Why Islam (1) [Archives:2003/641/Culture]

June 12 2003

Nadia Al-Saqqaf
For Yemen Times

Islam is probably the religion most ignored or misunderstood by people in different parts of the world. One of the reasons may be the inactivity of Muslims at introducing Islam to other non-Muslim nations. Another reason is perhaps the psychological barrier between the West and the Muslim world created by a series of wars between the two sides. A third reason may be the intentional attempts of some anti-Islam thinkers and clergy to distort Islam or prevent the westerners from reaching the truth of Islam.
However, the truth remains that Islam was and is and will be. Islam is now the religion of more than one billion humans and it gains new followers every day, not only through the natural increase of the world population, but also through the increasing numbers of new embraces. The starting point is to know Islam. Without this knowledge, an individual's attitude is often prejudiced, pre-determined, and stereotyped. For a person to be objective, he must base his attitude on adequate knowledge.

Why Islam:
A question that is not really understood on its own. It could hold many meanings at the same time. The reason why I chose this to be the title of my series and a topic of many issues to come, God willing, is that I myself needed to know more about this religion that I embrace, and in the same time wanted to convey to the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, facts and information about this religion in a simple layman language.
But before I start about why Islam as a religion, I want in this issue to explain why a religion anyway. And from this point after we decide the need for a religion, then maybe we can see into what religion do we really need.

The need for religion
The importance of religion lies primarily in the moral and socio-moral aspect of man's existence.
We know that one of the most significant differences between man and other living beings is the moral and the socio-moral aspect of man's existence. Man is not merely a physical being. On the contrary, man has a strong moral aspect to his existence. This moral and socio-moral aspect of man's existence is the foundation on which the legal and social structures that we see in all the societies have evolved overtime. It is in fact the acceptance, appreciation and realization of mutual rights and responsibilities, which has resulted in the strong bonds of family, friendship, tribe and society.
Broadly speaking, 'religion' is generally composed of two sets of things: First, the ideas and concepts, which a particular religion wants its adherents to ascribe to. These ideas are generally termed as 'beliefs'. Second, any 'practices' – which may also include worship rituals – promoted by that religion.
It is therefore important before we accept the need for religion to accept the need for an organized system that would control and monitor the various aspects of our lives, and in the same time, would fulfill our emotional needs as humans.
It is obvious that the latter two points are beyond discussion, because any sane person would accept the need for a system to govern our lives and that is why we have legislation and governments as such and call it civilization to abide by the law. And the second point, which is the emotional need of humans, comes obviously from him, as being a moral being.
The point now, what kind of religion do we need? The Religion must address essential humanistic needs – physical needs, societal needs, emotional needs and psychological needs all in an intelligent and non biased way. For many civilizations have tried instating rules and legislation but invariably they have failed or say not reached the ultimate goals because of the human inadequacy to understand everything there is. So who should set out this system that all humanity should abide by?
Take an example first, if you should buy a complicated electronic gadget, then whom would you refer to for guidance on how to use it and what to do with it? The manufacturer of course if you can interact directly with the creator, else through a manual or instructions book.
Taking this metaphor further, it becomes obvious that a religion set by the creator of human beings is the one that ascribes best to the way of life they should follow. And this being is what in English we call God. And the holy books he sent to earth are the manuals that help in understanding the whole system.
Now the second question is who is god? Is it the nature that we see? Is it what Muslims call Allah? Is it Jesus? Is it Ram? Is it Buddha? Or any of the numerous gods we hear of? Or is there no God at all?
The answer of this question is our next topic, so be there.