Black Spirituality Religion : Toward Understanding Islam And The Growing Muslim World...

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by Aqil, Sep 17, 2001.

  1. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Toward Understanding Islam And The Growing Muslim World

    By Dr. Byron L. Haines

    Contemporary events have a way of overtaking understanding and goodwill. The relations between Muslims and Christians today are influenced radically by the swift movement of history and the biases of its interpreters. The only way to remedy this warping of human associations is to work for an objective understanding of the religion of Islam and the vast Muslim world. In this way the events will be held in balance and the hope for justice and reconciliation restored. What can be said about Islam and the Muslim world that will be helpful to this new understanding?

    The American awareness of the reality of the Muslim world is growing. Typically, the growth of this awareness is called by Americans “Islamic resurgence,” and viewed as a modern phenomenon. In reality, Muslims have been exerting themselves in the Middle East, Africa and Asia ever since the beginnings of Islam on the Arabian Peninsula in the 6th century. With the spread of Islam over the centuries, the Muslim community now numbers over 1.2 billion people – over one-fifth of the world’s population – and inhabits almost every country in the world...

    The largest populations of Muslims are not – as one might expect – found in the Middle East. Indonesia has more Muslims than are found in the Arabic-speaking world. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh follow close behind. There are more Muslims in the West African country of Nigeria than in all the Arab countries combined!

    Thus the great majority of Muslims in the world are not Arab. Though their cultures are shaped by the traditional Islamic law and united in a common allegiance to Allah (i.e., “The God” in the Arabic language), nevertheless they manifest their Islamicism within the context of their own cultures and ethnic traditions. The unity of the Islamic community is, by virtue of size, a mosaic of differences, all of which speak to the Muslim desire to be faithful to Allah within the context of Qur’anic revelation (i.e., as revealed in the Holy Qur’an, the Muslim Holy Book).

    In the past several decades, the desire of Muslims to shape their own witness and destiny has expressed itself more visibly and with greater importance to the Western world by virtue of several changes that have occurred. The demise of Western political colonialism has left a heritage of nations with Muslim majorities that are now free to engage in their own processes of nation building.

    Inevitably, these nations – faced with tremendous economic difficulties – must confront the modern world of Western technology and secularism with those values and traditions they feel to be of essence to the identity and survival of their Islamic ideals, and the Muslim community within which those ideals are enshrined. Often this confrontation takes the form of a rejection of the values they see manifested in the immorality and godlessness in Western society. (The Muslim countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran are forceful examples of this rejection.)

    The effort at nation-building has economic ties with the importance of Arab oil to the Western world. The oil crisis of 1973 demonstrated the reliance of the West upon Arab oil resources and the interdependency of relations – both political and economic – between the Arab world and the West. The course of this interdependency is influenced by what many Muslims perceive as an attempt by Western businesses and nations to maintain a continuing economic and, to some extent, political hegemony over Muslim nations and peoples. If there is any altruism in American foreign aid, it is lost upon Muslim nations because of its self-serving aspects and structure of administration. The oil wealth is seen therefore by many Muslim nations as a lever for eliminating the excesses imposed by interdependency.

    American awareness of the importance of Islam and the Muslim world is enhanced by the presence in the United States of a Muslim community that is growing in size. Now numbering over 7,000,000 and worshipping in some 700 mosques, its growth rate by means of immigration and birth suggests that within the next thirty years or so, the Muslim community will become the second-largest religious community in America.

    Many American Muslims claim that their community already numbers over 10,000,000. The size is not that important for Christians. What is noteworthy is that Muslims and Christians are neighbors in America. Though the major centers of Muslim population in the U.S. are the areas surrounding New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Detroit, Muslims are likely to be living in almost every city – medium-sized or larger – in the country. For example, the greatest concentration of Muslims by density is in Dearborn, MI (pop. 105,000).

    The Muslim community is not monolithic. About one-half of the community is the result of immigration beginning in the early 1900s. One of the earliest mosques was built in the 1920s in Ross, North Dakota. Others followed shortly in Cedar Rapids, IA; Highland Park, MI; and Michigan City, IN. Most of these early immigrants were blue-collar workers or proprietors of small businesses, and were from the Middle East. After World War II, the immigrants were people with professional skills from Pakistan and India, as well as from the Middle East. Bringing with them a strong sense of being Muslim, they are now working – as loyal American citizens – with the problem of becoming American.

    The other half of the Muslim community in the U.S. has its origins in Africa, for the majority of the African slaves that were brought to this country were Muslim. In the early 1930s an organization called the “Nation of Islam” was established in the African-American community of Detroit, MI, under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad. Formed primarily as a response to the racism of this country, the Nation of Islam (NOI) became a strong Black separatist movement. The rhetoric was anti-White and anti-Christian.

    In 1975, following the death of Elijah Muhammad, his son, Wallace Deen Muhammad assumed leadership. By what he considers to be a direct act of Allah’s mercy toward that community, Wallace – who is now Imam Abdul Warithudin Muhammad – led his “nation” into orthodox Sunni Islam. This change produced significant changes in the life of the Muslim community of African- Americans. The rhetoric against the whites and Christians was abandoned. They sought to fashion their daily lives in accordance with Islamic law and provisions. They sought to integrate their efforts into those of the worldwide Muslim community. In other words – and in contrast to the immigrant community – they were Americans of African descent who were seeking to become truly Muslim.

    What is the commitment that nourishes this vast Muslim world? At the heart of the religion of Islam is the worship of the One God Allah, the transcendent Creator, Cherisher and Sustainer of the Universe. The word “Islam” means submission (i.e., to the will of Allah) – not out of a legalistic motivation, but rather as a response to the mercy and grace that characterizes all that Allah does for humanity. The Muslim is “one who submits.”

    Allah’s revelation is given uniquely in the Muslim Holy Book called “Qur’an,” meaning “recitation,” because this book contains the exact words spoken by Allah in Heaven and transmitted to humanity for its guidance through the recitation of these words by Prophet Muhammad. The Holy Qur’an preserves, therefore, and without error, the exact words spoken by Allah for all people. As such, it is the supreme and infallible source of Allah’s will for all Muslim life.

    The Prophet Muhammad, as Allah’s chosen vehicle of revelation, is revered as the one person who in all his deeds and words embodied everything that Allah’s guidance requires. Prophet Muhammad’s words and deeds have come therefore to be additional sources of Divine guidance. All Muslim spirituality is shaped and informed inwardly by this understanding of Allah, the Holy Qur’an, and Prophet Muhammad. Its outward form is expressed in the acts of submission to the Divine will for all of life that the inward commitment requires. Herein the Muslim community is formed, guided and nourished by Allah’s mercy and benevolence. This is the witness that the community offers to a world in need.

    With this framework of the relationship between God and humanity, Islam finds close affinity with Christianity and Judaism. Muslims believe that Islam, Christianity and Judaism all derive from the religion of Abraham, and thus all three worship the same God. They believe each has been given a revelation from God through a prophet: The Torah was given through Prophet Musa (Moses); The Psalms through Prophet Dawud (David); The Gospel through Prophet Isa (Jesus); and the Holy Qur’an through Prophet Muhammad. People who follow these traditions are called “People of the Book.” Muslims say that were it not for the corruption of their books by Jews and Christians, the revelations to Jews and Christians would be the same as those given in the Holy Qur’an.

    Since these three religions all begin with the God of Abraham, the ethical norms and values that each espouses are almost the same in substance and intent. The sense of the human responsibility for the stewardship of this world on behalf of God is very much the same. Because both Islam and Judaism articulate the Divine Will by means of a legal tradition (Shari’ah in Islam and Halakah in Judaism), they stand closer to each other, in that sense, than either does to the Christian religion. Yet the Qur’an speaks highly of Jesus. Not only was he a true prophet of God, but he was the only perfect human being, born of a virgin and translated into Heaven by God to return at the end of time to bring all people into Islam.

    The religion of Islam and the growing Muslim world are factors of the modern world that are new to Americans and the American church. Unfortunately, the way in which these factors have been represented to Christians in the West has been biased and distorted by historical prejudice – and much by the Western media, including many Christian publications. The events of today’s world imply an imperative for reconciliation that should not be ignored. The extent to which Christians and Jews are faithful to their own beliefs will be the measure by which their response to this imperative will be judged.


    (At the time of this writing, Dr. Byron L. Haines was a member of the adjunct faculty of the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut.)
     
  2. dnommo

    dnommo Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Aqil,

    Forgive me for not responding earlier but i didn't take time to read all the forums here. This one is key for it expresses the true relationship between Christianity and Islam. While many would like to continue the infighting between the three major faith systems, one must ask how to build a bridge to understanding and not tear it down. This speaks truth with deep sincerity and i thank you for the post.
     
  3. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    And thank you too...

    You're welcome, dnommo. I appreciate your comments...:cool:
     
  4. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    At the heart of the religion of Islam is the worship of the One God Allah, the transcendent Creator, Cherisher and Sustainer of the Universe. The word “Islam” means submission (i.e., to the will of Allah) – not out of a legalistic motivation, but rather as a response to the mercy and grace that characterizes all that Allah does for humanity. The Muslim is “one who submits.”

    Allah’s revelation is given uniquely in the Muslim Holy Book called “Qur’an,” meaning “recitation,” because this book contains the exact words spoken by Allah in Heaven and transmitted to humanity for its guidance through the recitation of these words by Prophet Muhammad. The Holy Qur’an preserves, therefore, and without error, the exact words spoken by Allah for all people. As such, it is the supreme and infallible source of Allah’s will for all Muslim life.

    Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as Allah’s chosen vehicle of revelation, is revered as the one person who in all his deeds and words embodied everything that Allah’s guidance requires. Prophet Muhammad’s words and deeds have come therefore to be additional sources of Divine guidance. All Muslim spirituality is shaped and informed inwardly by this understanding of Allah, the Holy Qur’an, and Prophet Muhammad. Its outward form is expressed in the acts of submission to the Divine will for all of life that the inward commitment requires. Herein the Muslim community is formed, guided and nourished by Allah’s mercy and benevolence. This is the witness that the community offers to a world in need...
     
  5. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Muslims now number over 1.5 billion people – over one-fifth of the world’s population – and inhabits almost every country in the world. The largest populations of Muslims are not – as one might expect – found in the Middle East. Indonesia has more Muslims than are found in the Arabic-speaking world. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh follow close behind. There are more Muslims in the African country of Nigeria than in all the Arab countries combined...
     
  6. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    As-Salaam Alaikum,


    Thanx for this post. I recently just discovered that Islam is the ONE, after a long spiritual journey and some deep research. Im still learning about Islam as I go but I have no doubt in my mind that Allah is the supreme one.


    Peace black man and thanx for posting this.
     
  7. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Wa Alaikum Salaam, my brother...and your'e quite welcome. You have made the right decision...Jazaka-'lah...

    Ma Salaam...
     
  8. A007

    A007 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    "Wa Alaikum Salaam, my brother...and your'e quite welcome. You have made the right decision...Jazaka-'lah...

    Ma Salaam..."

    Aqil
    Just because you happen to agree and practice the same faith does not mean that he has made the "right" decision, and for you to say it does speaks directly to your bias and unwillingness to entertain other information/beliefs as possibilities that Islam may be a "close minded" way to worship Allah. This is probably directly related to the fear that most have that they will lose their identity and/or security if what they currently believe/practice is not necessarily the "BEST" religion/faith in existance. How sad.

    Also by suggesting that the decision to practice and believe Islam is the"right" decision says to all others that their respective faiths are "wrong" is that what you meant to convey? And, if so, why are all of the other faiths "wrong"

    NOTE: I did not ask for a discourse on Islam......I am merely asking what you feel is wrong with the other faiths.
     
  9. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Looking for an argument are we?

    A007, why are you trying to make somthing out of nothing?


    He wasn't trying to put any other faiths down. He was simply expressing the same way I felt. We both are muslim, therefore we both feel that Islam is the right path. It's not like if I said I became a christian then he would have put me down or said I made the wrong choice, he wouldn't have responed because he wouldn't really be able to relate to me, we wouldn't be on the same page. Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc etc each believe that their religion is the 'right decision', that's why each person chose that specific path. Im sure me becoming a muslim or not has nothing to do with the brotha's securities, we both could relate on a spiritual tip of each other's beliefs, we share that common bound.


    C'mon bruh, it's really not that serious.
     
  10. A007

    A007 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Jah---
    humbly and with all due respect, Aqil would have ridiculed you if you had chosen to be christian. This is not about your decision to become muslim. I respect that, even if I don't understand it. Please except my apology if I offended you in any way. This really is a matter of my dislike for Aqil's propensity to commend those who agree with him and condemn those who do not.

    Now, I would like to ask you some questions about your faith that may be a little difficult. Is that possible without offending you? If not, I understand and will not pursue this any further.

    peace and love
    Dre'
     
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