Letters to the editor - 5/5/02

May 06, 2002

By Syed Qasim Burmi

Many consider America a salad bowl rather than a melting pot where people of different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds preserve their identities and characteristics. This raises new issues and challenges in this pluralistic society that need to be dealt by Americans with prudence. One such problem we face today is misinformation about Islam, the fastest-growing religion in America.

Stereotyping of Muslims or judging Islam by its deviants are harmful to all Americans, Muslims and non-Muslims alike ,because that hinders interfaith tolerance, causes anxiety and often leads to violence. For continued progress and success of our country we need to understand each other and not follow groundless conjectures.

I write this article to inform curious minds about the basic teachings of Islam, to foster a better understanding of this beautiful religion and its more than a billion followers worldwide and millions of followers in U.S.A.


The essential framework of a Muslim's life is known as the five pillars of Islam.

First and foremost of these pillars is the belief that there is only one Creator and Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him, PBUH) is His messenger. A Muslim also believes in the existence and original teachings of all prophets such as Jesus and Moses (Peace Be Upon Them) and show the same respect for them as they do for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The second pillar of Islam is As-Salat. This is the prayer performed at least five times a day by Muslims, and serves as a reminder of our merciful and gracious Creator and the need to lead a noble life, free of sins and injustices as commanded by Him.

The third pillar is called Zakat, which in literal terms means purification and growth. This involves payment each year of a certain portion of one's savings for the needy. This reiterates the fact that our wealth is purified by charity and charity helps us prosper.

The fourth pillar is Fasting. Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims with few exceptions, fast from sunrise to sunset abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. Fasting helps Muslims develop self-control and empathy for others who are less fortunate.

The fifth pillar is Hajj. This is an annual pilgrimage to the Kaba in Mecca which Muslims consider to be the first house built by Prophet Abraham (PBUH) for the worship of our Creator. This emphasizes the fact that Islam is a continuation of the same faith preached by Prophet and patriarch Abraham (PBUH).

Everyone wears similar simple garments and follows the same ritual during Hajj, which strips away distinction of class, culture and race.

One essential part of Hajj is to walk between two hillocks following the footsteps of Hagar, the wife of Prophet Abraham (PBUH). This negates any notion that women have a lower status in Islam.

The pillars of Islam (Faith, As-Salat, Fasting, Zakat and Hajj) are five basic obligations, which all able, mature Muslims must fulfill. These reiterate the importance of charity, compassion and respect for others.

The Qur'an (believed by Muslims to be exact words of God) and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) provide the essential moral codes to give these pillars final shape and meaning.

Qur'an says (Chapter 49, verse 13) " O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you"

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said " God has no mercy on one who has no mercy for others." He also stated that a Muslim is the one from whose hands and tongue others are safe.

Islam teaches that keeping good relations between people is even better than prayers at night and fasting.

Islamic teachings thus promote tolerance and well-being of all and can only help, not harm, America.

This piece was submitted on behalf of the Islamic Society of Western Maryland.

Two Bushes are too many

To the editor:

President Bush's proposed ban on human cloning - that it would be harmful to man's dignity - might be a good thing, because one George W. Bush in this world is enough.

Hopefully, Bush will disappear after the 2004 election. One man should not determine man's fate. Bush is not God.

Human cloning can be a blessing for mankind, fulfilling God's promise for the eradication of disease and a way to eternal life. It's a new beginning, not an end.

Theodore A. Schendel

Hedgesville, W.Va.

Be careful with contractors

To the editor:

We are right at the beginning of home improvement season and already we are hearing horror stories about fly-by-night companies operating right here in Washington County. Here are a few tips to help protect you from such companies:

1. Any company or individual performing any type of home improvement work in the State of Maryland must have an MHIC number. This is a license which is granted by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission and given to an individual who is to perform improvement work on existing buildings.

The Herald-Mail Articles