The Fundamentals of Islam

Radical Islamism has clearly been on the rise in recent years, and is even more noticeable with the recent attacks and threats to Untied States soil. What has led to this radical type of lifestyle, or thinking? Well, there are many reasons for it, but let briefly ponder the following statement. “There was also a movement from viewing all things European as “Christian” and, therefore, forbidden, and toward viewing technological progress and even constitutional forms of government and concepts such as separation of religion and state as separate from faith (Waines, 2001).” This is part of the thought process that has led to the rise of radical Islamism. The thought that progress in government, industry and technology are “forbidden” to the people of Islam, because it had come from Christians.

To me this thought process is similar to Nazi-ism. The German public was showered with rhetoric from Hitler and his supporters that led them to believe that the Jewish people were responsible for their economic burdens. This is different in many ways, but I feel that the similarities are plentiful and frightening. Throughout the rest of this paper I will summarize the rise of radical Islamism from modernization and dependency. I will also demonstrate possible strategies for Islam regress from this type of thinking.

Theorists, philosophers and many other feel that the rise of radical Islamism can be attributed to dependency and modernization. I do not agree with them but in the slightest extent, and I will further elucidate my thoughts. As states in my introduction, I feel that radical Islamism is eerily similar to Nazi-ism. The Nazi regime was founded on propaganda and rhetoric that was used almost as psychological warfare on Germanys own citizens. Just as the German public was pounded with anti-Jewish propaganda the Islamic people are pounded with the anti-Christianity propaganda.

Islamic leaders have used changes in society and culture to fuel this hatred and adapt the propaganda they utilize to spread this hatred of Christianity. For example, I feel that they have definitely used the theories of dependency and modernization to further their rhetoric against Christianity, however I do not feel that dependency and modernization themselves have had that dramatic of effect on the Islamic people. These changes in society and culture are not the reasons for terrorism and suicide bombings; it is the teachings of their radical leaders that lead them down these extreme paths.

The economic life of Islam is very simple. It is based upon solid foundations and Divine instructions. Earning one’s living through decent labor is not only a duty but a great virtue as well. Dependence of any able effortless person on somebody else for a livelihood is a religious sin, a social stigma and disgraceful humility. A Muslim is enjoined by God to be self-supporting and to stay away from being a liability on anybody. Islam respects all kinds of work for earning one’s livelihood so long as there is no indecency or wrong involved. With a clear conscience and due respect from society the Muslim can roll up his sleeves and undertake any kind of work available to provide for himself and his dependents. Prophet Muhammad is reported as having said that it is far better for one even to take his rope, cut wood, pile it up and sell it in order to eat and give charity than to beg others whether they give him or not. According to Islam, the status of honest working men cannot be lowered on account of the kind of work they are doing for a living. Yet the laboring workers have no limited scope for improving their lots and raising their standards as high as possible. They have equal opportunities at their disposal and enjoy freedom of enterprise.

To me, it does not sound like modernization or dependency should have caused these people to take up arms and start blowing up national landmarks. Whatever the individual makes or earns through lawful means is his private possession, which neither the State nor anybody else can justifiably claim. In return for this right of private possession he has only to fulfill certain obligations to the society and pay certain taxes to the State. When this is done, he has full rights to protection by the State, and his freedom of enterprise is secure and guaranteed. Under the Islamic system the menace of capitalism or communism never arises. The enterprising individual is responsible for the prosperity of the State, and the State in turn is responsible.

The reason that Islamism turned radical was from the radical teachings of certain Islamic leaders. These leaders used political rhetoric and social propaganda to fuel their anti-Christian teachings and spread their extreme beliefs. They convinced their people that Christianity and Democracy were evil and capitalist. That Allah would want them to use whatever means necessary to stop the spread of this type of structure from poisoning their society. This is why we see radical Islamism. I must say, it does seem like a modern form of Nazi-ism. However, not that I have examined where I think these problems root from, let me briefly examine how I think moderate Islamic leaders can bring an end to these extreme followings.

Traditional Islam is a very simple way of life, and that is what these leaders need to bring to the forefront. The moderate teachers and leaders need to put themselves out in the public and stress the teachings of Muhammad and the traditional Islam religion. They need to show them that all of this violence contradicts these teachings and the beliefs that their religion is founded on. Stress to the people of Islam that they need to find their traditional roots once again. Suggest to them that they need to get back to the basics. The fundamentals of Islam are not about terrorism or political gain. They can even take it one step further and tell them that their current actions mirror that of the capitalists. Islam is not about making political statements and random acts of violence. Islam is a simple way of life based on the five pillars that I will describe below:

• The shahadah, which is the basic creed or tenet of Islam: “‘ašhadu ‘al-lā ilāha illā-llāhu wa ‘ašhadu ‘anna muħammadan rasūlu-llāh”, or “I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” This testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.

• Salah, or ritual prayer, which must be performed five times a day. Each salah is done facing towards the Kaaba in Mecca. Salah is intended to focus the mind on God, and is seen as a personal communication with him that expresses gratitude and worship. Salah is compulsory but flexibility in the specifics is allowed depending on circumstances. In many Muslim countries, reminders called Adhan (call to prayer) are broadcast publicly from local mosques at the appropriate times. The prayers are recited in the Arabic language, and consist of verses from the Qur’an

• Zakat, or alms-giving. This is the practice of giving based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all Muslims who can afford it. A fixed portion is spent to help the poor or needy, and also to assist the spread of Islam. The zakat is considered a religious obligation (as opposed to voluntary charity) that the well-off owe to the needy because their wealth is seen as a “trust from God’s bounty”. The Qur’an and the hadith also suggest a Muslim give even more as an act of voluntary alms-giving (sadaqah).

• Sawm, or fasting during the month of Ramadan. Muslims must not eat or drink (among other things) from dawn to dusk during this month, and must be mindful of other sins. The fast is to encourage a feeling of nearness to God, and during it Muslims should express their gratitude for and dependence on him, atone for their past sins, and think of the needy. Sawm is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would constitute an undue burden. For others, flexibility is allowed depending on circumstances, but missed fasts usually must be made up quickly. Some Muslim groups do not fast during Ramadan, and instead have fasts different times of the year.

• The Hajj, which is the pilgrimage during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. When the pilgrim is about ten kilometers from Mecca, he must dress in Ihram clothing, which consists of two white seamless sheets. Rituals of the Hajj include walking seven times around the Kaaba, touching the Black Stone, running seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah, and symbolically stoning the Devil in Mina. The pilgrim, or the hajji, is honored in his or her community, although Islamic teachers say that the Hajj should be an expression of devotion to God instead of a means to gain social standing.

These are the fundamentals of the traditional Islam religion and way of life. If I were to give any advice to the leaders and teachers that can make a difference and try to bring and end to radical Islamism, it would be to bring these fundamental teaching back to the forefront. It is what Islam was founded on, and it will show them that their current path is wrong. This is a lot easier said then done, but I feel that this would be the most effective method to utilize.