The Quran is a guide to social progress established in a time when there was little freedom of choice, equality or social justice in the ancient Arabian world. The terms by which many of the ideas of justice are based are very much established beliefs within Islam and throughout the progressive world. Early Muslims were problem solvers. To Muslims, the Quran is considered a revelation from God and historically a great piece of literature.
Over time dogma, culture and traditions have over taken the progressive nature of the Quranic experience in the time of Prophet Muhammad and his contemporaries. Whereas it once resolved social, political and economic issues; dogma , contrary to the Islamic teaching has changed the direction of contemporary Islam . It has become the tool of regressive and conservative mindsets in portraying the teachings as expressions of force and contempt.
Early Muslims following the teachings of Islam were explorer and problem solvers. They expanded their world through knowledge as well as conquest, spreading the message, not through forced conversations but through the experience of Islam and social justice. They endeavored to explore and obtain knowledge through early proto scientific concepts and the progressive nature of the insatiable need to understand their world. It was through that experience that early leaders supported the collection, preservation and expansion of knowledge.
In modern times those ideas have been set aside in the service of political and dogmatic applications . In essence it has stifled the Muslim world and set its progressive nature back 1500 years.
The Quran is clear in its direction to the degree of establishing the need for independent ideas, questions and applications of that knowledge and understanding. Any challenge beyond dogma is met with traditional and cultural popular expectations and understanding that those customs of well known interpretations should never be questioned or reassessed; this in total is a contradiction to the guidance of the Quran itself.
The Quran encourages people to think for themselves.
“Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.” (Quran 8:22)
“And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.” (Quran 17:36)
A thinking population is always dangerous to the status quo, and hence these surahs were set aside and forgotten, replaced instead by unusual sentiment of blindly following those in power [religious or political]. Add to that the notion of a non Arabic speakers unable to read the Quran in Arabic, instead recited by the clergy, and you’ve got a largely ignorant population at the whims of what religious figures teach them about Islam.
The Quran discourages blindly following of the ancestral ways and religious preachers.
“O you who have believed, indeed many of the scholars and the monks devour the wealth of people unjustly and avert [them] from the way of Allah . And those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – give them tidings of a painful punishment.” (Quran 9:34)
“And they (the common people) will say: O our Sustainer! Behold, we paid heed unto our leaders and our great men, and it is they who have led us astray from the right path!” (Quran, 33:67)
“And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the way of Allah . They follow not except assumption, and they are not but falsifying.” (Quran 6:116)
It might surprise anyone who has never read the Quran, even some Muslims that the Quran discourages blind following and the dubious nature of religious preachers. A religion that was only devised to control and cheat people would never expose religious preachers like this, for it would be against their very interests, As Mark Twain also once said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
The Quran promotes pluralism and explains that there are multiples paths to God. We walk our paths as we endeavor to reach the same destination.
“Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” (Quran 2:62)
“And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.” (Quran 29:69)
Sectarianism thrives in the belief that there is only one way and that way is the only way to reach God. But, By acknowledging that there are multiple paths, the Quran disavows the very belief of only “one right way” to God.
The Quran supports freedom of conscious, choice and speech.
“And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely. Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers?” (Quran 10:99)
In other words, if God had willed us all to believe, we would. Instead he gave us free will, to think for ourselves and make our own choices.
“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” (Quran 2:256)
Despite laws of apostasy and blasphemy, the Quran supports total freedom of speech and expression. Otherwise, there would be no need for insistence of thinkers and and the process of free will.
The Quran asks Muslims to be socially aware and to be activist for the rights which should be assessed as for all humans.
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” (Quran 4:135)
The Quran expresses the need for social justice and the mandate in fighting oppression. Islam is not a religion that only gives you dogma to follow blindly, in return for some grand reward of paradise. Instead it expects one to use intellect and resourcefulness to help those less fortunate and vulnerable in society and to do all this in the pursuit of justice.
The Quran establishes that faith is only the beginning on the path. It isn’t the end of the journey.
“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried?” (Quran 29:2)
One’s actions are relevant. Thus, the things we do today and in this life, matter. Surah 29:2 is very specific. So many religious individual (Muslims as well) put all their energy in a list of “things to do” or “to believe.” While putting no action behind those thoughts. For many religion has become just a list to enter “paradise” without any genuine effect.
Believing in values of truth, justice and honesty are not enough. One must live those values and put them into action.
The surahs are the concepts in which many Muslims throughout history established their societies and resolved their social,political and economic issues. These are the reasons which guide everyday life, beyond the expectations of social pressures. These values and ideas go beyond dogma alone. They are defining factors in history and the social progress by which Muslims have based their expectations and their human experience.