Ash-Shaikh H. Abdul Nazar

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Misunderstanding of Islam; Cause for Islamophobia

Ash-Shaikh H. Abdul Nazar

Man is not only mortal but also erring. His knowledge and power of judgment are also limited. He, therefore, needs guidance. Guidance may come from man or the supernatural. Guidance from man of restricted power or resources is bound to be limited and imperfect. Only the guidance from the sovereign eternal power is reliable, perfect and truthful. Allah, the sovereign Lord guides mankind through his books and prophets for their benefit. This guidance came through the first man Prophet Adam (Alaihis salaatu wassalaam) and continued through other prophets, and the message of guidance was completed and given a final shape for entire humankind with the last Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) in the final book, the Holy Qur’an. This fact is proclaimed in the following verse of Al-Qur’an:

“This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.” (05 : 03)

This divine guidance is Islam. So, Islam is a code of life based on creator – creation relationship, and it guides and motivates man to do the good and avoid the evil. Allah Ta’ala says:

“Verily this Qur’an doth guide to that which is most right.” (17 : 09)

Islam is an Arabic term that means submission and obedience. It is complete submission to the will of Allah. The Almighty says:

“O ye who believe! Enter into Islam perfectly, and follow not the footsteps of Satan.” (02 : 208)

This complete and all-embracing divine code of life cannot be confined to certain rites or rituals performed in places of worship alone. In Islam’s view, worship includes not only prayers but all activities as a good person, as a loving member of the family and as a dutiful citizen of the society at large. Islam establishes brotherhood of humanity for peace and harmony. It touches every aspect of man’s life – personal, family and social. The Holy Qur’an very clearly confirms this fact:

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the last day and the angels and the book and the messengers; to give wealth in spite of love for it to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, to the needy, to the wayfarer and to those who ask and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity, to fulfill their contract when they make; and to be patient in severe poverty and ailment and at the time of fighting. Such are the people of truth, and they are the pious ones.” (02 : 177)

Islam practices and preaches a middle course with toleration and not excesses, bigotry or hatred, and it establishes peace with truth and justice as against hatred, injustice and discrimination. Fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism, fanaticism, racism, Bin Ladenism, oppression, etc. have no place in Islam as it is the religion of peace and submission to the laws of Allah. Al-Qur’an Says:

“There is no compulsion in religion.” (02 : 256)

“O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses and let not the hatred of a group of people make you avoid justice. Be just. That is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily Allah is well-acquainted with what ye do.” (05 : 08)

Islam is not a sect or dogma of a mystic or world power. It is not a creed of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) nor an empire of the Muslims. Islam does not fight for a class against another, a race against another, black against white or have-nots against haves.

To put it in a nutshell, Islam is the moral kingdom of Allah for one brotherhood of mankind to establish peace and tranquility in this world and hereafter. It is the religion of worship of one creator practiced in good deeds and piety.

Appreciating this very fact, non-Muslims of all ages and places accepted Islam voluntarily for their own salvation.

A person who submits to the laws of Allah is called “Muslim”.

Muslims constitute over one fifth of humanity today. There are nearly 1.2 billion Muslims all over the globe. There are 53 independent Muslim states with over 800 million Muslims living in these countries, and these Muslim states occupy about 23 per cent of the land area of the world. Majority of them are found in Asia and Africa. In East and Central Europe Albania has 73 per cent Muslim majority, and Bosnia-Herzegovina has also significant Muslim dimension. There is also strong Muslim presence in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe and America where today Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity.

Yet, Islam is the misunderstood religion in the West and misrepresented as a religion of war and fanaticism. It is a historical fact that over thousand years not only the Muslims had been a dominant power in the world but the Islamic civilization and society provided peace and security for all its citizens including the non-Muslims. When the situation materially changed, and Western colonial powers ruled the world, all nations and peoples in the Third World and the Muslims in particular suffered a lot at the hands of the colonial powers in a number of ways. It is the same Muslim Ummah that suffered many untold hardships and atrocities at the hands of the West and still remains weak materially, economically, educationally, technologically, militarily, politically and so forth, is now being represented as a threat to the West. Efforts of the Muslims to regain their identity and put their own house in order are looked on as a challenge to the West.

Islam has become the innocent victim of the ugly world politics, and is branded as the religion of fanatics by whom all sort of criminal activities are incited, and lethal criminals are harboured. The countries that line up behind the one that tends to hold the reins of power in its hand look at the Muslim countries and the entire Muslim Community as if Islam and the entire Muslim Ummah are the common enemies of theirs or such countries that have teamed up with the leader of the world politics have been brainwashed into giving Islam and Muslims the cold shoulder. Afghanistan and Iraq are the two typical examples of the stunning arrogance of the front runners of the world politics in the name of democracy, who brutally sucked the lives of thousands of men, women, infants and babies by imposing economic embargo and waging wars against them. The whole world witnessed how the innocent people suffered humiliation and torture at the hands of the custodians of democracy, how the artifacts of the prestigious Museum of Iraq were looted and how the infrastructures were destroyed. Yet, no voices were raised against such brutalities even from the world’s body - UNO. On the contrary, they readily give the nod when the leader of their elite points his accusing finger at the Muslim Community or connects any Islamic institution with any crime that takes place in their territories.

It is extremely depressing that Muslims have been portrayed as barbaric, ignorant and closed-minded semi-citizens, maddened terrorists and intolerant religious zealots and fundamentalists. This has paved the way for Islamophobia. When this humiliating reality is perceived, many stand up against this discrimination with the intention of defending their religion and regaining their lost pride and honour. Can this be called “terrorism” or “fundamentalism”?

Frankly speaking, using the terms “fundamentalists” and “terrorists” referring to Muslims is an anti-Islam campaign carried out internationally by foes of Islam, who never digest the smooth growth of Islam. Earlier they used the word “terrorists” and then “fundamentalists”. Now they have coined the word “Islamists”. But Muslims, peace-loving people wherever they are, remain Muslims. They never posed or pose a threat to the world. But the question is whether it is unfair of a person or a community oppressed throughout by others to defend him / itself. Can this be called “fundamentalism” or “terrorism”?

Fundamentalism is, indeed, a Christian phenomenon. In the recent Western history, this term was used for those evangelists in America who stood for literal interpretation of the Bible, subscribed to the theory of virgin birth, looked on Christian ethics not merely as a basis for personal conduct but also as a basis for social and collective life and criticized certain aspects of Western life and culture as deviations from the Christian ethos. Since the people considered most of these groups as extremists and fanatics, the term ‘fundamentalists’ began to be used for them in a pejorative sense.

If fundamentalism is exclusively used to denote resort to violence and terror in religious contexts, what about the violence taking place in all societies and in all ages? Failings of men could not be attributed to the religion. Even secular countries experience violence, terror and extremism. Race, colour, language, lifestyle, ideology, etc. drive to their own kind of violence, terror and extremism.

Although the deep resentment the West bears against the Muslim Ummah goes back ages, it reached its summit in the aftermath of the fall of twin tower in USA. This deadly blow on the self-appointed world champion harbouring a grudge against the Muslim Ummah kindled the fire from the ember of hatred. Fighting against world terrorism became the comfortable excuse for the super power and its allies to invade Muslim nations and involve in their sovereign internal affairs in the name of democracy. On the contrary, they could only make great chaos in those countries. Iraq is the classic example of this. Not a single day passes without a bomb blast there. This is the democracy that those countries want to witness in the Muslim countries.

The Muslim Ummah, while confronting all sort of prejudice and pre-planned discrimination against it by the leaders of the world politics, frequently happens to encounter another awful unjustifiable war that has been waged by the world media which tirelessly endeavours to show the world that Islamic institutions, especially seminaries all over the world, are the places where the world’s number one terrorists are trained. Local media too are prompt to reproduce such baseless fabricated stories in order to incite violence against the Muslim Ummah.


A particular Tamil Daily of Sri Lanka lately has reproduced an inflammatory web article in which the author has revealed that countries such as India and Britain have sufficient proves to charge the seminaries in Pakistan with producing of terrorists. The article went on to argue that the Arabic term “Madrasa” means an educational institution in which a particular religious belief is taught. Arabic is the language of instruction in this school, and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and the fundamentalists dominate the syllabus. The students are even taught how long their beard should be and how long the sleeves of their shirts should be.

According to the article, the students of Madrasas who sleep on the mats wake up early in the morning for the morning prayer holding the portrait of a figure riding a white horse with an AK-47 gun in his hand – Osama Bin Laden.


This sort of humiliating junk for which the so-called authors are highly paid, always distorts the image of the Islamic seminaries and misleads the average people. Where is the ideology of journalism composed of freedom of the press, objectivity, fairness, impartiality, balance, reflection of reality, true representation, fact vs opinion and so on?

Another thing that irritates those who detest Islam and Muslims across the world is the headscarf of Muslim women. Despite the fact that in Islam women are enjoined by their Creator, Almighty Allah not to expose their beauty to others except for their husbands, the people who are up in arms about every aspect of Islamic life vainly tend to argue that Muslim women are compelled by the Muslim men to wear the headscarf. Recently a local newspaper which had upheld the move of the French Government to ban the headscarf in public schools and wished that Sri Lanka too followed suit, in its provocative article, has raised the absurd question “Why cannot Muslim men break all the rules?”

When they invaded Iraq, it was said that the action was to liberate the oppressed Iraqis. If those who mercilessly annihilated the oil rich country in the name of democracy were honest to God, why on earth are they trying to infringe the inviolable right of the Muslim women – wearing of headscarf?

Islam is the only religion that ensures the fundamental rights of women. They have been given the rights to life, liberty, property and dignity to play their honourable role. The headscarves are only for their own protection. Those who write and argue against the headscarf must discuss with Muslim women to comprehend whether they are wearing it voluntarily or on compulsion and how they

It is mind-boggling that all squalid serious sins such as fornication and homosexuality are acceptable in France in the name of democracy while wearing of headscarf which helps the Muslim women to preserve their purity is unlawful. It is really regrettable that those who are against Muslim women wearing headscarf fail to see the Virgin Mary wearing the similar clothe; headscarf. So, it is crystal clear that the whole issue is entirely politicized.


It is a serious error on the part of the leaders of the non-Muslim countries, who believe strongly in man-made liberty to use the headscarf of Muslim women as a criterion for assessing and evaluating the lifestyle of Muslims. Muslims always prefer to stick to the Islamic Law. They always care what the Holy Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) say rather than what the man-made laws say, and they always try to abide by the teachings of Islam not the nude culture of the so-called modern society.

All in all, it is the nasty and aggressive world politics that contributes to Islamophobia; fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims. It is, therefore, Muslims’ responsibility to combat Islamophobia intelligently.

Islam is a religion of tolerance, fellow feeling and middle path, and it invites all its followers to abstain from extremism. The Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said:

“And beware of going to extremes in the religion because going to extremes in the religion only destroyed those before you.”
(Reported by Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Radhiyallahu anhuma) and recorded by Al-Nasaa’ee)


Islam also emphasizes the theories of equality of mankind, brotherhood of mankind and freedom of expression. Neither Islam nor Muslims pose a threat to the West. There is no sign of any Muslim armed incursion into any Western state or threat of sabotage of their political system. Muslims are only striving to set their own house in order, and they want the right to arrange their individual and collective life and institutions in accordance with their own values, ideals and standards. It is obvious that the world politics is the major contributor to portraying Islam and Muslims as terrorism and terrorists, fundamentalism and fundamentalists and extremism and extremists. Islam, being based on divine values cannot meet in one line the Western values of materialism, nationalism, colonialism, imperialism and liberalism. If the Western powers continue to impose the western fashion and culture on the Muslims, keep them tied to the system of Western domination, destabilize their culture, instigate violence against them, insult their belief and values, infringe their rights, tamper with their divine laws and disfigure the image of Islam, then, of course, the tension will increase.

Was and is the West able to show the world the way to happiness, peace and harmony? It is only Islam that directs the West and the whole world to this.


Ash-Shaikh H. Abdul Nazar
20.09.2005



 

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