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Technically in Islam we are ALL Muslims...

Reader comment on item: Was Barack Obama a Muslim?

Submitted by Jaime (United States), Jan 14, 2008 at 01:35

According to Islam we are all born Muslims (ones who submit to the ‘oneness of God' (tawhid) and are led ‘astray' by the previous revelations which, according to the Qur'an, have been altered from the true word of God throughout history by human beings and their quarrels. But this is okay for God, according to the Qur'an. On a spiritual level it is not for humans, Muslims alike, to deem another ahl al-kitab (people of the book) a murtadd: "Mankind were one single community. Then God raised up prophets who gave good tidings and warnings and God also sent down with them The Book in truth, that it may decide among people in regard to what they differed. But people did not differ in it [i.e., with regard to the Truth] except those to whom it had been given [and that only] after clear signs had come to them; [and this they did] out of [sheer] rebelliousness among themselves (Q. 2.213).[1] And "Men were but one community; then they began to differ. But for a decree of your Lord that had already preceded, a decision would have been made with regard to that wherein they differ (10.19).

It can be argued that there is no distinction between Muslims, Jews, and Christians, as originated by Muhammad in Mecca. This must sound rather controversial to most, but even a brief look into the Qur'an and the history of the first Muslims is revealing.

As most know, according the Qur'an, the major Abrahamic line of holy men were Muslims (Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus).[2] In fact, Muhammad was clearly convinced that he was passing to the Arab peoples what Jesus and Moses had passed to their respective communities. Muhammad was the link, for an Arab community which had become more and more alienated from the hierarchical rule of the Quraysh and its polytheist ethos, between the old monotheist communities whose teachings had been infused slightly into religious thought of the day (although it is hard to prove how strongly and clearly these beliefs were available).

It wasn't until Medina where Muhammad had alliance issues with the indigenous Jewish tribes that he clearly distinguished the community as something separate from the Jewish or Christian communities of Arabia (ultimately of history). So like early Christianity, which was not officially something different from Judaism until after the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE and the spread of the Messianic message among the Gentile, but Judaism under ‘updated' revelation, so was Islam in its early stage of identity. Early revelations discuss no fixed religious communities.

So, while we all have different interpretations of the ‘straight path' to follow, based on the different teachers (Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad), we are all to be considered believers in God/Allah/Yahweh. In fact, the Qur'an rejects the idea that one community can claim exclusivity to Heaven: "They say, No one will enter Paradise except those who are Jews or Christians—these are their wishful thoughts. On the contrary, whosoever surrenders himself to God while he does good deeds as well, he shall find his reward with his Lord, shall have no fear, nor shall be come to grief" (2.111-2). Therefore, no community can lay claims to be the uniquely guided and elected peoples and as long as one believes in the Last Day (as the Abrahamic faiths all do) he will go on to Paradise.

How does this all translate to the ‘Obama question'? Well in the modern world my presented brief discussion is a very mainstream intellectual conversation of the relations between Islam and Christianity, and the theological distinction between Muslims and Christians. Of course there are brutal, extreme Muslims out there who might find this idea of killing the murtadd from a hadith without putting it in the context of the thrust of the whole of the Qur'an and the sunnah, as presented by the ahadith.

Mr. Pipes (and others like Robert Spencer) cannot claim the practice of brutally arguing for violence against one who is a murtadd as an exclusive and fundamental argument of Islam, nor as a common perception or practice among Muslims, no matter how much one can dig up from medieval ijtihad. Anyway, the violent jihadiyya who would be willing to make this argument against Obama would want to kill the US president, whether he was deemed a murtadd or not, for being the leader of the free world. And that is based on a literalist, dangerous, and uncommon interpretation of the Qur'an against any non-Muslim, not because he was a Muslim once.

Side note: I would be more worried about the Aryan entity in this country if Obama gets elected.


[1] These and following translations are from Fazlur Rahman in Major Themes of the Qur'an, 1989.

[2] Not that they were of Islam as an identity, which would be our modern understanding of a Muslim as being part of a specific community, but only as ones who submit to tawhid. Modern Evangelical Christians might get offended by this statement by a Muslim maybe, but it's not to say these holy men were of Islam and not of the previous revelations, but to say that they were pious holy prophets of Abraham's God, which is shared by the three faiths. Allah too is not supposed to be viewed as a different God, but Abraham's God. This is only the Arabic interpretation of the word ‘God' based on the prevailing circumstances at the birth of the movement.


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