|What is Islam?
Islam is the second largest faith based community in the world with over 1.2 billion members.
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. From its earliest days until today it has had this phenomenal growth.
"The rise of Islam is perhaps the most amazing event in human history. Springing from a land and a people like previously negligible, Islam spread within a century over half the earth." (A.M.L.STODDARD. Islam the religion of all the Prophets)
Islam is a religion which is not bound by ethnicity, colour, race or language. It has a unified community which includes people from all backgrounds and nationalities.
Islam’s roots are firmly imbedded in the belief that there is only one unique Creator, Master, Sustainer and Cherisher of the worlds. This is a belief in God Almighty (Allah in the Arabic language) and that Muhammad (pbuh) is his final messenger.
What does Islam mean?
Islam is derived from the word ‘salaam’ which means peace. It is a religion of peace in which its basic teachings command its followers to maintain and promote peace throughout the world.
Thus every Muslim has a role to promote and maintain peace. This peace is promoted within their own lives, their families, communities, countries and throughout the whole world. This peace is not only a state of external harmony but also a state of spiritual harmony and contentment.
Islam condemns all forms of injustices and acts of aggression, that take an individual away from the ‘straight path’ of piety and goodness.
Conflict or Conciliation
One may ask why there are so many conflict in the world and what does Islam offer to bring an end to these conflicts?
To understand the solution we also need to understand the nature of the conflict and the remedies that Islam offers. However, we need to see Islam in its true light rather than the portrait painted by those Muslims and non-Muslims who want to discredit it.
We hope you will find answers to these questions during the course of this open day.
Myths and Misconceptions
There are many myths and misconceptions which have existed around Islam and Muslims. These misconceptions have only fueled ignorance and mistrust between people throughout the ages.
Thomas Carlyle, the great Scottish Historian once wrote regarding Muhammad...
The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped around this man, are disgraceful to ourselves only. Thomas Carlyle
In this age of information, it is surprising that ignorance and misconceptions still exist and true Islam remains a stranger in the eyes of so many. The true Islam has been replaced by a ‘media Islam’ which is a warped image constructed through the actions of a few Muslims. Many events and actions of such people are often misreported and promoted to maintain this image of ‘Media Islam’.
Brief History of Islam
When Islam came into the world in the 6th century, it was immediately challenged by the local pagan Arabs. The few Arabs who accepted Islam and became Muslims were persecuted by the pagan Arabs, so much so that they were forced to leave their homelands to live in Abyssinia and later to live in Madina.
The Muslims were a peace loving community who adhered to principles of justice, truth, kindness, equality and discipline. The pagans were impressed with the Muslims but many still opposed Islam.
The Muslim community developed in Madina and soon became a huge spiritual empire. They were allowed to defend themselves from the many attacks by the Arabs and soon won their hearts with their response of love, tolerance and forgiveness.
"...They (Islamic principles) established in the world a great tradition of dignified fair-dealing, they breathe a spirit of generosity, and they are human and workable. They created a society more free from widespread cruelty and social oppression than any society had ever seen in the world before." (H.G.WELLS. THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY)
When Islam spread to the surrounding countries, the people saw the manners and character of these Muslims and accepted Islam in their droves.
The main super powers at the time were the Romans (Byzantium) and Persians who exerted much control in these regions. Both these super powers were affected by the mass acceptance of the principles of Islam by their people. Many of the people had been burdened by tyrannical rule and heavy taxes.
Acceptance of Islam by so many people led to a vibrant multi-cultural community united by a single faith. Islam became a universal phenomena as its message permeated through different societies, cultures, languages and religions.
The people who embraced Islam began to follow Islam whole-heartedly and became an example of piety and justice. Through their example of tolerance, love, piety and dedication, many others became Muslims and joined the universal brotherhood of Islam.
"Whatever be the race, colour, rank or antecedents of the worshipper, he is received into the brotherhood of believers and takes his place as an equal among equals.... Islam is the only solution for all the ills of the world. This is no idle boast on my part." (THOMAS ARNOLD. CALIPHATE)
Tolerance and Religion
At the same time, many people did not accept Islam but continued to enjoy the many benefits of living in such a tolerant and just society under Muslim rule. There was no compulsion for them to adopt Islam unless they wished to do so by their own free will. Their communities would thrive in such a positive and progressive atmosphere.
Other faiths were not only tolerated but their followers were encouraged to practice their religion. In Muslim-Spain, the golden age of Islam was also the golden age of Judaism. The Jews who came to Spain were allowed to follow their faith openly without interference. They were treated with justice and respect.
"...If anyone kills an (innocent) person, it will be as if he has murdered the whole of humanity. And if anyone saves a person it will be as if he has saved the whole of humanity..." Holy Qur’an 5:32
The Christians in Spain were also allowed to live by their own scripture and had their own courts. During this period, they enjoyed unparalleled religious freedom.
This true multi-cultural and harmonized society existed for over 700 years until the Spanish Inquisition forcefully dismantled it.
When Jerusalem was taken by the crusaders from Muslim rule, there ensued a bloody battle during which no one was spared from the sword—human or animal. History records that blood flowed through the streets of Jerusalem as the rampant crusaders massacred its residents.
When the Muslims took back Jerusalem, there was no massacre. Instead the citizens were invited to a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. They were allowed to follow their respective faiths in complete security without fear of persecution or intolerance. This was the nature of Islam which won the hearts and respect of people.
And vie with one another to attain your Sustainer's forgiveness and a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which awaits the God conscious, who spend for charity in time of plenty and in time of hardship, and restrain their anger and pardon their fellow men, for God loves those who do good. (Holy Qur’an 3:133-134)
All places of worship were protected by the Islamic Law such as the church of the holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Often places of worship existed which were used by both Muslims and Christians. These include Lud (Lydda) in Syria which wasn't separated by even a wall but instead both religions (Christians and Muslims) worshipped in harmony.
Islam by Choice
Forcing people to convert to Islam was never an option as the Qur’an itself condemned such actions. All humans have free will and it’s only through free choice that a person can become a Muslim.
There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Holy Qur’an [2:256]
What persuaded some people to accept Islam was the action and character of the Muslims who had dedicated their lives towards Islam. Islam required the Muslims to be just, kind and considerate which is a fundamental of the Muslim faith.
"History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever accepted."
Historian De Lacy O' Leary (Islam at the Crossroads, London).
It is worth noting that Muslims have had their fair share of bad rulers and individuals as they have today. However, it would be unfair and unjust to measure the vast majority of Muslims by the actions of a tiny handful of bad Muslims. This principle also applies to other races, religions and civilizations—past and present.
“Is it fair to say that every football fan is a hooligan because of the actions of a few ‘nutters’? In the same manner, is it fair to label all Muslims as terrorists because of the actions of a few criminals?” Imam of Stirling Mosque
War and Peace
World history is full of battles and wars. However, the Muslims always preferred a peaceful solution and diplomacy over conflict.
If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in GOD. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient. (HQ 8:61)
There are countless examples throughout history where wars and bloodshed were avoided through diplomacy, even when the conditions of peace were against the Muslims. In times of war, the Qur’an states that peace is the better option.
Islam has a complete law for the protection of people who are caught up in any conflict. It is incumbent upon the Muslims that the rights of every individual must be respected and honoured. It goes so far as to protect prisoners of war, live stock, plant life and the environment.
"Stop, O people... Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those that are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone" Command to Muslim army from Abu Bakr
Principles of Justice
The Prophet (pbuh) always commanded the Muslims to follow the just path in all matters. Even if the decision was against them, they must still do what is just.
During the time of the Prophet (pbuh) when a dispute arose between a Muslim and Non-Muslim, the judgment would frequently go in favour of the non-Muslim. This exemplifies the application of justice in Islam where there was no favoritism.
Justice isn’t just confined to matters of law but to actions of every individual in society. We have to be just in decisions we make in our personal lives and act fairly in all matters. This applies to all matters of life such as dealing with your family, parents, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
O believers, be you securers of justice, witness for God. Let not detestation for a people move you not to be equitable; be equitable-that is nearer to God-fearing. (HQ5:8)
Even in matters of trade the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that trade should be done according to the Shariah (Islamic law). Any merchant who deceives people will be answerable to Allah on the Day of Judgement. Clear guidelines were set for dealing with one another so that the rights of each would not be abused.
Woe to those that deal in fraud those who when they have to receive by measure from men exact full measure. But when they have to give by measure or weight to men give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account? [Holy Qur'an 83:1-4]
Trade became a means of salvation and an act of worship for the person who followed the rules and regulations set by Islamic law. This brought the person closer to his Lord.
Merchants will be raised on the Day of Resurrection as evil-doers, except those who fear God, are honest and speak the truth. [Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Darimi]
A person’s rights have been ordained by Allah and no one has the right to violate these. Islam protects everyone’s fundamental human rights. There are six general principles in Islamic law:
1. Protection of the sanctity of life
2. Protection of property
3. Protection of personal dignity
4. Protection of freedom of conscience
5. Protection of the right to education
6. Protection of the sanctity of marriage and lineage
Allah encourages humans to be kind and courteous to one another. This behavior helps keep ties within communities and brings one closer to his or her Creator.
"Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess.'' (Holy Qur’an 4:36)
Take the example of an orphan. Islam encourages the Muslims to look after the affairs of the orphan. The guardian does not have the right to any property or money the orphan may have inherited but instead it must be given to the orphan in its totality.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, "The best house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are well treated. The worst house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are ill treated. I and the guardian of the orphan will be in the Garden like that," indicating his two fingers.
Al Adab al Mufrad
With regards to neighbours, they also have the right to protection from inconveniences and harm. If the neighbour is poor and hungry, it becomes a duty to help him in whatever way you can. Islam teaches that the neighbour of a Muslim should never go to sleep hungry due to poverty.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, "He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him be kind to his neighbour…” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad and others)
Respect for People of the book
The ‘People of the Book’ were given a special place and status in Islam. They were the recipients of previous scriptures through the great spiritual teachers - prophets - such as Jesus, Moses, David, Abraham and many more (pbut).
"...and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, 'We are Christians,' because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant" (HQ5:82).
They all were united in their worship of the one true God of all Mankind who was known as Allah (or some variation of this name in the Semitic languages).
The ‘People of the Book’ were allowed to follow their religion and their places of worship were protected from all hostile elements of society.
Respect for Parents & Teachers
Parents are given a very high status in Islam and it is considered a major sin if parents are disobeyed by the child, as long as the command does not go against the teachings of Islam.
It’s an act of piety and spiritual blessing if the child looks after his parents in old age just as they had looked after him in his youth.
Even looking at your parents with love merits great reward and leads to the path of piety.
Your Sustainer has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life-time, do not say to them a word of contempt nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour and, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility and say: My Sustainer! Bestow on them Your mercy, even as they cherished me in childhood. (Holy Qur’an17:23-24)
The pursuit of knowledge is an essential part of Islam. In fact, it is the sacred duty incumbent upon every Muslim to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. The high regard for seeking knowledge brings a person closer to Allah. This is clear in a statement of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)...
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that "Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every believer.” [Ibn Majah]
The teacher has the immense honour and responsibility to pass knowledge and is thus given a high status. The student looks at and treats his teachers with utmost respect and humility. Our main teacher was Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Muslims love and respect him greatly.
It is because of this love and respect that Muslims are extremely hurt when nasty lies and mockery is made of this great messenger of Allah. All prophets are held in high esteem and a Muslim will never mock or disrespect these teachers of righteousness.
Respect for Women
This is probably one of the biggest myths that needs to be addressed. Even today, Muslim women are considered oppressed by the non-Muslim onlooker. The headscarf or Hijab has become a symbol of oppression to them whilst it is a symbol of liberation and freedom to Muslim women.
The Hijab is a form of piety which has been practiced by many civilizations including Judaism and Christianity. In Islam, it is also a form of piety and the Muslim women who wish to adopt this are respected by all quarters of Muslim society.
On this open day, there are many leaflets and other literature dedicated to this topic. It’s worth reading through this literature and speaking to the Muslims to get a deeper understanding of this issue.
The Prophet (pbuh) encouraged all Muslims to look after and treat their women folk with the utmost kindness and respect. Islam made it a part of faith for this equality and kindness to be practiced.
The Prophet (pbuh) addressed the believers and said:
'God enjoins you to treat women well for they are your mothers, daughters and aunts. The most perfect Muslim is he whose disposition is best and the best of you are they who behave best with their wives'.
Before the advent of Islam, women were ignored by society; daughters were despised and buried alive after birth; women were not allowed to earn nor own property; women could not inherit and had no say in social and spiritual matters. Islam came and removed all social injustices prevalent in the pre-Islamic society.
Women were raised to a status that even many of today’s cultures are struggling to meet. This liberation took place 1400 years ago.
"He placed woman on the same footing as man in legal processes and in financial independence; she might follow any legitimate profession, keep her earnings, inherit property and dispose of her belongings at will. He abolished the Arab custom of transmitting women as property from father to son. Women were to inherit half as much as the male heirs and were not to be disposed of against their will." (WILL DURANT - THE AGE OF FAITH)
Respect for Children
The family unit is the most fundamental building block of society. The responsibility of providing for the family falls on the shoulders of the father and to provide a loving and supporting environment for the child's upbringing is primarily with the mother.
The child has a right to be treated with fairness, even when there are more than one sibling. The child has a right to a good education which includes social etiquettes and manners. Children are a "trust" from God so have to be cherished, respected, loved and safeguarded by the parents and society as a whole.
The Qur’an provides guidelines and advice for parents. There are also many examples from the life of the Prophet (pbuh).
The Prophet (pbuh) said:”A father gives his child nothing better than good manners". Miskaat
Islam encourages Muslims to embrace other cultures and languages. Muslims were renowned for welcoming others into their communities from all backgrounds and races. Islam naturally produced multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies throughout the world.
"...It possesses a magnificent tradition of inter-racial understanding and co-operation. No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity and of endeavours so many and so various races of mankind.... Islam still has the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition." (H.A.R.GIBB. WHITER ISLAM)
Great centres of learning were opened by Muslims all over the world with renowned scholars of all nationalities. These scholars have been studied and respected for generations. For example, Imam Bukhari from Uzbekistan who compiled the greatest collection of Hadith, Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio who made huge efforts against slavery in Africa.
Great institutions were setup such as a welfare system; postal service; judicial and educational systems and hospitals with separate medical, surgical and pediatric service. These were instituted from around 1400 years ago.
Brotherhood and Unity
Allah has created all mankind as equals. Often a person can be misled by considering himself better than another because of social status, wealth, power, race or colour of skin.
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white - except by piety and good action. (The last sermon of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh))
Many times Allah has stressed this equality of mankind. The Prophet (pbuh) taught the Muslims that the whole world is one community—one brotherhood—and there is no superiority by virtue of race; only by virtue of piety (taqwa).
"O Mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you" (Qur’an 49:13)
Islam eradicates all forms of racism and discrimination from the life of a believer. ‘Spiritual illnesses’ such as pride and arrogance are also detested in Islam. These are destructive forces which create unrest and unjust behavior within society. It leads that person astray from goodness and piety.
Shaytan (Satan) displayed these qualities when he was commanded by Allah to bow down to Adam. He refused Allah’s command claiming that he was superior than Adam because Adam was made from clay and he was created from smokeless fire.
This caused Shaytan to be expelled from paradise and he become an open enemy to the ‘Children of Adam’. The Qur’an has warned us not to follow the footsteps of Shaytan and instead tread the path of righteousness.
The Prophet said: Whoever has pride in his heart equal to the weight of an atom shall not enter Paradise. A man inquired about a person who likes to wear beautiful clothes and fine shoes, and he answered: God is beautiful and likes beauty. Then he explained pride which means rejecting the truth because of self-esteem and looking down on other people (Sahih Muslim).
Islam is a path of self renewal and rectification. Muslims pray to Allah and strive to replace all ingratitude and imbalance in their lives with grace and harmony. This is how inner and outer peace is achieved. It’s a life long quest for Muslims and is achieved through inner struggle and deep reflection.
This is just a mere glimpse into the world of Islam. This newsletter provides no more than an introduction to some aspects of the Muslim faith.
This is the annual ‘open day’ of the Islamic centre but in reality every day is an open day. The Islamic Centre is run by volunteers for the whole community. Its services are always available and its doors are always open to everyone.