The Pseudo-Golden Rule or Do Unto Which Others?
April 5, 2010
Muslims are very sensitive about the lack of a Golden Rule in Islam. So, when you bring this up they always rush to assert that Muslims love everybody, in particular, Christians and Jews. And, of course, Islam has a Golden Rule.
In a past newsletter, I argued that Islam had no Golden Rule. Marcelle Sagan replied to my post on the website of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, a site sponsored by the royal house of Jordan. Given this source of funding, so you expect the highest quality of scholarship on Islam.
So let's take a look at some of Mr. Sagan's arguments, one at a time.
He makes the usual claims of Islam being the victim of ignorant Islamophobes and advances that anything a critic about Islam has to say never, ever, has any truth in it at all. This attitude comes directly from the Sunna of Mohammed. Mohammed was never wrong, Islam is perfect and anyone who does not believe this is a bigot. Mohammed was always the victim. When he attacked unarmed caravans in the sacred months, Islam was the true victim, not the murdered kafir (non-Muslim) Meccans.
Mr. Sagan argues that Islam is filled with statements about the Golden Rule. His first claim for the Golden Rule is this Koran verse:
83:1 Woe betide the unjust who, when others measure for them, exact in full, but when they measure or weigh for others, defraud them!
Giving Islam the benefit of the doubt, doing business in an honest manner could be construed as a very narrow, weak version of the Golden Rule. However, let's examine this verse in its context and with a frame of reference. When Mohammed moved to Medina, he found that the Medinans routinely cheated when measuring out goods in a sale. When the Meccan Muslims complained that they gave good weight and were being cheated by their Medinan Muslim brothers, Allah gave Mohammed this verse. The actual case involves Muslims selling to Muslims.
Here is a quote from the Hadith with some ethical advice along the same lines:
Bukhari 9, 86, 109: […] the Prophet said, 'In dealing with Muslims one should not sell them sick (animals) or bad things or stolen things."
Does this sound like the Golden Rule? Where are the kafirs (unbelievers) in this morality?
Then Mr. Sagan quotes Mohammed:
None of you believe until you desire for your brother, what you desire for yourself.
But who is a Muslim's brother? Humanity? Mohammed gives us his answer:
Bukhari 1, 2, 12: The Prophet said, "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself."
Bukhari 3, 43, 622: Allah's Apostle said, "A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection. "
What we see here is that there is a Golden Rule but only in an Islamic way. Muslims are to practice the Golden Rule, but only with other Muslims. This is ethical dualism.
Perhaps, Mr. Sagan missed the universal brotherhood hidden somewhere in the 6,800 hadiths of Bukhari. Do the math. There are 209 hadiths that mention the word "brother". Of those 209 hadiths, 96 concern blood kinsman ship and the other 103, each and every one, are about spiritual brotherhood where a Muslim is a brother to other Muslims.
Then Mr. Sagan uses an outright deception. He states that in Mohammed's farewell sermon, he said: "That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind." These words sound good until you read Mohammed's farewell sermon and find he says no such thing. In this sermon, Mohammed did say to treat your slaves well, that Muslims are brothers to each other, that your wives are your prisoners and to beat them if they disobey you. Oh yes! That is universal brotherhood, compassion and Golden Rule. The only times Mohammed ever said anything about humanity or mankind, it was that mankind had to submit to Islam.
Why did Mr. Sagan manufacture this quote? Because, Mohammed repeatedly advised Muslims to deceive the kafir if it would advance Islam:
Bukhari 5, 59, 369: Allah's Apostle said, "Who is willing to kill Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, "O Allah's Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?" The Prophet said, "Yes." Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab). The Prophet said, "You may say it." […]
And finally, let us examine the Golden rule in Mohammed's life. Since he is the perfect moral example, his actions define morality. If we look in the Sira, Mohammed's biography, we do find incidences where he treated the kafirs well, but the treatment was always part of seduction and persuasion to get them to submit to Islam. If that did not work, then he attacked them. In the end, Mohammed violently attacked each and every neighbor he had. He was the ultimate bad neighbor. The Golden Rule makes you a good neighbor. Islam's dualistic ethics make Muslims the same kind of neighbor as Mohammed was.
The reason Muslims use deception about the Golden Rule is that they know not having it makes Islam look bad. Why do politicians, preachers, rabbis, educators and media commentators repeat the propaganda about how wonderful Islam is? Their duplicity or silence stems from fear and ignorance.
So, Muslims, preachers, politicians, rabbis, educators and media pundits are deceivers, but for different reasons. Muslims are following the example of Mohammed and our leaders are ignorant cowards. When seen in this light, even though they have been given no Golden Rule to follow, perhaps the argument can be made that Muslims are more admirable than these others.
Bill Warner, Center for the Study of Political Islam
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