Islam: a misunderstood religion
Islam has certainly become a misunderstood religion and because of that sincere Muslims have already started paying the price. When you're unknown to people you become feared and look strange especially in this time of doubt and uncertainty. The recent unjustified backlash in North America, which burst out after the attack of September 11, is a proof of that fear. A new form of terrorism driven by frustration and anger has pushed some people against Muslims, Arabs, and other visible minorities. Have we really become immediate suspects in airports, border crossing and other places because we are different in our look and creed or is it simply a bad dream?
Islam, terminologically speaking, is a religion that carries the word "Peace" and is not named after a certain prophet, a deity, or a philosopher. Islam means to be in a state of peace with God and a peaceful person is called "Muslim." The Qur'an, which is the Holy book revealed to Prophet Muhammad (P.b.u.h)* during the period between 610 and 632 C.E, teaches that mankind was created for a purpose: worship. Muslim individuals are ordained to manifest that worship by living a life of peace and righteousness following a straight path that was drawn practically by all the Prophets of God (P.b.u.t) who were sent to the world with the same message. "But God does call to the Home of Peace: He does guide whom He pleases to a Way that is straight" (Qur'an: 10:25).
In order to keep oneself within the limits of that path, a person must adopt a just attitude in his dealings, treatment of other humans and all the creations of God. Thus, justice is the balance of truth and rightness for people who want peace and prosperity. "And the Firmament (sky) has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance of Justice in order that you may not transgress due balance." (Q: 55:7-9)
A genuine Muslim as defined by Prophet Muhammad (P.b.u.h) "is the one who avoids harming others with his hand and his tongue". And when the Prophet (P.b.u.h) was once asked: "Which is the best Islam?" He replied: "You feed the hungry and you say Salaam - Peace - to those whom you know and those whom you don't know."
Could Islam allow such a horrific act?
Does Islam teach or even allow its adherents to shed innocent blood or terrorize civilian people who have nothing to do with any political conflict in the world? The answer is "definitely no because it is unjust and therefore, un-Islamic!" The Qur'an ordains Muslims to stick to justice regardless of the creed or affiliation of the contender. "Oh you who believe, stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts of your hearts, lest you swerve and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do." (Q: 4:135) And God also says, "Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for God, witnesses to fair dealing and let not the hatred of others makes you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety, and fear God. For God is well-acquainted with all that you do." (Q: 5:8)
Justice is required in all aspects of life and with all the creation of God Almighty. "Allah commands justice, beneficence, and giving to kith and kin, and He forbids all indecent deeds, injustice, evil, and rebellion: He instructs you that you may receive admonition." (Q: 16:90) Islamic law incriminates attacking civilian targets. Jihad in the Qur'an is a noble defensive measure against a direct aggression that attacks the necessities of life; one's religion, one's life, one's property, one's country…etc., Aggression and transgression are considered acts of injustice. The promised eternal reward of the Qur'an including martyrdom is given only to those who don't aggress or transgress the boundaries.
History witnesses that the early Muslims, during the time of the Prophet and his immediate successors, did not conquer for the purpose of conquest and colonization but in defense of their faith when it was threatened and attacked by Makkans, Arab tribes, Persians, and Byzantines. They never imposed their religion on anyone, for it was a cardinal principal of their faith that "there shall be no coercion in religion."(Q: 2:256)
Nothing justifies accusing over 1.3 billion Muslims with terrorism or subjecting an estimated 9 to 10 million North American Muslims to fear of retaliation due to unjustified stereotyping and innuendoes. Unfortunately, The media and some movies with political motives have demonized Muslims, and this is partly to blame for the animosity against Muslims.
I should recognize that although there is a small minority of people who might be ignorant and violent in North America, an outpouring of support came and continues to come from non-Muslim neighbors. Many North Americans are compassionate and understanding. Their support expressed through letters, e-mail messages, cards, flowers and smiles in the streets must be acknowledged and appreciated. Thank God, there are still people whose hearts do not know how to hate, whose tongues do not know how to threat, harass and abuse, and whose hands do not harm and act unjustly towards other fellow humans. Therefore, Muslims should express their thanks as Prophet Muhammad (P.b.u.h) said, "He who does not thank people does not thank God".
What is next?
Overwhelmed with shock that jarred their minds after this tragic attack, people now reflect more about the suffering of mankind throughout the world. We have to stand up all as humans to fight against injustice, oppression, poverty, ignorance, racism, bigotry and intolerance everywhere in the world. Wars bring wars and it's a vicious circle that never ends because fire cannot extinguish fire. The smoke has already reached here and it's time to see where it is coming from to put out its flame.
Terrorism and violence will be eradicated under the light of universal justice and peace. Without justice, rights are denied, victims are created and anger gives way to anarchy. We had enough wars, crimes, terror and anger. Now, it is time to identify the root causes and find solutions without partiality and favoritism.
As Canadians, we enjoy - and God willing we will continue enjoying - peace, justice, freedom and harmony. Even if we cannot solve the problems of the world, we should be at least a model and a good example for others to follow. The old dictum says, " there are two ways to spread light: Either by being the light itself or by being the mirror that reflects it".
Contributed by Imam Hamid Slimi
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Start: March 10, 2013 End: November 3, 2013
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Adhan: 1:15 pm
Khutba: 1:30 pm