Islam’s Unified Core of Behavior
Now here is a set of elements that are part of Islam’s unified behavioral core. Islam means performing Salaat — what people call praying — five times a day. You may run into any number of “Muslims” who may not “pray” very regularly. But you will not find a single Muslim who would want to tamper with the number of times the Salaat is performed. Or the order in which it is performed. Or the number of units called Rak’ats in each “prayer.”
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is another important element in Islam’s behavioral core. Hajj, the once-in-a-lifetime requirement of pilgrimage to Makkah, is another one.
This is a pretty impressive list. And none of it is put together by a committee, but it is all laid down in principle by the Qur’an and demonstrated in practice by the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. And it has firmly stood the test of time and changing geography and culture for all these 1400 years.
Eating pork is forbidden in Islam — the same as it was in the Old and the New Testaments for Jews and Christians respectively. So is drinking alcohol forbidden in Islam. Individuals may deviate in practice, but those who question the validity of these beliefs and behaviors are completely disowned and thrown overboard by the system of Islam.
Islam’s Flexible Periphery
Islam’s periphery is periphery only in comparison to Islam’s own core of belief and behavior. Otherwise, Islam’s periphery is more rich, vital and solid than the core of most other systems in the world. Here are some examples.
Muslims may have a difference of opinion with regard to the number of Sunnat you should pray before or after Jum'ah. And with regard to whether or not the Jum'ah speech is part of the Salaah. And with regard to whether you should wipe all or a part of your head when washing up — doing Wudu — for your Salaat.
Examples of debates and differences in views on any number of issues of this kind fill volumes of Islamic scholarship. The range of available options is so tantalizingly rich and diverse that everyone can have their pick and no one can possibly miss out
Islam in a Nutshell?
Here then is Islam in a nutshell — the miraculous formulation of La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammad Rasulullah. Nothing else does or can possibly capture the full range of Islamic theory and practice as these divine words do: La Ilaha Illallah for the theory part of it and Muhammad Rasulullah for the practice side of it.
So what you have below now are simply some statements that highlight and summarize some of the more salient aspects of Islam. If you want, you can consider them a quick drive-by introduction of our own to Islam. And to what Muslims are, have been or at least ought to be.
It is worth asking how many Muslims would really and truly recognize some of the things that are being said about Islam below. That is how much of a gulf seems to have developed between what Islam really is and what many Muslims, mostly due to their ignorance and quite significantly due to the wrong leadership in their midst, have reduced Islam to.
So here goes.
1. Islam Is Moderation
Not that there is a moderate Islam and an extremist Islam. The fact is that there is only one Islam and that Islam is moderation.
How many foundation documents and major sources of a culture and civilization do you know that issue an unequivocal command like this: “Do not be extremists in the practice of your Deen”? Wa laa taghloo fee deenikum?
Well, the Qur’an does. When you find a parallel to that in world literature, we will talk more. I am not saying it is not there. All I am saying is, go find it and then let us talk. That will give us something to talk about.
In the same way:
- Islam is living in peace and amity with your neighbors. And with everyone else.
- Islam is building bridges among faiths, races, nationalities, cultures and colors.
- Islam is bringing all sorts of people together and saying something nice.
- Islam is concern for the old and kindness for the young.
- Islam is absolute and unconditional respect for women.
- Islam is a smile.
- Islam is a good, nice, kind word.
- Islam is cleaning up the neighborhood.
- Islam is due regard for the rule of law and for public order and for public morality and accountability.
- Islam is truth telling.
- Islam is fulfilling contracts.
- Islam is keeping promises.
- Islam is speaking truth to power.
- Islam is cleanliness.
- Islam is caring for others.
- Islam is kindness to animals.
- Islam is forgiving and choosing not to retaliate.
- Islam is anger management.
- Islam is walking away from trouble.
- Islam is being best to your family.
- And to your neighbor …
- And so on, and so on, and so on and so forth.
2. Islam Is Liberty and Equality
At the same time, Islam is also striving for liberty, justice, fairness and equality. And it is speaking the truth, even when it may not be popular or convenient.
And Islam is encouraging good things and discouraging bad things. And it is working to stop people from hurting or abusing other people.
And Islam is bringing hope and comfort to the hearts of those in despair. And it is working to make life better for everyone in this world, friend and foe. And it is about being the best that you can be to your family.
And, more than anything else, Islam is loving and fearing God in heaven and loving and serving God’s creation right here on earth.
How Can It Be Otherwise?
Ask yourself this: If Islam were truly from Almighty God, how could it be otherwise? How could it not be any and all of these things?