Stop the `Clash` Talk

Category: Faith & Spirituality Values: Peace Views: 6605

Someone once asked the Prophet,
"Inform me about something that will cause me to go to heaven?
The Prophet replied:
"Be a muhsin/ doer of good."
The man asked,
"O Prophet, how will I know that I am a good person?"
The Prophet replied,
"Ask your neighbor. If your neighbor says you are good, then indeed you must be good." 

What do Our Neighbors Think of Us?

Opinion of those around us are very significant indeed. We operate in communities sometimes for years taking our neighbors for granted; often never realizing that the 'people next door' can become our greatest ally, or our most vocal opposition. They have concerns about what we do and how we do it and how it impacts their health and safety. When ignored or kept uninformed, our neighbors can force seemingly minor issues into major problems. On the other hand, neighbors can become our greatest supporters, almost an extension of the family. 

Two polls released recently indicate almost half of Americans have a negative perception of Islam, and one in four of those surveyed have extreme anti-Muslim views. An independent survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations shows 23 to 27 percent of all Americans believe Muslims value life less than other people and that Islam teaches violence and hatred. The survey also showed only 6 percent of Americans have a positive first impression of Islam and Muslims. 

A similar poll released by the Washington Post and ABC News found that one in four Americans "admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims," and 46 percent had a negative view of Islam. 

Forcing a Clash between the Ummah and the larger Human Family? Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington proposed the theory of an imminent 'Clash of Civilizations' in 1993. He demarcated the world into 'civilizational groups' by a simplistic and unrealistic defining of peoples and ideologies as monolithic He suggested that the 'Western World' will eventually have to contend with a 'Sino-Islamic alliance' as conflicting actors on the world stage. The placement of a clash in such deep historical and insurmountable opposition as the root of cultures, implies that there is virtually no possibility of a common ground, specifically between the "Islamic East" and the "Modern West". With two major wars continuing; and with one of the aims being to "westernize the Middle Eastern nations", what happens in the near future will determine whether this clash will be made into a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

In America, there exist two schools of thought on the relation between the Islamic world and the US. One of them is in search of a common ground with Muslims; the other is drawing the battle lines. The two schools of thought are in conflict within the American religious culture at this moment in time. The victory of either one will have a far-reaching impact on our world Unfortunately for both America and the Muslim nations, the voice of American peacemakers is not heard enough in their own country, let alone in the Islamic world. That is why most Muslims know a lot about fundamentalist warmongers, because their voices are very loud and their insults against Islam are widely publicized; while Americans know a lot about the extremists among Muslims because they are daily on the headlines; neither represent the majority of either. Variety is meant to reflect diversity and beauty, not conformity, neither clash nor discrimination. "And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the variations in your languages and colors; surely in these there are signs for those who have knowledge." [Quran 30:22] 

The Notion of the "clash" is perpetuated and worsened by ...

External elements ..

Negative media images of Islam & Muslims. The belief is that Muslims and Islam are violent. Muslims are so often portrayed as being militant fanatics, the enemies of Jews and Christians that people in the West are often very surprised to discover that Islam in fact claims to be a continuation and reform of the Judaic and Christian faiths. Islam is not the enemy and Muslims are not responsible for most atrocities perpetrated through history. Neither were we involved in the Holocaust of millions of innocent Jews, nor in the killings in Vietnam, nor in the American slave trade, nor in the dropping of atomic bombs anywhere. In fact, we are victims of state-organized terror in many parts of the world. The fact that more than 60% of the present world refugees are Muslims verifies that. 

Suspicion of Muslims and stereotyping. The recent hysteria surrounding the approval of a Dubai firm to manage parts of several American ports demonstrates how fear of Islam, or "Islamaphobia," can overpower rational discourse and harm our nation's true interests. What would normally have been a routine business deal with a stable ally turned into a political fiasco that sent a "no Arabs , no Muslims need apply" message to our partners in the Middle East and beyond. 

Influential (negative) evangelists like Frank Graham and Pat Robertson who maintain their sustained barrage against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. There seems to be an open alliance between Frank Graham ("Islam is evil and wicked religion") and Pat Robertson who have publicly (on national media) insulted Islam and Prophet. This increases Islamophobia among the masses who are already so uninformed and misinformed about Islam. 

In America, there exist two schools of thought on the relation between the Islamic world and the US. One of them is in search of a common ground with Muslims; the other is "drawing the battle lines". The two schools of thought are in conflict within the American religious culture at this moment in time. The victory of either one will have a far-reaching impact on our world. Unfortunately for both America and the Muslim nations, the voice of American peacemakers is not heard enough in their own country, let alone in the Islamic world. That is why most Muslims know a lot about fundamentalist warmongers, because their voices are very loud and their insults against Islam are widely publicized; while Americans know a lot about the extremists among Muslims because they are daily on the headlines; neither represent the majority of either. 

Non-Muslim unawareness of the positive history of Islam (those polls also showed that the vast majority of people polled admit to having little or no information about Islam.); and ignorance among Muslims about their own history and the teachings of the Prophet .

Internal Elements

Some Muslims misrepresenting Islam and creating a barrier between Muslim and non-Muslim. Muslims are living increasingly as minorities, and misrepresentation adds to the confusion where ignorance prevails. According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, "about one third of the estimated 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today are living as religious and political minorities in non-Muslim societies". This statistics is a good illustration of the interdependence of different faiths and cultures in the contemporary world. It also shows the necessity to understand the concept of relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims. 

Some assert that Islam has always been at "war" with non-Muslims. In Islam Peace is the standard, Islam itself implies 'peace'. Peace is the principle, and each person of faith has the moral obligation to maintain peace, without compromising on justice and truth. Islam invites [Quran 5:15] to the subul as-salaam (pathway of peace); peace of mind, peace of conscience, peace in the family and society, peace with one's Creator and His creation. The very fact that Islam considers Christians and Jews endearingly as "People of the Book" clearly indicates the ecumenical attitude of Islam. The 'Golden Age' of the Jews was under Muslim rule in Spain. 

Some Muslims are themselves ignorant of their history and the positive relationship between Islam and non-Muslims from the very outset. This notion of exclusivity by some Muslims who look down on people of other faith as "the kuffaar" and in the process losing their valued sense of humanity; needs a sincere reflection in light of the Quran, teachings of the Prophet and our history. This approach is one of the misinterpretations of Islam that some Muslims harbor that could expedite an unnecessary "clash". 

Following are some examples of non-Muslims who supported Muslims and the Prophet during trying times.

  • Waraqah bin Naufal : (the testifying Christian priest) ... who verified the Prophet's mission when Khadijah approached him regarding the Prophet's first revelation and he bore testimony that this was the same experience that Moses had with Gabriel.
  • Negus : (the just king) ... when Muslims were severely persecuted in Makkah, the Prophet instructed some of his companions under the leadership of Ja'far bin Abu-Talib to find refuge in north-east Africa under the protection of a just Christian king Negus; who provided Muslims safety and security despite efforts of the Quraish to sabotage their efforts. 
  • Abu Talib: (the compassionate uncle) ... After Prophet Muhammad began preaching the message of Islam in Makkah, increasingly more members of the ruling Quraish tribe came to feel threatened by his message. In attempts to quiet him, they would lean on Abu Talib to silence his nephew or control him. Despite these pressures, Abu Talib did nothing but support Muhammad and defended him from the other heads of the Quraish. (Though some believe that Abu Talib was secretly Muslim, the fact remains that he defended the Prophet at great risk to his high political position in Makkan society.) Abu Talib died at around the same time as Prophet Muhammad's beloved wife Khadijah, leading to an immensely sad time for him. This year was known as the 'year of sorrow' in the life of the Prophet. After their death the Prophet Muhammad had to emigrate to Yathrib / Medinah. 
  • Al-Mut'im Ibn 'Adiy: (the valiant protector) ... When the Prophet's message was suppressed in Makkah he went to Tai'if to preach. He returned from Ta'if; where he was abused, insulted and stoned till he bled profusely; and was expecting the Makkans to attack him when he came back. Al-Mut'im Ibn 'Adiy told his sons and relatives: "prepare yourselves fully armed, and stand around the Ka'bah, I offered protection to Muhammad, and I don't want anybody to bother him". And protect the Prophet they did. 
  • The heroic sanction-busters ... When Muslims were boycotted people like Hisham bin Amr al-Aamiri, Hakim bin Hizam, and Abul Bukhtari, were not Muslims but they did not want to see any child perish from hunger or thirst, and they risked their own lives time and again in carrying food and supplies to the Muslims who were restricted to Shi'b Abu Talib. They paid the bill for such relief operations for three years.
  • 'Abdullah Ibn 'Urayqat: (the honorable guide) ... When the Prophet decided to migrate accompanied by Abu Bakr, they hired an expert guide named 'Abdullah Ibn 'Urayqat to show them secret routes so that the Quraish may not track hem down as they intended to kill the Prophet when he left Makkah for Yathrib/Madinah. Despite a big bounty being placed on the life of the Prophet, 'Abdullah was principled enough not to be tempted, and in fact turned out to be brave enough to guide them in hostile territory at a crucial time. 
  • Mukhayriq: (the principled rabbi) ... Among those killed at Uhud was a Jewish rabbi who was of the tribe of Tha'labah. On that day he addressed the Jews saying: "you know that it is your duty to help Muhammad"; and when they replied that it was the Sabbath day, he said: "you will have no Sabbath". And taking his sword, he said that if was slain his property was to go to Muhammad , who could deal with it as he liked. Then he joined the Prophet and fought with him until he was killed...

We need to learn from all this ...

  • That human beings are the honored progeny of Adam; [Quran 17:70] and that we are all part of one family.
  • Among all communities there are those who are bad (such do not represent the rest of that community) as there are those who are good. 
  • Good people are good, irrespective of their background; and a good deed is a good deed, irrespective of who does it. 
  • Appreciate and value the goodness in people and do not ignore the redemptive dimension of human nature. 
  • We need to co-operate with whoever on the basis of that which is righteous and leads to piety, and not engage with that which leads evil and resentment. [Quran 5:2] 
  • Value people and appreciate the positive in people. Do not forget to show gratitude; as the Prophet said; those who are not thankful to people are not thankful to God. 

From "Clash" to Principled Co-existence

There is no better way for Muslims to promote the message of Islam than living Islam and not just performing it. Walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Islam should not be preached as much as it should be practiced. Our neighbors will not know we are Muslim by the number of times we pray or fast but by our honesty, truthfulness, compassion, reliability, cleanliness, sense of justice and engagement civic responsibility. 

Islam is a divinely revealed faith that commands its adherents to follow the principles of monotheism, justice, equality, and peace in all aspects of their life. As the Quran, Islam's revealed text, states: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may come to know one another. The best of people are those most righteous." [Quran, 49:13]


Complied by Sa'dullah Khan. Director of Islamic Center of Irvine. He has presented lectures on Islamic Civilization at California State University at Dominguez Hills. He is a frequent lecturer for the Academy of Judaic, Christian and Islamic Studies at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). He is also an advisor to the Chancellor's Committee on Religion Ethics and Values at UCLA and serves as Director of Muslim Affairs at USC (University of Southern California).

You can watch his lectures on Empowerment and Hadith of the Day at IslamiTV

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  18 Comments   Comment

  1. mohammad illyas sharief from india

    bismillah ir rehman nir rahim.....

    i take this oppurtunity to wirte what i think is the world heading to...

    yes the US again the US has tried to play big bro by asking IRAN to stop the plutonium extraction seeking the help of UNSC ...it has threatened of sanctions and strikes on the nuclear chain which it thinks is a site.

    How can we allow this...my fellow muslim brothers please wake up wake up before its too late pakistan give the nuclear weapons to IRAN and save many muslims life ...when we talk about ISLAM it is indeed a great religion and has always opposed injustice and exploitation of power because we have submitted to the law of GOD ...we trust him but will defend ourselves does the food comes to us or we have to get the food so also we have to take weapons and settle score with this evil called america which is trying to dominate the world ..but will you alllow it my brothers stand for your rights ...help the palestinians destroy the jew. there can be only one way now we are sure and will always say that let GOD ...allah take the side of the just and righteous,do they have the faith to say so?????

  2. ahmed asgher from bahrain

    If we plant the seed of goodness it is normal to expect good fruit, in a physical and secular sense. That in itself will provide for peaceful co-existance between people. But belief in One God and ways to reach Him is totally another subject that requires involvement of the heart. In order to attain that one has to look inwardly. All religions preach the same thing. Those who do not see that will use scripture to further their own personal views. Thus there are those who use scripture to know themselves better and thus know their Creator; those who use their scripture to push their own views/agendas on others; and those who sit on the fence and are still looking. In effect we are all searchers; but only those who search for truth will find it. The rest will go on with their own views one way or another. Truth lies inside of us not outside. All religions and scriptures are instruments that guide the seeker who seeks the Truth without involvement of our EGO. Peace.

  3. Saint John from Saleem-Alakhem

    I am for your viewpoint but it lacks truth or simply is a political statement not based on reality. Christian and Islam theological views are diametrically opposed on major beliefs. Below are 3.

    In Islam, the worst sin is Shirk, which is what Christians believe. In Christianity, the worst sin is rejecting the belief that God became a human being in Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18). Logic alone reveals that these are diametrical views of Jesus.

    To Daniel the prophet, the Archangel Gabriel foretells that the Messiah will be killed as a sacrificial offering. To Muhammad the prophet, the Archangel Gabriel reveals that Jesus did not die on the cross. Again, diametrically opposed views of Jesus.

    In Christianity, God enters into the life of a Spirit-filled Christian and dwells with him in a personal relationship. In Islam, the absolute monotheism states that Muslims will never ever know God. Again, diametrical views.

    In regards to the Muhammad's claim that Jesus did not die on the cross, 4 archaeological discoveries in the 20th century verify that 4 men lived who looked into Jesus' eyes on the day of the crucifixion. They witnessed Jesus' death on the cross. 600 years later, a man who believed he was a prophet said the early Christians didn't know what they were talking about (conjecture). In reality, the conjecture comes from Muhammad since archaeological evidence verifies that men watched Jesus die on the cross.

    I have studied the "circular reasoning" of Muslims as they quote the Bible and Qur'an in their vain attempts to proclaim Muhammad a prophet. In circular reasoning, if your sources are wrong, your logic and justifications will also be wrong (GIGO). Islam has no exterior evidence to support that Muhammad was correct about Jesus death on the cross. In reality, Muhammad did the conjecture since he was 600 years removed from the event of Jesus' death and resurrection. It requires BLIND FAITH to follow Mo.

    http://www.harvardhouse.com/dow

  4. Marilyn Cook from USA

    I keep saying true Muslims, meaning those that go by the Quran, should hire a public relations firm to set things straight. It has really gotten out of hand. It is exactly true, that setting an example can also change peoples perception. I have the opportunity to work with some wonderful surgeons, who happen to be Muslim. They are the kindness, most family loving people I know. They do not push their religion, like born again Christians. In fact, im my mind they behave more like Christians than Christians. Through them I realized how slanted the Media is. No other criminals are discribed by their religion. Were the Oklahoma bombers listed as The Christian bombers? But all terriorists are listed as the Muslim terriorists. They also say if you tell a lie long enough people begin to believe it. (Remember Weapons of mass distruction) People hear negative information each and everyday on all news channels. It is so frustrating to me because, everytime I convience my Christian friends the goodness of Islam---How we all believe in One God ,the same God. And history does show Muslims are and have been accepting of other religions. Then the headlines say in Afghanistan they may kill a man for becoming a Christian. All my influence seems to go down the drain. The question is how do you stop the negative press?

  5. native from USA

    The "clash" will end when the so-called "United States" stops attacking and destroying Muslim civilizations all around the world. This is just another of those articles that wants to give an image of Muslims like we are so nice and good. You know like a pet dog playing nice to get some food from his master. No wonder Muslims are in such bad shape. Instead of talking about the real causes of this clash (American imperialism that is destroying the planet) this "muslim leader" wants to be liked by the same people who are kicking him and other Muslims all over the world. Gives new meaning to the phrase house n****.

  6. John from USA

    I am glad someone is openly discussing the problem with Islam is that of the image of Islam as seen by non-Islamic world. That being a religeon that has not moved out of the 17th century etc.

    To see how many think go to

    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20060319/ap_on_re_as/afghan_christian_convert_1

    and read the discussion comments.

    While many comments are from the ignorant the comments do provide a view of Islam that is the direct result of how Islam is being practiced today.

  7. Cerim Ahmed Torlu from Turkey

    Fantastic! This is how Islam should be presented. a religion of love and tolerance; not hatred and fanaticism. Thanks for a great article.

  8. Imran Ahmed from USA

    One more thing in addition to correcting the word to country instead of county in my last posting.

    Why is it we Muslims are so keen to be viewed as being good by non muslims to the extent we are becoming too politically correct for our own good?

    and who really cares about people like Graham and Robinson. In a country where filth rules and going to church on Sunday is an option, do you think a majority of Americans really care about ignorant people like Graham and Robinson.

    In reference to another of these ignorant fools, when you call tele tubbies and sponge bob bad programs for kids who will take you seriously?

  9. Romesh Chander from USA

    Samual Huntignton may have coined the term "Clash of Civilizations", but the Clash has existed for 1400 years. This Clash started when Islam went on conquests -- first of the Christian and Pagan lands in Europe, Balkans, North Africa and Egypt, and then in Asia (India, Indonesia). After all, Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Balkans were christian (Catholic); Constantipole was the headquarters of Eastern Christianity; and Persia and parts of Afghanistan were Zorastrian; and most of Afghanistan was Hindu and Buddhist. Today Zorastrianism literally has been wiped out. There are literally no Hindus left in Afghanistan, and none one single Buddhist left in Afghanistan.

    Now that Islam has lost lot of territories in Balkans, India, Europe (Spain/Portugal), muslims are unable to cope with those losses.

    So, this Clash of Civilizations is 1400 years old; and is still going on. And I don't see any possibility of it stopping in the near future.

    Don't blame Sam Huntington; he merely coined the term for a phenomenon which has existed for 1400 years.

  10. Ahmad Imran from US

    An illuminating article indeed. Nicely written , thought provoking and full of wisdom and insight. I agree with the almost all aspects of teh article , however, Huntington is usually rejected for his hypothesis solely on the basis of the assumption that Huntington advocates a Clash of Civilizations. This is not a fact. In forecasting tensions between nations and/or groups of nations in the future , the tension which may lead to organized or state sanctioned violence will defintely have civilizational, cultural, religious overtones. To this tension, he names "clash of civilaztions" ie like the Cold War which was basically a conflict of two differing notions of economics, the tension between the alleged East and the alleged West was called Cold War. Thus "clash of civilizations" is nothing more than nomenclature to describe global tensions in the near future. Muslims need to stop giving in to emotions and shunning Huntington for obscure reasons.

  11. mariam from Pakistan

    This is a wonderful article. I remember the extreme negativity with which I myself used to view Islam - in fact, the kidnapping of AP correspondent Terry Anderson in the 1980's by the group Islamic Jihad had a big impact on me since I was good friends with his sister. The western aversion to Islam goes back a long way and lives on because it is fed by negative actions by fanatical Muslims and is not tempered by moderates. Look at today's news in Afghanistan about the Christian convert threatened with the death penalty for apostasy. Now I am a Muslim convert married to a Pakistani...it is a long bridge to cross to find understanding between religions and cultures, and I am still in the process of crossing it, and insha Allah I will re-cross the bridge and provide others with an understanding and appreciation of Islam.

  12. Shams Zaman from Pakistan

    Although this is a sincere effort by Brother Saad but to refute this theory there needs to be a parallel forum of understanding. Unfortunately the westren media and their intelluctals are so baised in their thinking that they only consider the Judo-Christians values to be as rational. This theory of clash is not a complete blueprint of what the Zionist Jews want to happen. They aim the Muslims and Christians to clash with each other virtually giving them enough strength to rule the world under the auspice of Jewish Messiah. They, although rule the world through proxy but aim to rule it directly. Moreover the west assumes that their so called "Westren Democracy" is far superior and humane than the so called "Repressive Islamic System". So a sense of superiority complex combined with the intolerance for Islamic values cannot co-exist. This clash is to happen unless the Westren hostile media change its attitude and approach towards Muslims in order to remove the mispreceptions of westren public towards the Muslim Political issues.

  13. Tajammul from Kuwait

    This is really a nice article should be forwarded to friends...KEEP DOING GOOD FOR THIS UMMAH.MAY ALLAH PROTECT YOU FROM ALL TYPES OF EVIL..Allah Hafiz

  14. Gary Morkel from USA

    Refreshing! One often looks to what Islam exactly stands for and how it relates to the contemporary western world.This article is so informative and so succint, that the knowledge of the scholar and the warmth of his/her heart shines through, all the while informing and enlightening.

  15. Khalid Mirza

    Excellent article. This is the kind of message, balanced, cogent, constructive and powerful, that needs to be seen and heard on CCN and Middle Eastern channels like al-Jazeera. Great Job!

  16. Tlemcani from USA

    Asalmu Alaikim brother Khan,

    I have enjoyed your article and therefore I thank you for having brought it to us all to learn some ethical and religious principles from. You are absolutely right that many of the Muslims talk the talk but hardly walk the walk. What saddens me is that there are millions of so called "Muslims" out there who proclaim themselves to be Muslim when in fact they hardly speak the language of the Koran. They do not even make an effort in reading it much less learn its valued and unique principles. What is even worse is that some have even been brain-washed only to carry out atrocities against their own Muslim brothers in Iraq, Pakistan, India, etc. For instance, take the Sunnis and Shiites! Where is Islam and the path of our endeared Prophet Mohammed here? Allah (SWT) encourages hard work, noble manners, honesty, humbleness, peace, and harmony to say the least, and yet others have made a mockery out of it by insulting it and using it for their own socio-political and economic aims. Many have even said that Islam is worshipping Allah and forgetting about this world when in fact our Creator demands of us to work hard and reach the "sky" if we desire to. Many of those in the Muslim world keep stating that this world is for the "kuffar" and the hereafter is for them because they do not want to work hard and get rich. I tell them, "Work hard, get rich, help the poor, and worship your Creator."

    May Allah (SWT) give us all guidance! Amen

  17. Imran Ahmed from USA

    Frankly the more you talk about it the more this subject gets bandied about and becomes part of current thinking. America has been a county that for 200 plus years has had to have an "enemy" perceived or otherwise in order for it to flourish. If is not the black people (niggers as they were and are still called), it was/is the Irish, the Japanese, the Spanish (Mexicans etc), the Chinese, and now the people of Muslim/Asian origin. Less than 3-4 years ago a black man was killed in Texas by white men who dragged him behind a truck till his skin came off....so much for compassion (Is bombing innocent children in Iraq compassionate?) being the cornerstone of this country's thinking.

    You also need to educate Muslims as to how they can live as Muslims first instead of preaching and telling them about what the Prophet (PBUH) said about being good or being classified as good. How many pray even one time a day or go to Friday Salat? I know of one brother who has a flourishing bakery that is less than half a mile from a Masjid, but come some Fridays he will miss Jumaah saying he was too busy. I have spoken to him and am trying as best as I can to make him understand his error.

    First we need to get back to the basics of religion, dress, food, respect for elders (How many young people have you seen ignoring an older person or not even responding to their Salaam) etc. and then talk about other issues.

    Even today many a Bengalee or Pakistani Muslim will openly tell you parts of NJ and NY City and its suburbs are not suitable because it is full of the "kawlas" or "kalas" or black people.

    So much for Muslim thinking of everyone being counted as An Naas.