All In The Name of God

Human beings either do not or refuse to learn from history. Throughout the passage of time, theology has continued to be used to justify and therefore, validate political acts. The blame lies, on one hand with the politicians and on the other, with the compliant ears of the masses.

Art Harun, Articulations

Many people do many things all in the name of God. The irony is the very things which they do in the name of God are abhorred by God. Or even prohibited by Him.

History will show us that human beings have tortured, maimed and killed each other, all in the name of God. Untold misery and cruelty have been inflicted all in the name of God. Yet, when they speak of God and their religion, they insist that God is most merciful, most compassionate and most forgiving. And their religion is a religion of peace, justice and fairness.

In Islam for example, history would show us all that right after the passing of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., Muslims started arguing on who would be the right candidate to be the Caliph. Then they started killing each other. Until now that is.

The Traditionalist was a loose grouping of mainstream conservative schools who called themselves ahli-sunnah-wal-jamaah (the proponents of the Prophet’s traditions and consensus). They posit that the Caliph should be elected by the influential members of the community. This was also generally accepted by another group, the Khawarij. The only difference between these two groups was that while the former narrowed the qualification to be a Caliph to just the Quraysh tribe (Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was from the Quraysh tribe), the Khawarij did not have such qualification. The Khawarij in fact believed that a Caliph may even be removed if he breached his mandate.

This general agreement between the two groups however ended at the end of the reign of the 3rd Caliph, Uthman. His successor, Caliph Ali was met with opposition from the Khawarij as they did not agree with Caliph Ali’s compromise with the Shi’a.

The Shi’a further narrowed the qualification for the Caliphate to the family members of the Prophet in particular, the Prophet’s son-in-law, Ali and his descendants. The Shi’a argued that the head of Islam, politically and religiously, being the most important position, must not be left to human consensus and determination and thus must be so restricted.

The irony of all these is that God has never ordained that only the Quraysh or the members of the Prophet’s family could be a leader in Islam.

Soon, of course, they started killing each other. After the 4th Caliphs, namely, Caliph Ali (the first 4 Caliphs in Islam are known as the “Rightly Guided Caliphs”), what originated as a deep political schism, imbued by misplaced tribal ego, resulted in vicious hatred when theological justification was used as political validation.

Soon after Caliph Ali, the so-called Islamic leadership or state was reduced into a dynasty, starting with the Ummayad. Caliph Mu’awiya started the Ummayad dynasty which lasted nearly a hundred years. The Abbasid dynasty replaced the Ummayad in Damascus. The slaughter of the Ummayad family in their palace during the “dinner of reconciliation” is well documented.

An Ummayad prince was saved from the slaughter when he was smuggled out from the palace. He ended in the Andalus and became Caliph in present-day Spain. Islam thus had two ruling dynasty, namely, the Abbasid ruling from Damascus and later, Baghdad and the Ummayad, ruling from Spain.

At this time, Islamic theology flourished, seemingly because of the Caliph’s thirst for knowledge and enlightenment. It was during this period – the so-called “Golden Age of Islam” that we saw the rise of “Ilm-al-kalam” (the science of debate).

What started as a political schism between the Khawarij, the traditionalist and the Shi’a groups over the right to become Caliph and to rule soon degenerated into a theological teasers that later further degenerated into an inquisition. It was at about this time that a the Mu’tazila or the Rationalists appeared.