Early history of Muslims needs fresh appraisal—XII

When the Quran was revealed, several religions were in vogue

M Aamer Sarfraz

“Making of Humanity” by Robert Briffault (1876-1948) is described as a part of the knowledge-base of human civilization. Briffault writes, “The ideas that inspired the French Revolution and the Declaration of Rights that guided the Framing of the American Constitution and inflamed the struggle for independence in the Latin American countries [and elsewhere] were not inventions of the West. They find their ultimate inspiration and source in the Holy Koran”.

The Quran states that humanity started as a brotherhood of man until they started fighting among themselves (10:19). From thereon, they divided and subdivided into casts, tribes, nations and different religions. God sent his Prophets with a code of life from time to time to remove their differences and bring them back into the fold of brotherhood (2:213). My principal issue with the current version of early Muslim history is that it brings Muslims in direct conflict with the Quran. Let me give you an example to drive this point home.

One of the foremost conventions of the Quran is Unity (brotherhood of man). Therefore, it proclaims “Hold on to this rope of Allah (Quran) steadfastly, and do not split yourself into factions” (3:103). The Quran is a code for fulfilling and successful existence for all mankind for all times; and this code is everlasting (2:256), detailed (6:114), consistent (10:64) and complete (6:115; 10:57). The plural expression in this verse underlines that a religion is not about an individual relationship with God; it is about being part of one community. And “Do not divide” is a divine command, which does notofferchoice. Elsewhere in the Quran (42:13), it is also revealed that the message in this verse is not new; it has been given earlier to other Prophets including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

The Quran is revealed by one God and promulgates one Deen (way of life). But the followers of the Deen compete with each other subsequently and create factions (religions) due to jealously and inflated egos (42:14). This practiceis based on emotions and the lust for power; evidenceis created later to support or oppose the relevant faction. When the Quran was revealed, several religions were in vogue. It clearly propositioned that Islam is here to remove confusion and schisms, and to mould individuals into a community (Ummah). And that this development would be insightful and by choice, otherwise, He could create all human beings as those animals who exist in herds and follow the herd mentality.

Initiating schisms in a community is a crime against humanity. When Moses went away for a while leaving Aaron in charge, he found Israelites worshipping a ram on his return. He was furious with Aaron for letting them do it until he informed him that the alternative would have been a breakdown of the community into factions (hence he looked the other way). God also chose to forgive them subsequently, but they were humiliated and ruined (3:111) once they divided themselves into different blocs and factions (7:168) later one.

The Quran repeatedly spells disaster for those who instigate and sustain schisms. In contrast, it promises eternal rewards for those who follow the code (3:107). It also warns Muslims to stop worshipping Idols, and one wonders why the believers would do that. It explains that creating factions is akin to idol-worship. It advised Prophet Muhammad to stay away from those who create factions (6:159). Unsurprisingly, the Prophet destroyed Masjid Zarrar which was built by some Muslims (covert secessionists) in the name of local convenience. The Quran called the construction of this mosque a great conspiracy against Allah and His Prophet and pledged hell for the perpetrators.

“Discord in my Ummah is beneficial (Rahmah)”. One could dispute that something so illogical and against the Quran cannot be attributed to Prophet Muhammad. But you would be risking personal safety and being declared an apostate by the leaders of different religious factions

Since Muslims are categorically instructed to follow the Quran and stay united (no factions, and even separate mosques are allowed), you may question why we have Islamic sects, factions and firqasthrough out the world? The plain answer is — due to our Ahadith and the early Muslim history.

It was started with ahadith, “Discord in my Ummah is beneficial (Rahmah)”. One could dispute that something so illogical and against the Quran cannot be attributed to Prophet Muhammad. But you would be risking personal safety and being declared an apostate by the leaders of different religious factions. They would also “defend”their position without realising their own strong bias and conflict of interest on the issue. However, they cannot answer why they hate Ahmadis who have only created another self-proclaimed firqa/sect? In line with their beliefs, they should actually be congratulating Ahmadis for being so beneficial to the Muslim community.

The above hadith has been a historical defence for having schisms/firqas in Islam. But there was a problem because it gave every sect the liberty to call itself original/true/right. So, another hadith was invented, “My Ummah would have seventy-three sects, but only one of them is true/right.” This solved the problem because for over one thousand years, each sect has the license to call itself genuine and others fake. They do not care that this ‘solution’ has created permanent discord among the Muslims; leading to endless disharmony, bloodshed, loss of wealth and lack of progress.

(To be continued)

The writer is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor. He tweets @AamerSarfraz

Published in Daily Times, December 24th 2018.

Posted in M Aamer Sarfraz.