Arrogance Is the Source of All Evil is a chapter from the book American Muslim Agenda available at Amazon and Kindle
The battle with arrogance has boldly begun. In April 2009, I gave a short speech upon receiving the Slater’s “the religious communicator” award from the Religious Communicators Council. The following sentences from my acceptance speech became very controversial and formed the basis for many discussions: “I am a Muslim, and Islam works for me, just like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or your faith work for you. Your faith is dear to you as mine is to me. I am further humbled to say that my religion Islam is not superior or inferior to any, nor any religion is superior to Islam. To claim Islam is superior amounts to arrogance.”
Please visit the section “Islamic Value No. 12: Civil Dialogue” to grasp the fullness of the statement, which is reflected in the Quranic verses.
On the way back to my table, John Lovelace, the president of the Council of Churches in Dallas, shook hands with me on his way to receiving the lifetime award. He asked, “Why did you make that statement?” and added, “I cannot say the same.” I responded that the society might not be ready now, but a generation down our kids and grandkids would view religion in those terms—a choice like any other choice in life.
My fellow Muslims expressed the concerns that if I did not consider my religion to be superior, then why follow it? I was called by Imam Dr. Zia Sheikh and Imam Dr. Zia Kavakci to explain the statement. I asked them, in turn, to answer me a two-part question: Whom does God love the most and the least?
Apparently, the universal answer to that from the Quran is “the one who forgives and forgives often” as they rebuild relationships and equally free the receiver and the giver to create peace. Of course, the person whom God loves the least is the one who is arrogant.
They understood it but could not agree as that was not the tradition. Thanks to both of them for listening, they are the intellectual imams with their own boundaries. It is not just Muslims but also Christians, Jews, Hindus, and others in the same boat. Religion is a peacemaker and not a conflict generator that comes from arrogance that leads to missionizing the other.
It is up to each one of the Muslims to think, read, and understand Islam. Doesn’t arrogant attitude bring repulsion in the other? Does that contribute toward peacemaking, a significant purpose of Islam?
Religion is about humility and not arrogance. Humility builds enduring relationships and sustains peace, while pride kills the links and creates chaos. No matter what faith you practice, to claim it to be superior is sheer arrogance. I can speak for Islam.
Arrogant men had abused religions and made them instruments of their arrogance. All the conflicts and wars stem from this arrogance. No wonder God does not like arrogant people as they mess the peaceful world he has created.
When a Muslim utters “Allahu Akbar,” it sends chills down one’s spine, forgets the Fox viewer. Even many Muslims don’t get that right. In a few words, “Allahu Akbar” is meant to invoke humility and not arrogance and to acknowledge a greater eternal power than us.
God is not a villain of his own creation as a handful of the clergy (from all faith traditions) makes him out to be. When she was in her early teens, my daughter baffled me with her wisdom. I took my kids to every place of worship, so they respected every faith tradition and did not grow up to be bigoted ones. Once, I took her to a Baptist church on Lavon Drive in Garland, Texas. I reminded her that she could cherish all the right things the pastor had to say but had to listen to Dad and not him when it came to other faiths. She blurted out, “Dad, if he does not put other faiths down, why would people go to his church and pay him the money?” Ah, church is a business.
I was listening to a sermon by Pastor Robert Jeffress in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. He claimed that only Christianity taught the purpose of life and no other religions showed that value. When he emphasized “no other religion,” I started making mental notes. Baha’i, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, and every religion I knew talks about the purpose of life. How can this pastor make such bold assertions about other faiths? What does he know? I brought that up with him at the meet-and-greet hour, and he ignored it.
A day will come when a rabbi, pandit, imam, pastor, shaman, gyani, or religious men and women of all faiths will genuinely understand religion. The learned ones can speak eloquently about any faith, without denigrating or hinting lessness of the other. How can you call a man learned when they do not know about others and yet speak about others?
There are a good number of clergy and scholars who can speak about other faiths with utmost honesty. There is Dr. John Esposito, a devout Catholic who can talk about Islam on par with any Muslim professor; Acharya Pramod Krishnan; Lakshmi Shankaracharya; and many other Hindu sages who have understood Islam as it was meant to be—a humanitarian faith. Karen Armstrong can represent any religion, Rabbi Gerri Serrato can speak about Islam reasonably well, and there are many leaders from other faiths who know Islam more than the average Muslim does. When they share the values of Islam, they are not minimizing the importance of their own faith but being honest about the other religion. Likewise, there are Muslims who can speak eloquently about Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths.
On the other hand, there is clergy in each faith who make unverified claims that other religions do not have the goodies they have. What do they know? Ask them; they know nothing, and whatever they know about the others are myths dished out to them. Beware of these preachers or anyone who puts down other faiths. They want your money.
It is time we remind the speaker to take some lessons from real faith practitioners of diverse backgrounds to understand other faiths. The Center for Pluralism offers workshops on twelve different religions to understand the essence of each faith.
It is also time for those few Muslims to shelve their arrogance that Islam is the only faith acceptable to God and learn that the creator God accepts all religions, provided they are kind to his creation—life and environment.