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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In the 1980s, I went to a rally where Labour Party speakers shared the stage with men in balaclavas

The links between the Labour left and Irish republicanism are worth investigating.

A spat between Jeremy Corbyn’s henchfolk and Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, caught my ear the other evening. McGinn was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, and he obligingly revisited the brouhaha for the listeners at home. Apparently, following an interview in May, in which McGinn called for Corbyn to “reach out beyond his comfort zone”, he was first threatened obliquely with the sack, then asked for a retraction (which he refused to give) and finally learned – from someone in the whips’ office – that his party leader was considering phoning up McGinn’s father to whip the errant whipper-in into line. On the programme, McGinn said: “The modus operandi that he [Corbyn] and the people around him were trying to do [sic], involving my family, was to isolate and ostracise me from them and from the community I am very proud to come from – which is an Irish nationalist community in south Armagh.”

Needless to say, the Labour leader’s office has continued to deny any such thing, but while we may nurture some suspicions about his behaviour, McGinn was also indulging in a little airbrushing when he described south Armagh as an “Irish ­nationalist community”. In the most recent elections, Newry and Armagh returned three Sinn Fein members to the Northern Ireland Assembly (as against one Social Democratic and Labour Party member) and one Sinn Fein MP to Westminster. When I last looked, Sinn Fein was still a republican, rather than a nationalist, party – something that McGinn should only be too well aware of, as the paternal hand that was putatively to have been lain on him belongs to Pat McGinn, the former Sinn Fein mayor of Newry and Armagh.

According to the Irish News, a “close friend” of the McGinns poured this cold water on the mini-conflagration: “Anybody who knows the McGinn family knows that Pat is very proud of Conor and that they remain very close.” The friend went on to opine: “He [Pat McGinn] found the whole notion of Corbyn phoning him totally ridiculous – as if Pat is going to criticise his son to save Jeremy Corbyn’s face. They would laugh about it were it not so sinister.”

“Sinister” does seem the mot juste. McGinn, Jr grew up in Bessbrook during the Troubles. I visited the village in the early 1990s on assignment. The skies were full of the chattering of British army Chinooks, and there were fake road signs in the hedgerows bearing pictograms of rifles and captioned: “Sniper at work”. South Armagh had been known for years as “bandit country”. There were army watchtowers standing sentinel in the dinky, green fields and checkpoints everywhere, manned by some of the thousands of the troops who had been deployed to fight what was, in effect, a low-level counter-insurgency war. Nationalist community, my foot.

What lies beneath the Corbyn-McGinn spat is the queered problematics of the ­relationship between the far left wing of the Labour Party and physical-force Irish republicanism. I also recall, during the hunger strikes of the early 1980s, going to a “Smash the H-Blocks” rally in Kilburn, north London, at which Labour Party speakers shared the stage with representatives from Sinn Fein, some of whom wore balaclavas and dark glasses to evade the telephoto lenses of the Met’s anti-terrorist squad.

The shape-shifting relationship between the “political wing” of the IRA and the men with sniper rifles in the south Armagh bocage was always of the essence of the conflict, allowing both sides a convenient fiction around which to posture publicly and privately negotiate. In choosing to appear on platforms with people who might or might not be terrorists, Labour leftists also sprinkled a little of their stardust on themselves: the “stardust” being the implication that they, too, under the right circumstances, might be capable of violence in pursuit of their political ends.

On the far right of British politics, Her Majesty’s Government and its apparatus are referred to derisively as “state”. There were various attempts in the 1970s and 1980s by far-right groupuscules to link up with the Ulster Freedom Fighters and other loyalist paramilitary organisations in their battle against “state”. All foundered on the obvious incompetence of the fascists. The situation on the far left was different. The socialist credentials of Sinn Fein/IRA were too threadbare for genuine expressions of solidarity, but there was a sort of tacit confidence-and-supply arrangement between these factions. The Labour far left provided the republicans with the confidence that, should an appropriately radical government be elected to Westminster, “state” would withdraw from Northern Ireland. What the republicans did for the mainland militants was to cloak them in their penumbra of darkness: without needing to call down on themselves the armed might of “state”, they could imply that they were willing to take it on, should the opportunity arise.

I don’t for a second believe that Corbyn was summoning up these ghosts of the insurrectionary dead when he either did or did not threaten to phone McGinn, Sr. But his supporters need to ask themselves what they’re getting into. Their leader, if he was to have remained true to the positions that he has espoused over many years, should have refused to sit as privy counsellor upon assuming his party office, and refused all the other mummery associated with the monarchical “state”. That he didn’t do so was surely a strategic decision. Such a position would make him utterly unelectable.

The snipers may not be at work in south Armagh just now – but there are rifles out there that could yet be dug up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in Sinn Fein knew where they are, but one thing’s for certain: Corbyn hasn’t got a clue, bloody or otherwise. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser