In light of the recent attack in London, and the swell of peoples opinions about this incident and all other related topics on social media, it has led me to dive into my books on Islam to find some clarity on the issue. This is a habit that we should all get into, particularly if we like to share our thoughts and opinions with the world through the internet. If we rely only on the mainstream media for our education, then we cannot consider ourselves at all educated.
I will be mainly focussing on the tenets and doctrine of Islam and the Muslim way of life, so as to help you understand a little better how far removed Islam is from terrorism. It is quite likely that you associate these two words together (Muslim = Terrorist) and this can be put down to the media propaganda and its hidden agenda.
To begin, I would say something about the way Muslims will greet one another; with the words: As-salāmu ʿalaykum which translates to ‘peace be upon you.’ The definition of the word peace is ‘1. the normal, non-warring condition of a nation, group of nations or the world. 2. a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations. 3. a sate of tranquillity or serenity.’ Now think for a second, do you associate any of these definitions with the word Muslim?
The word Muslim means ‘one who submits to God’, and in Arabic the word for God is Allah. Islam is a religion that was revealed to all Prophets according to their belief, and a Muslim is simply, one who follows the Islamic faith.
There are two main sources of Islam: First is the Qur’an which is a book that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, and is considered by Muslims to be the spoken word of God which he communicated to mankind through the Prophet Muhammad. You may find it interesting, as I certainly did, to know some of the chapter headings in the Qur’an. There are chapters called; Joseph, Jonah, Abraham, Mary, The Romans, and Noah. Yes, these are also personages from the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah. The second source of Islam is The Sunnah which is the Prophetic tradition or path. This refers to the Prophet’s speech, actions, silent approvals, outward appearance and character that was observed by his companions, written down and passed on generation after generation in written form and oral tradition. This body of literature is often referred to as Hadith. As I mentioned briefly above in sharing some of the chapter headings, the Prophets of Islam are the same as those of Judaism and Christianity and the story’s of their lives differ only in interpretation.
Islam forbids all forms of terrorist activity. There are however some extreme factions of people who, in the name of Islam, terrorise both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The most well-known of these militant groups are Al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria and Iraq. These terrorist groups are called Khawarij in Islamic terminology because the term refers to those who rebel against Islam and the Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad foretold their appearance and instructed the Muslims to stay away from them, and to defend themselves if they attack them. They first rebelled against the Prophet’s disciples in the time of the fourth Caliph, Ali, killing some of the finest companions of the Prophet Muhammad. Now, according to sources there are some 1.6 Billion Muslims around the world. We must not tarnish everyone with the same brush, as the great majority of the followers of the Muslim faith have the same attitude towards Al-Qaeda and Isis as those in the western world do.
There is another often used term in Islam which is Jihad, it means ‘the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.’ The main usage of this term would be to strive or struggle towards a virtuous and praiseworthy aim, such as the struggle against ones tendency towards vice and the betterment of society. This use of the word is an inner struggle, and is shared by all of the worlds religions, to better oneself and move closer to The Good. Jihad appears often in the Qur’an without military context.
Islam contains five main pillars. These are considered the five basic acts in Islam and are mandatory for anyone who would consider themselves a Muslim. They are:
- Shahada – Faith
- Salat – Prayer
- Zakat – Charity
- Sawm – Fasting
- Hajj – Pilgrimage to Mecca
I truly hope that this cursory knowledge about the religion of Islam will give you a better understanding of a Musims beliefs and ideas. And we must always remember to look in introspection and ask ourselves where our bias’ and prejudices came from. Did we suddenly form them when we turned 13? Did we learn and form them in high school? Or were they impressed upon us by the world that surrounds us, by our parents, grandparents and close friends?
To conclude I will share a quite that is worth keeping in mind in these trying times:
‘Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.’