1. Definition:

It must have been the Makkaan experience that caused the Prophet (s) to say, "Islam has started strange and will become strange again. Therefore, good news for the strangers." [Muslim; Tafsir ibn Kathir: Surah al-Ma’idah, 5:3] What then is meant by “Muslim strangers”? [2] Here, I shall use the term for Muslim minorities who live outside Dar-ul-Islam.

Traditionally we find that the world was grossly seen as consisting of three realms, the Dârul-Islâm, "Realm of Islam where Islamic norms and values are valid so that a Muslim can feel safe and at home even though he is not yet familiar with the language and culture; Dârul-Harb, the "Realm of War" where a hostile attitude against Muslims is to be expected; and Dârus-Sulh, the "Realm of a Legal Order or Peace" where a public order is prevalent in which Muslims can find a safe place. Traditional models for these three cases would be Madina, Makkah and Abyssinia, respectively, during the early period of Islam. We can clearly see that these terms need a careful general revision both on the background of the principles proposed in Qur'an and Sunnah and considering the modern world.

Dârus-Sulh was understood to be a country that, while it did not have a Muslim government, had a contract with the Muslims or with a neighboring Muslim country to the effect that there was neither a danger of war nor of actions against the safety of Muslims living there.

Among other things, an important aspect is that the law of that country is binding on the Muslims living there (unless it permits an action that is forbidden in Islam, like drinking alcohol). A Muslim living in that country does so on the foundation of a contractual agreement, like the oath of allegiance to the state, and it is a Qur'anic injunction to keep contracts, apart from the fact that it is a rational requirement if a minimum of trust is to be preserved in society.

An example in this context is Muslims in Europe and America. Islam is presently the second largest religious community after Christianity in most European countries, and also probably in the USA. The growth can be attributed to (1) increasing number of immigrants and their children who had settled or were born here, and (2) to a sizable number of its indigenous population of Afro-American and European race who had accepted Islam as their faith. The mere acceptance of Islam among this second group (the natives) is rather fascinating, if not somewhat puzzling, given the fact that there is truly no active daw’a or missionary activity to proselytize Americans towards Islam.

For more than twenty years there have been increasing facilities for encounter and dialogue. However, the majority White population still considers "native" Muslims strangers, and there is a surprising ignorance about Islam and the Muslims which is made even worse by almost the daily images one gets in the media. Most Afro-Americans, e.g., here in the U.S., don’t mind keeping Muslim names for their children, or enjoying Muslim food once in a while, but beyond that we are still strangers to them.

Young Muslims growing up here are in a difficult situation. Whether they come from immigrant families, from culturally mixed families, or from families with European or American origin, they grow up - often without support - in a field of tension between religions and cultures, an ordinary generation conflict sometimes becoming a clash of cultures. Proper rearing of children with balanced dosage of Islamic teachings, ethics and history, culture and tradition is essential for them so that they neither feel alienated towards their Islamic heritage nor get confused (i.e., turn into an ABCD) [3]. And that is a difficult task under current state of affairs.

2. Current Affairs:

Muhammad (S), the Prophet of Islam, said: ‘It is near that the nations will call one another against you just as the invited guests call each other for sharing the food.’ Someone enquired, ‘Shall we be few at that time?’ He replied, ‘No, you will be numerous at that time, but you will be rubbishes or worthless pieces like the rubbishes or scum of a torrent or flood. Allah will certainly then take away the fear of you from the breasts of your enemies and will certainly throw weakness in your hearts.’ Someone asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what will be (the cause of) weakness?’ He replied, ‘Love of this world and dislike of death.’ [Abu Dawud: Saoban (R)]

What the Prophet (s) had warned some 14 centuries ago seems to be happening right now. In no time in history were non-Muslims as much united as they are today in their resolve or determination to harm Muslims. Before we discuss what we could do to mitigate such animosity towards our people, we need to study the current situation, esp. in the light of our experience in the West.

Historically, Islam has always been looked upon as a faith, which is anti-West, one that resists western onslaught into Muslim countries. In his book, Covering Islam, Professor Edward W. Said of the Columbia University rightly commented, "From at least the end of the eighteenth century to our own day, modern Occidental reactions to Islam have been dominated by a radically simplified type of thinking that may still be called Orientalist. …So far as the West is concerned, Islam represents not only a formidable competitor but also a late coming challenge to Christianity. For most of the Middle Ages and during the early part of Renaissance in Europe, Islam was believed to be a demonic religion of apostasy, blasphemy, and obscurity... For hundreds of years great Islamic armies and navies threatened Europe, destroyed its outposts, colonized its domains. It was as if a younger, more virile and energetic version of Christianity had arisen in the East, equipped itself with the learning of the ancient Greeks, invigorated itself with a simple, fearless, and warlike creed, and set about destroying Christianity. Even when the world of Islam entered a period of decline and Europe a period of ascendancy, fear of 'Mohammedanism' persisted. Closer to Europe than any of the other non-Christian religions, the Islamic world by its very adjacency evoked memories of its encroachments on Europe, and always, of its latent power again and again to disturb the West. Other great civilizations of the East - India and China among them - could be thought of as defeated and distant and hence not a constant worry. Only Islam seemed never to have submitted completely to the West." [4]

It is, therefore, quite easy to see why there seems to be a western consensus on 'Islam' as a kind of scapegoat for everything the West does not happen to like. In recent days, this polarization of American psyche, and the already awkward and uneasy, and sometimes utterly hostile, relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, was naturally sensitized by the attack on the WTC and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Those who hated us, threatened us with a “crusade”, and those who despised us more severely, demanded5 “nuking” us, as if 1.5 billion Muslims would simply evaporate in thin air! Allah says, “Hatred is revealed (by the utterances of) their mouths, but that which their breasts hide is (even) greater.” (Qur’an 3:118)

Truly, soon after 9-11-01, a very evil and sinister government ploy and media-campaign has been unleashed, probably the most dangerous, heinous and criminal of its kind in the last half a century,[6] depicting the Muslim community as a bunch of “evil” and “uncivilized” people that “hate” everything that is American or western. The hatemongering and (yet) powerful TV Evangelists like Pat Robertson (of 700 Club), Jerry Falwell, and Franklin Graham (of Samaritan Purse) have joined the chorus in calling Islam “a very evil and a dangerous religion.”[7] These spiteful priests are preaching to the choir that Muslims want to kill all infidels, because the Qur’an commands such. The verses of the Qur’an that were revealed against the Arab polytheists of Muhammad’s (s) time are now twisted to give a more generalized application.[8] Inaccurate translation of Arabic words like “auliya” are used to justify that Muslims are forbidden to have friendship with non-Muslims.[9] These preachers seem to suffer from selective amnesia about the fact that if they want to find violence preached in the name of religion, they need not look beyond the Bible. Where did the medieval, demonic Crusaders get their inspiration? Read Leviticus 26:7, e.g., “And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.” I was able to find 515 verses in the Bible (KJV) with the word “sword,” and 255 verses with the word “kill.” Pope Urban in his fiery speech at Champaign, France, promised his Christian soldiers who lost their lives while slaying Muslims remission from all their sins and a direct ticket to paradise.

On the one hand, the U.S. government says that its war campaign is not a crusade against Islam or Muslims, but on the other hand it does everything that contradict such claims. For example, Bush first wanted to unleash a “crusade” against al-Qaida and the Taliban government. Next, after getting religiously charged by the Sunday church service, he declared war against Afghanistan, arrogantly calling the operation “Infinite Justice,” as if he was the Nimrod or Pharaoh of our time who claimed godhead. In his speech of declaration of war, speaking of Osama bin Laden and his counter-terrorist cell of al-Qaida, Bush said, “They want to kill all Jews and Christians. … They want to establish an Islamic government in every country,” etc. Was that a sensible thing to say in the aftermath of 9-11? What does such statements do other than fuel further hatred and bigotry in this country? Soon after 9/11 some Muslims were beaten to death in some parts of this county, not to mention of thousands of houses and businesses and mosques that were vandalized. Quite a few policemen were found to harass Muslims.[10]

Bush’s secretaries and advisers are not too far behind in their wholesale condemnation of Islam and Muslims either. In a published article (Men of Faith in Washington D.C., Need Our Prayers) by Christian right-wing columnist Cal Thomas in Crosswalk.com News Channel, Attorney General Ashcroft was quoted as saying that “Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for Him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends His son to die for you.”[11] If this is not sheer bigotry, what is? Can Muslim detainees, now in thousands, expect fair trial from such a bigot,[12] who epitomizes the notion of ‘holier than thou’, heading the Justice Department? Mr. Ashcroft, a Christian Fundamentalist, forgets that it is his Bible, which sanctioned suicidal terror (see the story of Samson in the Book of Judges, Ch. 13-16).

When Arab and Muslim acquiescence for its most horrific and ruthless campaign (minus the nuclear power) in Afghanistan was needed, we heard that the Bush Administration wanted an equitable solution to the Palestinian problem, even voicing its vision, albeit a first one, of an independent Palestinian state, living along side the Zionist state. But these are now all very conveniently forgotten. This Administration has been the greatest backer of Israeli aggression since the Zionist state came into existence. In dealing with Muslims, hypocrisy has been the hallmark of U.S. foreign policy.

We have also seen the senseless bombing campaign against Afghans that killed more innocent civilians than the total number of victims here of September 11, 2001.[13] Villages after villages have been destroyed in the most horrific bombing campaign since World War 2. The military campaign is geared towards ‘kill first and question later.’ In violation of Geneva Convention, the U.S.-led forces in Mazar-e-Sharif cold-bloodedly massacred hundreds of prisoners of war. Thousands of POWs are held in most appalling conditions both in Afghanistan and also in Cuba. By denying these prisoners the rights granted under the Geneva Convention, Washington seeks to justify their indefinite detention.[14]

Already an evil and vicious game plan to uproot Muslim resistance movements everywhere has started even before the Afghan episode could end. The level of hypocrisy, double-talk, and the neo-Pharaonic display of might and power, practiced by the Bush (Jr.) Administration is sufficient to make any decent, peace-loving Muslim feel third-class in this land of Abraham Lincoln. He knows that his most sincere and best efforts in public life would now be scanned through the surgical microscope of newly hyped American patriotism: is he a “sleeper” or a “Muhammad Atta” in the making? I wonder how the founding fathers would have reacted if they were alive today to see the abuse of civil liberties - the very principles which had hitherto made America a pride among western nations - at the hands of Bush, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft & Co.

As a result of all these vicious activities perpetrated by the government and the press, many Muslims living in the West now feel threatened and alienated, their children confused, some want their names changed (Ref: NPR, All Things Considered, March 5, 2002) so that fellow westerners would not equate them with other Muslims. This hysteria is really shocking! No concerned Muslim can ignore the dehumanizing effect on its people, especially, the most vulnerable segment – the children. Muslims are, after all, a proud people who take due pride in their thousand plus years of history, culture and civilization. They know very well that while the Europeans and Americans were savages, it was the Muslims who spread the light by being either the candles or the mirrors that reflect them. And their pride cannot be eroded by evil propaganda of some upstart, representing a nation which a mere four decades ago had one of the most apartheid regimes in the world, next to South Africa.

Civilization is often measured in terms quality of life it provides to its inhabitants, especially, its minorities, and never in terms of might or strength of a nation to subdue other nations. That is why, we never hear about Hun, Scythian and Mongol civilization, despite the fact that savages of the past like Attila the Hun (the barbarian), Genghis Khan and Halagu Khan were able to terrorize millions and kill hundreds of thousands of people and control vast territories. In contrast, from very early on wherever Islam made an inroad it was able to either refine indigenous civilization of a nation that was already enjoying a certain level of civilization, or civilize a people that was hitherto drowned in savagery. That is why, it is not difficult to fathom why for nearly a thousand years (7th-17th century C.E. or 1st-11th century A.H.) while most of the European nations were sunk in savagery, Muslim nations in Asia, Africa and Moorish Spain were enjoying fruits of such a lofty civilization that was simply superb in so many ways. But it was then, what about the reality of our situation now?

In a hadith, Prophet Muhammad (s) is reported to have said, “When your rulers will be the best men, and your rich men will be philanthropic amongst you, and your affairs will be done with consultation among yourselves, then your living on the surface of the earth will be better for you than its bottom. And when your rulers will be the worst of you and your rich men will be the misers among you, and your affairs will be in the hands of your women,[15] then the bottom of the world will be better for you than its surface.” [Tirmizi: Abu Hurayrah (R)]

He also said, “Troubles will afflict my people in the latter days from their rulers. None will escape there from except a person who recognizes Allah’s religion and then fights for it with his tongue, hand and heart; that is one for whom rewards have preceded before….” [Mishkat: Umar ibn Khattab]

“Know that subjects are God's dependents, and he who wrongs the people has wronged God….Among the rights of subjects are that (the king) prevent them being wronged either by himself or by his agents; that he keep the roads safe, protect caravans on the highways, and punish thieves and brigands; that he give justice to the oppressed and support the poor; that he not conceal himself from them and not appoint Jews and Christians over them; that he enforce the command of what is right, strengthen the qadi [judge] and the muhtasib [officer in charge of detecting and punishing offenders of the Law and public morals], and respect strangers.” - [Bahr al-Fava'id]

Truly, politics has betrayed Islam. Political Islam has failed to live up to the challenge of neo-crusading campaigns and has brought nothing but misery and humiliation to our people. Muslim rulers have proven to be gutless and have abandoned their people. None of our leaders, except Dr. Mahatiar Muhammad of Malaysia, had the guts to challenge Bush’s threat of ‘you are either with us or you are against us.’ Why can’t there be a middle road, a voice of moderation, reasoning and wisdom to address the root cause that leads to violence? Did patronizing help anyone, how about Arafat? Don’t we know: “And the Yahud will not be pleased with you, nor will the Nasara, till you follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah is Guidance. And if you should follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto you, then you would have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.” (Qur’an 2:120)

Muslim rulers have failed to safeguard Muslim honor, life and property. Their disunity and lack of courage has only strengthened the resolve of non-Muslim rulers to declare an all-out war against Muslims, forming an evil alliance of countries that included nations which until recently had a very horrid record of human rights violations against Muslim minorities. Thus, it is not surprising that the former KGB agent and FSS chief, murderous Putin,[16] a war criminal by all definition, got a red-carpet treatment in the White House and was even invited to stay in the Texas ranch of his newly-discovered buddy. What is new in this xenophobia against Muslims? The failure of Muslim leadership at the top, unfortunately, has been a cause for mindless violence in recent days, as is displayed through a plethora of seemingly futile efforts by splinter groups, which has only made things worse for Muslims.

Despite all the negative stereotypes, signs and signals emanating from the Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and the White House against Muslims, I am still hopeful that sanity will eventually return. While we, as first-generation “stranger” Muslims, have miserably failed to reach out, our Muslim children would one day be able to demystify western ignorance and remove hatred with understanding and warm feelings towards our fellow men by making this world a better place to share and prosper for common good of all humanity. They would be able to convince Americans with the simple message that what is good for the rest of the world is also good for America, and vice-versa.

3. The Task Ahead:

What is the roadmap? We, the stranger Muslims living outside Dar-ul-Islam, have to start with us: first the self, then the family, then the society at large, while always being aware of our obligations to our Creator, for Allah says, “Had it not been for My worship, I would not have created Jinn and Mankind.” (Qur’an) When we do that we truly become His vicegerent (Khalifa) on earth. Let us be aware of the fact that Allah watches every action of ours and that we are answerable to Him for all our deeds. Let us excel in every business we are involved, every deed, every facet of our lives. Let our students be the best of their classes, our scientists, economists, doctors, engineers, architects, teachers, and other professionals best in their fields, etc., etc. Let us reclaim our glorious heritage when for hundreds of years our forefathers illuminated the world, brought civilization to a savage world.

Only when we prosper as a community, when we excel in our activities, could we give to the society we came from and/or we live in. Let our neighbors, our colleagues, our fellow men see the best within us, know how talented Muslims are and, more importantly, how excellent we are as human beings. Let our people volunteer a portion of time to doing good to others, in whatever way possible. Let there be a silent revolution of mind and action. Then we won’t need to “beg” others to be fair with us.[17] We shall be in a position of strength, and they will beg or come to us.

The western world is suffering from psychological imbalance, something like a serious spiritual crisis; its people are willing to embrace any faith that promises to bring some equilibrium in life. Despite the fact that it is Islam which is equipped to deal with all man-made problems and bring equilibrium in one’s life, Islam has always been the last recourse or medication for most western men, esp. among the white race. The on-going violence involving Muslims is a sufficient deterrent to get interested in Islam. (Unfortunately, as long as there is absence of justice in this world, there will be no peace. Some Muslim splinter groups, no matter how ill-equipped they are, would always fight against oppression, tyranny and injustice, even laying down their lives for such high values.) That is why, we have to exemplify Islam through our virtuous activities.

Rights and Obligations

So what is our obligation as “stranger” Muslims in either Darul Harb or Darul Sulh?

Allah says, “Whoso migrates for the cause of Allah will find much refuge and abundance in the earth, and whoso forsakes his home, a fugitive unto Allah and His messenger, and death overtakes him, his reward is then incumbent on Allah. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Qur’an 4:100) The bottom line here is: we live for Allah and we die for Allah. If our migration is for hazrat-e-imam dollar, i.e., our creed is “La ilaha illa-ad-dollar,” then it is shirk for us. If our stay as a “stranger” is undesirable, unsafe or unhealthy for us or our children or posterity, it is preferable, rather recommendable, that we settle in a Muslim country exhibiting, at least, some semblance of Islamic or Muslim law and culture. It is far better that way than being accountable on the Day of Judgment for sins of posterity. Allah rightly says, “Lo! as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wrong themselves, (the angels) will ask: In what were ye engaged ? They will say: We were oppressed in the land. (The angels) will say: Was not Allah's earth spacious that ye could have migrated therein? As for such, their habitation will be hell, an evil journey's end.” (Qur’an, Surah an-Nisa' 4:97)

Allah says, “And let there be from you a nation (ummah) who invite to goodness, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency. Such are they who are successful.” (Qur’an 3:104)

An essential condition for residing outside Darul Islam is, therefore, to be involved with Dawa activities, to be goodwill ambassadors of Islam, so that not only do we try to curb negative stereotyping against Islam amongst those who don’t know but to also protect ourselves from indulging in haram (unlawful) activities that are common to Kufr. And what a better way than through deeds, examples, transactions, and our lifestyles? Remember, Islam won the battle of the heart of people more than it won through warfare. Two good examples, are Indonesia and Malaysia. People living along the coast line of Africa and Asia embraced Islam through the behavior of two groups of people: Sufis (da’ee in the path of Allah) and Arab Muslim traders or merchants (most from Hadra Maouth, Yemen) who showed how a Muslim ought to deal with others. Surely, these early traders knew the value of the hadith: “An honest businessman will be amongst the Prophets, the Truthful, and the Martyrs [on the Day of Judgment].” [Tirmizi: Abu Sayeed (RA)]

I cannot but emphasize enough to our Muslim brothers and sisters who are dealing with non-Muslims that they need to exemplify Islam: show the better side (not the ugly side the world now sees) of Islam, against greed and arrogance.

1. Rights of the ruler:

This right is simply based on the contents of the verse of the Glorious Qur'ân, Sura an-Nisa (The Women, 4:59) the meaning of which is translated as: “Oh you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you.”

As I mentioned in the beginning, we need to obey the law of the land, as long as it does not force us to commit haram. If that were the case, we should either try to change such laws, or emigrate to Muslim countries where there is no such fear of committing haram. For surely, that is logical and appropriate. Some relevant ahadith are:

Obedience to the ruler is required so long as he acts according to the Shari'ah (Law) and does not reject the words of God and His Prophet (S); but when he acts contrary to God and His Prophet, obedience to him is not required. For the Prophet (S) said, "There is no obedience due the created in disobedience to the Creator." - [Bahr al-Fava'id]

It is obligatory upon a Muslim to listen and obey (the authority) whether he likes it or not; save when he is asked to do something sinful. If he is asked for a sinful act then there is no hearing and obedience. - Muhammad (S) [Bukhari and Muslim: Abdullah ibn Umar (RA)]

You are bound to hear and obey the orders of the authority in hardship and in ease, willingly or unwillingly, and even when you are treated unjustly. - Muhammad (S) [Muslim: Abu Hurayrah (RA)]

2. Rights of neighbors:

Allah ordained in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura Nisa (Women) 4:36 the meaning of which is translated as: “Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are of kin, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet) and what your right hands possess: for Allah loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious”.

Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) illustrated the rights of a neighbor as follows: “Do you know what are rights of a neighbor? [They are as follows], If a neighbor seeks your help, extend it to him. If a neighbor asks you for a loan, lend him [if you have it.]If your neighbor becomes poor, then help him financially and attend to his poverty if you can. If your neighbor becomes ill, then visit him [checking on his health and situation.] If your neighbor is happy on certain gain, then congratulate him. If your neighbor is suffering a calamity, then offer him condolence. If your neighbor dies, then be at his funeral [if you can.] Do not raise your building over his building causing him a lack of sun exposure, or wind passage. Do not bother your neighbor with the smell of your cooking, unless you intend to offer him some [of the cooked food.] If you buy fruits [while he does not have the means to buy, or not] then offer him a little present of the fruit. If you do not want to offer him a present of your fruit, then bring it in the house [in an unnoticeable way.] Do not permit your child, later, to carry the fruit you bought and drag his son and tease him with it.” [Al-Kharaitee].

A tradition relates that neighbors are of three kinds: a neighbor who has three rights, one who has two, and one has one. The neighbor with three rights is he who is both Muslim and kindred; he thus has one right by virtue of being Muslim, one by virtue of kinship, and one by virtue of being a neighbor. The neighbor who has two rights is he who is both a Muslim and a neighbor. The neighbor who has one rights is the Jew or Christian, who is an infidel but still has the right due a neighbor. Beware, honor your neighbor, for troubling one's neighbor is evil. - [Bahr al-Fava'id]

Angel Jibrail (AS) kept exhorting me about (obligations towards) the neighbor so much so that I imagined that he might be included as one of the heirs. - Muhammad (S) [Bukhari and Muslim: Ibn Umar and A'yesha (RA)]

O Abu Dhar! when you prepare soup put a little more water in it, and see if your neighbor needs some. - Muhammad (S) [Muslim: Abu Dhar Ghifari (RA)]

That person will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not safe against his mischief. - Muhammad (S) [Bukhari and Muslim: Abu Hurayrah (RA)]

He is not a [true] believer who eats his full while his neighbor lies hungry by his side. - Muhammad (S) [Baihaqi: Abdullah b. Abbas (RA)]

One who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment must not cause hardship and inconvenience to his neighbor; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day must respect his guest; and he who believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment must speak well or keep quiet. - Muhammad (S) [Bukhari and Muslim: Abu Hurayrah (RA)]

The best companion in the sight of Allah is he who is the well-wisher of his companions, and the best neighbor is one who behaves best towards his neighbors. - Muhammad (S) [Tirmizi: Abdullah ibn Umar (RA)]

By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, a slave of Allah does not believe till he likes for his neighbor what he likes for himself. - Muhammad (S) Bulugh al-Maram: Anas (RA)]

Be a good neighbor to your neighbor and you will be a Muslim. Be a good fellow to your companion and you will be a Mu'min. - Muhammad (S) [Ihya Ulum al-Din: Imam al-Ghazzali (R)]

4. Benefits:

A non-Muslim society can immensely benefit from Muslims, because in Islam there are lots of Do’s and Don’ts that are incumbent on Muslims. I list below only a few of the commandments of "Do's" and "Don't" that Islam established (a more comprehensive list can be found in my book, “Islamic Wisdom”):

Islam bans killing or murdering any human being. Islam categorizes such an act as 'one of the major sins in Islam'. This is based on the verse in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura Isra (The Night Journey) 17:33 the meaning of which is translated as: “Nor take life, -which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause. And, if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the law)”.

Allah states in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura Isra (The Night Journey, 17:32): “Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils)”.

Allah states in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura An'am (The Cattle, 6:151): “Say: Come, I will rehearse what Allah has (really) prohibited you from: join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want -We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not nigh to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that you may learn wisdom”.

Allah prohibits all types of aggression against the wealth and properties of others. Therefore, all forms of theft and cheating or else are banned in Islam. This is based on the Hadith of Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “Whosoever cheats us is not one of us.” [Muslim]

Furthermore, Allah forbids all kinds of deception and betrayals. Allah states in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura Anfal (War Booties, 7:27): “Oh you that believe! Betray not the trust of Allah and the Messenger, nor misappropriate knowingly things entrusted to you”.

Additionally, Islam controls monopoly. This is based on the Hadith of Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “None monopolizes but a wrong doer.” [Muslim.]

Similar prohibitions are imposed on the deceitful and illegal means through which money is taken. Allah states in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura al-Baqarah (The Cow, 2:188): “And do not eat up your property among yourselves for vanities, nor use it as bait for the judges, with intent that you may eat up wrongfully and knowingly a little of (other) people's property”.

In addition, Islam upholds the dignity and honor of others. As such, it despises slandering them. Allah states in the Glorious Qur’ân Sura Hujurat (The Chambers, 48:12): “Oh you who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: and spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it. However, fear Allah: for Allah is Oft-Returning, Most-Merciful”.

In addition, in a Hadith Qudsi (Divine), Allah says: “Oh My slave servants! I have banned injustice for Myself. I have declared injustice unlawful among you [people]. Therefore, do not do [or cause] any act of injustice to one another.” [Muslim]

Islam forbids all type of social, political and moral corruption and mischief. This is based on the verse in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura al-A'raf (The Heights, 7:56): “Do no mischief on the earth, after it has been set in order, but call on Him with fear and longing (in your hearts): for the Mercy of Allah is (always) near to those who do good”.

Islam forbids challenging the beliefs of non-Muslims. Because such actions produce animosity, hatred and dislike. This is based on the verse in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura al-An'am (The Cattle 6:108): “Revile not those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance”.

Instead, Allah instructed Muslims to use a fair and well-matured dialogue with such people. This is based on the verse in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura al-Imran (3:64): “Say: Oh People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah. If then they turn back, say you: Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah's Will)”.

Islam also disapproves the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam by force. Allah states in the Glorious Qur'ân Sura Yunus (10:99): “If it had been thy Lord’s Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!”

Finally, let me close this discussion with an episode that took place when Persia fell to Islam.

Fourteen centuries ago, a Muslim Companion of the Prophet Muhammad (S) addressed the general of the Persian garrison in the following words: "[Islam summons] mankind from the lowliness of the earth to the heights of the heavens, from the servitude of each other to the service of the Lord of the Universe, and from the oppression of the religions to the justice of Islam." [18]

Yes, that was precisely the role that Islam tried to play in the global arena. Through its concept of tauhid or pure monotheism and universal brotherhood, it offered the world a road to salvation. Instead of making God manlike, it tried to make man Godlike. And this it tried by providing three basic elements - faith in one God without any associate, reform of the self and reform of the society at large. Islamic movements around the globe over the centuries, therefore, remained as a religious commitment, a socio-economic-political program, but above all, a vehicle for the continuous reform of the society. Even in this country, thousands of miles away from the cities and villages that wake up with the call of adhan, we, the strangers have a duty to reform the society where we live.

Are you ready for this challenge?

Notes:

[1]. Published earlier in the News From Bangladesh website: http://www.nfb.com

[2]. This definition section is adapted from an internet article on the above subject from a German-based Muslim group: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Thebes/8206/hkrausen/strngrs2.htm

[3]. ABCD is an acronym used commonly in the university campuses to typify children of immigrants or refugees and it stands for American-Born Confused Desi (lit., native).

[4]. Covering Islam by Edward W. Said, Pantheon Books, New York (1981), pp. 4-5 (emphasis are mine).

[5]. Paul Wolfowitz, deputy Secretary of Defense in the Bush Administration.

[6]. The last minority group (outside African-Americans) to be harangued in North America for alleged ties with Japan were the Japanese American people.

[7]. See www.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/02/28/column.billpress/index.html (Ministers preach war on Islam)

[8]. See, e.g., Qur’an 2:190-3.

[9]. “Let not the believers take disbelievers for their auliya (lord) in preference to believers.” (Qur’an 3:28)

[10]. American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee confirmed 520 violent incidents against Arabs alone within 2 months following 9/11/01..

[11]. See www.adc.org/actin/2002/11February2002.htm (Protest Ashcroft’s anti-Islamic statements, 2/11/02)

[12]. See www.counterpunch.org/ashcroftbigot.html (Ashcroft the Bigot, Feb. 8, 2002)

[13]. See, e.g., Thousands of Afghans likely killed in bombings by Murray Campbell, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 3, 2002.

[14]. See, e.g., www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jan2002/afgh-j08.shtml

[15]. Here what is meant is that instead of rulers deciding matters on the basis of Shura or mutual consultation, they will only listen to their wives or members of the household.

[16]. In a recently published news it is now believed that Vladimir Putin, as the FSS Chief, master-minded the Moscow Apartment bombing in 1999, to stir up hatred against Chechen Muslims, so that the Russian government could launch its second savage campaign in Chechnya, and facilitate Putin’s winning the Presidential election. (NPR News, All Things Considered, Feb. 21, ’02; BBC News, March 5, 2002)

[17]. Reference here is made to Crown Prince Abdullah’s calling upon the “conscience” of the American people to help the Palestinians. The Emir of Qatar had to “beg” the U.S. to use its influence on the Israelis. (see http://www.counterpunch.org/fiskpit.html, Arab Nations Lost in a Pit of Desperation by Robert Fisk, Feb, 16, 2002)

[18]. Marxism and Other Western Fallacies: An Islamic Critique by Dr. Ali Shariati, (tr. R. Campbell), Mizan Press, Berkeley (1980), p. 38.