Islam, which comes from the same root as the word for peace, continues to be perceived as a religion that condones–even encourages–violence. It is also seen by many as a static and rigid faith with no room for discussion or change. Both of these assumptions, which stem from longstanding stereotypes of the Middle East and Islam, were reinforced with the terrorist actions on 9/11. What troubles me (and many others) about these assumptions is that–from my own understanding of the Prophet Muhammad–kindness and justice were central to dealing with others, whether Muslim or not. The Qur’an, considered by Muslims to be the literal word of God revealed to the Prophet, is replete with verses that instruct believers how to engage with the other with justice and fairness. While returning an unjust action against you is allowed (providing it is in the exact same measure), it is better in the eyes of God to forgive. How many times is this last message lost in all the noise around Islam?
What pushed me to write about this topic is an article in BBC this past weekend ” Saudi Cleric Urges Prayer Reform.” In the article, Magdi Abdelhadi discusses the action of Sheikh Salman al-Awda, who has suggested that clerics stop calling for the destruction of non-believers. According to Al-Awda, making such supplications is against Islam, a message that resonated with me. What makes the Sheikh’s gesture even more significant is that it comes from what many consider to be the home of Islam and also the most rigid of the Muslim countries. His call, in a very difficult time when many Muslims around the world feel under attack, demonstrates that there are core messages in Islam and reminders of those can come from anywhere.
Did you know that the Qur’an emphasizes kindness and justice? Do you think these are universal to all faiths? Do you think a call like this can make a difference? Please share your thoughts.