Sunday 16 November 2014

Misquoting Muhammad

This is certainly an interesting topic not just for Muslims but those whose life are affected by Muslims. In countries where Muslims form a majority, there would be numerous groups claiming to represent the true teaching of Islam.

Islam is premised on two sources of truth, the direct revelation from Allah which is known as the Quran and the commands, conducts and approval of Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah, known as the Sunnah. Beyond these two sources are opinions of scholars, which would only be counted if the opinions are based on the principles derived from the two earlier sources.

I first heard about this book, Misquoting Muhammad, written by Johathan Brown when I was watching discussion by Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin or more fondly known by Dr MAZA. Asri is a scholar who is not only knowledgeable about Sunnah but has been able to connect Islamic principles with today's realities, especially in the context of a multi-religion, multi-ethnic society like Malaysia. Perhaps, his fellowship at Oxford (he is presently there for a second time) provides him with better understanding of interfaith issues.

Jonathan Brown was not known to me as a Muslim scholar. However, since I knew about his book (which I have not read) I have been watching videos of him discussing Islam in places where Islam is not a dominant thought in the societies. I could sense that Muslims in those societies are under pressure to demonstrate that their believe are compatible with whatever prevailing main stream views.

This is an example of how Jonathan's way of thoughts seems to be helpful when Islam is discussed within a more complex and intellectual societies. A bit bored to those who prefer immediate explanation.

On the other hand, in societies where Muslims form the majority, Islam is exposed to the risks of being practices based on how it is understood from many Muslims who inherit whatever version of Islam without the need to question whether that version of Islam that they practice is compatible to even the Quran and the Sunnah. People tend to follow without understanding and worse, impose whatever belief that they have on others. I call this situation 'artificial superiority' especially when this superiority is perceived to be driven by legislative power.

I suppose listening to scholars like Asri and Jonathan would provide the perspective of Islam which seemed to be missing nowadays, the one which engages people both at their intellectual level as well as with their hearts.

Given the complexity of the world which we are living in, the issue of whether Muhammad was misquoted or even abused by his own followers will continue to be we us.

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