own actions, just as they are responsible for their own actions.  The Qur’an tells us, “there is no compulsion in religion,” and Omar was chastised in the Qur’an for spying on people, trying to catch them sinning in their own homes.

If I believed that “the Islamic State” would be run on these principles, on an Islamic version of secularism, I would be less worried. Unfortunately, I am convinced that they will be as oppressive and totalitarian as so many “Islamic” governments around the world from Saudi Arabia to Iran to Afghanistan under the Taliban. It is the great tragedy of modern Islam that so many of us have embraced a vision of a  mercurial, vengeful God who requires narrow, strict interpretations that we must ensure all of society embodies.

During Ramadan, it is traditional to read the Qur’an, not just isolated verses but from cover to cover. When I read the Qur’an, I see warnings against making religion hard, against making ever narrower, ever more restrictive rules, against trying to force people to your way, your understanding. I read the story of Adam and take away that fundamental relationship between God and humankind is of love, forgiveness, and Mercy. I read of Joseph and see that forgiveness between brothers is the ultimate good. I read of Jonah and see that God forgives those who return to him. I read of Muhammad and see that we are only to deliver a message, not try to force it on others.  Why, I wonder, do other Muslims seem not to read the same Qur’an I am reading?


Rasheed  –  Right-Minded

If our minds are all to the Right
Are we Right Minded?
Or perhaps we should lean to the Left?
Is a Muslim to be a Democrat, or a Republican?
A Whig or a Tory?
Socialist, Capitalist, Communist?
Follow the Shari’ah, you say.
I ask,
And just whose Shari’ah is that?
Yours or Mine?
His, you say.
But your understanding of His
And my understanding of His
And His understanding of His
Are not the same.
Not to mention the 1.5 billion other shari’ahs out there.
How can you make a government based on religion
Without compulsion of religion?
La ikraha fi deen.
There is no compulsion in religion!
Would you then compulse
Those who understand their religion differently?
Would you mandate prayers
And fasting?
Or the wearing of scarves?
Where is the value
In values that are coerced?
Where is the morality
If morals are mandatory?
Where is the responsibility of the soul
If the soul is not free to express itself?


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