Islam, Islamic Studies and Religious Studies
By: Dr Ashraf Amin
Islam is one of the major world religions in terms of number only next to Christianity. In fact, there is an increasing interest in Islam shown by the people of other faiths. Though the reasons could vary, but the powerful, practical yet simple message of Islam for the humanity stands distinct. Islam is neither absorption into the world nor escapism from the harsh realities of life. Whilst Muslim scholars have penned down massive volumes on Islam, It’s meaning, message, doctrines, and practices, people belonging to other religions also demonstrated tremendous interest and keenness in Islam. There are countless books written on Prophet Muhammad (SAW) by non-Muslim scholars of mixed flavor; few acknowledging the greatness of Muhammad (SAW), and few attempting to portray him in a poor light.
However with increasing pace of globalization, certain negative perspectives on out Islam are replaced by positive remarks and opinions. There are now some sane voices who are attempting to borrow good from Islam by throwing off the biased lenses. It is now coming to the realization of serious and sincere minds that Islam could do better to the cause of world affairs when acknowledged by heart than disdained with bias, disgust and hatred. The studies on Islam that were hitherto focused, engineered to malign the image of Islam, and cast doubts on the authenticity and historicity of Qur’an, are now being replaced slowly but steadily through the positive images of Islam, Qur’an and Muslims.
The common crises of humanity in the form of climate change, environmental degradation, nuclear wars, drug abuse, high rates of anxiety, depression and other mental ailments, caste, color, and race discriminations, broken families, displaced citizens, etc. are searching for holistic efforts and measures. And Islam would be in no less degree a great helper in curing humanity from such menaces and catastrophes. The religious violence for which Islam is blamed the most is a dire misgiving at Islam and It’s followers! Qur’an is the only religious scripture that talks so much about other religions and faiths. It is the best ever book on comparative religions. It acknowledges the freedom of choice of beliefs, though it does not desist from spotting errors, falsity, derailments and deviations in the beliefs of men, and other faiths. Qur’an teaches us to see good in other faiths and at the same time instructs us to lay a graceful critique on the errors and pitfalls in the beliefs and practices of other religions. Islam never sanctions compulsion and force to win over majority; it on the other hand seeks self-conviction from the believer.
The time is ripe when Islam and Islamic studies must be invoked for making world a better place to live in. The bias often robs one off from the benefits that he could reap from certain faiths and philosophies! Islamic teachings and beliefs if analyzed with sincerity and acumen would never disappoint humanity! Qur’an and Sunnah are open for the collaboration with the humanity in rising above the prejudices and disparities on the basis of ethnicity and race.