I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness
– George Bernard Shaw
Islam is a powerful faith today with 1.6 billion followers and a considerable section of them living as a minority community in many countries, thereby battling the issues of stereotyping, discrimination, and identity crisis.
With the rise of Islamophobic brigades, this psycho-social phenomenon has gained momentum and there is a massive surge of hatred. People have begun fearing Islam without even; understanding the faith as the mass media, academia, social media, intelligentsia, rumor mills hate mongers, , etc., are playing a big role in aggravating the problem of Islamophobia.
Islam, Muslims and Qur’an have been regular subjects of major concern to the world media, religious groups and people. Many articles and books have been written about a religion followed by over one billion people worldwide, some of which see in Islam a separate civilization that is not tolerant and incompatible with peace and nonviolence.
The most vulnerable victims of an increasingly invidious media are Islam and its adherents. Muslims continue to be projected as uniformly fundamentalist, violent, and anti-secular. The terms ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim’ are regularly identified with extremism, militancy and jihad as if they are organically related (Muslim extremist, Muslim fundamentalism, Islamic terrorism, Islamic gender injustices, etc). This powerfully flawed narrative and negative stereotyping dominate our newsfeeds.
In addition to the media, scholarship often pays limited attention to the debates that Muslims have among themselves about Islam, what it means to be a Muslim, how Muslims deal with differences among themselves and their diverse understanding of Islam.
Islam, in a word, is a religion of peace: that is its aim and goal .Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. But it also lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock. Islam has been a driving force in the rapprochement of cultures, and provided a framework within which diverse cultures could flourish and interact. it is critical that we understand the depth of wisdom of Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance and moderation.
It is unfair to symbolize Islam with extremism. Before condemning the Qur’an and the historical words and deeds of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad for inciting violence and intolerance, Jews are counseled to consider the historical atrocities committed by their Hebrew forefathers as recorded in their own scriptures. Christians are advised to ponder over the brutal cycle of violence their forbears have unleashed in the name of their faith against both non-Christians and fellow Christians. Jews and Christians need to introspect and understand that those who live in glass houses should not be hurling stones at others.
Muslim stands with the entire world in condemning the wanton, ruthless and mindless destruction of innocent human lives .But they believe that ,in all fairness, that the west should also equally condemn the brutal carnage of Muslims in various parts of the world. The West demands an apology from Muslims for the acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam .If that be so what about the apology for acts of genocide against innocent Muslims the world over. What is glossing the entire issue is the selective approaches of word leaders .we need more statesman-like qualities to arrive at sustainable and just solutions to these intractable problems.
The Qur’an has justice at the core of its entire message .compassion and kindness underpins its teachings .to understand this philosophy one has to read the entire Qur’an and not isolated verses .no verse in the Qur’an is a standalone commandment .each of them has a bearing on the other and each amplifies the other .Through these verses, and by Islamic rules, the lives of innocent people are protected. In addition to this, spiritual, faithful and devout Muslims believe in the Last Judgment, and would flinch from oppressing other people. They fear God and they know very well that everything they do in this world will be examined and made accountable in the hereafter.
Here are some of the terms and conditions:
First, Muslims cannot pre-emptively initiate a war. They are only allowed to act in defense. Muslims have permission from God to fight back only when they are expelled from their houses or lands. War can be waged if there is a situation where defenseless people are under attack and ask their Muslim allies for help. The last reason for a just war is when war breaks out between two groups of believers and one party does not intend to stop it in spite of a proposed truce. Even for battles and fights, the Quran has set limitations and frameworks. If the enemy proposes peace, Muslims should immediately stop the war.
Second, Muslims are not allowed to transgress the divine justice: “fight for the cause of God, those who fight you, but do not transgress, for God does not love the transgressors.” The idea of unrestricted, apocalyptic warfare as proposed by Isis is totally un-Islamic.
Third, Muslims have to treat prisoners of war with honour, not behead them, as seen recently in the bloody propaganda videos spread by the so called Islamic state. Prisoners should be released after the war, either in exchange for Muslims captives or only as a favour. Also Muslims do not have permission to keep prisoners of war, enslave them, or use them as future soldiers. Finally, followers of Islam are not allowed to force their religious beliefs upon their enemies.
The Quran indicates that Muslims should not seek hostility towards those who haven’t sought any war against them. The verse mentions that Muslims have to establish mutual relationships with those who have not expelled, nor have helped to expel, Muslims from their lands. Thus it becomes clear that the Quran has not hindered the Muslims from being kind and just toward free-thinkers.
The following verse of the Quran is quite equivocal:”Whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as though he had killed all of mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” (Q5:32).
The Qur’an is read, and its voice is heard, by people with each one’s conscience. The pacifists and the terrorists read the same text, but present fundamentally different interpretations. It is important to consider the reader and interpreter of the Qur’an. The voice of Qur’an heard by Islamic fundamentalists is not the same as the voice heard by progressive Muslims. The fundamentalist ideology has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the terrorists who emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Qur’an and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate the violence.
What is propelling this ideology of hate among Muslim youth? Must we blame religion for the actions of a few lone wolves?
A common practice among terrorists is cherry-picking verses of the Qur’an and placing them out of context. By this deliberate act of distorting the teachings it is easy to manipulate young impressionable minds. For example, the word “Jihad” is now synonymously used with “holy war” which is completely wrong. The correct translation of the word “Jihad” is “struggle”.
Qur’an 3:8 pre-emptively calls out people who cherry pick as “perverse” people, declaring, “…those in whose hearts is perversity seek discord and wrong interpretation of [the Quran].”
In retrospect, no such violent act of so called ‘Jihad’ is evident in Islamic history. The Prophet enjoined utmost kindness towards the creation of God so much so that it was even forbidden to treat animals with cruelty, let alone human beings. Often critics of Islam level allegations against the character of Prophet Muhammad, and out of ignorance discredit his otherwise compassionate nature. For example, during the early days of Islam, Muslims were subject to severe persecution by leaders of Quraish, a ruling tribe of Mecca. The leaders, blinded by their hate, were so adamant on destroying Islam that they finally decided to slay the Prophet. But divine intervention saved his life and Muhammad finally migrated to Medina to escape this persecution. Post-migration to Medina, Prophet Muhammad and his companions penned ‘The charter of Medina’, a classic example of Islamic pluralism.
“There is far more violence in the Bible than in the Qur’an; the idea that Islam imposed itself by the sword is a Western fiction, fabricated during the time of the Crusades when, in fact, it was Western Christians who were fighting brutal holy wars against Islam.” So writes Karen Armstrong the acclaimed writer on monotheistic faiths. This quote sums up the single most influential argument underlining that Islam is inherently violent and intolerant. All monotheistic religions, proponents of such an argument say, and not just Islam, have their fair share of violent and intolerant scriptures, as well as bloody histories. Thus, whenever Islam’s sacred scriptures—the Qur’an first, followed by the reports on the words and deeds of Muhammad (the hadith)—are highlighted as demonstrative of the religion’s innate bellicosity, the immediate rejoinder is that other scriptures, specifically those of Judeo-Christianity, are as riddled with violent passages.
More often than not, this argument puts an end to any discussion regarding whether violence and intolerance are unique to Islam. Instead, the default answer is that it is not Islam per se but rather Muslim grievance and frustration—compounded by economic, political, and social factors fuelled by the strident “islamophobia” of the west .—that lead to violence. The best way to get over this crisis is through education. Depriving students of knowledge of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and other religions will only further validate stereotypes rather than promote coexistence and understanding. We need to find ways to continue working to build bridges of understanding and peace, because the alternative, which leads to more fear and more violence, is not at all a tenable option.
Islam did not impose itself by the sword. This is a statement in which the Arabic is extremely emphatic The Qur’an insists, “There must be no coercion in matters of faith!” (2: 256). Constantly Muslims are enjoined to respect Jews and Christians, the “People of the Book,” who worship the same God (Q29: 46). In words quoted by Muhammad in one of his last public sermons, God tells all human beings, “O people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another” (Q49: 13)–not to conquer, convert, subjugate, revile or slaughter but to reach out toward others with intelligence and understanding.
As non-Muslim historian Stanley Lane-Poole attests: “The day of Mohammad’s greatest triumph over his enemies was also the day of his grandest victory over himself. He freely forgave the Quraysh all the years of sorrow and cruel scorn in which they had afflicted him and gave an amnesty to the whole population of Mecca.”
We should all strive to learn about true Islam and fight the fallacies that have taken root in the hearts of our youth. This applies very strongly to non-Muslims who have been fed for generations by a biased media and shoddy scholarship. A prudent approach is needed to deal with this conundrum whereby Muslims should take charge of their legacy and raise a voice which echoes a narrative of peace, not war. Similarly non-Muslims should desist from making baseless accusations against non-Muslims while at the same time putting the lid on the skeletons in their own closets.
(The author is a regular contributor to this newspapers and can be reached at: [email protected])