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How I Came To Appreciate the Misunderstood Islam



By Jaison Abraham, New Age Islam

02 June, 2014

Throughout my life, I had numerous negative feelings and understanding towards Islam and its followers (because I was socialised in that way). Although it’s a religion that originated from the Middle East, same as Christianity but down the centuries Islam was misinterpreted and misused by many. And I was among those who misunderstood it without having studied it properly.

The reason why I had this negative notion towards Islam was mainly because of some fundamental reasons. First of all, it’s a widely known stereotyped conception that “Islam promotes violence as they took terrorism as tool and jihad was seen as a holy war to kill and die for Allah.”  Violence, I thought, was used in many ways to Islamize everything by force, even to the extent of forceful conversion. Even if you look at the major violent groups like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar e Taiba, Taliban and Boko Haram groups have its origin or claimed to have origin by or for this religion. And people like Afzal guru, Ajmal Amir Quassab, Hafiz Saeed & Osama Bin laden are the main Muslim figures known for their hardcore violent behaviour and they were behind massive massacre of innocent peoples.

And many other bogus misconceptions have driven me to much more negative understanding towards Islam. For instance, it doesn’t give gender equality, leave alone educating the women; hence human rights are violated in Islam. There’s no room for Human Rights in Islam. These are the fundamental misunderstandings which I had on Islam as a religion.

        Nonetheless as a Christian,  after Studying Islam and Interfaith relations in the summer course hosted by Henry Martyn Institute, in Shillong, knowing Islam has helped me to separate the reality from the myths. The negative understanding I have towards Islam was misinterpretation and misrepresentation of Islamic teachings.  Islam, its very word comes from the root word “Salam” which means peace. The very word “Jihad” is a used, misused and abused term by many. In other words “jihad” is an inner struggle. As The Holy Quran gives more importance to love, kindness and Compassion.  As Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his life-time sets out many examples on peace building and tolerance and he was friendly with the people of the book (Jews and Christians) but is it really happening today? No! Very rarely.

        The Quran does do Gender justice and Quran says “But who so does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little hollow in the back of a date-stone.” (Al Qur’an 4:124).

        The final sermon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the best example for tolerance, mutual understanding and respecting one another despite differences, as he says “O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. But is it happening today everywhere? No! Very rare:

"All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action." -- Prophet Mohammad

Paradoxically the Stereotypical understanding we have towards Islam is because of the literal interpretations of the text which was revealed 1400 years ago and which is culturally bound by time and place. And there are socio-political vested interest to promote violence against people of other faiths not religious. But still much violence prevails in Islamic countries and much violence is happening in the name of religion and for religion & women are mistreated, oppressed and subjugated in many communities Thus the message of Islam is projected as violent, hateful and negative. I would urge all my Muslim friends to show the holy and lovely life and see others as own.

Mr. Jaison Abraham is a Protestant Christian hailing from Kerala. He is doing his theological studies in a Christian seminary in Pune. He has contributed this article to New Age Islam.