What’s wrong with Islám? Is it the ease with which the doctrines of jihad and martyrdom can turn bloody? Is it discrimination against women and homosexuals? Is it the theocratic legacy? These are all serious issues, but I see them as symptoms of a disease called idolatry. The symptoms are not unique to Islám, nor is the disease, but let’s discuss Islám.
Here are the physiological components of the disease, as it has adapted itself to Islám:
- Arrogance. Islam’s fundamental assertion is that a Muslim is one who has identified the Lord of Creation. It just doesn’t get any more arrogant than that.
- Idolatry. Islam is primarily based upon a book, regarded to be infallible and wholly divine—even uncreated—that declares specific delineations between truth and untruth, and associates virtue with specific practices.
- Cult of personality.
- Muslims generally regard their prophet as perfect, and even those who claim to think he was a mere man seem to think that he could do no wrong. Hence Muslims have created a form of scripture from a vast collection of biographical accounts of their “perfect man.”
- Most Muslims regard the first four successors of Muhammad to be “rightly guided.” Shi’a Muslims idolize 14 early Muslims in all as infallible beings. All of these infallible and rightly guided founders of Islam provide a vast body of biographical material by which pious Muslims guide their lives.
But there is hope.
- If Muslims resist the urge to exalt their God-image over those of others, and abstain from any assertion or implication that they know God best, then they are true monotheists. It seems to me that if any religion can transcend its own idols, Islám ought to be the first. Isn’t Islám all about abandoning idols? Doesn’t this make Islám intrinsically pluralist?
- The history of Islám attests to the fact that the Qur’án—as it exists today—is not immaculate. The Qur’án was collected and canonized during the third Caliphate. Some manuscripts were favored, and the rest were destroyed. This only regards the consonants. The vowel markings were not added till even later.
- The Qur’án itself asserts that only God can fully understand the Qur’án, and also asserts that the face of God can be seen in every direction. Why then be so self-assured about the will and identity of God?
- The Qur’án itself attests to the fallibility of the prophet Muhammad. His every act need not be an example for Muslims. The same goes for his rightly-guided and infallible successors.