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"Islamism" vs. "Islam" and The Meaning of "Jihad"

Reader comment on item: Islamists, Get Out

Submitted by Shazia Khanum (Canada), Sep 1, 2005 at 09:57

Mr. Daniel Pipes has done a remarkable job of making a distinction between "Islamism" and "Islam" and "Islamists" and "Muslims", and I salute him for it.

Some of the commentators need to be aware of this distinction.

Even Muslims have been a victim of Islamism and just wish to live an ordinary life. They are peaceful and law-abiding and contribute to any society they live in to the best of their abilities.

Among these Muslims are those who adhere to Sufism, and therefore, see that there are as many ways to God as there are hearts. They are not concerned with the outer form of a person's inner journey and trust that the Lord of Mercy, who knows our inner secrets, is fully aware of our intentions and inner struggles and will deal with each of us individually depending on our levels of consciousness, awareness, intentions, actions, and knowledge. As a result, they are not judgmental towards anyone and consider humanity as a single integrated whole and adhere to the notions: "Do not do to others what you don't want done to yourself" and "Expect the best from others."

Many of these Muslims are also sick and tired of the rigid and old interpretations and applications of the Shari'ah as well as the clergy which is so pre-occupied with the trivialities and legalistic aspects of Islam. They see Islam as a path that enables them to be conscious of the Divine Reality.

They do not see the world as two camps: "House of Peace" and "House of War".

I am also grateful to Mr. Pipes for pointing out Islamic scholars he recommends or supports. His initiatives that encourage the voices of Muslim (not Islamist) scholars to be heard in the hope that the voices of the Islamists have been drowned out are also very much appreciated.

Scholars such as Fethullah Gulen (http://en.fgulen.com/) -- a Turkish Sufi living in the U.S. -- Stephen Schwartz -- Executive Director of Center for Islamic Pluralism (http://www.islamicpluralism.org/), Ahmed Subhy Mansour -- former professor, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, author of Penalty of Apostasy: A Study of Islamic Law (also associated with the Center for Islamic Pluralism), who was persecuted by the Islamists in Egypt and had to flee -- are just a few who are now exerting their efforts and striving (literal meaning of the word "jihad") for righteousness, reformation of Islamic theology as well as the Muslims, pluralism and tolerance.

A lot of Muslims living in the West have woken up after the evil acts of 911 and are turning to the teachings of these scholars for they finally find a theological justification for the tolerant, pluralistic, inclusive, progressive, enlightening, and modern interpretation of Islam in their teachings. These teachings are now being used to combat Islamists in an ideological warfare. I hope and pray that their momentum gains so that we can at least make the ideology of Islamism trivial and insignificant if not get rid of it.

I for one would like to thank Dr. Pipes for this as he has been a star in these efforts.

Interestingly, these progressive and enlightened scholars derive their interpretations directly from the Qur`an and not from the layers upon layers of jurist rulings of the past 1200 years or so.

Many of them, especially Ahmed Subhy Mansour, see that even many of the alleged sayings of Muhammad have been corrupted and are against the teachings of the Qur`an: inhumane laws, such as the death penalty for an apostate, stoning death of an adulterer, are but two examples of the un-Qur`anic laws that are so well-established in the Muslim -- and Islamist -- mindset.

They have enabled many Muslims to live a guilt-free life as law-abiding Muslims in the West while integrating with its culture and environment and even go beyond and have a peaceful and loving relationship with the non-Muslims and see the goodness in all humanity.

This is a remarkable job these scholars have done considering the fact that the traditional mullahs present a totally different version of Islam and create a lot of guilt in many ordinary Muslims who just wish to derive spiritual nourishment from the teachings of the original Islam.

As for Jihad, this is a term that has been corrupted by the politicization of it by the mullahs and the terrorists. Since the blame goes to these so-called "Muslims" (oops, Islamists), I can understand why a non-Muslim would not know the original usage of this word.

Fethullah Gulen (http://en.fgulen.com/) and other Sufi Muslim scholars have provide plenty of explanations of this word, which by itself is not that meaningful as the full word is "Jihad fi Sabih Lillah", meaning "Striving for the sake of God alone", which in turn means that the striving should not be for the sake of other-than-God, e.g., self-ego, fame, resources, revenge, anger, power, etc., as they are not God.

The commentators can search Fethullah Gulen's website, who is mentioned by Mr. Pipes in one of his articles in a positive way, to read more on his interpretation of Jihad fi Sabih Lillah, and the writings of other Sufi Muslim scholars.

To a Sufi, the bigger jihad is against one's own self to shed one's heart from anger, revenge, hatred, attachments to the transient, etc., as part of his/her journey towards a self-less and enlightening life.

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