For half a century after the first verse was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace), Islam underwent such an expansion as has seldom been seen. It spread from the Arabian Peninsula to the whole of the Middle East, North Africa and even Spain, drawing the attention of many in the West. In the words of the famous Islamic expert John L. Esposito, "What is most striking about the early expansion of Islam is its rapidity and success. Western scholars have marveled at it." (John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford : Oxford University, England, 1991, p. 33) Over the next centuries, Islam reached all corners of the world, from Indonesia to Latin America. Today, Islam is accepted as the fastest growing religion, and its roughly one billion followers represent about one-fifth of the world's population. Interest in Islam particularly increased after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (For more details, see The Rise of Islam by Harun Yahya).

Looking at today's Islamic world today, we see a wide range of religious practices, depending on societies' different customs and traditions, their cultural heritage, and world views. This has led some individuals researching or trying to understand Islam to form mistaken impressions. Those differences may symbolize only the traditional values of the society under examination, but Islam itself. The only way of arriving at an accurate opinion of Islam is to put aside these differences and turn to the Qur'an, where the essence of Islamic morality is set out, and to the actions of our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace).

Even if Muslims comprise the majority in a community, that does not mean that community's behavior, views and judgments will necessarily be Islamic, nor that they need be defended in the name of Islam. When evaluating an individual's—or community's—view of Islam, that must always be borne in mind. Differences may stem from prevailing conditions. The only way to ascertain whether those views are correct is by turning to the Qur'an, the most accurate source of truth about Islam, and to the actions of our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace).

It is most unfair to pass judgment on Islam and Muslims without studying the Qur'an to learn whether a particular practice appears in it. Examining the lifestyle of a single community only can seriously mislead anyone who tries to understand Islam and form opinions about it. First, what needs to be done is to learn about Islam from its true source. Then, once the various models in different parts of the world are considered in the light of those criteria, many who only imagined they knew about Islam will actually come to do so for the first time; and can free themselves from the errors they have been laboring under so far.

ARTICLE 7.1: True Islam

 


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