In the Arab world, the word ‘Islam’ means submission and peace. As a term, it refers to the messages revealed to Muhammad by Allah. Cultural practices and beliefs associated with the people who practice this religion give rise to Islamic culture. In the recent past, the religion has spread into many countries in the world. It is often misunderstood by those who are strangers to it. In most cases, Islamic culture is associated with terrorism, crime, poverty, corruption, racism, and other forms of negativity. It is often seen as a negative and an unprincipled faith. Islamic teachings are interpreted variously in different cultures across the world (Haneef, n.d).
The main aim of this paper is to take an in-depth look into the different aspects of Islamic religion in order to come out with a clear and uncorrupted understanding of the religion. The paper also compares the faith with other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity. The aim of such comparison is to fully understand why the Islamic values, beliefs, and goals are commonly misunderstood.
The Islamic Religion
Islamic Religion and Teachings
Knowledge of the main teachings and guidelines of this religion allows one to gain a fair understanding of Islam free of any preconceptions. The teachings act as a guide to all followers of the religion. For instance, the Islamic creed is taught to all Muslims. The creed declares that there is no other deity apart from God. In addition, Muhammad is believed to be His only messenger (Tariq & Shadman, 1997). The pillar is very important in understanding Islam since it is the source of all the concepts, moral values, attitudes and guidelines relating to human behavior and relationships (Haneef, n.d).
Islam also teaches on the existence of a Creator. He is commonly referred to as Allah in the Arabic language. He is an unlimited, independent, and complex phenomenon. The last and most important teaching and guideline of the Islamic religion is the Quran. It discusses various phenomena affecting human life. Such issues include human needs, problems, and attitudes, which are presented in a miraculous nature. The holy book is believed to have been passed down to Muhammad by Allah (Tariq & Shadman, 1997).
Islamic Culture and Social Systems
In Islam, social systems mainly aim at preservation of the human race and protection of the society. They are built around the belief that all human beings are equal and are part of one fraternity. Family life is one of the most important aspects of the Islamic social life. Family can only be built through the marriage of a man and a woman (Mawdudi, n.d). Islam takes a firm stand against any other form of marriage, such as same-sex union and homosexuality.
All forms of homosexuality are forbidden. Films and other forms of media that promote such acts through pornography and other types of entertainment programs are proscribed (Muhammed, n.d). The process of selecting a marriage partner in Islamic society is a very different from that in other religions. In most cases, the parents choose partners for their children. However, the children are given the opportunity to suggest their preferred partners (Mawdudi, n.d).
Islam seeks to preserve honor and dignity in the society by establishing a dress code for both men and women. For instance, women are expected to cover all parts of their body and skin in special clothing. As such, men are not attracted to them on the basis of their sexual appeal or looks. On the contrary, the attraction is based on the individuals’ consciousness in relation to their Creator. A woman is recognized in the Islamic social order and many rules have been put in place to prevent her exploitation in the society. Social systems in this religion seek to establish collective relations where people depend on one another. Individuals feel that their properties, lives, and honor, are safe among their neighbors (Mawdudi, n.d).
Islamic Economic Systems
Economic systems in this society are an extension of the social order. The networks seek to meet the needs of every member of the society. They ensure that exchange and distribution of wealth is in accordance with the Islamic standards of justice and equity. However, the religion exerts minimal interferences with the methods and techniques of economic production. The reason is that such systems change according to the needs and requirements of a community. Everyone has the right to use and benefit from all natural resources (Tariq & Shadman, 1997). Such endowments cannot be monopolized. The Quran clearly states that anyone who uses the natural resources for commercial gains should pay taxes to the government.
Islamic religion largely affects many aspects of the economic systems in the country. For instance, Sharia laws allow for one’s land to be taken away under certain circumstances. The asset can be repossessed if it is not put to productive use through cultivation, construction of buildings, or any other meaningful purpose within a three year period. Islamic economic systems also acknowledge the fact that there can never be equality among all people (Tariq & Shadman, 1997). Unlike other religions that try to promote equality, Islam opts to provide equal opportunities to all individuals. In such cases, the individual has the opportunity to climb up the ladder of success.
Islam strives to provide a permanent institution in the society to assist those who lack the necessary means and ability to succeed. With regards to employment, the religion forbids the use of manipulative methods by an employer to impose conditions that may be unfair to an employee. Every person has the right to earn and accumulate wealth. However, the act is only justified if the individual provides useful services to the community (Tariq & Shadman, 1997).
Islam in Modern Society
Islam and Politics
Political systems associated with Islamic nations continue to attract controversy and criticism from mainstream global society. The major reason is that most people are ignorant of the rules and guidelines used in the administration of these nations (Harvey & Allard, 2012). In conventional societies, people are governed using manmade rules. However, Islamic nations are guided by the laws promoted in the Quran. The political systems in these countries are not informed by the idea of democracy and rules made by legislative assemblies. On the contrary, it is believed that the authority to legislate solely lies with the Creator (Tariq & Shadman, 1997). That is the reason why the teachings in the Quran are used to provide solutions to the problems facing the society.
The authority to rule is vested on the people. As such, it is their responsibility to ensure that their affairs are carried out in accordance with the teachings of Islam. Both men and women have the right to appoint the head of state, Khalif, who rules on their behalf (Mawdudi, n.d).
There are a number of similarities between Islamic and conventional political systems. One of them is the presence of political parties. However, Islamic political systems hold the government accountable based on Islam and not on legislated laws. The Khalif is given the power to appoint people they deem fit to assist in governing. The appointees are responsible for making rules and enacting them in the society. However, the laws formulated must be based on the Quran (Mawdudi, n.d).
Misconceptions Surrounding Islamic Teachings
Islam exists in a modern world characterized by emerging values. Different people regard this religion differently depending on their association with it (Harvey & Allard, 2012). As a result, there are a number of misconceptions associated with Islam. Women are at the centre of these misinterpretations. For instance, many people in the western world misunderstand Islamic teachings on chastity. They believe that such conceptualizations are aimed at oppressing the woman (Haneef, n.d). However, a critical analysis of the situation reveals that the teachings are aimed at ensuring that the women are not regarded as sex objects by men.
Women are also said to be oppressed when they are asked to care for the widows and the orphans in the society. There may be some truth in this. However, it is important to note that these vulnerable groups (widows and orphans) are part of a major global issue affecting all countries in the world. As such, it is erroneous to regard the caring of these individuals as an exclusive element of the Islamic nation (Haneef, n.d).
Another common misconception is that Muslims do not believe in Jesus. The fact is that adherents of this religion revere Christ. In addition, they acknowledge that he performed miracles and was born to a virgin. However, they disagree that He was the son of God. In spite of this, their disagreement should not be misconstrued to mean that they deny His existence (Muhammed, n.d). Muslims are also believed to be supporters of violence and terrorism. Such a view is unfair considering that they are also victims of this crime. Many Muslims have lost family members to terrorist groups.
Islam and Other Religions
The Place of Islam in a Multi-Religious World
There is a close relationship between Islam and other religions. For example, Muslims measures moral conduct by taking into consideration how one serves the Creator. According to the teachings of this religion, moral values should not be based on our understanding of evil and good. Such knowledge constantly undergoes changes. As a result, it fails to provide a definite standard of morality (Tariq & Shadman, 1997). The element is common in other religions. Moral laws are largely guided by the love of God. Muslims are taught to believe that they are dealing with a Supreme Being who is omnipresent (Mawdudi, n.d). The scenario is similar in other faiths.
However, there are instances where conflicts arise between Islam and other religions. For example, a number of wars have been fought over religious ideologies. In addition, there are cases where Muslims are discriminated against in the society on the basis of their faith. However, most of these conflicts emanate from the misconceptions surrounding this religion (Harvey & Allard, 2012).
Islam and Christianity
The two are similar in many ways. The most visible similarity is that both believe in the existence of one God. In addition, the two religions are based on teachings derived from their respective holy books (Muhammed, n.d). Furthermore, Muslims and Christians believe that Jesus was sent by God. Christians live by the Ten Commandments. On their part, Muslims are guided by the pillars of Islam (Muhammed, n.d).
There are also variations between Islam and Christianity. For example, the latter hold that Christ is the Son of God. However, Muslims are opposed to this. They view Jesus as a messenger. In addition, Christians believe in the Trinity. To this end, it is taught that God has three forms. However, Muslims reject this idea. They view it as a violation of the oneness of God. That is also the reason why they are opposed to the idea that Jesus is the descendant of God.
Islam and Judaism
Islam has a lot of similarities with Judaism. The resemblances are mostly in relation to moral practices, political systems, and social networks. However, there are also differences between the two. For instance, Islam views Judaism as a religion that exalts God as a prejudiced and domineering figure. The reason is that according to Judaism, God chose Israelites as His children. He rejected all the other races of the world (Muhammed, n.d). Muslims also disagree with the Jews’ illustration of God as something or someone with a mass and a body. According to Muslims, such a view equates God to an individual who can commit such sins as idolatry (Muhammed, n.d).
Muslims believe that Allah cannot be defined on the basis of a particular place or time (Muhammed, n.d). The reason is that it is Allah himself who created time and all the places that are occupied by His creation (Muhammed, n.d). Just Jews, Muslims believe that they are superior to adherents of other religions. However, unlike Jews, they do not acknowledge this fact openly. They try to encourage tolerance, kindness, and integrity in their relationships with non-Muslims. For instance, they greet and visit with them. In addition, they join them in celebrating such occasions as weddings.
However, as much as Muslims try to establish good relationships with Christians and Jews, they are very cautious. For example, they are unwilling to initiate non-Muslims into their rituals or to make statements that may show acceptance of practices associated with other religions. They also avoid attending meetings that are regarded to go against the teachings of Allah (Muhammed, n.d).
It is clear that Islam is not just a belief system as many people view it. On the contrary, it is a culture and a system of governing all aspects of human existence. A comparison between Islam and other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, shows that their practices are basically the same. The few differences that are observed are as a result of variations in religious beliefs. As such, it is fallacious to portray Islam in a negative light. The major aspects of Islamic culture are justified and are guided by teachings in the Quran.
It is also evident that Muslims have made efforts to establish peaceful and functional relations with people of other religions. Terrorism and such other acts of intolerance are not sanctioned by true Islamic teachings. On the contrary, they are the activities of criminal elements that use the religion to justify their actions. Islam is a peaceful religion. It should not be unfairly judged on the basis of the actions of a few extremists. The conduct of such individuals should be sanctioned individually instead of condemning the whole religion.
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Tariq, A., & Shadman (1997). Islam: A complete way of life. Web.