Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - 11:38 AM EST
I came across your site and this topic. As a Muslim perhaps I can clarify this issue for you.
Yes, Islam does contain a martial component as you correctly mentioned quoting the Quran. By now everyone knows of or at least has heard of 'Jihad'.
Your first and last sentence in the final line actually answers your query:
'Tolerance is a two way street.'
'There can be no tolerance of intolerance.'
And that is exactly what Jihad preaches. The real question which arises is - who is truly intolerant and who is truly tolerant.
The middle sentence:
'Islam is a religion founded on the idea of intolerance of others'
is a lie, presumably something that you have been indoctrinated into believing in by the mass medias anti-Islam campaign.
What is Islam founded on?
1. The belief in the One Unique God, Who is the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate.
The One Unique God:
What does this mean?
The words La Illaha IllalaH (There is no God but God)
The sentence starts with a negation 'La' ('No'), meaning that whatever you point to or whatever you see is 'La' (Not God).
This is similar to the ancient Hindu philosophers concept of God 'Neti Neti' which means 'Not this, Not this'. Again a negation. The ancient Hindus has many schools of philosophy that discussed the ultimate nature of God, and the ultimate conclusion they came to was that the one thing we could be sure of God was that He (or It if you prefer) is UNLIKE anything else we know, is truly, absolutely SINGULAR in nature. There is not another like him.
Other attributes include that he is eternal, i.e. time is His creation, and as a consequence neither was He begotten and nor does he beget (as He is Singular, Eternal, Absolutely Infinite). Nothing approaches Him or comes close to His Being.
However, other than these attributes He has others such as Mercy and Compassion.
What do the terms Mercy and Compassion mean as regards Islam?
Mercy means the Ultimate Mercy that He forgives mankind its sins after they die and admits them to His Paradise where they will have an eternal life.
So the Mercy here is referring to the mercy of the afterlife.
Of course in order to earn this Mercy there are a lot of responsibilities a person must undertake. God has not left mankind in the dark regarding the difference between right and wrong. This is the Quran which has two names Quran (the recitation) and Al-Furqan (The criterion). ie It is a recitation that is also the criterion between right and wrong, a guidance, and a mercy for mankind.
The Compassion is the compassion that He bestows on all creatures whether they are good or evil. It is that part of His Mercy that reaches all without discrimination. For example, most people in the world (particularly Muslim world) would consider Bush2 a evil tyrant and criminal. However, yet he seems blessed with health, wealth , prosperity, children, ie general earthly happiness. So God has infact been compassionate to him. However, these good things he enjoys are transitory and in the Afterlife he will weep much as he will be punished for his trangressions.
In Islam, faith in God (Allah: means 'The Supreme One') is not the same meaning as in the West. ie you can have faith in the theory of evolution for example.
In Islam it is something that all humans 'know' of deep in their hearts. ie the concept is not so much of choice but rather an instinct. That we all have an instinct, an inclination to believe in and worship (worship = 'Draw close to') God. For example when one gives charity (sincerely) it is considered an act of Worship and draws one close to God.
God has created us with this instinct, and it is a spiritual instinct, rather than a bilogical one (eat,sleep, procreate). To draw close to God is a deep seated need, because the spirit we have comes from God, for when He created man, He breathed into him some of His spirit. Hence we too have some 'godly' attributes on a smaller scale such as the ability to be merciful and compassionate.
A disbeliever in Islam is either of the two:
1. One who rejects what his own heart tells him to be true (the existence of God and the need to come close to God). And so he commits an act of Kufr and becomes a Kafir (disbeliever). (Kufr = Covering Up) The meaning of Kufr is it denotes someone who covers up what his heart is telling him, ie he denys the message from his own heart and thus corrupts his own heart and his spirit. On another level, an act of corruption (doing an evil act that is forbidden by God) is considered an act of anti-worship ie by doing so, you are distancing yourself from God, and thus corrupting the spiritual purity of your heart. It is a type of Kufr.
2. One who does not necessarily reject the God instinct in him, but whose understanding of God is so corrupted that he thinks an animal, person, or any object (even money or desire is his God) - so that he becomes completely devoted towards this object and in effect 'worships' it. This also is a form of corruption.
Other than this foundation of Islam (conviction in the One God) the second concept is that all humankind is one big family, we are all descendants of Adam and Eve, and all Muslims are one big true family , as this is not just a biological connection but also includes a spiritual connection (a higher connection). So basically a Muslim is the brother of another Muslim and this is the universal brotherhood irrespective of colour, language or culture. If you want to see true tolerance go to a mosque where you will see Muslims of all colours and classes all praying to God.
The other pillars of Islam are:
The Islamic Prayer is a set of 'yoga type' meditations both physical and verbal that are designed to make the person draw closer to God. The Muslim bows his head to the ground in prayer to indicate and confirm that he worships God. The only way he can do this is when his spirit controls his ego, and this is the reason why he bows his head. Man does not pray to God mainly because he has a massive ego problem.
He is arrogant. Our concept of ego resides in our forehead, which is what is required for us to put to the ground, ie only when we put our individual ego under control can we truly feel the presence of God, and only when that ego and its associated 'inner chattering monkey'is brought down, only then do we feel true inner peace. This peace is what is called tranquility, a mental peace, a sense of contentment. All muslims who pray experience this. It is worthy to note that even in the Bible (Muslims consider it s true revelation that came from God and Jesus as a true Prophet, but that the book has been changed and thus corrupted - so it contains truth and falsehood) Jesus is described as praying with his forehead bowed to the ground.
However it is important to note that the Muslim is supposed to bow, subsume his ego, but only to God. i.e he/she is not supposed to bow to any other human being or object (idol). So the act of worshipping God also denotes the freedom of the worshipper from the tyranny of others who would set themselves up as God.
If you would take up a book on Yoga, usually if it is an extensive book (I possess one) you will find the positions of Muslim prayer included. Infact the postion of bowing prayer in Yoga is called the 'postion of peace' because of its beneficial physical results including a clearing of the mind.
The word Allah itself is singular. In Arabic there is no plural form 'Gods' nor is there a feminine form 'Godess'. While God has allowed us to use the masculine form 'He' for convenience in understanding it is not the normal masculine form which denotes the existence of an opposite feminine form.
The prayer is set to 5 specific times during a day. One of the purposes also of the prayer is to extract people from the daily distraction of their lives so that they can remember their Creator and their own responsibilities and their ultimate destination.
As someone once said 'They (the disbelievers) drink to forget (God), we pray to remember (God)'.
The life of this world is considered ultimately, an illusion, but a dangerous one that can attract and trap us within it and can cause us to stray from the path to God and become distanced from Him. So the Call to Prayer (the Azan) is a call for all mankind to remember God and hearken to this path.
A modern analogy I can give is from the movie Matrix, when the group use a telephone call to pull them out of the illusionary matrix.
Likewise the call to prayer if answered, 'pulls' the person out of the illusionary world and reminds him of ultimate reality.
Another purpose of the prayer is that it unites all those who pray together, it binds them together. They stand shoulder to shoulder, foot to foot, no matter what their colour, nationality, or social class. It is a true democracy, wherein there is no elite group (like 'whites' or 'rich') but all are equal before God, Who Alone is the True Master. So the prayer is also a communal ritual that binds spiritually the people who participate in it.
So this is the prayer and its purpose.
As far as fasting, charity are concerned I won't go into them as you already understand I assume their beneficial significance.
The pilgrimmage to Mecca is also a ritual like the prayer but is the prayer on a global scale, for all mankind. And it is so, that all mankind come together to pray there to the Unseen God, to Allah.
Next to these pillars of Islam is also the responsibility of Jihad (fighting oppressors and tyrants). This is a very high responsibility for all Muslims.
If you will read the Quran completely (not just pick out verses that encourage Muslims to fight) You will find many verses that confirm that Muslims must deal kindly and justly with people who offer them the same treatment. This is of course talking about non-muslims.
The call to fight is against only those who attack Muslims, drive them out of their homes.
In the first verse you quoted the line 'But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun '
clearly explains this.
Az-Zalimun generally means Oppressors, Tyrants.
As I have said it is the duty of all Muslims to fight tyranny and especially so the tyranny which is directed against them.
Part of the rules of Jihad also include laws of retaliation (Islam is in effect the same religion of Abraham and Moses with the same laws and commandments except it is not for one particular people but for all mankind). Such as a tooth for a tooth, blood for blood, and destruction for destruction. The Quran does not change these rules and infact the Quran is a Guardian over the Bible and the Torah as mentioned in the Quran (ie it confirms what is true in these books and reject what is false -that has been added by corrupt and ignorant priests). Retaliation itself is a form of defence and is the root of justice.
As regards the Muslim anger at the cartoon drawings there are many reasons for this:
First and foremost Muslims were forbidden by the Prophet Muhammed (Allahs Peace and Blessings be upon him) to draw him or make any physical likeness of him.
The reason is historical. One of the problems in history is that God has sent Prophets to all the nations of mankind (as mentioned in the Quran) , yet Islam (which is considered the primordial religion - or the original religion of man from Adam & Eve) never took root for long.
The reasons for this are as follows:
1. People (usually the wealthy elite of a town/nation) rejected the message because of their arrogance (again the ego).
2. People did accept the teachings, but after the death of the Prophet, a few generations later they started forgetting the essence of the teachings and started confusing the message with the messenger. Then they started making statues of the prophets in order for the future generations to remember them. Hence a kind of cult formed later where people stopped acting according to the religion but instead started worshipping these statues of the saints/prophets which had been built to remind them of God and their religion. Eventually people forgot all about their religion and just followed their whims and desires and the only act what they considered as worship was to sing and pray infront of these statues. That is the origin of idol worship.
It is for this reason that Muslims were forbidden from making a likeness of the Prophet. And this is the challenge you can test it - out of all religions in the world today, only Muslims do not worship any kind of idols.
However, another reason is that people could also go to the other extreme of rejecting the religion and insulting the prophet, making a mock of him and the religion.
And such is the case today, where Christians used to initially worship the statue of a crucified Jesus as a god, they have 'evolved' to the next level of mocking Jesus which is a common place occurence in Western society nowadays.
It is in order to avoid this, for mocking the messenger is the same as mocking the message which in turn is mocking God, that Muslims are forbidden from doing this.
However, as far as this controversy is concerned the Danish editor Flemming Rose is not an issue of 'free speech'. These cartoons were made purposely to provoke the Muslims and Rose himself has known links to American Zionists and Neo-cons.
This is actually a kind of an ongoing War on Muslims, a Psy Ops if you will to say that we can make war on you, kill your women and children, steal your wealth, and on top of that we can insult you and your religion.
It is kind of the icing on the cake, or if you will the straw that broke the camels path.
So all the protests have to be seen in context of the current chain of events and not isolated from it.
The added dimension to this problem is that Muslims who live in the West are usually given fair treatment. This is true. They can have mosques, publish their books, practise their religion (to some extent). Hence the majority of them have 'moderate' views because by and large they are tolerated.
This is because the Modern West is like the Roman Empire of old which didn't care what 'gods' you worshipped or even what colour you were as long as you were a citizen of Rome. If you were a citizen then you had the rights of every other citizen.
If you were not a citizen then you and your nation could be exploited and destroyed.
The problem for Muslims living in the West is that they are 'moderate' because they are Roman citizens and hence generally feel happy about living in the West (except those who are unskilled and are poor). The conflict comes because they have 'dual citizenship' and are both Roman citizens and citizens of Carthage (the Muslim nations) which is in conflict with Rome.
So which citizenship should take priority? This is an inner conflict and the temporary resolution they have is one not of armed conflict as they are part of the same communities. It is more like a 'real politik'.
Indeed the Wests (in particular Americas) destructive foreign policy towards the world in general and the Muslim nations in particular is a matter of fact and record. Read 'Rogue State' by William Blum and 'Behind the War on Terror' by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed for more info.
Anyway, I think thats enough from me, I have gone on far too long, I hope I did manage to convey something of the message of Islam, the rest is for you to study and research.
Accept or reject that is indeed your choice.
Allahu Akbar (God is Greater Than > all things).
May He guide you to the right path. Ameen.