Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Convertitis - Qur'an Only (Part 2)

When a Muslim embraces Islam, from another background or even from an Islamic background with new dedication, he or she may be at risk for "convert-itis." His upbringing, his prior religious experience, his outlook on the world, and his expectations of faith or religion all play a role in the way he adopts Islam into his life.

Some converts, upon embracing Islam (more specifically, saying the shahadah and thereby declaring their faith in Islam) choose to not change their behavior for their new "religion." Even the basics, like refraining from alcohol, pork, or zina, is too much to ask of them. Maybe they will make minor changes like these, but decide that hijaab isn't practical or they don't like it, that a beard doesn't flatter them or is too itchy, that five daily prayers is just too much. Is this convert-itis? Not the way we typically see it, because it's another extreme. In fact it's the opposite extreme typically described, where the convert tries to do everything they think is "islamic" while completely abandoning their old habits.

Yet in both cases, convert-itis manifests itself with one similarity--complete adamance about the correctness of that person's opinion. The convert eagerly engages in debates about the importance or relevance of issues like hijaab or the beard, the science of hadith, and ritual worship. In the case of the convert who refrains from actively practicing Islam, causes may be over-emphasis on "Christian" ideals and teachings in preference to those of Islam.

For example, Christians are aware of Jesus instructing the Jews to avoid praying on street corners and such where they do so in order to be seen, and rather to pray at home in private. When some Christians adopt Islam, they may have a problem with salaat, a ritual prayer, and consider "prayer" to be a private, personal thing. Ergo, they reject that it must be in Arabic, performed a certain way at certain times, and preferably in a group.

Other times, the convert may reject in Islam what reminds them of Christianity, as a certain practice may have been debunked so strongly that the person decided to become a Muslim in the first place. For example, when some Christians learn that the Bible is not the authentically verified, preserved "word of God" which they were taught to believe, they gladly embrace the Qur'an--entirely revealed, entirely preserved. However, in their zeal for the Qur'an they reject the traditions from the Prophet Muhammad (s) with the same fervor with which they reject the Bible. In doing so we can easily argue they 'throw the baby out with the bathwater,' and they become infected with a dangerous disposition inclining them to reject the very foundations of Islamic worship. Among other criticisms of mainstream Islam, they accuse Muslims of worshiping the Prophet Muhammad (s), just like Christians worship Jesus (s). Na'oodhubillah! They view themselves as being a sole minority on the straight path and reject all traditional Islamic scholarship in the issues which they choose to debate.

So even though they decided to become Muslim, they did not accept the Islam in front of them, finding it flawed and therefore attempt to change it or branch off according to their own opinions and understanding.

It is dangerous, because just like the other kind of convert-itis where the Muslim adopts the most hard-line opinions, both are attempts at "purifying" what they see as a path which has been corrupted one way or another. And even though both paths are almost diametrically opposed to each other, the root of the problem is the same. They still see Islam in black and white and consider they themselves alone to be the ones who are truly guided.

6 comments:

Kadaveri said...

Salam.

I think most of this recent phenomenon is just how the post-modern West incarnates itself upon coming into contact with Islam (remember the "are there not many paths to God?" comment from a certain Qur'anite?). With Christianity there is the faith-in-Jesus-alone movement, and Judaism has its 'reform' circles, so ultimately this has to intrude upon Islam in some way or another.

The populist rejection of absolute notions on morality (i.e. this is right and that is wrong), and so traditional Abrahamic religion, has left to a certain 'Easternisation' of Western, so to speak. People find Buddhist and Hindu teachings of multiplicity of thought, there being many paths to God and the unity of humanity more appealing than what traditional Judaism and Christianity have to offer. And there's always the impact of the 'consumer-culture' to consider, religion is becoming shaped in the West to fit peoples wants and desires (instead of the reverse, which is what it should be).

And there are always an ignorant 'some' who think that because Islam is an 'Eastern' religion (which may be true geographically, but in all other aspects it's very much Western), it will validate and accept their 'many paths to God' spiritual values.

Thankfully, God has safeguarded our faith against this to make it nigh impossible to practice properly without faith. So those only interested in Islam as an exotic past-time will be forced to leave it, or practice a corruption of it so off-the-wall as to render it mostly harmless.

It's a nice irony afterall that Qur'anites, despite their name, after rejecting the Sunnah don't seem to even follow the Qur'an anyway. Didn't you know that there's nothing about regular prayers, hijab, prohibition of alcohol, pork and zina in the Qur'an...?

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam Kad

Thanks for commenting. :-)

Maybe you don't remember my own "Quranite" stage. I do... and a lot of this was from personal perspective, rather than observation of a certain... someone. I have to read your comment very slowly though. There are a number of "purist" movements in among Muslims--mostly stemming from a desire to "reinvigorate" Islam against the encroachment of a foreign ideology. The Qur'an-only one though seems to, like you say, have more to do with an 'incarnation of the post-modern West' on Islam.

Believing that 'there are many paths to God' though, is rather a secular and pluralist spin on religious tolerance, don't you think?

I think that a lot of people don't have the developed conception of religions (eastern or western) which you are discussing here. I don't really think they look at Islam as being 'eastern' and therefore offering 'various paths to God.' Especially considering their opinion that the vast majority of Muslims are in error and worshiping prophets (one in particular...). They don't really believe in multiple paths, they just want everyone else to accept their path instead of denouncing it for what (i.e., the heresy?) it is.

And it's true that "Quranites" do in fact reject parts of the Qur'an, and to justify it they simply say that typical interpretation is incorrect--and they alone have the correct understanding. (Even individuals who cannot understand a word of Arabic will make this claim.) In aforementioned example, the explanation was direct personal inspiration and guidance from 'angels.'

May Allah guide us and keep us on the Straight Path, and protect us from deviation.

Modern Muslimah said...

Salam Amy and Kad,

IA with your post. Islam can be confusing for people who are converts or coming back with a renewed dedication. This can lead to a desire to "simplify", which in turn leads to extreme views. Afterall, we have this notion in the West that religion cannot possibly be hard, that it should always be fulfilling, and make us happy. Not to mention, that people tend to approach religion from a very emotional point of view.

That being said, I hope we don't fall into the trap of "oversimplifying" Quranites. Not all "Quranites" want an easy Islam that has little or no rules and allows them to practice Islam as they want. Nor are all "Quranites" leery of other Muslims who do follow the Sunnah. There are some Quranites who do have a rigorous approach to the Qur'an. Even though I don't agree with all their views, to a certain extent, I respect these Quranites.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam Faith

I think I disagree with you. I am talking about a kind of attraction to Qur'an-only ideology for converts and Muslims taking a turn in their interest of the deen (ergo, convertitis.)

Having gone through a Qur'an-only phase myself, I am speaking from a kind of experience. I admire the appreciation for the Qur'an that these people have, however, the experience I had was one with rejected and misunderstood both the idea of prophethood and messengership (specifically that of Muhammad, saws) and also have no respect for the science of hadith. And honestly, with that perspective, it's nearly impossible to get a complete picture of Islam, and it leaves them open to very bizarre interpretations... so I withhold my respect.

However, as far as "simplifying" religion and deriving satisfaction from it, as you mentioned, I think these problems manifest themselves as convertitis, yes, resulting from the Western perspective on religion in the first place.

JAK for posting.

Kadaveri said...

Salam.

Nah I don't think I ever counted your first few months of being a Muslim as being a "Qur'anite phase", Amy, more of a transition phase. The difference between the two is entering Islam for the right reasons (wanting to worship God), and entering Islam for the wrong reasons (anything else basically); the former will eventually come around, the later however will not unless they have a fundamental rethink of their approach.

True, most people don't have the 'developed conception' of religions I'm discussing, but most people don't think to convert to Islam no? Going as far back as the Crusades, I think it's fair to say there's been a fundamental misrepresentation of Islam in the Christian West as being a 'foreign' immoral religion, it's only in the last century or so that people started realising this has no basis whatsoever. The aftershocks of this image still remain though, and it still being so commonly portrayed as the antithesis of Christianity (or 'Western society'); those in the West who leave Christianity because they find its absolute moral code too restrictive, are sometimes attracted to Islam because they still imagine it to be the 'exotic' (and somewhat rebellious) alternative to Christianity that can provide them with a separate identity along with spiritual fulfillment. They construct Islam to be the opposite of everything they disliked about Islam.

But of course since this is only a mental construct and has no basis in reality, they have to (in reality), reconstruct Islam in their own image. But in doing this they must also somehow find a way to ascribe legitimacy to their unique perspective on how Islam should be; I can imagine how throwing out the Sunnah as the source of all that's wrong with 'modern Islam' and focusing only on the Qur'an sounds great and good to anyone unfamiliar with the religion. Sure, this also no basis in reality (since Islam just doesn't work without the Sunnah, and besides most of the things found in the Sunnah which caused them to throw it out, are found in the Qur'an too), but by the time you've gone so far astray, reality is irrelevant.

God protect us all from this, ameen...

Amy said...

Salaam Kad -

I still think people embrace Islam for the right reasons and still fall into this qur'an only trap.

But I do agree that people construct in Islam everything they disliked about Christianity. And that can lead one in various different directions, including the hardline paths, and also the more open and liberal ones. But I'd still like to assume that most people come to Islam for the right reasons.

After the recent experience with the Quranite on the forum, I thought it might be appropriate to view that as a kind of convertitis, since it seems to me that a lot of people go through it. For me it was a phase, transition you say but still a phase where I really believed that. And I think most people will who are sincere and asking God for guidance and not themselves or their buddies.