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Islam: A Balancing Act
Islam is a very large religion, accounting for one-fifth of the world’s population. In any large religious community, there are many different variations and sects and this is true of Islam. But unlike what is usually common, there is also an underlying unity that flows through the entire Muslim community. Muslims show this on a personal, one-on-one level, but also even at the global level, when Muslim countries help other Muslim countries. And as a whole, the tradition of Islam balances its large diversity through the concept of the tawhid and the Five Pillars. Islam, since it is a missionary religion, has changed and adapted everywhere it has gone, creating many diverse variations around the world. Islam began in Saudi Arabia, but over the centuries it has migrated around the world to Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Each geographical area has its own unique way of practicing Islam. In places like Iran and Nigeria, Shariah law is followed. This is the exact law as it is written in the Quran and mainly emphasizes the “eye for an eye” and “ear for an ear” principle. Although punishments aren’t always enforced, they give people great incentive not to commit crimes, thereby lowering the chaos in the country (Muslims). On the other side of the spectrum, in places like the United States, the main goal is trying to fit in and find a place for Muslims in a country that discriminates so much against them. Many times, Muslims are asked to truly put to test their values of peace, acceptance, and compassion by putting aside their differences and educating and relating with other religions such as Christianity. Even though they may be discriminated against, even to the point of life threatening danger, Muslims are asked to be loving to those who do such things to them and to emulate said characteristics by not retaliating. In places such as Turkey, Islam is being squashed by the government because of a desire to modernize and urbanize to keep up with the rest of the world. Here, Muslims many times protest and rebel, but once again, their values of peace and acceptance are put to test. In Turkey when the hijab was banned, many Muslims went out of their way to protest this injustice, but a few extremists went too far, terrorizing the country for not being Muslim (Muslims). These few persons had forgotten their true morals and what it means to be Muslim. They had forgotten the importance of diversity in Islam and how it can actually serve to unite all Muslims.

One major idea in Islam, called tawhid, is one of the most important ways that the tradition stays unified. Tawhid can be translated as “the Divine Unity”, which is a single religion that’s message comes straight from God (Nasr 3). In essence it’s Islam and persons that are followers of tawhid are members of the ulama or the community of believers. One of the most important principles of Islam is to believe and act upon this unity. To do so, one must follow jihad, which is thought of as a battle between good and evil, between angels and devils, between man and his personal wrongful desires. Choosing the side of good and following the path of Islam is essentially jihad. Part of this means taking care of and defending any person in the ulama who is impoverished or being attacked. But jihad is commonly mistaken as terrorist activity by Westerners. This is because a few radicals have seen the oppression of their fellow Muslims and felt it was their need to protect any part of the ulama that was being treated in such a manner. This was not how jihad was intended to be justified, but to some radicals, having a member of the ulama attacked is like having a member of your family attacked; that’s how closely knit and unified their community is. Another way Islam focuses on unity is by following the Five Pillars. These are: 1) shahadah or “bearing witness,” 2) salah or “daily prayer,” 3) zakah or “almsgiving,” 4) sawm or...
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