Posted by: Andrew G | March 22, 2010

Islam – Peace through Submission?

On March 2 CBC reported that the Islamic scholar Muhammad Tahir Al-Qadri issued a fatwa banning terrorism and suicide bombings.

Al-Qadri’s fatwa is a 600-page document, a religious ruling in which he suggests that terrorists and suicide bombers are only destined for hell.

I think some context and background is needed here.

Islam is the second largest religion of the world. It is an Abrahamic religion (monotheistic and originating from the Abraham known in the Jewish and Christian Genesis. It is prophet-driven, in that it recognizes most of the Jewish prophets, and even recognizes Jesus as a prophet, but believes God’s final word was revealed through the prophet Muhammad and the book known as the Koran (different spellings aside) around 650 CE.


In fact, Muslims are quite particular about the Koran and only recognize the original text in the original language as the word of God. Not the same language-translation debates and issues that have come up in other religions. As an example, Muslims may even have issue that I use the word ‘God’ here and not ‘Allah’, that’s how important and specific language can be.

There is a certain beauty in the language of Islam for me. You can still taste elements of the ancient world in the phrasing or in how ideas are combined. Here is a one-page explanation of the faith along with some of the proverbial sayings collected as part of the faith.

Islam  is divided between two major groups. The Sunni make up the majority. The Shi’a differ from the Sunni in that they believe a certain imam (spiritual leader) should have been the rightful successor after the prophet Muhammad’s death. The imam holds a place of special importance as an absolute authority to most Shi’a. Although the Shi’a are a smaller group than the Sunni, the Shi’a have concentrated majorities in countries such as Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

A smaller, third group within Islam is called Sufi. Now, I do have a tendency to root for the little guy, and in the case of Islam my heart goes out to these mystic artists. It’s probably the poetry that caught my attention as much as anything else, and in disclosure I must reveal that I am still quite ignorant of the traditions around Sufism. This article is a starting place but by no means a definitive explanation.

I ripped this poem from, I think, Will Hume. He is a blogging pastor that taught me to appreciate the movie, “Joe Versus the Volcano”.

I have a thousand brilliant lies

For the question:

How are you?

I have a thousand brilliant lies

For the question:

What is God?

If you think that the Truth can be known

From words,

If you think that the Sun and the Ocean

Can pass through that tiny opening

Called the mouth,

O someone should start laughing!

Someone should start wildly laughing –


Of all people to give me a deeper appreciation for Islam, I have to thank Christopher Hitchens. I’m reading his book God is not Great right now, in which he spends more time railing against religion than God in particular. In his book he uses an illustration from the scholar Christoph Luxenburg who has spent a great deal of time studying ancient Middle-Eastern languages. Luxenburg suggests that the rewards of a “‘martyr” in paradise will be, when translated a certain way, not many virgins but instead sweet white raisins.

Now, a paradise of sweet raisins is almost as good as virgins, don’t get me wrong. But, can we  at least say at this point that God must be the greatest of all practical jokers? What a twisted sense of humor!



  1. Ah, thanks for the link. Much appreciated. I have been enjoying the articles in this series very much and greatly appreciate the time it must have taken to put them together.

    Another Sufi poet I like is Hafiz, who once wrote: “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.”

    Have a great day!

    • Will!
      You are like the man for resources! Once again a world opens up.
      I definitely have to rip that little poem and use it somewhere as well.

      The articles certainly weren’t meant to be comprehensive, so I’m glad to see someone is enjoying the lightness of them. Thanks for that. Still finding my voice, I guess (or at least quieting the ones in my head 🙂 )

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