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 Ignorance Leading to Mistrust: Islam and the Judeo-Christian Tradition

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PostSubject: Ignorance Leading to Mistrust: Islam and the Judeo-Christian Tradition   Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:30 am

Ignorance Leading to Mistrust



Ignorance Leading to Mistrust: Islam and the Judeo-Christian Tradition

By: Dahlia Sabry



Westerners' Familiarity with Islam

To consider how much Westerners know about their "enemies", Muslims, it is interesting to compare the results of two studies: one conducted in 1998 (post the Satanic Verses outrage) and the other in 2006 (post the London bombings and the 9/11 events). In his article entitled "Ignorance and the Distorted Image of Islam", Louay Fatoohi (January 4, 2004) cites the results of a 1998 Roper poll. Only 5% of the respondents confirmed that they had much direct contact with Muslims. In contrast, the results of the study conducted in 2006 showed a much greater familiarity with Islam in general.

Informants with some familiarity (the majority) are those who got an idea about Islam through the media, studying courses at college, or visiting Islamic countries. Familiarity for these is at best superficial. Those with good familiarity (16.4%) embarked on extensive self-study of Islam, had discussions with Muslim friends, or got their familiarity through a combination of factors: the media, courses on Islam, visits to Islamic countries, or discussions with Muslim friends. The last category, with considerable familiarity, consists of those who have studied Islam extensively at college, being Islamic Studies majors, or those who lived in Islamic countries for a long period. Obviously, the degree of familiarity with Islam in this study is much greater than that of the 1998 study. This is understandable in the light of the increased interest in Islam after it emerged under the public gaze as a result of the encounters with the West post 9/11.

The 110 informants belong to different countries of the world but especially the United States, Britain, Australia, and Canada. It should be noted though that the sample was a non-probability purposive one chosen from individuals who have had encounters with passages of Qur'an translations; consequently, at least some familiarity with Islam was guaranteed. Thus, these results cannot be generalized. They are not representative of the general situation. Turning from this rather selective sample, the following words of a Brazilian interviewee can perhaps offer more realistic insights that are common to many other countries:

"If I had to summarize the situation of Islam in my country, I would say it is in a lethargic condition. Prior 9/11, people in general had absolutely no knowledge about Islam, either right or wrong. When they first heard of it, they heard slander, and this is what got fixed in their minds.

Muslims here are very few in number, and mostly do not bother to make their religion known to outsiders. The fact that Brazil is a multi-racial, multi-religious country, where people genuinely do not tend to discriminate against others who are different, not only makes life comfortable for the few Muslims available, but also discourages non-Muslims from investigating Islam with curiosity.

Common people have no prejudice against Islam, but they also have no curiosity. Most of those who do know there is such a Book as the Qur'an do not know what it says. The small minority who do know something about it are prejudiced as they have media-distorted knowledge. Fewer still are those who genuinely seek knowing about Islam, but when they do, they get to admire and respect it.

People in the West ignore some facts about Islam which bring it closer to Christianity, and so to the Western mind in general. For instance, many people ignore that Islam hold Jesus Christ (pbuh) and Virgin Mary, in high esteem, and that Muslims, like Christians, look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus (pbuh) to put an end to the reign of the anti-Christ. Important Qur'anic passages that prove Islam's pluralism and that Muslims' faith hinges upon acknowledgment of all previous Messengers and Books are ignored by many.

As to my own experience, in the beginning, I was part of those who are barely aware of its existence. However, when I first began to know about it, I never had wrong ideas as, fortunately, I had direct contact with moderate Muslims who are very steeped in knowledge, not only of the fundamentals of the religion but also of the spiritual tradition of Sufism. Hence, I had a right view of and profound sympathy for Islam long before I reverted, even while I was a devout Roman Catholic" [personal communication, January 24, 2009]

The previous quote pinpoints a principal omission on the part of Muslims. Moderate Muslims are mostly silent. They hardly take pains to educate people in the West about Islam. Hence, the floor is left either to wrong, distorted or biased information, or mere assumptions. Along the same lines, Hussain Rofe describes the failure of Muslims and again draws attention to the value of getting in touch with cultured and tolerant Muslims:

"One thing I would regret to say at this point is that Muslims are doing very little to advertise this lovely religion of theirs to the world ... They are still reserved towards foreigners ... This is an exceedingly wrong attitude. I am the most concrete example. For [sic] I was somehow hindered from being interested in the Islamic religion.

Fortunately, one day I met a very respectable and highly cultured Muslim. He was very friendly with me. He listened to me with attention. He presented me with an English version of the Qur'an al-Karim translated by a Muslim. He gave beautiful and logical answers to all my questions." (as cited in Why did they become Muslims? 1995)

What makes Westerners susceptible to the influence of their media regarding Islamic issues is their lack of knowledge of Islam, and the tendency of many Muslim citizens to isolate themselves from non-Muslim communities. Hence, those whose voices are heard in the media are the fanatics or those giving misleading or non-representative information. Upon interviewing a Mass Communications student about what the media in Italy present about Islam, she said:

"Most Italian people completely misunderstand the message of Islam. This is certainly due to the message spread by mass media which depict Islam as a violent and backward religion.

In popular talk shows through all the channels, both stately- or privately run, either you have popular personalities who attack Islam or people who are inadequate as they are not well-versed in the issues they tackle, or do not have a good command of Italian, or are with exceptional dramatic stories.

To talk about lapidation or polygamy, they invite a Muslim veiled girl who is born and grown up in Italy but does not have even a dim idea of what these practices are. To talk about Muslims, they invite a good looking Italian woman with an exceptional story of violence and/or kidnapping of her children by her Muslim husband or an Arab unveiled woman who fights the battle of human rights condemning Islam as a religion which set to zero women femininity.

Hence, unless the talk is about violence, violation of human rights, backwardness, ignorance, etc, anything positive anyone who has direct contacts with real Muslims says about Islam is not credible." [personal communication, January 30, 2009]

One thing that reading Qur'an translations can be helpful with is the reading in context of ayat which are quoted in part in the media or on anti-Islamic websites and books. Part of Westerners' feeling of being threatened by Muslims has developed as a result of this this. When the respondents of the 2006 aforementioned study were asked about whether they check the textual context of the ayat quoted in the media in their translations, about 45% of the sample answered in the affirmative.


Judio-Christian and Islamic Traditions: Two Poles or Links on the Chain of Monotheism

One major concern that bears on the alienation of Muslims from Christians and Jews in the West is that Islam is set as one pole and the Judeo-Christian tradition as another. What makes the problem worse is that in trying to compare the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions, the comparison is usually reduced merely to contrasting Jesus Christ with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them, pbuthem afterwards) – a comparison which is usually resolved in favour of the former. On the other hand, we rarely find a comparison drawn between the Prophets Muhammad and Moses, pbuthem. The first comparison is unfortunate as the two great founders have significant differences in their ministry and mission. The ministry of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him, afterwards pbuh), lasted for 23 years while that of Jesus Christ, pbuh, ended after three years. In comparing the two figures, it is crucial to bear in mind the mission each was entrusted with.

Jesus, pbuh, asserted that his personal mission was to save the "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15: 24) – a mission later to be extended to the Gentiles by the apostles. (It should be noted that Christians of course believe that the words of Jesus, pbuh, here should not be detached from his wider scale mission, namely "to offer his life as a ransom for many"). In contrast, the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, was sent to mankind, "And We did not send you except to all of mankind [both] as a bearer of good tidings and a warner, but most people do not know." [34: 28]. Accordingly, Jesus, pbuh, focused on announcing that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and on sublime religious preaching to soften the "hardened" hearts of the Jews at his time and build upon the message of Moses, pbuh, before him, though he attempted to free the Jews of some obligations under the Mosaic Law, making lawful for them some of what was previously prohibited. The Prophet Muhammad, on the other hand, was sent to establish the Islamic state and spread the religion of Islam as the last message ordained by God for mankind. This entailed the setting regulatory measures to govern life in society at large, which encompassed not only instructions related to his role as a religious leader – e.g. faith issues and the moral code governing social relations and dealings, etc – but also laws related to his role as a statesman – e.g. laws for sales and trade, debts, loans, mortgages, rent, agriculture, testimony, wills, hunting, inheritance, slavery, crimes, etc as well as teachings related to the law of war. Revelations through the Archangel Gabriel as well as Hadiths came to serve this end.

Perhaps the difference in roles of both Jesus and Muhammad, pbuthem, explains why, unlike Islam and Judaism, Christianity lacks an extensive religious code like the Shari'ah and Halakha. This makes the comparison between both persons, and between Christianity and Islam in general, even harder. Adequately to compare two traditions, a full account of their teachings regarding the different aspects of life should be available to compare; otherwise the comparison will be inadequate and all but comprehensive.

Nevertheless, both Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad, pbuthem, proclaimed that their instructions are nothing but the teachings of God. When the polytheists at the Prophet's time were unhappy about the commands and prohibitions the Qur'an imposed on them, they asked him to bring about another Qur'an, so he told them that he was just a communicator of God's Words, "And when Our clear verses are recited to them, those who do not expect to encounter Us, say, ‘Bring a Qur’ān other than this, or change it’. Say, ‘It is not for me to change it of my own accord. I only follow that which is revealed to me. Truly I fear, if I should disobey my Lord, the chastisement of a dreadful day" (Qur'an, 10: 15). Similarly, Jesus, pbuh, says, "But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world," and "I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. (John 8: 26, 28). As the source is one, it is no wonder that we find remarkable similarities in their teachings.

A fundamental teaching of Jesus is first to love God with one's whole heart, soul, and mind, and second to love one's neighbour as oneself. Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said, that among the three who taste the sweetness of faith is "The one to whom Allah and His Apostle becomes dearer than anything else" [Bukhari: Vol. 1, Book 2, No. 15]. He also said that "The Prophet said, "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his brother what he likes for himself." [Vol. 1, Book 2, No. 12]. In advising on how people should act in giving alms, both Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad, pbuthem, taught that it should be in secret with the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Jesus, pbuh, advised,"But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (Matthew, 6: 3). Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said, "Seven people will be shaded by Allah under His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His. They are: … (6) a person who practices charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given .. (Bukhari, Vol. 2, Book 24, No. 504).

In Matthew 10, Jesus enjoins his disciples, upon entering a house, to "wish it peace" (12), which is the typical Muslims' greeting (Assalamu Alaikum, peace be upon you). In the Qur'an too, Muslims are commanded to greet people upon entering a house after accepting permission, "O you who believe, do not enter houses other than your houses until you have [first] asked permission and greeted their occupants. That is better for you that perhaps you might remember." (24: 27).

Both the New Testament and the Qur'an use the same image of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, which is very strange in itself, to express unlikehood, though of two different things: "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19: 24), "Those who deny Our signs and scorn them, indeed the gates of heaven shall not be opened for them, nor shall they enter Paradise until the camel passes through the eye of the needle" (Qur'an 7: 40). Further, they both refer specifically to the sufferings of nursing mothers and pregnant women at the end of days/Judgment Day: "Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, " and "On the day when you behold it, every nursing female will neglect her suckling, and every pregnant female will deliver her burden, and you will see mankind [as though] drunk, yet they will not be drunk, but God's chastisement is severe." (Mark 13: 17; Qur'an 22: 2). When asked about the time of the Day of Judgment, both denied knowing it and affirmed that it is the exclusive knowledge of God alone: "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father," "They will question you about the Hour when it shall come to pass. Say: 'The knowledge of it is only with my Lord …" (Mark 13: 32; Qur'an 7: 187).

Another interesting point is that both the Qur'an (3: 59) and the New Testament correlate Jesus, pbuh with Adam (1 Corinthians 15: 22, 45; Romans 5). Besides, the Qur'an acknowledges Jesus' miracles which are identified in the New Testament. In chapter 3 of the Qur'an, Jesus is reported to have said:

" … I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, I will create for you out of clay like the shape of a bird then I will breathe into it, and it will be a bird by the leave of God. I will also heal the blind and the leper; and I bring to life the dead, by the leave of God … Surely in that is a sign for you, if you are believers." (3: 49)

In Matthew 10, we read, "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give 8. Matthew 15 refers also to healing the blind (31).

The similarities between Muslim and Christian Scriptures merit a further piece of research. However, given the limitation of space, it is hoped that the aforementioned examples can be taken as indications of the affinity between the two religions. It cannot be a mere coincidence that the above references are almost identical. They clearly indicate that both teachings come from the same One God. Before moving to the correlation between Islam and Judaism, it should be mentioned that the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, asserted his affinity with Jesus, "Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one." (Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 55, No. 652). He also linked getting a double reward from God to believing in him and in Jesus, "If a person teaches his slave girl good manners properly, educates her properly, and then manumits and marries her, he will get a double reward. And if a man believes in Jesus and then believes in me, he will get a double reward. And if a slave fears his Lord (i.e. Allah) and obeys his masters, he too will get a double reward" (Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 55, No. 655).

Now, turning to the connection between Islam and Judaism, both religions are based on revealed Scripture as well as on elaborate religious codes, namely Shari'ah and Halakha, which regulate all aspects of life. Both Muslims and Jews do not believe in original sin. For both Muslims and Jews, the consumption of blood and pork is prohibited, while male circumcision is enjoined. Lawful food is called Kosher in Judaism and Halal in Islam. Women of both faiths practise ritual ablution -- mikvah in Judaism and ghusl in Islam – to regain purity after certain conditions like menstruation, childbirth, etc. In Orthodox Judaism, a man and a woman must not stay in a closed room alone together if they are not married. This law is called yichud (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yichud). Besides, they should not have physical contact- negiah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negiah). Betrothal corresponds more or less to Katb il kitab in Islam which is the signing of the marriage contract. Betrothal (also called espousal) is a formal state of engagement to be married. Historically betrothal was a formal contract considered as binding as marriage, and a divorce was necessary to terminate a betrothal. Betrothed couples were regarded legally as husband and wife - even before their wedding and physical union. The exact duration of a betrothal varies according to culture and the participants’ needs and wishes. For adults, it may be anywhere from several hours (when the betrothal is incorporated into the wedding day itself) to a period of several years http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engagement). Both religions enjoin abstinence from intercourse during the menstrual period in Leviticus (20: 18), we read, "If a man lies in sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period, both of them shall be cut off from their people, because they have laid bare the flowing fountain of her blood." Similarly, in the second chapter of the Qur'an, ayah (equivalent to "verse" in the Bible) 222 stipulates the same, "They will ask you about the monthly period. Say: 'It is an ailment; so part with women in the monthly period, and do not approach them until they are pure.'" Both religions, as well as Christianity, explicitly condemn sodomy (Leviticus 20: 13 and 18: 22; Qur'an 7: 81). Both Scriptures (cf. Leviticus 18: 6-20, 20: 10-21; Qur'an: 4: 22-24) list the maharem (women one is not allowed to marry).

Graven images and pictures are prohibited for fear that excessive reverence for the depicted leads to a kind of worship that contradicts the major principle of monotheism: "You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God"(Exodus 20:4-5). In Islam, the prohibition is through Hadiths: "Those who paint pictures would be punished on the Day of Resurrection and it would be said to them: Breathe soul into what you have created." (Hadith, Sahih Muslim Vol.3, No. 5268).

Additionally, in both Islam and Judaism, frequenting fortune-tellers is an abominable act. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, explained, "Whoever goes to a fortuneteller and asks him about something will not have his prayer accepted for forty nights" (Sahih al-Jami, 5816). In like manner, in Leviticus, the Lord says to Moses, "Should anyone turn to mediums and fortune-tellers and follow their wanton ways, I will turn against such a one and cut him off from his people" (20: 6).

The list could go on for pages; however, again for limitations of space, it is hoped that the above examples are enough to shed light on the affinity between Islam and Judaism, an affinity which was demonstrated with regard to Christianity and Islam as well. As a concluding point, it should be stressed that despite the reservations expressed in the Qur'an with regard to the "People of the Book", an integral part of a Muslim's faith is the belief in all the previous Scriptures and Messengers:
The Messenger believes in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and the believers; each one believes in God and His angels, and in His Books, and His messengers, 'we make no distinction between any of His messengers'. And they say, 'We hear and obey; Your forgiveness, our Lord; to You is the homecoming' ( Qur'an 2:285).

Muslims believe that Islam is the final link in the chain of heavenly religions. Islam came to build upon, and be the culmination of, the message that all the previous Messengers proclaimed, namely the submission to the One God, which is the meaning of the word "Islam". This is the reason all Prophets in the Qur'an are referred to as "Muslims" – which is taken by some non-Muslims to be an anachronism in the Qur'an. The misunderstanding emerges from understanding the word "Muslims" in its current modern sense, namely "followers of Prophet Muhammad", pbuh, rather than understanding the original sense of the word, viz "submitters to God".

One aspect that further alienates Christians and Jews from Muslims is the latter's use of the Word 'Allah'. 'Allah', the Almighty, worshipped by Muslims is the same God worshipped by Christians and Jews. Many Muslims cherish the word 'Allah' though and insist on using it. One reason is that the word itself incarnates their major belief of monotheism. 'God' is like a proper name, but 'Allah' cannot be pluralized, unlike the word 'God'. It is true that 'God' with a capital 'G' cannot be pluralized, yet the same form of the word with a small 'g' can, hence the major distinctness felt for the word 'Allah'. 'Allah' always has an alienating effect on Jews and Christians; however, understanding the background of its distinctness for Muslims should dispel the feeling that it refers to a different God.


Last edited by Obedient Angel on Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:52 pm; edited 4 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Ignorance Leading to Mistrust: Islam and the Judeo-Christian Tradition   Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:38 pm

The analysis of the articles I find interesting and informative. I'm a little concerned about the opening line -- "To consider how much Westerners know about their "enemies", Muslims...." Does the OP project that Westerners view Muslims as "enemies"? To open such a lengthy post with this as the initial comment seems to asume such a view as being normative for Westerners.

Surely such a projection imposed on non-Muslim Westeners would be as harmful to any potential Muslim/non-Muslim relationship building as the view itself.
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PostSubject: Re: Ignorance Leading to Mistrust: Islam and the Judeo-Christian Tradition   Fri Jul 01, 2011 5:52 pm

@Grace Seeker, well i think not all westerners think that we are enemies, but many of them think like that, before my family thought that and my family is well educated a mean with univesity degrees, but just the media influence the mind of many people and we muslims we have to work in that to go out to the streets so people can see how muslims we are. I show my family how is to be a muslim and they met them and they perception towards muslims and Islam change, so thats why our sister quote "enemies" because we are not, they own enemy is there fault to seek knowlege about Islam so they can learn that Islam mean peace
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PostSubject: Re: Ignorance Leading to Mistrust: Islam and the Judeo-Christian Tradition   Sat Jul 02, 2011 11:26 pm

I hate to say it, but I would say a vast amount of Americans view Islam negatively, and at the very least it makes many of them nervous even if they are open minded.

We don't have the same mixture and interaction as European "western" countries do with other cultures. We don't share so many varieties of next door neighbors or a wide variety of different news services. We have Liberal News Stations A B ,C, and D, and we have Fox.

What they propagate to us is Islamic Terrorism, Muslim countries hate American (with no clear understanding of why), honor killings, and I think I'm not alone as far as Americans who have been told Jihad = holy war, and Sharia = things like stoning women and honor killings.

I know I'm not the only one. I know because these are the question I asked, and many reverts asked when they first started researching Islam. I know because many reverts have told me. I know because its some of the first questions that I am asked and the first fears my family raised with me.

Its sad. I think Americans are scared of Islam in large. To many I have discussed with, "Muslims want to take over the US and impose Sharia law (the honor killing, woman stoning type conception) on everyone. "

I see what you are saying that it could be off-putting, but I think if I was a Non-Muslim who picked this up, I would totally "get" it.
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