July 18, 2010

We need to define a few things.

First you should watch this CNN clip. It's about the move to build a mosque near ground Zero. http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2010/07/14/am.intv.mosque.ground.zero.cnn.html

Okay I'm REALLY going to try to not sound like a teacher or too condescending. (But I'm afraid both happened) One of the biggest issues I have with Americans is their claim to understand religions, cultures, and languages that they know nothing about. So today we are getting an Arabic lesson; I'm hoping this might help shed some understanding on a few controversial terms.

Every word in Arabic has a three letter root. For example
aDRoS- I study
maDRaSa- School
muDaRaSa- Teacher

All have the root patters DRS. This root pattern conveys the meaning of learning, and any words connected to the process of learning has this root, DRS.

iSLaM- the religion
muSLiM- a follower of Islam
SaLaM- Peace

The root pattern of these words is SLM. SLM means peace. Therefore, Islam means, peacefully submitting oneself to God and Muslim means one who peacefully submits oneself to God.

And the roots are very important. It is actually really offensive to call a Muslim a Muzlim. Because the root ZLM means forcefully submitting oneself to God. One letter can change the complete meaning of a word.

Islam is built on a foundation of Peace. And anyone who wants to contradict me on this I want you to look at how many people world wide have been killed in the name of Christianity since its beginning. And I bet you thought while you read that, "Well sure that has happened. But that isn't REALLY Christianity. The people who did that were not REAL Christians!" And Muslims of the world would say the same things about the "Muslims" who kill innocent people in the name of Islam.

You have to self identify as a member of a religion. You, at some point, choose which religion you are going to stick with. You could choose to have no religion, continue on the path of the religion you were born into or convert to a new one. But because you happen to be a part of a religion does not mean that you have to agree completely with the acts that are done in the name of that religion.

Furthermore, the West's concept of Shari'a, "Islamic law", is far too simplified and contorted. The Shari'a in Saudi is not the same Shari'a in Egypt. There are in fact four schools of Shari'a law (madhab) that are commonly used today; the Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi, and Maliki schools. Each of these schools of law have their own interpretations of al-Qur'an. And there opinions often differ on the same issues. In most countries you can go to different legal scholars (qadi) and they will tell you what the different schools think about your legal problem and you can actually pick which school you would like to use. It is in countries like Saudi where the Hanbali school of law, which happens to be the most conservative, ends up giving the Shari'a a bad name. 

The Shari'a is composed of 4 elements; The Qur'an (I'm going to do a post all about the Qur'an at some point because I want to clear up some things there too), The Sunna (the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad), analogy and consensus. I'm sure that you understand what the Qur'an is, the word of God reveled to the Prophet, and the holy book of Islam. The Sunna is made up of hadith which are recordings of things that the Prophet said and did. It is believed that these sayings and actions can help every day people live their lives they way they should. Analogy means, if you were to approach a Shari'a council and ask a question about a modern issue, like is using Facebook okay with Islam. They would go to the Qur'an and Sunna and attempt to draw an analogy from past teachings to teachings today. Consensus, means gathering all of the learned scholars on the topic of a question and use all of your available methods to draw a conclusion that is founded in the Qur'an, the Sunna, and analogy. 

The Shari'a is complicated! And it is hard to study because it varies so much depending on where you are in the world. Much like how democracy varies from country to country. Compare the constitution of the United States to that of the constitution of Germany sometime. HUGE difference. 

Now we get to that scary word, the one that strikes fear into the hearts of many, jihad. What does this mean? We only hear about jihad in the sense that this woman is speaking about; a violent attack against Western Christians, or to put it more broadly, Islamic violence against everyone. Jihad has two components. There is an internal jihad. This can be related to the Christian notion of keeping yourself from sinning and working every day to be a more Godly person. And an outer jihad, and in this lies the problem. Some groups interpret outer jihad with fighting, and killing. But I believe that this violates the basic tenants of Islam. An outer jihad I would liken to the Christian notion of spreading the Word, and showing your love of God in all circumstances. It is an outer act as opposed to an inner contemplation. 

What happened on 9/11 was horrible and it is a day that I will never forget. It was also on that day that I myself found myself thinking, "Oh my God please don't ever let one of those terrorists get near me. I will never go to the Middle East. The Arabs, and the Muslims are mean evil people." But that was my ignorance; which was perpetuated by the people I lived around and with. 

Ground Zero is a place of peaceful remembrance. It is a place of contemplation, grief, and at the same time empowerment. There is no reason why Muslims should be prevented from morning, grieving, and remembering with the rest of us. I can promise you this. The Muslims of the world will be living with the remembrance of 9/11 longer and more deeply then anyone else will. Just like the Germans will forever be working to overcome the horrors of World War II. The Muslims are beyond "sensitive to our pain". They weep for us every day. They pray for acceptance in a country that prides itself on "Freedom". The whole world was hurt that day. New stereotypes were made that day. But there is still time to break the stereotypes. There is still time to BUILD and GROW. We need to break the glass ceilings of our minds. We need to embrace difference and work WITH, not against, each other's cultures, religions, and beliefs. And only then can we plant the seeds of Change. 

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