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Islam in the current world is connected with numerous thoughts both great and terrible. Islam is an old religion that is extremely misconstrued my many people. It has been corrupted and connected with savagery, hostilities, and activities that are insensitive as a result of recent incidents. This is an issue on the global stage in light of religiously propelled terrorism and the connections that have been produced, wrongly so, by the terror networks. This has led many people to question whether Islam is truly a peaceful religion (Asani 5). The sorry part is that many people simply assume that Islam is a violent religion due to what they hear and see in the media. Islam, however, is not savage or callous, it is a religion based upon serene standards and cherishing decrees (Gillum 8).
According to Gillum, Islam is regularly misrepresented as an exceptionally fierce and cruel religion, in light of its association with Middle East politics (10). However, this is far from the truth. Islam is and has forever been a tranquil and benevolent religion. The truth of the matter is that Islamic radicals who use terrorism as a necessary means of achieving their end are in all actuality not representing the genuine Muslim beliefs. They accept and lecture a rendition of Islam so compelling and misconstrued to the point that they lecture false and manufactured talks. This is not Islam, nor is it supported by the majority of the Muslim faithful (ABC News 1).
This paper will try to disapprove the common stereotypical beliefs about Islam as a religion by exploring the life of Prophet Mohammed. The paper will demonstrate that Islam is, in fact, a very peaceful religion and that the fundamentalists are just a small group of people soiling the image of Islam. Besides exploring various body of literature related to the topic under study, essay will use verses of the Quran to prove certain points. The essay will also analyze the two branches of Islam, namely: Sunnis and Shiites. The essay will explore the differences between the two branches and how they came to be in the situation they are in today.
The true meaning of Islam
Islam is a far reaching and widespread religion for all races and categories of individuals. It is not inclined to serve a particular classification or gathering of individuals. Islam is particularly intended to address the needs of all mankind (Al-Sheha 6). Its growth is attributed to its ethical immaculateness and lucidity, straightforwardness in a stringent monotheistic statement of faith and thorough disallowance of a wide range of culpability, abuse and foul play appeal to all manner of individuals, paying little respect to color, social and financial status (Gulen 45).
The main objective of Islam is to establish a perfect human culture and fellowship spreading extensive generosity and spiritual direction among all human beings for their improvement and deliverance. Part of its central goal is to create justness at all instances and heights, to keep up genial relations even with prospective adversaries provided that there are no open demonstrations of threats, and to advance tranquility at whatsoever point conceivable (Esposito 12).
According to the Quran, the Almighty Allah says that “it might be that God will allow love and fellowship in the middle of you and those whom you hold as adversaries. For God has control over everything; he is most tolerant and kindhearted. The Almighty Allah condemns any act of aggression towards individuals who do not battle you for your religion nor drive you out of your homes: for the Almighty Allah adores the individuals who are morally right and fair. This is because Islam is a religion of peace, mutual cooperation and security. The individuals who support such activities or events are wrong” (60:7-9) (Asani 52).
The Almighty Allah through the Quran also states that “if the adversaries accept to be peaceful then the believers must also embrace peace since Allah understands the plight of everybody and hears our cries” (8:61). This Quran verse expresses that at any point the adversary accepts peace it is upon the Muslim faithful to also embrace peace. For that reason, the academicians and investigators are expected to conduct their study of Islam and its doctrines objectively and in an honest manner (Gillum 19).
One of the proofs that is Islam is very significance is that, despite frail backing stretched out by the supporters of Islam and the limitless war pursued against it by the media and other enemies, it has resisted defamation and contorting developments, and keeps on spreading on its own virtues and principles in all corners of the globe. What is behind the spread of Islam, notwithstanding the shortcomings of the Muslim faithful, is the characteristic potency of truth and righteousness that by nature dispels and overcomes all misrepresentation and treachery. In Islam the Muslim faithful finds absolute fulfillment that incorporates their sacred and ethical needs, as well as their material needs (Al-Sheha 8).
With respect to the individuals who decline to unlock their minds and thoughts about Islam, they will without a doubt stay embroiled in sham wishes, contracted intolerance and insensible partialities. A no doubt understood principle is that humans being by nature cannot easily accept what they dread. Humans often dread what they do not understand and, therefore, become adversaries to what they do not have a clue about (ABC News 2). In the holy book of Quran, the Almighty Allah describes humans by saying “man is like jinn who are made for the hell fire; they have hearts, but they do not understand, they have eyes but they cannot see and they have ears but they cannot listen. They are similar to cows, but more confused. They are imprudent and careless” (The Quran 7:179: Gillum 26).
Cows normally trail blindly. However, their movements are based on the laws of nature and impulses created by the Almighty Allah, whereas humans follow traditions and leaders blindly, dismissing what God has uncovered for their own advantage and deliverance. Verse 43:22 of the Holy Quran states that “humans always follow the footsteps of their parents, which ultimately guides their faith” (Gillum 27).
The word Islam is all about submitting to the will of the Almighty Allah, the creator of the universe and everything that is in it, with the whole body and spirit. Submission also means obeying all his commandments and laws and accepting everything that he has fated for humans on earth (ABC News 3). The term Islam was derived from the Arabic word “Salam”, which means peace. “Salam” is one of the key attributes of the Almighty Allah. According to verse 59:23 of the holy Quran, “Allah is the one and only God, there is no other god except him; Allah is the ruler, the sanctified one, the foundation of tranquility (and faultlessness), the protector of religion, the defender, the glorious, the most appealing, and the ultimate. Glory is to God! He is above everything within and without the universe” (Asani 60).
Muslim faithful normally exchange sanitized and dignified greeting “As-Salamu Alaikum” when they get together, takes notice of each other, and when they call each other. They can even say the greeting in the absence of other people to acknowledge the presence of angels. The greeting also helps to soften the heart of individuals from all sorts of adversary, feeling of resentment and animosity, supplanting it with great will, shared appreciation, quietness, security and satisfaction (Al-Sheha 9). Regularly Muslims welcome each other by uttering the complete version of the greeting taught by the Prophet Muhammad, that is, “As-Salamu Alaikum wa rahmatul’laah”. It means peace and favors of the omnipotent Allah are upon you, and his kindness (Al-Sheha 10).
The life, character and teachings of the Prophet of Allah
Muhammad bin Abdullah was a progeny of Prophet Abraham through his son, Ishmael. Abraham’s other son was Isaac who is the ancestor of the Jews. The Prophet was from the famous Quraysh tribe of Saudi Arabia. He did not discover Islam. However, he was the last and the last flag-bearer of the Almighty Allah. Each point of interest of his personal life and open discourse was documented and safeguarded to date (At-Tamimi and Abdul 3).
At the time of his conception, the Arab world was in a very deplorable state. People devoted their lives to alcohol, gambling, and venerating idols. Young ladies got to such a despicable state that parents would bury their newborn babies because of the paranoid fear of humiliation. Women were regarded as a mere commodity that could be bought or acquired, while slavery was the order of the day (Gulen 48).
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The Holy Prophet was born an orphan. His father passed on before he was conceived, while his mother kicked the bucket when he was six. As a result, Prophet Muhammad was raised by his grandfather. Eventually, the grandfather passed away when he was eight and, therefore, he went to live with his uncle, Abu Talib. The Holy Prophet’s upbringing was pure and unsoiled. He dwelled in Mecca, among the idol venerators. Notwithstanding, the prophet never appreciated symbols, nor expended anything that was shown as gift to them. Dissimilar to his kindred adolescents, he never got drank, bet or partook in any unholy exercises. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that the Almighty God protected him from all the evil activities. His childhood shaped his adult life (Nasr 2).
Prophet Muhammad had an overwhelming affection for the Almighty Allah, and since his childhood, he had attempted to build his relationship with him. This is the reason why he used to invest most of his energy in praying and beseeching to God. The Holy Prophet was not after resources of this world. Instead, he was forever striving to connect with his maker (Gulen 55). Prophet Muhammad cherished the Almighty Allah so much that Allah summoned him to make it known to the faithful, so that they could follow his steps, in the event that they required the abatement of their transgressions and needed to be the adored by Allah. Verse 3: 32 of the Holy Quran states that “say, if you adore God the Almighty; God will cherish you and exonerate you from your transgressions because Allah is the most lenient and compassionate God” (Nasr 3).
The prophet was exceptionally tolerant in adversity and anguish. He was never debilitated by unfavorable situations, nor did he allow any individual desires to get a grip over him. His father had passed away before his introduction to the world and his mother kicked the bucket while he was still a little child. Two years after his mother passed away, he was in the care of his grandfather and later, after his end, he was under the watchful eye of his uncle. These were some major hurdles for him. However, he generally acted in an honorable way (Nasr 3).
In addition, the Holy Prophet, for his entire life, experienced numerous hardships. After marriage, he lost a number of children, and then his adored and dedicated wife Khadija kicked the bucket. A portion of the spouses he wedded after Khadija’s demise passed on when he was still alive. When he was drawing closer to the end of his life, he lost his child Abraham. He bore all these misfortunes and cataclysms smoothly, and none of them affected him at all cost (Nasr 4).
Prophet Mohammad was extremely strict when it comes to matters of enhancing the state of women in the society. He championed for just and equal treatment of women, contrary to the current notion that Islam is oppressive to women. In actuality, Islam was the original faith to give ladies right to claim or acquire property. The Holy Quran includes girl child among the beneficiaries of the property left by their guardians. In the same way, mothers are made beneficiaries of their children’s belongings and wives beneficiaries of their spouses’ property. Sisters are also given the right to inherit their brother’s properties (Gulen 57).
No religion before Islam had so clearly and obdurately given woman privilege of legacy and entitlement to property. According to Islam, a woman has the right to own a property and her spouse is not entitled to it simply by virtue of matrimony. A woman also has all the freedom to manage her property as she wishes. Even though Islam does not prohibit polygamy, it restricts the number of wives to four. Men are required to treat their women justly and equally. In addition, the Islamic law emphasizes on the women’s right to matrimonial contracts (Esposito and Natana 12).
The Prophet was so wary about the feelings of women that on one event when he was conducting a prayer session, he heard a cry of a baby and ended the prayer abruptly, clarifying from there on that when had heard the cry of the baby he felt the baby’s mother would be bothered by the cry and he had in this manner concluded the prayer abruptly so that the mother could take care of the little one (Gulen 59). Another incident occurred during turmoil in Saudi Arabia when the Prophet tumbled from his steed, which made his entourage to tumble from their horses. Those who were affected included women. One of his escorts, who were on a camel at the rear jumped and ran towards him exclaiming, “May I be of help the messenger of God?” However, Prophet Mohammad turned down his offer. Instead, he pleaded with him to go and help the affected women (Esposito and Natana 14).
Prophet Mohammad was an extraordinary supporter of humankind, and for the duration of his life he helped the underprivileged and the destitute, and showed kindness to them. He was the most generous and merciful individual in the history of mankind. According to verse 21:108 of the holy Quran, “Allah the Almighty commands his people to be merciful to all mankind”. When Prophet Muhammad was roughly 25 years of age, he joined a group, which was formed to assist victims of conflicts and social injustices. The group was basically formed to assist troubled individuals. The group members were bound by a treaty, which means they had to take an oath. They pledged to assist all the distressed persons through a number of initiatives that would see them compensated or restored to their original state (Nasr 7).
The Prophet was constantly anxious to tackle the issues in the general public and to create peace and congruity among people through his divine gift of astuteness and insight. Once it so happened, when he was around thirty years of age, the Quraish tribes wanted to revamp the cube-shaped building at the center of the sacred mosque in Mecca, which is commonly known as the Kaaba. The renovation was aimed at preventing the building from breaking down. When they came to the heart of the matter in the development of the sacred building, the Quraish tribes started to clash with each other over who should put the black stone. Putting the Blackstone in place was a major honor (Esposito and Natana 16).
This dispute proceeded for several days until it became serious. The tribes had vowed to fight for the honor of putting the black stone. They were nearly killing each other over the matter when an unknown individual intervened. He proposed that the first individual to enter the sacrosanct building at day break will be given the credit of putting the Blackstone. All the tribes accepted this suggestion. Coincidentally, the Prophet of the Almighty Allah was the earliest to enter the sacred building. After seeing him, all the tribes were excited and announced, “It is Al-Amīn (the dependable one), we acknowledge him” (Esposito and Natana 16).
Prophet Muhammad asked for a sheet of material, laid it on the floor, and after that put the Blackstone amidst it. He then asked all the tribes to choose a solitary agent from the each of the tribe. They were requested to grab an edge of the material. They then carried the Blackstone using the material to the sacred building. The greater part of the picked delegates then conveyed the stone together to the Kaaba. When they came to the correct spot, the Prophet of the Almighty Allah placed it on the barrage. Prophet Muhammad never liked conflict since he was a man of peace and justice (Esposito and Natana 17).
The war in Ta’if had some individuals who had previously abused Prophet Muhammad physically. After the war, an extensive number of the enemies were captured, but the rest flee. These detainees were from the rival ethnic group and battled under Hatim’s son. When the war prisoners were conveyed to the court of the Holy Prophet of Allah, Hatim’s daughter pleaded with him as follows: “Ambassador of Allah the Almighty, my father is deceased, my sibling, my only kin, has fled away into the mountains because of the Muslims. I depend on your kindness for my freedom. My father was a distinguished man, the sovereign of his tribe, a man who freed detainees, secured the honor of female kind, provided for the poor people, and supported the beleaguered” (Nasr 14).
Prophet Mohammad answered, “Your old man had the ideals of a genuine Muslim.” Then, tending to the Muslims surrounding him, he said, “The daughter of Hatim is liberated. Her father was a liberal, kind and caring individual. Allah adores the sympathetic individuals.” After this, Hatim’s daughter tended to the Holy Prophet and said, “The kindness of my dad was not restricted to any person or any gathering of individuals. Instead, it was for all without any form of discrimination or prejudice. Therefore, your leniency ought not to be constrained to me alone. I cannot leave my kin as detainees, and accept your mercy.” As a result, the Prophet released all the war prisoners, including Hatim’s daughter (Nasr 15).
Another attribute Prophet Muhammad possessed was honesty. He was exceptionally strict in his benchmarks of honesty. This is the reason why, even before he became a prophet, he was famously known by his peers as the most straightforward and dependable individual. In the same way, he felt that Muslims should embrace the same standards of truthfulness. He viewed truth as the premise of prudence, decency and excellent character. He taught that an honest individual is guaranteed a place in the kingdom of God (Gulen 60).
At one event, a war detainee was brought to him. He was guilty of killing countless Muslims. Umar, who was also present, believed that the man merited capital punishment and he stared at the Prophet anticipating that he would at any minute confirm that the man ought to be executed (Nasr 29). After Prophet Muhammad had released the man, Umar complained that he ought to have been killed because that was the most suitable punishment for him. The Prophet answered, “If that was the case, why didn’t you execute him?” Umar answered, “Messenger of God, if you had given me an eye signal, he would have been dead by now.” To this, the prophet explained to Umar that “a prophet does not take action murkily” (Nasr 30).
Prophet Muhammad was also extraordinary in implementing consistent principles of equity and evenhandedness. At one point, a lady belonging to reputed family was caught stealing. Given the status of the family, prosecuting this lady could have brought extraordinary stress to the family. Numerous individuals were ready to beg the Prophet to pardon the lady. However, they were hesitant to do so. In the end, a number of renowned individuals, including Usama, one of the dearest friends of Prophet Mohammed embraced the idea of sparing the lady from prosecution.
When Umar put this subject before the Holy Prophet, he declined to dismiss the offender and expressed dismay by stating: “Many people have destroyed their lives in the past as they punished innocent souls and freed the real culprits. By Allah, even if my own daughter had committed the offense, she had to be punished. Everyone has to take responsibility for their action” (Gulen 70). The Holy Prophet of Allah was extremely stringent in actualizing justice, even if it was against him. Once, while he was disseminating the crown jewels of war, individuals rushed around him and one man nearly tumbled upon him. He pushed him with a rod resulting in a minor bruise. He was so sad about it that he told the man that it was okay if he wanted to revenge. However, the man pardoned him (Gulen 72).
Prophet Mohammad also showed bravery and steadfastness. He went through outstandingly tough and confounded tribulations in his life. He began his life as an orphan, which is regarded to be extremely troublesome phase in somebody’s life. He was also confronted with serious atrocities from his foes. In addition, he had an extraordinary obligation of being a prophet and leader, but he took care of every state of affairs with incredible strength and boldness. He always remained on the front line in all circumstances. Prophet Muhammad was the most excellent and the most courageous amongst his generation (Nasr 45).
At one point in time, Medina was loaded with bits of gossip that the Romans were setting up mercenaries for its attack. In that day, there were some hints of mayhem originating from the wilderness. The Muslims rushed out of their homes and a number of them assembled in the mosque, waiting for Prophet Mohammad to advise them on how to handle the crisis. They then saw Prophet Muhammad coming from the wilderness with a sword hanging by his neck. He told them not to be terrified (Nasr 46).
Prophet Muhammad also placed a lot of emphasis on solidarity and mutual cooperation through his teachings and real life examples. Many Individuals frequently came and live with him, dedicating their time and energy to serving Allah the Almighty. He asked his relatives to accommodate and provide for one another, and uphold freedom of worship (Esposito and Natana 22). In the course of the journey, when his companions were busy erecting tents and doing other tasks, Prophet Muhammad would go to the nearby bush to collect firewood for cooking. He always wanted to help under whatever circumstance in the spirit of brotherhood and togetherness (Esposito and Natana 23).
Lastly, the Holy Prophet also emphasized on religious tolerance among the believers, but set an extremely elevated standard as regard to this. A designation of Christians from the local ethnic group paid him a visit to trade thoughts on the issues of religion. The discussion was held in the mosque and took a considerably long period of time. At one stage, the head of the designation requested for permission to lead an administration outside the building. The Prophet told him that he was free to conduct the service in the mosque since they were all serving the same God, the Almighty Allah. Prophet Muhammad really respected freedom of worship (Esposito and Natana 21).
Under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad, Non-Muslims enjoyed the maximum freedom as their Muslim counterparts. The Prophet prohibited any form of discrimination, especially along the religious line. According to Prophet Muhammad, all faiths were equal since the believers were all natives. For that reason, Non-Muslims were free to conduct their services in the Islamic state (Esposito and Natana 24). In the 168 calendar era, Prophet Mohammad presented a charter of freedom to the monks at Mt. Sinai.
The contract comprised of all aspects of human rights, which incorporate opportunity to love, flexibility to possess property, the chance to choose their own judges, exclusion from security obligations, the right to insurance in combat. The charter can be used as a guide by Muslim states managing Non- Muslims. There is a lot that can be said about the Holy Prophet of Allah. However, the study only covered the aspects of his life that are relevant to our study. What cannot be denied is the fact that Prophet Muhammad lived a very straightforward and righteous life. He represents the true Islam (Esposito and Natana 25).
The origin of Sunnis and Shiites and their differences
The split between Sunnis and Shiites took place immediately after the demise of the Holy Prophet of Allah in 632 C.E. The cause of the dispute was the subject of succession. In other words, both sides started to clash on who was going to be the rightful successor of Prophet Muhammad. The lion’s share of Muslims needed the entire Muslim group to choose the caliph. However, a section of the believers (Shiites) wanted his relative to be the caliph. They favored the husband of the prophet’s daughter, Fatima. They wanted the leadership mantle to remain in the family of Prophet Muhammad. For that reason, the political division between the two factions is the origin of their split (Schuster 2).
Sunnis won and nominated the first successor (caliph) of the Prophet. The earlier fronted candidate, Ali, became the fourth successor. It was during his time that the hostility between the two factions reached the boiling point. Ali and two of his predecessors were killed (Schuster 2). The violence between the two Muslim communities led to the split. The war continued with Ali’s son, Hussein, who was also killed together with over 70 members of his family. Sunni fighters outnumbered the Shiites because they were the majority. His was beheaded and his cranium taken to the Sunni leader as a mark of respect. The death of Hussein means a lot to the Shiites. It always draws excess emotions and spiritual power (Schuster 3).
The Shiites allude to their pioneers as Imam with Ali and Hussein being the originals. They celebrate Hussein’s passing consistently in an open custom of self-flogging and grieving known as Ashoura. The importance of the Imams is one of the crucial contrasts that differentiate the two factions of Islam. The Imams have taken an otherworldly essentialness to Shiites than Sunnis (NYU Center for Dialogues 4). Sunnis have in a number of occasions condemned Shiites for associating Imams with divinity. The contrast between the two groups is further widened by the 12th Imam. He is commonly referred to as the Hidden Imam. The Shiites believe the12th Imam went into hiding and will reappear towards the end of the world. Their belief is similar to the Jews and Christians who are also waiting for the return of the Messiah. The 12th Imam believers are known as the 12th Shiites who are the bulk of Shiites at present (NYU Center for Dialogues 5).
In the present day, the majority of Sunnis concurs that the role of a caliph was to uphold the character and beliefs of Prophet Muhammad, otherwise known as Sunna. However, they do not believe in the role of a spiritual leader or religious authority. On the other hand, Shiites believe that the heir to Prophet Muhammad should be an Imam. According to them, an Imam is a representative of Allah the Almighty with a spiritual role to guide the humankind. This implies that religion and politics can be merged. Therefore, the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites today has taken both historical and political contexts (NYU Center for Dialogues 6).
The conflict between the two factions has also taken an international shape. The U.S. has a longstanding relationship with the Sunni Muslims, hence a strong bond between the U.S. and Saudi Kingdom (Pan 5). The political reality of the world today has seen the two factions turning on each other both in Iraq and Syria. In the current Iraqi conflict, the Sunni leaders have come up with a radical political agenda that has no historical basis. They are using the conflict between the two factions for political gain, which is very sad. This is contrary to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed, who over-emphasized and advocated for mutual-cooperation among Muslims themselves, and between Muslims and Non-Muslims (Pan 6).
The recent conflict and killings in Syria has unleashed a new horror in the Muslim World. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an extremist group that upholds ultraconservative ideology of the Sunni Islam, unexpectedly transformed its strategies, started vanquishing Iraqi urban areas with the plan of making an Islamic government led by a caliph. The first supporters of this ideology are the former loyalists to Sadam Hussein’s government who are discontented with the current regime.
Mainstream Iraqi Sunnis who feel excluded from the pro-Shiite government have also thrown their weight behind ISIS. The ISIS muscle further increased when they captured US -made artilleries from the Iraqi soldiers (Pan 7). The growth of ISIS poses a real test for the global powers, including the U.S. and Europe. The crisis must be figured out before the militia drags the whole Middle East into total turmoil and bloodshed. Moreover, the growth of ISIS is a sign of the increasing divide between the two Muslim factions, that is, Shiites and Sunnis (Pan 8).
Generally, people tend to stereotype ethnic groups, religions or communities based on the information they receive about individuals or section of individuals from that grouping. Stereotypes usually make snap judgments without considering the real facts. This has been the case with Islamic religion. The entire Islam has been linked with terrorism, oppression of women, religious intolerance and many other ills. However, from our study it is very clear that the activities of the fundamentalists do not represent true Islam. The life and character of true Muslims are exemplified by Prophet Muhammad. In addition, the actual magnificence and grandeur of Islam is manifested fully through individuals who live by it and practice it. A number of authors and individuals have not appreciated the doctrines of Islam, which include global fellowship, respectable and judicious standards, and outstanding cases of immaculateness, decency, honesty, liberality, strength, and equity.
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