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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Birthday Wish, and lots of reflection...

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In the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.

Today is the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, whom as every Muslim believes, was the last prophet of God, through whom the living miracle, the Quran, was revealed. It is in his memory that this post is written on this day. 12th Rabi al awal, according to the Hijri calendar.

If you're expecting a post about the virtues of Muhammad, of how he represents the perfect character every believer should emulate, etc., then read no further. Many other more articulate posts have or, by the end of the day, would have been written on that angle. Like this one, by a blogger I hold in high esteem - Dr. M. Bakri Musa, a Malaysian living in the U.S. By all means, read his post. It's reflective and in the true spirit of how (I believe, anyway) Muhammad should be regarded and remembered.

But before I delve into my actual post, a quick and dirty Cliff-notes style backgrounder on Islam today:
Fact: The current Muslim population worldwide is today estimated at 1.79 billion persons (source: Muslim Population Worldwide), or roughly 27.5% of the Earth's population.
Fact: Muslims are divided into two general denominations (or sects, if you must) - Sunni and Shia. While both agree on the Quran, the division is based on the prophetic sayings (Hadith) and traditions (Sunnah) - held by the Sunni's of equal importance to the Quran, and of the importance of Prophet Muhammad's family - or the Ahlul Bayt, as prescribed by the Shia doctrine.
Fact: The split between Sunni and Shia transcends philosophical and theological differences, and has been the source of much violence throughout history, the most recent being the sectarian violence in Iraq today. To put it bluntly, they hate each others' guts. The historical source of this is long and sordid, but if you're interested, more information can be found here.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way...

When I came across this image, sometime around the worldwide uproar over the Danish cartoons, two emotions came over me.

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Anger and disgust.

The main question I pose: Hypothetically, if Muhammad were to suddenly appear today, whom would he identify as being the true followers of the religion revealed to him, Islam?

I also wondered what our great prophet would have thought of the violence perpetrated supposedly to uphold his honor and good name. And of the fact that many so-called Muslims today preach hatred. Pure, unadulterated, hatred.

In my personal quest and journey towards God, I am trying to read more of the Quran - not simply reciting it in the proper pronunciation, timbre, elocution, and all the physical trappings celebrated of world-class Quran reciters - but reading and understanding what's contained in this miraculous book.

The more I read, and the more I understand, a strange epiphany comes over me - it's the realization that the Islam being propogated today in the mainstream Muslim worlds (Sunni, Shia, and the numerous sub-sects therein) would for the most part be unrecognizable to our own great prophet, if he should materialize today, hypothetically.

Many would call this realization blasphemous, murtad-ous, or whatever mud-slinging phrase that comes to mind to describe apostacy. But I have valid reasons for the epiphany.

The Quran itself proclaims that it alone is the word of God and it alone is complete, and it alone should be followed - "the best hadith" (see surah 39, verse 23). Prophet Muhammad himself forbade the transcription of anything other than what was revealed as the Quran.

And this prohibition was upheld througout the rule of the four guided Caliphs. And it was only some 200 years after the death of Muhammad that his sayings and traditions were first compiled - mostly through oral renditions 2 or 3 generations old.

And it is these very hadiths and sunnahs, compiled against Muhammad's very wishes, that is the source of the split within the Islamic world.

God gave human beings intellect - it is what makes us different from the other mammals that roam the earh. This same intellect, however, is exactly what some of our Islamic religious icons exalt us to relinquish, because, they say, faith is unquestioned acceptance. Acceptance without question. In other words, blind faith. And it is this blind faith, in many cases, that has guided the actions of some Muslims to do the unthinkable and the unimaginable, and the unspeakable. 9/11 is perhaps the most painful reminder of this.

Personally, I don't think that's what God gave us intellect for. And on this day, in rememberance of Muhammad, the last prophet of God, I ask that everyone reflect on what exactly it is that they believe in. A renewal of faith, so to speak - not based on emotion, but based on the special gift that God has given us - the ability to rationalize and intellectualize.

Go back to the one and only source of what should be our guidance in life. Learn it, understand it, and God-willing, we can one day really realize the very salutation we utter everytime we meet another Muslim - peace.

Peace be upon each and every one of you, regardless of which path to God you have chosen. In the end, God knows best, and I seek HIS forgiveness for my transgressions...

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Peace Be Upon Him.