Monday,25 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1212, (4 -10 September 2014)
Monday,25 March, 2019
Issue 1212, (4 -10 September 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Once upon a time - Credible creeds

In Halawat Al-Iman, or The Sweet Taste of Faith (Dar Al-Ketab Al-Arabi, 1967), Azharite scholar Mohamed Alameddin discusses various questions of faith.

Alameddin’s arguments shed light on the controversy surrounding the fanatical practices of jihadists in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and other parts of this region.

A true believer, Alameddin says, would never call another person an infidel, for the mercy of God is not confined to the faithful and the virtuous. Sinners too have their claim on God’s love, and this is religion’s appeal. A religion that is devoid of love for those who dwell outside its confines is one that is stripped of its humanity.

The image of Islam that misguided fanatics in our midst keep propagating is, for Alameddin, absurd. His definition of true faith is rooted in kindness and coexistence.

Alameddin argues that all true religions call for love and compassion, prudence and understanding. For people to accept your faith, they need to see you as a sensible person, accommodating and generous — not someone brandishing a sword in their face or threatening them with fire and brimstone.

If our differences are confined to the afterlife, then we can leave that alone and treat each other with kindness in this life, he says.
According to Alameddin, the basic message of Islam is equality among all people.

He writes: “Islam is not a religion confined to one clan or race, but one that embraces all people wherever they are. All Muslims have equal rights before God, and equal opportunities to. For status in Islam is not about high birth or wealth, but about piety. Muslims should eat from the food of the people of the book (Jews and Christians) and should accept their gifts, for this is the way to spread the word for love and peace.”

Islam divides people into two sections: Muslims and non-Muslims. It tells the Muslims to offer peace to all who differ from them in faith. Only when they are met with hostility should the Muslims fight back, he says.

Muslims have always coexisted with non-Muslims, without impinging on the latter’s right to practice their own faith. This is the rule that allowed them to live in peace and exchange acts of kindness with neighbours and friends.

In his book, Alameddin quotes the remarks made by the late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, when he placed the cornerstone of the new Abbasiya Cathedral in 1965.

Speaking in the presence of Pope Kyrillos VI, Abdel-Nasser said, “We believe that the only way to protect our national unity is through equality and equal opportunity. There is no difference between one citizen and another. In our schools and universities, enrolment is by grades and not by family connections, and there is no distinction between Muslim and Christian. If you get the grades, you get in.

“This is the law of justice and equality. I, the president of the republic, am responsible for everyone in this country regardless of his creed and clan. We are all responsible for all before God.”

The Muslims may try to spread the word of God as they understand it, but they cannot coerce others into following their ways.

“You have your faith and I have mine,” as the Koran says.

Far from being a religion that needs to expand by the sword, Islam detests coercion in matters of faith. It is a religion that believes in freedom, knowledge, and equality.

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