Sunday, August 12, 200711 comments
A Nigerian convert to Islam was jailed in Saudi Arabia after he helped a sick 63-year-old woman and was then accused by religious police of immoral behavior, a newspaper reported on Monday. Ibrahim Mohammad Lawal, a student of Islamic studies in Riyadh, took the woman, who is his neighbor, to the hospital after learning that she needed medical attention, Arab News said. After the woman returned home he went to check on her health and found three other women related to her there. Then up to five men identifying themselves as members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrived and took him and the three women visitors into custody, accusing him of being alone with his neighbor. He was later taken to prison, the paper said without elaborating on what happened to the three women. Lawal's help for his neighbor "has landed him 50 days and counting behind bars," Arab News said.
Help the maskeen, be arrested. Prevent someone from dying, go to jail.
While those are general statements, I'm hearing more and more about similar situations where a man or woman is arrested by the religious police because of an act of charity for someone of the opposite gender. In other words, it's better to let someone suffer or die as long as you continue to appear righteous. Which do you think God is more concerned about: true charity or religious facade?
But the thing that I really can't wrap my mind around is the concept of forced morality. What is the purpose of creating a religious police system designed to strong arm people into doing something against their nature? After all, many are only following the rules because they are forced to, and not because they want to. Wouldn't God be more appreciative of those who want to obey him? And since God is all knowing, he is surely aware of the condition of one's heart. How is it then that we are so preoccupied with creating a righteous outward show rather than a contrite inward attitude?
So what is the purpose of forcing someone to do what is religiously required? If I am forced to fast during Ramadan even though I don't want to, I'm sure my forced fasting isn't going to amount to religious "points" because my heart isn't in the right place. And I use this as an example because I see similar situations all day every day: people following the letter of the law, not because they desire to, but because they don't want to a) appear unrighteous b) get in trouble by the zealots c) dishonor their family.
I'm not sure I see the point. Perhaps someone could educate me?
Source: The Jordan Times, August 7, 2007