Turks pray to the Quran yet they don’t know the Quran
Barçın Yinanç - firstname.lastname@example.orgWhile Turks pray to the Quran as they are discouraged from reading it, they grow ignorant of its real substance, according to a theology scholar. In time secondary sources like sayings attributed to Prophet Muhammad have overshadowed the Quran, yet most of them are just fallacies which distance Muslims from the essence of Islam, said Emre Dorman, whose writings on religion are published in daily Hürriyet during the month of Ramadan.
Where does your interest in religion come from?
Ever since childhood I have been attracted to religion. But I could not find answers to certain questions as imams discouraged me from reading the Quran, arguing it was difficult to understand. I was just asked to recite Quranic verses.
The turning point came when I read the Quran myself. I saw the Quran has a very simple language and it is very clear. I realized that most of the things we were told about religion did not exist in the Quran. For instance, there is no hate rhetoric in the Quran. There is no pressure; there is no imposition. God recognizes the liberty of its subjects to choose with their free will. In the Quran people have the freedom of even being without a faith. What is being done by pressure has no value for God. By forcing Islam on people you end up creating hypocritical people.
What do you think went wrong in terms of interpreting Islam in such a distorted way?
Political conflicts, struggle for power and ethnic tension have led to contention among Muslims. On the other hand, following the death of our prophet, there have been too many fallacies attributed to our prophet; what are called the fıqh, or hadis. On women for instance. The rights given to women by the Quran were taken back later on. Yet, men and women are equal in the Quran. There is no supremacy of one over the other. A woman is an individual in society; her role is not limited to staying at home to cook and raising children. But then the mentality that prevailed among the Arabs before Islam came back via fabricated fallacies that are presented as the sayings of the prophet.
What is your main focus in your writings?
Islam as a religion is very rational and logical. The reason why a significant number of people have prejudice against it is because they don’t have knowledge about it. First, they have remained far away from the Quran. Second, the secondary sources have started to overshadow and even outweigh the Quran. Yet everything should take the Quran as a reference. I believe most of the sayings attributed to our prophet are slander; they are not in conformity with the Quran.
God gave people the freedom to change religion and the Quran says they will be accountable in the afterworld. But in the hadith books, it says: “Kill those who change religion.” The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) bases its atrocities on that. Muslims massacre Muslims arguing they went out of religion. But what are the criteria of that? That person did what God has said not to do. But when you look to the Quran, there is nothing you can do to anybody, even if they choose to change religion, for that person is only accountable to God. There is a large space for freedom given in the Quran. The space where God has not interfered, humans try to interfere in the name of religion. But I have come to realize that many are unaware of that and they have become distanced from religion.
But Turkey is believed to be a conservative country with a large majority of practicing Muslims.
People see themselves as Muslims. But when we look at their practical lives we see deviation from the fundamental principles of the Quran. They are not sensitive to what is seen as right and wrong in the Quran. They don’t abstain from lying, or being unfair for instance. This is not limited to Turks.
So in time Muslims, including in Turkey, started to get away from the essence of Islam?
Yes, a truly Islamic society would be one with peace that produces thoughts and science. But the situation in the Islamic world is nowhere close to it. Pakistani poet Muhammed Iqbal said, “If we want to explain to non-Muslims that Islam is a system of values the first thing we need to say is that we [Muslims] do not represent Islam.” He means to say that by looking to Muslims it is not possible to say good things about Islam. Most of the Muslim world is governed by kingdoms or dictators. Injustice is widespread; there is no fair distribution of income. None of this corresponds to Islam.
What concerns you most in Turkey in terms of religion?
If space for freedom and a democratic environment is provided, then we can live Islam in its best way. But here most of the people say there is God but live as if there is no God; they pray to the Quran but continue their lives without knowing the Quran. If the true principles of the Quran were endorsed we would not see all these injustices, we would not see people jailed for their thoughts or on trial for what they have written. We see many behaviors in daily life that are not in conformity with the Quran. Look at the conformity to traffic rules. There is a motto for all Muslims: God sees us all the time. Yet we have cameras everywhere in Turkey. This means people act forgetting that God sees us all the time. When they see a camera they obey the rules, and when there is no camera they violate the rules.
Would you say that the current government’s policies have not helped people have a better understanding of Islam?
I can’t give an integrated answer; we need to look at it case by case. But the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) is trying to change certain things; they are spending efforts for children and women to come to mosques; they try to instill the love for animals or environmental awareness, etc.
In your writings, are you trying to recall the essence of Islam?
Indeed. The good has been inside us since our creation and the Quran says to reveal it. Islam does not discriminate but rather unifies. It does not look to which party you vote for or to your ideology. It looks to whether you can be fair, correct and virtuous. The rest is up to you. For instance, what matters is not whether you pray or not, but how that praying reflects in you daily live; then that prayer has a meaning. If you pray but act in an unfair way, there is no point in praying. Usually during Ramadan there are debates on whether it is all right to swim in the sea while fasting, etc. But we first need to explain the philosophy of fasting.
Just do this, do that; pray and don’t question. But a human is an individual who questions and God also wants us to question. There are at least 700 verses in the Quran encouraging people to research.
Yet there is even in Turkey a perception that religion and science are not compatible.
That’s because scientists stay away from religion and the pious stay away from science. But when you look to the Quran it tells people to investigate how creation started. There is nothing in the Quran that makes us refuse the evolution theory. There can be an evolution theory in the control of God and the evolution theory does not say directly there is no God.
Muslims say what ISIL is doing does not correspond to Islam, but they are somehow not convincing.
Look what happened during the caricature crisis (denigrating Islam and the prophet) that took place a couple of years ago. What was the reaction of Muslims? To attack embassies, kill people. You need to answer a thought with a thought. When we can not produce thoughts we resort to force. We always discuss the results, not the reasons. ISIL bases its acts on sources other than the Quran. We therefore need to discuss the fact that these sources do not overlap with Islam. The main reference should be the Quran, which is very simple. All sorts of other interpretations come from sources other than the Quran.
Who is Emre Dorman?
Emre Dorman is currently a member of the academic staff at Acıbadem University in Istanbul.
He teaches introduction to philosophy, science philosophy and history of philosophy courses at the university. He continues research on theology, philosophy and the relationship between religion and science.
He prepares the content of a section dedicated to religious issues in daily Hürriyet during the month of Ramadan.
He conducted his post-graduate studies in Marmara University’s Theology Department. The title of his doctorate work was “Deism and its Criticism: A Historic and Theological Approach.”
He is the author of several books, including “Why There is a Need for Religion” (2015), “40 Ways of Fooling Yourself in Religious Issues” (2014), “Modern Science: There is God” (2011) as well as a book in English titled “People Are Asleep They Wake Up When They Die” (2012).