Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, Contributor
“Say ye: ‘we believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between one and another of them, and we bow to God.’” Koran, Chapter 2, Verse 136*
Often I get forwarded e-mails from fellow travelers who are fearful, reading the headlines about Muslim extremists. These extremists are using their religious beliefs to justify deadly action against others of their own faith; and others who they designate as non-believing or Westerners. In America and across the world, this is a real threat to the way we live and maintaining our personal freedom. These Muslim extremists would tell us how to live, what to believe and kill any who deviate from their view.
Sadly, this is the not the first time that religious belief has been used to justify action and war against others. History is full of examples and it is such a powerful tool and motivator, follow what God wants, that it is continues to be used today. Just read the Old Testament or follow the accounts of the Crusades; Jewish and Christian history is full of examples where deadly force was used to protect and further a cherished belief system. Today in this matter there is little choice; all freedom loving people must stand their ground, raise their voice and fight against those who would take from us. It is clear that we are long past solving this problem only with words.
When I studied the Koran and reread it many, many times; I found no personal call to spread Islam throughout the non-believing world. To me the Koran was a timeless revelation, filled with love, hope and the importance of fighting the inner Jihad. The inner Jihad, perfecting your self and helping others reach higher. Many people over look historical context and timeliness of this Revelation; this religion and final Monotheistic Message was proclaimed at a time when the desert Arabs were exactly like the extremists of today. Taking, killing innocents, practicing female infanticide and justifying their action with a philosophy of many Gods who supported their murderous activities. Then along comes a Redeemer, named Mohammed who spreads the true message of love and surrender; calling all people throughout the world to change their ways and accept the higher call. In order to spread this new way of living, Mohammed takes-up arms to defend him self and believers, defeats his enemies and offers Islam to all people.
In spreading of the new message, throughout the Koran there are admonitions to leave those people alone who have accepted God and live a good life. Pointing out that among the Christians and Jews there were those who loved God and they were to be left in peace. The Call to spread the faith- Islam: Submission to God– was to those who did not believe this way and benefited by hurting others; this was the original targeted group: Arabs of the desert who plundered and killed; taking what they wanted. Some Islamic scholars would argue the following quote simply means to leave these people alone, until God deals with them. However, we would argue the point God has accepted their faith and they were not to be treated as non-believers.
Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians, – any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, – on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (5:69) **
At the heart of any moral teaching is how to improve your self and become a better person; thereby making the world a little bit better. Since, the beginning, there have been those who have used religious belief to kill and take. These people have in fact become the enemy of their faith and if the Redeemer were alive today, the Prophet would be the first to call them out.
In this matter, one must keep an open mind. We in the West have for a very long time, joined with the takers in Middle Eastern countries and have helped create some of the tremendous poverty and oppression. Over the years, our government has long supported dictators who would take from the people and sell resources to the West at a bargain price. Now by the terrorists, we are painted as the enemy and in our destruction, Islam will triumph.
The worst of guardians is a cruel ruler. Beware of becoming one of them.”
– Prophet Muhammad (s) as reported in Sahih Muslim, Hadith 846. ***
In dealing with extremists, the Israeli’s have long held: an eye for an eye and there can never be peace with those who wish to destroy them. Also in maintaining military strength this preparation helps minimize fear and ensure survival.
Where do we go from here?
- It is time for moderate Arabs to speak out and condemn the actions of their extremist brothers; Muslim moderates must join in the fight against those who would harm and destroy in the name of their faith.
- The United States and other nations must help correct the poverty and lack of education that is the breeding ground for this extremist view point. People must have enough food and a future; then they can listen to reason.
“We believe that poverty does not belong in a civilized human society. It belongs in museums […] A poverty-free world might not be perfect, but it would be the best approximation of the ideal.”
– Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner.***
- Across the world, dictators and governments cannot be tolerated who will take from the people and spread death and destruction. All nations must step-up and fight this oppression.
- There must be a world wide acknowledgement and education that Islam is a religion of peace and love; while it calls all people to submit to God, people must remain free to make their own choice. Religion cannot be forced upon anyone and people must be free to live their life.
Let there be no compulsion in religion. (2:256) **
- Each person should become familiar with the teachings of the Koran and other world religions. Discussions must be publicly held where these faiths are examined for their common beliefs; so we may again join together as one family.
- Clearly there must be dialog about the difference between using a belief system as a cover for harmful activity, and what the belief system actually says and purports to do. Religious beliefs do not kill people; people with their personal agendas and weapons do the killing. To kill in the Name of God, is a personal choice people make.
They are the losers, those who make the religion hard and tough. They imperil themselves who enforce tough practices of Islam. They destroy themselves, those who are extremes.
– Prophet Muhammad (s) as reported by Ibn Masud in Sahih Muslim**
* http://www.religioustolerance.org/isl_qura.htm, Quotations from the Holy Koran, accessed 10/9/11.
** http://www.peacewithrealism.org/jihad/jihad02.htm, Jihad in the Quran-Peace with Realism, accessed 10/9/11.
*** http://theislamicworkplace.com/positive-quotes/, Positive Quotes-The Islamic Workplace, accessed 10/9/11.
About the Author
Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, spiritual traveler, poet, is a student of Sufi Mysticism and the perennial philosophy. Professionally specializing in the healing applications of therapeutic recreation, psychiatric rehabilitation and mental health treatment; he holds a doctorate in education and served on the faculties of multiple colleges and universities.
Stewart is also the author of Sufism for the Western Seeker, published in 2011, was nominated by ‘Foreword Magazine’ for Adult Non Fiction Religious Book of Year Book of the Year Award, placing 4th (honorable mention) and is a must read, as well as The Ferryman’s Dream. Both books are also in Kindle format and available on Amazon.com or local bookstore.
Register for an upcoming retreat weekend with Dr. Steward Bitkoff atop Bangor Mountain, in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Kirkridge Retreat Center on Sufism & Enlightenment, May 30- June I, 2014. For information is available here: http://kirkridge.org/programs/upcoming-programs/ – click on Detailed Information for full program highlights.
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