Islam: An Alternative to Chaos
An insightful overview of the basic concepts of Islam as provided by the Adhan and Fatihah.
A lecture delivered at Rice University, Houston, Texas, in November 1994. Originally entitled “What is Islam?”
Ladies and gentleman, brothers & sisters, members of the faculty, students, and lovers of God and spirituality I welcome you and bid you all my heartiest Salaams. (Salaam Aleikum!)
Our topic tonight is Islam so it is fitting to greet you all with the greeting of Islam and that is “Salaam!” For those of you who may be unfamiliar, the word Salaam means Peace and the name of the religion under discussion tonight is derived from this word Salaam and is called Islam. The Arabic word Islam simply stated means submission, and as we have seen it is derived from a word meaning PEACE. In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of GOD. Or to look at it another way it implies complete submission to the will of God‑Who provides a WAY (a methodology) to peace. And it is here we encounter the most basic element of the Islamic Faith, submission that is primal to the modus‑operandi of Islam ‑it is inherent in the basic underlying structure of Islamic theology and is also the desired goal of the spiritual seeker, whether this desire is manifested consciously or unconsciously.
Before I undertake the development of my discussion of Islam I would like to remind the audience that Islam like many other things in the world means many different things to many different people. And this would include also the so-called Muslims themselves. So I have used the Qur’an as my primary source to establish a working definition of the Religion of Islam.
There is an old American Indian saying that many of us may have heard in the past, and that is: ” Unless you have walked in another mans moccasins (shoes) you do not know that man” ‑you have no idea of what he or she thinks or feels ‑ you have no idea of why that person does certain things ‑ in other words you are not familiar with his operational system. You cannot in good conscience make critical judgments about his behavior unless you have insight into the inner workings of his mind ‑again! Into his operational system -hence the subtitle of this Talk is “An Insiders View”.
Let us look at some basic statistics concerning the Islamic world. These statistics are taken from both the World book Encyclopedia (1982) and an information Pamphlet issued by the Embassy of Saudi Arabia (1989). The population of the world is estimated at about 5 billion (1982) the population is expected to double by the year 2021 ‑that is only 27 years away.
THE MUSLIM WORLD:
The Muslim population of the world is around one billion ‑in simple terms the ratio is 1 to 5, or ‑1 out of every Five inhabitants of the planet earth is a Muslim. Lets take a closer look.
Most Muslims live east of Karachi. 30% of Muslims live in the Indian sub‑continent, 20% in sub‑Saharan Africa, 17% in Southeast Asia, 18% in the Arab world, 10% in the Former Soviet Union and China. Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan comprise 10% of the non-Arab Middle East.
Although there are Muslim minorities in almost every area, including Latin America and Australia, they are most numerous in the Soviet Union, India, and Central Africa. And of particular interest is the fact that there are an estimated seven million Muslims here in the United States, half of these are Black (African Americans).
With that many Muslims in the world and for many of us who might have an innate fear or uninformed repulsion for Islam and Muslims this might be too close for comfort. In light of this “Closeness”, it behooves all of us to know something about these Muslims.
Americans For the most part are usually friendly and assertive when it comes to meeting new people, because at one time or another historically we were all New People. But much depends on the circumstances and the environment in which we encounter new faces. The opportunity to meet new people will present itself to all of us right after this talk when the refreshments are being served. We have a choice to either comment about the talk with the Friends we came with or mingle with some of these new faces and take a chance. As well informed as you may think you are ‑ I would be willing to bet you that you are unaware of most of the basic beliefs of Islam and The Muslims. If you are as secure in your own belief system as many of these Muslim students are there should be a healthy exchange.
Islam is the name of the religion and its Followers are called Muslims. The English word religion is a close approximation of the Arabic word DIN which means religion/creed/ Faith/and belief, however implicit in the word DIN is the concept of a complete system ‑total‑because Islam is called by the people on the Inside “DIN‑ALLAH”‑(The system of God) ‑ and this system is laid out clearly, step by step in the Qur’an. Also basic to a correct understanding of Islam is the concept of Tawhid (Oneness/Unity). The concept of the unique Oneness of God ‑and the unity of His creation.
Islam being a complete way of life‑presupposes the possibility that it (Islam) is also a culture. As such, all cultures that have become permeated with Islam inevitably have become subcultures of Islam. One brilliant example of the transformative potential of Islam is found in the Mongol invasion of Persia, they came as barbarian invaders, and left as Muslims.
Islam by Osmosis so to speak ‑even the Mongols who at that time were the enemies of Islam could not escape the transformative power of Islam.
Statistics testify to the fact that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and that in a very few years Muslims will make up the vast majority among the inhabitants of the planet earth. Islam is currently experiencing a Global Renaissance and we here in America and the West must try to understand this unique phenomenon. As we speak, IT is growing in numbers around us. And the purpose of this talk tonight is an attempt to slip the moccasins of the Muslims on your feet, so to speak ‑so you will appreciate for a brief moment in time, “the insiders view”.
Let us allow God (Allah) an opportunity to speak and describe to us by way of His book the Qur’an just what this religion is, but more importantly what it is not.
In the third Chapter, Ali Imran, the 19th verse. God has revealed to the Prophet Mohammad: “Innad-deena ind‑Allahi Islam ” meaning: “Indeed! The only religion with God is Islam”. Implying that the message that God has sent, time after time through a