by Deana Nassar*
Islam, a religion of peace, is the fastest growing religion on earth bearing the same message that was given to Jesus and all the other messengers.
Like all Divine religions, Islam came to clarify three points: that there is only one God worthy of worship, that there is a Day of Judgment, and that we are all equal no matter what color, gender, or creed we may have.
The Quran illustrates this in the beautiful verse:
قُولُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالْأَسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَىٰ وَعِيسَىٰ وَمَا أُوتِيَ النَّبِيُّونَ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ
Say: We believe in Allah and (in) that which had been revealed to us, and (in) that which was revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaq and Yaqoub and the tribes, and (in) that which was given to Musa and Isa, and (in) that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit.(QS:AL-Baqarah:136)
It is on this note that we must acknowledge that Islam does not claim to be a new religion brought by Prophet Muhammad into the Arab world, but rather to be a re-expression in its final form of the true religion of the Almighty God as it was originally revealed to Adam and subsequent Prophets.
We have been taught that Islam cannot be confined to any one people, place, or period of time. Within the central principle of Islam its definition is to surrender to the will of God and this is where the roots of Islam’s universality lie.
Once we come to the realization that God is one and distinct from His creation, we become part of a beautiful religion in body and spirit and are then eligible for paradise, our final abode.
Unfortunately today there are misconceptions which prevent non-Muslims from seeing the beauty of Islam, and it is our responsibility as Muslims to convey the true picture in an effort to spread knowledge, even if it’s just through our actions.
The message which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad is Islam in its comprehensive, complete, beautiful and final form. It provides definite guidelines for us all to follow in all walks of life covering the social, economic, political, moral and spiritual aspects of it.
Reciting the Quran (I like to refer to it as our catalogue) we are reminded of our purpose of life on earth, and our duties and obligations towards ourselves, our family, our community, our fellow human beings and our Creator. We are given basic guidelines about a purposeful life and are expected to put these high ideals into practice.
In all its beauty we are taught that Islam is a simple, rational and practical religion where the unity of God, the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad and the concept of life after death are the basic articles of our faith. Everybody and anybody may approach the Qur’an directly and translate its dictates into practice with the bonus of finding peace.
According to a recent study by researcher David B. Larson, those who enjoy spiritual beliefs are psychologically and physically healthier since they behave in accordance with the purpose of their creation. The study cites that:
“Philosophies and systems which contradict human creation always lead to pain and unhappiness”.
This is demonstrated in the verse which I personally find much comfort in; it reads:
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُمْ بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
Those who believe and whose hearts are set at rest by the remembrance of Allah; now surely by Allah´s remembrance are the hearts set at rest. (QS:Ar-Ra’d :28)
Unfortunately with all its beauty, some non-Muslims, when they think about Islam, picture religious fanatics on camels with a sword in one hand and a Quran in the other.
I remember this was how many acquaintance thought my relatives oversees traveled, and I recall how much I, as a feisty youngster, wanted to show them my fist but was reminded by my parents how inadequate that would be, stressing it would be more suitable to take on the adage ‘actions speak louder than words’ and share the message of Islam with people softly just as the Prophet Muhammad was advised in the Quran:
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ لِنْتَ لَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ كُنْتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانْفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ ۖ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ ۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah; surely Allah loves those who trust. (QS: Al-Imran : 159)
Freedom of religion is in fact laid down in the Quran itself and it is evident in the verse which reads:
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَدْ تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ ۚ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انْفِصَامَ لَهَا ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
There is no compulsion in religion, truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.(QS: Al-Baqarah: 256)
Now, many years later, I have acknowledged that our role as bearers of good will is significant, and we must change misconceptions regarding Islam. Remember composure and mutual respect is the key here.
Another false impression dictates that Islam oppresses women, this could not be further than the truth While some Muslim countries may have laws that oppress women, this should not be seen as coming from Islam particularly as these countries do not rule by any kind of Islamic law, introducing their own cultural standpoints on the issue of gender equality.
Remember Islam is simple, culture is difficult In fact no discrimination whatsoever is made on the basis of gender.
Islam in all its beauty recognizes the responsibilities of men and women as equally important in themselves as the roles of men and women are complementary to each other.
In reality, there are many instances where Prophet Muhammad took advice from females recorded in his biography as they were highly regarded in Islam. Islam recorded the last sermon given by the Prophet before his death which discussed women’s status in Islam where he advised men to treat women well and be kind to them describing them as their partners and committed helpers.
Islam is Perfect
It is here that I stress Islam is perfect; Muslims are not.
Contrary to the belief of the intolerant few depicting Muslims as barbaric backward people is a misconception which we need to change. Islam places emphasis on education describing the seeking of knowledge as an obligation for both men and women alike.
Reading history and discussing the framework of both Eastern and Western ideas and the merging of new thought with old, we can see that it brought about great advances in medicine, mathematics physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature, and history.
Much to the chagrin of my children, I also have placed emphasis on education, after all as Muslims we are the ambassadors of Islam and it would not do if we were to lack knowledge.
Islam in all its beauty advocates simplicity and ease. While enjoying the many blessings of God, the path of moderation and simplicity must not be forsaken. As one of Islam’s pillars, almsgiving is Islam’s solution to help those in need in the most suitable manner away from causing any sort of humiliation.
We are taught that the best of alms is that which the right hand gives, and the left hand knows not of. It’s imperative we instill in our children the habit of giving to those less fortunate than ourselves.
We are told by the Prophet’s wife Aisha, that after slaughtering a goat the Prophet asked her how much meat was left after they had distributed part of it, she responded: “Nothing but its shoulder; for we have sent the rest to the poor and neighbors.”
She was then assured by her husband that:
“The whole goat remained except its shoulder” (H.R. At-Tirmidhi, 2470); that is in terms of reward and blessings by God.
This among other kind actions is necessary to advocate the beauty of Islam, even without uttering a word or preaching others to join our faith, we can promote the religion. The Prophet teaches us that Islam is easy, simple and beautiful, and he advised us to:
“Let people rejoice in being Muslims and not run away from it’ and ‘Cheerfulness towards other people, even a smile is a charity to be rewarded by God.” (H.R. At-Tirmidhi, 1956)
In short, Islam is beautiful and easy and the rules are there for us to follow, not to oppress not to be cruel just simply to guide us through our life here on earth in the correct way.
If we follow these rules that God gave us as Muslims, we cannot go wrong. Although we may stray occasionally, we are human and God gave us prayers so that we may praise and love and ask mercy of Him; after all God is all forgiving. As Muslims we should remember and remind others about the Prophet’s teachings.
Indeed the meanings found in the Quran, the Hadith and many of the messenger’s stories are astounding, touching upon some of the most important rights God has over humanity, and humanity has over each other.
Though Prophet Muhammad’s soul has left this world, his words are still living in our hearts and for this we should be grateful. (T/Imt/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)