Irshad Manji

Book Review:

A brave voice of a truth-seeker and iconoclast!

by Edip Yuksel
İrshad Manji
Irshad Manji is not a sheikh nor a mullah, but she is a brave muslim (a peacemaker, a peaceful surrenderer to God ALONE) who has not squandered her God-given mind and heart through the teachings of clergymen who arrogated themselves by claiming monopoly over the understanding of the Quran and by injecting themselves between individuals and their Creator.

Irshad surprises me by her insight and courage. “Our duty to know God overshadows any guilt brought on by the artificial gods of family and nation.” This is not an easy task. The great majority of people follow the religion of loudest, crowdest, or the proximate bandwagon. It takes wisdom and bravery to search for truth, without condition. Throughout history, those who questioned dogmas and mythologies were shunned and declared heretics.

I do believe that a substantial reform is impossible without brave reformists who are ready to question everything. Throughout history, reformists have uttered ideas that initially repelled or scared the hypnotized majorities in their “holy bandwagons.” There cannot be a slow transformation, but a shock, a radical jump, a paradigm change among Muslim masses.

Such a reform perhaps can be accomplished only by “children” who do not hesitate to scream the reality that “emperor is naked.” Yes, Muslim clergymen and politicians are naked!

The title of the book is excellent. By using the word Allah instead of God, Irshad is daring the wormongers who wish to demonize muslims. By using the word Liberty and Love, she also challenges the Sunni and Shiite bigots who betray the many verses of the Quran promoting freedom of expression, tolerance to the choices of others. How islam could be depicted as the “religion of hate,” while the most frequent attribute of God is derivatives of the root RaHaMa (compassion, love, care)?

Irshad knows that Allah is not a proper name, but the contraction of “al” (the) and “ilah” (god) meaning, the God. I would like to quote a note from Quran: a Reformist Translation on the first verse of the Quran:

The Arabic word Allah is not a proper name as some might think; it is contraction of AL (the) and ELAH (god). The word Allahumma is a different form and the letter “M” in the end is not an Arabic suffix as a novice might think. The word Allahumma may not be considered a divine attribute since it cannot be used as a subject in a sentence or as an attribute of a divine subject. It is always used in supplication and prayers, meaning “o my lord” or “o our lord.” Allah and Rahman are two attributes that are invariably used as names rather than adjectives. Since God sent messengers to all nations (10:47; 16:36; 35:24) in their own language (14:4), they referred to their creator in their own language. See 7:180.

While some tried their hardest, for centuries, to turn the creator of the universe into an Arab God, others too have attempted to transform Him into an Anglo-Saxon male. The former ignored the fact that the languages of many nations who received God’s message in their own language did not contain the word Allah. The latter ignored the fact that Jesus or (J)esu(s), never uttered the English word `God,’ but referred to his Lord with Hebrew or Aramaic words such as Eli, Eloi, Elahi, or Ellohim (Mark 15:34), which are almost identical to corresponding Arabic words.

The Old Testament contains several verses containing the attributes of `Gracious’ and `Merciful’ as used in Basmalah: Exodus 34:6; 2 Ch 30:9; Nehemiah 9:17,31; Psalms 103:8; 116:5; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2.

In this book, Irshad informs the reader about degeneration of the peaceful, progressive and liberating message of Islam and supports her arguments through the verses of the Quran and numerous scholars of the past and present. Let me provide brief information about the nature of deformation that took place centuries ago, and the message of modern Islamic Reform movement:

Male chauvinists, hermits, misogynists too took advantage of the deformation movement that started with the gathering of hearsay stories called Hadith, about three centuries after the departure of Prophet Muhammad. Hearsay statements attributing words and deeds to Muhammad and his idolized comrades became the most powerful tool or Trojan horse, for the promotion of diverse political propaganda, cultural assimilation, and even commercial advertisement. As a result, the Quran was deserted and its message was heavily distorted.

Soon after Muhammad’s death, thousands of hadiths (words attributed to Muhammad) were fabricated and two centuries later collected, and centuries later compiled and written in the so-called “authentic” hadith books:

* to support the teaching of a particular sect against another (such as, what nullifies ablution; which sea food is prohibited);
* to flatter or justify the authority and practice of a particular king against dissidents (such as, Mahdy and Dajjal);
* to promote the interest of a particular tribe or family (such as, favoring the Quraysh tribe or Muhammad’s family);
* to justify sexual abuse and misogyny (such as, Aisha’s age; barring women from leading Sala prayers);
* to justify violence, oppression and tyranny (such as, torturing members of Urayna and Uqayla tribes; massacring the Jewish population in Medina; assassinating a female poet for her critical poems);
* to exhort more rituals and righteousness (such as, nawafil prayers);
* to validate superstitions (such as, magic; worshiping the black stone near the Kaba);
* to prohibit certain things and actions (such as, prohibiting drawing animal and human figures; playing musical instruments; chess);
* to import Jewish and Christian beliefs and practices (such as, death by stoning; circumcision; head scarf; hermitism; rosary);
* to resurrect pre-Islamic beliefs and practices common among Meccans (such as, intercession; slavery; tribalism; misogyny);
* to please crowds with stories (such as the story of Miraj (ascension to heaven) and bargaining for prayers);
* to idolize Muhammad and claim his superiority to other messengers (such as, numerous miracles, including splitting the moon);
* to defend hadith fabrications against monotheists (such as, condemning those who find the Quran alone sufficient); and even
* to advertise products of a particular farm (such as, the benefits of dates grown in a town called Ajwa).

In addition to the above mentioned reasons, many hadith were fabricated to explain the meaning of the “difficult” Quranic words or phrases, or to distort the meaning of verses that contradicted the fabricated hadith, or to provide trivial information not mentioned in the Quran (such as, Saqar, 2:187; 8:35…).

I hope that Irshad’s book will be adopted as a textbook by colleges and universities that teach courses on religions and Near Eastern or Oriental Studies.