On Doctrinal Purity and Its Relation to Practice in Islam

I have recently—yet again—been accosted with an argument that can be considered one of the base arguments pertaining to any belief set.

The essence of the argument is, “Most people don’t follow the pure base doctrine anyway, so (essentially) the base doctrine is irrelevant.”

This post is intended to explain the flaw in this logic—the “fly in this ointment” as it were.

It can be reasonably assumed, that the following will happen to any set of beliefs created:

  1. There will be those who do their best to follow the base doctrine—some will succeed, most will fail.
  2. There will be those who intentionally “interpret” (read here “misinterpret” the doctrine, along with those who unintentionally do so.
  3. There will be the “cherry pickers.” These will pick and choose what aspects of a given belief set they “like,” and do their best to ignore the rest. I know people who say things like, “I take the best parts of every religion and combine them.” It’s fair to say, the expression, “best parts” is subjective. Obviously, what that person deems the “best parts” of Christianity are not what I do (because some of the things I believe are the “best parts” are intentionally mutually exclusive to all other belief sets).

These things being considered, there are a few things that are true regardless these assumptions:

  1. The base doctrine remains what it is unless it is changed.
  2. In some belief sets and resultant doctrines, change is not permissible—at least not by the adherents—because of the idea that they came from an authoritative source who either no longer exist, or have called the beliefs so. So for example, Christianity’s Biblical doctrine is, for all intents and purposes, immutable.
  3. Though its current form appears “set in stone,” the base doctrine of Islam was changeable, by Mohammed (the supposed prophet of Islam).
  4. Because Islam was mutable, there had to be a way to “manage” change (abrogation).

By the way, one could make similar arguments around Christianity, but in reality, they are untrue. That’s because prior to the time spoken of in the New Testament, there was no Christianity, even though technically, there was already a Christ and in some senses, precursors to Christianity existed (in Judaism).

Funnily too, doctrinal baselines did not change in the time of Christ or after. This is not the case for Islam. There were changes made by Mohammed himself.

Many would argue that all I have said to this point is “academic” and not good for much else. Let me now proceed to explain why this is not the case.

Firstly, where it is fair to say that many who claim to be practitioners of a particular doctrine or belief set do not even come close to doing or being what that doctrine says they should, if the base doctrine is immutable, it remains the base doctrine.

Secondly, most belief sets provide mechanisms for this deviance (which is why terms like “apostasy” and “heresy” exist). Such concepts exist in Islam as well and based on my readings various places, appear to be pretty strict.

Thirdly, Islam’s remedy for heretical or apostate teaching and activity is death. As such, the very least one ought to be able to argue, is that people who are partial or “interpretive” followers of Islam are not true Muslims.

Similar arguments may be made by Christianity (where Jesus Himself says things like “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.“).

For that matter, most belief sets have similar takes.

The point is, it can be argued that people who choose to count themselves believers in a given doctrine, but don’t follow it “to the letter” are at least questionably believers. In the strongest interpretation, it could be said those who choose not to practice a given doctrine as expressed are not adherents.

Christianity provides for this by making it so Christians can “do things wrong” and be absolved of those wrongdoings. The reason some will be considered “workers of iniquity?” That would be a result of the fact that they don’t believe the base doctrine. Put another way, even if you “fail to perform,” your salvation in Christianity is believing the base doctrine, recognizing that Jesus is Lord, recognizing your need for His Lordship and accepting it, recognizing your deviation from that doctrine and seeking forgiveness.”

Islam appears to offer the same potential for remediation (though the process is different), the only problem is that Islam calls for the slaying of apostates, heretics and infidels. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems rather unlikely that a dead person is going to repent his or her actions or beliefs.

Even with all of this being considered, many people will say, essentially, “So what?” The basis for their lack of concern? Actually, it tends to be precisely for the reason that the majority of people who claim adherence to a particular belief set, fail miserably in full and complete immersion into the resulting doctrine.

This sounds like a reasonable argument, but there are a some pretty substantial reasons it’s not.

Even if you consider that the number of people who are strong or complete adherents—in, for example, Islam—as the number of not strong or complete adherents rises, so does the number of strict ones. So with an estimate of 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, even if there were one percent who followed Islam according to the Qur’an (and are strict adherents), that would be roughly sixteen million people. And even though there are many who estimate the number of extreme adherents to be “quite low,” they still estimate a number at over one hundred thousand. But the truth is, that’s almost certainly an extremely low number.

Funnily, even if the number is accurate, it’s pretty darned high. What makes that far worse, is that the “extremists” in question appear to be willing to deceive (as a matter of base doctrineand they’re targeting people in other countries (regardless the reason) as well as those in their own.

By the way, even if you argue that the “extremists” are coming after those who are “messing with” them, you need to understand that one of the base tenets found in the Qur’an is a world Sharia based government. And it’s a pretty good bet that the “extremists” are not the only ones who want to see that happen. Some of those who are not “extremists” will likely support those who are if it means the establishment of Sharia as a result.

There’s a great deal more to say about this, but for the moment, I will allow this as sufficient.

Thanks for reading.

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