Islam, the most misunderstood religion in the West, has been accused of inciting violence and terrorism within its followers. These perceptions have caused a division that is tearing through the heart of the Islamic faith and the loving Muslims all over the world who practice the true, peaceful form of the religion.
I would like to share some of my understanding and practice of Islam as a gentle, nonviolent faith. There are two main resources for information and instruction in Islam, the noble Quran and the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
In the Quran, chapter 60 verse 8, we find the base principle of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. It states, “As for such of the unbelievers as do not fight against you on account of your faith, and neither drive you forth from your homeland, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with excellent manners, for verily, God loves those who act in excellence.”
We also read in 53:38: “… that no bearer of burden can bear the burden of another.”
Islam considers personal security and safety as the most bounteous graces from God for any society to survive and nourish. The translation of the word “violence” into Arabic is “unf.” This root word cannot be found in the entire pages of the Quran. The translation of the word “terrorism” is “Irhab,” which traditional scholars can find only one word in 8:60 of the Quran. It was used in the context of preparation for self-defense.
In the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he advised and encouraged many times by saying: “God is so kind and gentle. He loves kindness and gentleness. He gives and rewards for those two characters what He does not give for violence.”
The Prophet Muhammad even hated the name of war (harb) to be called on someone. The Quran in 2:216 confirms this by saying: “Fighting is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you …”
During his life, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) showed many perfect examples of tolerance and forgiveness against all those who conspired and attempted to kill him, his followers and to those who wanted to extinguish Islam.
There was a famous incident when he returned to Mecca as a victorious leader after 21 years of being driven out of his homeland, yet he stood amongst them and forgave all of them. In this brave and noble stand he was a murderer, but of a different kind. He killed and murdered the hatred and enmity in their hearts by his ultimate loving heart at a time when the traditional law would have approved him to bring the abusers to the court.
Instead, he stated the following: “The merciful people will receive mercy from the Merciful One. Have mercy on those on earth so that the One in heaven will have mercy on you.”
Islam believes in the power of right, not the right of power, and that every act of terrorism is violence but not every act of violence is terrorism. Islam, in general, condemns all acts of violence and terrorism done under its name as an act of power. I believe that my beautiful faith has been hijacked by a few who do not represent the true Islamic religion. It has been an eye-opener for the peaceful Muslims and people of all faiths in the world.
It is time for a serious discussion between the children of Abraham to find ways to come back together and to work and cooperate on how we can face the enemy of evil in our hearts and our life. This is the Islam I grew up believing in, the one I am practicing and the one I will keep striving for.
Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi is imam of the Islamic Society of Augusta in Martinez.