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This is a special edition of the Musalla Weekly newsletter presented to our friends and guests on this open day. It is a pleasure for the Muslim community to open the doors of the Centre hoping to provide an insight into the Islamic World, the Muslim community, our lives and discuss issues close to everyone’s heart.

Islam is often mis-understood and mis-interpreted. Few people, outside the Muslim community, get a chance to see Islam in any light other than the negative picture painted by the media. This open day is an attempt to give you an insight into the Muslim world and the functions of the Islamic Centre.

This open day provides us a basis for mutual respect, love and tolerance for each other. It provides a platform for people to learn, share, taste, question and feel. It hopes to strengthen the bonds of affection and love in our diverse and vibrant community of Central Scotland.

What is Islam?

Islam is the second largest faith based community in the world with over 1.2 billion members.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. From its earliest days until today it has had this phenomenal growth.

"The rise of Islam is perhaps the most amazing event in human history. Springing from a land and a people like previously negligible, Islam spread within a century over half the earth." (A.M.L.STODDARD. Islam the religion of all the Prophets)

Islam is a religion which is not bound by ethnicity, colour, race or language. It has a unified community which includes people from all backgrounds and nationalities.

Islam’s roots are firmly imbedded in the belief that there is only one unique Creator, Master, Sustainer and Cherisher of the worlds. This is a belief in God Almighty (Allah in the Arabic language) and that Muhammad (pbuh) is his final messenger.

What does Islam mean?

Islam is derived from the word ‘salaam’ which means peace. It is a religion of peace in which its basic teachings command its followers to maintain and promote peace throughout the world.

Thus every Muslim has a role to promote and maintain peace. This peace is promoted within their own lives, their families, communities, countries and throughout the whole world. This peace is not only a state of external harmony but also a state of spiritual harmony and contentment.

Islam condemns all forms of injustices and acts of aggression, that take an individual away from the ‘straight path’ of piety and goodness.

Conflict or Conciliation

One may ask why there are so many conflict in the world and what does Islam offer to bring an end to these conflicts?

To understand the solution we also need to understand the nature of the conflict and the remedies that Islam offers. However, we need to see Islam in its true light rather than the portrait painted by those Muslims and non-Muslims who want to discredit it.

We hope you will find answers to these questions during the course of this open day.

Myths and Misconceptions

There are many myths and misconceptions which have existed around Islam and Muslims. These misconceptions have only fueled ignorance and mistrust between people throughout the ages.

Thomas Carlyle, the great Scottish Historian once wrote regarding Muhammad...

The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped around this man, are disgraceful to ourselves only. Thomas Carlyle

In this age of information, it is surprising that ignorance and misconceptions still exist and true Islam remains a stranger in the eyes of so many. The true Islam has been replaced by a ‘media Islam’ which is a warped image constructed through the actions of a few Muslims. Many events and actions of such people are often misreported and promoted to maintain this image of ‘Media Islam’.

Brief History of Islam

When Islam came into the world in the 6th century, it was immediately challenged by the local pagan Arabs. The few Arabs who accepted Islam and became Muslims were persecuted by the pagan Arabs, so much so that they were forced to leave their homelands to live in Abyssinia and later to live in Madina.

The Muslims were a peace loving community who adhered to principles of justice, truth, kindness, equality and discipline. The pagans were impressed with the Muslims but many still opposed Islam.

The Muslim community developed in Madina and soon became a huge spiritual empire. They were allowed to defend themselves from the many attacks by the Arabs and soon won their hearts with their response of love, tolerance and forgiveness.

...They (Islamic principles) established in the world a great tradition of dignified fair-dealing, they breathe a spirit of generosity, and they are human and workable. They created a society more free from widespread cruelty and social oppression than any society had ever seen in the world before." (H.G.WELLS. THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY)

When Islam spread to the surrounding countries, the people saw the manners and character of these Muslims and accepted Islam in their droves.

The main super powers at the time were the Romans (Byzantium) and Persians who exerted much control in these regions. Both these super powers were affected by the mass acceptance of the principles of Islam by their people. Many of the people had been burdened by tyrannical rule and heavy taxes.

Acceptance of Islam by so many people led to a vibrant multi-cultural community united by a single faith. Islam became a universal phenomena as its message permeated through different societies, cultures, languages and religions.

The people who embraced Islam began to follow Islam whole-heartedly and became an example of piety and justice. Through their example of tolerance, love, piety and dedication, many others became Muslims and joined the universal brotherhood of Islam.

"Whatever be the race, colour, rank or antecedents of the worshipper, he is received into the brotherhood of believers and takes his place as an equal among equals.... Islam is the only solution for all the ills of the world. This is no idle boast on my part." (THOMAS ARNOLD. CALIPHATE)

At the same time, many people did not accept Islam but continued to enjoy the many benefits of living in such a tolerant and just society under Muslim rule. There was no compulsion for them to adopt Islam unless they wished to do so by their own free will. Their communities would thrive in such a positive and progressive atmosphere.

Tolerance and Religion

Other faiths were not only tolerated but their followers were encouraged to practice their religion. In Muslim-Spain, the golden age of Islam was also the golden age of Judaism. The Jews who came to Spain were allowed to follow their faith openly without interference. They were treated with justice and respect.

"...If anyone kills an (innocent) person, it will be as if he has murdered the whole of humanity. And if anyone saves a person it will be as if he has saved the whole of humanity..." Holy Qur’an 5:32

The Christians in Spain were also allowed to live by their own scripture and had their own courts. During this period, they enjoyed unparalleled religious freedom.

This true multi-cultural and harmonized society existed for over 700 years until the Spanish Inquisition forcefully dismantled it.

When Jerusalem was taken by the crusaders from Muslim rule, there ensued a bloody battle during which no one was spared from the sword—human or animal. History records that blood flowed through the streets of Jerusalem as the rampant crusaders massacred its residents.

When the Muslims took back Jerusalem, there was no massacre. Instead the citizens were invited to a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. They were allowed to follow their respective faiths in complete security without fear of persecution or intolerance. This was the nature of Islam which won the hearts and respect of people.

And vie with one another to attain your Sustainer's forgiveness and a Paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which awaits the God conscious, who spend for charity in time of plenty and in time of hardship, and restrain their anger and pardon their fellow men, for God loves those who do good. (Holy Qur’an 3:133-134)

All places of worship were protected by the Islamic Law such as the church of the holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Often places of worship existed which were used by both Muslims and Christians. These include Lud (Lydda) in Syria which wasn't separated by even a wall but instead both religions (Christians and Muslims) worshipped in harmony.

Islam by Choice

Forcing people to convert to Islam was never an option as the Qur’an itself condemned such actions. All humans have free will and it’s only through free choice that a person can become a Muslim.

There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Holy Qur’an [2:256]

What persuaded some people to accept Islam was the action and character of the Muslims who had dedicated their lives towards Islam. Islam required the Muslims to be just, kind and considerate which is a fundamental of the Muslim faith.

"History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever accepted."
Historian De Lacy O' Leary (Islam at the Crossroads, London).

It is worth noting that Muslims have had their fair share of bad rulers and individuals as they have today. However, it would be unfair and unjust to measure the vast majority of Muslims by the actions of a tiny handful of bad Muslims. This principle also applies to other races, religions and civilizations—past and present.

“Is it fair to say that every football fan is a hooligan because of the actions of a few ‘nutters’? In the same manner, is it fair to label all Muslims as terrorists because of the actions of a few criminals?” Imam of Stirling Mosque

War and Peace

World history is full of battles and wars. However, the Muslims always preferred a peaceful solution and diplomacy over conflict.

If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in GOD. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient. (HQ 8:61)

There are countless examples throughout history where wars and bloodshed were avoided through diplomacy, even when the conditions of peace were against the Muslims. In times of war, the Qur’an states that peace is the better option.

Islam has a complete law for the protection of people who are caught up in any conflict. It is incumbent upon the Muslims that the rights of every individual must be respected and honoured. It goes so far as to protect prisoners of war, live stock, plant life and the environment.

"Stop, O people... Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those that are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone" Command to Muslim army from Abu Bakr

Principles of Justice

The Prophet (pbuh) always commanded the Muslims to follow the just path in all matters. Even if the decision was against them, they must still do what is just.

During the time of the Prophet (pbuh) when a dispute arose between a Muslim and Non-Muslim, the judgment would frequently go in favour of the non-Muslim. This exemplifies the application of justice in Islam where there was no favoritism.

Justice isn’t just confined to matters of law but to actions of every individual in society. We have to be just in decisions we make in our personal lives and act fairly in all matters. This applies to all matters of life such as dealing with your family, parents, friends, neighbours and colleagues.

O believers, be you securers of justice, witness for God. Let not detestation for a people move you not to be equitable; be equitable-that is nearer to God-fearing. (HQ5:8)

Even in matters of trade the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that trade should be done according to the Shariah (Islamic law). Any merchant who deceives people will be answerable to Allah on the Day of Judgement. Clear guidelines were set for dealing with one another so that the rights of each would not be abused.

Woe to those that deal in fraud those who when they have to receive by measure from men exact full measure. But when they have to give by measure or weight to men give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account? [Holy Qur'an 83:1-4]

Trade became a means of salvation and an act of worship for the person who followed the rules and regulations set by Islamic law. This brought the person closer to his Lord.

Merchants will be raised on the Day of Resurrection as evil-doers, except those who fear God, are honest and speak the truth. [Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Darimi]

Human Rights

A person’s rights have been ordained by Allah and no one has the right to violate these. Islam protects everyone’s fundamental human rights. There are six general principles in Islamic law:

1. Protection of the sanctity of life

2. Protection of property

3. Protection of personal dignity

4. Protection of freedom of conscience

5. Protection of the right to education

6. Protection of the sanctity of marriage and lineage

Allah encourages humans to be kind and courteous to one another. This behavior helps keep ties within communities and brings one closer to his or her Creator.

"Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess.'' (Holy Qur’an 4:36)

Take the example of an orphan. Islam encourages the Muslims to look after the affairs of the orphan. The guardian does not have the right to any property or money the orphan may have inherited but instead it must be given to the orphan in its totality.