by Yusuf Islam (formerly the singer Cat Stevens)
Published on Monday, September 24, 2001 by Al-Hewar Magazine.
since the horrific terrorist attacks on America has pointed the finger at
Muslims and the Arab world, and that has meant ordinary citizens of the US
and other Western countries becoming easy prey for anti-faith hooligans.
Shame. Sadly, the latest horror to hit the US looks to have been caused by
people of Middle Eastern origin, bearing Muslim names. Again, shame. This
fuels more hatred for a religion and a people who have nothing to do with
these events. This is why I want to explain some basic facts about this
noble way we call Islam, before, God forbid, another disaster occurs - next
time probably aimed at Muslims.
I came to Islam in my late 20s, during my searching period as a wandering
pop star. I found a religion that blended scientific reason with spiritual
reality in a unifying faith far removed from the headlines of violence,
destruction and terrorism. One of the first interesting things I learned in
the Koran was that the name of the faith comes from the word salam - peace.
Far from the kind of Turko-Arab-centric message I expected, the Koran
presented a belief in the universal existence of God, one God for all. It
does not discriminate against peoples; it says we may be different colors
and from different tribes, but we are all human and "the best of people are
the most God- conscious".
Today, as a Muslim, I have been shattered by the horror of recent events;
the display of death and indiscriminate killing we've all witnessed has
dented humanity's confidence in itself. Terror on this scale affects
everybody on this small planet, and no one is free from the fallout. Yet we
should remember that such violence is almost an everyday occurrence in some
Muslim lands: it should not be exacerbated by revenge attacks on more
innocent families and communities.
Along with most Muslims, I feel it a duty to make clear that such
orchestrated acts of incomprehensible carnage have nothing to do with the
beliefs of most Muslims. The Koran specifically declares: "If anyone murders
an (innocent) person, it will be as if he has murdered the whole of
humanity. And if anyone saves a person it will be as if he has saved the
whole of humanity."
The Koran that our young people learn is full of stories and lessons from
the history of humanity as a whole. The Gospels and the Torah are referred
to; Jesus and Abraham are mentioned. In fact there is more mention in the
Koran of the prophet Moses than of any other. It acknowledges the
coexistence of other faiths, and in doing so acknowledges that other
cultures can live together in peace.
"There is no compulsion in religion," it states, meaning that people
should not be compelled to change their faith. Elsewhere it states, "To you,
your religion; to me mine." Respect for religious values and justice is at
the Koran's core. The Koranic history we teach our young provides ample
examples of inter-religious and international relationships; of how to live
together. But some extremists take elements of the sacred scriptures out of
context. They act as individuals, and when they can't come together as part
of a political structure or consultative process, you find these dissident
factions creating their own rules, contrary to the spirit of the Koran -
which demands that those recognized as being in charge of Muslims must
consult together regarding society's affairs.
There is a whole chapter in the Koran entitled Consultation. Communal
well being is central to human life, so there is a concept in Islam called
Istihsan, which means "to look for the common good". Even though the Koran
may lay down a diktat, scholars are also supposed to consider the
circumstances prevalent at the time. Sometimes that means choosing the
lesser of two evils or even suspending legislation if necessary: for
instance, a person who steals bread during a famine is not treated as a
Once I wrote in a song, "Where
do the children play?" Our sympathy and thoughts go out to the families
of all those who lost their lives in this tragic act of violence, as well as
all those injured. But life must go on. Children still need to play, and
people need to live and learn more about their neighbors so that ignorance
doesn't breed more blind fanaticism. Moderation is part of faith, so those
who accuse Muslim schools of fostering fanaticism should learn a bit more
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Ruined are those who insist on
hardship in faith," and, "A believer remains within the scope of his
religion as long as he doesn't kill another person illegally." Such
knowledge and words of guidance are desperately needed at this time, to
separate fact from falsehood, and to recognise the Last Prophet's own
definition of that which makes a person representative, or otherwise, of the
faith he lived and the one we try to teach