Rukmini Iyer
Published in

Rukmini Iyer

The Human Cohesion Project — 18 Apr 2022

The idea of religion as the glue that binds communities together is present in many religions. It seems to originate from times when collective identities were celebrated owing to social systems being designed to work with interdependence. Given the benefits an individual derived (and continues to derive) from the presence of the collective, it seems only fair that most religions also therefore speak about apostasy and its impact on the collective.

In Islam, this is expressed in the idea of ‘Takfiri’, where one Muslim excommunicates another Muslim because they believe the other has stopped practising the religion. The traditional interpretation of Sharia law suggests that apostates are awarded capital punishment. Consequently, there is great caution advised against making this judgment of another without sufficient reason. One hadith also mentions that a Muslim who wrongly labels another an unbeliever is an apostate themselves. However, modern interpretation of Takfiri has been used conveniently by terrorists to wipe out huge masses in the name of religion, as exemplified by ISIL, the Taliban, Boko Haram, etc.

Takfiri is not only about Islam. The idea of heresy is a dominant conversation in most parts of the world today, with the politicisation of religion. India is experiencing its own version of this with Hinduism, through the right-wing narrative. We also have instances of this in other religions. The rise of conversations about Takfiri in any religion is also the rise of intolerance. The contexts in which religions emerged is different from the contexts in which they are practised now. There is space and opportunity for dissent within religions, without breaking the collective, because even as we continue to be interdependent, there are mechanisms in place for individualistic ways of life as well. Here is an opportunity for us to explore how our interpretations of religions need to evolve to keep up with the times.

Ramadan Kareem. May we have the courage to contextualise our religions.

#TheHumanCohesionProject #RukminiIyer #ExultSolutions #peacebuilding #Islam

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