What the West should know about Islam [Archives:2003/667/Viewpoint]

September 11 2003

Almost every Westerner I know has a negative impression about Muslim and Arab leaders. Many believe they are greedy and selfish individuals who only want their personal security and luxury and don't give a damn about their people.
“Is this what Islam teaches? Do those leaders represent Islam? Is this what your prophet taught you?” are some legitimate questions that they ask when looking at the weakness, poverty, illiteracy, and pathetic situation of Arab nations. It is as if Arab regimes get happier and pleased when their people are poor, captive, illiterate, and think only about how to make ends meet.
Here I seize the opportunity to clarify that our weak public relations and our inability to convey the true meaning of Islam have made the world take the rulers of Muslim states as images portraying Islam. They never were and will never be a reflection of Islam.
Islam is a religion of sacrifice and responsibility. It is the faith that makes a leader give rather than take, think and care rather than be selfish and demand luxury.
I find this time quite appropriate to tell a story, which I believe should be taken seriously by readers who have doubt about the true meaning of Islam.
Once upon a time, the second Muslim Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab, saw a light from a distance while he was walking at night, when he reached the fire he found a woman lighting fire trying to divert her children's attention from their hunger. Omar heard the children still crying with pain, because they could not find what to eat. Their old mother was sitting powerless, not knowing what to do, except to pray to God against Omar, complaining of him for not being Just. Then Omar asked her, 'How can Omar know about your conditions in such a time?' Then the woman answered wisely, 'If he doesn't know what we are going through, why then is he our Caliph?' Realizing how sinful he was, he understood what they needed. He himself went and brought a sack of flour, some water, and a container of oil, carried them on his back and refused to let anybody else carry them for him saying “Nobody will carry off my sins for me on the Day of Judgment.” He went to the old woman, lighted fire for cooking, kneaded the dough, baked the bread, and prepared food for her children. He then fed them with his own hands, and remained with them until the children ate and played joyfully and went to bed. The old woman's gratitude was such that she said to Omar, not knowing who he was: “In the morning, I will go to Omar and tell him that if Omar had forgotten us, Allah had not, but had rather sent you to help us and save the children.” Omar's response was nothing more than this: “When you go to Omar, you will find me there.”
This story shows how true Muslims and particularly Muslim leaders once were. They demonstrated the true meaning of Islam and presented the world with a glorious example of sacrifice and responsibility. This is not strange to true Muslims because love, care, responsibility, and accountability, are all Islamic teachings.
But in today's world, Muslim leaders are so distant from true Islam that they do not represent it any more. They slaughter their people for the sake of staying in power. They let their cronies humiliate, devastate, and kill citizens with the justification that the opposition wants to take over power.
Where are our leaders from true Islam? Today's Arab regimes are the ones that horrify their people rather than serve them. They torture their prisoners, humiliate and destroy those who do not agree with them and smash any opposition.
There are countless killed Muslim souls they will be accounted for on Judgment Day. Will their military power, wealth, and cronies help them then?
I just hope the world realizes that those leaders are not representatives of Islam, which is a glorious religion that needs closer inspection to know its true and fabulous meaning.