Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom Hardcover – 14 Jun 2011
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"Irshad Manji's "Allah, Liberty and Love" is a passionate argument for passionate argument -- in all of life and especially within Islam. I leave these pages strengthened by her humor, intelligence, bravery, fairness and faith." Gloria Steinem"
About the Author
Irshad Manji is an acclaimed journalist, lecturer, and human rights advocate. She came to the world's attention as author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith (2004). A New York Times bestseller, the book is now available in more than 30 languages. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The heart of Irshad's story is the description of how her mental journey that she went through helped her to purify her mind and liberate her sole. She concludes that all Muslims should liberate themselves in the same way by ignoring their restricting cultures of mosque and their deviant Mullahs. As Budha said they should make themselves islands and be wise and ask question rather than sheepishly follow. Lots of emotion and passion.
If you're offended by the idea of reforming Islam then read this book and engage with the ideas it raises instead of just dismissing it offhand. Then, we can meet over a cup of chai (recipe included in the book btw) and discuss. If you're not offended then the same applies; basically buy this book, think for yourself and drink tea.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While Manji's reasoning and moral clarity are sharp as a knife, her main strength is her bold activism. She cites many of her email exchanges with both supporters and detractors (many of whom are hilarious and frightening in their venom). Her casual conversational tone sometimes comes across flippant and condescending, but when you realize that she lives under the constant and real threat of physical harm from angry "Islamo-tribalists", it's easy to understand how she needs a healthy dose of humor and lightness to keep her mental health in tact. Her website, irshadmanji,com, is a good companion piece to the book for those interested in taking concrete steps to manifest their moral courage.
My only criticism of the book is that I was not convinced why Irshad wants to be a Muslim in the first place, as opposed to any other religion. Her ideas are so universalist, humanist, and accepting of others, that I don't find them particularly Muslim. She comes across as more of a "freelance monotheist", to borrow the term from the writer and religious historian Karen Armstrong. Irshad eschews all forms of dogma, be they religious or political or cultural. Yet any religion, especially Islam, does have certain core beliefs without which it would cease to be distinguished from other religions. Beliefs such as the infallibility of the prophet Muhammad, the literalism of the Qur'an, and the formality of obligatory prayer she clearly rejects. So does she believe that the Qur'an is the literal word of God? Or was it pieced together and edited by fallible human beings? Is Muhammad the 'Seal of the Prophets'? If divine revelation ended with Muhammad, what to make of others who came after him and claimed divine guidance, like the imams of Shi'ism, or Ghulam Ahmad (of the Ahmadis) or Baha'u'llah (of the Baha'is)? Would she consider them false prophets? Does her insistence on still labeling herself Muslim stem more from an emotional attachment to culture and family than from an impartial reasoned choice?
She writes that the "pugnacious verses of the Qur'an" don't "need to be actively rethought if the Qur'an's pluralistic verses can be publicized to a critical mass of Muslims." (p.184) So is her approach to the Qur'an and Islam that of a pragmatist? She doesn't seem interested in wrestling with the contradictory "pugnacious" vs. "pluralistic" verses in order to reconcile them into a coherent understanding. She seems more interested in marketing the aspects of the Qur'an that jibe with her loving, all-embracing, liberating vision of God. That's great, but is it honest? I'm all for her beautiful vision, but perhaps in stretching the path of Islam so widely in order to embrace her vision, the path becomes indistinguishable from all other universalist paths and ceases to be Islam at all. And that's not a bad thing!
Irshad surprises me by her insight and courage. "Our duty to know God overshadows any guilt brought on by the artificial gods of family and nation." This is not an easy task. The great majority of people follow the religion of loudest, crowdest, or the proximate bandwagon. It takes wisdom and bravery to search for truth, without condition. Throughout history, those who questioned dogmas and mythologies were shunned and declared heretics.
I do believe that a substantial reform is impossible without brave reformists who are ready to question everything. Throughout history, reformists have uttered ideas that initially repelled or scared the hypnotized majorities in their "holy bandwagons." There cannot be a slow transformation, but a shock, a radical jump, a paradigm change among Muslim masses.
Such a reform perhaps can be accomplished only by "children" who do not hesitate to scream the reality that "emperor is naked." Yes, Muslim clergymen and politicians are naked!
The title of the book is excellent. By using the word Allah instead of God, Irshad is daring the wormongers who wish to demonize muslims. By using the word Liberty and Love, she also challenges the Sunni and Shiite bigots who betray the many verses of the Quran promoting freedom of expression, tolerance to the choices of others. How islam could be depicted as the "religion of hate," while the most frequent attribute of God is derivatives of the root RaHaMa (compassion, love, care)?
Irshad knows that Allah is not a proper name, but the contraction of "al" (the) and "ilah" (god) meaning, the God. I would like to quote a note from Quran: a Reformist Translation on the first verse of the Quran:
The Arabic word Allah is not a proper name as some might think; it is contraction of AL (the) and ELAH (god). The word Allahumma is a different form and the letter "M" in the end is not an Arabic suffix as a novice might think. The word Allahumma may not be considered a divine attribute since it cannot be used as a subject in a sentence or as an attribute of a divine subject. It is always used in supplication and prayers, meaning "o my lord" or "o our lord." Allah and Rahman are two attributes that are invariably used as names rather than adjectives. Since God sent messengers to all nations (10:47; 16:36; 35:24) in their own language (14:4), they referred to their creator in their own language. See 7:180.
While some tried their hardest, for centuries, to turn the creator of the universe into an Arab God, others too have attempted to transform Him into an Anglo-Saxon male. The former ignored the fact that the languages of many nations who received God's message in their own language did not contain the word Allah. The latter ignored the fact that Jesus or (J)esu(s), never uttered the English word `God,' but referred to his Lord with Hebrew or Aramaic words such as Eli, Eloi, Elahi, or Ellohim (Mark 15:34), which are almost identical to corresponding Arabic words.
The Old Testament contains several verses containing the attributes of `Gracious' and `Merciful' as used in Basmalah: Exodus 34:6; 2 Ch 30:9; Nehemiah 9:17,31; Psalms 103:8; 116:5; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2.
In this book, Irshad informs the reader about degeneration of the peaceful, progressive and liberating message of Islam and supports her arguments through the verses of the Quran and numerous scholars of the past and present. Let me provide brief information about the nature of deformation that took place centuries ago, and the message of modern Islamic Reform movement:
Male chauvinists, hermits, misogynists too took advantage of the deformation movement that started with the gathering of hearsay stories called Hadith, about three centuries after the departure of Prophet Muhammad. Hearsay statements attributing words and deeds to Muhammad and his idolized comrades became the most powerful tool or Trojan horse, for the promotion of diverse political propaganda, cultural assimilation, and even commercial advertisement. As a result, the Quran was deserted and its message was heavily distorted.
Soon after Muhammad's death, thousands of hadiths (words attributed to Muhammad) were fabricated and two centuries later collected, and centuries later compiled and written in the so-called "authentic" hadith books:
* to support the teaching of a particular sect against another (such as, what nullifies ablution; which sea food is prohibited);
* to flatter or justify the authority and practice of a particular king against dissidents (such as, Mahdy and Dajjal);
* to promote the interest of a particular tribe or family (such as, favoring the Quraysh tribe or Muhammad's family);
* to justify sexual abuse and misogyny (such as, Aisha's age; barring women from leading Sala prayers);
* to justify violence, oppression and tyranny (such as, torturing members of Urayna and Uqayla tribes; massacring the Jewish population in Medina; assassinating a female poet for her critical poems);
* to exhort more rituals and righteousness (such as, nawafil prayers);
* to validate superstitions (such as, magic; worshiping the black stone near the Kaba);
* to prohibit certain things and actions (such as, prohibiting drawing animal and human figures; playing musical instruments; chess);
* to import Jewish and Christian beliefs and practices (such as, death by stoning; circumcision; head scarf; hermitism; rosary);
* to resurrect pre-Islamic beliefs and practices common among Meccans (such as, intercession; slavery; tribalism; misogyny);
* to please crowds with stories (such as the story of Miraj (ascension to heaven) and bargaining for prayers);
* to idolize Muhammad and claim his superiority to other messengers (such as, numerous miracles, including splitting the moon);
* to defend hadith fabrications against monotheists (such as, condemning those who find the Quran alone sufficient); and even
* to advertise products of a particular farm (such as, the benefits of dates grown in a town called Ajwa).
In addition to the above mentioned reasons, many hadith were fabricated to explain the meaning of the "difficult" Quranic words or phrases, or to distort the meaning of verses that contradicted the fabricated hadith, or to provide trivial information not mentioned in the Quran (such as, Saqar, 2:187; 8:35...).
I hope that Irshad's book will be adopted as a textbook by colleges and universities that teach courses on religions and Near Eastern or Oriental Studies.
Manji's style is unapologetically provocative. Exploiting the Muslim communities' stereotypical anxiety over sexual protocol, Manji laces her arguments with deliberately offensive references to the "Viagra" of group victimhood, and in deploring the lack of Muslim "Andalusian cojones" in opposing one's own family and community's shackles of cultural honor. She also resorts to scatological humor, characterizing typical Muslim responses to criticism as "steaming piles of hooey". In the chapter "Offense is the Price of Diversity", she asserts the need for uncensored dissent from the status quo, and for Muslims to "harness offense for personal growth." (pg 187) Claiming that her books and speeches rankle more Muslims than the Taliban does, she insists that offending her audience out of their complacency and complicity in "respecting Muslim culture" is crucial to effecting the change that will reconcile the practice of Islam with free speech and respect for the human rights and dignity of all.
Manji's repeated mantra in this book is that no religion speaks for itself. In other words, when Muslim individuals or communities commit atrocities in the name of their religion, it is a cop-out to claim that they aren't "true Muslims" or their practice is not "true Islam". Manji insists that Islam is what Muslims make it, and of the legion of interpretations of their scriptures, no one interpretation can be more valid than another, as the Koran itself states that God alone knows the true meaning of every phrase contained in it. Manji is calling all Muslims to account for how practitioners are speaking for Islam, not just "by words, but also by deeds; not just by action, but also by inaction, not just by choices made, but also choices relinquished." (pg 226).
She is also imploring well-intentioned non-Muslims to dispense with the kid-glove treatment of their Muslim neighbors and friends and their careful efforts to avoid causing offense. Manji claims that the most respectful treatment of Muslims is to ask questions that challenge them to consider how their cultural mores are influencing their practice of Islam; how their cultural powerbrokers are exploiting the weakest members who usually have no choice whether or not to associate themselves with that cultural identity. She accuses many Muslims of having "high defenses and low expectations" of themselves, rather than the reverse. She challenges Muslims to replace their attachment to their cultures with a capacity for personal and individual growth that reflects their individualism, rather than their commitment to groupthink.
Manji acknowledges that the frequent response non-Muslims get in attempting these questions is some version of "you can't comment because you don't represent." She advises her audience to "intercept that missile with further questions", such as whether or not ordinary citizens have the right to question the human rights abuses taking place in say, Guatanamo Bay or Abu Gharib, because they are not members of the military culture; whether those who are not of the financial industry culture have the right to question what decisions are made on Wall St, and whether Muslims living in the Middle East have any right to judge US foreign policy, if they themselves are not American. She insists that Muslims who try to stifle discourse on these grounds are themselves reducing their questioners to demographics and racial profiling, and she urges non-Muslims to challenge Muslims to consider why and how this is acceptable.
Manji wryly identifies other typical hand grenades thrown at her by her Muslim detractors. One is what she refers to as the "Who-The-Hell-Are-You" charge, often put together as a cocktail with its partner, "You're not a scholar." (Or, when she quotes her sources, "They're not REAL scholars." She acknowledges that her personal choices (such as dispensing with the "five times a day on your rug to pray" format in preference of a more informal prayer life, in English) along with her sexual orientation as a lesbian often disqualifies her, in the minds of her critics, as a "real Muslim". She addresses these charges with her trademark humor, and references one of her heroines of the abolishment of slavery, Sojourner Truth, who, when dismissively told that the sting of her speeches amounted to flea bites, retorted, "Lord willing, "I'll keep you scratching." (pg. 227).
Given the amount of correspondence with her critics that Manji has woven into this book, it is evident that Manji is indeed causing a lot of uncomfortable scratching in Muslim communities. Manji prints a selection of these foam-flecked diatribes along with her responses, modeling her recommended mixture of counter-questioning laced with humor, and some of her critics do rise to her challenge in a response, but eventually, these exchanges all end up with the same abrupt two-word denouement following one of Manji's responses, "No reply." One imagines that her critic is left speechless with stymied and offended sensibilities, unable to continue the dialogue because of "high defenses and low expectations" of Muslim culture. Whether this is a fair judgment or not it is impossible to say, but it is apparent that Manji is genuinely craving dialogue with other Muslims, and that Muslims might as well get used to her incessant voice calling for reform. Aware that she might pay with her life for this stance, Manji quotes Martin Luther King's motto that one who has not found something (s)he is willing to die for, (s)he is not fit to live.
Manji is a skilled communicator with a transformative message, and I doubt even those who loathe her and her agenda could honestly call her a coward. Only time will tell whether she will someday be considered a champion of human rights and individual liberty in humanity's hall of fame together with the likes of her heroes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi, but there is little doubt that she will leave her mark on any future Islamic reformation, and any putative reconciliation of Islam with free speech. As such, this book is a worthwhile and bracingly stimulating read.
Congratulations to Irshad Manji for producing a really useful book. Deceptively simple and accessible, the book deals comprehensively with complex contemporary issues in a chatty, effervescent style that belies the erudite content. Issues of identity, culture, honor and diversity are given whole chapters of discussion interspersed with email correspondence that injects vitality and personal interest.
Manji goes straight to the heart of the debate by dealing with the thorny issue of culture and religion. She explains how the patriarchal tribal culture of the Middle East was adopted in the name of Islam and exported with the religion. It is this tribalism that promotes discrimination against women and leniency toward honor killings. Manji believes Muslims must stop acting as if culture is sacred and face up to the cultural practice that "disfigures" Islam.
Devoted to pluralism and free speech, Allah, Liberty and Love could provide a manual for the young, thinking Muslim and much more. The author puts a spotlight on Muslim "moderates" and finds them wanting, equivocating over a total ban on stoning and so obsessed with Western colonialism that rational thinking is replaced with "denial and deflection." She also draws attention to the Western feminists who join the same road, on a journey that only leads to a dysfunctional society dominated by victimhood, projection of blame, negativity and stagnation.
Manji demands a modern update of some of the holy texts and calls on moderate Muslims to join her in a quest that champions freedom of thought and belief. Crucially, she asks moderates to adopt self-criticism, condemn radical ideology, eschew clichés and face up to the internal strife within Islam.
A model of the moral courage she espouses, Irshad Manji is a fearless warrior for truth and reform of discriminatory laws within Islam. Her words deserve to be heeded.
Ida Lichter, author of "Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression."
She reprints some of her hate-mail, and some really Is pretty funny, though Richard Dawkins' hate-mail in "The God Delusion" is a lot funnier,and she reprints testimonials from young Muslims who are suffering under the constraints of their culture, though some of the posts on faithfreedom.org are every bit as heartrending. She lets us in on conversations she's had with Rushdie and Ramadan. Well and good, but throughout I can't help but feel a bit patronized, solely because I'm an infidel.
Clearly, this is directed at her fellow young Muslims, and secondarily the general public. (And the astute reader may have noticed that there are a lot fewer reviews if this, which may mean fewer sales.)
This is in part, I suppose, because she simply takes for granted that the Koran really IS dictation from on high, and I assuredly don't. Also, I get rather bored with all this because there's been a tsunami of "peaceful Islam" books over the last 15 years, and this one isn't that different. While Esposito and Ramadan tell me how peaceful Islam already is and I don't know it because of Western stereotypes, Manji tells me how peaceful it will become when CERTAIN PEOPLE learn manners from their infidel neighbors, validate it all by select readings in the Koran, and stop acting like Western stereotypes. And "select" is the appropriate word here. She basically claims that "the message" of "The Messenger," which is, of course, peace and toleration, shines through the Koran, and all the horrible things that have accrued to the history of Islam are results of the surrounding cultures. She's got her causality backwards. Culture causes religion, because people invent religion. The Gospels were the result of the "Septuagint" Greek-Jewish culture, and they were often a rather cosmopolitan bunch. The men who cobbled the Koran together were semi-literate Bedouin marauders, and it shows. Ibn Warraq waggishly points out, for example, that there are over 100 basic grammatical errors in the Koran. Some "perfect book."
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in "Infidel," points out that while there surely is good to be found in the Koran, it mostly applies to how Muslims should treat other Muslims. We infidels? Self-explanatory. CLANG! WHOOSH! SPLAT! What the moderates are doing, clearly, is using the "We are all born Muslims" theory (which is hooey) to extend their benevolence to everyone, while presumably re-writing "infidels" to mean "evil-doers." Yet another reason to suspect that even the most moderate Muslim is trying to cover up quite a lot, while trying to patronize his way out of a socially touchy situation.
Admittedly, Manji's quest to proclaim a new reformed Islam is probably necessary -- Islam won't go away, and the younger generation has to find a way to fit in with the infidels somehow. And it certainly requires the moral courage she praises to stand up to reactionary imams and their thuggish acolytes.
But I also think it takes even more courage and honesty to do what Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Sabatina James have done. They're all survivors from the most horrifically damaged sectors of Islam, they've seen what the most primitive parts of "The Book" have done for centuries to their wretched, dysfunctional society, have acknowledged it, and walked away from it all with a resounding "NON SERVIAM!"
They don't whitewash the ugly bits of the Koran, and call it "re-interpretation." They take Mohammed at his word.
I strongly recommend Ibn Warraq's classic "Why I Am Not a Muslim," heavily reviewed here on Amazon, and written in honor of Rushdie. Warraq is under one of the usual death sentences for writing it.
No religion that can require its members to murder dissenters, even if only in theory, can be condoned.
And a BTW to Ms. Manji: please remove the phrase "haters of Islam" from your vocabulary. It's cant, and it stifles discussion by personalizing issues, which is the opposite of what you claim you're trying to do.