The most disturbing incident last week was probably Isis militants hammering thousand- year old statues in the Mosul Museum of Iraq. They claimed that the ancient statues were idols and should be destroyed. They thought that by removing the statues, they were stopping idolatry.
Isis was – once again – very wrong in their interpretation of Islam. First of all, there wasn't anyone actually worshipping those statues. In any event, even if there were, it would be those people’s choice and not that of Isis. God makes it very clear in the Quran that there is no compulsion whatsoever in religion and everybody is free to choose his or her faith. Isis should understand that religion should be chosen and practiced according to one’s own free will. In any event, those statues were not built as idols, or used by anyone as idols to be worshipped. They were remains from thousands of years ago that managed to survive until today, like monumental statues of human-headed winged bulls to guard the entrance to Nineveh, the capital of the neo-Assyrian Empire from about 700 B.C. to 612 B.C. In other words, they were works of art, priceless heritage that reflected the culture and civilisations of thousands years ago. It was a crucial part of world’s history and with their savage behaviour, Isis destroyed a part of human history as much as violating Islam’s beautiful legacy of championing art and culture.
God loves art and encourages His servants to love it, too. He has created the whole universe with art. There are no verses in the Quran that make fine arts such as painting and sculpture unlawful: On the contrary, works of art are praised in the Quran. Statues and works of art are praised as examples of majesty in the palace of the Prophet Solomon in the Quran. The Prophet Solomon, who had a superior understanding of art, is a good example given in the Quran that shows the value Islam attaches to art. From the Quranic accounts, we understand that art, aesthetics, and beauty pervaded the Prophet Solomon’s palace Its floor, which was the first thing to catch people's attention, gave the impression of water, for it was made of glass. The sight of such a transparent floor appeals to the human soul and gives relief. It is also exciting, since it is unique. Indeed, the impact of the palace's splendor on the Queen of Sheba is related in the Quran. It is related that the Queen raised her skirts in preparation for entering a deep pool and revealed her legs. She was very impressed. The art in the palace was instrumental in her coming to have faith.
Radicals have wreaked grave damage on Islamic societies by their opposition to art. The Islamic world never managed to develop after the spread of such superstitions about sculpture and painting. Societies that cannot develop art remain frozen, soulless and atrophied; they are closed to novelty. They gradually lose their creativity, their ability to think practically and their understanding of detail. As a result of their extreme aversion to art, a cultural monotony, a stifling boredom, devoid of grace, is predominant in the dark world of the fanatics. Islamic civilisation, before it began to stray away from the Quran, thrived for centuries and led the world in art, science and civilisation. Their architecture, art, complex urban systems, their magnificent palaces, scientific inventions and studies still continue to amaze and contribute to our world.
However, as they began to distance themselves from the Quran, different sects, traditions, cultures and fragmentations and worst of all, fake hadiths, (Prophet Mohammad’s sayings) emerged. This was not Islam; it was an entirely other religion, a fanatical mindset and this pushed the Muslim world into a pit of backwardness. It stripped the Muslim world from all the beauties that God created for people, including art, science and liberties. Today, Isis militants are suffering from the same problem: They too have all but forgotten the Quran and follow a religion of made-up hadiths and traditions instead.
Another very important point that merits explanation is that burning books or destroying art can never lead to the results that its perpetrators wish to achieve. It is a very primitive method resulting from the fear of rival ideas. Although it has been experienced many times in world’s history, like early Christians burning down the Library of Alexandria in 391, or the Nazis’ infamous book burning campaign, it never provided the results they expected.
If Isis militants claim that they wish to follow Islam, they should know that God wants full democracy and freedom for His servants in the Quran. If there is an idea, a faith that they don't like – or the proponents thereof –, they are supposed to respect it and co-exist with it, not try to obliterate it. God clearly says in the Quran: ‘...and you are not to be a tyrant over them.’ (Holy Quran 50:45).
It is quite astonishing and deeply disturbing that radical Muslims are able to so grossly misinterpret Islam, despite God’s abundantly clear commands in the Quran. They should know that according to the Quran, there can be no tyranny, oppression or compulsion using the name of religion.
Before more damage is done by radicalism, it would be better for both the Muslim world and the Western world to understand that the real solution to this illness lies within the Quran, as the reason it came to us in the first place is that mankind had strayed away from it.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Malaysian Insider: