| The Benefits of Islam Ė From a Christianís Perspective
Every religion, Islam included, has its positives and negativesEight years ago, I was on a transit at Heathrow Airport when I entered a bookshop and saw a rack of Middle Eastern novels written by Western authors. The covers all portrayed veiled women running away from an abusive husband, father or brother. Women Iíd never knew personally, not at home in America or in my birth country of Iraq. Although I realize they exist everywhere.
I came home looking for stories that portrayed the healthier part of the Arab world. They were hardly any out there. More recently, I found books (six including my two) that do portray the type of Arabic women Iím more familiar with, which range from beautiful and sensuous to hideous and gaudy. Unfortunately, those few are not enough to change the general perception people have of that religion, or region.
Why is it important that perceptions change? Because for humans to survive, diversity and peace must have a home. Because at the rate that Islam is growing many religious futurists estimate that by 2200 Islam will become the most popular religion in the world. Because when perceptions change non-Middle Eastern and non-Islamic people will be able to distinguish between the small percentage of handicapped minds that give themselves permission to kill in the name of God, and the rest Ė who peacefully and happily hold onto the teachings of the Quran, as my family peacefully and happily still holds onto the Aramaic language.
The most interesting aspect of Islam is that, unlike other religions, it is not named after its founder or the community and nation of its birth. Islam is an attributive title that signifies submission to God, Creator of the Universe. Whosoever possesses this attribute, may he or she belong to any race, community, country or clan is a Muslim. This includes the sun, moon, earth and stars Ė since matter, energy and life all obey Godís laws and grow and change and live and die in accordance with those laws.
Islam teaches that all humans are innocent by birth and become sinful only when they consciously commit a sin. Sins are generally three types:
1. Those against God, by denying Him.
2. Against brotherhood
3. And against humanity.
What is the framework of the Muslim life? Itís the five pillars, which are:
1. Having faith or belief in the Oneness of God
2. Praying five times a day Ė directly to God since thereís no hierarchical authority in Islam.
3. Giving alms to the needy. Muhammad said: ĎCharity is a necessity for every Muslimí
4. Purifying oneself through fasting. Itís done mostly for health purposes. But also, by cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in oneís spiritual life.
5. Making the pilgrimage to Mecca Ė if physically and financially able to do so.
There are also the articles of Islamic faith, in which Muhammad asked people to believe in the following:
1. Faith in the Unity of God
2. Belief in Godís angels
3. Faith in all the Books of God
4. Faith in all of Godís Prophets, from Adam to Muhammad, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus
5. Belief in Life after Death
Many people are surprised to find out that over 1400 years ago Islamic Law guaranteed rights to women that women in Europe and America only obtained in the 1900s. According to Islamic Law women have the right to:
1. own property, operate a business and receive equal pay for equal work
2. have total control of their wealth
3. marry whom they want
4. keep their own name when married
5. inherit property
6. have their marriage dissolved in the case of neglect or mistreatment
One problem people have with Islam is polygamy, which is a pre-Islamic practice. Islam actually put restrictions on the unrestricted polygamy of the Arabs of the time, and put many laws in place to protect the wellbeing of women, like ending the pagan Arab practice of killing their baby daughters when they were born.
Another problem people have is with the term Jihad, which many equate to holy war. But really, itís an internal, personal struggle towards the attainment of a noble goal.
While the subject of Islam for me is inevitable, because I was born amongst it just like my nieces and nephews were born amongst America, one day it will be inevitable for everyone. Plus Judaism, Christianity and Islam are so closely related, all descending from Abraham, that thereís no reason for their followers not to get more familiar with each other, and ultimately Ė maybe, maybeFeature Articles, maybe Ė get along.