…An Islamic prototype for free thought and action: Part of the unthought and the unthinkable in Islam is the lesson to be gleaned from the parting of ways between God and Satan, as described in the Quran. When Satan rebelled against God’s command and threatened to lead humanity astray until the day of judgement, God had the option of doing a Khomeini and deciding to finish off Satan once and for all (in the memorable words of V.S. Naipaul in response to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, ‘an extreme form of literary criticism!’). But he decided to let Satan go and do as he pleased. In other words, God granted Satan absolute freedom of expression and action for eternity. As the Malayali Marxist intellectual K.E.N. recently stressed, the Quranic narrative about God’s decision to grant Satan full freedom is perhaps the best model for Muslims to emulate in matters of freedom of thought and expression. Once they do that, the prospect of a civilisational ascent, as happened during the days of the Abbasid and Andalusian glories, will again beckon.
(Shajahan Madampat is a cultural critic, writing mostly in Malayalam and English and occasionally in Arabic.)