So apparently a lot of people these days have an opinion on Islam. Because they follow the media and have read a Qur’an verse here and there, they consider themselves experts and spout their intolerant, hateful opinions as if what they say has any value to contribute. It’s always “amusing” (although not really) to discover the extent of their ignorance when questioned.
So yes, everybody has a right to their opinion these days, but if you can’t prove that your opinion is a genuinely informed one rather than your intolerance, self-righteousness and “there-is only-one-truth-and-that -is-my-own” worldview masquerading as substance, then I don’t want to hear it. You are part of the problem of violence, intolerance and extremism the world is facing today and I’m more interested in people who are part of the solution.
So what is an informed opinion? If you answer the following questions in the negative, you have more reading and research to do, I’m afraid.
- Have you read the Qur’an front to cover? Have you compared different translations? (Because of course you are aware that reading a translation is reading an interpretation and that’s why Muslims only consider that you have read the Qur’an when you have read the Arabic original.)
- Have you read Fazlur Rahman’s Major Themes of the Qur’an?
- Have you read an (objective!!) book on the biography of Muhammad and the historical context of the Qur’an?
- Have you talked to an actual Muslim and listened with an open mind to what he/she has to say about his/her faith?
- Do you know what tafsīr is? (Dare I ask, have you read some?)
- Do you know the sources Islamic fiqh or law is based on? Are you aware that it’s based on more than the Qur’an alone?
- Are you aware that there is an enormous ḥadīth corpus or narrations about the Prophet’s life that inform Muslims about how the Qur’an should be interpreted? Do you know how Muslims separate authentic narrations from weak ones?
I better stop here before I become too demanding. I think it’s clear that most people who have very strong opinions on the subject can’t even answer ‘yes’ to one bullet point and that is tragic. It’s tragic because terrorist organisations like IS want people to be misinformed, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, so they can use this growing enmity between them for their own selfish purposes. The more hostile the Western countries treat Muslims, the more they can convince some of those banished Muslims to join their ranks. If you think you are opposing IS by hating Islam and ignorantly slandering it, you are very sadly mistaken. You are playing right into their hands.