Linda “iLham” Barto
In a classic poster, Superman tells a group of school students, “…and remember boys and girls, your school, like our country, is made up of Americans of many different races, religions, and national origins, so, if you hear anybody talk against a schoolmate or anyone else because of his religion, race, or national origin, don’t wait –tell him that kind of talk is UN-AMERICAN” (© National Comics 1949).
With a Constitution that reads, “All men are created equal…”, the ideal for the United States of America is a land of opportunity where dreams come true for all people. The USA is meant to be a place of refuge where neighbors respect and appreciate each other and help one another to find success and happiness. The American people believe in “United we stand; divided we fall”, and we are ready to fight for the rights and freedoms of one another. This describes the ideal.
The reality is quite different as America was founded on exploitation, oppression, slavery, murder, violence, and terrorism. Just a few examples include the enslavement, torture, and murder of black Africans (1619-1865); the Trail of Tears (1831-1837) in which over 46,000 Native American Indians were marched from their homelands to government-declared “Indian Territory” in order to make 25 million acres available to European Americans; the Dred Scott Decision (1857) by the US Supreme Court, which ruled that black African Americans were not protected by the Constitution; the Battle of Antietam (1862), the first major battle of the Civil War, in which 23,000 died as Americans killed one another; the Wounded Knee Massacre (1890) which resulted in about 300 dead Native American Indian men, women and children and 25 soldiers; and Japanese Internment Camps (1942) in which roughly 100,000 Japanese Americans were interred in camps during WW2. These types of horrors continue into the present day as hate, bigotry, and discrimination affects Hispanic Americans, African Americans, immigrants, Muslims, Native American Indians, Jews, women, people of alternative lifestyles, and the list goes on.
All religions of light share consonant values of honesty, integrity, charity, compassion, truth, justice, and fairness. When we focus on those consonant values, instead of arguing over differences, we can find our way back to the true ideals that will make America a country where its citizens stand together to fight oppression and injustices and strive together to make the American dream a reality for all people regardless of race, religion, or national origin.
Islam is a religion that acknowledges that all religions of light have a place in God’s plan for salvation: “Indeed, those who believe [in the Qur’an], those who are [practicing] Jews, the Sabeans, followers of the Nazarene [ie, Christians], and any others who believe in Allah and the last day and who perform righteous deeds will have neither fear nor grief” (Surah 5: 69). Here we find the basis for the ideal that all Americans, regardless of religion, can unite together in a mutual love for God in order to heal our land and bring a return to the beautiful ideals of America. This ideal does not even exclude atheists, humanitarians, and alternative religions like Wicca, because the modern definitions for ‘God’ include a recognition in the divine as the universal power that originates and maintains creation even though that power may not be recognized as an almighty being. Even religions like Wicca often recognize that there is one God for all people; they simply worship multiple gods and goddesses as metaphors or attributes of the one true God. People of various religions are more connected in their belief systems than most people realize.
In 1935, the United States Supreme Court recognized Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) as one of the greatest lawgivers of all time. The laws and ethical system that he organized 1400 years ago brought an ignorant, pagan nation from the mire of darkness into a renaissance of spiritual and community values. As a politician, he negotiated treaties guaranteeing freedom of religion, self-governance, legal autonomy, and unity among all people. He established ethics of war, which was to be used only in cases of self-defense. He advocated for animal rights, declaring that food animals be raised in natural and humane conditions and that animals not be killed for vain reasons (ie, fur rugs). In respect to moral behavior, he stressed the importance of personal cleanliness, preservation and protection of natural environments, and righteous conduct. He taught to maintain good relationships, prohibited bigotry and racism, and emphasized kindness and hospitality and charity. He gave rules for marriage, reconciliation in strained relationships, divorce, and writing wills for inheritance. He stressed the value of every human being regardless of race, financial status, or religion. Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) advocated for peace and justice. Islam in America should have such an effect on American society that Muslims take the lead in pointing America back to the ideals that are truly American –the ideals that Prophet Muhammed established 1400 years ago.
“May people among you invite [others] to goodness. May they endorse what is right and forbid what is wrong. They will be successful” (Surah 3: 104). It is up to us to be such valuable witnesses for righteousness that other Americans will feel the pull of Islam’s call to arise together to endorse what all religions know to be right and to forbid what is known to be wrong. Every religion of light has a commandment for peace with their neighbors. For examples: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Christianity). “Treat others as you would yourself be treated” (Hinduism). “Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you” (Islam). “What you yourself hate, do to no man” (Judaism). “Live in harmony, for we are all related” (Native American Indian). As the prophets before him (peace upon them all), Prophet Muhammed advocated for this consonant call for goodness and kindness: “None of you will have faith until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” He also said, “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.”
At this time, when there is so much division, crime, and corruption in America, we need Islam in America to help point people of all religions and of no religion back to the ideals that make us human beings created in the spiritual image of God. Humanity was created in God’s spiritual image in that we have been endowed with a spark of His wisdom and the free will to use or abuse that wisdom. The Qur’an confirms that in His making us uniquely apart from all other creation, God “breathed” into us “something of His own Spirit” (Surah 32: 9) and that He made us to represent Him on earth. We reflect the Divine Intelligence through our own advancements in science, mathematics, medicine, historical research, art, and literary works. When we live holy lives, we reflect the reality and perfection of God through our deeds of love, charity, and goodwill.
Islamic values are consistent and compatible with the ideal for American values because this ideal is influenced by the consonant values of all religions of light. Islam in America has the ability to unite Americans and help them build an America where the value of each person is realized regardless of race, religion, and national origin. The Qur’an strives to bring people together in a spirit of harmony and respect for others: “O Humanity, We created you from one male and one female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may get to know one another. Truly the most honorable among you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Allah has full knowledge and is well aware” (Surah 49: 13). “Among His signs are the creation of the skies and Earth and the variations in your languages and your colors. Truly, in these are signs for those of knowledge” (Surah 30: 22).
Islam recognizes that the differences among humans are God-given attributes to be respected and appreciated and were never intended to divide us and cause hate, bigotry, and resentment. May our Islamic values point America back to its own values as people learn to unite in love, harmony, peace, kindness, and friendship.
Linda “iLham” Barto is an author and illustrator in Maiden, North Carolina. Her books are available from www.Lit-by-Linda.com.