In which a commenter writes a post for me: the moral bankruptcy of neo-traditionalism

Now and again, I receive a comment that really should be a post in itself. Such as this one, for example:

“Oh, and xcwn- can you please explain as clearly as possible why I, as an adult, heterosexual Muslim male, should have the slightest problem with an institution (slave concubinage) that allows me to have as much sex as I can pay for, without incurring any sin? Hey- if it was good enough for everybody from the Sahaba to Tom Jefferson who am I to complain?”

When our beliefs cause us to justify the buying and selling of human beings, then we have a problem.
(Ad for a slave auction in Charleston, SC:

This comment, courtesy of “Anonymous//”, was in response to this recent post about Eid al-Adha, in which I pointed out (among other things) that in the stories we were told about Abraham, whether or not Hajar consented to sex or childbearing was simply ignored—both in the stories themselves, as well as in the conservative Muslim communities I used to have dealings with. Even the question of whether Abraham consulted with or informed the mother of the boy he was all set to sacrifice was never raised. The post also observed that in the communities I was involved with, the patriarchal dominance portrayed in such stories was seen as an ideal that we should live up to. Women were supposed to be self-sacrificing to the point of self-abnegation.

This comment by “Anonymous//” illustrates the moral bankruptcy of certain conservative approaches to Islam, that I have seen from neo-traditionalists in particular (though some Salafis also have much the same views). According to them, if the Qur’an/the hadith/the views of Muslim jurists allows something, then God allows it. Therefore, it is forever allowable. It does not matter how many states’ laws or UN resolutions outlaw something, or whether the majority of Muslims decide that something is unacceptable, or even if human experience or medical advances indicate that something is harmful, it is still permissible, and no one has the right to forbid it because God has allowed it.

Many conservative Muslims (certainly, in North America) balk at following this sort of argument to its logical conclusion. So, if they are asked some obvious questions, such as do they really believe that slavery is justified, then they try to dodge it in various ways, such as by arguing that slavery practiced “according to Islam” is nothing like the plantation slavery of the American South, and that anyway, this is a red herring because slavery has been abolished. Not intellectually honest answers, but at least on some level they realize that slavery is unjust, even if they won’t admit it.

And, they do similar things with questions about marriage of underage girls, forced marriage of minors, wife abuse, marital rape, hudud punishments, and so forth. Because (among other things) they realize that these are real problems, in the real world, and defending certain things can and does lead to real consequences for some people—most usually, for children, for women and for the poor. And because at least the more astute among them also realize that the question of slavery in particular is not infrequently racialized. After all, when humans are treated like commodities, then descent and skin color and physical features are characteristics that add to or detract from a slave’s purported market value.

But then there are those neo-traditionalists (and Salafis) who disdain such apologetics. And refuse to see why there is a problem.
After all, why is there a problem for the privileged and powerful—those who get to indulge their sadistic fantasies and feel good about it into the bargain?

There are few sadistic fantasies or desires that a free Muslim man with the economic means can’t indulge in today’s world, should he wish to do so. Whether it is to marry a child (and divorce her in the morning, and then marry another…), witness a beheading, take part in a stoning, torture a political prisoner in jail for “spreading corruption of the earth”… all this and more is available to such a man in some corner of the world right now. And the textual justifications for such acts are not hard to find. One would have to be pretty oblivious to miss them, in fact.

Such interpretations of Islam in effect render God, the prophets and the scholars pimps and procurers for the free elite male privileged (and torturers and oppressors of everyone else).

This is purchasing logical coherence at the price of one’s humanity.

And this is just a part of what those of us who are recovering from neo-traditionalism are in the process of recovering from.

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  1. #1 by (o_o) on November 26, 2012 - 10:03 pm


  2. #2 by Saliha on November 26, 2012 - 10:57 pm

    “Such interpretations of Islam in effect render God, the prophets and the scholars pimps and procurers for the free elite male privileged (and torturers and oppressors of everyone else).” Mr. Nail, meet Mr. Head. Thank you for introducing them, X.

  3. #3 by Anonymous// on November 27, 2012 - 1:42 am

    As for slavery, you say tomato, I say tomato. But for revelation it would all be a matter of taste, anyway. I find it disgusting that some people eat frogs’ legs, but they do, and consider them a delicacy into the bargain. This is not essentially different from you being appalled by the marriage of female minors. Unlike you, though, some people know how to cultivate a historical sense, and their moral perspective isn’t beholden to what some dead Euro-American dude said, whenever.

    And since marriage today is so darned expensive and the returns on the investment are so poor- no food, no sex and bad manners- what suggestions do you have?

    • #4 by xcwn on December 3, 2012 - 12:37 am

      Anonymous—No, it isn’t a matter of taste. It’s a matter of human dignity and totally avoidable human suffering. Regarding the marriage of female minors, just google “fistula.”

      These issues aren’t theoretical. They aren’t some sort of game to use to prove anyone’s “Muslim authenticity.”

      Sad how so many Muslims remind me of the old nickname of the Russian city of St Petersburg—“the city built on dead men’s bones”. What sort of a faith is this that requires so much cruelty?

      • #5 by Anonymous// on December 3, 2012 - 9:07 am

        In terms of avoidable suffering, any intercourse with minors that would result in physical damage of the kind you mention is prohibited, since jurists say a minor is only suitable for sex ‘when she is able to bear it’ (Kecia Ali, I think). Other than that, there was no minimum (read: artificial) age for sexual activity, and the threshold presumably varies in each case.

        You’re right, these issues aren’t theoretical at all and nor do I consider them to be, particularly with childhood marriage a fairly common phenomenon even today and slaves making up about 10-15% of the population of Mauritania (according to an estimate I read).

        As for ‘authenticity’, well, if the sahaba and the Prophet (s) did it, who are you to call it immoral? And which cruelty are you talking about? Whose justice, which rationality? What sort of religion is it you follow that allows you to criticise as immoral the conduct of its prophets?

        The question it boils down to is: where does morality come from, and how do we know the morally good from the morally reprehensible? I emphasise the epistemological question, the ontological one is more or less academic. The answer is that Good is whatever God or his Prophet (s) said it is, regardless of popular Euro-American prejudices to the contrary. If in all your years you didn’t learn that from your teachers, you should go and ask for your money back.

      • #6 by charmedshiva on December 9, 2012 - 9:24 am

        Anonymous, the fact that your comment seems to limit sexual activity to a mere physical thing, needing only physical ‘readiness’ and having only physical effects, only goes to show the severity of the problem in the Muslim world.

        I reached puberty in my early 11th year. I’m sure I was physically capable of tolerating sexual penetration when I was 12 or 13. Does that mean I was ready to actually engage in it, and get married? I was also able to cook and clean, formulate my own opinions, read and write, babysit younger ones, and carry relatively mature conversations with adults of all ages when I was 13, let alone 14, 15, or 16. I had desires for the opposite sex and knew what sex was and had even been taught the basics of the reproductive system before I turned 12. I was always recognized as the “mature” girl in the family throughout my teenage years. Does that mean I was ready for marriage at 13? What about 14 or 15? What benefit do Muslims gain by allowing their daughters to be married off in their young to mid teens? If it’s not necessary, has little obvious benefit, and if it may even cause more harm, then what’s the point of continuing to allow it and defend it?

        Secondly, humans have written in religious texts that Solomon had over 1,000 wives, of them 300 concubines. Does that make such a practice moral? Just having the practice written in text is enough for us to say it’s moral?
        No, I’m sorry, that’s not how people come to religion. The problem with religious communities is in fact that very blind attitude – that you must accept everything at face value if we have written that the prophets practiced it. We who were religion-less and then able to chose what religion we wanted to follow didn’t search with the preconceived notion that whatever the prophets of Islam did, according to religious texts, was absolutely correct; so we have to be shown the purity of the religion first. You seem to treat opinions that differ from mainstream traditional Islam as only a result of western thought, as if to say that our rational selves are only dependent on our regional and cultural upbringing. If that were the case, then you would have never seen Anglo-Saxon, White folk converting to Islam. It’s a lot more nuanced than the easy-to-invoke “East vs. West” accusation.
        When you are able to rationally, as well as empirically, come to the conclusion that a practice causes harm to society, then who are you and your books to tell us that’s not the case? “Which rationality?” Well, the human one, because that’s the same one you try to use when you defend Islam. It’s the same one you’re invoking and it’s the same one God gave us. There is a grave problem with suffocating your own ability to think and observe for the sake of adherence to a doctrine. Why would a religion ask you to do that, lest it has something to hide or something unnatural to penetrate into your brain? Why would God give you a rational brain only to tell you to shut it off and just accept whatever is written in religious books? Does God expect people to come to Islam by some sort of magical influence, or does He hold them accountable to come by observing the haq of the religion?
        So perhaps the real question to ask is, what sort of religion do you follow that allows you to override and justify human suffering, the suffocation of the human mind, and injustice in the name of following prophets?

        I find your last comments really typical of religious folk, especially authority figures, such as shaykhs. It’s the same threatening language, only in a more subtle form. – How dare you question the command of God’s apostle? How dare you question the history written in our books? How dare you assert that perhaps laws reform over time according to their appropriateness in shifting societies? How dare you go against God? Who are you, with your puny human brain to even for a second question the God’s infinitely wise ‘decree’?

      • #7 by JLY on December 12, 2012 - 10:19 am

        Dear Anonymous,
        Here are some questions to ponder. How would you feel if you were, right now, sold to a powerful person who could and would have sex with you even if you didn’t want to, with impunity, and you were not allowed to do anything about it? Your human dignity stripped away, your person violated? How would you like to be a slave? Do you enjoy having the agency to move about freely, and would you chafe against restrictions on your liberty to talk with people, or read, or pray, or play? How would you feel?
        Those are the questions that tell you whether something is moral or immoral.
        It’s not about whether “you are sinning” … It’s about “is your brother or sister suffering?”

        Your soul is not more important than theirs.

        In every instance, place yourself in the position of the powerless and imagine how you would feel if you were they; empathise.

        Do that, and then see if your questions even make sense.

    • #8 by JLY on December 12, 2012 - 10:26 am

      So your sister’s suffering is less important than your satisfaction, in bed or at the table.
      You are willing to accept responsibility for inflicting pain or humiliation on your sister in order to make yourself feel good.
      You are willing to force, coerce, and subjugate your brother in order to have your desires served.

      Is that within the spirit of the law of G-d?

      Who are you to elevate your comfort over the discomfort of your sisters and brothers?

  4. #9 by ayasmom on November 28, 2012 - 1:22 am

    Please define neo-traditionalist/salafist. Not that I don’t know or understand what you mean, but I don’t know and understand well enough to articulate it and to be aware of it’s boundaries.

    Another awesome post. I thank you.

    • #10 by xcwn on December 2, 2012 - 3:22 pm

      Ayasmom—Salafis are those who define what is “Islamic” by quoting the Qur’an and Sunna, which they (or more often, their leaders) read in a more or less literalistic way. They tend to either ignore the history of how the verses/hadiths that they are quoting have been interpreted, or only quote from past scholars very selectively (and usually, only from those who they agree with–such as Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Qayyim, Ibn Kathir). Common Salafi buzz-words: bid’a, shirk, on the minhaj. There are highly conservative Salafis who follow the interpretations of well-known conservative Saudi scholars, and there are more liberal Salafis who think those Saudi scholars are too extreme. North American Salafism of the more conservative type has its hobby-horses: spelling every Islaaamic word with extra vowels (Islaam, Allaah, hadeeth…) while blissfully oblivious to how dumb it looks, promoting polygamy, strongly opposing most types of music and singing, promoting niqab, railing against bid’a.

      Neo-traditionalists celebrate “tradition”—all 1400 years of it. At least, they celebrate all 1400 years of it to the extent that it is Sunni (and often also, Ash’ari). Unlike the Salafis, they don’t see Muslim history as a long sad tale of the majority being misled into believing or committing various types of bid’a, so they revere “the great scholars” (meaning, scholars who were Sunni and didn’t try to overturn things). Neo-traditionalist buzz-words/phrases: “as my teacher said”, “as my shaykh taught me”, “as we are honored to read”, “ijaza”. Neo-traditionalist hobbyhorses (in North America): going and studying in Syria or West Africa with a shaykh, going to Syria and getting an ijaza in Qur’an recitation (and framing said ijaza and putting it up in your living room), attending Deen Intensives.

  5. #11 by Chinyere on November 28, 2012 - 5:19 am

    Yes. I agree with the quote Saliha selected…really summarizes it well.

  6. #12 by mary on December 1, 2012 - 10:49 am

    Yes. Like the many men I’ve met who think the solution to their boredom, their bad marriages, their looming midlife crisis, their sexual insecurity, is to take a second wife. It’s all about how they define themselves by the power they hold over others. The danger of the traditional “thinkers” is so obvious – they’re the ones who not only think marrying pubescent girls is ok, but that anyone who is not one of them can be marginalized simply by using a literal interpretation of the Quran. What is worse is that there are literally thousands of dangerous hadith at the disposal of such men. What has alienated me is the ostensible stupidity of giving legitimacy to these hadith, but that was before I realized how useful they are to those who stand to benefit from them.

  7. #13 by charmedshiva on December 8, 2012 - 5:23 am

    Assalamu alaykum,
    You have touched up on a lot of material that I personally struggle with. I think you bring a new perspective to the table that I hadn’t seen much of before. Thank you.
    I still have a basic concern though – if the textual evidence exists from Quran, from Sunnah, and from the word of former scholars of Islam, then who are we to say that that’s not actually Islam? Slavery is an interesting topic. We object to it because we are treating humans as commodities. But no one can deny that that happened during the Prophet’s time. So sure, maybe those slaves were not treated nearly as badly as other forms of slavery, but nonetheless they were commodities, traded and sold and not free to live as they wished. They were slaves in the true sense of the word, regardless of whether or not they were “mistreated.” And many of them (if female) were concubines to their masters, right? “those whom your right hands possess” from the Quran. It’s in the Quran and hadith. Who are we to object? Is the issue really about the culture 1400 years ago versus our culture today, or is it an issue of what is right and what is wrong in general?
    And of course, we’re taught, the first and formal wife of a man had no say as to whether or not he be allowed concubines. According to some of the oldest sources, Maria was a concubine of the Prophet himself who was sent to him as a gift along with her sister. The sisters were gifted. And this isn’t the only instance of gifting girls to men that we see in Arab culture at that time. Her sister was then gifted to someone else because the Prophet chose Maria, the prettier girl, out of the two gifts.

    I think the only way to really know the orthodoxy of a religion is to look at the best available evidence of how it was practiced by the Prophet himself. Isn’t it clear that the best evidence is in the hands of the traditional scholars? I mean, I usually find that the people who disagree with the traditional scholars many times invoke personal opinion and feelings rather than delve into the real text of Islam. If people try to bring textual evidence against the traditional view, I always see that the traditionals have much stronger textual evidence. They have also studied the text in much greater depth. So who is anyone else to say that that’s not really the true Islam? What if it IS really Islam? After all, the textual evidence is in their favor.

    I think a lot of Muslim apologetics like to cite the idea of “their culture” vs. “our culture” or “their time” vs. “our time.” But does that make the troubling practices correct? I don’t think the question is really about their time vs. our time, I think the question is about “was it correct for any time?” Is stoning correct for any time? Is disallowing your wife to have a say as to whether you marry another woman a correct practice for any time? Is expecting your wife to be submissive to your sexual desires at any moment of time you want, a correct practice for any century/age/time? Is being allowed to have as many concubines as you want a correct practice for any time? Honestly, what’s the point of limiting wives to 4 and then saying hey, go ahead and have a bunch of concubines? Really? The response you’ll usually find is, “concubines have less rights and are not formally contracted.” Umm…. that doesn’t solve the problem. We’re so against dating, and we talk about non-Muslims who keep mistresses in such negative ways, yet our own history is full of multiple wives, many divorces, and concubines (which are really just formalized mistresses lol). Is this a cultural issue or a moral issue?

    Those are just some of my thoughts.

    • #14 by xcwn on December 12, 2012 - 3:01 am

      Charmedshiva—You raise a lot of important questions. Essentially, it comes down to who “owns” Islam? Personally, I don’t think that any one group “owns” it, but at the moment, different groups and individuals are jockeying for the power and authority to define what “Islam” is, in North America and elsewhere.

      Being able to give “textual evidence” is a function of privileged access to education, which many more men have had (and continue to have) than women. The ability to give “textual evidence” in favor of patriarchal practices (and to justify various types of abuses) comes from the patriarchy of the texts themselves, as well as their history of interpretation by patriarchally-minded scholars. But the question of what is acceptable “textual evidence” and who gets to define that is even more an issue of power and authority. It’s a closed circle.

      Anyway, this is another post—or series of posts.

      • #15 by charmedshiva on December 12, 2012 - 9:16 am

        I hope you eventually do post on those things!
        Muslim scholars are good at showing historical evidence that there were plenty of female scholars in Islam’s history. I often wonder, “well then where are their books?”

        I find it really hard to counter textual evidence, especially if the way we object to Islamic practices is by saying things like “at least on some level they realize that slavery is unjust, even if they won’t admit it.” If it’s not clear that slavery was practiced in the time of the Prophet, then almost nothing is clear. And if slavery is unjust, then the Prophet was unjust. And if the Prophet was unjust, then Islam is unjust. So to me it’s a matter of either accepting Islam as it is or just accepting that it isn’t for us. I’ve read interpretations that interpret why the Prophet couldn’t just abolish slavery at his time, and they conclude that reintroducing slavery after it has been internationally outlawed would be contrary to Islamic values. These are the apologetics that you’ve most likely already heard. My point is, the best we can do if we remain Muslim is have different interpretations of real Islamic practices, and to perhaps reinterpret until when in time those practices remain allowable, but we can’t just discard Islamic practices as immoral. Do you know what I’m trying to say? I’m trying to say that there is no way conceivable (for me) that we can say slavery didn’t exist in Islam, concubinage didn’t exist in Islam, or hudud doesn’t exist in Islam. The best we can do is interpret why they are acceptable and whether they apply still today, which I’m really interested in exploring more about. And as I said in another post, the real problem with that is… well, is for example, stoning people to death appropriate for any time/society? Even if we interpret that it’s not applicable today, just the fact that it even exists as a practice in Islam is… that’s significant.

        I’m also interested in more perspectives about Islamic studies and scholarship, because honestly, how am I going to look a scholar of hadith in the face and tell him that hadith #x is not trustworthy? I have no background in hadith studies and he has spent his whole life on the subject. So when seemingly all of scholarship accepts certain hadith, then who are we to question? I think the traditionalists, in that sense, have a really strong argument in their favor, and they are also the most educated ones with regard to all areas of Islamic studies. To me, when we question the traditional approach to Islam, it sounds like we’re directly saying that it is possible for all of Islam’s mainstream scholarship, since the beginning of its time, to have been heavily mistaken. That’s a really far-fetched assertion.
        I admit that it is possibly the heavy extent to which traditionalists have been able to convince me of their authenticity that I have so much trouble seeing things clearly.

        This stuff often leads me to think, maybe what I have a problem with is really Islam itself and not Muslims or Muslim scholars. I don’t know…

      • #16 by xcwn on December 12, 2012 - 3:42 pm

        Charmedshiva—Between apologists (who rarely know much about the textual tradition) and patriarchal neo-traditionalists (who use their knowledge of the textual tradition to justify and prettify oppression), we aren’t very well served, are we?

        Though, there are a few contemporary Muslim authors who have extensive knowledge of the texts AND can critically discuss them. Khaled Abou El-Fadl’s book, Speaking in God’s name contains a fairly insightful discussion of some well-known misogynistic hadiths. That book is lacking in a number of ways, and he does slide into apologetics, but some of the questions he raises are a start.

        Post coming….

    • #17 by ki sarita on December 23, 2012 - 12:46 pm

      Hi Charm,
      regarding the question whether certain things were appropriate during their time or not-
      my answer to this question is that society has grown and advanced morally since bakc then. Of course, looking at some things that have happened in modern tiems such as Hitler, it is hard to look at society as very advanced…. but I heard a wise person say that is because for every two steps forward we taka step backiward……. so its slow going b ut I believe humaniyt really is progressing to a stage of greater knowledgled understanding and consciousness. So my feeling is that certain religions came as revelations and advances relative to the time that they were in, and we can not judge them by things we know today. any more than we can expect a kid to act with the reasoning of an adult. , but we in our age hav e no excuse for remaining stuck there.

      • #18 by charmedshiva on December 24, 2012 - 4:12 am

        Ki sarita,

        Are you saying that morality is a matter of time and place, and that its standard changes as humans modernize? I think I might agree to that, but I have certain problems with defining morality as shifting ideology without resorting to taking a non-religious perspective.

        Religion makes the claim that it is a doctrine for all times. If we restrict certain Islamic practices to the time of the Prophet, while assuming that Islam is the religion of God, then it must be that for that social context such acts were properly moral. Islam’s coming eliminated many cultural norms of that day because it saw them as immoral and unbecoming. Yet others it allowed to remain. It must mean then, that we should have sufficient reason to see why they were indeed moral practices, and why they haven’t been eliminated over time by all of religious scholarship, and why absolutely no progression of eradication was prescribed for them by religion for future times.

        A secular view would say that “for those times” the moral expectation we should have is lower, since our understanding has progressed over time. Or perhaps it would say that our moral expectation for people should be based on the area, time, and culture with which people are brought up; and thus as time and culture evolve, we shift our understanding and thereby, perhaps, improve. But that doesn’t quite follow the logic of religion. In fact, the greatest time according to Islam is the very time of the Prophet, and the greatest of all communities were those of the first 3 generations of Muslims. We are to follow their example until the end of times. In addition, the Prophet is considered to be the most knowledgeable of all people to have ever existed, because he received inspiration and knowledge from God. He was ever wiser than the rest of creation. If he needed to make judgments about right vs. wrong based on knowledge, then according to religion, he very well had it and was able to do so. Islam also makes clear that morality takes a steadily declining route as we progress father away from the time of the Prophet. And how could God allow immoral acts to take place by the command of His own messengers simply because of time and place? No, acts are either moral or immoral, even if their appropriateness be restricted to certain conditions. In the religious view, then, we cannot assert that the reason certain acts of the Prophet’s day are troublesome to us is because human understanding has improved, or that human morality has improved. If it is that human morality or understand has improved, then it would mean that we are correcting the wrongs of the past, although we explain the wrongs of the past by means of investigating the culture and social context of those times. Nonetheless, wrongs are wrongs, whether from today or from yesterday.

        So we need to pick which view we’re going to take. Are we going to make excuses for Islam by making it a sort of progression in human rights based in a specific time, as a result of a specific yet incomplete step further towards understanding, or are we going to claim the religious view?

        I personally simply don’t see how a religion can say that corporal punishments and concubinage, for instance, are moral. The essential problem isn’t about time and place, their culture vs. our culture, their knowledge vs. our knowledge. That would be a secular standpoint, not a religious one. If we’re going to take the religious standpoint, then all of the laws of Islam are moral, even if we assume the wishful, far-fetched notion that much of Islam is restricted only to the time of the Prophet. I also don’t see that the arguments presented for such wishful thinking are any more logical than the perspective that traditional, orthodox Muslims have; namely, that the vast majority of their religious code, unless clearly known to be for one specific instance in history ordained by God, are still applicable in modern times if the appropriate conditions are met. For instance, corporal laws are not irrelevant to today or the future, so long as we again see khilafat or even a parliament of any other government that decides to implement it. Indeed there is no proof that the Prophet ever indicated that his system of legal crime was meant only for his own community of ancient Arabian society. Thus, for anyone to claim that it was, and that such practices are wrong for modern times, he/she would have to be making arguments based on his/her own conjecture, in order to alleviate the known controversy that parts of Islam create. I don’t see how it makes sense that a proper religion of God, especially in His final message with His final messenger, would allow for such opposing interpretations of morality whilst claiming that He has perfected the religion for us.

        One of the reasons I never disparage the Prophet, even though I’m having my doubts about Islam and see some of it as quite immoral, is because I sometimes take a similar view – that perhaps for his time, what he brought was a great step forward in human progression of morality. Thus, it would be wrong for me to disparage someone who brought, within his own capability and understanding, better human rights. However, this is a secular, non-religious, and apologetic way of looking at matters. That’s fine as long as you subscribe to irreligion, not viewing Islam or any other religion as truly divine and an ultimate guidance to mankind until the end of times. It’s fine so long as you view religion as a human invention meant for the progression of human rights and good-doing, rather than as a divine code.
        But that’s the dilemma I’m in.

        I apologize for not being more concise.

  8. #19 by ki sarita on December 21, 2012 - 2:23 pm

    Sorry but if the Prophet is unchallengeable and unquestionable, and indeed is always mentioned in the same breath as the one and only awesome unknowable god himself, that what that means is the prophet is nothing but an idol; a human being elevated to the status of a god. Muslims who believe such are NOT monotheists.

  9. #20 by mary on December 22, 2012 - 7:20 am

    Thank you, ki sarita. I always felt confused by the insistence on the Prophet being “the perfect man” and that we were to “obey him.” Worse, that we were to “love” the Prophet. Of course, we as Christians “loved” Jesus because he was God, or the Son of God, but to be commanded to love a human being no matter how “perfect” he was supposed to have been, is something else. The Prophet could not possibly have been perfect, yet every word he uttered and everything he did have been enshrined in the hadith and have influenced a portion of the human race for 1,400 years. In fact, the authenticity of hadith is the criterion for following the sayings of the Prophet whether or not what he said made any real sense. A good example is his endorsement of female genital cutting where he is quoted saying it is OK to make just a small cut.

  10. #21 by mary on December 27, 2012 - 10:49 am

    @charmedshiva, excellent comment. You have clearly articulated my own thoughts, particularly those concerning whether the first three generations after the Prophet were the “best.” I not only have a big problem accepting whether the Prophet’s judgment was “divinely inspired” but whether he was sometimes just plain wrong. As you said, how can we accept child marriage, concubinage and slavery as morally correct? I also find the sexism very disturbing – to me, no God would make one gender subservient to the other, or less intelligent, or less trustworthy, but all of those messages are clear in Islam, coming from the Quran as well as the ahadith. And last but not least, how can we believe our religion has been perfected for us in Islam, yet Islam contains so much ambivalence?

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