Thursday 30 March 2023

Does Yousaf think the Scottish flag is idolatrous?


What is the most important symbol of Scotland? It is without doubt the saltire. Other flags and symbols such as the Royal Standard, (the yellow flag with the red lion) or the unicorn or the thistle are important, but the blue and white cross of St Andrew is more important than any other. It is for this reason that Scottish nationalism uses the saltire more than any other symbol to express its desire for Scottish independence. But what if the new leader of the SNP thought that the saltire was forbidden? That would be rather awkward, wouldn’t it?

Some people may think that my continued exploration of Humza Yousaf’s connection with Islam is Islamophobic. It isn’t. I am treating his beliefs as being as worthy of study as Christianity. There is much that a non-Muslim can find admirable in Islam. It is very interesting as a subject, and I urge everyone to study it in a fair way and with an open mind. But there are certain areas of Islam which are problematic for a society like Scotland. We have to be honest and open about these. Otherwise, how are we to live in an attitude of tolerance to each other.

The biggest problem for the leader of the SNP is that the symbol of the cross is forbidden in Islam. How do we know this? We know it because the Prophet Muḥammad said it.

Islamic doctrine comes to us primarily via the Quran, but also by the sayings and actions of Muḥammad recorded in the Hadith and Sunnah. These were passed down from the time when Muḥammad was living by people who knew him in a verifiable and reliable way to the time when they were finally written down.

The fundamental reason why the cross is forbidden as a symbol in Islam is that Islam rejects the idea that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected. The reason why it rejects this is that Islam is strictly monotheistic and rejects the idea that Jesus was divine on the grounds that this would be a form of polytheism.

The cross in Christianity is not about the death of Jesus. No one would wear a cross today if Jesus had merely been executed. It is worn and used as a symbol because Christians believe in the resurrection and divinity of Jesus. It is about this that Muslims disagree.

The following Hadith shows Muḥammad’s attitude to the cross.

Al-Ḥusayn ibn Yazīd al-Kūfī reported from ʿAbd al-Salām ibn Ḥarb, on the authority of Ghuṭayf ibn Aʿyan, on the authority of Muṣʿab ibn Saʿd, who reported from ʿAdī ibn Ḥātim, who said: “I came to the prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, wearing a cross of gold around my neck. He said to me: ‘ʿAdī, remove this idol from you [i.e., from your neck]’.

 The cross is idolatrous because it represents the polytheism that Muḥammad thought was at the heart of the Christian faith. It symbolises the idea that God became man, died and was resurrected, which is shirk (the deification or worship of anyone or anything besides God).

The following Hadith also shows how Muḥammad treated the cross in his own home. It comes from his wife Āʾisha.

Mūsā ibn Ismāʿīl reported from Abbān, on the authority of Yaḥyā, on the authority of ʿImrān ibn Ḥaṭṭān, that ʿĀʾisha, may God be pleased with her, related to him, that the prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, never left anything in his house which had [images of] the Cross upon it, but that he broke it.

Muḥammad didn’t merely consider any physical depiction of the cross to be forbidden, i.e., shirk he even thought that any gesture was forbidden.

Hannād ibn al-Sirrī reported on the authority of Wakīʿ, on the authority of Saʿīd ibn Ziyād, on the authority of Ziyād ibn Ṣubayḥ al-Ḥanafī, who said: “I was praying by the side of Ibn ʿUmar, and put my hand on my waist. When he finished praying, he said [to me]: ‘This [gesture] is a cross in prayer; the messenger of God, peace and blessing be upon him, used to forbid [doing] it’.”

Now why do devout Muslims at the moment refrain from eating and drinking during the day. They do so in honour of Muḥammad’s first revelation and because Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.

But everything of importance in Islam is derived either from what was revealed to Muḥammad or to what he is reported to have said or did.

But this means logically that the leader of the SNP must think that the Scottish flag is shirk, or idolatrous. The only way he could not think this is to reject those Hadith where Muḥammad says that the cross is idolatrous. But this would require him to prove that the Hadith was unreliable and Muḥammad did not say what he was reported as saying.

But it gets worse for Mr Yousaf. If he does not believe that Jesus died on the cross, why would he believe that Saint Andrew died on a cross? Why indeed would he think that Andrew was a Saint at all? Why would he think that the relics of St Andrew arrived in St Andrews? Even if they did, he would think that such bones were just the bones of an ordinary person who happened to follow a prophet called Jesus who was just a person like the rest of us, albeit an important and revered prophet.

Mr Yousaf must also think that the unicorn is idolatrous because it stands for the incarnation, i.e., God becoming man, which Islam thinks is not merely false but polytheistic. Mr Yousaf must therefore think also that the Kirk and Presbyterianism which defines Scottish culture is also idolatrous and that the Declaration of Arbroath (which was a letter to the Pope) was from one idolator to another. This doesn’t leave Mr Yousaf with much else that symbolises Scotland except perhaps the thistle.

So, although I’m sure Mr Yousaf will continue to fly the Scottish flag on Bute House, I wonder if he knows that he ought to think it idolatrous. When he finds out will he tell his supporters? Perhaps he would prefer one with a blue background and a crescent moon. But even to suggest such a thing would no doubt be considered Islamophobic.