Originally published in Patheos
Experience has shown that many natural phenomenon or processes are initially discovered with limited understanding or benefit to society. However, with pain staking effort and unbiased approach to the phenomenon, many of the unknown qualities that were initially observed as bad turn out to be good upon further examination. A case in point is the annotation of human genome sequence. Many of the genes with seemly-unknown functions decades ago were classified as “junk” but recent studies have proved otherwise.
In a similar fashion, severe misunderstanding and ignorance exist with Islam, a revealed religion from God Almighty that is a reflection of nature based on human conscience. Groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and ignorant clerics with a twisted understanding of Jihad are perverting the true teachings of Islam for political and selfish gains. Opponents of Islam on the other hand, are presenting a narrative of Islam based on their personal bias and experience to misinform the public and thus make Islam appear as unfavorable in the eyes of people.
Good judgment demands that when someone seeks to understand a phenomenon, he or she often refers to an expert in the field. Unfortunately many Americans rely on media personalities who because of their personal bias and prejudice are making Islam appear incompatible with our way of life. We spend our time and energy to unravel the secrets of nature, however we fail miserably to use the same unbiased approach to comprehend the truth about Islam and thus has given rise to fear, intimidation and branding it followers as second class citizens unfit for the highest office in the land. Nothing can be further from the truth if you consider the fact that about 1400 years ago and in complete accord with human conscience of today and in line with the constitution of USA and many western countries, Islam categorically declared that “there should be no compulsion in religion” (Quran 2:257).
Well, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the world is made up of people of different races, culture and religious affiliations all claiming to be from God. The question is, if these claims are true, how do you bring people of diverse background and opposing views to live with each other in absolute peace and harmony in society? Islam affirm the need to live in peaceful society despite our glaring differences by stating that “We believe in Allah and that which has been revealed to us, and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Tribes, and that which was given to Moses and Jesus and other Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we submit.” (Quran 3:85). This verse is especially important in today’s society as a solution to ease religious tensions and to foster unity and tolerance in society.
It is also no secret that not everyone in society will worship God if we exercise our right of freedom of religion and conscience in matters of faith. Another complicated question is, how does society uphold the right of those who are unbelievers or worship another deity? Once again Islam says “And abuse not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they out of spite, abuse Allah in their ignorance. Thus unto every people have we caused their doing seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return; and He will inform them of what they used to do”. (Quran 6:109). Does the true Islamic teaching not protect the golden principle of freedom of religion based on conscience enshrined in our constitution? Is this freedom and protection of faith not compatible with our modern way of life?
In this materialistic era of greed, cheating, injustices and lying in society with the sole intention of amassing wealth, what does Islam say about dishonesty? “O ye who believe! Be strict in observing justice and be witness for Allah, even though it may be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he against whom witness is borne, be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them than you are. Therefore follow not low desire so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it then remember that Allah is Well-Aware of what you do”. (4:136). Can these noble and honest teaching which can root out corruption from society even to the extent of testifying against your own self, family or powerful rich person in society to uphold justice and honest dealings be considered as incompatible with our modern way of life?
Islamic teachings, like any other religion, can be misinterpreted and misused by people. Even food that is vital for human survival can be misused and lead to medical problems like obesity or anorexia in extreme instances. Islam is also not immune to the same natural law of misuse and abuse and therefore demands and unbiased approach to fully comprehend its teaching. Lack of proper understanding of its teachings does not mean that it is incompatible with our modern way of living but instead failure on our part to study it teachings. Since the media has never taught any one to be perfect in any discipline but we instead consult an expert to augment our knowledge on certain phenomenon, we should use the same yardstick to learn Islam from authentic sources such as alislam.org.
To conclude, Just like the human genome sequence, nothing of God’s creation is “junk” or incompatible with our way of life if the right knowledge and effort is sought to decipher its appropriate use or intended purpose for society and thus, it will be a disfavor on our part to completely close our mind to the noble true teachings of Islam meant for the general good of mankind.