Terror is Not Islam

By Dr. Kari Ann Owen

"Say, 'O people of the Book (Christians and Jews)! Come to a word equal between us and you - that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partner with Him, and that some of us take not others for Lords beside Allah." Quran 3:64

The Quran states that Muslims may"Fight in the cause of God against those who fight against you, but do not transgress limits. Lo! God loves not aggressors..." (2:190).

What are those limits? "It is not fitting for an Apostle (believer in Islam) that he should have Prisoners of war until he has thoroughly subdued the land... You look for the temporal goods of this world, but God looks to the Hereafter: and God is Exalted in Might, Wise" (8:67).

The clear implication here is that war is permitted only for self defense and not for "territory or trade, revenge or military glory." (Comment on the above verse by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary).

Civilian slaughter is clearly forbidden: "Let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression" (2:193).

Suicide is also clearly forbidden: "Make not your hands contribute to (your) destruction; but do good; for God loves those who do good" (2:194).

Certain recent television broadcasts and even admissions by persons alleging themselves to be Muslim have rationalized or justified what is clearly forbidden by God's revelation to the Prophet Muhammad. These individuals have stated they were taught that if they commit several forbidden acts at once ? slaughter of non-combatants, suicide ? they will be given a special place at the side of God once they ascend to heaven. Perhaps they were shown this verse: "Think not of those who are slain in God's way as dead. Nay, they are alive, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord" (3:169).

Yet, this passage does not contradict the strict conditions on those who would use force: "Let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression" (2:193). And it is clearly implied that it is God and God only who chooses martyrs: "He chooses of his apostles for the purpose whom he pleases. So believe in God and His apostles: and if ye believe and do right, you have a reward without measure" (3:179).

The particular meaning of Islam is submission. The frail human will is yoked in a positive and rational, not slavish and degrading, sense to a higher, more benevolent and compassionate will and deeply, lovingly connected to creation. Examples formally recognized in Islam include Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Indeed, limitation of truth to one culture is not recognized in the Quran: "To God belong the East and the West. Withersoever you turn, there is the Face of God" (2:115). In the words of Rabia Harris, a Muslim Peace Fellow with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, "Truth is not limited, but is to be discovered and honored everywhere. Both traditional and modern cultures have something important to contribute to the service and contemplation of God."

And God is above all merciful and benevolent as He adjures humans to be. The prayers spoken by 1.5 billion Muslims five times a day begin with the words, "In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful..." Clearly, if mercy is the primary quality of God, it is the quality Muslims are first called upon to imitate and practice. All Muslims are instructed to pursue this path of spiritual evolution toward this quality, and this struggle toward the good is called jihad, and no word in modern times has been more misunderstood or more misinterpreted by Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

For in that rare state of spiritual grace, concern for others and humanity at large displaces vicious egotism and violent greed, resulting in those astonishing human beings we call men and women for others. Such persons could no more turn themselves into flying bombs than they themselves could sprout wings and fly... not if they believe in the submission to God which is the core of Islam.

It is time for all who share this planet to contemplate the words of St. Paul: "The spirit of the word gives life but the letter kills." Individual passages in both the Quran and the Old and New Testaments can be angry, even vilifying, but the spirit of religion and its behavioral disciplines are loving and above all merciful, demanding humility and a renunciation of hate both in the soul and society.

I implore those who call themselves Muslims, Christians, Jews or anything else while committing irreligious acts to have mercy on the hope religion offers... particularly Islam, which is providing help to many young men and women in the West seeking a disciplined life of sobriety, education, sexual and moral responsibility, leading to that victory one may call oneness with God and others merely call responsibility, or grace.

Kari Ann Owen received her Ph.D. in religion and literature from The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA and is a produced playwright, published poet and columnist for Abled Woman! magazine.

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