There’s an awful lot of craziness going on these days – in the name of God and country – regarding one particular religion: Islam (which name, interestingly, just means “devotion [or submission] to God”, and the peace which derives from that devotion). People gather to protest the building of mosques and Islamic Centers, as in the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) “Ground Zero” Cordoba House initiative in New York City, or the obviously nowhere-near-Ground-Zero mosque in Temecula, California. In one such recent protest in Connecticut, the “Christians” who had come all the way from Texas to protest even declared that Jesus hates Muslims! Newt Gingrich opposes the NYC mosque because Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow churches, and Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association says no mosques should be allowed to be built in the USA. John Joseph Jay of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the umbrella organization behind SIOA (Stop the Islamisation of America – think Robert Spencer and Pam Geller) believes that all ‘liberals’ and Muslims must be killed. As I pointed out in my article “Of Mosques and Men”, people have been attacked because they “look like” they’re Muslim (Arabic), and ironically Christians from Egypt who came to the USA to protest the NYC Islamic Center were attacked because they were Arabic and speaking their Arabic language.
And now pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Church in Gainesville, Florida is sponsoring an International Burn a Qur’an Day scheduled for September 11, 2010. One has to wonder whether this Qur’an burning is really zeal for God, or just simply party spirit – the “my daddy can beat up your daddy” kind of attitude. 😆 In a book by Imran Ahmad which I have just begun to read (Unimagined, page 18 ), the author tells of an incident when he was 7 years old: “There is a television programme about different religions, and one day my mother makes me watch it because this episode is about Islam. Okay, so now I know that I’m Muslim and we believe in someone called Muhammad. Well, I bet that Muhammad could beat up Jesus in a fight. Oh, but they wouldn’t fight; they would make peace, because that’s what they’re like. Damn.” That’s the impression I get from Terry Jones and his church (and plenty of others like them); the only problem is that Terry Jones is an adult, and ought to have outgrown such childishness a long time ago.
Here is a description, in the Qur’an, of a “true believer”: 8:2-4 (Muhammad Asad) – “[8:2] Believers are only they whose hearts tremble with awe whenever God is mentioned, and whose faith is strengthened whenever His messages are conveyed unto them, and who in their Sustainer place their trust – [8:3] those who are constant in prayer and spend on others out of what We provide for them as sustenance: [8:4] it is they, they who are truly believers! Theirs shall be great dignity in their Sustainer’s sight, and forgiveness of sins, and a most excellent sustenance.” A “true believer” is one whose heart and mind is focused on God, who delights to hear God’s ‘revelations’ from whatever source they may come, and who does good to his/her fellow humans.
I have mentioned before that I first began to ‘examine’ Islam earlier this year in response to a Muslim bashing e-mail I received – which said that Muslims believe that they are commanded by God to kill everyone who doesn’t accept the religion called “Islam”. From the first time I read anything in the Qur’an, there was something in me which was delighted with the descriptions of God, and the admonishments to treat others with kindness and equity. I immediately recognized that, whether or not this Qur’an was literally a ‘revelation’ from God, through the angel Gabriel, it definitely was a ‘good’ book filled with wisdom and ‘godliness’. I found that this was true of me: Qur’an 5:82-85 (Ahmed Ali ): “…the closest in love to the faithful are the people who say: ‘We are the followers of Christ’, because there are priests and monks among them, and they are not arrogant. For when they listen to what has been revealed to this Apostle, you can see their eyes brim over with tears at the truth which they recognize, and say: ‘O Lord, we believe; put us down among those who bear witness (to the truth). And why should we not believe in God and what has come down to us of the truth? And we hope to be admitted by our Lord among those who are upright and do good?’ God will reward them for saying so with gardens where streams flow by, where they will live for ever. This is the recompense of those who do good”. While I did not literally weep with joy, there was a real inward joy at reading this beautiful message.
This verse also contains a poetic description of how I have felt about the message of the Qur’an: Qur’an 39:23 (Muhammad Asad) – “God bestows from on high the best of all teachings in the shape of a divine writ fully consistent within itself, repeating each statement [of the truth] in manifold forms – [a divine writ] whereat shiver the skins of all who of their Sustainer stand in awe: [but] in the end their skins and their hearts do soften at the remembrance of [the grace of] God…. Such is God’s guidance: He guides therewith him that wills [to be guided] – whereas he whom God lets go astray can never find any guide.”
So why do some of these fundamentalist Christians react with hateful denunciations, mockery, and ridicule of this wonderful book? Can it possibly be because their hearts don’t “tremble with awe whenever God is mentioned”, and they don’t “stand in awe” of their Sustainer? Might it not be that such people really are simply promoting a party spirit, only interested in asserting the ‘inferiority’ and ‘worthlessness’ of anything that doesn’t toe the line of their beliefs and whims? Compare the hate filled denunciations of Terry Jones (and Dove World Church), and Flip Benham’s group of ‘Christians’ from Texas (shouting “Jesus hates Muslims” in their Connecticut protest) with the attitude expressed in the Qur’an: “VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve” (2:62, Muhammad Asad). This is repeated in 5:69 (Muhammad Asad) – “for, verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.” 3:84 and 85 (Muhammad Asad) – “Say: We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed by their Sustainer unto Moses and Jesus and all the [other] prophets: we make no distinction between any of them. And unto Him do we surrender ourselves. For, if one goes in search of a religion other than self-surrender unto God, it will never be accepted from him, and in the life to come he shall be among the lost.”
In 6:52 (Muhammad Asad),Muhammad was told not to repulse anyone who seeks God, even though they might not be strictly in accord with the ‘truth’ he proclaimed: “Hence, repulse not [any of] those who at morn and evening invoke their Sustainer, seeking His countenance. Thou art in no wise accountable for them – just as they are in no wise accountable for thee – and thou hast therefore no right to repulse them: for then thou wouldst be among the evildoers.” As long as they were calling upon the One God, who is the Sustainer of everything in heaven and on earth, Muhammad would not be held accountable for those things wherein they differed from him; and they would not be held accountable for the things wherein Muhammad differed from them. The continual teaching of the Qur’an is that God Himself will make clear “on the Last Day” the things wherein we differ. Islam does not require anyone to ‘convert’ from his/her religion in order to embrace the truth of the Qur’an, because Islam itself embraces the truth contained in former ‘revelations’.
Freedom of religion and pluralism is inherent in Islam – which is one reason ‘American’ Muslims fully embrace the US Constitution and would not for a moment replace it. Yes, Islam teaches that there are erroneous beliefs and practices in other religions – particularly in their present expressions, which are believed to be departures from the original ‘revealed truth’ of those religions – but for Islam the essential thing is to believe in – and stand in awe of – God, and do ‘good works’; the things wherein we differ will be straightened out at “the Last Day”, without depriving of his/her ‘reward’ anyone who maintained those essential elements. What a striking and pleasant contrast with some of those fundamentalist Christians!
The ‘surprising’ thing is, though, that the very Bible the fundamentalists claim to believe teaches the same truth. Acts 10:34 (NIV): “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” 1 John 3:14 – “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” 1 John 4:7 – “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Perhaps Terry Jones and Flip Benham need to take Jesus’ “yoke” upon themselves and learn from him. Learn what it means to love your neighbor as you love yourself, and do good to all men – even your ‘enemies’. But no, that might make them ‘Muslims’ (those who are devoted and submissive to God alone)! 😳 😀 Instead of “Burn a Qur’an Day”, perhaps September 11 should be set aside as “Read a Qur’an Day”! 🙂