Islam for Everyone
“Before discovering the Quran your mind is closed, but after reading it blooms open like a flower”.
This was a comment my grandmother made during a conversation about Islamic faith.
She is a pious woman, overflowing with kindness, joy and warmth. Although English is not her first language she was able to convey the essence of Islam, to me, granted from lifetime of studying and living in accordance with her faith.
To help gain a broader understanding of Islam, I spoke with many Muslims, read Malcom X and spent some time reading chapters of the Quran.
What comes to your mind when you think of Islam? When I ask people this question the usual response I hear, is something along the lines of — “a firm religion, where those whom follow its doctrines pray heavily, are forbidden from eating pork, or drinking alcohol”. These are aspects of Islam, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. At worst, I have heard people respond with pure hate, associating Islam with dogmatism, oppression and violence.
Trumps pre-election campaigns comments did not help where he states, “Islam hates us, there is a whole lot of hate out there”. When asked for evidence, he came up short. His belief is based, and continues to be based around the essence of Islam expressed by the terrorist attacks at 9/11. Although, I would argue that the individuals carrying out terrorist attacks clearly don’t know their own religion.
I encourage you, then, to move beyond a superficial understanding and rise above perceived views, bias and even the hatred that many people adopt without any actual understanding of Islam. This ignorance and hate just doesn’t represent the Islamic family, in my opinion. Consider Islam’s rules not as a limitation, but as an enhancement. Allowing you to focus on what truly matters — faith can give you wings and guidance.
I liken the Quran and its teachings to an instruction manual on how to operate through this chaotic world. Helping you in making good decisions.
It’s interesting to note that people who have a religion, a faith, score statistically higher on wellbeing scores, when compared against those that do not. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they are going along with the natural order of things and are in touch with the source, not in existential dread, confusion and nihilism.
Steven Hawkins observed how remarkable it is that everything in the universe abides by rational laws. Is it so esoteric to question? why wouldn’t we? Take the mobile phone you’re reading this post with, it is made from metal, plastic and glass. The glass is made from sand, the metal is extracted from the earth and the plastic from oil. If you stumbled across a mobile phone in the desert do you think it would have assembled itself by chance? with the random movement of the wind, sun, and sand? No, this wouldn’t be realistic. You would need an organiser to construct the device. Is it not the same with us?
Western society has become obsessed with intelligence. A strong consensus has formed with belief that science has the answers to all our questions, but science often does a u-turn and we know far less than we think we do.
For you extremely rational thinkers, how can you explain some of the fulfilled prophecies of the Quran? The expansion of the universe, deemed one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century, was technically known in 600AD!
There is even reference to the location of the prefrontal cortex and its involvement in choice and, therefore, in the act of lying.
There are many astounding predictions I can mention, which science can now prove. I think the most important prophecy was the knowledge that all life comes from water. We now know, most cells are made from 80% water. Pretty incredible guesses for an illiterate man living in the desert who did not have access to the technology we have today.
The point is, regardless of whether or not you believe there is a paradise, recognise you cannot ignore the wisdom contained in these texts. On an idiosyncratic note, I believe we are all divine. Explore your own inner verse. Notice how life changes. How you feel when you are doing what you know to be right for yourself, and others.
You may not agree with everything found within the Quran. However, as an instruction manual on how to live, it is difficult to find a more powerful text. I firmly believe, practises advocated in Islam can ease your suffering and bring you peace of mind in this world.
Read on, if you would like to know more about my interpretation of the religion and how you could apply some of its principals to better yourself.
The Quran believes we are all descendants of one-man, Adam and are, therefore, brothers and sisters to one another. The emphasis on equality and justice extends throughout the Quran even to one’s enemy.
The prophet, Mohammad was told by God:
“Arabs have no superiority over non-Arabs and Whites have no superiority over Blacks”
The message was to consider everyone as equal.
Today, the indignation we are witnessing on #BlackLives is a failure on society’s part to address widespread ignorance.
White supremacy must be tackled. USA is the focal point for a number of recent riots, however, inequality is a global phenomenon.
My step- father who raised me, is a born and bred Yorkshire man with Pakistani heritage. My siblings have been exposed to racism and hate at their schools from as early as primary school and, throughout, to secondary school. As I result, I have experienced second hand racism my whole life — directed at those I love — I feel it viscerally.
I feel obligated to stand up and fight for justice. To combat ignorance, as my sibling’s lives depend upon the actions taken today as a collective society.
It is a well-known historic fact that a black slave called Bilal is one of the most esteemed companions of the Prophet Mohammed. He was given the honour of being the first person to announce the call to prayer from the Prophet’s newly built mosque. His acceptance of Islam had cost him dearly, as he received brutal lashings for disobeying unjust commandments from his master to punish a Muslim. The disobedience almost cost Bilal his life. At the last moment, one of Mohammad’s followers intervened paying a large sum for his liberation.
Have you ever taken the time to actually listen to Muslim call to prayer with an open mind? It is difficult to not become spellbound by the peaceful and calming effect the poetry-like verses of the Quran can have. Its natural flow pulls you in like a stream.
A perfect modern-day example of the power of the Quran is the life of Malcom X and his contribution to the civil right movements.
“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their colour.”
— Malcolm X
Growing up, Malcom developed a distrust for white people. His father, a preacher, was murdered by racists after being tied to a train track. His house was attacked by the KKK clan and, later in life, Molotovs were thrown into his children’s windows. His home was burnt down by those who wanted to put an end to his message of peace and acceptance.
Young Malcom became involved with crime and was sent to prison, where he met a Muslim he was introduced to Islam. Using the Quran’s teachings, Malcom reinvented himself, believing Islam to be his true roots. He mixed this religious tenant of Islam with the tenacity of black pride and Black Nationalism — fuelling a powerful movement and leading the struggle to bring equality to America.
This is the power of Islam. The ability to raise a man to such power and influence that he could move a nation.
Malcom held such strong views about whites and wanted to fight back. But his views dramatically changed after his pilgrimage to Mecca for the Islamic hajj. He sat with white, brown and black men — men from all nationalities, shared food with them and saw that the true Islam did not discriminate by the colour a person’s skin. This realisation changed his life.
The message of equality extends to not only ethnicity, but also to other religions whom also believe in one God. The people of faith.
The Quran in one particular verse creates an additional obligation on men, to provide, protect and generally take care of women as their guardians and not as superiors. Women are not oppressed, but are seen as equals to the extent that men have no merit over their wife’s earnings. The Hijab, is another source of misunderstanding. It has a purpose. To not be judged for superficial metrics such as appearance, but rather one’s character. It removes vanity and places substance on an individual person — more so, on a Muslim woman.
Today, I can affirm this view of equality is concretely embodied in Muslim culture. I am a white British male. I have been fed, clothed and welcomed by Muslims all over the UK, and even Africa — with nothing but love, respect and acceptance. I have family, friends and co-workers that are Muslim and I can truly say they’re some of the kindest, most open-minded people I know.
According to the Quran, wisdom is of greatest value for a human being. The acquisition of knowledge is imperative for a Muslim. This is because wisdom is a pre-requisite for the creation of a just world, in which authentic peace can prevail.
After holy battles, the attitude of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) shows his views on knowledge as he employed captives to teach Muslim men how to read and write. If a prisoner could teach 10 people to read or write, it would result in their freedom.
“He who reads is handsome in Gods eyes”
The Quran advises you to do your own research, soul searching and then ‘revert’ (come back to) Islam. In a conversation with a Doctor of Sociology, currently attempting to break the stigma Muslims have when talking about sex and relationships through their choice of language, it was interesting to note that her interpretation of Islam was strongly associated with the Pursuit of Wisdom.
Who couldn’t benefit from this message? Read more, learn more. God likes it when you read and so does your brain and removes ignorance — isn’t this why we have so many problems in the world?!
Kindness & compassion
The Quran obligates Muslims to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves,
The word compassion is common throughout the Quran and it is important to recognise that compassion is lacking in the world. Be kind to others and yourself. Understand we’re all and suffering carrying invisible burdens — our daily jihads.
There is no such thing as perfect, but pointing a finger towards an ideal does not mean to judge others and yourself. Do the best you can.
Love your planet
This kindness extends to the earth. The Prophet Mohamad (pbhu) said, “Do not cut down trees.” The world has been healing during the lockdown, but deforestation continues to destroy the planet. There is not an earth B. Let’s take the advice offered in the Quran and take care of this one.
“A smile can be charity.” How often do you smile at others? Such a simple act can brighten another’s day.
Charity is not necessarily just financial. Donate your time and energy to just causes.
“If your neighbour is hungry and you go to sleep with your belly full, you’re not a Muslim.” Truly, how can one sleep knowing there is a neighbour who sleeps hungry? We are faced with a significant increase in poverty in the UK over the last few years. Our small acts with our neighbour could combat this issue.
“Feed those whom don’t have enough food to eat, donate and share. When you have a guest, take care of them make sure they’re full.” Muslims around the world are the most hospitable. Even those with so little will make sure their guests are fed before they leave. Muslims in the UK donate an estimated £100 million to charities each year.
One pillar of Islam is to pray five times a day. It is important to note that it is not the act, but also the intention that counts.
Incorporating silence into daily regiment is becoming increasingly popular in the Western world. The benefits of a few minutes of mindfulness are now well established and many now see the benefits this small time can have on mental health and efficiency. It is even supported by psychotherapists to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and now something they want to incorporate in schools.
We are all so overwhelmed with distractions that it can often feel like we’re too busy to take this time, but time is a paradox. By making the time to be silent and focus your mind you will bring that focus into all your responsibilities and activities. The act will improve both your professional and personal life, and improve your general wellbeing.
On a side note, if you think about the movements of the prayers, it is remarkably similar to yoga and we know how beneficial this can be for your body. The mind and body are connected more than we know.
The Quran also places emphasis on proper washing before praying — ablution or wudhu — so often that if everyone was a Muslim, maybe we could have avoided corona!
The Hajj refers to an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The word ‘Hajj’ means both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intention to be better.
Thousands of people gather, all wearing the same clothes, all equal and united. Those who attend the hajj will walk around the Kaba 7 times in an anti-clockwise direction. Although it is not exactly known why times this number is holy, it occurs in both Judaism and Christianity too.
To be completely devoted to something bigger than yourself is probably one of the healthiest things you can do. Perhaps it is an antidote to the ego’s selfish needs. Commitment to others and contributing towards a better world will be rewarded in this life and the next — visualising a higher purpose than just this life, which is regarded as a journey — some that is not to be built upon, but walked through.
Why do Muslims fast? Muslims fast in order to get closer to God and as a way to become more compassionate for those in need.
The benefits of fasting far extend cultivating appreciation for God and your own privilege. From a nutritional standpoint, the number of eating periods we normally have (3 main meals and snacking all day long) is not ideal for health. This is a socially conditioned belief, We eat to be social.
Within your digestive track you have a diverse community of microorganisms, all of which play key roles in metabolism and general health.
90% of the cells in your body are actually bacteria and only 10% are human! The ecosystem of bacteria is incredibly diverse. The right balance can fight of diseases. Islamic fasting is a very good model for gut health.
By constantly eating you are never allowing your body the time it needs to repair. When you fast, you activate the physician within and your body can begin cleansing built up toxins.
Fasting is not only good for your physical health, but mental clarity.
“I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency”. — Plato
This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. If you are hungry and haven’t found food, you better find some or it’s not looking great for you. To increase your chance of survival, fasting bolsters brain power. The challenge begins by activating adaptive stress response pathways. It also stimulates brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Which plays a critical role in learning , memory, and the generation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus.
Many fitness gurus have recently started shouting out and sharing the benefits of intermittent fasting for overall health and its fat burning properties. It is becoming Westernised and trendy, but the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was way ahead of the game.
So why is this not common knowledge? Will food and pharmaceutical industries lose money if people begin intermittent fasting? Save your money on magic potions and supplements and just fast.
Although Muslims don’t follow the Quran for its health benefits alone, they follow as it is believed to be God’s word. There are a plethora of benefits to a lifestyle which follows the Qurans guidance.
For example, Muslims do not drink alcohol. Not only is this good for your health, it also means be comfortable without the dependence on substances. Be happy with the real you. Experience joy from a natural state rather than drinking in excess to have a good time. It is not a surprising prohibition when you look at the number of deaths alcohol is responsible for and the damage alcohol can cause to families and public disorders.
The Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) actually said, “Try to not eat red meat”. You could argue he was suggesting we stick to a dominantly vegetarian diet, and avoid heavy food. We are again seeing the health benefits. The impact of agriculture farming on the environment and meat, which has scientific backing for being highly carcinogenic. Our body thrives on a vegetarian diet. From an anecdotal standpoint, I feel amazing when eating a dominantly fruit and vegetable diet.
You have probably heard Muslims greet each other with the phrase “Assalaamu alaikum”, have you wondered what it actually means? It means “peace be upon you”. How nice is it to be greeted with such a gesture, even by those who you don’t know.
Islam is a religion of peace. I hope this has expanded your view of Islam and inspires you to learn more about the beauty within the religion.