By Dr. Fathi Osman
Facts about Islam
â€œAllahâ€ is the Arabic word for the One God as recognized, believed in and worshipped by all the followers of the Abrahamic creed:
â€œ[O Muhammad] â€˜[our faith is] the creed of Ibrahim (Abraham) who turned away from all that is false, and was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God.â€™ Say: â€˜We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ismail (Ishmael) and Is-haq (Isaac) and Ya`qub (Jacob) and their descendants, and that which has been given to Musa (Moses) and `Isa (Jesus), and that which has been given to all the [other[ prophets by their Lord, we make no distinction between any of them. And it is to Him that we submit.â€
You find the Arabic word â€œAllahâ€ as the One God used by all Arabs of various faiths, and itâ€™s spread through the pages of the Arabic edition of the Bible.
The â€œFive Pillars of Islamâ€ declare the belief in the Oneness of God and in the message of Prophet MuhammadÂ (s), the obligation of prayers, of fasting a month in the year (called Ramadan), paying the charity dues to the poor â€œzakatâ€, and going once in life to the House of Worship established by Prophet Abraham (as) and his son Ismail (as) in Mecca to worship the One God. Declaring the belief in the Oneness of God is the essence of Islam â€œtawheedâ€, and this liberates human beings from worshipping what is not God explicitly or implicitly and from following superstitions, and sets a direction of rational thinking and a principle of human equality.
Godâ€™s message through all prophets stresses moral values, on the top of which is faithfulness and sincerity in the feelings towards God and His creation particularly the human beings. Faithfulness to the land on which the believer is raised and nurtured, and to the people of the land with whom the believer is raised, is a moral and religious obligation for the Muslims, whether they are a majority or a minority in the land or among the people. Muslim minorities all over the world, including the West, feel this faithfulness towards the land and towards the people of the land as a moral and religious obligation in addition to feeling in the depths of their hearts and minds as citizens who are raised on the land and among the people and are sharing life there with the people of the land. Faithfulness is the essence of moral values and Godâ€™s messages:
â€œAnd be always faithful to your commitments, for, verily, [on the Day of Judgment] you will be called to account for every promise which you have madeâ€
The Night Journey:34
The relationship with the family and neighbors is instinctive and blessed by religion, and the nation is merely an extended family and neighborhood.
Muslims do not face Mecca in their prayers as a city in a country or as a piece of land, but they face the ancient House of Worship established there by Prophet IbrahimÂ (as) and his son IsmailÂ (as) according to the Muslim belief; and to this House of Worship they go once in life as pilgrims: â€œTurn your face towards the Inviolable House of Worship (al-Masjid al-Haram), and wherever you all may be turn your faces towards it [in prayer]â€ (Baqarah:144).
Islam teaches that one should make friends with all good people, including good Christians and Jews. Even when particular temporary hostilities broke out between Muslims and certain Jews in Arabia, the Qur`an warns against unfair generalizations and prejudices:
â€œThey are not all alike, among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] there are upright people, who recite Godâ€™s messages throughout the night, and prostrate themselves [before Him]. They believe in God and the Last Day, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and vie with one another in doing good works, and these are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, they shall never be denied the reward thereof, for, God has full knowledge of those who are conscious of Him.â€ `Ali Imran:113-115
What the Quran warns against is taking those as friends who show their hostility and disdain for Islam and Muslims: â€œDo not take for your patrons or supporters, such a mock at your faith and make a jest of it – be they from among those who have been given scriptures before your time, or [from among] those who deny the truth [of revelation as such]â€¦.and when you call to prayer, they mock at it and make a jest of itâ€ The Table:57-58.
Further, the Quran makes it clear that relations of Muslims with all others who are not hostile to them should be built on kindness and fairness,â€ and reminds the Muslims: â€œAnd it may well be that God will bring about [mutual]] affection between you [O believers] and those with whom you have hostility and God is self-powerful and God is Much-forgiving, Mercy-goingâ€
The Woman Tested: 8,7.
How may the Quran be considered forbidding friendship with Jews and Christians, while it allows the Muslim man to marry a Jewish or Christian wife, and allows for every Muslim to eat the food of Jews and Christians? The Table:5.
The Muslimâ€™s submission is to God only, and there is no other religious authority in Islam beside God and the conveyor of His message, and it is well known that there is no Christian-style clergy in Islam. Muslims in history developed friendly and constructive relations with the entire world that they knew; from Europe to China going through Africa. Islam teaches cooperation between peoples and development of the entire world: â€œand we have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know (and recognize and compliment) one anotherâ€ Hujurat:13.
The Quran stresses peaceful relations with all who support peace in the world: â€œAnd if they incline to peace, you incline to peace, and place your trust in Godâ€ The Spoils:61. One of Godâ€™s attributes is the â€œAll-Peaceâ€ (al-Salam). The greeting of the Muslim is â€œPeace be with youâ€ (As-Salaamu â€˜aleikum).
Muslims are not compelled to marry four womenâ€”marrying more than one woman is allowed only for social considerations in certain circumstances with strong conditions and restrictions, and marrying more than one is not widely practiced, especially among educated modern Muslims. Using physical force against anyoneâ€”let alone the wifeâ€”should never be initiated: and as a response is restricted. Through particular times and places in a peculiar case of a wife using violence, a wife may attempt to hurt herself, her children, her husband or her home, and she may be stopped by a mild action which may be symbolic. Traditions of the Prophet (s) strongly discourage and keep off such an exceptional behavior.
The Qur`an has to be taken in its entirety, and not to be selectively split, and it strongly stresses the essential strong relationship between husbands and wives, even in case of emotional turns: â€œAnd consort with your wives in a goodly manner; for if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which God might yet make a source of abundant goodâ€ An-Nisa:19
What is accepted by God as a religion is â€œislam – with a small â€œiâ€ which means in Arabic â€œsubmissionâ€ to God in general from the believer in Him through any religion (Ali Imran:19,85, The Table:3,6 Cattle:125). not with capital â€œIâ€ which signifies the particular divine message revealed to and conveyed by Prophet Muhammad (s).
The general meaning of â€œislamâ€ as submission to God from the believer through any religion is clear in such verses as: â€œâ€¦.say , â€˜I have submitted my whole being unto Godâ€™â€¦And if they submit (aslamu) themselves unto Him, they are on the right pathâ€¦â€[Sura 3:20].
Thus, Prophets Ibrahim (as) and Yaqub (as) were Muslims in the wider sense of the word â€œAnd Ibrahim (as) did bequeath to his children and so did Yaqub (as): â€˜O my children! Behold God has granted you the purest faithâ€™ so do not allow death to overtake you before you have submitted yourselves to Himâ€ (wa antum muslimuun) Baqarah:152
Islam includes the belief in all messages of God revealed to His prophets before MuhammadÂ (s) and presented in His scriptures before the Quran (Baqarah:285, An-Nisa:163-165, Cattle:83-9). The Qur`an states: â€œWe bestowed the Torah, wherein there was guidance and lightâ€ (The Table:44). â€œâ€¦. And We gave to him (Jesus) the Gospel, wherein there was guidance and light, confirming the truth of the Torah, which precede dâ€¦ let then the followers of the Gospel judge in accordance with what God has revealed therein..â€ [The Table:46-47]. As for the beliefs of Muslims, the Qur`an teaches: â€œSay; â€˜We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ismail (Ishmael) and Is-haq (Isaac) and Yaâ€™qub (Jacob) and their descendants, and that which has been given to Musa (Moses) and â€˜Isa (Jesus), and that which has been given to all the [other] prophets by their Lord: we make no distinction between any of them. And it is Him that we submitâ€ Baqarah:136.
All who attain to faith and do good deeds will have their reward from God according to Quran: â€œThose who have attained to faith, as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabiansâ€”all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Lord; and no fear need they have and neither shall they grieveâ€
Muslims believe that the moral values are the base of all Godâ€™s messages and scriptures. Further, principles of justice and magnanimity reached and worked out by human minds are among the blessings of God through the human common sense: â€œGod enjoins justice, and (going beyond justice to) magnanimity and the doing of good, as well as generosity towards oneâ€™s kinsfolk , and forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as aggressionâ€¦â€ (The Bee:90). All details and process as produced by human minds that support and develop moral values and resist evil are supported whole-heartedly by Muslims according to their faith.
The Qur`an sharply stresses the freedom of faith: â€œNo coercion can ever be in matters of faithâ€ (Baqarah:256) Expression of opinion is the right and obligation of all individuals and groups of people and the whole public. It can be an advice to whoever is concerned with a public matter: the rulers or the ruled, [Prophetâ€™s (s) tradition brought out by Ibn Hanbal, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Al Tirmidhi, Al Nisaâ€™i], and in all cases it is a testimony that should never be concealed. (Baqarah: 283), or a fulfillment of the obligation of enjoining the doing of what is right and forbidding the doing of what is wrong (`Ali Imran;104:110). The virtue of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong is stated by the Quran as a moral value in all Godâ€™s messages, and is fulfilled by all their followers (Ali Imran:114).
The Qur`an reports the arguments against the faith in the one God and the eternal life to come and against the Message of Muhammad (s), and responds to them. Many non-Muslims have lived through centuries with Muslims and have freely practiced their faiths. Muslim tolerance of other faiths during the middle ages has been underscored in Muslim and non-Muslim sources.
The Qur`an stipulates that the rulers should be from among the ruled and entrusted with authority by them (An-Nisa:59), and requires that all public matters should be decided through consultation (`Ali Imran:159, Counsel 42:38). Everyone who has authority is responsible before the people about practicing his/her authority. The first Caliph in the history of Islam addressed the public after his choice: â€œIf I do well support me, and if I do not correct meâ€. Dictators and autocratic rulers are all over the world, and those in Muslim countries can never claim that their power or abuse of power are based on the teachings of Islam, but in many cases such despots may be supported by foreign world powers.
Muslims reciting the Quran or doing any work in the name of God â€œthe All-Merciful, Mercy-givingâ€ (e.g. Fatiha:1,3, The Ant:30). Among Godâ€™s Names or Attributes which the Qur`an indicates: All-Compassionate (e.g. Baqarah:143), All-forgiving (e.g. Baqarah:173), All-Peace (e.g. The Mustering:23), All-Embracing in Love (Wadud) (Hud:90 The Constellations:14). Any of Godâ€™s Names or Attributes is mentioned in the Quran through the context or a suitable relevant occasion and all Names or Attributes of God indicate his unmatchable wholeness that cannot be split.
In the Qur`an â€œGod is Most Powerful, Almightyâ€ (e.g. Hajj:40). In support of those who face injustice and against those who inflict injustice. One reads in the Quran as well and: â€œMy grace overspreads everythingâ€ (The Battlements:156), Say:â€[Thus speaks God:] â€˜O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of Godâ€™s mercy: God forgives all sins; verily. He alone is Much-forgiving, Mercy-givingâ€ (The Companies:53).
In the end, a generalization about all Muslims based on erroneous or incomplete information about Islam and Muslims is against guidance of God in all His messages, and contradicts principles of justice and moral values reached by all human minds, since the moral and legal responsibility is personal and individual. The believer in God has to be strictly accurate in dealing with the faiths of others, and fair in the judgment of people: individuals or groups, especially with regard to beliefs and concepts. â€¢