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Religon, Violence, and the Modern World

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  • maqsud sobhani
    Religon, Violence, and the Modern World By Hamza Yusuf (visit http://www.zaytuna.org/) Hamza Yusuf is the President and Chairman of ZAYTUNA INSTITUTE. Born and
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 12, 2004
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      Religon, Violence, and the Modern World

      By Hamza Yusuf
      (visit http://www.zaytuna.org/)

      Hamza Yusuf is the President and Chairman of ZAYTUNA
      INSTITUTE. Born and raised in America, he became
      Muslim in 1977and subsequently traveled overseas
      obtaining teaching licenses in various Islamic
      subjects from several wellknown scholars in various
      countries. After ten years of studies abroad, he
      returned to California and took degrees in Religious
      Studies and Health Care. Since then, he has traveled
      all over the world educating people about Islam. In
      1996, he founded ZAYTUNA INSTITUTE, which has
      established an international reputation for presenting
      a classical view of Islam in the West. He is the first
      American lecturer to teach in THE QARA뭌촏
      in Fes, Morocco, which is one of the world�s oldest
      and most prestigious universities and mosques. In
      addition, he has translated into modern English
      several classical Arabic traditional texts and poems.
      He resides in Northern California with his wife and
      five children

      Many of us, in the hustle and bustle of modern life,
      have little time for reflection; yet as these days are
      marred by violence of the worst kind, reflection � on
      the part of those who regard themselves �religious� as
      well those who consider themselves �secularists� � is
      more needed than ever. With continual terror in Iraq
      and Palestine, and now, most recently, with the
      bombings in Turkey, Muslims are confronted with the
      increasingly tragic reality of religious violence and
      the subsequent retaliations of secular violence.

      A strange dual consciousness pervades the Muslim when
      it comes to modern violence. When Khalil Sarakiti, the
      Palestinian intellectual of the 40�s and 50�s reminded
      the Palestinian leadership of the importance of
      adherence to the highest principles of engagement in
      the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, he remarked in his
      journal that they viewed it as romantic chivalry,
      incompatible with the realities of modern warfare. And
      sadly, this is the reality of modern man: expediency
      has won out over principle.

      The modern Muslim has learned well the lessons of his
      secular counterpart. American military action rarely
      distinguishes between combatants and civilians. The
      Pentagon callously refers to them as �secondary
      effects� or �collateral damage.� When some Muslims use
      tactics of indiscriminate violence toward objects of
      hate, too often other Muslims are quick to point out
      that, �They kill our innocents and expect us to sit
      by and watch.� Defenders of American foreign policy
      parry with, �collateral damage can never be equated
      with terrorism because we don�t specifically target
      civilians and in fact attempt to avoid civilian
      casualties.� Apologetics for wanton killing of women
      and children on both sides nauseates anyone who
      considers the very real impact of innocent blood spilt
      so injudiciously.

      Like all things in which humans engage, religion has
      many paradoxical aspects. On the one hand, it elevates
      our ideals and aspirations to the heavens themselves
      giving us such priceless principles as, �The entire
      Torah can be summed up in two statements: love God
      with all your heart, and love your neighbor as
      yourself; everything else is commentary�; �Do unto
      others as you would have others do unto you�; and
      �Taking one life unjustly is as if you have killed all
      of humanity.� These are taken from the Jewish,
      Christian, and Muslim faiths, respectively. Meanwhile,
      some adherents to each faith justify with their
      teachings the most heinous depredations against their
      fellow men. Jonathan Swift remarked, �We have just
      enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to
      make us love one another?� Perhaps that is true; for
      many people, religion is no longer a solution to
      anything but very much part of the problem.

      The great tragedy of modern religion is that it is now
      seen as a toxin polluting the waters of
      possibility. We who claim faith and commitment have
      too often made our faiths the objects of hatred. With
      our zealousness, we have driven away countless people
      who see the worst aspects of humanity embodied in
      religious peoples. For some of us, it is easy to write
      them off as skeptics, mockers, or secularists who just
      hate religion, but the truth is that most of them are
      not so. They are simply people who know intuitively
      that the behavior of those claiming to be religious is
      both inhumane and irreligious, and they seek other
      philosophies to guide them. They look to Epictetus or
      the Tao Te Ching or even Deepak Chopra, or they give
      up the search for meaning altogether, contenting
      themselves with film and music as fulfilling
      past-times. Organized religion, with its
      self-righteous pugnaciousness and its officious
      meddling in the affairs of others, has driven many
      moderns to relegate it to the dustbin of discarded
      ideas. The irony, of course, is that the religious
      people feel the secularists are the pugnacious ones
      forcing secularity down their throats, ignoring their
      most sacred beliefs or relegating them to a few
      minutes on shows such as Thought for the Day. The more
      religion is marginalized, the angrier religious people
      get; the angrier they get, the more others want to
      marginalize religion, ad nauseam. We have found
      ourselves in a vicious cyclical clash between
      secularists, who, in many ways, abandoned the
      Englightenment project of a more humane world long
      ago, and religious utopians battling for a piece of
      turf in the modern world - both sides bitter, both
      sides with minorities that use indiscriminate violence
      to lesser and greater effectiveness, both sides
      becoming increasingly intolerant.

      Tragically, the very reason so many Europeans felt
      disillusioned with Christianity was the centuries of
      intolerance and pointless religious violence. The
      Muslims, on the other hand, were far less prone to
      internal religious violence, and the level of
      tolerance toward other faiths was unparalleled in the
      premodern world. Unfortunately, explosions in Riyadh,
      Karachi, Turkey, and countless other places show that
      violence and intolerance have become the paths of
      pursuit among religious thrill-seekers in much of the
      Muslim world. The unexpected side-effect is that it is
      not just non-Muslims that find Islam odious, but many
      modern Muslims are increasingly becoming disillusioned
      with Islam, blaming the behavior of the practitioners
      on the religion, seeking alternatives in other faiths
      or philosophies. I believe many Muslims are in deep
      denial about this, refusing to even consider it, but I
      am seeing its signs everywhere, and it troubles me

      Those of us who are committed to Islam should
      seriously ask ourselves if we are indeed
      representatives of the Religion of ar-Ra^m�n, the
      Merciful: �The servants of the Merciful are those who
      tread lightly on the earth, and when ignorant people
      deride them, they reply �peace�� � are we as the
      Qur�an so wonderfully describes the true servants of

      Muslims are commanded to avoid backbiting, slander,
      lying, cheating, treachery, pride, anger, sloth,
      greed, and all of the other tragic qualities of
      beastly humanity. We must remember that much of the
      worst crimes we see in the world are simply our own
      sins magnified on a grander, more grotesque scale. The
      vice of setting aside our principles in small matters
      that apparently harm no one leads to the heinous
      enormities of our time as the vice continues while the
      scale increases. Religious people who set aside every
      true and universal religious principle in the name of
      religion are worse than any secular beast doing the
      same in the name of Right makes right.?The reason is
      obvious: one acts in the name of religion and causes
      others to hate religion; the other acts in the name of
      power and causes others to rightly hate the worst
      qualities of man.

      It has been said that a religious fanatic is someone
      who redoubles his efforts after forgetting his cause.
      I think a sounder definition is someone who cannot
      risk considering that his life�s work has been
      meaningless; that his efforts have been in vain; that
      his victories are, in truth, defeats; and that his
      successes are utter and bitter failures. Violence is
      not a religious truth -it never has been, and it never
      will be. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, �Never
      desire to meet anyone in battle, but if ever forced to
      do so, be virtuous.� He also said, �Kindness is never
      present in an act except that it embellishes it and is
      never removed from any act except that it defiles it�
      In addition, he said, �God gives with gentleness what
      He will never give with harshness.�

      The Qur�an speaks to the Prophet (SAW) reminding us
      about his noble character: �It is a mercy from God
      that you were made gentle in nature, and had you been
      harsh and hardhearted, people would have fled from
      your presence.� In a sound tradition narrated by Imam
      Tirmidhi, the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said,�
      Toward the latter days of indiscriminate violence, be
      like the first and better of the two sons of Adam who
      said, if you raise your hand to kill me, I will not
      raise mine to kill you; surely I fear God, the Lord of
      the worlds.�

      In an increasingly violent world in which the
      individual can now inflict harm that armies of the
      past were incapable of, religious people in particular
      must categorically reject and condemn any vigilante
      retaliations for injustices and question deeply the
      compatibility of modern warfare with religiously
      sanctioned military action that emanates from
      pre-modern just-war principles in the Abrahamic


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