Koran in Mosque and Featured Contributor Seyed Mostafa Azmayesh

Maks Karochkin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The path of Islam focuses on the spiritual evolution of oneself.

The starting point to any discussion involving religion and its significance in a society is to understand the foundations and core of that religion. The first step for us is to define the spirit of Islam. The root of the word ‘Islam’ is ‘Selm’ or ‘Salâm’, meaning ‘health’ or ‘peace’, and an individual on this path is referred to as a Muslim. A person on this path must first acknowledge that they have an ‘unhealthy heart’ (‘Soghm’), which is to be aware of one’s egoistic desires of hate, anger, jealousy etc. Through the teachings of the Quran, a seeker on this path can transform their heart from a state of ‘soghm’ (illness) to a state of ‘selm’, or a ‘healthy heart’.

The path of Islam focuses on the spiritual evolution of oneself, to be free from the clutches of ego (nafs) and its many worldly manifestations. The words of Islam, Muslim, Selm, and Salim, are all derivatives of the same word, Salâm, establishing the roots of the religion in peace, altruism, and spiritual chivalry.

Prophet Mohammad and his family had a monotheist background and he was educated from a very young age. A common misconception that is popularized is that Mohammad was illiterate, and suddenly became all-knowing when he became a Prophet, which is entirely false. In actuality, he was a well-educated man. His mission was to create a virtuous civilization, in a time where the concept of the family did not exist and tribal traditions were commonplace. As part of his mission, he narrated the ancient holy texts with teachings from Abraham and Moses. The Quran, as a spiritual guide, was revealed to Prophet Mohammad to facilitate his mission to establish justice in society, and empower individuals to lead an honorable life.

The Quran can be seen as a beacon for social reformation, for the time of its revelation. One of the main purposes of the text was to introduce a new paradigm of social contracts, as a way to counter the barbaric chaos and violence that existed then. The Quranic teachings helped establish a functional social framework, with the key concepts of family, social interrelationships, gender-equality, mutual respect, and tolerance. The foundation of this social reform was to establish human rights of all, irrespective of one’s race, gender, ethnicity or beliefs.

The verses of the Quran are meant to be read as per their chronological order, keeping in line with the soul of the revelations. Only then can we get the true picture of the teachings of the Quran. It is also necessary to take into account the principle of abrogation, or naskh, which encompasses the dynamism of the Quran. As a way to establish a new paradigm and help the evolution of civilizations, the Quran mentions a certain verse and then abrogates it with another verse which is to replace it, in order to orchestrate a gradual evolution process within society. This dynamic element of the Quran allows the social framework to change and improve one step at a time.

Having said that, presently we are facing two vastly different interpretations of the Quran – one version is in line with the true core of peace, equality and social harmony; and the second version, that is built on tribal interpretations of the Quran, has existed since the apparition of Islam itself. We can clearly identify two versions of Islam in society today, as explained in further detail in my book – Islam ol Madani (Islam of Civilisation) and Islam ol Badavi (Islam of the Bedouins).

Prophet Mohammad’s efforts to create a virtuous society were met with strong opposition from the Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula at the time. His adversaries fought against him outright, and upon defeat, continued to oppose him indirectly. These adversaries integrated themselves within the Muslim community, pretending to accept the teachings of the Quran, but in reality, they remained attached to their barbaric world-view of violence, chaos, and control. These false Muslims, who are referred to as ‘Monafeghoun’ or ‘hypocrites’ by the Quran, continued to proliferate their own barbaric world-view within the Muslim community. The ‘Monafeghoun’ interpreted the Quran based on their tribal traditions. They built mosques to preach their own version of Islam, weaving in a deep-rooted barbarity into society. This shows us that the issues we see today, have existed since the time of the Prophet himself.

The true core of the teachings of the Quran is being undermined by the several misconceptions and misinterpretations of the text, that have crippled our society today. These are furthered by clerics looking to gain power and control over masses. For instance, a common misconception of Prophet Mohammad being illiterate is proliferated by clergies, who wish to substitute the Quran with False Revayats (false sayings) as the source of teachings, and attribute these to the Prophet. These false sayings have no connection to the Prophet, or to the teachings of the Quran. Being able to replace the main source of religious teachings, gives clerics unrestricted power to create their own version of a religion under the envelope of false revayats, and misguide people away from the true teachings of the Quran. This is one of the many reasons why so many misconceptions and false interpretations have taken root within society, especially the within the Muslim community.

These misconceptions may not seem as threatening on their own, in a vacuum. However, there is a powerful force with a hidden agenda of anti-civilization, which uses these misconceptions to control masses and propagate superstitions, that we see manifest in the west and east increasingly. Some common misconceptions are in relation to women’s rights as per the Quran, the hijab, or concepts such as jihad – which have been distorted and misinterpreted in order to fit the purpose of those who wish to impose their own version of Islam. The false interpretations of the Quran pose several growing dangers to society. They may cause segregation, whilst leave minds vulnerable to exploitation by those with an extremist agenda. They may also be used to oppress or control certain sections of society, for e.g. women. The numerous misconceptions and misinterpretations may manifest themselves in the form of extremism, violence, division, and chaos, and weaken society as a whole.

It is, therefore, imperative to counter this distorted version of the religion, by reverting to the true teachings of the Quran, and the core principles of Islam, which are rooted in peace, equality, tolerance, and spiritual chivalry, and are fully compatible with human rights principles that we value in our democratic society. The common misconceptions about Islam in society, the history of the life of Prophet Mohammad, a detailed study of the Quran, along with other pertinent topics are discussed in further detail in the book New Researches on the Quran: Why and How Two Versions of Islam Entered the History of Mankind.

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