'Life with Allah has endless hope;
life without Allah has hopeless end.'
Islam means submission to the will of Allah. It is a perfect way of living one's life peacefully, simply and reasonably; providing solutions for all problems and aspects of life. Islam needs to put forth no reasons and justifications before the true Muslim. Unfortunately, various groups and sects of people have attacked this great religion. It has become the most misunderstood religion in the West. There is thus a need to understand some of the concepts behind this mighty religion'
Zakaat refers to the 'poor due' in Islam. It is a means of balancing the society economically. This charity plays a great social role, fulfilling the needs of so many poor people, who would otherwise resort to begging and ill practices.
There is only one criterion on the basis of which Allah judges his people and that is righteousness. The Negro slaves and the noble Arabs stood side by side in the rows for the performance of prayers, five times a day! A deep impression was made on the minds of everyone that all are equal before Almighty Allah. This is the real spirit behind Islam-inculcating the concept of equality among the most dissimilar tribes and nations. Though Islam has not invented this idea of racial equality, but it is to be insisted that this idea have been realized into actions through Islam only.
Islam recognizes no distinction between a man and a man. An Arab has no preference over non-Arabs, nor is there any preference of rich and whites over the poor and blacks. The proof of this is exhibited during the pilgrimage when one witnesses the brotherhood and equality of race, color, rank, nationality and sex. We are all well aware of the treatment meted out to the blacks even now by the white races. The example of Hazrat Bilal, a Negro slave in the olden days, is worth mentioning when he was appointed as the caller for prayers- a position of honor for anyone, especially in those days.
Regarding this concept in Islam, Sarojini Naidu had said, ' It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the azaan is sounded and the worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim, 'God alone is great'.'
Mahatma Gandhi had said, 'Someone has said that Europeans in South Africa dread the advent of Islam ' Islam that took the torch of light to Morocco and preached to the world the Gospel of Brotherhood. The Europeans of South Africa dread the advent of Islam as they claim equality with the white races. They may well dread it. If brotherhood is a sin, if it is equality of the colored races that they dread, then their dread is well-founded.'
The greatest success of Islam was based on moral force and persuasion and not any compulsion or violence. In fact, the Prophet of Islam, Mohammed (PBUH), changed the whole strategy of war and battlefield. War was allowed only in self-defense. Strict instructions were issued not to kill minor children, women, and old people. Bitterest enemies of Islam were pardoned and many were set free.
Gibbon, a world famous historian says, 'A pernicious tenet has been imputed to the Mohammedan (i.e., Muslims), the duty of extirpating all the religions by the sword.'
In some places the media is affixing the label of 'terrorism' with Islam- a religion which is against such unethical actions. The possibility that it is a coincidence that the terrorists may be usually Muslims is simply ignored. What is forgotten is that religion has nothing to do with such things. It just depicts the character of a person, who could be a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Christian! Communalists should not link terrorism with Islam or for that matter with any other religion. All would agree with me that no religion advocates terrorism and violence. There is no logic in accusing Islam for such unethical acts.
This is another aspect of Islam that needs to be clarified. The attitude of Islam towards other religions is that of tolerance. When the Holy Prophet arrived in Medina, he sent a peaceful message to the Christians of Najran (in Southern Arabia). Jews and Christians were provided security for their lives, religion, property, and rights and thus had to pay a special tax. This was strictly in lieu of the military service and the protection of state they enjoyed. Also, this was paid against the zakaat that the Muslims had to pay regularly.
The striking feature of Islam is that it requires a true Muslim to believe that all great religions of the world that preceded Islam have been revealed by God and that a true believer has to respect all the prophets who were raised before the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
Emancipation of Women
Another matter, which has been misunderstood in Islam, is the status of women. Islam recognizes the deference between a man and a woman, a difference, which does not advocate the supremacy of one over the other, but the simple difference in the two sexes. The Prophet of Islam proclaimed that 'women are the twin halves of men.' This is the status given to a woman. It was Islam which entitled a woman to her property, social and financial rights. Sir Charles Edward Archibald Hamilton says, 'Islam teaches that man and woman have come from the same essence, possess the same soul and have been equipped with equal capabilities for intellectual, spiritual and moral attainments.'
Another matter, which has been misunderstood regarding women, is polygamy. Islam has allowed Muslims to keep two, three or four wives only if they can ensure equality among them; otherwise they can have a single wife only. And it has been mentioned in the Holy Qur'an that it is very difficult for a man to do so, and hence should espouse a single wife only. In the olden days, men kept up to four wives only to give respect to the widows and destitute women who were left behind due to frequent wars. Marriage gave them a means of obtaining bread, protection, love, and respect.
An Islamic society is free of all evils and ill practices. Islam has made it mandatory to pay the charity to the poor, thus bringing about some economic balance in the society. It prohibits interest on money lending and the monopoly of essential goods as it leads to the exploitation of the poor and needy by the strong and powerful people. Islam says that instead of carrying out financial transactions by way of 'interest', commercial transactions should be based on 'profit and loss' sharing. Thus, profitable trade is encouraged against usury.
Gambling, hoarding, usury, and drinking along with other social evils are prohibited as it leads to the deterioration of the society as a whole. Orphanages were established for the first time under the Islamic rule. Things were prohibited in Islam due to their impurity and harmfulness. Some things have both the harmful and beneficial components in them. In such cases the one in the greater proportion is taken into consideration, such as in case of wine and gambling. The sin in these things is greater than the benefit, though it may not be immediately apparent to mankind. E.g. Pork was considered to be haraam (unlawful) in Islam, the apparent reason being that pig is a filthy and unclean animal. After many centuries, scientists discovered that various parasites and bacteria are present in its flesh. However, under the compulsion of necessity, Islam has permitted the Muslims to eat even prohibited food to save him from death ' as human life is considered to be precious.
Islam does not desire to make the lives of people difficult and narrow. Allah has put some restrictions for the benefit of mankind and the society, providing ample alternatives and choices as well. It is man's own lack of perfect knowledge and weaknesses that he does not appreciate the greatness of Islam. It is rightly said that:
'When men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without it?'