Between a Pillar and a Hard Place
A Metaphor for Our Times
Spring has sprung and the sap is running, time for Québecquers to indulge in the century old tradition of going to a Cabane à sucre to enjoy, with friends and family, the bounty of the Maple Tree. Depending on the Cabane there is usually some form of entertainment, usually a fiddler and/or an accordion player.
On Sunday March 11, 2007, the fun was interrupted at one of these Cabanes to allow a group of Muslims to perform their prayers. They were only a few minor complaints which the media was quick to report on. It was however the remarks of one Muslim woman who was interviewed after the Cabane kerfuffle that put the problem in perspective. She said that if Canada wanted Muslins to integrate within they society they would have to change some of their traditions. She is correct.
Islam has five immutable obligations known as the Five Pillars:
1 Declaring your allegiance to God
2. Daily Prayers
3. Annual charity
4. Month-long fasting
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca
The Five Pillars are not to be confused with the seven core beliefs of Islam:
1. Belief in God.
2. Belief in the angels.
3. Belief in the Koran (revealed Books of God).
4. Belief in God's prophets
5. Belief in the Last Day.
6. Belief in the divine measurement of human affairs.
7. Belief in life after death.
Failure to perform any of the Pillars in the prescribed manner, at the prescribed time, during a given period (in the case of the Zakat, in the prescribed amount) is risking eternal damnation.
Both the Pillars and the core beliefs of Islam have little to do with what non-Muslims consider moral imperatives such as those found in the Ten Commandments e.g. Don’t kill!
In Islam, except for the mandatory tax in the guise of a charitable donation, it's all about worshipping and believing in a God who cannot be worshipped enough, his entourage, and that He will cause you to die then revive you on a day of His choosing to tell you what you did right and what you did wrong.
Like most gods, Allah is reticent about telling you this directly, which is why you must also believe in the people He sent, the so-called prophets, to repeat to you what was read to them from a book He keeps next to him in Paradise, the Koran.
Of the five Pillars the most time-consuming and the most visible and therefore impossible to ignore, if you are an unbeliever, are the obligatory prayers, the second Pillar. In words and in gestures the Sunni majority declares its allegiance to Allah at least five times a day: before sunrise, noontime, late afternoon, before sunset, after sunset (Shiites have combined the five daily prayers into three).
As if to encourage the in-your-face aspect of the second Pillar, Allah's self-anointed last and greatest spokesperson said that the god for whom he spoke would give up to twenty-seven times the reward for prayers performed outside the home and in a group.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "The prayer offered in congregation is twenty five times more superior (in reward) to the prayer offered alone in one's house or in a business center …
Narrated Abdullah bin Umar:
Allah's Apostle said, "The prayer in congregation is twenty seven times superior to the prayer offered by [a] person alone."
The daily prayers Pillar was the one performed at the Cabane and which elicited the comment about who would have to change their traditions. This Pillar has already ignited a heated debate at one Canadian university. Should a Canadian tradition that publicly-funded institutions of higher learning be a religion neutral-zone be changed and taxpayers forced to pay for prayer rooms to accommodate Islam's second Pillar?
In a televised interview, an Imam at McGill University in Montréal answered in the affirmative. His reasoning was not unlike that of the woman interviewed at the Cabane à sucre. He explained that, as a Muslim, he was bound by a higher law. As a Muslim he could not abide by any Canadian law or tradition that conflicted with the inflexible demands of his God and God's Messenger. In essence, the secular, and all other religions, have to give way to the requirements of the uber religion.
48:28 It is He Who sent forth His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may exalt it above every other religion. Allah suffices as Witness.
A self-proclaimed master race of less than one hundred million brought us the most destructive war in all of human history. Today, humanity confronts more than one billion whose scriptures say they are the superior worshippers, who, like Mein Kampf instructed the master race to kill and enslave the alleged genetically deficient, instructs them to subjugate their inferiors in Belief.
In the beginning it was relatively easy for the believers to impose Islam through the force of arms - the promise of plunder and slave-girls swelled the ranks of holy warriors with more than enough young men to do the convincing and the killing. This strategy was successful until the last great armed proselytizing plundering horde was halted at the gates of Vienna in 1683.
What are the superior believers to do with the lesser believers who refuse to acknowledge the supremacy of Islam when they are not in a position to impose Allah's Will by force as He demands in the following revelation?
4:76 Those who believe fight for the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight on behalf of the Devil. Fight then the followers of the Devil. Surely the guile of the Devil is weak.
The superior believers don't seem to have a choice in the matter.
33:36 It is not up to any believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have passed a judgement, to have any choice in their affairs. Whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger have gone astray in a manifest manner.
The concept of freewill or freedom to make your own choices is very narrowly defined in Islam. In practical terms it means surrendering yourself to the Will Allah or rejecting him. To reject Allah by not doing what He demands of you is to ally yourself with the devil and all that entails.
Once you have submitted to the Will of Allah, one definition of Muslim, your freewill is effectively extinguished and the Koran and the Prophet’s Sunnah (his sayings and example) must now guide your every decision.
Have Allah and His Messenger put the faithful, especially immigrants to the Land of War, in an impossible situation, between the proverbial rock and a hard place by demanding they risk their lives and fight the allies of the Devil in a land where they don't have the numbers to guarantee a victory?
22:58 And those who emigrated in the Path of Allah, then were killed or died, Allah shall provide them with a fair provision. Allah is surely the Best Provider.
22:59 He will admit them into a place with which they will be well-pleased. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, Clement.
Allah believes in living to fight another day.
47:35 So do not weaken and call for peace, while you have the upper hand and Allah is with you. He will not stint you your actions.
Allah will forgive a community at war on His behalf who, unable to overpower an enemy, sues for peace, even going as far as to profess that the uber religion is a religion of peace, that it was all a misunderstanding, until the community is strong enough to wage a successful campaign to establish Allah's Rule in his corner of the world.
A believer is no longer a believer, and is now an accomplice of the Devil, if he is in a position to impose Allah's Will by whatever means, including, in our day and age, the ballot box, and he does not.
When the Islamic community condemns a terrorist act somewhere in the world as being un-Islamic, they are being simultaneously truthful and misleading. It is un-Islamic to indulge in violent actions against unbelievers and heretics e.g. Shiites, Sufis … which do not further Allah's Cause and only raise doubts in the minds of non-Muslims about Islam being a religion of peace.
Islam’s blanket rejection of abortion and birth control; its approval of polygamy, early marriages and large families; its promise of death to those who would even contemplate leaving the perfect religion for one less perfect or for no religion at all means the community of believers will always be expanding.
In fact, except for the defeat at Vienna in 1683 which prompted a change in strategy, a minor reversal in Spain during the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand and a temporary setback during the Mongol invasions, Islam has never looked back.
With all it has going for it, not to mention the paralyzing fear of random death as the more fanatical followers of the Prophet Muhammad threaten violence if Islam is not allowed to recruit in the “Land of War”, the land of the unbelievers, in Islam you have the making of a winner.
It is not the believer in a strange land that is between that proverbial immovable rock and that hardest of hard places – or more to the point, a pillar and a hard place – IT IS US.