by Jennie S. Bev
Human beings have been searching for the Divine outside ourselves. We have forgotten that we all are part of Something Greater and It is a part of us. Thus, searching for humanity is as valid as searching for God, or even more valid because it is living and moving constantly, unlike the notion of God that’s oftentimes dogmatic, rigid, and unquestionable —stillborn.
It is common knowledge that religions have been used more than as a spiritual avenue. It is also a vehicle to obtain and sustain power. And Islam isn’t an exception. Violence and killings have been performed in the name of Allah. Let us remind ourselves that Islam is based on peace, nonviolence and nonkilling principles, thus the persecution of Ahmadis in Indonesia is a gross violation of universal human rights and the principles of Islam.
Historically, religions have been politicized for the benefit of the rulers. Eric Fromm called it “the cultural God.” In the hands of Emperor Constantine, with the Edict of Milan, the Bible was officiated with Christianity as the ‘official’ religion of the kingdom. This says a lot about the fabricated ‘stagnation’ as a religion and its holy book were used to stabilize the society in which the ruler ruled. The same thing can be found in the history of other religions, including Islam.
Those who believe in the rigidity of dogmas, immovably believe with all their fibers that God’s words made up the holy books. In a theocentric perspective like this, stagnation is more than expected, as it is the only consequence. A movement to return to the past ideal is oftentimes used to seal mouths and block reforms. But we are moving forward as time is linear—except in quantum physics that believes time is circular, but is not the scope of this article.
In this globalized world, stagnation caused by narrow interpretations of a religion translates to slowly dying through self-inflicted suffocation, such as the ongoing persecution of Ahmadis in Indonesia. Let us remind ourselves that it is Allah’s prerogative to consider Ahmadiyya Islamic or not. It is not for any human being to cast the first stone.
Legalized persecution is not the answer in handling Ahmadiyya and Ahmadis. Placing Ahmadis in a box by disbanding it or legally restricting its operation gives unspoken permission and justification to Islamic hardliners to act more violently in the future. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to note that Indonesia is experiencing a downward spiral caused by the radicalization and narrowing interpretations of Islam.
Professor Charles Kimball of University of Oklahoma in When Religion Becomes Evil posited five signs of religion poisoning. First, a religion or a strain of a religion claims its doctrines are absolute truths. Second, their followers are blinded by religious leaders despite their teachings are against reason. Third, a religion or a strain of a religion glorifies its ideal past thus heading into a theocracy. Fourth, their goals justify the means (including using violence). Fifth, a religion or a strain of a religion has become so evil and corrupt that it is waging wars against fellow humans.
The answer to the radicalization of theocentric religion poisoning is returning to our humanity (anthropocentric). Use humane reasoning when we are faced with dilemmas.
Retrain our mind to be more than receptive, train our mind to be proactive and explorative. Muslims should remember that a good conscience is a better barometer of one’s piety than listening to an ulema with “bad theology” and “political agenda.”
Be proactive and think independently first and foremost, by refraining from asking childlike questions like whether praying with eyes opened is allowed or forbidden, whether wearing nail polish is allowed or forbidden, and other trivial things. A black-and-white or right-and-wrong answer would construct dependent and vulnerable minds, which aren’t likely to withstand complex modernity, hence persevering stagnation. Ask open-ended questions starting with “why.” Ask hard questions to ourselves prior to making the best conscientious judgments.
Indonesia’s fundamental principles Pancasila (The Five Principles) contains nonkilling philosophy in its second principle: just and civilized humanity. The 1945 Constitution further states in Article 28A that every individual has the right to live and to protect his or her livelihood. In Nonkilling Global Political Science, Professor Emeritus of the University of Hawaii and the founder of Center for Global Nonkilling Glenn D. Paige opposed three beliefs: human beings have killed and will continue to kill; scarce resources always end in conflict and killing; and to protect females and his offspring, human males will always need to kill.
His arguments were: most humans are not killers, most religions and spiritual teachings favor nonkilling, human and animal nonkilling nature can be found in various scientific studies, and as of 2010, 139 countries have abolished the death penalty. Abolishing the death penalty is a fact that a nonkilling policy can and has been implemented. Indonesia, on the other hand, is a retentionist country, where the death penalty is still enforced.
Indonesia is also notorious for its violent past, in which killings have occurred millions of times throughout history. Nonkilling policies should be based upon acknowledging the underlying principle that any chance of direct or indirect misuse and misinterpretation would result in inhumane, unnecessary, and costly violence or killing. For instance, a discriminatory law may be misused for the benefit of another entity. An anti-pluralism fatwa by MUI (Indonesian Ulema Council) can be interpreted as a green light to discriminate non-Muslims and the ministerial joint decree on restricting Ahmadiyya apparently has been interpreted as a license to kill Ahmadis.
Islam, as the religion of majority, is based upon peace, nonviolence, and nonkilling. A hadits(saying) from Prophet Muhammad is crystal-clear on not killing other human beings, including those who are non-Muslims (dhimmi), “Any Muslim who kills a dhimmi has not the slightest chance of catching even the faintest smell of Heaven. Protect them, they are my dhimmi.”
Razi Ahmad, a former secretary of the National Gandhi Museum in New Delhi in Islam, Nonviolence, and Global Transformation cites first Caliph Abu Bakr who emphasized the holistic development of individuals as a basis for a healthy society. Killing of non-Muslims is forbidden by Allah as stated in Qur’an 2:256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error.”
Ahmad further explains that a ruler who is a Muslim doesn’t automatically implement a virtuous government according to the principles set forth in the pluralistic, nonviolence, and nonkilling Qur’an. It is in alignment with the notion of hidayat (guidance) in Islamic view, which believes that the truth can’t be realized merely individually and one’s piety is not adequate without contributing to the social good.
One simple rule that transcends all religions, all schools of knowledge, and that is timeless is: do no harm. Loving others is oftentimes too idealistic. Doing no harm to others is both realistic and effortless. That’s the true Islam.
Tempo English, March 23, 2011