Monday, January 18, 2016

Could Agnostic Islam Stop ISIS' Terrorism?

            Another Paris style attack in Jakarta, Indonesia by the ISIS! More innocent lives harmed by such ruthless terror. While the world searches for ways and means to stop the ISIS, my friend referred an article to me – an interview of Hassan Radwan by the Clarion Project.

            Clarion Project is an organization that promotes tolerance and moderation to challenge extremism. 1 Hassan Radwan is an agnostic Muslim writer, activist and the founder of the Facebook discussion group “Agnostic Muslims and Friends.”

            Hassan Radwan suggests that agnostic Islam is the best means to stop ISIS. How could agnostic Islam stop ISIS?

            Hassan Radwan recommends a distinctive methodology to understand the Quran - to fundamentally negate Quran’s infallibility and interpret it based on human reason and conscience tethered to tolerance and moderation ingrained in the goodness of present time and culture. Read this rather lengthy quotation scrupulously so to understand Radwan, “The only way to defeat extremism is to get to the root cause. Groups like ISIS are merely a symptom. The root cause in my opinion is the belief in the infallibility of the Quran. Yes, of course I am aware there are many other factors such as the often foolish and misguided policy of some Western governments towards the Middle East as well as many other social and political factors such as the rise of the Salafi form of Islam. But they alone cannot account for the existence of the harsh puritanical and supremacist form of Islam that seeks to impose political and religious authority throughout the world…

            …But as long as we don’t tackle the belief that the Quran is the infallible words of God then no matter how many problems are solved or inequalities righted there will always be another group seeking to impose the word of God against reason and conscience.

            This is why when you defeat one group another even more desperate rises from their ashes. The idea that the Quran is fallible will of course come as a terrible shock to most Muslims brought up as we are to believe the Quran is the perfect and infallible word of God, but I firmly believe that once we Muslims get passed this shock and emotional reaction and begin to reflect more rationally we will see that in fact this is the only way to save the real soul of Islam from the extremists who are in fact the ones destroying it.

            In actual fact the Qur'an never uses words like infallible, perfect nor miraculous. The reason this belief seems to have gained ground is because of the challenge the Quran makes to "bring something like it." Though being unable to imitate something doesn't of course mean it is either perfect or infallible. The Quran does say it is from God, but then again what I'm saying doesn't contradict that. I accept the Quran was inspired by God. It's just not verbatim his actual speech.

            Revelation and inspiration is a mystery. I believe that to a lesser or greater extent we can all be inspired in different ways. How we express this inspiration is determined by our environment, personality and limitations. Whatever inspiration Prophet Muhammad received, it had to be expressed though his language, his person, his character and his culture. This must be borne in mind when reading the Quran. They are human words attempting to convey spiritual experiences beyond human language and conceptualization.

            Thus we as Muslims can draw wisdom and benefit from the Quran as long as we apply our reason and conscience. Yes, of course our reason and conscience are fallible, but so is the Quran, particularly when one appreciates that it was formed by a human being in a very different time and context as our own today” (Emphasis Mine).2

            So Radwan, either implicitly or explicitly, submits these propositions to eliminate terrorism predicated on religious extremism:

            1. Quran, if considered as infallible, will entail religious extremism a.k.a. terrorism (because Quran could be interpreted in a violent manner).

            2. ISIS has created its extremist ideology from the Quran.

            3. Quran cannot be infallible since Prophet Muhammad, a mere man, expressed it through his distinct yet culturally-entrenched self.

            4. A Muslim cannot know, for certain, if the Quran is God’s literal words or not.

            5. Hence all Muslims are to be agnostic and negate Quran’s infallibility.

            6. An agnostic Muslim should apply his own reason and conscience (firmly entrenched in brotherly love) while interpreting the Quran.

            7. If all Muslims are agnostic about the Quran, then terrorism, based out of the Quran, would be eliminated.

            This then is the utmost countermeasure against terrorism, according to Radwan.

            Radwan’s rejection of Quran’s infallibility is reasonable because Muhammad, being the only or the single source of divine revelation, could have expressed the revelation through his flaws and bias. The single source of Quranic authorship duly caused doubt in Radwan’s mind, “No matter how great the source of inspiration it is nevertheless inextricably tied to the time and place of the person who received it and subject to his flaws, limitations & context.” 3 Give credit to Radwan for he hit the proverbial nail on its head through his proposition to reject Quran’s infallibility.

            Radwan rejects Quran’s infallibility to liberate Islam from its violence and to reform it to be more tolerant and inclusive, “We must stop protecting the Quran on the basis that “God said it” because he didn't. Muhammad said it, albeit inspired by God. Only in this way can Islam truly become a universalistic, inclusive and pluralistic religion.”4

            This is a positive first-step to curb terrorism. Rejection of Quranic infallibility could mellow a tough heart.

            Terrorism cannot be eliminated totally, but can be curbed. However for terrorism to be successfully curbed, the truth of Quran’s fallibility should be communicated to the Islamic grassroots.

            While Radwan’s rejection of Quranic infallibility is reasonable, his overall strategy to eliminate terrorism based on the Quran, is existentially untenable. This is because Radwan presupposes the following:

            1. Non-existence of Satan (who, according to the Quran, urges humans to sin - Sura 114:1-6). 

            2. All humans are good.

            Both these presuppositions are invalid. First, Satan exists. Second, if Satan exists, all humans cannot be good.

            If all humans are good, their interpretation of Quran would absolutely exclude violence. But since sin resides in human heart, sin would motivate a violent interpretation of the Quran. 

            Thus we are back to square one, which is to confront terrorism.

            Terrorism, in a short term perspective, should be confronted with due diligence and aggression. Terrorists ought to be imprisoned before they wreck havoc or be eliminated once and for all.

            In a long term perspective, terrorism cannot be totally eliminated since evil will continue to exist. Evil will exist since Satan, the source of evil, will continue to exist. Satan will cease to exist when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to annihilate Satan once and for all. Until then, all we can hope for is to curb terrorism and not to absolutely contain it.

            May the good Lord Jesus Christ comfort, encourage and strengthen those adversely impacted at Jakarta and in the other parts of the world by the terrorists.




3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

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