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How to Root out Extremism?

The Prophet Muhammad, during his Last Sermon in Mina, said:

“O people, Your Lord is one Lord, and you all share the same father.

There is no preference for Arabs over non-Arabs, nor for non-Arabs over Arabs.

Neither is their preference for white people over black people, nor for black people over white people.

Preference is only through righteousness.”

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Then he said:

“Have I conveyed the message?” and the people declared that he had.

Studying the history of the Muslim peoples, we find that one of the hallmarks of Islamic civilization where it has historically surpassed all others is its universality. Islamic civilization realized the greatest level of interracial and interethnic integration that existed in the world. It offered every nationality and ethnic group the chance to participate fully in the development and cultivation of the civilization that they shared.

This is all well and good and as Muslims we should be both grateful and proud to be part of this great religion and do our utmost to represent it reflecting the good of the people who are from it.

This brings to mind a recent thread I was following between Muslims I know in a group who rather than chose to hold fast to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided got trapped in a heated argument where both sides of the spectrum began doubting the righteousness and intention of the other adopting an ‘I am holier than thou’ stance. Needless to say I left the group and chose not to continue in discussion and to work on improving myself with regards to communication skills first. The Quran teaches

{O you, who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.} (4:59)

While on a much smaller scale, this online incident sadly demonstrates that we as Muslims have more work to do in the Muslim community to root out the attraction to differences maybe leading to violence among some Muslims.

Unfortunately there is a problem within Islam from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam or rather not a problem within Islam per se it is a problem with a particular mindset that fortunately very few fall into, however result in a very potently dangerous effect.

Here is why a student of knowledge is taught to always be humble, never consider himself superior to others, and never look down on others. Moreover a Muslim should never think of labeling other Muslims with names accusing them of being less of a worshipper than themselves for in the end God looks at the heart.

Although, it would be impossible to root out disagreements and different lines of thoughts among Muslims completely, we have to do more both locally and in the online world since it is where ideas go viral. We need to quash the roots of this disease of extremist radicalism if you may, but as mentioned earlier beginning with ourselves is key.

This brings me to discuss the notion of starting with our children. Teaching them about religion is no easy task though, and we must be prepared for an onslaught of questions, but also encourage such questions, even those that question the fundamentals of our own beliefs.

Make the effort to choose which scholars you would like your child to follow and trust; remember we need to be responsible. This is significant if we want to guarantee they do not stray, we have to be patient and start with the topics and explain why people believe this to be true and what they hope to gain from this belief.

Undoubtedly the most effective way to teach anything to anybody is to be a role model. This is why God sent human beings as prophets to all peoples. Whether we willingly accept this job or not, it is a fact that our children learn how to function in life by watching what we do and this includes how we hold ourselves in times of discussion.

So if we choose to be associated with extreme thinking ideologies, it is only natural our children will follow suit. Similarly if we downplay the importance of pleasing God and ignoring His decrees they too will follow our lead. Highlight to them that mistakes made by Muslims does not represent Islam but rather a very small group who have only risen because of others not being well read and educated.

By explaining to our children that any extremist line of thought does not serve our religion but damage it and for that we will be held accountable similar to ISIS today (and I use this group as an example because it has so often surfaced in the media), we can convince them to stay clear from associating with those following that line of thought.

We must also understand that each of these battles in which extremists claim to fight is not a battle to raise up the banner of religion, but a civil war in which the true purpose is unclear, and we are forbidden from entering into civil wars where Muslim kills Muslims.

Never forget that Islam is not a religion of extremism, however it is the extremists who are comprised of ill-read people who have trimmed down verses to suit their purpose, again representing a very little portion of the Muslim community.

Recently reading an article regarding Islam and radicalism, I was disappointed that our condition today as a Muslim nation was described as deplorable. It was as though we were being scolded with the writer stressing that we have abandoned humility, manners and patience and exchanged it for superiority.

The writer added in some cases we may be described as politically impotent, morally corrupt, devoid of manners, backward in the fields of science and technology. I knew deep down inside that this is the fault of each and every one of us. I realized we have no other road to salvation except to turn back in repentance to God and strive harder to encourage others including ourselves to be in-line with the character of our beloved Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him).

As Muslims we have been taught in the Quran that:

{Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties.} (2:185)

This in itself should suffice to explain that extremism is unacceptable and has no place in our religion which is one of peace.

The article reminded me of a very dear friend whom I had at first only met online and can only describe as the epitome of gracefulness, kindness, sweetness and sincerity. Although we had only just met, I gathered the courage to ask her what the turning point was for her to revert and why was it that she chose her name ‘Jihad’.

We all know the word ‘jihad’ for some conjures up images of sword wielding head cutting, frowning, and bearded men, however, this actually demonstrates a misappropriation of a word with deep religious significance. To the vast majority of practicing Muslims, myself included, jihad is not about fighting others including Muslims and non-Muslims but rather an internal struggle for the faith, a struggle against vice, sin, temptation, lust and greed, and toward a life outlined in the Quran.

So while we may be ordered to spread the word and engage in da’wah, it is more important to equip ourselves as Muslims with knowledge for we will be held accountable to understand our religion and once we are ready spread the world in the hope of attracting not repelling others to join as one in our beautiful religion a religion of submission to God, peace, mercy, and forgiveness.

About Deana Nassar
Deana Nassar is a published writer. As a mother of four, in her home she’s the sole expert on all things related to marriage, children’s psychology, motherhood and creative survival. She loves charity work, reading and writing poetry, and is mostly known for writing articles discussing family and social issues, faith, freedom, and purpose that comes through God. She can be reached at [email protected]