We said last time that if for no other reason than to understand the world in which we are living, it is important for people who are not Muslim to know something about Islam.
Being fed so much on the TV and in the press about Islam, people deserve to know what this “Islam” really is.
They need to be able to distinguish for themselves between what is truly “Islamic” and what are the actions and words of people who don’t really speak for Muslims at all.
Without knowing a little about Islam, people might be forgiven, in watching news stories on the TV, for thinking it is the religion of monsters, whereas ordinary Muslims throughout the world share nothing with those who would harm and dominate others in the name of Islam.
Muslims are just ordinary folk, going out to work each day to put food on the table for their children, yet their lives have been touched by an extraordinary message.
There is a second reason why non-Muslims should know about Islam: it has something to offer them.
Muslims believe that Islam is the natural religion of mankind and that it has existed since the beginning of time. They believe that Islam speaks to the hearts of all people. Far from being the religion of Arabs, Islam actually is the religion for all people, everywhere.
The real Islam is not a threat to any country. In fact, the real Islam, as lived by millions and millions of Muslims worldwide, is actually a blessing wherever it is allowed to be understood.
So what is it that is so important for non-Muslims to understand? What does Islam have to offer them?
We need to understand that when Islam dawned upon the Arabian Peninsula fourteen hundred years ago it came to turn the world upside down and to set people free. It still has that same power to liberate today.
In the seventh century, the pre-Islamic Arabs were enslaved to so many things, much as in our own world we are enslaved to things today. They were primarily enslaved in the religion of idol worship, praying to statues of wood and stone and calling upon them to help them in their daily lives.
The message of Islam broke through that idol worship to say that these people were wasting their time. Statues of wood and stone, or gods of fire and rain, could not help them.
The message of Islam was very simple: there was just One God in heaven, Who had created them and Who still cared for them. In turning to that One God (known in Arabic as “Allah”) they could find inner peace and a way to live that would make sense and bring them happiness.
This, too, is important for people to understand today. The way of living imposed upon people by Islam was not just an arbitrary set of rules imposed upon them by a remote God.
This God, Allah, was indeed remote and different from them, but He was also closer to them than they were to themselves. Since He had created them, He knew everything about them and He knew what was best for them.
In our modern world, there are few people who would buy a new mobile phone without at first having at least a cursory glance at the instructions provided by the mobile phone company. Without looking at the maker’s instructions they would risk breaking the phone.
It is the same way with Allah.
As the One Who made us, He knows how we work and what is best for us. Islam simply teaches that without listening to the Maker’s instructions we cannot live the full lives He intended us to live.
Some people might say that some of these instructions seem strange, maybe even difficult to accept. Muslims would respond that Allah surely knows better than we do what is best for us. He made us. So if He tells us that drinking alcohol is not good for us or that eating pork will harm us, then surely He knows better than we do what is for our own good.
There is so much of that original message of Islam that has become clouded over in our modern age and just doesn’t reach people’s ears. Modern-day detractors would have us believe that Islam is somehow hostile to women or treats them as less than men. Indeed, cultural practices in some countries would support that view.
Yet Islam does not hold that view. Islam, when it dawned upon the Arabian Peninsula all those years ago, came to give women unheard of rights they had not known before.
Why is it that Muslim women, even today, don’t change their name when they get married?
Why do they keep as their own the money given as a dowry?
It is because Islam protects them as individuals and gives them security for the future. It gives them the right to be provided for by their husbands and to work or not to work, as they choose.
In those early years, Islam abolished the pernicious practice of female infanticide. It put an end to men having the right to marry as many women as they wanted to. It gave women the right to own property and carry out business transactions. Many of these rights were only enjoyed by women in the West in the nineteenth century.
The list goes on and on. Only by learning something about Islam will people see that it has the potential to offer a different way of living, different to the way offered to us by the modern world.
In Islam, money is the not to ‘be-all and the end-all’ of everything. In fact, Muslims give away a portion of their unused wealth every year. Far from hoarding it and making interest on it, Islam tells them to give it away!
In praying five times a day, Muslims are not just following a ritualistic rota of prescribed prayers, They are pausing five times in their busy day to think about what life is really about and Who made it. In doing that they can then go about their lives with a sense of meaning and direction.
In other words, in Islam there is a reason behind everything that Muslims do. At the heart of everything they do, is the belief that has come from Almighty God (Allah) and that at the end of their lives it is to Him that they will return.
Life in this world is but a passing thing, to be enjoyed and to be lived well, but it is one lived always with an eye on the life of the world to come. In keeping that eye on the future, Muslims’ lives become rich, richer than any money can provide.
If people really want to get the most out of this life, enjoying its benefits and avoiding its dangers, they owe it to themselves to find out a little about what Islam has to offer. In doing so, they will find that it offers them the chance of really becoming the best they can be.