Islamic Values and Muslim Values
The concept of Islam that the non-Muslims have is, directly related to the actions of the Muslim communities, and they make their judgements based on what they see the Muslims doing.
The misconceptions that surround Islam in this day and age are too great to number. A repeated scene is that of a Muslim having a discussion with a non-Muslim and trying to explain that Muslims are not terrorists, Muslims are not wife-beaters, that these actions are the deeds of a few which are then unjustly imposed on the whole Muslim population. But if the whole Muslim population had presented themselves in an Islamic manner in the first place, the reputation of a Muslim would be far too virtuous to allow the misdeeds of a few to tarnish the image of the whole Muslim world. But Muslims generally do not present Islamic values, they present Muslim values and the difference between these two can sometimes be as vivid as night and day.
What do I mean by Islamic values and Muslim values? Islamic values are those that are set out in the Quran and the practice of the noble Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). Muslim values are those that are created as part of the culture of the Muslim communities. These include the day-to-day interaction between the Muslims and their outlook on Islamís rules and regulations. The difference is that Islam is perfect and pure, while the values formulated by the Muslims may or may not be in accordance with Islam. The detriment that arises from this is that many times, precedence is given to the Muslim values over the Islamic values.
This is not to say that Muslims do not care about Islam, they care for and love Islam deeply, they have concern for their childrenís Islamic upbringing and the welfare of the Muslims all over the world. But what happens is that certain practices become common among them and their mentalities are set on justifying these practices instead of accepting the Islamic rulings on such things. They become a part of the Muslim culture and mentality, and so it becomes difficult to try to explain to them that Islam forbids such things. Because of this transformation in mentality, the average person in such a community will be hostile to someone bringing Islamic rulings forbidding things such as dancing, and enforcing things like hijab and modest conduct. Having gatherings and parties that centre around dancing have become common among many Muslims, and so they constitute what we have called Muslim values, as opposed to the Islamic values.
The Muslim values are caused by a relaxation on the enforcement of Islamic laws. The Islamic values, principles, and priorities are contained within these laws. Prayer, fasting, charity, hajj, hijab, modesty, being kind to others, giving parents their due rights, emphasising the importance of marriage, attending the Islamic centres and masjids, gaining knowledge, all of these are designed to build spiritually healthy individuals and a spiritually healthy society. When the performance of these actions is relaxed then a void is created.
When there is relaxation, then a distorted concept of freedom is adopted, it gives the Muslims the courage to challenge the Islamic laws and present their own philosophy as to why following the laws is not necessary. They make excuses to oppose the laws and create their own.
An understanding has to be conveyed that the Muslim communities will only thrive if they adhere to the principles of Islam. The concept of Islam that the non-Muslims have is directly related to the actions of the Muslim communities, because the majority of them will not go out and research about Islam, they will make their judgements based on what they see the Muslims doing and if Muslims do things forbidden in Islam, then the non-Muslims form a negative image. On the flip side, it is not surprising for them to be ignorant of the fact that a Muslim is supposed to pray five times a day, he/she has to fast during Ramadan, go to Hajj once in a lifetime, abstain from cursing and abusive language, abstain from back-biting, go to the Masjid on Fridays for prayers, read Quran, and other basic obligations that a Muslim has.
The result is that a distorted image of Islam, the pure and perfect religion, is presented to them, and in response the Muslims try to say that it is a few Muslims ruining it for the rest of them. But this is not the case, the responsibility lies with the majority of the Muslims who themselves are not acting Islamically. Yes, it is true that the terrorists are few, and that the equation of a Muslim with a terrorist is wrong and unjust. But this is an isolated incident, and in general it is the majority of the Muslims ruining things for themselves. This can only be corrected by starting at the root of the problem, the Muslim family and attendance in the Islamic centers. If the parents are consistent in teaching their children and are themselves consistent in practising Islam, then we will see an amazing transformation in the conduct of the Muslims, as individuals and as communities. Then when the non-Muslims look to the actions of the Muslims, they will actually learn about Islam, and will not have to worry about whether or not what they are seeing is Islam.
As Muslims, we have to strive to make our Muslim values the same as our Islamic values. Only then can we truly be considered as believers.