1. What is Islam?
* Islam is: Submit to God. ‘Islam’ means submit to His will and guidance, as enunciated in the holy Quran. Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians all are told in their religious scriptures to submit to the will of God. This is the teaching in Bible, Gita, and all other religious scriptures, as well. We must surrender to the will of God. Thus on this belief, there is no difference in all religions of the world – except Buddhism, which does not believe in existence of God.
*’Islam’ is a verb – to ‘submit’ to the will of God; but more often than not, it is linked with militancy, albeit wrongly. The moderate Muslims, who are in majority, have chosen not to condemn militants or their violence, out of fear or for whatever the reason.
2. Muslims believe in monotheism
* Muslims believe in one God. Christians, Sikhs too believe in that. Hinduism believes in multiple Gods and a section of Hindus believes in Idol worship. Islam is against idolatry but Quran does not ask its followers to use violence against Kafirs, as idol- worshippers are called in Islam. Quran does not ask its followers to indulge in violence against non-believers, as militants do.
* In Islam, polytheism, association of Allah with another god, or the denial of His absolute command of universe is sin and called Shirk. Islam and Christianity differ in this regard. Christians associate Christ with God, as son of God and Muslims don’t concur.
*Surah 4:116, 121: ‘Surely Allah does not forgive that anybody should be associated with Him on near equal footing… and whosoever associates a partner with Allah, he indeed strays off into far error.These are they, whose abode is hell, and they shall not find any refuge from it.’
3. Convey message of Quran, but don’t force conversions
Excerpt from Quran:
*Surah 3:20: So if they dispute with thee, say: I submit myself entirely to Allah and so does he who follows me.” And say to those who have been given the Book and to those who are unlearned (those who don’t believe in Quran): “Do ye (also) submit yourselves?” If they submit then they are in right guidance, but if they turn back, thy duty is only to convey the Message.
*Surah 2:256: Let there be no compulsion in religion
*Surah 109:6: To you be your religion, to me mine.
4. Thus it is clear that Quran doesn’t ask its followers to convert non-Muslims to Islam against their will. History tells us otherwise. Why it is so? It is a corporate decision, to enhance the revenue collection in mosques. Religious preachers are not much bothered about qualitative improvement of followers, they are interested in numbers.
*A recent case in point is of a Shankracharya – a top Hindu religious figure – who has tried to belittle, Sai Baba of Shirdi, a historical figure with big Hindu following. His temple is one of the richest temples in India. Shankracharya desires that idols of Shirdi Sai Baba should be removed from Hindu temples. May be Shankracharya is holding Shirdi Sai Baba, responsible for poor offerings or donations at other Hindu temples.
5. Does Quran justify violence?
Quran supports violence only when, the Muslim community is fighting vastly superior forces, who seek to annihilate the monotheistic Islam. The Quran puts it this way in Surah 4:75: And why shouldn’t you fight in the cause of God and in the cause of those who, being weak, are mistreated: the men, women and children whose only cry is, “Our Lord! Deliver us from this land whose people are oppressors. Send us someone who will protect us, and send us someone who will help!”
* Creation of Israel after Second World War was a decision where Palestinians had to vacate and make place for Israel. They were weak and had no choice but to agree. Muslims think that this is a case where Surah 4:75 is applicable. It is a debatable question, but it needs attention.
6. Suicide-bombers are not approved by Quran
Hadith – the book of religious guidelines for Muslims – states ‘Whosoever kills himself in any way will be tormented in the same way in Hell. If he kills himself by blade or iron rod, will be tormented with same blade or iron rod in the fires of Hell ‘. Life is the ultimate gift of God, only He can decide when to take it back.
7. Steps to counter or curtail militancy in Islam
(a) Educate women. Illiteracy is very high among Muslim women. There is a need to ensure equality of genders among Muslims. In under-developed countries, situation is worst. Women are not allowed to attend school. In Nigeria, Boko Haram does not allow Western education. Women are not allowed inside mosque in some sects of Islam. Educated Muslim women will have positive impact in society.
(b) First step – tackle intra-religion violence. Recent Sunni terrorists attack on Shias in Iraq is a glaring example of hatred between different Islam sects. There is a need to create awareness among Shia and Sunni Muslims about futility of killing each other. There are many other sects, who are ostracised by both Sunnis and Shias, for example, Ahmadiyya sect.
(c) Proactively explain Quran through media to counter fundamentalists. We need to publicise excerpts from Quran in media, to counter militants violence and to educate illiterate Muslims world over, who are being brain- washed by orthodox fundamentalist clerics like Hafiz Saeed. We depend upon religious teachers (Imams and Ayatollahs) for interpretation of Quran. They can misuse the privilege and issue ‘fatwas’ against Salman Rushdie and others. To indulge in violence when a prophet is subject of caricature, is not what religion teaches us. We all have to learn to be tolerant of others’ views. If properly put across, the Muslims militancy will be contained. Till then, let non- Muslims refrain from commenting upon the prophet and avoid hurting Muslim sentiments.
(d) Divisive religion-based politics is bane to democracy. Religion should unify humanity, where as it divides now a days. Democracy needs votes. Appeasement of majority in Islamic States and minorities in secular states like India is a misuse of democratic process of voting and elections. How can it be stopped is a big question and a challenge to humanity.