Need for dialogue within

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014


MUSLIMS around the world are always put in the limelight when a fellow Muslim from the Arab countries, Africa, or anywhere else do crazy stuff in the name of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Non Muslims often see Islam as irrational and full of extreme situations. I cannot blame them for seeing Islam that way. The challenge for us is to help others view Islam the way our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) presented it more than 1400 years ago.

Islam combines faith and reason. Islam considers the evolution of the different religions of humanity. Islam has four fundamental principles that we need to understand, appreciate, and further explain to our fellow Muslims. Hence, dialogue within us is necessary.

The four fundamental principles are: (1) There is one God who is none like Him, in Arabic this is what we call "tawhid al-rububiyya"; (2) From Adam and to all humankind, human beings are linked with the Creator by an original testimony and covenant; (3) God has sent Revelations and prophets throughout history to call humankind back to the testimony and the covenant and to tell them about the requirements of religious ritual and morality that are laid upon them; (4) to be with God is to be for Him and to free oneself of all earthly attachments, physical or emotional, with the purpose of being with Him and respect His commandments (tawhid al- uluhiyya).

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Islam came after Hinduism, Judaism, and even Christianity. "From the revealed Pages of Noah (AS) (suhuf), to the Psalms of David (AS), to the Torah of Moses (AS), to the Gospel of Jesus (AS), and up to the Qur'an of Muhammad (SAW), each Revelation has as its first purpose to confirm these four fundamental principles". (Ramadan, 2005)

In order for us to understand Muslims and to understand the Message of Islam, we need to study what we call the Articles of Faith in the religion of Islam. To be a Muslim, one must believe in: One God; the angels of God; the books of God (Suhuf, Psalms, Torah, and Gospel), and especially the Qur'an; the prophets of God, and the last prophet (Muhammad (SAW); the Day of Judgment (or the afterlife); and the supremacy of God's will (or predestination). These doctrines connect us to our humanity.

The books are Revelations from Allah (SWT). They were given to humankind to serve a very important purpose. The first purpose is to confirm these four fundamental principles. The second purpose of each of the Books has been to put right what was forgotten, modified, and sometimes corrupted by human interventions in the previous Revelation.

What then is the Qur'an? How do we view this? For every Muslim, the status of the Qur'an is a question of greatest importance. This is because there are a great number of misunderstandings and narrow ideas expressed by most of us. Some claim that they are the "true" Muslims or even Muhminoon of our present time, thus they do not allow people to dialogue with their own religion.

We believe that the Holy Qur'an is the word of God. The Surah (Chapters) and Ayats (verses) were revealed in small parts over a period of about twenty-three years. As a book, it is full of text, "revealed at a given moment in history, in a certain context, and presented first to the intelligence of women and men of faith" (Ramadan, 2005).

In viewing the Qur'an, we must remind ourselves that it is a Revelation, compiled to form a Book, with Arabic Text. All of these would have no meaning if intelligence, human reason capable of grasping its meaning, were not considered by the Creator.

Reason alone cannot suffice in understanding the message of the Qur'an. We need to connect ourselves with our faith. We need to realise our need of Him. When our religious scholars interpret the message from the Qur'an, they need to know from whom this message originated.

The Qur'an has 114 Surahs (Chapters) only Surah 'At-Tauba' which starts Without "Bismillahirahmanhiraheem" (In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful". Therefore, every time we read and recite the Qur'an, we say the qualities of Allah (SWT) as the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful God.

When one reads the Qur'an, they will learn various kinds of teachings. It talks about the life and histories of the prophets. The text in the Qur'an enables us to dialogue with God with our heart and mind. It teaches us faith in the Only One, the shared origin and destiny of humanity, the demand for truth and justice, essential diversity and its consequent necessary respect, the constant presence of adversity and deceit, the duty to resist and to reform.

Not all verses in the Qur'an require contextualisation. There are verses that explicitly lay down to us Muslim rites and practices, which is summarised as the Five Pillars of Islam, these are: to bear witness that there is only One God, and Muhammad is the final messenger; five obligatory prayers; fasting, giving of zakat (charity); and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Qur'an itself dialogues within us when we read and recite it. There is a need for us look beyond when this was revealed.

To save ourselves from destruction, we need to dialogue among ourselves to see reason and faith in our religion.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 20, 2014.

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