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There is No “True” Islam

February 21, 2012

There are many different forms of Islam. I agree with this post 100%

Just as the radicals don’t get to speak for Islam, neither do the moderates or liberal reformers. Because, just like Christianity, no one can speak for all of the religion. There is no Muslim Pope, and even if there was our own Catholic Pope certainly doesn’t speak for all of Christianity. Only a part of it. And not me.

Us declaring what Islam is or isn’t would be a lot like Muslims declaring Catholicism “true Christianity” and Protestantism a “deviation”, simply because they liked the Pope’s encyclical against the war in Iraq (had such a thing been delivered).

Indeed, it bears repeating: There is no “true” Islam

Islam is a loose umbrella term for a host of ideas and beliefs – some benign, some dangerous – NONE more “Islamic” than the next. We hear people in the mainstream media speak of a “moderate” Islam that is the “real” Islam and a “radical” Islam that is supposedly a “distortion”. This is a false dichotomy  as there are several different versions of Islam. None of them are “real” and none are “distorted”. This is a mantra that we in the West need to pick up and pound home as often as we can.

Some versions of Islam are indeed liberal and sterilized. Some are indeed “moderate”. And yes, many of them are indeed radical and exremely dangerous. To ignore this fact is to ignore a very important part of the picture. There are old versions of Islam – shia, sufi, habashi, wahabi/salafi – and there are some newer versions of Islam we see popping up on seemingly a daily basis. Many of these sects are diametrically opposed to each other. (Twelver Shias and Salafists are both very militant and triumphalist but are opposed to each other) Then there are hundreds of millions of Muslims from each of the dozens of sects of Islam that do not practice and are only culturally Muslim. This is the real reason we see so many divergent answers to the question of what “is” and “is not” Islam. It is also for this reason that you will never receive a definitive answer to this question because there is no definitive answer.  Likewise, on the perpetual question of whether or not Islam is dangerous depends on which version of Islam we are speaking of. We need more nuance than simply saying “moderates” and “radicals” when speaking of Islam.

It is for this reason we see some Muslim women covering their entire bodies including their faces and others competing in beauty pagents in bikinis. We see some Muslim men with fist length beards – believing it is sinful to remove anything from it – and others that are completely clean shaven. All of these individuals claim to be Muslim. For our purposes, we should take them ALL at their word. We only distinguish by their sect.

It is very presumptuous of any Muslim to claim to speak for all of Islam given this fact. While an American Muslim’s Islam may hold that stoning to death is dated and barbaric, Saudi Arabia’s Islam will give you a very different opinion.

Which brings us to the big buzzword: “shariah”. When one understands that there are many different versions of Islam, then they also know that there are many different version of “shariah”. When some Muslims refer to “shariah” they are only referring to mundane personal religious issues. Others are indeed referring to the all encompassing laws that include cutting off the hands of thieves and stoning of adulterers.

When one hears a Muslim speak of “shariah” then one must take into account their background and their sect which will inform their perspective. For some politicians to reduce “shariah” to its most radical is dishonest and does us no favors in our fight against truly dangerous Muslims.

What about Islam in America?

Here in the United States, Islam – like other religions – is changing and evolving. With the Muslim immigrants in the US being very diverse, there is not a close connection between being Muslim and ethnicity as there is in Europe. Because of that the Muslims in the United States are multi-ethnic and fractured. Partially as a result of that, we have nothing resembling the all Muslim “no go” zones we are seeing in other countries. Additionally, religion in American tends to be discreet, but allows one to keep an attachment to labels, all the while eating away at traditional assumptions.

When I was Muslim in the 1990s, it was very common to hear Muslims say that music was haram and some would even state that voting was an act of disbelief! Now, many Muslims in the US not only embrace music and other arts, but perform it at their functions. All of this was unthinkable as recently as 10 years ago. They even have their share of religious fakes and charlatans.

Many Muslims are working with law enforcement and the many plots that have been stopped would not have been without the aid of Muslims. These are the types of Muslims that we want to encourage to be our friends – and certainly not accuse them of not being “real” Muslims.

It is my belief that American Muslims – as other religionists have done – will continue to reshape their versions of Islam to suit their own circumstances and to be more agreeable to their lives and the realities they face on a daily basis. In spite of my no longer being Muslim, I am under no illusions that Islam will go away. That being said, I prefer a neutered Islam that is between that individual Muslim and his or her god.

I know that some will no doubt disagree, and some things will certainly need clarification. I hope to flesh out my thoughts further over the course of more articles

21 Comments
  1. nocultsclub permalink

    There are many different forms of Islam? No, I think not. There are many variations in interpretation of the teachings. But there was one Muhammad, one Qur’an. No one can change what the man did or what the book says. Rusty’s mental gymnastics do not impress me.

  2. Islam is whatever the particular muslim makes it into. There is no “true” Islam. There are dozens and dozens of sects and that is why there is so much infighting

  3. nocultsclub permalink

    One Muslim may choose to disregard the Book of Hate, reject the murdering ‘Profit’ and believe Islam really does mean peace. Another may follow the words and deeds to the letter, emulate the Monster with fervor and commit atrocities with pride. We Infidels are told by Muslims that Islam can be whatever a particular Muslim desires, good (a relative perspective) or bad (also a relative perspective), and thus both versions become true and false at the same time. We cannot tell who is or is not faithful, i.e. good or bad, because it has no meaning. Unless one has studied the texts and knows the difference wisdom cannot be forthcoming.

    So we are left with a dilemma of great consequence. I submit to you that this is unacceptable to civilized people. We cannot abide one version of Islam because it is life threating. We cannot abide the other because it facilitates the former.

    One Islam is too many.

  4. john permalink

    The Islamists say anyone who leaves Islam ” must be killed.” Anyone who insults Mohamed “must be killed. ” And, by the way, the Koran says ANYONE WHO KILLS CIVILIANS GOES STRAIGHT
    TO HELL ! { high there suicide bombers } The governments of the West are a fine bunch of lunatics.
    A letter to the Toronto Star about twenty years ago said “History will record Canada as the country
    that gave its self away ! “

  5. There are many islams and islam is certainly not going away. With that in mind, I would certainly prefer a docile Islam to a hostile and medieval one. That is why we can not promote the medieval narrative as the “true” Islam. There is no such thing as a “true” Islam. Just look at all the different versions of it out there

  6. nocultsclub permalink

    You’re not listening, Hassan Malik. No one cares about a docile Islam. It’s the other one that’s setting the world on fire. All Muslims belong to the same club and if the docile members can’t control the medieval ones then they will all pay the same price when it comes time to pay the piper. You better get busy, get more active in your club. You got a lot of medieval members misunderstanding the club rules. Good luck.

    • I am no longer a member of the club, but I truly hope that the normative amongst Muslims becomes those who belong to a more docile form of it. I believe that is increasingly becoming the case in the United States

  7. nocultsclub permalink

    You “hope?” You “believe?” Hopes and beliefs will not save lives. They will not rescue little girls. They will not stop sudden jihad syndrome. They will not cure a culture of shame. Hope and believe are wish words, wimpy words, and not appropriate in a fight against a death cult.

  8. anon permalink

    There is ONE true Islam. One thing I have noticed about people leaving comments are those who have no clue. At the end of the day it continues to be successful in being the fastest growing religion in the world. [Ed: This is a myth. “Non-affiliated” is the fastest growing segment. Islam mostly grows from birth rate and immigration] I agree there are many different types of ‘muslim’ or so call themselves, but in turn just give Islam a bad name. Suicide bombers yes, will go straight to hell. Killing innocent people again, not looking good for those culprits either. Nobody, and that means NOBODY is perfect! Everybody has flaws, just some more than others. I also believe there are better non-muslim people out there then quite a few muslims. Every religion teaches to be good mannered and good at heart, to be of pure intention and refrain from wrong doing. Muslims are no different. And as for the prophet going to war and killing people. What would any other person do in his position? He was asked to convey a message to the people. To remind them of the One Lord and non other to worship besides him. He spread the word on how to live a life peacefully and in harmony with one another. But instead he was persecuted for speaking his mind. Anyone see jehovahs witnesses about? Yes, well do you see people stoning them till they shoes fill with blood? Physically and mentally torture them? Of course not! Why because they are PEACEFULLY trying to convey a message. One of the very fundamental rules of Islam is there is NO FORCE involved. Allah gave everyone free will for a good reason. The prophets were there simply to spread the word and they did NOT, I repeat did NOT put a knife to peoples throats and say ‘Islam or die’. But when it comes to a point where armies are sent after Muhammad peace be upon him to kill him, well like I said, what would you do? When its a choice of either you die or they do? Well I’ll tell you what the prophet did. He took the torture for as long as he could, but continues to spread the word regardless. He went as farr as to constantly ask Allah to forgive the people torturing him. The angel Gabriel told the propohet that Allah will kill them all in an instant for laying hands on His beloved one, yet the prophet asked for their forgivness and said if they die there’s no chance of any of them seeing the truth. If not them then maybe their offspring will. When it became too much the prophet fled away from Makkah when he realised that his campaign was unsuccessful and looking hopeless. Why did he flee? He went over 250 miles away so that he could escape the torment. What did the people of Makkah do? They didn’t think ‘oh well he’s gone now the problems over’. They chased after him with an army to kill him. What was the need? None whatsoever, just for their own sick gratification. Only when there was no other option did the Prophet peace be upon him decide to put his sword to use. Like I said, either him or them. So before you go around accusing, stop and think, read and research and find useful sources to research from. The one true islam is simple. Be a good person. Refrain from wrong-doing. Praying five times daily to our ONE Lord only helps to keep us in good nick. Now, if that’s WRONG, then nothing in this world can be right. I am by no means a good muslim, Allah knows best how I rank in His eyes, but I do know right from wrong and my duties to humanity and my Lord. I do not condone acts of violence most definately not on innocent people nor any sort of sucide. I truly do hope though that people begin to realise what a beautiful religion it really is, and not take the examples of muslims today as anything to go by… Peace

    • @ Anon

      Listen to what you are saying. EVERY Muslim thinks that their Islam is the “true Islam”. The many different groups of Shiah think their’s is. The many different groups of Sunnis thinks that their’s is. There are as many versions of Islam as there are people out there. Your Islam is no more valid than any other Islam. You are welcome to your Islam, but you will have a hard time trying to convince another Muslim with a competing version of Islam that his Islam is false while YOURS is true.

      There was a time when I thought that my faith in Islam would never falter and prayed to allah every day that it would not. I suppose allah didn’t see fit to answer my prayers heh?

    • Jim Fox permalink

      Be the brainless, unthinking robot that the Moon God demands. Dar al-Islam, dar al-Harb; jihad; simple, isn’t it?

    • Jim Fox permalink

      Anon- perfect example of the fully indoctrinated, brainwashed True Muslim.

      One question- HOW do you manage to avoid/ignore all the hate, racism, savagery, pedophilia, bestiality, etc which fills more than 50% of the koran? Do I need to quote the verses?

  9. traeh lledew permalink

    In the debate on this comments thread, neither side has it quite right. The two alternatives

    1. There are as many Islams as there are Muslims.
    2. There is one Islam

    are both inadequate to the truth, Why do these two alternatives appear, and why are they both inadequate to the truth?

    As to the idea that there is no single Islam, what should be said about it? To support the idea, some point to the contradictory behavior of Muslims and the contradictory aspects of the Koran. Others then claim the contradictions are resolved by the Qur’an itself, and point to the Qur’an’s doctrine of abrogation (cancellation) as resolving them. Verses revealed later cancel earlier verses, if there is a contradiction between earlier and later. So from those others’ point of view, there is only one Islam. But then, if one looks further, one finds that the doctrine of abrogation is only part of the reality. Bill Warner, who runs the Center for the Study of Political Islam, and doesn’t pull punches when talking about Islam, knows about the doctrine of abrogation, but balances against it a couple of points. First, that despite the doctrine of abrogation, to many Muslims everything in the Qur’an is eternally true. Warner thus concludes that Islam is dualistic, not logically consistent. A Muslim can believe two contradictory things at once, so long as the contradiction is present in the Qur’an. So while the doctrine of abrogation does to some extent resolve contradictions, it is simultaneously true that it doesn’t — that the whole Koran, including the contradictions, is considered by Muslims eternally true. Allah is so dictatorially all powerful that he is not bound by anything, not even logic. From this point of view, then, there seem to be more than one Islam, and perhaps many Islams.

    But having found the Qur’an contradictory and dualistic, rather than single, how does Warner deal with the dualism of Islam? Does he claim there is no single Islam? No. That would be far too imprecise as an answer. Warner was a scientist, and tries to drill down into the details. He takes a statistical approach, and looks at the Trilogy — Koran, Hadith, Sira — quantitatively. He quantifies HOW MUCH of the Koran is tolerant and peaceful, versus HOW MUCH is totalitarian and violent. He accepts that Islam is contradictory, is tolerant yet totalitarian, but he points out that the percentage of tolerant statements is quite small, while the percentage of totalitarian statements is quite large. So although he doesn’t say there is one Islam, he does find an overwhelmingly predominant form of Islam. I don’t know his percentages, but they show that Islam’s texts are far more totalitarian/violent than they are tolerant/peaceful. He finds something like 95% violent totalitarian, 5% tolerant peaceful. One can check out his website for his various numbers and how he gets them.

    So Warner’s view, by getting into specifics, really transcends the debate about whether Islam is One or Islam is Many.

    Another “meme” that influences this whole debate is what might be called the “decontructionist” meme. Even if you don’t know what “deconstruction” is, there’s a good chance that its claims have seeped to some extent into your consciousness, as though by a sort of cultural osmosis. The deconstructionist meme is that a text can be understood in an infinite number of ways and can mean anything,

    If one thinks about it through, that is a gross exaggeration. While texts to varying degrees have elasticity of meaning, that elasticity is not infinite, and that is even more true with texts that are not largely poetic or mythical in content. The Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira are full of quite literal commands and statements. There is certainly some degree of variation in interpretation possible, but the core texts and past history do tend to channel interpretation within a certain range of possibilities. For example, there are no Muslims anywhere who say that Muhammad was made of green cheese. Nothing in the core texts of Islam can be interpreted to mean that. And while Lewis Caroll or some other fantasist might be able to conjure up an almost infinite range of theoretically possible interpretations of Islam, such possibilities are simply never considered by Muslims, because most are as improbable as claiming that the core texts mean Muhammad was made of green cheese. We should not go to the deconstructionist extreme of suggesting that anything can mean anything. Islam is a definite historical reality. The fact that one or two Muslims here or there might have a totally anomalous interpretation of Islam is barely relevant, unless by some miracle that anomalous interpretation should grow to become mainstream.

    So is there one Islam? Are there many Islams? The answer is closer to the first, but the second has some validity. But one must not lose sight of the fact that there are overwhelming commonalities of interpretation among the majority of Muslims everywhere. Totalitarianism seems to be the majority interpretation. One can argue that there is an objective reason for that, namely that Islam is objectively a totalitarian movement for the most part, based on its own texts, and that this totalitarian aspect of it, while sometimes somewhat in abeyance, has always been dominant in the long run, because it has always been dominant in the texts.

  10. Islam’s origins are so obscure and open to interpretation that it can (and does) mean just about anything to anyone. This is why there are so many differences of opinion.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Wahabism And Obeying the Ruler | Islam Speaks
  2. But Which Sharia?? | Islam Speaks
  3. Qur’an: The Sun Sets in Muddy Pool | Islam Speaks
  4. Killing For Being “Wrong Kind Of Muslim” | Islam Speaks
  5. A Problem, But Not OUR Problem | novatownhall blog
  6. The Fallacy of “Real” Islam | Islam Speaks
  7. The “You Hate All Muslims” Strawman | Islam Speaks

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