by Rebecca Bynum (Sept. 2006)
Perhaps never before in the history of the world has there been such a need to dissever living spiritual realities from the dead forms, doctrine and dogmas in which they are now imprisoned, dogmas which may indeed have smothered whatever original spiritual thought they might have contained, dogmas which mistake conformity for righteousness, and faith for consent to belief. Personally, I do not believe "God’s will" can ever be contained within a book, holy or otherwise, or within a code, honorable or not, or even within Reason itself, for God’s will is a living spirit reality. It is dynamic and adaptive. His will is living truth, sought, but never fully captured, felt, but never completely known. And faith is living assurance, a certain peace that passes understanding. Modern man makes a grave error in mistaking creed for faith and further compounds this error by forcing uniformity in thought and action and, in the case of Islamic dogma, censoring and seeking to erase personality itself, the very focal point of divine contact with humanity, the source of individuality.
Spirit is living truth, the bread of life, the bridge between time and eternity, the door to life everlasting. That is why men fear it so; for it cannot be humanly controlled. Those who attempt to control faith by enclosing it in form and ritual, only succeed in stifling or killing it, sometimes quickly, sometimes very slowly. I believe this to have been the case with Judaism which had become moribund and enslaved to tradition during the life of Jesus, as he repeatedly pointed out. Islam, however, is in much worse shape than that, for as a religion, it is entirely regressive and in fact is steeped in fetishism and taboo, the oldest religious archetypes, as well as being dominated by materialism and fear.
There is no doubt in my mind the Qur’an is a fetish book. It is revered not so much for any inspiration it may or may not contain, intended to ennoble the human heart; rather it is fetishized as an object. Its verses are sacred not on the basis of their power in leading men to God, but simply because they are part of a collective fetish: thus the notion of desecration becomes a sure cause for violence in its defense. While any expressed doubt concerning its veracity quickly rises to the notion of blasphemy, an offense punishable by death. Hope for reform of Islam in this situation of course is slim to non-existent, because it involves the destruction of the fetish, which is the heart of this religion. Consider also the black fetish stone located in the Ka’aba in Mecca, which is a focus for the Muslim religious impulse. Muslim prayers are even directed toward it, and of course these prayers are forms. Individuality is quashed even during the most personal act of prayer.
Islam is set in squarely in opposition to living, changing, growing spiritual reality and so is overwhelmingly hostile to natural human affections, for at bottom, it denies the value of Love. For Muslims, Islam itself is the highest value, Love is hardly considered; and much less consideration is given to the concepts of Truth, Beauty and Goodness which are quite simply absent from the Islamic theological scene. By Islam, these values are either ignored or explicitly denied. Though, when pressed, Muslims will tell you all truth is contained within the Qu’an and there is no truth outside it. Therefore, it is accurate to say, Islam is a religion that denies the reality of Spirit for Islam recognizes no value higher than itself.
The focus of Islam is entirely on the material world. It’s notions of pure and impure are expressly material as is its concept of religious sovereignty. Islamic sovereignty is territorial sovereignty, not the sovereignty of the spirit over the hearts of men; rather Islam is totally tied to territorial expansion – the spread of Sharia law – “God’s law” over God’s land and over the people inhabiting that land who are forced to submit to Islam in a purely material way. Islam is concerned only with the bodies, not the souls of human beings, with literal not spiritual bread. By controlling the minds of men, Islam gains control over their bodies and it does this in order to create the “perfect” society. Human souls are left to languish in this prison of mental bars. Skeptical inquiry is dampened because Islam surrounds and impinges on all subjects, thus, freedom of thought is gradually extinguished in order for Islamic righteousness, conformity to Islam, to prevail. Individual self-expression, self-realization and self-awareness is bounded on every side.
True righteousness, on the other hand, righteousness that is not coerced, naturally results from loving one’s neighbors, “as oneself” as in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Here, the pre-eminence is on the individual not the group, and the will of the individual to love God with all his heart and mind as prerequisite, makes the individual will, not a set of codes of conduct, the determining factor in what is considered as righteousness. Furthermore, individual acceptance of God’s love reorients the person as God’s “child” and thus he becomes obligated to love other men as his “brothers” in the spiritual sense. But always the onus is on the individual who is free to discover God’s will for himself; and this must be understood as true, even if that will contradicts the teachings of religious authority of the day. The supreme relationship is between the individual and a living and dynamic Spirit. Thus, sin should possibly be redefined as the deliberate rebellion against that divine inner leading, and may therefore be committed even by following the religious authority of day, which may not be in accordance with God’s will for that individual at that time.
God is not material and thus his will cannot be encased within a set of codes, or lists of “thou shalt nots.” This is a truth liberals extol, but conservatives instinctively resort to tradition and authority, fearing the death of religion and the dissolution of society as a result of this “free thinking.” Nonetheless, God, his living will, and his “kingdom” of eternal life is free to be discovered within each individual person. And this discovery holds the purpose and essence of life. True religion is not a material matter of certain works obtaining certain rewards. God’s will is unique to each one of us, and in fact, this concept of individual communion with this good spirit effectively precludes the concept of doctrinal finality, no matter what the religious authorities of our own day may claim or seek to claim.
On the other hand, Islam denies individual spiritual communion in favor of communal doctrinal adherence. The Islamic doctrine has completely usurped the divine prerogative, so Islam has effectively replaced God. For all intents and purposes, for Muslims, Islam is God.
At the root of Islam I suspect is a denial of the purpose of suffering as evidenced by the effort to make society into one smooth running machine, where no one grates against anyone else because “sin” has been outlawed. Piety is ensured by the police (religious, thought and otherwise) and stiff punishments are meted out in the event virtue, in the form of conformity, is not upheld. Persons are not allowed to suffer the natural consequences of their sins; adulteresses, blasphemers, and so forth are eliminated in order that the group should be uncontaminated. In the case of blasphemy (impure speech) and apostasy (impure thought) the individual must be permanently expunged; for purity of the group as evidenced in the thought, word, and deed of the individuals comprising the group (ummah) must be upheld to ensure group cohesion. Like a hive of bees, the group must be protected by the sacrifice of the individual. Islam is the queen for which all individuals sacrifice, indeed they sacrifice the essence of life itself, its joys and happiness, including the supreme satisfaction of knowing God and doing his will (because it is right); all of it becomes a sacrifice.
We should remember the riverbed not the river. The form and tradition, ritual and doctrine of a religion, may hold and transmit the water of life, but they are not the water itself. Too many people mistake religion for the dogmatic tradition in which it is held. If Jonah couldn’t have been literally swallowed by a whale, if the Red Sea couldn’t have parted for Moses, because these events so described defy the known laws of nature physics, then modern man is tempted to disregard all religion as simply a mass of superstition, to be dismissed as easily as throwing out the trash. But then, moderns are left with no outlet for their natural inborn religious impulse and so religion soon reverts back to magic and charms as we see so prominently in the so-called “New Age” movement, or continues to revert even further to fetish and taboo as in Islam.
Islam describes itself as the original religion to which people revert rather than convert and in this I believe Muslims are correct. Society is on a downhill slide and Islam is waiting there at the bottom.
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