I have read in one article that says, “Islam is the best religion, with the worst followers.” It is said that this quote is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw.
We cannot help but wonder, why is it that Islam is said to be a religion of peace, and yet some Muslims are often described as radicals, fundamentalist, or even terrorists. Even before this whole idea was popularized by western media, in our local context, Muslims were described as moros, savages, and almost all negative characteristics that started when the Spaniards arrived in our islands. The Spanish hatred towards the moors of Mauritania spread in the hearts and minds of the people and communities that accepted Christianity. Historians would say that this feeling rooted on the religious difference of the Moorish Muslims who led to centuries long conflict with the Christian kingdoms of Europe called the Reconquista.
In our present times, this notion about Muslims are even worsened when the likes of Osama bin Laden, the members of Al Qaeda, and Jammaa Islamiya increases doubts to be cast upon the whole Muslim world as a homogenous and monolithic group with a violent tendency.
If Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is alive today, will he be the founder or a follower of these groups? Certainly, my answer is, No. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the complete opposite of these radical Muslims whose idea of helping other Muslims is to blow themselves up and kill as many non Muslims as they can.
Who is Muhammad? What were his characteristics?
There are several well documented and researched work that describes him. Western scholars like Karen Armstrong, John Esposito, and others published books and articles that are academically reliable.
What do people say about him?
“One of the things the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, taught us was that it is our duty to correct injustices in the world.” – Jameel Johnson, Congressional Aide
“Prophet Muhammad, he asked the question to the people around him, ‘Do you love your Creator, serve your fellow man first.’” “The Prophet put that emphasis on inner development, jihad, struggle with yourself to improve yourself in your intent for the sake of God.” – Kevin James, FDNY Fire Marshall
“Before you reform the society you have to reform yourself.” Imam Qazwini, religious leader.
The book, Muhammad: A Bibliography of the Prophet, by Karen Armstrong was published in 1992. In this book, it gives a comparison between the three major monotheistic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The book has ten chapters and it included two charts outlining the genealogy of the prophet and two maps of the 7th century Arabia. Interesting in this book is that it begun in describing the perception of the West of Muhammad (SAW). It is a narration of the life of the prophet that begun in 9th century and the concluding part connects to our present day. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in understanding Islam and the Muslims today.
What should we teach our children and the next generation of Muslim Filipinos about Muhammad?
We should teach Muslims and help non Muslims understand the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He is a person who is marked with numerous instances where he demonstrated utmost resilience and patience in the face of hardship all his life. When they have regained Mecca, he even forgave his enemies. Historians says that “the victory of Mecca was astounding and unique, devoid of the typical bloodshed that is attributed to triumphant victorious battles of the world.”
His love for Allah was exceptional and exemplary. His love for mankind was a mere reflection of this love of God. Just as Allah treats His creation with utter Grace and Mercy, his most beloved Prophet inculcated that spirit in his own character and his love for Allah radiated through each and every action and deed. Allah mentions this in verse 128 of Sura Al-Tauba:
“Surely, a Messenger has come unto you from among yourselves; grievous to him is it that you should fall into trouble; he is ardently desirous of your welfare; and to the believers he is specially compassionate and merciful.” (9:128)
He was born an orphan. He experienced pain, loss and desperation of the oppressed. His life was full of challenges that enabled him to learn a sense of resilience, adaptability and humility. When he was 25 years old, he gained such immense respect that elders in his community (Quraish) trusted him to come up with an equitable solution to their dispute. This reflects of his character of wisdom and fairness. During his time, Arabia was a land full of violence and anarchy, but he managed to bring them into law and order through his life and example.
We need to work hard for Muslims to enhance their confidence about their own faith and stop relying on the distorted interpretations of other Muslims. This can be a proactive approach to counter the vicious allegations against Islam and the Muslims. Islam is more than an ideology. Islam is a religion of peace and a way of life. Thus, when Muslims are sincere to the core Islamic values and principles, they can able to prosper and build a better community for their children’s children and the next generation to come.