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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The dog at the end of the lead may be small, but in fact what I’m walking is a hound of love

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel.

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel. I seem to have become a temporary co-owner of an enthusiastic Chorkie. A Chorkie, in case you’re not quite up to speed with your canine crossbreeds, is a mixture of a chihuahua and a Yorkshire Terrier, and while my friend K— busies herself elsewhere I am looking after this hound.

This falls squarely into the category of Things I Never Thought I’d Do. I’m a cat person, taking my cue from their idleness, cruelty and beauty. Dogs, with their loyalty, their enthusiasm and their barking, are all a little too much for me, even after the first drink of the day. But the dog is here, and I am in loco parentis, and it is up to me to make sure that she is looked after and entertained, and that there is no repetition of the unfortunate accident that occurred outside my housemate’s room, and which needed several tissues and a little poo baggie to make good.

As it is, the dog thinks I am the bee’s knees. To give you an idea of how beeskneesian it finds me, it is licking my feet as I write. “All right,” I feel like saying to her, “you don’t have to go that far.”

But it’s quite nice to be worshipped like this, I have decided. She has also fallen in love with the Hovel, and literally writhes with delight at the stinky cushions on the sofa. Named after Trude Fleischmann, the lesbian erotic photographer of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, she has decided, with admirable open-mindedness, that I am the Leader of the Pack. When I take the lead, K— gets a little vexed.

“She’s walking on a loose lead, with you,” K— says. “She never does that when I’m walking her.” I don’t even know what that means, until I have a think and work it out.

“She’s also walking to heel with you,” K— adds, and once again I have to join a couple of mental dots before the mists part. It would appear that when it comes to dogs, I have a natural competence and authority, qualities I had never, not even in my most deranged flights of self-love, considered myself to possess in any measurable quantity at all.

And golly, does having a dog change the relationship the British urban flâneur has with the rest of society. The British, especially those living south of Watford, and above all those in London, do not recognise other people’s existence unless they want to buy something off them or stop them standing on the left of the sodding escalator, you idiot. This all changes when you have a dog with you. You are now fair game for any dog-fancier to come up to you and ask the most personal questions about the dog’s history and genealogy. They don’t even have to have a dog of their own; but if you do, you are obliged by law to stop and exchange dog facts.

My knowledge of dog facts is scant, extending not much further beyond them having a leg at each corner and chasing squirrels, so I leave the talking to K—, who, being a friendly sort who could probably talk dog all day long if pressed, is quite happy to do that. I look meanwhile in a kind of blank wonder at whichever brand of dog we’ve just encountered, and marvel not only at the incredible diversity of dog that abounds in the world, but at a realisation that had hitherto escaped me: almost half of London seems to have one.

And here’s the really interesting thing. When I have the leash, the city looks at me another way. And, specifically, the young women of the city. Having reached the age when one ceases to be visible to any member of the opposite sex under 30, I find, all of a sudden, that I exist again. Women of improbable beauty look at Trude, who looks far more Yorkie than chihuahua, apart from when she does that thing with the ears, and then look at me, and smile unguardedly and unironically, signalling to me that they have decided I am a Good Thing and would, were their schedules not preventing them, like to chat and get to know me and the dog a bit better.

I wonder at first if I am imagining this. I mention it to K—.

“Oh yes,” she says, “it’s a thing. My friend P-J regularly borrows her when he wants to get laid. He reckons he’s had about 12 shags thanks to her in the last six months. The problems only arise when they come back again and notice the dog isn’t there.”

I do the maths. Twelve in six months! That’s one a fortnight. An idea begins to form in my mind. I suppose you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what it is. But no. I couldn’t. Could I?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism