What unites all Muslims?

The Quran is the one thing which all Muslims have in common writes Tajudeen bin Tijani, a researcher

Where does one who lives in the UK begin with regards to identifying the essence of Islam (submission)?
Well, one will have to embark on a journey of seeking answers to our questions from those who call themselves Muslim (submitter to the will of Allah), or better still Allah (God), if one appreciates some of His attributes already.

Note that taking into consideration that all those who call themselves Muslims will not all share the same definition of Islam or the same understanding of the Scripture (Quran), and the implementation of tradition (Abrahamic faith). This journey leads one to identify what all Muslims have in common.

The answer being the Quran, since for example Sunni and Shia communities do not share the same implementation of traditions, but both accept the Quran as a authoritative source of divine law and guidance.

But wait, Sunni, Shia and other Muslim communities don’t all share the same interpretation of the Qur’an, so how can one identify who has the correct interpretation?

This journey leads one to distinguish the various Muslim persuasions that exist, and compare them sincerely and discover which of them appeal to good logic, or better still the attributes of God appreciated before now.

What are the facts?

Well, one will easily come to recognise that even the English translations of the Qur’an are influenced by the persuasion of its author or authors.

So what is consistent with regard to all these English translations of the Qur’an?

The undeniable answers are the attributes of God and Qur’an. Note that these alone are glaring enough to shape the context of our understanding of the Qur’an.

For example, according to the Qur’an, God is the most merciful, so why would the reader of the Quran not read the chapters and verses bearing this in mind?

However, one cannot deny the struggles the mind may have to go through while reflecting on this attribute, which is for example, if God is so merciful, why does such and such occur?

Well, the Qur’an is there to enlighten us to just how God is so merciful, if we open our minds to the context that the Qur’an sets using the attributes of God.

Note that the whole point of this journey is about identifying the essence of Islam, so if one is not prepared to accept the context the Qur’an sets, then how sincere is the quest?

Anyway, you may not have realised it yet, but we have gradually come to the essence of Islam.

To recap, we have discovered how the Qur’an is the common denominator and authoritative source of law and guidance amongst those who call themselves Muslims. Also, careful study, sincerity and open-mindedness allows one to spot and distinguish the persuasions of Muslims, then the next lower level of commonality which are the attributes of God and Qur’an. Now if one bears in mind this commonality when reading and reflecting upon the verses, one is now empowered to decide for oneself how Islam (submission to the will of God) is put in to practice.

Ironically, many a journey made by those who call themselves Muslims leads them to communities where they cannot decide for themselves.

Nevertheless, I have found a community where I can read and reflect on the Qur’an and decide for myself, as well as put in to practice what I have grasped, namely the UK Community of Submitters. Note that I too am one of those who call myself a Muslim.

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Autumn Statement 2015: will women bear the brunt again?

Time and time again, the Chancellor has chosen to balance the books on the backs of women. There's still hope for a better way. 

Today, the Chancellor, George Osborne, presents his Autumn Statement to parliament. Attention will be focused on how he tries to dig himself out of the tax credits hole that he got himself into with his hubristic summer budget.

He’s got options, both in terms of the sweeteners he can offer, and in how he finds the funds to pay for them. But what we will be looking for is a wholesale rethink from the chancellor that acknowledges something he’s shown total indifference to so far: the gender impact of his policy choices, which have hurt not helped women.

In every single budget and autumn statement under this Chancellor, it has been women that have lost out. From his very first so-called “emergency  budget” in 2010, when Yvette Cooper pointed out that women had been hit twice as hard as men, to his post-election budget this summer, the cumulative effects of his policy announcements are that women have borne a staggering 85 per cent of cuts to tax credits and benefits. Working mums in particular have taken much of the pain.

We don’t think this is an accident. It reflects the old-fashioned Tory world view, where dad goes out to work to provide for the family, and mum looks after the kids, while supplementing the family income with some modest part-time work of her own. The fact that most families don’t live like that is overlooked: it doesn’t fit the narrative. But it’s led to a set of policies that are exceptionally damaging for gender equality.

Take the married couple’s tax break – 80 per cent of the benefit of that goes to men. The universal credit, designed in such a way that it actively disincentivises second earners – usually the woman in the family. Cuts and freezes to benefits for children - the child tax credit two-child policy, cuts to child benefit – are cuts in benefits mostly paid to women. Cuts to working tax credit have hit lone parents particularly hard, the vast majority of whom are women.

None of these cuts has been adequately compensated by the increase in the personal tax threshold (many low paid women are below the threshold already), the extension of free childcare (coming in long after the cuts take effect) or the introduction of the so-called national living wage. Indeed, the IFS has said it’s ‘arithmetically impossible’ that they can do so. And at the same time, women’s work remains poorly remunerated, concentrated in low-pay sectors, more often part time, and increasingly unstable.

This is putting terrible pressure on women and families now, but it will also have long-term impact. We are proud that Labour lifted one million children out of poverty between 1997 and 2010. But under the Tories, child poverty has flat-lined in relative terms since 2011/12, while, shockingly, absolute child poverty has risen by 500,000, reflecting the damage that has been by the tax and benefits changes, especially to working families. Today, two thirds of children growing up poor do so in a working family. The cost to those children, the long-term scarring effect on them of growing up poor, and the long-term damage to our society, will be laid at the door of this chancellor.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the age spectrum, low-earning women who are financially stretched won’t have anything left over to save for their pension. More are falling out of auto-enrolment and face a bleak old age in poverty.

Now that the Chancellor has put his calculator away, we will discover when he has considered both about the impact and the consequences of his policies for women. But we have no great hopes he’ll do so. After all, this is the government that scrapped the equality impact assessments, saying they were simply a matter of ‘common sense’ – common sense that appears to elude the chancellor. In their place, we have a flaky ‘family test’ – but with women, mothers and children the big losers so far, there’s no sign he’s going to pass that one either.

That’s why we are putting the Chancellor on notice: we, like women across the country, will be listening very carefully to what you announce today, and will judge it by whether you are hurting not helping Britain’s families. The Prime Minister’s claims that he cares about equality are going to sound very hollow if it’s women who take the pain yet again.