Islam as a Religion of Peace
Christian Swanson Religion Peace and Islam 12/1/11 Islam as a Religion of Peace Islam has taken a lot of flak in recent years, though not, that is to say, without any sort of reason. It is an unavoidable fact that the organization that attacked the United States on September 11th, 2001 was indeed an Islamic organization. As most Americans are not prepared to go to their local library to learn about their enemies, it is logical that many people may have been led to believe some untrue assertions about the Muslim religion as a whole.
The extreme polarization of religion in America has done nothing to help the issue, either. While such fear and ignorance may be understandable from a purely objective point of view, every stride should be taken to properly educate mainstream Americans as to the true nature of Islam. To the mainstream American, Islam is a frightening concept. The religion has a much smaller following in the United States, and there is a high chance that an average person may not know any Muslims. As such, the religion becomes a far-off, foreign concept to them, more frightening than it is inviting.
They are shown pictures of the World Trade Center collapsing, read news about massive protests over simple cartoon drawings, and told stories of the horrific treatment of women in these distant “middle eastern” lands. The massive cluster of these stories do not bode well for the religion, especially when one considers the fact that none of them can be denied. Islam comes across as a religion of savages; people who are united, and yet blinded by hatred, and desire nothing more than to destroy Americans simply for existing.
America, for better or for worse, possesses a majority of Christian followers compared to other religions. The very nature of Christianity, revolving around Jesus of Nazarus, seems to conflict with the primary details that have been dispersed in mainstream America regarding Islam. Buzzwords like “jihad” or “sharia law” set off fear receptors in the brain. And yet, if one were to do even the smallest bit of research, they would see just how similar the two religions are, and how few points they truly do diverge on. Islam is not a “violent” religion any more than Christianity is.
The vast majority of Muslims are just as terrified of terrorists as we are. The first issue to discuss would be the oft-mentioned idea of “jihad. ” In the western world, it is often translated to mean “Holy War,” and it is used the scapegoat for the reason that the Muslim world allegedly hates harbors hatred for the west. The idea is never given much more explanation than that. It is said that Jihad simply instructs its followers to kill all those who do not believe in the same faith. In the mainstream Muslim world, however, the word means something quite different.
Properly translated, Jihad means, “strive in the way of God,” (Morgan). It more commonly is used in Sunni cultures to simply mean “Promoting peace, harmony or cooperation, and assisting others” (Esposito). It is generally used to describe living your life according to the principles of Mohammad, and devoting your life to the teachings of Islam. Now, one might have the initial gut-reaction at the idea of “devoting your life to Islam” to be one of abhorrence, but it truly is no different from the principles of modern Catholicism, with the only differences relating to actual practice.
The militant use of the word does exist, having come into existence a few centuries after the prophet’s death (Noth), but it is much more tame in mainstream Islamic culture than the interpretation of extremists. In mainstream Islam, Jihad is the only acceptable means of warfare. Ages ago, when Mohammad walked across the Middle East, he did so with the intent of uniting the people into a universal body. In doing so, he declared several rules regarding when war was permissible. It was to be the last option taken, and, if it was, the following rules were to be followed: “The opponent must always have started the fighting.
It must not be fought to gain territory. It must be launched by a religious leader. It must be fought to bring about good – something that Allah will approve of. Every other way of solving the problem must be tried before resorting to war. Innocent people should not be killed. Women, children, or old people should not be killed or hurt. Women must not be raped. Enemies must be treated with justice. Wounded enemy soldiers must be treated in exactly the same way as one’s own soldiers. The war must stop as soon as the enemy asks for peace. Property must not be damaged. Poisoning wells is forbidden.
The modern analogy would be chemical or biological warfare. ” (Jihad, BBC) In modern-day mainstream Islam, the only time when warfare is acceptable is when it is defensive. The violent interpretations taken by organizations such as Al Qaeda are merely the extremist views of fringe organizations, not shared by the majority of Islamic people. While accepted by a vast number of Americans as the religion of choice, though, Christianity is in no way a wholly “peaceful” religion. It has merely existed centuries longer than Islam has, and has thus reached equilibrium before it.
Christianity began as a Jewish sect in the mid-1st century (Robinson), while Islam has founded in the early 7th century (Buhl), giving Christianity over half a millennium of a head start on Islam, allowing itself, in modern times, to stabilize, reach peace within its different sects, and unite under a (mostly) peaceful banner. After all, far more people have been killed under the name of Christianity than that of Islam (Simon). Whether it be the people of the religion grossly misinterpreting the actual words of Christ or not, that is irrelevant, as the same can be said about any acts of war not following the above definition of Jihad.
The point must be brought up, however, of the most frequent claim targeted at Islam: The alleged violence contained within the texts. There are numerous anti-Muslim organizations, which decry the religion as one of violence and hatred, citing passages from the Koran such as “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” (Quran 8:12) or other passages of the book, all of which revolve around punishing “non-believers” or “those who fight against Allah. While one may argue that the Old Testament, which is actively supported by Christianity, contains much worse sentiments against non-believers, the issue still stands, and deserves explanation. In order to explain the intention behind these “violent” pieces, one must first understand the founding of Islam, as well as what Mohammad was attempting to accomplish in his life. While Jesus was a mere philosopher, who traveled the land, simply preaching and telling the world of his views on life, Mohammad was in a much rougher situation. Mohammad was around during a time of war. He led his followers on a path hrough the Middle East, attempting to organize the numerous, scattered tribes of the region into a unified body. As his methods of war stated, he did not want violence. He intended to unite the region, and warfare was the last considered solution. The idea that Islam frequently refers to of “those who are against Allah” really has nothing to do with the idea of those whose religion differs. It is referring to those who would not cooperate- those who were against the unifying of the Middle East. The quotes are much more understandable when looked at from the perspective of war. During a time a war, one must keep their troops with high morale.
It is an unfortunate but unavoidable fact that, in these cases, a certain amount of “anger” or “viciousness” must be present. An army going to war, whilst remaining morose due to the admittedly grim deed they are doing will not succeed. They will hesitate, they will falter, and they will fail. The so-called “violent” passages of the Koran are nothing more than an Army General’s pre-battle speech for his troops. With that said, though, the portion of Mohammad at war comprises only a minute portion of his teachings. The Quran itself is filled with stories of Mohammad’s personal philosophies, fables, and tales of morality.
Mohammad was, first and foremost, just as Jesus before him, a philosopher. He believed in a heavy life of equality, as well as helping those in a lesser position from you. He himself, as modern Islam does today, saw Jesus as a great prophet. While they differed from Christianity when it came to the actual belief regarding Jesus’s divinity. In Islam, while Jesus is seen as inspired by the Divine, he himself is not seen as the Son of God. He is still considered, however, to be a great prophet, and an extremely well respected follower of Allah. No religion is perfect, of course.
Islam is no different. Its ups and downs continue today, and even now, many sects of it suffer from massive problems regarding human rights. These isolated cases, however, should not taint the religion as a whole. The majority of Muslims are normal people, just like the majority of the followers of Christianity. They have husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. They value family togetherness, and respect for their fellow man. In that respect, Islam is nothing more than a religion of peace, and one that, with the passing of time, will eventually reach equilibrium, just as Christianity has.