INEPT border control procedures and the lenient attitude of rulers towards rogue traders means that our marketplaces are flooded with counterfeit goods.
In fact, it has become very common to find bags, watches, eyewear, clothing, and all sorts of other products carrying labels of famous brands but which are in fact complete fakes.
The popularity of a brand implies that a fake using its name can also be slipped in undetected.
Alongside genuine teachers there are also pretenders who exploit the faithful.
Just like rogue traders are having a field day cashing in on corporate fame and the simplicity of consumers, the situation is not much different when it comes to matters of faith.
Alongside genuine teachers there are also pretenders who exploit the faithful. But the failure to distinguish between genuineness and deception in religious teaching can have far more drastic consequences than perhaps the discomfort of using counterfeit fashion accessories.
The total devotion demanded by faith implies that loss of family, friends, health, and wealth can be the result. Even one’s very life is at stake if one is unable to ascertain authenticity in religious matters. The possession of such criterion — one that sifts the truth from falsehood, right from wrong, the canonical from the apocryphal — is key to one’s well-being.
This beacon which safeguards us from hazards posed by charlatans is none other than the Holy Quran.
An attribute of the Quran is ‘al-Furqan’ or “The criterion between right and wrong”. Where it narrates goodness, it also cautions against evil in all its forms. The archetypes it presents are ahistorical and can be related to any time or era. For that is why it is guidance.
Numerous types of personalities are mentioned in the Quran that incur God’s displeasure. Some are outright rejecters, some believe in God while associating partners with him. There is one particular category of the disapproved kind which is not easily detectable to the untrained eye because it styles itself as a staunch believer in God and claims that its deeds are in the very name of God.
The Quran cautions: “And of the people are some who say, ‘We believe in Allah and the Last Day,’ but they are not believers” (2:8).
Notice that they proclaim to be believers but Allah says they are not believers.
This is so because: “And when it is said to them, ‘Do not cause corruption [fasaad] on the earth’, they say, ‘We are but reformers’” (2:11).
One’s claim to imaan (belief in Allah) is immediately dismissed if one resorts to fasaad (disorder in the land, damage to life and property) as a pretext of islah (reform, correction).
These verses bring to light that the identity of a believer is not the label he carries but his character. Also clear is the fact that violence was never ordained by God as a method of societal reform.
The Quran also cautions about that kind of preacher who frequently uses the name of Allah in his speeches: “And of the people is he whose speech pleases you in worldly life, and he calls Allah to witness as to what is in his heart, yet he is the fiercest of opponents” (2:204).
One may ask what is wrong in citing Allah’s name in speech? The next verse gives the answer: “And when he goes away, he strives throughout the land to cause corruption [fasaad] therein and destroy crops and animals. And Allah does not like corruption” (2:205).
So merely using the name of Allah to endorse a speech or merely labelling oneself as Islamic or merely doing things in the name of Islam does not establish one’s bona fides. It is by virtue of behaviour and not labels that one is to be distinguished. When those who call for the reform of society resort to means that are violent then they cannot be called genuine believers in God but are, in fact, akin to fakes.
If one possesses the peaceful behaviour of a believer as narrated by God in His book, then and only then does he fit the label.
But sadly, we see that today the words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ are used carelessly for individuals committing even the vilest of deeds.
The Quran makes it amply clear that every claim in the name of God is not from God. Every deed committed in the name of righteousness is not righteous.
We owe it to our well-being that we do not take each and everything that is hurled towards us in the name of God to be actually coming from God but to take guidance from the Quran ourselves and see the type of behaviour it has endorsed and the type that it has criticised.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2016