The Real Islam

I got a very informative and reflective mail from someone that I wanted to share with all too. I hope it will clear alot of misconceptions.

The offensive cartoons of the Prophet of Islam in the Danish media are NOT defensible in the name of freedom of the press, not only because they deeply offend more than a billion Muslims of the world, mostly peaceful and exemplary citizens of whatever country, but also because they distort truth and represent ignorance, and they intensify the malice plaguing our world today. The representation of Prophet Muhammad as a proponent of violence (Muslim violence against innocent people is perpetrated by a very small ultra-fringe minority of all Muslims) is a total fallacy. In defence of the truth, I recreat below an excerpt out of an opening statement I made as a panel member at a public forum held in a church in the USA exactly two months after 9/11:
“Western rhetoric often paints the picture that Islam promotes violence. To say that Islam promotes violence and terrorism because of what the likes of bin Laden do is as erroneous as saying that Christianity promoted the genocide of Jews by Hitler’s Nazi Germany, simply because Hitler professed to be a Christian. Remember, the KKK also declared proudly their religious preferences and enemies based on religion. Does that make all Anglo-Saxon Protestants KKKs? Again, let us be careful about wild generalizations. The problem of terrorism lies with context and interpretation. Karen Armstrong at Harvard has a great article on this subject (K. Armstrong: The True, Peaceful Face of Islam, TIME Magazine, 11/01/2001), and I am going to borrow a little from her here. First of all, some say that Islam started out warring, that the Prophet himself was a warrior. Let us understand the context. Pre-Islamic Arabia was caught up in a vicious cycle of warfare, in which tribe fought tribe in a pattern of vendetta and counter-vendetta. Prophet Muhammad himself survived several assassination attempts, and the early Muslim community narrowly escaped extermination by the powerful city of Mecca. The Prophet had to fight a deadly war in order to survive, but as soon as he felt his people were safe, he devoted his attention to building up a peaceful coalition of tribes and achieved victory by an ingenious and inspiring campaign of non-violence. When he died in 632, he had almost single-handedly brought peace to war-torn Arabia in a matter of a few years, and had united the Arabs enough that they could mount the most impressive spread of any religion within just one century. And during that century and for the next two or three centuries, they were humanistic enough to adopt and positively integrate into the Islamic and Arab fabrics the best of the many cultures they encountered. In sharp contrast, a substantial part of the present Muslim world, rather than selectively integrating the best of the West into their fabrics, are failing to stay abreast of real progress and are prone to wallow in lost past glories and to blame the West for their own failures and damaged self-esteem. But this caNOT be blamed on Islam or the Prophet of Islam.

Because the Qur’an was revealed in the context of all-out war, several passages in it deal with the conduct of armed struggle. Warfare was a desperate business on the Arabian Peninsula. A chieftain was not expected to spare survivors after a battle, and some of the Quranic injunctions seem to share this spirit. Muslims are ordered to “slay (enemies) wherever you find them!” (Holy Quran 4:89). Extremists such as bin Laden like to quote such verses, but do so selectively. They do not include the exhortations to peace, which in almost every case follow these ferocious passages immediately, like this one which follows the verse I just read: “But, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them.” (4:90) In the Quran, therefore, the only permissible war is one of self-defence. According to the Quran, Muslims may not begin hostilities (2:190). Warfare is always evil, but sometimes you have to fight in order to avoid the kind of persecution that Mecca inflicted on Muslims (2:191; 2:217), or to preserve decent values (4:75; 22:40). The Quran quotes the Torah, the Jewish Scriptures, which permits people to retaliate eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth, but like the Gospels, the Quran suggests that it is meritorious to forgo revenge in a spirit of charity (5:45). Hostilities must be brought to an end as quickly as possible, and must cease the minute the enemy sues for peace (2:192-3).

And then there is the matter of jihad. The primary meaning of the word is not ‘holy war’, but rather it is ‘struggle’. The Prophet was careful to distinguish between the greater jihad (jihadul akbar), which refers to the constant inner struggle against one’s own vile instincts, one’s ego, indeed a struggle most of us do a poor job of, as opposed to the lesser jihad (jihadul ashgar), which is the struggle of self-defence. To me, the word jihad almost always means this inner struggle. It is also important to recognize that Islam did not, and does not, impose itself by the sword. In a statement in which the Arabic is extremely emphatic, the Quran insists, “There must be no coercion in matters of faith” (2:256). Constantly, Muslims are enjoined to respect Jews and Christians, identified in the Quran as the People of the Book, who worship the same God (29:46). In another verse, God tells all human beings, “O people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another” (49:13) — not to conquer, convert, subjugate, revile or slaughter, but to reach out toward each other with intelligence and understanding.

So why the suicide bombings, the hijackings and the massacre of innocent civilians? Far from being endorsed by the Quran, such killing violates some of its sacred tenets. Islam teaches that suicide is a mortal sin deserving of eternal damnation. It is unnatural. The point is that during the 20th century, the militant form of piety, often known as fundamentalism, has erupted in every major religion as a rebellion against modernity. Every fundamentalist movement in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced that liberal, secular society is determined to wipe out religion. In such a battle for survival, fundamentalists often feel justified in ignoring the more compassionate and humanistic principles of their faith. But in amplifying the more aggressive passages that exist in all scriptures, they distort the tradition. In its essence, Islam is completely consistent with modernity if modernity means the state-of-the-art of knowledge and skills and technology, etc. within a humanistic framework. But if modernity means anything and everything western, including its degenerate aspects, then it is not Islam that is in need of modernization, but rather modernity that is in need of Islamization. At the same time, there is no doubt that many misled Muslims, and especially some Muslim states, especially in the Mideast, are in serious need of humanistic modernization and genuine Islamization, both of which they are conspicuously short on. Such humanism is part of the teaching of Islam and its Prophet.

Let me close by reiterating that Islam and the West have a common enemy in terrorism. We must be allies in eradicating terrorism, and we must be not only rational in this, but I hope that we will also rise above this to be spiritual. Going to war, nation after nation, is not the answer. That way, we will soon demolish the global coalition, and encourage anti-Americanism and more terrorism. Instead, let us be more selective about who the real terrorists and their supporters are, and go after them more surgically. And let the Taliban be replaced with a representative secular government, one in which the views of one brand of any religion are not forced on all by law. And at the same time, globally, let us address the fundamental causes of anti-Americanism. And please be assured that not only little people like me, but also an increasing number of important Muslim leaders, like the Aga Khan, are speaking out and taking actions to bring about changes in the Muslim world to adapt it better to the ever modern humanistic Islam. … Let us keep our perspective moral and civilized, for that is the kind of nation I have so far been proud, most of the time, to have adopted as my home. America is a very great nation, a civilized nation, with a great intellectual tradition I value enormously. Let us not forget to be spiritual also. Thank you.”

-Noor Gillani

I hope it helped!

PS: What is happening on the name of Islam these days and what these political ignorant non-religious group of mullahs(I am not targetting all) are doing with my country and religion.. I seriously condemn it. It just makes me more sad. No use, nothing positive.. everything is still the same, maybe even worse. They make me feel ashamed of being a paki. Sach main they have gone nuts.. they were already like that nothing new. They have done not a single good for my country and now they are ruining the dignity of Islam too in the eyes of non-muslims but as always say that Islam is so diverse in its nature that the whole Islam should not be blamed for the act of one sick group. Above it Danish and insensitive Norway Press has no minds whatsoeva, their act was not a freedom of speech but a misuse of the power of speech. Humans use your brains.. I guess humans are not humans anymore, it doesn’t matter which religion they belong to. Simple is baat hai Give Respect, Get Respect!!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trailady
    Feb 16, 2006 @ 01:25:00

    Excellent reading! Thank you for sharing. You have increased my knowledge. I find Muslims to be honorable people. It is the terrorists who murder without regard for man, woman, child or citizenry. They kill with no warning- even their own brethren. This I cannot respect.

  2. Nabeel
    Feb 17, 2006 @ 04:31:00

    its a very long mail .. and that someone .. is that just a person or a renowned islamic scholar?

    can u perhaps come up with a summary and if it sounds interesting then we can choose to read/not read?

  3. Raheel
    Feb 17, 2006 @ 22:11:00

    trailady, I agree 🙂 I guess we both hate extremists or wrong doers but not whole communities.

    nabeel, yes it is. It is very hard to summarize it. But yes it is a person and I think he has also done some research. I fully agree with it that is the reason I recommended it.

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