Muslim Friends - Their Faith and Feeling
Author: Roland E Miller
Publishers: Orient Longman
Muslim Friends by Roland E Miller can simply be
described as an honest attempt to understand Muslims. Though several other
books have hit the shelves in the market by non-Muslims on the topic, very
rare or none of these books can truly be called an honest attempt.
There have been numerous attempts to study Islam but the writer himself
says that most of these attempts were done basically to search for its
loopholes and thus suffered from 'blurred vision'. The orientalists have
always tried to see Islam from their set mindset that have been raised to
oppose the basic tenets of Islam and search for its draw backs.
The book shows that, Miller, a Catholic priest and a well-known scholar on
Islam, who spent some twenty three years in a Muslim suburban locality in
Kerala, India, has made sincere attempt not only to evaluate Muslims but
also the basic tenets of Islam. What seems amazing is the depth of his
knowledge on the topic he is tackling. From Tawhid to Risalat, Shirk and
Bid’at, concept of God to resurrection and judgment, he has a clear
concept about all these fundamental aspect of Islam. Even on some of the
most contentious issues like Jihad he seems to have his ideas clear. His
eulogizing tone about different aspects of Islam make his points more
appealing. Even when he criticizes something about Muslims it seems like a
reproach from within and never seems as if someone alien is rebuking
Muslims for some faults in Islam, like many of his predecessors. Miller
admires Muslims for their true belief in God, the only God, the
Omnipresent, All Knowing, the Creator, and All Powerful God. He also
admires Muslims for their belief in oneness of the community and concept
He extensively quotes Muslim scholars like Syed Qutb and Imam Al-Ghazali
on the concept of Ummah. He writes, 'At the bottom of this urging is the
Muslim sense of togetherness. The feeling is best captured by two English
words and a hyphen: community-family. The word community suggests a
commonality of concerns. The word family points to a personal
relationship. The hyphen could be interpreted by a third word: oneness.
The hyphen is bridge, the bridging spirit of oneness.
He further elaborates the concept, 'All this is summed up by the word Umma,
the term for Muslim community. This almost magical word in terms of
emotive power, really means 'mother'. The Muslim community, in one sense,
is the mother of all Muslims. it gives the individual members of the
community a sense of fellowship and security. In every religion, no matter
what it is, its members feel that they have a special relation with each
other. In Islam that feeling runs very powerfully. The fellowship with
other Muslims transcends all other forms of human relationship. Within its
embrace, individual Muslims feel as though they are part of a family, a
family of familiar friends. In turn, it is the Muslim's duty to love and
to support the whole of Islam.'
He feels sad over the fact that though Muslims are supposed to act as one
body and they are supposed to feel all things in common, but in practice
it doesn't always turn out that way. 'In practice it does not turn out
that way. Human realities take over and Muslim societies fail to live up
to the noble theory of one community and one family.'
He adds that 'pressure of disunity is also felt, we may say specially felt
in the realm of political relationships. The modern spirit of nationalism
is a powerful challenge to the Umma ideal. The unity of Muslim family has
not been able to survive all the pressure of these differences.'
His view of Muslims' relation with God is most fascinating. He says that
Muslims are people who are alive to God and adds that it means that a
sense of God pervades Islamic life and dominates Muslim thought and
Understanding concept of God for a non-Muslim scholar is one of the most
difficult task, but Miller seems to be a fearful Muslim himself when he
elaborates this concept. He says, 'The entire religious context of Muslim
life underlines the reality of God, and is designed to make and keep
Muslims aware of that reality. The creed, the fivefold call to prayer, the
annual fast, the steady mutual exhortation of Muslims, in short, the whole
of Islam emphasizes the place of God in human life. He then elaborates how
Muslims always remember God during their whole life and how near they feel
themselves to the God. 'From birth to death, and in all that lies between,
the Reality of God encompasses Muslim life.'
Though he tries to raise questions about the nature and existence of God,
but he never crosses the limits of decency, never plunging in anything
that goes beyond decency. He affectionately discusses attributes of Allah
and His names that denote His numerous qualities.
Miller also discusses Islamic history elaborately and makes a fundamental
flaw clear-the wrong perception that Islam started with the arrival of
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He has also discussed the intricate issues of
tackling Jews in Medina by the Prophet and his relations with his
companions, neighbors, Kuffar, Munafiqeen and others who came in contact
with him. He also discusses affectionately the respect and love expressed
by the Muslims for the Prophet.
He has tried to understand the concept of Jihad also. He has also made the
difference between Jihad and violence clear. He says, 'The basic Muslim
theory on the subject of violence is that it is always exception and
peacefulness is truth. There are some situations where the use of violence
is, in fact, required, but it must always be regarded as last resort. The
controlling principle is established by the second meaning of the term
Islam, which is peace. Muslims are to be peace loving and peace-makers.
They are not to be aggressors against others.'
But then there are some major flaws that stem from the lack of basic
conceptual knowledge on the part of the author. In the case of Ahmadiyas
or Qadiyanis he has been misled. He categorizes them as a sect of Sunni
This is a small error when seen in the context of his sincere and enormous
effort to present Islam in a manner that has rarely been done. Even among
Muslim scholars very few have attempted to take up the topic so
successfully. It is a treasure for every one who wants to understand the
true light. The light that guides towards salvation.