by Salim e-a Ebrahim
Islam is NOT a political ideology, a political theology, a political system, a political venture, or a political empire. It is concerned only with the way Muslims practice their particular communal politics just as it is concerned with the way every Muslim practices his own particular politics in her own personal life.
Islam is a religion, a way of pursuing one’s personal life, continuously asserting while simultaneously acquiring deeper insights into ethics, principles, standards, morals, values, and qualities to attain in life.
A Muslim is one who witnesses the Shahadah, the assertion that God is One and Mohammad is His Prophet. After that he need not do anything more to remain in the fold of Islam. Whatever else he does or does not do is between him and God.
Shariah and tariqah mean the same in Arabic i.e. “the way”. The word Shariah has now come to denote Islamic Law but because Islam is meant for the Muslim for all time, there is no fixed law in Islam. And therefore, the Shariah must change not only with time and place but also with culture, knowledge, circumstance, belief, and intellect. And, therefore too the Shariah of one Muslim does not have to be the Shariah of another Muslim. Pluralism is a cardinal ethic of Islam so that all people are free to choose their own ways under Islam. The word Tariqah has come to denote the beliefs and traditions of the non-orthodox sects in Islam. Therefore, as the Tariqah (the Belief), so the Shariah (the Law).
Islam is indeterminate and no Muslim should be so arrogant and intolerant as to uphold his own particular Islam as the only Islam that must be followed by all Muslims leave alone all people everywhere. Indeed, there are ethics to be upheld in Islam but these are broad, general issues and their specificity is determined by the Muslim community concerned in time, place, culture, knowledge, circumstance, belief, and intellect.
Date posted: 2010.
Last updated: January 10, 2016 (see note below).
About the author: Salim e-a Ebrahim was an epigrammatist, poet, essayist, dialogist, and film-maker. We announce with sadness that he passed away recently. Please click Passings: Salim-el-azhar Ebrahim.