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Islam Explained – Part 2

Muslim Family and Social Life

The family is the foundation for Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued and is considered essential for the spiritual growth of its members. A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families; children are treasured and rarely leave home until the time they marry.

Parents are greatly respected in the Islamic tradition and caring for one’s elderly parents is considered an honor and a blessing. Mothers are particularly honored: the Qur’an teaches that since mothers endure so much during pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing, they deserve a special consideration and kindness.

It is stated in the Qur’an:
“And We have enjoined upon man to be good to his parents. With difficulty upon difficulty did his mother bear him and wean him for two years. Show gratitude to Me and to your parents; to Me is your final goal.” (Qur’an 31:14)

Marriage is greatly encouraged in Islam. A Muslim marriage is both a sacred act and a legal agreement, in which either partner is free to include legitimate conditions. As a result, divorce, although uncommon, is permitted only as a last resort. Marriage customs vary widely from country to country.

How does Islam guarantee human rights and equality?

The Qur’an prescribes freedom of conscience:
There is no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clearly from falsehood; whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the strongest rope that never breaks. And God is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.” (Qur’an 2:256)

The life, honor and property of all citizens in a Muslim society are considered sacred whether the person is Muslim or not. Racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry and prejudice are incomprehensible to Muslims, for the Qur’an speaks of human equality in the following terms:
O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Quran 49:13)

What does Islam say about war?

Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat that include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock.

As Muslims see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good people were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause.

One reads in the Qur’an:
Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.” (Qur’an 2:190)
“If they seek peace, then you seek peace. And trust in God for He is the One that hears and konws all things.” (Qur’an 8:61)

War is therefore the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law.

The often misunderstood and overused term jihad literally means “struggle” and not “holy war” (a term not found anywhere in the Qur’an). Jihad, as an Islamic concept, can be on a personal level – inner struggle against evil within oneself; struggle for decency and goodness on the social level; and struggle on the battlefield, if and when necessary.

How does Islam elevate the status of women?

According to the Qur’an, men and women are equal before God; women are not blamed for violating the “forbidden tree,” nor is their suffering in pregnancy and childbirth a punishment for that act.

Islam sees woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marital gift is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she may keep her own family name rather than adopting her husband’s.

Roles of men and women are complementary and collaborative. Rights and responsibilities of both sexes are equitable and balanced in their totality.

Both men and women are expected to dress in a way that is simple, modest and dignified. Specific traditions of dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs rather than religious principle.

Likewise, treatment of women in some areas of the Muslim world sometimes reflects cultural practices which may be inconsistent, if not contrary, to authentic Islamic teachings.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“The most perfect in faith, amongst believers, is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife.

How does Islam relate to Christianity and Judaism?

Muslims, Christians and Jews all trace their origins to the Prophet and Patriarch Abraham and their three Prophets are direct descendants from Abraham’s sons – Muhammad from the eldest, Ishmael, and Moses and Jesus from Isaac (peace be upon them all).

Muslims particularly respect and revere Jesus. They consider him one of the greatest of God’s prophets and messengers. A Muslim never refers to him simply as “Jesus”, but always adds the phrase “peace be upon him.” The Qur’an confirms his virgin birth, and a special chapter of the Qur’an is entitled “Mary” in honor of the mother of Jesus.

Jesus was born miraculously through the same power that had brought Adan (peace be upon them both) into being without a father:

Truly the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust and then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was.” (Qur’an 3:59)

During his prophetic mission, Jesus (peace be upon him) performed many miracles. The Qur’an tells us that he said:

“I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay a figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God’s leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God’s leave.” (Qur’an 3:49)

Neither Muhammad nor Jesus (peace be upon them) came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it.

Why is Islam often misunderstood?

Islam is frequently misunderstood and may even seem exotic in some parts of today’s world.

Perhaps this is because religion no longer dominates everyday life in Western society; whereas, for Muslims, Islam is life. Muslims make no artificial division between the secular and the sacred.

For quite some time Islam was thought of as some “Eastern” religion, but with the increasing number of Muslims living in the West, Islam is gradually being perceived as a global faith. Muslims are no longer thought of as strangers with unusual practices, but are being welcomed as part of the mosaic of life in the West. In many cases, Islam is not just viewed as an acceptable religion, but as a desired way of living.

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