Islam and its Coat of Many Colors – with Ali Asani

Can a multi-faceted Islam be whatever you want it to be?
All things to all people?

To listen to the renowned Harvard Professor Ali Asani tell it, Islam is a religion of multiple dimensions, interpretations, and perspectives. It’s almost like an all-encompassing religion, whose core beliefs can serve to unite widely diverse cultural groups, which eventually combine to form a dazzling coat of many colors.
But with such a cornucopia of rules and rituals, might the basic tenets of Islam get lost? Could they become confused with ancient tribal codes, which existed prior to Islam, and are difficult to puzzle out, to separate from the Muslim doctrines of today?
This Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, asks — but perhaps does not always answer — many of these questions. So take a look, see for yourself, and join Ali Asani, Harvard’s Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures,  in the debate!

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One Response to Islam and its Coat of Many Colors – with Ali Asani

  1. Harry Currie January 30, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    As Ali Asani does his best to find goodness in Islam, despite the terrorism being spread around the world by Muslim fanatics, so do many others in Christianity, Judaism, and every known belief system on the planet. The core of the problem is, of course, that belief systems – all belief systems – breed fanaticism. They may have begun with nothing but the highest intended principles, but there are always those who carry their own misguided interpretations to the extreme, and many of them are ready to kill other humans of different beliefs over nothing but a different concept of life.
    Even within religions there are schisms. Orthodox Jews versus conservative and reform Jews; Christian fundamentalism versus modern Christian liberalism; and we keep being told that many Muslims just want to live peaceful lives and shun the Jihad concept, but they don’t seem to be doing anything to stop the madmen.
    What saddens me is that so many humans believe the religious myths that were created millennia ago, either to frighten people into obeying their leaders, or by those who wanted control and used the stories for their own ambitions, convincing the peasants that they were the chosen ones – the only ones who could communicate with the fictitious almighty.
    Religions – all religions – have caused more division in the human race than any other single factor, and this persists in the 21st century, all because some 80% of the people of the world still want to believe that there is a benevolent god in some mystical spiritual world, and that we will all go there when we die if we’ve been good little girls and boys. And the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny will greet us at the gate with Saint Peter.
    So many of the really intelligent people in the world understand all this, professing atheism, but the pious smugly call atheist a “dirty” word.
    I myself was brought up a devout Christian, so much so that I actually entered university to become a Christian minister. But even in a Christian university the doubts grew stronger with every passing class, and I withdrew from theology. But my search for truth had just begun. Happily I have found it, and I believe it firmly.
    Two of the greatest minds of the 20th century belonged to two of the greatest humans – Albert Schweitzer and Albert Einstein, the former a medical doctor, world-class musician, theologian and Lutheran Pastor, the latter the greatest theoretical physicist and humanist.
    The following is a partly paraphrased version of Schweitzer’s conclusions from his research into the Jesus of the gospels, as the 1910 translation from German to English is not accurate, the grammar and terminology are not easily comprehended:
    “The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly, stating he was the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of heaven upon earth, and who died to give his work its final consecration – that Jesus never existed. The man on whom the legend was based was possibly named Jesus, claiming to be the Messiah, and lived his life as such, following either the life depicted in the fiction written by the earliest Evangelist, or following a purely eschatological Messianic conception. In either case, this man will not be the Jesus Christ that the Christian religions of the present worship, though that worship is based on long-established beliefs, since those beliefs are based on other’s thoughts and ideas, establishing the fact that the Jesus of Christian worship is a Jesus of their own invention.”
    Albert Einstein
    “I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own – a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism.
    The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity.”
    Mark Alpert, in his novel Final Theory, hit the nail right on the head: “Humans are simply not intelligent enough to stop killing each other.”
    Sad, but true.

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