Spreading the message of Islam in India

Updated 30 December 2012

Spreading the message of Islam in India

India is the largest Muslim country in the world with more than 200 million followers of Islamic faith. Muslims in general and Islamic propagators in particular face a lot of challenges because of the lingering wounds created by the partition of the Indian subcontinent, misunderstandings about Islam and lack of efforts to reach out to the country’s huge non-Muslim population.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, a leading Islamic movement in India has been trying its best to fill this gap and remove the misunderstandings of Hindus, Christians and other non-Muslims in the country by publishing Qur’an translations and Islamic books in different Indian languages, conducting friendly dialogues with people of other faiths and implementing welfare programs for the benefit of all people.
Sheikh Muhammad Karakkunnu, vice president of Jamaat in the south Indian state of Kerala, has been in the forefront of this noble endeavor. Author of more than 70 books in Malayalam, some of which have been translated into English, he has been actively involved in the campaign to spread the message of Islam in the state by establishing good contacts with non-Muslim politicians, intellectuals, academics and religious and youth leaders, giving public lectures and organizing dialogue forums and table talks.
He believes that Indian Muslims should represent Islam through their lives, rather than talk. “Our welfare programs should be designed to benefit all people in the country, not only the Muslim community,” he said, citing examples from Islamic history. When Caliph Omar came to know that the son of then Egyptian Governor Amr bin Aas had done injustice to a Coptic Christian, he ordered Amr and his son to come to Madinah, and asked the Copt to lash the governor’s son. Once the Caliph saw an elderly and poor Jew sitting along the street and he immediately instructed treasury officials to provide that man with necessary assistance.
“If we can make India’s non-Muslims enjoy the benefits of Islam through our lives and services it would be the best way to propagate Islam in the country,” said Muhammad. “Non-Muslims are not looking at how we pray and do our religious rituals. They are watching how we engage in public life and we should represent Islam properly while dealing with others, inspired by the teachings of Islam and the Prophet.”
Muslims in India and elsewhere in the world are facing an image problem as most of them are educationally and economically backward, giving the impression that Islam is the religion of a backward community.
“Actually, Muslims are destined by God to be the best among nations. Our Prophets had hailed from reputable families. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), for example, was from Quraish while Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was brought up in the palace of Pharaoh. The most saddening fact is that Muslims are backward not only in education and economy but also in moral and spiritual areas,” Muhammad said.
Although Kerala is known as God’s own country famous for its communal harmony, the Jamaat leader expressed his fears about the growing communal polarization in the state that boasts of cent percent literacy rate. The general public in Kerala has been brainwashed to have an anti Muslim mindset and the media has played a big role in creating such an unhealthy atmosphere. As a result, most Keralites are not ready to stand up against the injustice being committed against Abdunnaser Maadani, chairman of People’s Democratic Party, who has been jailed in Bangalore for more than two years as a remand prisoner without any charges.
“The media exaggerates a small mistake committed by Muslims and ignores big crimes committed by Hindus,” he said citing various examples including the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Gujarat and arrests of Muslim youths without any genuine reasons. Jamaat has been supporting victims of natural and man-made calamities across the country.
“For Endosulfan victims we gave Rs 10 million and for people hit by the Tsunami more than Rs 20 million. The beneficiaries of our relief activities included people from all faiths. We have also constructed more than 1,000 housing units for the poor across the state. Non-Muslim social activists have praised Jamaat’s relief and welfare programs for the poor and needy, inspired by the humane teachings of the Prophet.
Misunderstanding of Islam and Muslims is a major problem facing Islamic propagators. According to Muhammad, even non-Muslim teachers, politicians and intellectuals do not know the basic teachings of Islam. One Hindu teacher had thought Muslims exchanged the greetings of “Assalamu Alaikum” to insist that Islam is the only religion and it reflected Muslims’ intolerance. Some Hindu religious leaders think that Muslims consider Prophet Muhammad as their god.
“We cannot accuse non-Muslims alone for these misunderstandings because they did not get a chance to learn about Islam. Until 1960 there was no translation of the Qur’an in Malayalam. “The most important thing the Jamaat did in the country was the publication of Qur’an translation in all Indian languages including the national language of Hindi,” Muhammad said. Jamaat began its activities in Kerala in 1945 by establishing the Islamic Publishing House, which has to its credit more than 600 Islamic books.
“When Jamaat published Prabodhanam, it was the only Islamic weekly in Malayalam at that time. It gave an opportunity for non-Muslims to understand Islam. We attended non-Muslim celebrations of like Onam and we invited them to our special occasions like Eid. This way we were able to change the impression that Muslims are a closed society. In 1969 Jamaat held a big state conference in Malappuram where Hindu and Christian leaders were invited to address the gathering for the first time in the history of an Islamic organization.” He described the funeral of Kamala Suraya, the famous novelist and story writer who had embraced Islam, at Palayam Mosque in Thiruvananthapuram as historic. The mosque authorities allowed Suraya’s Hindu sons and relatives as well as Hindu and Christian politicians and religious leaders to join the funeral prayer. “When Muslim League leader Panakkad Muhammad Ali Shihab Thangal died, Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, who is a Christian, and several non-Muslim leaders took part in the funeral prayer,” he pointed out. The Jamaat leader also spoke about his organization’s efforts to enlighten the Muslim community about Islam and protect them from superstitious beliefs and un-Islamic ideologies like Communism. “When some Muslim youngsters drifted to extremism, we tried to convince them about the danger of following such a destructive path. Instead of isolating them from the community we tried to dialogue with them to change their attitude.”
According to Muhammad, Jamaat-e-Islami has played an important role in the empowerment of Muslim women, the main victims of the community’s backwardness. “We published the first Muslim women’s magazine in Malayalam, which is now run by a group of women. Women leaders were allowed to address our state conference in 1969. Our women’s wing organized a big state conference in Kuttippuram attended by more than 100,000 women,” he added.
Jamaat also tried its best to promote an Islamic culture in society. There are now thousands of young Muslim men and women in the state who are proud of upholding the values of Islam. Muslim girls at colleges and universities wear the Islamic dress. Jamaat also succeeded in providing Islamic and material knowledge through its educational institutions. “We also engage in politics to establish social justice and promote moral values,” he added.
The Jamaat leader spoke highly about the Arab Spring, saying it was instrumental in changing many wrong perceptions about Islam and Muslims. It changed the view that Islamic organizations are against democracy and women’s rights. “Out of 91 candidates of the Islamic organizations in Tunisia, 42 were women while 42 of 49 women in the country’s Parliament were from Islamic groups. It encouraged Muslim youths to use modern social media to demand their rights and change governments. They are using this media to spread the message of Islam. Speaking about the opposition against Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi, he said there is nothing unusual. “People are allowed to express their views in a democratic setup. What happens in the Indian Parliament is sometimes worse than what is happening now in Egypt. Arab countries do not know such things because they were not having democracy,” he said.

Gospels lead us to the Qur’an

Updated 23 September 2016

Gospels lead us to the Qur’an

Brandon Yusuf Toropov gives a vivid account of his personal quest to study the most authentic verses of the Bible — the Q verses — and his coming into the fold of Islam. Thhis is the concluding part of his story.

I WAS interested in the research being done that indicated that the oldest strata of the Gospels reflected an extremely early oral source known as Q (the Q source: Q from German, Quelle, meaning ‘source,’ is a hypothetical written collection of Jesus’s sayings) and that each of the individual sayings of Jesus (may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him) needed to be evaluated on its own merits, and not as part of the narrative material that surrounded it. This is because that narrative material was added many years later.

Wresting with the doctrine of the Trinity: The more I looked at these sayings, the more impossible it became for me to reconcile the notion of the Trinity with that which seemed most authentic to me in the Gospels. I found myself face-to-face with some very difficult questions. Where in the Gospels did Jesus use the word “Trinity”? If Jesus was God, as the doctrine of the Trinity claims, why did he worship God? And, if Jesus was God, why in the world would he say something like the following? “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark, 10:18) Did he somehow forget that he himself was God when he said this?

The Holy Qur’an: In November of 2002, I began to read a translation of the Qur’an. I had never read an English translation of the entire text of the Qur’an before. I had only read summaries of the Qur’an written by non-Muslims. (And very misleading summaries at that.)
Words do not adequately describe the extraordinary effect that this book had on me. Suffice to say that the very same magnetism that had drawn me to the Gospels at the age of 11 was present in a new and deeply imperative form. This book was telling me, just as I could tell Jesus had been telling me, about matters of ultimate concern. The Qur’an was offering authoritative guidance and compelling responses to the questions I had been asking for years about the Gospels.
“It is not (possible) for any human being to whom God has given the Book and wisdom and prophethood to say to the people: ‘Be my worshippers rather than God’s.’ On the contrary, (he would say): ‘Be devoted worshippers of your Lord, because you are teaching the Book and you are studying it.’ Nor would he order you to take angels and prophets for lords. Would he order you to disbelieve after you have submitted to God’s will?” (Qur’an, 3:79-80)
The Qur’an drew me to its message because it so powerfully confirmed the sayings of Jesus that I felt in my heart had to be authentic. Below, you will find just a few examples of the parallels that made my heart pliant to the worship of God. Each Gospel verse comes from the reconstructed text known as Q, a text that today’s scholars believe represents the earliest surviving strata of the teachings of the Messiah. Note how close this material is to the Qur’anic message.

On monotheism: In Q, Jesus endorses a rigorous monotheism. “Get thee behind me, Satan: For it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.’” (Luke, 4:8) Compare: “Children of Adam, did We not command you not to worship Satan? He was your sworn enemy. Did We not command you to worship Me and tell you that this is the straight path?” (Qur’an, 36:60-61)

On Aqaba: Q identifies a right path that is often difficult, a path that unbelievers will choose not to follow. “Enter ye in through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there are who go in there. Narrow is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew, 7:13-14) Compare: “The worldly life is made to seem attractive to the disbelievers who scoff at the faithful, but the pious, in the life Hereafter, will have a position far above them…” (Qur’an, 2:212)

On Taqwa: Q warns us to fear only the judgment of God. “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear. Fear Him, which after He hath killed, hath the power to cast into Hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear Him!” (Luke, 12:4-5) Compare: “To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. God’s retribution is severe. Should you then have fear of anyone other than God?” (Qur’an, 16:52)

Earthly life: In Q, Jesus warns humanity plainly that earthly advantages and pleasures should not be the goal of our lives: “Woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation. Woe unto you who are full! You shall be hungry. Woe unto you who laugh now! You shall weep and mourn.” (Luke, 6:24) Compare: “The desire to have increase of worldly gains has preoccupied you so much (that you have neglected the obligation of remembering God) – until you come to your graves! You shall know. You shall certainly know (about the consequences of your deeds.) You will certainly have the knowledge of your deeds beyond all doubt. You will be shown hell, and you will see it with your own eyes. Then, on that day, you shall be questioned about the bounties (of God).” (Qur’an, 102:1-8)

Crucifixion: We are left then with an amazing early Gospel, a Gospel that (non-Muslim) scholars believe is historically closest to Jesus, a Gospel that has the following characteristics: Agreement with the Qur’an’s uncompromising message of God’s Oneness; agreement with the Qur’an’s message of an afterlife of salvation or hellfire ... based on our earthly deeds; agreement with the Qur’an’s warning not to be misled by dunya, the attractions and pleasures of worldly life. A complete absence of any reference to Christ’s death on the cross, resurrection, or sacrifice for humanity! This is the Gospel that today’s most advanced non-Muslim scholars have identified for us ... and this Gospel is pointing us, if only we will listen to it, in precisely the same direction as the Qur’an! I became a Muslim on March 20, 2003. It became obvious to me that I had to share this message with as many thoughtful Christians as I could.