Why Islam failed Muslims
Once were warriors:
Why Islam failed Muslims
I got the idea for the title of this article from a movie I watched – “Once were Warriors”. The movie highlights the social problems of the Maoris. Most of you probably have not seen the show because the movie was made in New Zealand.
Now lets turn our attention to something more serious. Islam was immensely successful in the first few centuries of its birth. It spread like wildfire from Spain to Pakistan. The success was due to the fact that Islam is a warrior religion - the last of its kind today. But the qualities and ethos that led to success are also some of the reasons for its current failure. Today Muslims are among the poorest and most backward people in the world.
Lets take a look at some Islamic beliefs that make no sense unless you realise that Islam was designed to support a war machine. Firstly there is the emphasis of heavenly rewards for its fallen warriors. Just as the ferocious Vikings believed that brave fallen warriors go to Valhalla, Muslims believe that those who are killed in a Holy War (Jihad) go to heaven where they will be rewarded with 72 virgins.
For the conquerors who survived the war, they will get booty and again girls. So either way they win. It is useful for a commander to have brave warriors who do not fear death. Besides this, Muslims are also discouraged from fraternizing with non-Muslims. The Koran tells Muslims not to take Christians and Jews as friends and also says that Idolaters are filthy. Contempt for non-Muslims lead to hate. Hate is a useful emotion to cultivate in your warriors. Compassion and empathy for the “other” do not make willing warriors.
Another martial value that Islam promotes is discipline. It does this in many ways. Firstly, authority is centralized in one person - Mohammed and later his successors. There is no separation of church and state - or should I say mosque and state. This makes sure that there is no opposition. The Roman emperors too made sure that they were unchallenged by appointing themselves Pontifex Maximus (Chief Priest). This is in sharp contrast to medieval European kings whose ambitions were often opposed by the church.
Next, Islam is highly ritualistic and many rituals and practices appear to a modern person to be pointless. For example, out of the five pillars of Islam, four of them are ritualistic and in themselves do not do any material good. Praying five times a day, declaring Mohammed to be a prophet, going to Mecca to walk round and round the Black Stone and fasting during Ramadan do not by themselves make this a happier, kinder and more prosperous world. The only one of the five pillars that does some good to mankind is the giving of the zakat - alms for the poor. However, this alms giving must be only for Muslims or it does not count. Therefore it benefits only a fifth of mankind.
Would it not be better for the Grand Designer of Islam (whoever that might be) to declare the five pillars to contain prohibitions against murder, theft, adultery and encouragements to perform kindness and assistance to the unfortunate people of the world? Besides these five pillars, Islam has countless other rituals and practices. These include the growing of beards, which hand to use to wash your private parts, which shoe to put on first, what types of body hair you are allowed to remove and so on. Some of these practices and rituals appear meaningless to me but on further examination there is a purpose to them.
The trick is to stop thinking that Islam, like other religions, was designed primarily to uplift humanity from barbarism by making us kinder, more forgiving and so on. It was designed instead to support a war machine. Islamic rituals and practices are designed at least partly to induce discipline and to unite Islam’s early followers who were drawn from many tribes. Lets take a look at the requirement to pray five times a day, facing Mecca.
By praying five times a day, Muslims are reminded to submit to God 5 times a day. By facing Mecca, they are reminded of Arabia and to subtly get Muslims to identify themselves with Arabia. That is also why they insist that you cannot understand the Koran fully unless you know Arabic. Prayers are to be made in Arabic. That is why there are so many Arab wannabes among non-Arab Muslims. This is also why to this day, Muslims are a potential fifth column in western countries. Their loyalty is often to their Ummah and not to the state they live in. Loyalty to their nation state is weak.
Rituals are important as brainwashing tools to instill discipline and loyalty.
Islam's focus on rituals remind me of the rituals in the military. Every morning you have a flag raising ceremony. You salute the officers. You must all be clean shaven and wear the same clothes. You sing patriotic songs. Soldiers perform all manner of rituals designed to promote loyalty, bravery and obedience.
Performing Islam's seemingly meaningless rituals is an affirmation that they do not question the will of God. In practice this meant that they do not question Mohammed and his successors. This is really good military discipline and is something all military leaders want.
Now, lets turn our attention to the issue of apostasy for this is an important way in which Islam imposes discipline. As we all know, Islam is the only religion that insists that apostates be put to death. Muslims equate apostasy as treachery. For others, you are a true Christian, Buddhist or Hindu, only if you truly believe. Threatening people with death does not change what they believe in their hearts and is thus pointless.
This Muslim punishment only makes sense if you imagine yourself as a military commander of an army drawn from many tribes and religions (before conversion). An apostate is seen as someone who wants to defect to the enemy. Thus once again, Islamic teaching only make sense if you view Islam not so much as a religion like others but as a tool for Arab imperialism.
There is another thing that I should mention. According to the Koran and Hadiths, Muslims are allowed to have up to four wives and an unlimited number of slave girls. Having multiple wives actually gave a society constantly warring with its neighbours a military advantage over those that practice monogamy.
War widows can find new husbands and thereby produce children. Women were valued chiefly for their procreation abilities to produce more warriors. Of course in all ancient societies, women were lowly valued but more so in a warlike one where the survival of the society depended on male warriors. This accounts for the extra low status Islam gave women.
But what worked well for a medieval war machine is disastrous for Muslims in the modern world. For the early Muslims, they quickly gained wealth and power after they burst out of their poverty stricken Arabian Peninsula. The Arab war machine was supported by the blind obedience, brotherhood, courage, hatred and high birth rates inspired by Islam. But these same qualities have locked modern Muslims into poverty and often violence.
Without separation of mosque and state, it is difficult to make reforms. Islam is described by its followers as a complete way of life. This means that the ancient detailed instructions have been written down for Muslims to follow in all aspects of life for all time. This reminds me of the specialists and generalists of nature.
Some species like the Koala bear are specialists. They have adapted very well to a certain type of environment – the eucalyptus forests of Australia. But they are vulnerable if there is a change in environment. Generalists on the other hand do not evolve special advantages to thrive in any one environment.
Man is a generalist and can be found living in deserts as well as the frozen ice of the tundra. Had we specialized by growing blubber like the whales, we might thrive very well in the tundra but we can never live in deserts.
Islam is like the specialists. It prospered because its ethos makes it very successful as a medieval war machine when men fought with swords, bows and spears. But these same values make Muslims ill-equipped in an industrial and now post industrial world.
The emphasis on jihad where stained soldiers of Allah are rewarded with virgins in heaven may make great warriors but contribute to suicide bombers and intractable wars against unbelievers.
Conflicts with Muslims seem so hard to resolve as there is a never-ending stream of volunteers to fight in hopes of attaining their places in heaven. There can be no moderates when it comes to going to heaven. Inciting hatred for non-believers does not help the resolution of conflicts. Such thinking is bound to get a reaction from the non-believers they come into contact with.
The desire for war cannot be conducive for economic growth. This is doubly disastrous for Muslims because as I shall later explain, their religion retards economic progress in many ways. War coupled with economic weakness spells disaster. One of the driving force for economic growth is technology. While Islam can create disciplined soldiers, it cannot create good scientists.
As explained earlier, Islam’s ritualistic practices inculcate blind obedience among its followers and not questioning inquisitive minds. The way the Koran is taught in traditional Madrassahs is by memorization. This leaves no room for asking questions. The student is not encouraged to ask questions but only receives wisdom and learning from the teacher. Asking questions risks the student of being accused of blasphemy or unbelief.
The learning process is receptive and not interactive. Great scientists and philosophers do not come from such a passive environment. Human society progresses only if you have people willing to challenge orthodoxy. It should be noted that some of the greatest thinkers, scientists, philosophers, physicians and poets in Islam’s golden age were accused of blasphemy or apostasy. Bashshar Ibn Burd, Avicenna, Averroes, Al-Razi and Al-Ma’arri were most likely apostates.
Next we take a look at Islam’s subordination of women. This keeps them at home. Muslim women are not encouraged to work. It is a fact that women who stay at home tend to produce more children than those who go out to work. A high fertility rate may be a military advantage in an era when men fought with primitive weapons, but this is a handicap in the era of the internet.
Firstly, if women are regarded as second class citizens, there is less incentive to educate them properly. Semi-educated or illiterate mothers will find difficulty in educating their own children. Half the population is women. Therefore half the potential labour force is also women. You are not making full use of your human resources. This is not a new problem.
By Averroes time (1126 – 1198), the problem had manifested itself. Five hundred years after Mohammed, Muslim society already needed reforms. The practices that turned warring Arab tribes into world conquerors were already becoming outdated. This is what he said:
“Women are kept like domestic animals or house plants for purposes of gratification, of a very questionable character besides, instead of being allowed to take part in the production of material and intellectual wealth, and in the preservation of the same.”
Furthermore, a high fertility rate means more mouths to feed. While population pressures could be motivation for impoverished tribes to participate in wars of conquest in the 7th century, this is not an option today. You need industrial might to support a war machine today where wars are complex and expensive.
Today, a high fertility rate leads to poverty in third world countries and poverty stricken countries are advised by development experts to curb their population growth. Related to this issue of high fertility is the early age of some Muslim marriages. All agricultural societies tend to have early marriages. But other societies can be more easily persuaded to change with the times.
Muslim society, on the other hand, is more resistance to change. Thus recently, an Indian Muslim group wants exemption from a law requiring marriage partners to be at least 18 years old. This well-meaning law is aimed at allowing time for people to get a proper education before marriage and child-care.
The problem arises for the Muslim community because of Mohammed’s marriage to 9 year old Aisha. To accept this law would in their eyes be an insult to their holy Prophet. How can a Muslim accept a law, which would have criminalized their Prophet? This case again highlights how Islam is stuck in the 7th century.
Islam is a warrior’s creed that served its early followers well. From impoverished desert tribes, they rose to forge an empire in a short time that stretched from Spain to India. The ethos it engendered – brotherhood for believers, contempt and hatred for non-believers, belief in heavenly rewards for fallen warriors, a high fertility rate (which requires the subordination of women), blind obedience – created formidable warriors.
But these same qualities are handicaps for Muslims in the age of the microchip. Today they lead to poverty, belligerency, war and defeat. Many Muslims look back with fondness to their days of glory and try to recover their former days by using the old methods. That is why there is today a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism across the Muslim world. They are bewildered at their weakness and look for conspiracy theories. Muslims think their failure is due to some Jewish or American plot not realizing that failure comes from within themselves. They are out of touch with reality.
Once were warriors, Muslims are now like Don Quixote tilting at windmills in a world they no longer understand.
“...I realized I had to gain more knowledge to protect against evil and to protect myself from not becoming evil myself. This is our major goal in life...\" Terry Lee