According to much of the Western culture Islam has been seen as a backwards and dangerous religion. This may be because of the ignorance of the Western culture or just the failure to completely understand the teachings behind the actions. The Western culture also only looks at the aspects that make the Western culture seem better.
The teachings of Islam came from Allah but from the mouth of Muhammad. To understand the teachings of Muhammad we can look into his past before he became the “seal of the prophets”. The tragedies began in Muhammad’s life as soon as he was born. His father had passed away a few days before Muhammad was even born this was to be the first but definitely not last tragedy to come to Muhammad. When Muhammad turned six his mother too had passed away leaving him in the care of his grandfather. At age eight his grandfather then also passed away and thereafter Muhammad’s uncle had adopted him.
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Because of the financial situation in his family, Muhammad at a very young age was forced to work hard minding his uncle’s flocks, but with all this misfortune Muhammad had found a loving welcome to this new family he had found himself a part of. All this misfortune that came to Muhammad had made him sensitive to the suffering of all kinds. He grew to be loving, compassionate and charitable.
This all affected the religion known as Islam and the religion hadn’t even been formed yet. With all the qualities Muhammad possessed he still kept separate from society because of all the evil and deception that he saw around him so Muhammad stayed mostly to himself despite being the good-natured person that he was. This let Muhammad reflect upon himself, society and what would have to been done to make a change in the world of such disorder. Now whether what he taught to the people were actually the word of god or his own words I’m not going to discuss but it’s the purpose and the teachings themselves that I will shed light onto.
With only a few exceptions the theological concepts of Islam are virtually identical to those of Judaism and Christianity.
At the time Muhammad started his teachings the single hardest belief to teach was the belief that there was one and only one God who was everywhere at once yet at the same time seen by no one. There was much resistance to this teaching because Mecca was the home to many gods and the traffic of people that the gods brought to Mecca was the livelihood to many of the residents of Mecca who owned shops and made their meagre to extravagant living off the followers of the religions whose gods resided in Mecca.
One difference of the monotheism of Christianity and Islam is the human property that Christians give to God when they say Jesus is the son of God. Having offspring to Muhammad was a human quality and to say that God or Allah had offspring was an insult to God.
The main lesson that Muhammad was to teach his people was equality among all people. This includes equality among races, equality among tribes as well as equality among sexes. Muhammad insisted that in the sight of his Lord all people are equal. This in itself is a huge step for in his time women were used at the will of the men they were also bought and sold as a commodity. Also, blacks were treated even more unfairly they were bought and sold as slaves as nothing more than animals.
Another of the main teachings of Muhammad was charity. Muhammad being as poor and suffering as much as he did early in his life made him very compassionate towards the needs and suffering of the poor. Muhammad taught to give as much as one could afford to give to the less fortunate.
This is also similar to Christianity whereas you are expected to give to the church but in Islam, the recipient is someone less fortunate and in need whereas Christians give to the church which does help the needy with some of the donations but most of it is for the survival of the church. Muhammad taught to give food that you eat, clothes like you wear and money to help the poor. Muhammad set up a tax that went to the poor and who of the poor should get it, the ones that immediately had the most need for it.
The belief of observance of Ramadan was also very important teaching. Observing Ramadan is too fast for a month, only eating and drinking after sundown and before sunrise. The meaning behind this is multi-tiered. Fasting makes one think, it also teaches great self-discipline. Fasting also sensitizes one’s compassion. One is more likely to give to the hungry when one really knows the meaning of hunger. Knowing the suffering will help people understand and help them to help see the importance of the charitable contributions which are asked of them.
Another of the teachings is the canonical prayer. This is to keep the faith constant. If one thinks of their god many times in a day it is unlikely that one will forget about their god. This is so the Muslims keep their lives in perspective, to know that they are creatures in themselves and they did not create themselves or the world around them. They are to pray five times daily.
Islam is aware of the physical foundations of life. They believe that until one’s bodily needs are met higher concerns cannot flower. Society’s spiritual well-being can’t be reached if their bodies in which they inhabit are not in working order. This also related to the community as a whole. If people of the community are so deprived physically they won’t come together and grow as a single unit.
Islam also teaches of the status of women. It teaches the equality of women as well as the importance of women. Before Islam women were to be done with as the father of husband pleased. Fathers often buried their live daughters just after birth. Marriage agreements were so loose that they often went unrecognized. With Islam, women had rights they were equal. Marriages now had to be of a woman’s free will. Islam did allow polygamy or the practice of a man to have more than one wife. There were stipulations though. A man could only take on another wife if he could deal equally among the wife both in love and monetarily. Islam also gave women the opportunity to divorce their husbands whereas before it was solely the men’s decision.
As for one of the most controversial aspects of religion which is the justification of violence it has been blown out of proportion. Violence is justified for the defence or to right a wrong. The Koran reads “Defend yourself against your enemies, but do not attack them first: God hates the aggressor”(2:190).
Muhammad’s direct words of violence to force others to convert or believe the teaching of Islam is as follows “Will you then force men to believe when belief can come started only from God.” So we see that the violence was not initiated by the Muslims for their religious advancement. Islam has gotten a bad reputation for violence but in all actuality, more people have died in the name of Christianity than ever in the name of Islam.
Many of the teachings are very similar to those of the western cultures yet being so close ideologically yet different has caused much of the discrepancy among the people. The idea the Islam is backwards or dangerous is fallacious and even ignorant of the western culture as a whole who if they took time to truly learn what Islam is about would realize that Islam is only as dangerous or less than the religions of the west.
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