by Danusha V. Goska
“….Of the five world religions, Islam is the most emphatically opposed to solitary withdrawal for spiritual purposes. Islam is the most insistent on man’s relationship with God being carried out in public, in a large group of others all behaving in exactly the same way, using highly choreographed scripts and rituals that do not allow for spontaneity or individuality. As Al- Islam.org puts it, “Islam has vehemently denounced” monasticism. A “well-known tradition” in Islam states, “There is no monasticism in Islam.” “Man is an entity that has been created for a life within a society, and his material and spiritual development can only be achieved within a social life.” Mohammed, in one hadith, declares that the only “monasticism” available to Muslims is “jihad.”
A Muslim might live his entire religious life as a cog in the midst of others, whose every prayer is a rigidly systematized routine, commanding rote physical movements and rote words performed in public and monitored for conformity. Muslims and even non-Muslims can be whipped or jailed for possessing alcohol, revealing too much flesh, or being raped, which is a crime, because it involves sex outside of marriage. Christians who eat during Ramadan have had their lips burned by the authorities. Even prayer within a Muslim’s own room is publicly commanded by a muezzin. A Muslim woman once told me that when her daughter was ill, she recited Koranic verses. This woman did not speak a word of Arabic; she recited sounds from memory. She voiced no spontaneous words about her dying daughter to God. The idea of God as a father who was interested in what she had to say was scandalous to her.
A Muslim friend expressed to me her inner turmoil about wearing fingernail polish. Water must touch fingernails before Allah will hear Muslims’ prayers. A Polish chemist, Wojciech Inglot, invented porous nail polish. Allah is satisfied, as is my friend. An online Muslim prayer guide stipulates that during prayer, “Your left leg should be bent. Outside of left femur should also be on the floor and your inside of your left tibia and foot should be protruding underneath the front of your right tibia. Also the right foot can be placed upright with the toes pointing towards the qiblah or it can be placed on the ground.” Of course a Muslim woman cannot pray when menstruating. If a woman, a dog, or a donkey passes before a Muslim man as he prays, his prayer is annulled. Canonical Islamic guides to prayer, such as Reliance of the Traveler, go on for over a hundred pages detailing Islamic criteria for prayer.
Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was allowed spiritual retreat. Mohammed founded Islam after retreating, alone, to a cave, and speaking with an angel. For all other Muslims, relating to God must be public, monitored, collective, and rote.
The Pact of Umar is a seventh-century Islamic document that outlines how Muslims can continue to ensure Christians’ “humiliation, degradation and disgrace.” The Pact lists many requirements: Christians can’t show crosses in public; they can’t ride on saddles or wear belts; they can’t refer to Jesus as the son of God; they must house and feed Muslims; they must surrender any seat they occupy to a Muslim on demand. The first item in the Pact of Umar is very telling. Christians, to be allowed to live, must agree never to build monasteries or convents, or even a single room for a monk or a nun.
Islam did whatever it could to silence, for Muslims and for Christians living under Muslim control, the “still, small voice.”