Below is a letter from a Moslem friend who works with the Center for American Islamic Relations in response to my request for suggested readings from the Qur'an. May it be helpful to any who read it. Maria
Thank you so much for your warm Ramadan greetings and for your very kind words of support. It deeply touches my soul to know of your trust and respect – I guess I would call that true friendship : - ) We have been blessed with much support from people of many different beliefs – including even atheists! Freedom of worship is what our nation was founded upon, and many are realizing that to tread on one faith’s beliefs is trampling America’s, 1st Amendment rights. We are so very grateful for people like you who are willing to stand for justice for ALL, not just some.
What I would really like our Christian sisters and brothers to know is that:
Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world's population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave events which have come to be associated with their faith.
I would also want them to know that in order ones self “Muslim” (one who submits to God and the root word for peace), they must believe in the following: Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God; in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions; in God's complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, peace be upon them all. And that God's final message to mankind, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through Gabriel.
I would also want them to know that our roots, together with Judaism and Christianity, go back to the prophet and patriarch Abraham, and their three prophets are directly descended from his sons, with Muhammad coming from the elder son Ishmael, and Moses and Jesus from the younger son Isaac. Abraham established the settlement which today is the city of Makkah, and built the Ka’bah toward which all Muslims turn when they pray. Additionally, Many Christians are surprised to know that Muslims love and revere Jesus as one of the major Prophets, and believe that he will return as a sign of the “Day of Judgment”. Muslims also believe in his birth from the Virgin Mary – who has a whole chapter dedicated to her, as well as the Prophet Joseph and others. (Of course Muslims do not believe in the divinity of Jesus – which is our major difference).
For further information about Islam, a very reliable source (which Muslim and those of other faiths use as well) is www.islamicity.com As you may guess there is a lot of “junk” out there about Islam – so it is good to be sure you refer to reliable sources. One of the most frequent ways that Islamophobes vilify the Qur’an is to take the verses out of context.
Some points of information are: Below are some “meanings of the Holy Qur’an. We only call it the Holy Qur’an when it is written or recited in the original Arabic, as we believe it was reveal by God to the Prophet Muhammad, through the Angel Gabriel. The Qur’an has been explained in almost every language and by many different “translators” of the Arabic meaning. The one who translates from the original Arabic is only as good as his understanding of Arabic, the language to which he is translating and the understanding of the context and religion altogether. Not a simple or easy task. So . . . in order to always be sure that the Qur’an is never altered or change it is only considered such in its original revealed language, Arabic. There are several acknowledged and generally accepted translators of the Qur’an – and none of them is perfect – only the original is considered perfect is it is from God. Of course, non-Arabic speakers rely upon the accepted scholars for study – however, we do learn our formal daily five prayers in Arabic to keep them pure from alteration or corruption. Supplication to God is accepted of course any time and in any language as it is a very personal relationship.
When the Qur’an talks about believers, it is referring to those who believe in the One, Almighty Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. Allah is the Arabic word for God. Arabic speaking Christians and Jews use the word Allah. What I like about this word “Allah” is that it has no gender, nothing can be greater than, or comparable to it, nor higher than it. In the Qur’an, Christians and Jews are referred to as “the people of the Book”, referring to the original revealed scriptures (Torah, Gospel etc.)
OK – so following are some verses from the Qur’an that we used last year in our CAIR program booklet to help those of other faiths know something about what the Qur’an says.
The Holy Qur’an
Chapter 49, Verses 10-13
“10. All believers are but brethren. Hence, [whenever they are at odds,] make peace between your two brethren, and remain conscious of God, so that you might be graced with His mercy.
11. O YOU who have attained faith! No men shall deride [other] men: it may well be that those [whom they deride] are better that themselves; and no women [shall deride other] women: it may well be that those [whom they deride] are better than themselves. And neither shall you defame one another, nor insult one another by [opprobrious] epithets; evil is all imputation of iniquity after [one has to] faith; and they who [become guilty thereof and] do not repent - it is they, they who are evildoers!
12. O Believers! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: and spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? No, you would hate it. But fear Allah. Allah is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful.
13. O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may recognize each other (and not despise each other). Verily, the most honored among you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
The Holy Qur'an, Chapter 5, Verse 48
“We have given the Book as an inheritance to those of Our servants whom We have chosen. Among them there are some who wrong their own souls, some (who) follow a middle course and some, by God’s leave, (who) excel in good deeds; which is the supreme virtue.”
The Holy Qur'an, Chapter 59, Verses 18-19
“God will never change the condition of a people until they change that which is within themselves.”
The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 14, Verses 24-25
"Do you not observe how Allah strikes a similitude between a good word and a good tree, whose roots are firmly grounded and whose branches reach skywards. It provides its benefit throughout all the periods Allah assigned for it. Allah provides such parables so that perchance you may reflect."
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I know that is probably way more that what you wanted, however, I think you can understand that it is difficult to share ones belief in one or two lines. I sincerely hope that I have been helpful to you. Since I am not a scholar, I pray that if I have made any mistakes in conveying this information, that first Allah and then you will forgive me.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or if there is any other way I may be of service.
May God’s peace and blessings be upon you and your family.
With respect and in friendship,