Saturday, April 17
‘Ignorant clergy preach hate’ says Imam Hendi
Muslim scholar Imam Yahya Hendi has maintained that the people have misunderstood and misinterpreted religions, which have resulted in animosities among people with various followings.
“There is an urgent need to impart informed religious education to people, and main responsibility for this lies with the clergy, which is also guilty of creating differences among Muslims, Christians and Jews, as conflicts are not in the religions, it is among the ignorant. ”
He said this in an interview with Daily The Nation.
Imam Yahya Hendi is the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University, which is the first American institution to hire a Muslim chaplain. Hendi is also the Imam of the Islamic Society of Frederick, and the Muslim Chaplain at the National Naval Medical Center. He also serves as a member and the spokesman of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America. He earned graduation degree in Islamic Law and Theology from the University of Jordan, and holds two Master's degrees, one in Comparative Religion from Hartford Seminary, Hartford. He is a Ph.D. candidate in the Comparative Religion programme at Temple University, Philadelphia and in Islamic Theology at American Open University, Fall Church. Imam Hendi has written numerous publications including the topics of women in Islam, women and gender relations in Islam, the coming of the Messiah and religion and Islam in the United States. A sought-after speaker, Imam Hendi has presented a multitude of interfaith and general lectures in the USA and overseas over the past eight years.
While talking about Islam is not against friendship among Muslims, Christians and Jews, Imam Hendi quoted a few verses, while adding that a verse “Do not take Jews and Christians as Aulia”, is highly misunderstood and misinterpreted by Muslims and other than Muslims. “This verse is used by Muslims to become radicals, while giving room to others to say Islam is bad. Both sides are wrong. Word ‘Aulia’ is interpreted to be ‘friends’ and ‘protectors’, whereas Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) had two Christian and Jewish wives. Secondly, one of his guards was borrowed from a Jew. And when the Prophet (SAW) died, he had Jewish neighbours,” he pointed out, while underlining the need for understanding the Quran and Hadiths in their contexts of revelation. “Secondly, Muslims have been allowed to marry Ahlul Kitab,” he added.
He went on to add that if one looked at the totality of the message of the Quran and the Hadith, he would find firstly, that the Quran speaks about these three people as Ahlul Kitab (People of the Revelation and People of the Book). Secondly, both Quran and the Hadith speaks about these three as People of Ahlul Dhimmah, which in the Islamic law refers to the people of Covenant, and people with whom we have a sacred relationship. In this case, it is the Jews and the Christians. Thirdly, the Almighty in the Quran speaks about Jews and Christians that you may show them ‘Birr’, that is the highest level of respect, which is meant for parents as well. Succinctly, he said the Jewish and Christian religious legacy was part of Muslims as well.
Imam Hendi was of the view that people, especially the Ulema, were ignorant, as none of them had tried to go beyond one’s own religion, and study other religions. “Ignorant ulema, priests and clergy, who preach hate because they do not know,” added the Imam. “We have misinterpreted history and religious practices as well,” he observed.
To a question about mending the damage, the Imam, while speaking on behalf of the human family and a ‘universal dustian’, emphasised the need for a dialogue among all. “People are killing each other for lands, but sacredness of the land is because of the people, who are being killed in the name of religion. Let there be politics of justice, and governance should aim at it,” he said.
“When a church is burnt in Pakistan, Muslim around the world should object to it. And when a mosque is razed in any part of the US or world, Christians must be saying no to this,” he opined, while stressing that all should reform the educational systems, especially religious and political. “Instead of laying claims on countries, there has to be abilities to come together to agree to disagree sans becoming enemies,” he averred.
“Our ability is to find common grounds. Our number one enemy is poverty. Work for this, and then talk about other issues. Secondly, stop trafficking of women being done for sex and slavery. Thirdly, bring an end to militarism in nations, countries and groups as the only way to find a solution is not in a battle. $996billion are being spent on arms, while the world over, quarter of a billion dollar is being utilised on education,” maintained the Imam.
To him democracy is not contrary to Islam, as its foundations are in line with the Islamic teachings on politics. “Those who speak against democracy, it is because they neither understand Islam nor democracy or both. Secondly, they might be doing so because of being anti-US,” he opined.
The Imam was of the view that Islam gives us general paradigms and the people could decide the rest as per their needs and changing times. He averred that the Islamic banking system could be debated as well.
While quoting various wrongs, he asserted that a state should not be run according to a particular religion. “Crises are because of misunderstanding Islam, which has given the religion a bad name. Islam has lost its humanistic science. As long as we do not separate religion from the state affairs, the crises will continue,” he added.