Islam, Love, and Violence

Islam, Love, and Violence May 11, 2020

Makkah from the air
An aerial view of Mecca (Makka) today, with the Great Mosque (and its Ka‘ba) in the lower left   (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Here a few passages that I’ve drawn from John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (New York: Gallup Press, 2007):


I should have cited this first passage for Mother’s Day.  But here it is, now, ready for Mother’s Day 2021:


A famous hadith explains Islam’s reverence for mothers: A man asked the Prophet Muhammad who was most worthy of honor, to which the Prophet responded, “Your mother.”  The man was undoubtedly surprised at this response, considering the patriarchal nature of traditional tribal societies.  He went on to ask the Prophet again “And who next?”  The Prophet again responded, “Your mother.”  Bewildered, the man asked a third time, “And who next?”  The Prophet again responded, “Your mother.”  Finally, in response to the fourth repetition of the question, the Prophet responded, “Your father.”  (Sahih Muslim Chapter 1, Book 32)  (cited on pages 22-23, with emphasis in the original)


To this, I myself would add another famous hadith or prophetic tradition that appears in several variants in the classical collections.  The form that I quote comes from the Musnad of Ahmad b. Hanbal (AD 780-855):


Mu‘awiyah bin Jahima al-Sulami . . . came to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah ﷺ (Allah bless him and give him peace) I desire to go on the military expedition and I have come to consult you.’ He (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked, ‘Do you have a mother?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ He (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘Stay with her because paradise lies beneath her feet.’


But back, now, to Esposito and Mogahed:


[M]ost respondents in the 2005-2007 survey of countries that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations say they “have a lot of love in their life” (95% of Egyptians and 92% of Saudis, for example).  (22)


I’m not sure, though, that “love” is the first thing that comes to mind when many contemporary Westerners think of Islam and Muslims.  This passage, too, is somewhat out of date, but I doubt that the results would be any better today:


A Washington Post/ABC News poll in 2006 found that nearly half of Americans — 46% — have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than observed a few months after Sept. 11, 2001.  According to the poll, the proportion of Americans who believe that Islam helps stoke violence against non-Muslims has more than doubled since the 9/11 attacks, from 14% in January 2002 to 33%.  Similarly, a Pew Research Center survey found that about a third of Americans (36%) say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its followers.  (46)



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