In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring
In a poll of Americans released by Public Religion Research Institute, a majority of Americans said that “The values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life.”
And this feeling is consistent across various religious and racial groups of Americans.
Yet, when I first came across the results of this study, my reaction was not, “Wow, how bigoted Americans are!” Rather, my feeling was that we need to teach the majority of my fellow Americans what the true values of Islam are.
I would suspect that the Americans surveyed gleaned the values of Islam from the incessantly negative coverage of all things Islamic and Muslim. Yet, the truth is quite different. Islam’s values are many, but – the opinions of Islamophobes and Islamist extremists notwithstanding – they have nothing to do with violence, terror, and death.
First and foremost, Islam is about peace. I am sure many a reader is rolling his or her eyes now. But, it is the absolute truth. Islam is about attaining inner peace through the willful submission of one’s will to that of God:
O you who have attained to faith! Surrender yourselves wholly unto God [or, enter wholeheartedly into peace], and follow not Satan’s footsteps, for, verily, he is your open foe. (2:208)
Verily in the remembrance of God hearts do find rest (13:28)
AND [know that] God invites [humanity] unto the abode of peace, and guides him that wills [to be guided] onto a straight way (10:25)
It is clear that Muslims make a universal brotherhood and sisterhood across the world. The Qur’an is explicit in saying so. Yet, Islam connects all humanity together through our common father and mother, Adam and Eve:
Humanity! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware. (49:13)
Islam is also about piety, kindness, charity, and compassion:
True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance – however much he himself may cherish – it – upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God. (2:177)
And as important as peace, Islam is about love: love for God; love for fellow humanity; love for the world; for the poor; love for you family; love for your spouse; love for everything. Every surah (“chapter”) of the Qur’an, except one, begins with the same phrase which I begin every blog post: “In the Name of God, the Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring.” The Qur’an is full of the love and care and mercy of God, and there is not a page that is turned in the Qur’an without the love of God overflowing.
Now, of course, many can find in the very same Qur’an verse after verse that seem violent, intolerant, belligerent, and sectarian. Many a commenter on this blog has done just that. Yet, there has to be enough of a sophistication to understand that these tough verses have a context, a mainstream understanding, and an explanation. Every scripture has tough verses that can be used to justify unspeakable crimes; Islam is no different.
Yet, that is not what Islam has taught me. Violence, and death, and murder are not spiritually fulfilling, but rather, they defile one’s spirit and soul. If that was truly what Islam was all about, it would not have endured all these centuries; it would not have inspired a civilization that greatly contributed to human history; it would not provide comfort for billions of people around the world today.
The values of Islam fit perfectly with the values of America and the rest of the world. That is the truth. The fact that most Americans do not think this is true simply means that we have more teaching to do. And, God willing, I will continue to do my best to do just that.