The line between fundamentalism and extremism

Today, Islam is the most talked about religion in the world and rightfully so. The countless killings and other criminal movements done in the name of Islam have unfortunately, caused the world to place the religion under a microscope. While different people scrutinize and draw different conclusions regarding Islam, it is important that certain misconceptions are cleared. Like any other religion, there are different people who have their various interpretations and understanding of the teachings.
Currently, there are different groups and sects within the Islamic faith, each with a different approach to worship. However I would not delve into all that. We will look at two broad terms; Fundamental Muslim versus Extremist.
Extremist: One of the key features of an extremist is intolerance of other people or other practices different from his ways. Unfortunately, the minute percentage of extremist Muslims today are making the media big time, and have caused all Muslims to be labelled the same. Extremism is not a teaching of the Islamic faith. In fact, the Holy Quran says in Chapter 18:19- “The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve.”
Again the Quran says in chapter 2:256- “Let there be no compulsion in (the acceptance of) religion.”
Yet again in Chapter 5:5- “Today, all good things have been made lawful to you. The food of the People of the Book (Christians) is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them. The chaste believing women and the chaste women of the people who were given the Book before you, are lawful to you, provided that you give them their dowers, and marry them, neither committing fornication nor taking them as mistresses. The deeds of anyone who rejects the faith will come to nothing, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.”
And in Chapter 4:90- “So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them.”
Sadly, a lot of false accounts are widespread over the internet concerning the life and practices of the noble Prophet (pbuh). These malicious stories depicting that the Prophet forced people to accept Islam or was somewhat involved in any form of unnecessary violence have misled lots of people. He (pbuh) was indeed a man of great mercy and had great love for mankind. The Holy Quran says to Muhammed (SAW): “And we have sent you but as a mercy to mankind”.
Why else would he (pbuh) have asked Allah not to destroy the people of Ta’if when they stoned him for preaching the word of God and the angel Gibril appeared to him and asked if he should crush them for their sinful act? Why else was he so concerned about the health of the woman who used to dump trash on his door every morning because she hated him? Why else would he spend so many nights weeping to Allah to save his Ummah?
Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) never killed out of spite or revenge or to force anyone to accept Islam. History may be corrupted, but only the sincere will bother to put the stories into perspective and gain understanding.
A fundamentalist is a person who adheres to the basic teachings of a subject. To become a true Muslim, you must be a fundamentalist. In fact, to become good at anything (say mathematics), you must firstly learn and master the fundamental principles. The fundamental teachings of Islam are embedded in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah (teachings and practices of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) ). This includes strictly observing the five pillars of Islam; Belief in monotheism, Five daily Prayers, Fasting the month of Ramadan, Giving out Charity, and Pilgrimage to Mecca. It also entails dressing modestly, seeking knowledge, practicing good neighbourliness, kindness to the orphans and your family, respect for all, honesty, hard work and striving to achieve a higher level of spirituality by avoiding sinful acts (such as drinking alcohol, gambling, fornication and adultery, stealing, lying etc. )
In essence, a fundamental Muslim is simply a true Muslim who tries his best to be of proper character, imitating the life of the man who had the best character (Muhammed pbuh), and his companions (peace be upon them). Yes, a fundamentalist may become extremist, and an extremist may practice fundamentalism. But there is a vast difference between the two. The extremist is a transgressor of the bounds set by God, seeking to deal with his personal grudges and using religion as an excuse. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said: “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 38

The talks will continue, and the world will make its judgement. For the Muslims, it is only a test of faith. Only the sincere, and those who have understanding, will see the light and the truth In Islam. It is a religion here to stay, to the end of time, In sha Allah.

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