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Common ground between the West and Islam

Published: 21/08/2011 02:15:00 PM GMT
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Finding a common ground between Westerners and Islam should not be a difficult thing. If the search for a common ground is based only in religious concepts of the great monotheistic religions, Islam and the West have much in common.

In fact, Islam also shares a great many things with eastern Buddhism and zen. In reality however, the modern world has not seen these religions and cultures cooperate as much as they should and, due to increasing misconceptions on both sides, there is an ever increasing rift between Islam and the West.

Historically, Islam has coexisted for centuries with Western culture and religions, many times due to the common ground between them. Even in the Qur'an people of the Jewish and Christian faiths are referred to as brothers to Muslims and the God worshiped by the Muslims is the same as the one God that is worshiped by the major monotheistic faiths of the modern world. No better example in history exists of Islam and the West peacefully coexisting than the example of Moorish Spain. The portion of Spain that was conquered by the Muslims existed for approximately 750 years. In this region  Christians and Jews thrived under a Muslim government and it was a golden age of inter-faith dialog and philosophy. It was only until 1492, when Christians recovered the Iberian peninsula, that the Inquisition deported all Jews and Muslims not willing to convert to Christianity, killing and torturing many of them in the process.

While there are many fundamental differences between Islam and Western culture, there is no doubt that many of the ideals expressed in the Qur'an correspond to those of the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the Gospels. Islam emphasizes the necessity of faith in the one true God and defines the path towards salvation and to the Paradise in the afterlife as a path that must have faith overall as a prerequisite. Doing good deeds and following the Prophet Muhammad's example is a way for Muslims to find this path and apply Islamic law and the teachings of the Qur'an to their daily lives.

Islam also mentions numerous times the concept of love. Not only love for one's neighbor and one's enemy, but also the love that God has for humanity. The Qur'an and the Old Testament contain many of the same stories and allegories in reference to the Prophets. It also shares much of the lore of the life of Jesus Christ, although in Islam he is considered one of the prophets of God, like Moses or Abraham. Muslims consider Christians and Jews as “brothers of the book”, in the sense that they all follow the one true God and have a common ancestor in the prophet Abraham. Muslims consider the Arab people as descended from Abraham's son Ishmael. Muslims believe that Christians and Jews are descendants of the brother of Ishmael, Isaac.

There can be no doubt that there is common ground on which Muslims and Western culture can build and strengthen a relationship. The proof is in the millions of Muslims that live among Western society, going about their lives and nurturing their families every day while at the same time maintaining their Muslim identity and their connection to their traditions and roots. This is the example that Muslim society should follow if it seeks to recover from the damage to the Islamic image that has come from the actions of extremists and violent radicals. It is also important for the West to hasten to repair the damages and attacks that have been perpetrated on Muslims since the middle of the twentieth century. Finding a way to bring justice to the Palestinian people and finally resolve the longest-running conflict in the Middle East would do more to stop the violent actions of extremists that have perverted the Muslim faith for their own gains, than any number of wars and invasions.

In practice, pious Muslims and pious Christians live their lives in much the same way. In their devotion to God as well as their love for their fellow man, it would be practically impossible to find great differences between the attitudes and daily actions of either one. In the end, the greatest common ground between all religions is that they are a way for man to find a purpose to life. A path that will allow one to resolve the eternal question of “why are we here?” and “what comes after we die?”. All religions, and Islam is no exception, are benevolent in that they try to find ways to protect the meek and disadvantaged while at the same time enabling man to get along with his fellow man. A true reading of the Qur'an, disallowing many barbarian customs and traditions that are not Islamic and have perverted its practice, will surely enable Muslims to coexist peacefully with the rest of the world.

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