Sunday, July 29, 2012

Islam: Where Would We Be Without It?

·      Question: Does The Koran* come off as tolerant of foreign peoples and religions Or do you detect seeds of intolerance within it? Obviously, various Islamic extremist groups have used the book to justify their repeated violence, from 1998 onwards.
* Koran is the spelling used in the textbook, The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. It should be noted the correct English transliteration accepted and used by English-speaking Muslims is Qur'an.
In an initial review of "The Koran," one might find it as sexist or intolerant of other religions. However, upon further research, it is clear that The Qur'an is a book that brought guidance and structure to many societies and people across the globe. If the book were intolerant or oppressive, Islam would not be the fastest growing religion in the world, practiced by over two billion Muslims worldwide.

The Koran came at a time in Arabian history where there were many idol worshipers. In Chapter 1, The Exordium, the scripture sets out the first and most important rule of Islam: There is no God, except for the One true God, proclaiming: “You alone we worship and You alone do we ask for help." A common misconception in Western society is that “Allah” is the “Muslim God” and Muhammad is the “Muslim Jesus.” But nothing could be farther from the truth. Allah is the same God of the Christians and the Jews, and Muhammad and Jesus are both considered prophets in Islam. If you ask a Muslim what religion the prophets Abraham or Moses or Noah were, they would say Muslim because a Muslim is a person who believes in the one true God, the God of All Mankind.

The next except from The Koran is Chapter 4: The Women. There are lots of rules and regulations laid out in this chapter. For instance, “Let not the rich guardian touch the property of his orphan ward; and let not him who is poor use more than a fair portion of it for its own advantage.” When Westerners talk about “Shari’a Law” the misconception is that it is some rule book the Muslims made up to oppress women and restrict society. Shari’a is no more than the rules and regulations that were laid out in the Qur’an to justly run society. This except is a perfect example of a small section of Shari’a law. This is a clear sign that the Koran is a protection for those who are oppressed and vulnerable.

Perhaps the most debated over ayat (verse) in the entire of The Koran is this one also from Chapter 4, The Women,

Men have the authority over women because God had made one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those who fear their disobedience, admonish them and forsake them beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.

At first read, this verse takes one aback. The words seem straight forward: Women are weaker than men, therefore they should be obedient, and if they disobey, punish them, even beat them if necessary! Whenever such strong statements are written, further research must be done. Upon researching many Islamic websites it is clear that Arabic is a very rich language and it is very hard to translate many words into other languages. “Beat” to English-speakers sounds very harsh, but just like the King James Version of the Bible, perhaps it should be considered that many things get lost in translation. This one small verse is used to label an entire population of Muslim men as misogynistic woman beaters, but sometimes one has to give leeway for misunderstandings.

The PBS documentary, Islam: an Empireof Faith: The Awakening and The Messenger were particularly eye-opening because they detailed the history and contribution the Islamic civilization made to the world:

“For the West, much of the history of Islam has been obscured behind a veil of fear and misunderstanding. Yet Islam’s history is deeply and surprisingly interwoven with Western civilization. It was Muslim scholars who reclaimed much of the ancient wisdom of the Greeks while much of Europe languished in the Dark Ages." (Empire of Faith)

Islamic scholars contributed math, science, and astrology to the world, when Europe was in their Dark Ages. Modern civilization owes much architecture, medicine, and literature to beginning in Islamic culture and society. Hospitals, the arches in churches, and mass recording of literature were all inventions of the Muslims around 1000 A.D. If this religion was full of terrorists, heretics, and fundamentalist, how could these advances been possible? It is obvious these people encompassed open minds and open hearts. After all, it was the Christian Crusaders sent by the Pope in Europe who acted as barbarians, burning towns to the ground, raping women and creating mayhem. And later, it was the fierce Mongols from Asia, who came to the East to conquer and destroy, but were overtaken by Islam and ended up spreading the religion to all of Asia. There is evidence of this today, being that there are more Muslims in Asia than any other continent in the world.

Islam is not a cult and it is not intolerant. Furthermore, anyone who might claim that it transformed into a violent religion as of latter times is misguided. The terrorists and fundamentalist make up a minute portion of the Muslims of the world. And even the misguided Muslims did not just become that way overnight: it could be argued that oppression and extreme poverty in the Middle East (and other countries around the world where there is drought and poverty like parts of Africa and Asia) became a breeding ground for anger and violence.
Whatever the reasons may be, it is important to clear up misconceptions so that Islamaphobia and hate towards Muslims does not continue to grow in the West. History can be used to teach the modern peoples about the contributions the Muslims made to the world and also to explain their rituals and beliefs, so that it is not considered to be strange or foreign. The Empire of Faith began its presentation with these words: “Islamic civilization has been one of humanities grandest achievements.” The people in the west need to know this and embrace it, so that further tensions can be quelled.


Anonymous said...

The questioner asks, "Do you detect seeds of intolerance in it", in regards to Islam being tolerant of foriegn people and relegions. If we pull out our magnifying glass (because you rarely see or hear about the positve works of the muslims in today's society in the mainstream media), we will see the numerous interfaith and community outreach work and contributions muslims have made and are still making that improve the lives of both muslims and non-muslims in society. These contributions just happen to be an obligation for a muslim to do in Islam, such as feeding the poor, and helping your neighbor, regardless if they are muslim or not. Every human being has rights, and they are to be respected and not violated. This is Islam....this is tolerance.

Contary to popular beleif, Islam was largely spread by example. The honesty in business transactions with non-muslims, the rights of women and children, and even regards for animals.

If Islam was in fact, so intolerant, it's example wouldn't presuade so many people around the world to accept it.

Your response to the question, stating that Islam is the fastest growing relgion in the world was excellent because it is within Islam itself that the perfect example of tolerance and universal brotherhood/sisterhood can be seen. Islam is not just comprised of people from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Palestine or middle eastern countries, but also from Europe, America, United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and Africa. What attracted these people to Islam? Perhaps it was the verse they read in the Quran that says "we made you into nations and tribes, to get to know one another and not despise each other..." Perhaps it was because Islam names no race or natioanlity superior to one another, but it is the level of your righteousness that counts. Islam is a comprehensive way of life that is filled with peace and love. If there are extremist in Islam, there are extremist in every religion. We just seem to recognize only the former. We have had far more attacks ON Islam than attacks from extremist.

One final thought...maybe the questioner can ponder on the fact that in Islam, in the Quran, a muslim cannot truly beleive or call his/her self a muslim unless they beleive in all the holy books of revelation sent by God, in their original form, which includes the Torah and the Injeel (the gospel).

If there are any seeds of intolerance in Islam, it's intolerance to injustice. Islam encurages a person to plant seeds of unity, tolerance and brotherhood/sisterhood.
Your response hit so many good points. I hope this also shed some light on the topic.

Anonymous said...

Mash Allah.

The point most critics of Islam inside and outside fail to realize about THE this came down in a time where ALL OVER THE WORLD, not just Arabia, women were treated as sub-human. Bought, sold, BEAT (for real), BURIED ALIVE! These words people want to get crazy over are actually placing severe limitations and calling to EXTREME (though CORRECT) ideas regarding the status of women.

Even in England not until the late 1800's did women have the right to inheritance. No choice in marriage contracts FORCED marriages, and this is so called civilized western world less than 150 years ago....and out of the desert over 1400 years ago this was sorted out, not by the brilliant poets and social elite of Arabia but BY ALLAH our Creator. This is a paramount inaccuracy of most who dare to criticize Islam

Muslim Mommy said...

Excellent wisdom on the topic! Thank you for the comments. We cannot neglet our history!Seeking knowledge about the history explains the present. If your looking for answers... look in a book as Reading Rainbow used to remind us :) Today's media is slanted to say the least, sensational to say the least. There is always more to the story than what is on the surface.