How the West was won, really
Since stepping back on the dangerous dirt-roads of the entertainment world in 2006, with a gracefully extended beard and balancing a flickering candle of peace on the headstock of my once abandoned guitar, I have certainly not had an easy time explaining my apparent cultural relocation and choice of religion. These days, as the black clouds increasingly rumble with war and buzzing drones trail across the sky like ghostly shadows, while lightning clashes and thunders overhead and bombs strapped to suicidalists explode all around us, it’s getting harder still.
Perhaps I was particularly blessed to have discovered Islam in 1977, before the Iranian Revolution, when Muslims where less visible and Islam’s spiritual message less smothered by political events and violent headlines. But given the opportunity to study the Revelation and not the Revolution, the result – God willing – would have been the same. As someone wisely said:
“You will not know the truth by looking at the people; know the truth and then you will recognise its followers.”
Since 9/11 right up to now, with the emergence of ISIL and the murderous acts taking place around the world under the so-called banner of Islam, perhaps it’s no wonder I took up singing again. Right? Simply because that’s where people can still tune in and listen to the once loud but now disappearing voice of peace and optimistic hopes and melodies again. Those sentiments of the Sixties don’t seem very much evident today in the highly shambolic world of social media and seemingly endless gushing digital music streams with over thirty million songs screaming to be heard in the rapids!
The flood of new technologies – like digital streaming, robotic homes and futuristic self-driving electric cars – need brand new legislation to accommodate and accompany them. Lawmakers today and tomorrow will have to grapple with larger ‘globalised’ issues and proportions, where conflicting social, political and religious backgrounds and bodies of history do not necessarily fit nicely together – like two persons trying to share one pair of trousers.
The greatest conflict today is not one of civilizations bashing into each other, it is the clash of concepts and ignorance regarding law, its limits and its application. The History and development of legal systems from the days of Hammurabi in Mesopotamia to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is long and deeply complicated, which I am not qualified to presume to talk about except to the extent that I have been a student of both the anti-establishment, counterculture of the Sixties as well as the religion of Islam – having enjoyed a journey from the land of freelove and goodbye to a much less flower-rated but much higher field of spiritual love and devotional experience – where goodbyes are not required to be thought of, much less uttered.
Contrary to what many anti-Muslim pundits summarily suppose – namely, that I lost my psychedelic marbles or intellectual discernment along the peace-pipe-puffing way – I caution them to sober up and realize that things may not always be the way they appear, especially when converted into news articles and tossed between political storms between the Eastern and Western battle lines of power. No. Instead it has been a lifelong exercise in trying to grapple with the reality of my own human failure and deficiencies and trying to fix them as best as I could with the God-given faculties and knowledge available to me at the time.
In clear contradiction to the distorted and microscopic view of those committing atrocities and attacks against global civilisation the true message of Islam is not to force everybody to conform to one single set of laws in all jurisdictions. Before the Prophet left this world (peace be upon him), in one of the very last chapters of the Qur’an to be revealed, God clearly establishes that there are different systems of law which He has allowed to exist side by side, as we read in the following verse:
“…To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single community, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you dispute.” (5:48)
Laws can and must be interpreted, and they should be according to the overarching context, place and time in which we live. This too is an Islamic juristic principle, but one which the literalists and followers of certain rigid scholars choose to leap-frog across. Seeking the best outcome which results in the least harm for the largest number of people, is a principle of wise judgement. In Islamic law it is termed Ihstihsan or ‘seeking common good’, its object is also found in the articles of Magna Carta and the Declaration of Rights, which formed the basis of democratic systems of government and laws which developed in England, United States and the French Republic.
Personally, I am quite fond of the description of law given by Immanuel Kant, “Law is the sum of conditions under which the wishes of one person can be united with the wishes of another in accordance with the universal law of freedom.”
Sounds like the old maxim, doesn’t it? Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Also the Prophet Muhammad said, “Love for your brother what you love for yourself.” Strange that religion today is not seen as something which guides a person to live a good life in peace and harmony with others and with nature, but more towards an attitude of, ‘how much better I believe I am than you’. That only exposes the fact that people have lost the meaning of religion; not that religion itself is the source of our present woes.
The maintaining of justice, order, liberty and peace between people living together on this planet should be the objective outcome of law and any regrettable war fought to achieve it. In the end, God grants competency and apparent success to a people or nation who commit themselves to the law.
That is really how the West was won. Billy the Kid, the outlaw, had to finally be brought to book. Fate will not be any kinder to those troubled, aggrieved young bomb-strapped gunslingers who gamble with their souls in the casino of “jihad”. It would be of great benefit for them to remember the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace upon him), when he was once persistently asked for advice by a questioner and he emphatically and repeatedly responded: “Don’t be angry, don’t be angry.”