Corrupt Pious, Freedom or Destruction, Real Pluralism
Issue 870 » November 27, 2015 - Safar 15, 1437
Al-Imran (The House of Imran) - Chapter 3: Verse 78
"There are some among them who twist their tongues when quoting the Scriptures, so that you may think that [what they say] is from the Scriptures, when it is not from the Scriptures. They say: 'It is from God', when it is not from God. Thus, they deliberately say of God what they know to be a lie."
When religious men are corrupt they allow themselves to be used as a tool for the falsification of facts. In this manner, they take advantage of their guise as men of religion. The example employed by the Quran in relation to the people of earlier revelations is well known to us today. They impose on the verses and statements of their own revelations arbitrary interpretations and conclusions, claiming that these represent the precise meaning intended and that, as such, they constitute God's message. In actual fact, however, their conclusions are in sharp conflict with the very essence of Divine faith. They are able to achieve this contortion because the majority of people cannot differentiate between the true essence of faith and the true meaning of these statements on the one hand, and the fabricated conclusions they arbitrarily impose on these same statements on the other.
We are today well aware of such people who are wrongly described as religious. Indeed, they are religious professionals who look upon religion as a profession and who use it in order to satisfy all sorts of prejudice. They do not hesitate to make use of any religious text when it seems to them that by so doing they serve their own material interests. It does not concern them that their arbitrary interpretations of God's revelations contradict the basic principles of faith. They try hard to detect even the slightest hint of linguistic ambiguity in a Quranic verse so that they can endorse any desire, tendency or prejudice which serves their immediate interests.
This sort of corruption is not exclusive to the people of earlier revelations. It is evident in every nation where religious faith has been greatly devalued as a result of the relentless pursuit of trifling worldly gains. It gains currency in any nation where people are so dishonest that they do not hesitate to deliberately and knowingly tell a lie about God and distort His words in order to win favours and satisfy their own perverted desires. Here God warns the Muslim community against falling into this slippery way; a path on which the Children of Israel fell and which led them to be deprived of what they had been entrusted with, namely the leadership of mankind.
"In The Shade of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol 2, pp. 106, 107
Freedom or Destruction
"Everyone goes out in the morning and sells himself, either freeing or destroying himself." [Muslim]
This hadith is stating an important aspect of reality. Every day a human is faced with a new situation. Every morning he gets up, he is going to do something. Every day he is either going to obey Allah or he is going to disobey Allah. In essence, every day he is going to be setting himself free from the Hell-fire or leading himself to the Hell-fire and his own destruction. Every day of a person's life, he is either doing something that will set his soul free or he is doing something that will destroy himself. Even the person who sits and seemingly does absolutely nothing is, in reality, actually leading himself to some result.
Al-Qari explains this hadith by saying, "Everyone who abandons this world and gives preference to the Hereafter has purchased himself from his Lord for this world. Therefore, he sets himself free. Whoever abandons the Hereafter and gives preference to this world, then he is selling the Hereafter and is destroying himself."
Finally, the word that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used, fabayi, implies one who exchanges something for something else. In that case, it applies equally well to a seller or a buyer. This is a type of speech in Arabic where the Prophet (peace be upon him) could have meant both aspects: buying and selling. In other words, every morning the person goes out and either buys himself from Allah or he sells himself to Satan.
"Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi" - Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, p. 738
People of different races, religions and cultures live side by side almost everywhere and pluralism as such punctuates the demographic contours of every nation. Factual pluralism may in a sense be distinguished from deep pluralism that implies commitment to its fuller recognition in the various walks of life. Far from ignoring the differences of various religions and cultures or any attempt to assimilate them, deep pluralism recognises these differences and then engages in them in order to gain a sound understanding of the values and commitments of the different other.
Pluralism is not the same as diversity. People of different religious or cultural backgrounds may well be present in a place, but unless they actively engage with one another, there is no pluralism. Similarly, pluralism does not simply aim at tolerance of the other but entails active effort to gain an understanding of the other. One can tolerate a neighbour about whom one remains thoroughly ignorant. That may well be preferable to conflict, yet it still falls short of active pluralism - which means acknowledging and engaging differences without any attempt to impose hegemony.
The inner dimension of pluralism also merits a mention, especially when pluralism is viewed in conjunction with personal identity: one's religious identity or one's ethnic identity is not a person's only identity. A person professing the Sikh religion in Malaysia, for instance, is also part of the larger Indian Malaysian community. He may belong to a particular profession, a literary association, recreations club, a political party and so forth. Each group that he is part of endows him with a specific identity. Taken together it means that the Sikh gentleman has multiple identities of which his religious identity is one. Pluralism is thus a positive appreciation of plurality and implies its promotion. Real pluralism also implies equal treatment of citizens before the law without any distinction being made on the basis of religion and race.
"Diversity and Pluralism: A Quranic Perspective" - Mohammad Hashim Kamali