Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 2

What do I actually know about Islam? 

This is something that has actually been haunting me for the past week and especially for the past 40 or so hours. I don't know a thing about the real and true religion of Islam. Being an American in a time of religious strife and global conflict certainly allows for bits and pieces of the religion to be thrust upon me, but outside of sound bites, academic comparatives and the occasional glance at Al Jazeera's opinion page, I don't have the slightest grip on the details of the religion. This project aside, that is not alright with me. I don't like being clueless.

Intellectual hubris is not my thing. I am the first to admit that I am not the brightest of men, but I will stake a claim under the curiosity column. Yet, how is it possible, as a curious man, for me not to know more about a religion that is embraced by nearly a quarter of the world? To me, that sounds irresponsible.

But maybe I'm asking the wrong question, so allow me to change it. Considering my claim to inquisitiveness, how is it possible for me to accept only fragments of an entire religion and claim to have had enough? Sure, I wouldn't verbalize such a statement, but my actions and subsequent ignorant comments and conversations certainly have and perhaps even continue to illustrate my intellectual tolerance. If I don't actively seek to gain a broader and more accurate picture of any subject, regardless of category, aren't I subtly admitting an mental  fill?

As commented by (and linked to) a friend yesterday, there seems to be a growing segment of people (Americans included) who have allowed themselves to be educated only enough to their liking before an opinion is formed and espoused. Worse than adopting an ill-informed position on something, some people take their half-truths on the road with them to inform the peasants of their wisdom. 

Take this email for instance which carried the title, "Can Muslims be Good Americans?" Since it's a hate email, it naturally comes with a presupposition that "Muslim and "good American" can not co-habitat a sentence.

Here is the gist of it:

Theologically - no. Because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon God of Arabia.

Religiously - no. Because no other religion is accepted by his Allah except Islam (Quran, 2:256)

Scripturally - no. Because his allegiance is to the five pillars of Islam and the Quran (Koran).

Geographically - no. Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.

Socially - no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.

Politically - no. Because he must submit to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and Destruction of America, the great Satan.

Domestically - no. Because he is instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34).

Intellectually - no. Because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.

Philosophically - no. Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

Spiritually - no. Because when we declare "one nation under God," the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in The Quran's 99 excellent names.

Therefore after much study and deliberation....perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country. They obviously cannot be both "good" Muslims and good Americans. Call it what you's still the truth.

You had better believe it.

If you want to read a good take-down of the claims made in the email, there are plenty, but the point is that the author of this rant learned only enough so they could launch a childish tirade at a faith that clearly scares them. Just to give you an example of how pervasive this list was, if you were to enter the title of the email into the Google search box, it auto-completes the sentence. 

The whole thing brings me back to the origin of wisdom and knowledge. Many people like to claim they are wise, but how are we to be sure they are really pure in intent?

"He has taught you that which [heretofore] you knew not."
(Qur'an 2:239)

All faiths have their own ideas on this one. Christians believe their God to be omniscient while Buddhists are taught that it takes utilitarian observation and analysis to truly understand if something is in fact "wise". Regardless of faith or philosophy there are certain facts that I know to be true and, on this one, Mohammad can help.

If a person is given silence, he is given wisdom.

And to that I'd like to add that a modest person understands the wisdom of silence.


Aside from starting the Quran from the beginning (which was interesting considering Adam and Eve popped up like thirty pages into it--a fact that I did not realize), I'm really trying to focus on the Five Pillars of Islam. Since I'm new to this religion, I'm taking it slowing and trying to understand it all one step at a time.

The first pillar is Shahadah which is essentially a statement of faith. It looks like this...

أشهد أن لا إله إلاَّ الله و أشهد أن محمد رسول الله 

"There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger."

If you're really good, then you'd recognize the text above is also written on the flag of Saudi Arabia.

.In English, it looks a little like this: Ashhadu Alla Ilaha Illa Allah Wa Ashhadu Anna Muhammad Rasulu Allah. 

Interestingly, reciting the Shahadah three times in front of witnesses is all it takes to convert to Islam (video here). Of course, one must be totally sincere in doing it and fully understand the gravity of such a recitation. (It's not like Candyman.) I plan on reciting this many times, but my sincerity will disqualify me at this point since I am not prepared to dedicate myself to Islam (or any religion for that matter).

I'm really enjoying my studies so far and am really working on looking at the beauty that clearly thrives within Islam and Muslims and ignoring my cultural biases. 

السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

As-Salāmu `Alaykum

Peace and Mercy of Allah be upon you...

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