Dear friend, Islamic Center of Beverly Hills will give $1000 scholarship to one college student every 3 months, if they win the contest in writing an article about “Why Islam is the fastest growing religion in America”. For more details please visit our website www.icbh.org. Ms. Elizabeth Muro is our latest winner and her article is enclosed.
If you are interested in assisting this good and godly project, please send your donations to ICBH today. Islam ~
Positive Influences in a Fast Growing Religion
Written By C.E. Foerster. November 2007
Since the tragic events of 9-11, many people in the United States have come to misunderstand the Islamic religion; thinking only of the pain and suffering caused by the terrorists on that memorable day. What most people fail to understand is that this religion, this strong faith in a single God, is a peaceful and caring belief system that encompasses the believers entire life. In this paper, I am going to explore some of the positive attributes to show how extremists are a far cry from what it really means to be a Muslim. Some amazing facts have been found during my research and I am sure that if anyone reading this essay had a negative opinion of the Islamic faith, their thoughts and ideas concerning this peaceful group of followers will be changed.
So what exactly does the Islamic Faith believe in? Much the same as the average Christian; that there is only one God, the Creator of all things. They also believe that Muhammad, (PBUH) a direct descendant of Abraham, is the final messenger of God's will for His people. They believe in God's ultimate authority and power over His children and that there will be a day of judgment for each persons actions and way of life.
They have five very important pillars in how to implement the desires of God ~ they are the very fabric of their lives and lifestyles. These five pillars; faith, prayer, concern for the less fortunate & needy, self purification and pilgrimage, come directly from the Qur'an and are spoken in Arabic, which is considered the language of revelations.
Faith is first and foremost, with no other god being worthy of worship except the one True God, and His messenger, Muhammad, (PBUH). Prayer is a central part of Islam. The obligatory prayer that actually sets the pace for each day is called the “Salat”, and is said five times through-out the day at set intervals; at sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and then after dark. It does not really matter where the person may be; however, being at a mosque with other believers is preferable.
The sanctity of praying is universally understood and adhered to faithfully. Since there are no priests or pastors, these prayers are a direct line of communication for the person praying to the one True God. They are led by one who has been chosen by the congregation and who is knowledgeable in the teachings found in the Qur'an. It's refreshing and exhilarating to me to think of all people praying together in unison to our heavenly Father.
The Call for Prayer is a simple prayer, but very direct in its message. That there is only one God, who is most great, that Muhammad is the chosen messenger of God and that through praying, one can come to great success in this lifetime as well in the life thereafter. I, too, believe in the power of prayer and know that God hears each and every prayer said to Him.
Cheerful giving to those in need is a staple that is an understood element in the Muslim society. The “Zakat” is literally translated as purification and growth. Giving purifies not only the person giving but also the possessions, which, of course, are truly owned by God. An average of 2.5% of ones yearly income is set aside to assist those in need, although if one can give more (hopefully in an anonymous manner), it is encouraged. The prophet was very clear on the subject, noting that if one can not give, then one should volunteer or encourage his fellow man to be a gracious giver. (Islamicity)
Self purification comes from fasting, as well as giving to the needy. The fasting is done during the month of Ramadan, starting at sunrise and lasting until sunset. This gives the believer a feel for the strife poor and hungry people go through, allowing them to be more sympathetic to the causes of the poor or needy. Some people are allowed to bypass this time, such as the elderly, the sick or the pregnant. Each day missed must be made up sometime during the year to avoid lacking the opportunity to grow in spirituality.
Taking an annual pilgrimage, known as the Hajj, is something that is required although only for those who can afford to do so and are in good health. It used to be a difficult journey, but with modern conveniences, this trip has been made much easier to accomplish. Approximately two million people a year come from all across the world to make the trek to Makkah, a Holy city where a colony is said to have been established by Abraham in ancient times. Pilgrims wearing simple clothing go there and perform the Rights of the Hajj which include circling a shrine known as the Kaaba, (which contains a sacred black stone) seven times and asking for God's forgiveness through prayer. (CNN) The Hajj is completed when everyone participates in a festival, exchanging gifts and celebrating with more prayers.
The Qur'an also states that one must be tolerant of others, and that dealing justly with another is pleasing to God. This is contrary to what many westerners believe when all they base their judgments on is the extremists who violate other human beings. Intolerance, anger and violence do not have a place in such teachings as giving to others, forgiveness and understanding those not of the Islam faith. Actually, the word Islam is translated from the Arabic “salaam” meaning “submission”. And that word is related to the word for “peace”. (Religious Tolerance) Submission to God's will is the key; and God is not an angry God. He looks to each person to do good deeds, and seeks to enter into the heart of each individual.
Many believe that the people who seek to fight in what is known as 'Jihad' are going against the very fabric of religious beliefs, although it is noted in the Qur'an that one may fight against those who have transgressed against him or his religion. The big difference is that such struggles may not continue if the other side declares a truce or peace. This decree also has strict limitations, such as prohibiting the harm of civilians and livestock.
Such restrictions make it very clear that those who struck in New York, USA on that fateful day in September were not practicing Islam. These terrorists are often very cruel when it comes to dealing with people who do not think or believe as they do, as opposed to true Muslims who believe in tolerance, giving and kindness. They do not follow the teachings of the Qur'an, which is said to be the direct words of God given to the Prophet (PBUH). These extremists often keep women oppressed, not allowing them to do basic things such as drive a car, vote or participate in leading roles for the community.(ICBH) These are angry and bitter people who are very narrow minded in their views. They follow man made laws found in Hadith, which is full of inaccuracies and false traditions, since it is not the direct word of God.
The Qur'an states that being powerful is in controlling ones anger, not in knocking another down. Perhaps this also relates to the fact that a jihad can also be internal. A struggle within ones self to lead a righteous and good life before God. It also states that God will have no mercy for those who show no mercy. Muslims who practice Islam do not believe in lashing out, but rather in forgiving of others and trying to lead a positive life for themselves, their families and their neighbors.
Contrary to the society found here in America, the Muslim society has a strong foundation in the importance of family and puts a high value on a strong and stable family unit. Women are seen as being individuals to be treated with a good manner and a man that is kind to his wife is found to be most perfect in his faith. When they marry, women keep their own family names, but do come with a dowry given by her family. Children are also highly regarded, and rarely leave home until they get married. Everyone is expected to conduct him or herself with modesty and dignity, dressing and acting appropriately.
Muslim society has another belief that would greatly benefit the people in the U.S.; caring for their elderly parents is not only an honor, but a privilege. One which should be undertaken with great respect, mercy and selflessness. The Qur'an is very clear in that the Lord expects all of us to treat our parents with humility; an honor and duty that is so important that it rates second only after prayer. If only we here in the US could look upon our elderly with such respect instead of feeling that it is a burden and then caring for them with resentments instead of love and care.
I was quite surprised at the many similarities I found between the Christian faith and the Islamic faith. I guess had I known my ancient history better than I do, such findings would not have been so unexpected. The main difference, from what I was able to gather and understand, is that although Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet, they do not recognize Him as the Son of God, for that would be be considered polytheistic. (Intro to Islam) Much of the other teachings to be found in the Qur'an are the same as found in the Holy Bible. There are some other differences, such as a marriage in the Muslim world is considered a legal matter and not a holy union, but all in all, many of the people and teachings are the same.
One thing that impresses me about the Muslims is that they are very open about their beliefs and their religious convictions; it is easy to discern a Muslim from a non-Muslim just in their outward appearances; such is not the case for most Christians.
For myself, it is not uncomprehendable that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States, being only second to Christianity. Much of the philosophies found in Islam teach peace and tolerance, something we could all benefit from. (CNN) As stated in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs article written by M.M. Ali, Dr. Hisham Al Talib states “At their present rate of growth, their number will double in 28 years' time”.
Perhaps our western culture will embrace some of these teachings, perhaps not. It's painfully obvious to me that our society is very much lacking in many of the ideals that would bring about safer communities, more religious tolerances, and a common respect for all living things. The thought of a religion growing strong to have people believe in the Almighty God and His teachings of peace, love and righteous living can only bring positive changes for our crumbling society. Peace and Blessings to All
The Islamic Center of Beverly Hills.
Understanding Islam and the Muslims. The Islamic Affairs Dept. Cambridge. 1989.
Ali, M.M. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs May/June Issue,