Islam from a Muslim’s perspective
– by Saida Nusseibeh
I am a Muslim girl from a family that traces its name and ancestry to the time of the Prophet Mohammad, Peace be upon Him- The ancestry that can be traced to the Prophet was a woman who fought side by side with men defending the Prophet, she went by the name of Nusseibeh al- Mazinieh.
I grew up with the understanding and accepting of all The Messages and Messengers of God. My family is the custodian of the church of the Holy Sepulcher for many generations. It is a Christian worship site, where a member of my family up to this day opens the church in the morning and closes it in the evening. I went to a French catholic convent in the old city of Jerusalem. One of my classmates, sitting next to me in school, was a Muslim girl from the Dajani family. Her family was the custodian of ‘King David site’ for many generations. It is a Jewish place of worship.
My understanding of Islam comes not only from reading the Holy Qur’an but from my family who taught us the respect of all the Monotheistic Faiths.
The first thing I remember is being taught that a Muslim is a person that has submitted and turned his/her face towards God-believing in Him and believing in the Day of Judgment and the second thing, is that the Muslim is one who does not bring harm either by hand or mouth to anyone.
We were taught that each message came down, when needed according to the time and place that was needed speaking the language of that need, at that time.
Islam came to the Arab peninsula, where God sent his message gradually, through His messenger Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammad- so as to attract as many people in accepting it, since it is believed to be the continuity of all other Messages, i.e. Judaism and Christianity-It is said in the Qur’an that it was sent not as a new Message or religion but rather to affirm the previous Messages/religions. It was a message- ‘Risala’ of Faith.
The Message was only hard on those Christians and Jews who did not follow what God and His Prophets have decreed. He asked that they should be fought till they repent, because they have strayed, they should pay the Jezya, but it has to be paid willingly- as nowadays people pay taxes, [mostly not willingly so] The money collected would be used for arms and weapons.
In the Holy Qur’an, it is said that when people have strayed, although He created all people equally or the same, yet God cursed them, and wished them to be turned into monkeys.
Many translations of the meanings of the Qur’an have been written according to the personal understanding of its interpretation. A world omitted here, or added there gave a different meaning to the context. Therefore, one should seek a worthy interpretation before judging Islam. Also, many rulers interpret the Qur’an according to their needs.
In the Qur’an, when addressing for instance people who where used to drinking a great deal, His first message was ‘Do not approach praying while you are drunk’ lest they make mistakes during prayer- then came the Sura that superceded that one by telling them that drinking, like gambling is the work of the devil so you had better avoid it. In that, it did not contradict the first Sura, but it gave people a choice-so as to avoid being tempted by the devil.
Although it pointed out the negative aspect of gambling and drinking as it is the work of the devil, yet people were given a choice, when He mentioned, the word ‘avoid’. Any student who studied law, knows that in the law, that there is always a loophole.
Islam has two dimensions, a spiritual side, that always commands one to pray [five times a day] , to fast [the month of Ramadan], to go to Hajj [pilgrimage] and to pay the zakat [alms for the poor from your earnings, like income tax] and practical daily commands or the way or system of living your daily life, and since it gave you a choice, there is always at the end that it would be more beneficial for you or kinder, and so on if you follow that rule, but it is always up to you.
The Holy Book is lenient, so you always have a choice. Islam tells one that God is merciful and compassionate and He forgives everything except that one must never add God’s name with another divinity.
I have heard and read many comments on many issues where some individual’s interpretation of Islam is according to that person’s belief. For instance, the interpretation of Jihad. For me Jihad, has to be taken in its context with its two dimensions, the first dimension is that one has the right to defend his own home and family, like one sees the sign that says ‘no trespassing’ on one’s land, and if someone trespasses on your land, you can exercise any kind of defense. And the second dimension of Jihad is that if a Muslim country has been attacked, then it is only the ruler that has the right to call for Jihad, i.e. the call for defending the country. If any other person does it on their own, it is not called Jihad.
Another comment I heard and read was about Islam’s attitude against befriending Jews and Christians. Now with the example of the Prophet Muhammad marrying a Christian, whose name was Mary the Copt and another one who was a Jew, the daughter of Huyay Ben Al-Akhtab, and Him being the Messenger of Islam, how can one not befriend them? And it is also written in the Qur’an that one can eat from food made by the people of the Book, so how when it is written in the Holy Book people can eat such food, can one shun being friends with them after eating their food? Since the Holy Book says that there is no difference between an Arab and an Ajami [a foreigner] in the eye of God for it is only the believer that God rates higher.
Another comment I heard was about Dar Al Harb [the dwelling of war] and Dar Al Islam, [The dwelling of Islam]. It is for me personally a new concept, but it reminded me of the cold war, where there was a division between communism and capitalism- and people had on their passport at one time, that one was not allowed to travel and visit people living beyond the ‘iron curtain’ area- the division was an imaginary iron curtain that divided neighbors, brotherhood of the same religion making walls of fear from the ‘other’.
I also read that Islam, for some, is interpreted as a religion of violence. What I grew up with and my understanding, was that Islam was spread in a quite different way. To spread Islam, the Prophet would first send a message to ask people to join the true faith, the continuation and the culmination of the other messages- and if they did not agree, then he would ask for Jezya, or in modern secular terminology, taxes, but it has to be paid willingly as it is commanded in the Qur’an, and if they did not agree to all of the above then they would be fought against, not slain – so violence came through war – but war came as a third choice and not a first one.
As I mentioned earlier, rulers changed the interpretation of Islam- as it is a patriarchal society. In the Qur’an God gave women their full right- when the Prophet sent any message it was addressed to all men and women alike. Women fought in war beside men. For example my ancestresses, who were writers/poetesses like Al Khansak. and they also did run a business like the first wife of the Prophet and so on, for God created the earth and the people inhabiting it as equals, so as to worship Him.
In writing this I did not go to any website or look up any reference, I have my faith, and I wrote what I believed for that I do not need to go to anyone’s articles or look up any references.