An American Muslim Speaks to American Jews
by: Imam Dawoud Kringle*
The misunderstandings and misinformation surrounding Muslim-Jewish relations are intolerable. I feel that the interested Jew deserves a look through Muslim eyes. Communication is the first step towards understanding and peace.
The first thing one must understand about Islam is that, like Judaism, it is absolutely monotheistic. The first half of our “Shahadatain” (declaration of Faith) is “La Ilaha Ilallah” – There is no God but Allah. One of the first things that come to mind is the idea of monotheism: that there is only One God. In the Arabic language, His name is Allah. It may interest you to know that it is grammatically impossible to append plurality or gender to the name. The Shahadatain expels all false gods, all of which are the products of human vanity. Consider: the term “false god” conjures images of idolatry, paganism, etc. But do not human beings make idols out of money? Wealth? Their own tribe or nation?
The second half of the Shahadatain is “Muhammadan Rasulallah” – Muhammad is the servant and messenger of Allah. We believe that Muhammad ibn Abdullah (571-632 c.e.) is the final Prophet sent by Allah with the message of the Qur’an. It is a final completion of all previous Revelation, and he is the Seal of the Prophets. I would like you to consider the fact that the Qur’an makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that all of the previous Prophets (including, but not limited to, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Joseph, Jacob, Jesus, etc.) are of one brotherhood. We are commanded by Allah to make no distinction between them.
The American Muslim community is an extraordinarily diverse group of people consisting of many races, ethnicities, nationalities, cultural backgrounds and schools of Islamic thought. There are generally no serious disagreements among us. The Shahadatain is a single idea that unites us. Unless one holds truly fanatical and un-Islamic ideas, anyone who declares the creed of Islam is my brother.
Being an American convert to Islam, I know what it is to choose one’s religion, and my adherence to Islam is strong. I want what’s best for my brothers and sisters. I also believe that the righteous Jew and Christian is my spiritual bother; despite the disagreements we may have.
Yet, we have allowed circumstances and the influence of outside interests to divert us from what should be a familial coexistence.
The word “Islam” is etymologically derived from “salaam”: peace, the serenity and harmony that results from submission, and indeed, harmonious alignment, to the Will of Allah. It is inevitable that those detractors will interpret this as being inconsistent with the behavior of some Muslims. In some ways, I do not blame them for this. However, there are always two sides to every argument. I will not clutter this article with details of what both sides have against each other. Suffice it to say that there is blood on everyone’s hands.
I repeat: everyone has blood on his hands. Nobody is innocent.
The words “terrorism” and “evil” are on everybody’s lips these days. Understandably so, since not only world events have so shocked people that critical thinking is nearly impossible, but the media has shamelessly employed sensationalism to manipulate public opinion and inflame public indignation. The 9/11 attacks were terrible and unforgivable acts — and the informed Media Line reader will not be ignorant of the great outcry and condemnation against these acts from the Muslim community worldwide. Few are aware that most Muslims are in serious disagreement with the beliefs and practices of the likes of al-Qaeda and consider Saddam Hussein to be an infidel for more reasons than can be listed here.
Terrorism is a clear and indisputable violation of Islamic Law. I stand ready at any time to prove this.
However, there are two things I’d like you to meditate upon.
One is that the feelings of fear and persecution that foment terrorism and the environments wherein it is cultivated do not simply come from nowhere. These acts of desperation are the result of oppressive conditions that degrade and dehumanize the spirit. The result is obvious.
The second thing to consider is this: almost no nation on earth is free from the guilt of terrorist acts. Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan, the various “Islamic” fringe groups, etc., are all too obvious. However, ask any Native American or descendent of African slaves about the history of the USA. Ask the survivors of Baruch Goldstein’s massacre in that mosque several years ago. Ask yourself why Israel’s record of dealing with Palestine shows 69 violations of UN Security Council resolutions. All of these, and many more I could give from many nations, are nothing less than monuments to the arrogance and pride that destroyed Pharaoh, and will destroy his modern successors. Only the courageous and just will admit to these terrible truths. Only those with peace in their hearts can face this without platitude or denial. Only the wise will be able to find a path to peace in the midst of this chaos.
The Media Line reader should know that, despite the comparative handful who deviate from Islamic spirituality, Muslims in America, and indeed everywhere, have a feeling of being the “new target.” This is not paranoia, this is fact. We are not fanatics or conquerors. Like anyone else, we want peace, prosperity, and freedom from oppression. Our way of life is our own. We feel that we are being unjustly singled out as being a threat to world peace when we are not. Muslims are suffering unjustly due to no reason other than our religion or ethnicity. Many Muslims are afraid; and will react as frightened people. Like you or anyone, we defend ourselves if unjustly attacked. Innocent Muslims have been the target of countless hate crimes, have suffered persecution, invasion, and genocide, and we are tired of the lies that are told about us and about our religion.
This is something the righteous Jew will doubtless empathize with.
It may surprise you to know that not all Muslims are guilty of what you would term “anti-Semitism.” Many Muslims are interested in working with Jews and many have done so with no result other than mutual friendship, respect, and prosperity. Not only have I borne witness to this, but I have done so. I count the Jews whom I work with as among the finest men of my acquaintance: exemplary of God consciousness, integrity, trustworthiness, good manners and truly interesting personalities. I believe that humanity is richer because of them.
I have never been to Israel, but from what Jews and Muslims there have told me, there are many places and situations where Muslims and Jew live and work side by side with absolutely no problems. We see that in both theory and practice, the idea of peace is possible.
I also know that many Israelis are taught that the Qur’an commands Muslims to kill Jews. Whoever teaches this is a LIAR!! The Qur’an commands the Believers to respect all people and all religious beliefs, and speaks in terms of respect about the Children of Israel. They are only admonished in connection with those times that they had violated their Covenant (something to which Jewish Scripture will testify – and I have verified this with several Rabbis of my acquaintance). The Prophet Muhammad not only had lasting alliances with the Jewish communities of Arabia, but instituted laws guaranteeing them safety and full civil and human rights. Also, on many occasions while mediating disputes between Muslims and Jews, ruled in favor of the Jews.
There is nowhere in our Scriptures where we are commanded to hate Jews. Any claim contradicting this is a lie.
The word “Jihad” does not mean “holy war.” I stand ready to disprove any contradictory claim. The Prophet Muhammad described two jihads: the lesser jihad which may be a struggle to protect one’s community from external attack, or to simply build a school, hospital, business, pursue an education, etc. The greater jihad is the struggle with the base elements of the human soul that divert us from the Path To Allah and invalidate the purpose of human existence. In the last century, many – Muslim and non-Muslim — have perverted this word, and subsequently blasphemed against our Faith’s teachings.
I believe that few among us are truly following their Book. I aim this admonishment at Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. Ignorance, fanaticism, overzealous nationalism, religious extremism, and plain old pride and greed are malignant diseases that are destroying all three communities while pretending to do the exact opposite. They are false gods; a disingenuous polytheism that flatters the ego, leading inexorably to absolute ruin. We can’t afford this! The path of peace is no longer an idealistic dream; it is a survival tactic.
I have no authority to issue fatwas. However, if I did, I would invite all human beings to the Greater Jihad. Without success in this internal struggle; success with external efforts will be futile.
I expect that many who read this will have strong disagreements with me. I respect their opinions, and “agree to disagree.” I hold to this in the interests of peace and righteousness, and anticipate the same from you. Islam is not your enemy.
I am grateful to Mr. Friedson for the honor of being allowed to address the communities, and to you, the reader, who honors me with your time and attention. I pray that I will be forgiven anything I wrote that may be unintentionally offensive. I pray that this article is instrumental in bringing about some understanding among people who come from common roots and should be friends. Like we used to be. If anything good comes from what I wrote, all praise and gratitude is due to Allah alone.
Ma’a Salaam (with Peace),
*Dawoud Kringle is an American convert to Islam who does volunteer work as an Imam with the New York City Department of Corrections and the campus ministry of New York Polytechnic Institute. He is a musician and radio engineer by profession.
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