The Truth About Islam: Teachings of Quran encourage peace, tranquility, not violence (Dr. Mansoor Alam, Ohio, USA)

Acts of terrorism are not confined to Muslims alone. Terrorists come from every religion. But the media often uses the term Islamic terrorists or Islamic terrorism, implying terrorism is associated with Islam. It is our duty as American Muslims to present the true picture of Islam, which is that Islam does not teach terrorism under any circumstances. It forbids killing of innocent civilians. The holy Book of Islam, the Quran, says: “If anyone murders an innocent person … it will be as if he had murdered the whole of humanity.”

So, who are the Muslims who commit such heinous acts in the name of Islam? It is obvious from the above injunction of the Quran that they do not follow true Islam. Therefore, they must be driven not by Islam but some other desire (such as hate or revenge) to commit acts of terrorism.

Muslims around the world greet (or are supposed to greet) each other, and others, using the Arabic words, “Assalamu ‘Alaikum” which means: “peace be unto you.” There is no doubt that some Muslims, while using such a benevolent greeting, carry malevolent intentions in their hearts. The holy Book of Islam, the Quran, condemns such people by saying: “Why do you say that which you do not practice?” Such Muslims, therefore, do not represent Islam. Islam has nothing to do with those who commit acts of terrorism. Therefore, it is wise to differentiate Muslims and Islam. Just as acts of terrorism committed by Christians cannot be attributed to Christianity, acts of terrorism committed by Muslims must not be attributed to Islam or its teachings.

There is a popular feeling in the West, and justifiably so, that Islam is a very oppressive and retrogressive religion. But this is based on a wrong perception of Islam, unfortunately, due to the practice of Islam by some countries, notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, and lately Afghanistan. Do these countries practice Islam as they profess they do? The Quran, (unequivocally and unconditionally) says: “There is no compulsion in religion.” However, we see all kinds of compulsion in these countries. The Taliban’s brand of Islam, for example, compels men to grow beards (of certain length) and women to cover up from head to toe; it forbids preaching other faiths, etc. People in these countries are deprived of most of their basic human rights. They are afraid to express opinions in public against the government’s practice of Islam for fear of persecution. How can these countries claim to be practicing Islam when they violate its basic principle of compassion and tolerance? They practice “Rajm” (stoning to death) for adultery, although there is no such thing in the Quran. Their rulers invoke God’s compassion, mercy and forgiveness. But they show very little or none at all themselves.

So, what is true Islam?

Islam, an Arabic word whose root is “silm,” means peace and protection from danger. Islam is supposed to provide an environment of peace and tranquility for all, Muslims and non-Muslims. It is supposed to protect everyone from external or internal threats and dangers. Since religious tolerance (and respect for other faiths) is among the basic teachings of Islam, it instructs Muslims to fight and to even give their lives, if need be, to protect places of worship of other faiths such as temples, churches and synagogues.

If Islam teaches these noble ideals, why is there such a frightening image of Islam in the West? The answer lies in one word: “jihad,” and its misrepresentation and misinterpretation in the media. But Muslims are no less responsible for this frightening picture of jihad either. Tyrant Muslim regimes and terrorist organizations routinely invoke jihad, or holy war, to terrorize or kill innocent people to achieve their political agendas. The Arabic word “jihad” means struggle or exertion. There are many levels of jihad: struggling to remove poverty; fighting against material and moral corruption; struggling against social, political, and economic injustices; struggling to restore basic human rights; fighting against tyranny and oppression; constantly exerting to advance human knowledge; fighting against environmental pollution, etc. And jihad in terms of war must be declared and must be for defensive purposes only. No covert operations are allowed in Islam. Above all, jihad must be done for the good of humanity which, in Islam, is referred to as fighting for the cause of God. Under no circumstances, are they allowed to exploit the weak and the vulnerable. That is why Islam teaches Muslims to honor treaties and to do justice ­ even to their enemies. It teaches them to establish their system based upon free consultation, justice and equality. These are the teachings of the Quran. However, it is a sad reflection that Muslims seem to have turned away from the above teachings of Islam. American people who are striving for the above ideals are nearer to Islam than many Muslims. Islam is not the custodian of Muslims only. God says in the Quran that if Muslims were to turn away from its ideals and teachings, then He will raise another people to replace them. Whatever Muslims have done (and are doing) in the name of jihad that is contrary to the above teachings of their holy Book, the Quran, Islam is not responsible for. They are. And this is truly unfortunate. Because such a beautiful religion as Islam gets maligned in the world because of their terrorist acts.

Sept. 11, 2001 was not just a black day for America. It was a black day for Islam as well.

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