Jobs @ MG
Islam: a home of tolerance, not fanaticism
By Yusuf Islam (Formerly Cat Sevens)
|Media speculation since the horrific
terrorist attacks on America has pointed the finger at Muslims and the
Arab world, and that has meant ordinary citizens of the US and other
Western countries becoming easy prey for anti-faith hooligans. Shame.
Sadly, the latest horror to hit the US looks to have been caused by people
of Middle Eastern origin, bearing Muslim names. Again, shame.
This fuels more hatred for a religion and a people who have nothing to do
with these events. This is why I want to explain some basic facts about
this noble way we call Islam, before, God forbid, another disaster occurs
- next time probably aimed at Muslims.
I came to Islam in my late 20s, during my searching period as a wandering
pop star. I found a religion that blended scientific reason with spiritual
reality in a unifying faith far removed from the headlines of violence,
destruction and terrorism.
One of the first interesting things I learned in the Qur’an was that the
name of the faith comes from the word salam - peace. Far from the kind of
Turko-Arab-centric message I expected, the Qur’an presented a belief in
the universal existence of God, one God for all. It does not discriminate
against peoples; it says we may be of different colours and from different
tribes, but we are all human and "the best of people are the most
Today, as a Muslim, I have been shattered by the horror of recent events;
the display of death and indiscriminate killing we've all witnessed has
dented humanity's confidence in itself. Terror on this scale affects
everybody on this small planet, and no one is free from the fallout. Yet
we should remember that such violence is almost an everyday occurrence in
some Muslim lands: it should not be exacerbated by revenge attacks on more
innocent families and communities.
Along with most Muslims, I feel it a duty to make clear that such
orchestrated acts of incomprehensible carnage have nothing to do with the
beliefs of most Muslims. The Qur’an specifically declares: "If
anyone murders 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."
The Qur’an that our young people learn is full of stories and lessons
from the history of humanity as a whole. The Gospels and the Torah are
referred to; Jesus and Abraham are mentioned. In fact there is more
mention in the Koran of the prophet Moses than of any other. It
acknowledges the coexistence of other faiths, and in doing so acknowledges
that other cultures can live together in peace.
There is no compulsion in religion," it states, meaning that people
should not be compelled to change their faith. Elsewhere it states,
"To you, your religion; to me mine."
Respect for religious values and justice is at the Qur’an core. The
Koranic history we teach our young provides ample examples of
inter-religious and international relationships; of how to live together.
But some extremists take elements of the sacred scriptures out of context.
They act as individuals, and when they can't come together as part of a
political structure or consultative process, you find these dissident
factions creating their own rules, contrary to the spirit of the Koran -
which demands that those recognised as being in charge of Muslims must
consult together regarding society's affairs. There is a whole chapter in
the Qur’an entitled Consultation.
Communal wellbeing is central to human life, so there is a concept in
Islam called Istihsan, which means "to look for the common
good". Even though the Koran may lay down a diktat, scholars are also
supposed to consider the circumstances prevalent at the time. Sometimes
that means choosing the lesser of two evils or even suspending legislation
if necessary: for instance, a person who steals bread during a famine is
not treated as a thief.
Once I wrote in a song, "Where do the children play?" Our
sympathy and thoughts go out to the families of all those who lost their
lives in this tragic act of violence, as well as all those injured. But
life must go on. Children still need to play, and people need to live and
learn more about their neighbors so that ignorance doesn't breed more
blind fanaticism. Moderation is part of faith, so those who accuse Muslim
schools of fostering fanaticism should learn a bit more about Islam.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Ruined are those who insist on
hardship in faith," and, "A believer remains within the scope of
his religion as long as he doesn't kill another person illegally."
Such knowledge and words of guidance are desperately needed at this time,
to separate fact from falsehood, and to recognise the Last Prophet's own
definition of that which makes a person representative, or otherwise, of
the faith he lived and the one we try to teach.