Islam literally means "surrender" Islam is the religion of contentment, secrity, and peace. These principles are so commonplace in the lives of Muslims that when they once start to perform the prayer they cut off all ties with the world, bow and prostrate before God and then stand with their hands clasped in respect. When they leave the prayer, it is as if they have started a new life. They end the prayer by greeting those to their left and right and wishing them health, security and peace, then go and join other people.
Greeting others and wishing them peace are considered to be among the most auspicious acts that can be performed in Islam. Indeed, when Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was asked, "What is the most auspicious act in Islam?" he replied, "Giving food to others and greeting all those you know and do not know."
Accusations of Terrorism
It is a great shame that Islam, which is based on those tenets, is seen by others to be equaled with terrorism. This is an enormous historical mistake; as we pointed out above, if a system based on peace and security becomes associated with terrorism, this only shows that the people making the accusations know nothing of the spirit of Islam and are unable to grasp it in their own souls. One should seek Islam through its own sources and in its own true representatives throughout history; not through the actions of a tiny minority that misrepresent it. The truth is that there is no harshness or bigotry in Islam. It is a religion made up entirely of forgiveness and tolerance. Such pillars of love and tolerance like Rumi, Yunus Emre, Ahmed Yesevi, Bediüzzaman and similar figures have expressed this aspect of Islam most beautifully and they have gone down in history as examples of this affection and tolerance.
Jihad in Islam
Jihad is an element of Islam which is primarily defined as the inner struggle of a believer against all that stands between the believer and God. An aspect of jihad, on the other hand, is based on certain specific principles aimed at removing all the obstacles to the defense and exaltation of the name of God. We can cite numerous examples throughout history in connection with this topic. There will always be battles; this is an inescapable reality of human life. However, the verses in the Qur'an that specify conditions for jihad have been misinterpreted by others and taken as the fundamental aim of Islam. In essence, these people, who have failed to grasp the true spirit of Islam, have been unable to strike a balance between the broad and finer points and this, when coupled with the fact that they have been consumed with hatred, has led them to misinterpret Islam. The heart of a genuine Muslim community is full of love and affection for all of creation.
Love Binds Existence
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was a man of affection. He was also known as "Habibullah," which comes from the word "habib," meaning "he who loves God and is loved by God." Mystics such as Imam Rabbani, Mawlana Khalid, and Shah Waliyullah say that the highest degree is that of love.
God created the whole of creation out of love and Islam has embroidered the delicate lacework of this love. In the words of another great mystic, love is the raison d'être for the existence of creation. Of course, in spite of all this, we cannot deny that there is an element of violence in Islam; it is there in the name of deterrence. However, some people take these elements, which should be secondary, and consider them to be the fundamentals of Islam, whereas true Islam appeals to peace. Once a friend of mine who shared these sentiments told me, "You speak with everybody without imposing any restrictions. This in turn breaks the metaphysical tension we have, whereas we have been taught that according to Islam we should show our hostility to certain people in the name of God." Actually, this thought stems from an incorrect interpretation of this idea. In Islam, everything that is created is to be loved in the name of God. What is to be hated and what we must be hostile to are impure and immoral thoughts, feelings, and blasphemy. God intended humans as kind creatures (Al-Isra 17:70) and one can say that everyone is blessed with that quality to varying degrees. The Prophet of God was passing a Jewish funeral and he stopped to pay his respects. When reminded that the man being buried was a Jew, he replied, "He is still a human." He demonstrated the value that Islam gives to humanity.
Yes, this was the measure of our Prophet's respect for people. The reasons why certain Muslim people or institutions that misunderstand Islam are becoming involved in terrorist attacks throughout the world should be sought not in Islam, but within the people themselves, in their misinterpretations and in other factors. Just as Islam is not a religion of terrorism, any Muslim who correctly understands Islam cannot be or become a terrorist.
Even though there are naturally exceptions, the interpretations of Islam by Turkish scholars are tolerant. If we can spread the understanding of Islam held by the pillars of affection like Rumi and Yunus Emre throughout the world, and if we can get their message of love, dialogue and tolerance to those people who are thirsting for this message, then people from all over the world will come running into the arms of this love, peace, and tolerance that we represent.
The tolerance of Islam is so vast that the Prophet specifically forbade people to even say things that could be offensive. Despite all the selfsacrificing efforts by Muhammad, Abu Jahl failed to become a Muslim and died outside the religion. By the way, the name Jahl means ignorant. This ignorant and coarse man spent all his life as the enemy of the Prophet, and now, sadly, his nickname has become the second nature of today's Muslims. Shortly after the conquest of Makka Abu Jahl's Muslim son, Ikrima, started speaking in council against his father and was reprimanded by the Prophet for doing so.
Respect for Humankind
Another hadith explains why we should not be intolerant to others. The Prophet warned his Companions not to curse their own parents. His Companions curiously asked why one would curse one's parents. The prophet replied that if one curses the parent of another person, then the other person will retaliate; thus in effect one is cursing one's own parent.
While the Prophet always showed respect for others, the fact that today people are saying that Islam is offensive to others means that they have not properly understood the Prophet. There is no room for hate or hostility in either Islam or in the universal realm of its envoy Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
Servants of God
The Qur'an is based throughout on forgiveness and tolerance.
Those who spent benevolently in ease and straightness, and those who restrain their anger (swallowing their anger as if swallowing a thorn) and pardon men; and God loves those who do good to others. (Al-Imran 3:134)
It would be worthwhile to look at this in detail. You may encounter an incident that makes your blood boil; for example, people might curse and insult you. But, you should try your utmost to behave indifferently and without reacting. The Qur'an describes in the verse above how people of good morals should behave even at times when you may want to lose your temper. The Arabic words from this passage have much meaning. "Kazm" means swallowing what cannot be swallowed; while Kazim means someone who swallows his anger. In another passage, God tells believers to avoid vanity:
And they who do not bear witness to what is false, and when they meet hollow words or unseemly behavior, they pass them by with dignity. (Al-Furqan 25:72)
An Islamic Style
The Prophet practiced everything that is taught in the Qur'an. For example, someone came and admitted to committing adultery, asking to be cleansed of his sins, whatever the punishment may be; the Prophet told him, "Go home, and repent. There is no sin God will not forgive." Another hadith tells how a person accused another of stealing. Just when the penalty was about to be read, the man turned and forgave the thief, to which the Prophet said, "Why didn't you forgive him in the first place?"
So, when all of these examples are looked at in detail, it can be seen that the style adopted by those who treat others with hatred and hostility is not in keeping with Islam. As indicated above, Islam is a religion of love and tolerance. Muslims are the devotees of love and affection, people who shun all acts of terrorism and who have purged their bodies of all manner of hate and hostility.
This article originally appeared in Turkish Daily News, September 19, 2001.
 Muslim, Hudud, 17, 23; Bukhari, Hudud, 28.
 Abu Dawud, Hudud, 14(4394); Nasai, Sarik, 4 (8, 68); Muwatta, Hudud, 28, (2, 834).