My kind of Islam
As I was whiling away time after a round of golf and computing our Nassau bets, a golf mate dropped one of his oft-repeated remarks which I had tended to ignore. He said, rather playfully, “Nagwala na naman ang mga kadugo mo” (loose translation: Your brothers are again on the warpath).
My golf mate, Bong Monroy, was referring to the terrorism then playing out on CNN, hoping perhaps that, being a Muslim, I would have an explanation for the unrelenting bloody attacks, lately in a bar in Orlando, Florida; at the airport in Istanbul; at a bar in Dhaka, Bangladesh; in Baghdad and, unimaginably, Saudi Arabia, the heartland of the Islamic world. Muslim terrorists and suicide bombers were the primary suspects. Bong’s remark, although tongue-in-cheek, made me wonder: What has happened to my dear religion which was handed down to me by my forebears and which I have embraced unquestioningly with blind fidelity since birth?
First, a caveat: I am not an ulama, alim or Islamic theologian. But I can state categorically that Islam is not inherently violent. The root word of Islam is “Salam,” which means peace. It is an Arabic word which connotes submission, surrender and obedience to the will of Almighty Allah.
The legend that Islam was spread by the Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings be upon him) through the sword is pure myth. The sword was sparingly wielded by the early Muslim crusaders and, like in the great battles of Uhud and Badr, were used in self-defense. In fact, Mohammad, after his withdrawal from his self-imposed seclusion and meditation in the hills, categorically proselytized “not [to] kill anyone… [because] you are human beings, and all human beings are equal in the eyes of God…”
I grew up believing in what our imam kept repeating, which still echoes in my ears: If you kill one innocent person, it is like killing the entire humanity, and saving one person is like saving humanity (Holy Koran, Surah 5:32). We have to love our neighbors regardless of religion, especially those whom the Koran refers to as “the people of the Book,” or believers in God in an atmosphere of unity in diversity.
What has happened since that time to the present radicalized Islam? The difference in zeitgeist? Why are jihadists invoking the name of Allah in perpetrating their heinous crime of slaughtering fellow human beings? They justify their act of terrorism in the name of jihad, which one author defines as sacrificing one’s life “particularly for a war that is waged solely in the name of Allah against those who practice oppression as enemies of Islam.” But is there an open war against Islam as a religion? Is the jihad waged “solely” in the name of Allah, not in pursuit of global political interest? Is there a palpable oppression of Muslims? Am I being naive? Perhaps effete argument invoking jihad may provide a veneer of alibi, but shooting and bombing, randomly killing mothers and sons who have nothing against Muslims, are pure madness, and no religion will sanction it.
My take on the radicalization and metamorphosis of Islam is this: The intolerant brand of Wahabbi-Salafist Islam, not unlike the brand being pushed by the Islamic State, is rebelling against the corruption of their core Islamic values brought about by modernity. They see the sweeping winds of westernization as a threat to these values. It is not against any religion. In fact, a footage of the attack at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul showed victims still in their holy habiliment (consisting of a two-piece cloth we call “ikhram,” which is a must for pilgrims going to Mecca). And how explain that the massacre was done in the month of Ramadan, and particularly on the “laylatul kadir” (thousand nights) before the end of Ramadan, which are the holiest days in the Hejra calendar of Muslims?
As a lawyer trained to put the law under microscopic diagnosis to look for meanings and nuances, hoping to find a word or even punctuation marks to support an argument, I just can’t find any verse in the Koran or the Hadith of Mohammad to justify the slaughter of innocent people.
And so, to my golf mate I say: My kind of Islam abhors terrorism.
Macabangkit B. Lanto ([email protected]), a 1967 UP law graduate, was a Fulbright fellow at New York University for his postgraduate studies. He is a former assemblyman and speaker of the legislative assembly of Autonomous Region 12, and also a former congressman, ambassador to Egypt and Sudan, and undersecretary of tourism and of justice.
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