Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interview : Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (2)

If the message is the same, then how come the people don't agree with each other?

Well, God's perennial lament -- not only in the Quran, but in other scriptures as well -- is that people generally do not follow God's dictates and the guidance and the mandate that God has offered to humanity to follow. We tend to be recalcitrant. We tend to be disobedient to divine guidance. And if you look at human conflict, it has even existed within people of the same religious tradition. I don't need to remind you that even among those who call themselves Muslims there has been a lot of bloodshed.

We're finding that it's very hard to define who Muslims are. Every time we figure, oh, that's what it is, or that's who they are, there's an exception to the rule. There's a very traditional housewife-looking lady in Malaysia who's also an OB/Gyn who ministers to unwed mothers. We have girls in Turkey who are saying, "Look, we want to express ourselves as Muslims. We want to cover our hair." And we have a secular government that's discriminating against them -- women who want to cover, women who don't. Men who want to keep women in the house; men who agree that women have absolute opportunity to do what they need to do in society. How does this all fit?

The definition of the faith of Islam that I gave you before is the Quranic universal definition of the human being vis-a-vis the creator. There is a narrower definition of Islam which is used, which is those who follow the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. Now, according to that definition, their Islam is defined by what was commonly called the five pillars of faith. This is what theologians call the orthopraxy, or the orthopraxis. It means the practices which define you as a Muslim.
There are also five articles of creed, of belief, which theologians call the orthodoxy. That which defines you as a Muslim, if you adhere to these beliefs, [parallels] to, say, [Christianity] and Judaism, that in the Jewish faith, there is an orthopraxy, not much of an orthodoxy. As long as you abide by the rituals, the dietary laws, male circumcision, et cetera, et cetera, there is flexibility within the Jewish tradition on what you might choose to believe in to be considered as a member of the Jewish faith community. So there is flexibility in whether [you] believe in an afterlife, heaven and hell and so forth.
In the Christian faith, you have the opposite situation. You have a fundamental orthodoxy, which is, you have to believe that Jesus Christ is savior. If you believe wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ is savior, you are saved; you receive salvation. And there's a great flexibility on the ritual end. What you do in terms of prayers or dietary laws, circumcision, et cetera, there's flexibility on that.
In Islam, we have both an orthodoxy and an orthopraxy. The orthodoxy of the Islamic faith is defined as a belief in the oneness of God and the right attitude, the right understandings of God, as I mentioned earlier. A belief in the angels, beings created of light, who convey the divine commandments. The belief that God communicated to humanity via scriptures. And these scriptures are considered to be both oral and written form. ... And the belief that God also communicated his guidance and messages and teachings to humanity via human intermediaries, human messengers, we call them. prophets, or messengers.
And the last item of the Islamic orthodoxy is the belief in the last day. The last is a compound concept which means that this creation will, in fact, come to an end. So those of us who believe in the big bang theory, there will be a big implosion, in other words, at the end of time, so to speak, followed by a day of resurrection, where all the souls shall be resurrected; followed by a day of judgment, where all souls will be judged; followed by the obtaining of divine approval or divine disapproval. A pass grade or a failing grade. Those who get a passing grade will be in paradise. Those who get a failing grade will be in what we call hell. And the underlying theme of the last day is that we are all accountable for our ethical actions. ... That's the orthodoxy.
The orthopraxy of Islam is a declaration of faith: the statement that there is no God but God; that Muhammad is the messenger of God; the five-time daily prayer; the giving of alms, typically 2.5 percent of one's income or assets; the fasting of the month of Ramadan; and the going to pilgrimage, or hajj, once in one's lifetime, if one can afford it, financially and physically. Anybody who does these things is within the box of Islam.
There are other things, secondary things. Rules of dress and rules of behavior and rules of what may be considered right or wrong. And these come from cultural norms and from secondary sources of jurisprudence. But anybody who believes in these things and practices these things is a Muslim. ...

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