On Sept. 11, the world watched in dismay as the Twin Towers crumbled down. Soon, news broadcasters charged Islamic fundamentalists as being responsible for the terrorist attacks in New York City. This destructive image of Islam quickly swept across the nation. Many questioned, how does Islam promote such an attack? The truth is, it doesn’t. Islam is a religion of peace and does not condone the killing of innocent people.
In fact, “Islam” is understood to mean “submission to the will of God,” and is derived from a root word that means “peace.” The term “Islamic fundamentalist” is often misused. To maintain the fundamental beliefs of Islam is quite the opposite of terrorism. The basic beliefs of Muslims are to believe in one God, his angels, books, messengers, the Day of Judgement, predestination of divine will and life after death.
One of the most misinterpreted words in the western world is jihad, an Arabic word that means struggle. The word comes from the root word jahada, which means to strive for a better way of life. Other meanings are endeavor, strain, exertion, effort, diligence, fighting to defend one’s life, land and religion. The prophet Muhammad said in a tradition that the best jihad for one to perform is jihad against his own self and against his own desires.
In regards to physical fighting, the Quran states, “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits, for Allah loveth not transgressors” (Q 2:190). Clearly, the taking of innocent lives is not part of the Islamic way of life and fighting is only justified for the purpose of self-defense.
The unjust treatment of women is another common stereotype of Islam. The prophet Muhammad said “the most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife.” Much of the mistreatment to women in other countries reflects cultural practices rather than Islamic teachings. Islam fully recognizes the rights of women ? misinterpretations arise from the lack of knowledge of the Muslim culture.
It is also thought that Islam is not tolerant of other people, but the Quran clearly asserts, “There is no compulsion in religion” and says “To you be your way and to be me mine” as a response to other faiths. The Quran challenges false ideas, but it still respects the people who hold these ideas.
There are five basic pillars of Islam that all Muslims are expected to follow. The first is the Shahadah, or declaration of faith. This is the acceptance of the fact that “there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” The next two pillars are Salah and Sawm, which are the five daily prayers and fasting during the month of Ramadan, respectively. Finally, Muslims are required to give Zakah, welfare contribution, and all able-bodied Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca during Hajj.
The word Allah is simply the proper Arabic name for God. The Prophet Muhammad began receiving revelations from God through the Angel Gabriel at age 40 and continued until the Prophet’s death in A.D. 632. These revelations were compiled to become the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book.
The Prophet Muhammad did not view himself as producing a new message, rather, he was the last messenger in a chain of prophets dating back to the beginning of creation. Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus are among the many prophets mentioned in the Quran as part of the chain.
Despite the many misconceptions surrounding Islam, it remains the fastest growing religion in the world. The Muslim Students’ Association invites everyone to attend the events during Islamic Awareness Week, March 17 to March 23, to further clarify questions and to provide a better understanding of the truths about Islam.
Shaikh is a junior and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.