The rise of extremism in the Muslim world has led to the widespread view of Islam as a religion of violence, retribution and war. This is in complete opposition to the truth of our religion and, on behalf of the vast majority of the 1.3 billion Muslims who are ordinary, peace-loving, decent people, I want to repudiate the actions of a misguided criminal minority.
Firstly, they contradict the central theme of peace in Islam. Peace is the greeting of Muslims amongst themselves, the last word spoken by a Muslim in his prayers, one of God’s names, and one of the names for Paradise.
Secondly, the Qur’an permits freedom of belief for all of mankind by saying, “To you is your religion and to me is mine.”
Thirdly, the use of violence is prohibited in spreading the faith. The Qur’an explicitly states: “There is no compulsion in religion”, and “Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good counsel and discuss with them in the most kindly manner”, and “God does not prevent you from being kind to those who have not fought you on account of your religion or expelled you from your homes, nor from dealing justly with them, indeed God loves the just.”
Fourthly – and this is very important – none of these extremists have been educated in genuine centres of Islamic learning. They are, rather, products of troubled environments and their aim is purely political and has no religious foundation.
Thus, terrorists are criminals, not Muslim activists.
My fear is that these extremists will convince the world that the entire Muslim world is the enemy, and that a war on terror is a war on the entire Muslim world. The Qur’an tells us, “O people, we have created you from a single male and female and divided you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” When God said “to know one another”, He did not mean in order to kill one another.
Whom should we trust? Should we trust the extremists, or that upon which the entirety of Islamic civilisation has been built over 1,400 years? The first Prophetic saying that is taught to a student of Islam is, “Those who show mercy are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth and the One in the heavens will show mercy to you.”
Should we trust the extremists’ views, or the freedom of choice and belief that Islam has enjoined upon us? The Qur’an says, “Truth comes from God, whoever believes let them believe and whoever does not, let them not believe.” The clarity of this verse is surely there for all to see.
One of the problems in all religions today is that lay-people attempt to set themselves up as religious authorities, even though they lack the scholarly qualifications for making valid interpretations of religious law and morality. These interpretations are made in reaction to political crises, injustices, poverty and frustration, and our role as religious leaders who have spent our lives carefully studying religious exegesis is to re-establish proper authority and guide the people accordingly.
There are more than 6,000 verses in the Qur’an, only 300 of which are related to legal matters; the rest deal with developing good moral character. There are over 60,000 Prophetic traditions and sayings of which only 2,000 are related to legal matters; the rest deal with developing good moral character. For over a thousand years, ordinary Muslims have worshipped God, engaged in developing their society, and have sought to cultivate good moral character. This is made clear in the Qur’an which says, “He caused you to dwell on earth and to develop it.”
From my long study of Islam and its history, I can attest that it is free of ethnic cleansing, religious inquisitions and forced conversions. This may seem contrary to the popular contemporary view of Islam, but it is an opinion that has been confirmed by a study carried out by Richard W. Bulliet who demonstrated that while the body politic of Islam spread quickly, it took hundreds of years for populations to convert to the faith. Islam was spread by love, intermarriage and family relations, not by the sword.
We all need to learn from history and call people to work for the betterment of our societies for our children and grandchildren in a manner in which all are given their due respect and recognise their duties to one another. This is what we understand from personal freedom. Can we achieve this? The hope that we can serves as my inspiration, and I pray that you join me in this so that we can realise these goals.
Original post: Extremism is not Islamic