About 200 scholars, seekers and even Muslims seeking ways to answer questions about their own beliefs squeezed into a conference room to listen to the panel. Panelists were Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America and director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary, Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, a doctoral student at Yale University and Sheikh Abdool Rahman Khan, imam at Islamic Foundation in Villa Park, Ill.
Below are some of the questions and answers from the session. Some of the questions and answers been edited for length and lucidity.
Q. I am one that believes all religions teach peace and goodness and it doesn’t really matter which one you follow, we will all go to heaven if we do good. Can you respond?
A. (Qadhi) I think that our religion is based upon two basic testimonies; the testimony that there is only one god and the testimony that the Prophet Muhammad is a messenger of God. It is essential to believe in these two testimonies and live a good life. We don’t disassociate faith from action… We believe as Muslims…you must have faith and do good deeds. Any person who is sincere and has been exposed to Islam will find truth in Islam.
Q. Sometimes my non-Muslim friends tell me that the Qur’an is outdated, and therefore there is a flaw in the Qur’an…How would you respond to this?
A. (Khan) Islam is complete and it is for all times and there is not going to be another revelation. However there will be new environment and if we take the Qur’an and apply it in that context then we find what we are living in today in this modern society. It’s something that Allah revealed 1,400 years ago…We must not take these things now and make big generalizations…
Q. Why are Muslims not speaking up against terrorism? Why are there verses in the Qur’an that speak hatred and violence against non-Muslims?
A. (Mattson) It’s not even what the media chooses to portray, it’s how our brain processes information and there have been many, many studies about this. We see it selectively and our brain sees those things and remembers those things that are vital for self interest first. So, let’s say you read the newspaper and if there’s 15 or 20 stories and the one that sticks in your mind will be the one that terrifies you…So that’s one of our challenges. It’s a universal challenge. If you go to other parts of the world and you ask them about their impressions of Americans, what would their impressions be? Believe me, very often they have such bizarre impression of American society…We have very distorted impressions of each other. We really have to go find out what the truth is. And I can tell you the act of kindness and generosity that you see among normal, and ordinary Muslims everyday will astound you. Turn off the TV and go and just be with people and see their kindness, people who don’t have a lot and constantly extend their homes and their hand to other people in need, not just to other Muslims but non-Muslims. Finally, the majority victims of terrorist who are Muslim, are other Muslims. So if you want to ask where are the Muslims? Well, Afghanistan is 99.9 percent Muslim, the people who are putting their bodies on the line are Muslim doctors, nurses, police officers who are trying to build their society. If you look, Muslims are not always speaking; they’re acting. They’re working hard to build their society.
Q. How should Muslims respond to the scientific discoveries leading to the theory of evolution?
A. (Khan) There are few principles we need to understand. One is that the Qur’an is truth. Science is a journey to that truth. It may find it sometimes, it may not find it, it may find new things. But the Qur’an is always truth and we have seen that over the 1,400 years and more, that the Qur’an has passed through various civilizations and various scientific developments and so forth. Nothing has proven the Qur’an to be wrong.
These issues can be explored further at www.whyislam.org.
Read a blog about this event here.
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