Of Mohammad Shami And The Good Bad Muslim
Along with Mohammed Shami, the overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims are bad Muslims, if the definition of a good Muslim is someone who believes in every word of the holy Quran, the order of Allah as dictated to Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him). Assuming this definition, one which incidentally is sacrosanct to any Muslim, a bad Muslim is one who, even though he does not dare to admit it publicly, chooses the Quranic commandments as per his needs.
The bad Muslim is a hypocrite and he knows it.
In time, the bad Muslim, for fear of antagonising fellow Muslims, expunges from his system the verses that he – through societal pressure or epiphany – finds uncomfortable or unsuitable to his way of life. It is as though the said verses do not exist, that the all merciful Allah did not utter them. In instances where it is difficult to expunge from memory the problematic verses, the bad Muslim begins to rationalise the choice he has made, and predictably the rationalisation is in the form of the excuse called Interpretation – the interpretation of Quranic verses, and the interpretation of Islam itself (Sufi, Wahhabi, et cetera). However, some verses that are as clear in their meaning as would be the phrase, “The Earth revolves round the Sun”, are impossible to interpret in more than one way. Hence their purging from collective bad Muslim memory. The result of all this is that the bad Muslim jumps the queue to call as Islamic extremists all those who follow and adhere to the Quranic verses he finds egregious. Here, it is not the infidel but, rather, the bad Muslim who is Islamophobic, which is to say that he fears Islam; he fears to make public the word of the Holy Quran in its entirety. Consequently, a situation arises where both, the good Muslim and the bad Muslim are reading, admiring, preaching, proselytising the exact same book. In scientific parlance, this is akin to a Darwinist and a creationist reading, admiring, preaching, proselytising The Origin of the Species, albeit with one difference: a Darwinist is not a creationist but – except for the definitions expounded here – a Muslim is a Muslim.
Much as this author admires the cricketer Mohammed Shami, the fact is that Shami is a bad Muslim, and those Muslims who rebuked him for having a wife unconcerned with wearing a sleeveless gown, are good Muslims
The irony here is that the good Muslims are being made out to be “bad” Muslims.
What is their crime, they must be thinking – “We are only cautioning our brother and fellow Muslim to follow the Quran. Why is he and the world getting so upset?”
Of course, the good Muslims are right. How a Muslim woman is to behave, how she is to dress, has been expressly ordained by the Almighty Allah, in Quran, Chapter 24, verse 31; Chapter 33, verse 59; and Chapter 7, verse 26:
“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their head-covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers that you might succeed.”
“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.”
“O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness – that is best. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember.”
To be sure, the bad Muslims try to push the theory that these verses can be interpreted differently, and that the Holy Quran does not order women to dress in the manner described above. Sadly for them, hundreds of Islamic scholars and academicians over centuries have held the opposite view. The Earth does indeed revolve around the sun.
The fact remains that a practicing Muslim who believes in the Sharia and every single word that there is in the Holy Quran, is a good Muslim, and a practising Muslim who sings, dances, plays sports, drinks, fornicates, supports Muslim women who reject the burqa or Hijab, can draw a portrait of whosoever he wishes to, is gay, and is fine with all his fellow Muslims, being all of the above, is a bad Muslim.
Unlike Mohammed Shami and his wife, Dr Zakir Naik, on the other hand, is a good Muslim. He believes resolutely in the Holy Quran and the Book of Hudood and he quotes the verses and their interpretation precisely as how they are meant to be quoted and interpreted. The Book of Hudood, for example, carries a list of punishments – stoning, flogging, beating, hacking – prescribed by the all merciful Allah. President Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan implemented a few as ordinances back in 1979. He was a good Muslim. All he did was to implement in a limited way the will of the Allah. But he was pilloried and criticised for this by the bad Muslims of Pakistan.
As with Zia, Dr Naik has fallen victim to the duplicity of the bad Muslims who – it begs repeating – read the same book but their Islamophobia prevents them from publicising some of its verses. This is both wrong and unfair. Dr Naik has every right to preach and make public all verses of the holy book, including the ones the bad Muslims would like the world to forget. Defaming or stopping Naik from quoting what is written in the Quran, is like preventing Dawkins form quoting what is written in The Origin of Species. Naik, like Dawkins, is the medium. That both quote, and quote exactly and precisely from different books, is not their fault.
Take the subject of sexual intercourse outside of marriage. Dr Naik has his view, which is that fornicators are to be flogged a hundred lashes and adulterers are to be stoned to death. But these are not his views; they are the views of the all merciful Allah:
“The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.”
Sadly, both the Indian Left and the Indian Right rejoiced in making Dr Zakir Naik the scapegoat. This is because believers of one religion see clearly in the room the elephant of a different religion but don’t call it out for fear of being called out themselves. Quid pro quo.
In the language of today’s world, the bad Muslims are seen as the moderates while the good Muslims, the extremists. And for any ideology to work, moderates must believe in it. The belief of moderates provides a cushion for the extremists. No ideology can sustain itself for long if only the extremists believe in it, for then it becomes a cult, and cults die. Moderates battle non-violently, extremists violently.
Moderates believe in the good passages and the extremists believe in the bad. But it is the same book and that is what matters to the extremists.
Like a virus that needs a human cell to survive and thrive, an extremist needs a moderate or else he will die, become extinct.
If only the bad Muslim were to realise this simple fact, the virus can be thwarted. But how? There is a problem and it is intractable (because of which the world gladly accepts the hypocrisy of the bad Muslim). The problem is this, that while it would be cathartic for the bad Muslims to acknowledge their hypocrisy in enthusiastically recommending a book that, for example, condemns homosexuality with death or adultery with stoning, beyond catharsis lies Apostasy. Beyond apostasy, death.
Is there a way out? There is, and it lies, paradoxically, in the evolutionary endowment of qualities such as empathy, kindness, remorse, and reconciliation. There are bad believers in every religion, and no one religion is less fallible than the next. Human beings are like molecules, in a way – constantly colliding but inherently desirous of settling to what is their energy-minimum. And even though mankind has found answers to the two most important questions there can ever be asked: Where did we come from, and where did the Universe – through Charles Darwin and Alexander Vilenkin – religions and believers are a reality. All the more reason, then, for us to acknowledge and cherish that the world is peaceful in large measure because to be a bad believer is to be a good human being.
Being bad is being good, and so while both Mr and Mrs Shami might be bad Muslims they are good human beings. Charming to boot.
The author can be contacted at email@example.com and on Twitter @ARangarajan1972