Email L. Henry Platt, Jr.
Muslims are not carbon copies of one another. Christians are not carbon copies of one another, either. (I refer to Christian beliefs and practices because many of you readers may have very limited knowledge of Islam but more than a passing knowledge of Christianity.) My study of Islam is somewhat limited, but through study, meditation, and conversation I have found that the Prophet Muhammad instructs his followers to surrender to Allah. Some of the Prophet's better-known words are these: "There is only one God; His name is Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet." "Allah has one hundred names. Mankind knows ninety-nine, but only the camel knows the hundredth, and he will never tell." "Infidels must surrender!"
Although most Muslims recognize that the meaning of the second quote reminds true believers that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God - only with differing names and differing customs, there are still those few misguided individuals who declare loudly that they are THE TRUE BELIEVERS, and that their list of ninety-nine names is the only true list of Allah's names. They are mistaken! God has an endless number of names throughout the Universe, and the Prophet wanted to bring harmony to the people. He taught that all believers should surrender to Allah, the One True God, and should worship him zealously.
Unfortunately, language and the meanings of words and phrases change with time. When I was a child, the word gay meant happy and full of mirth. Today, in the United Status of America, the word gay refers to a lifestyle of people who believe that their lives can be sexually fulfilling only with members of the same sex. Recently, the word bright has received a new meaning. In school I learned that a bright student was intelligent. Recently on the radio I heard that when I refer to someone as bright, I am classifying him as an atheist. Sometimes even the words themselves - even entire sentences or paragraphs - change over time.
In the Christian Bible the last paragraphs of the Gospel of Mark in the King James Version (1611) were added after Mark had died. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." This charge was exclusionary and was probably added by an exclusionary monk who was dutifully transcribing the Gospel.
When Thomas Jefferson penned the words "Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion nor abridging the fair exercise thereof," he did not want to prohibit the study of The Ten Commandments. He did want to avoid a national church similar to the Church of England.
Unfortunately, some of the teachings of Muhammad have been corrupted as well. Some teachings have been changed or lost, but the central teachings remain: "There is one Cod. His name is Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet." Every faithful Muslim must answer the calls to prayer. Faithful Muslims must surrender their wills and their goals to the ways of Allah. Now, even this third basic teaching is open to interpretation.
INTERPRETATION is the bane of every religion, teaching, law, or charter. It has wrought confusion and disagreement in countless situations and organizations. As a matter of fact, The Prophet began his preaching in an effort to end or reduce contention between Christians and Jews in Mecca. He taught his followers in Arabic, so Muslims study the Qu'ran in Arabic today. Even so, the meanings of some of these teachings have sometimes been changed or corrupted. Believers and novices of all generations continue to find and rediscover the truth of the sages. So, where does corruption come from?
Corruption is the work of corrupt individuals. Power and Corruption are frequent bedfellows. The Qu'ran says that only Muslims may trade in Mecca. This regulation is not a teaching of virtue; it is a Political regulation similar to high tariffs. The jihad about which Muhammad teaches is actually an internal struggle and introspection a person must make to grow and purify himself in surrender to Allah. The corrupters of power take this noble, personal act of faith and adulterate it into a license to steal and plunder land and wealth from others (the infidels). (Now the word which Muhammad used and which has been widely translated into modern English as "infidel" is translated by some as "hypocrite". Through meditation and reading the Qu'ran I find the concept of "wolf in sheep's clothing" used by Jesus of Nazareth to best clarify the meaning of the Prophet's word.) So, the corrupters who steal and plunder the land and possessions are actually the infidels, hypocrites, and wolves they pretend to fight as they victimize hapless strangers.
Before any person picks up any weapon to kill, maim, or injure another person, he should conduct a personal jihad to seriously examine his motives. All the prophets teach us to weigh the rights and needs of others in our commerce and personal relationships. In conclusion I offer a piece of humor which should not offend any true believer: Now there was a young man who convinced himself that he should become a martyr. He obtained some explosives and tied them to his body. Then he went to a crowded bazaar in Jerusalem, and BOOM! He soon arrived at the pearly gates. He looked and saw Muhammad, so he went to Muhammad and boasted, "Muhammad, I have martyred myself for the Faith; I have killed many Jews!" Muhammad sternly looked at the young man and commented, "And I suspect you expect a reward for. this?" "Yes, yes, seventy virgins!" Muhammad indicated a door and the martyr rushed through to discover seventy aged sisters of charity.
© L. Henry Platt, Jr.