Islam – A Brotherhood of Peace
posting my homework to the wire
"Why does everybody hate Muslims?" my beloved friend Ali asked me during one of our telephone conversations a few months ago. Ali, a native Kashmiri, (Kashmir has been in the grip of a political/territorial struggle between India and Pakistan for decades; two countries that presently stand on the brink of nuclear war) knows too well the pain of being a Muslim in a world that is growing increasingly intolerant of Islamic people.
The "terrorist" act of September 11 has profoundly added to the suffering of the Islamic nation. With the blame of 9.11 being placed on a Muslim man with an alleged history of terrorism, (though the FBI recently issued a statement admitting that to date they have "not uncovered a single piece of paper" - that would substantiate that this man is indeed responsible) and nineteen of his "followers", also Muslim, many people have amalgamated all Muslims as "terrorists". This sort of homogenous thinking is both obtuse and dangerous, a racism that has created many incidences of hate crimes against Muslims (as well as against people with non-white skin and individuals who wear turbans). These hate crimes include the U.S. government's systematic rounding up and imprisoning thousands of men with Arabic names but no history of criminality.
According to the Qur'an (the word of God that was delivered by the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad), rigorous tests must be undergone before charges of guilt can be brought against someone. (Adi 'Opinion' 11.6.01) This is similar to our own justice system that declares that a person is "innocent until proven guilty". Storming Afghanistan (in search of a man said to be hiding in a cave) without ample evidence of his guilt, and holding men prisoners, without proof of any complicity, clearly indicates a breach of our own judicial contract, and in the eyes of the Islamic world, defies the word of Allah or God.
A 14th century Spanish-Muslim scholar by the name of Shatibi, says that the Qur'an (or Koran) outlines a 'Bill of Rights'. (Adi 'Opinion' 11.6.02) Of the five rights two are worthy of mention in the aforementioned context: "The Right to Life" and the "Right to Economic Liberty". To date thousands of innocent Afghanis have lost their lives in America's "War on Terrorism", yet no trace of the alleged perpetrator has been found amongst them. Their "right to life" has been unmercifully taken form them. With regard to the "right to economic liberty", many Afghanis are wandering without a home, bereft of adequate food and water. The billions of dollars that has been spent on military thus far would have served a much loftier goal of feeding, housing and educating our fellow Afghanis.
We have heard the term jihad, which we are told means "holy war" in the media ad infinitum since 9.11. But this western definition of jihad is incorrect; Islam teaches that war is "unholy". An Arabic term that means "striving", jihad asks that Muslims strive for moral and religious perfection, to strive in the way of Allah. In the article "Jihad Explained" , author M. Amir Ali, Ph.D., states that the words "holy war" transcribed back into Arabic is "harbun muqaddasatu," and that the Arabic words for "war" are "harb" or "qital, that there is no association between "jihad" and "holy war" in the Qu'ran or the Hadith (a book of sayings by the Prophet Muhammad). Jihad is considered one of the duties of every Muslim, the striving to resist temptations that lead one away from god and to embrace those acts that move one towards God.
One way that Muslims do this is by Zakat or the giving of charity to those in need. Islamic law states that an individual's physical needs must be met before higher concerns can flower. Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the religious duties, of every Muslim.
This most important of the 'ibadat or religious duties is the "witness" (shahada), which says "there is no God but Allah". In Islam "one God" means "one people". Indeed, equality of all people, regardless of their religion, race, gender or social standing, considered equal in the merciful eyes of Allah, is a paramount tenet in Islam.
Contrary to the "extremist" treatment that some Muslim women are victims of, Islam grants women a status of equity. The much talked about and feared "Taliban", a fanatical group of Islamic men who were created in part by the C.I.A, raised in refugee camps as boys and later sent to fundamental religious schools, were trained to be radical in thought and action, a serious aberrant from true Islam principles of brotherhood and equality. Up until 1996, before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women were free to work, to go to school, to dress as they wished (but still modestly) and to be out in the world without a male escort. This has all sadly changed now.
Today, more than any other time in history, it is impossible to talk about the religion of Islam without also talking about its politics. Ironically, though there is much disdain for Islam in the West, it is a religion not unlike its monotheistic cousin Christianity. The doctrine of "one God" is central to both of these religions. The scriptures, stories, history and the belief in a creator and a judgment day are all similar themes, and although Muslims believe that Muhammad was the "Seal of the Prophets" or the final prophet of divine truth, they believe that it is Jesus who is coming back on "Judgment Day".
Islam deserves a great deal more than a few short pages to redeem its rightful place in the world. It is perhaps one of the most misunderstood of all religions, the most misunderstood of all peoples. It is a peaceful religion (Islam means submission and peace) with peaceful people. My own Muslim friends show great concern for my welfare, (one of them traveling some four hours to e-mail me after 9.11 to make sure that I was alright), even though their own lives are in peril nearly constantly. Perhaps their love and unity is born out of their love for God, where "every moment is made glorious by the light of Love."
The Love Poems of Rumi: Edited by: Deepak Chopra
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