The Purpose of this work is simply to acquaint the average reader with the basic teachings of Islam. It will be obvious that there is no intention to present the depth or breadth of Islam in this book. What is intended, however, is to provide the common but literate person with proper insight into the subject and help him to appreciate the principles which Islam stands for. Once he develops the initial interest, he can pursue the course of deeper knowledge on his own.
The Muslims of the Western Hemisphere, especially those young among them who reside in remote areas, do face complex problems. All the surrounding circumstances are unfavorable as far as Islam in concerned. Radio comments and television shows, news items and magazine articles, motion pictures and even school textbooks, all seem to misrepresent Islam and not always innocently. Besides, certain overenthusiastic groups try to exploit the condition of these Muslims in the hope that they may become converts to this denomination or that sect. On the other hand, there are many temptations in life to divert the attention of people and turn their interest away from the right course of religion. This is harmful enough; but it is more so in the case of the young Muslims and is still much more in the case of Islam, the religion that is poorly understood in this part of world. It is true that some Muslim parents try to provide their children with religious guidance and instruction; but of what good are these limited efforts and how effective can they be in this high – pressure environment?
What happens then? What is the result of this difficult situation? It must be admitted. In all honesty, that the picture looks gloomy but not hopeless. Some Muslims, who are innocent victims of their high – pressure environment, become indifferent and self –contained. They feel ashamed, afraid, or suspicious of their surroundings. Consequently, they cannot possibly make any valuable contribution to their society or derive any significant benefit from it. Others flow with the tide of society to become to fashionable and acceptable. These, too, will neither contribute to nor benefit from the society in which they live. Such “Muslims” may even become destructive and disgraceful, for they will be without effective religious morals.
Along with these indifferent, withdrawn, and indulgent Muslims, there are others who may not be better in any way. They are probably fascinated by what seems to be a high degree of effective organization of certain religious groups or by the wide social circulation fostered by certain secular fraternities. Such individuals are, for the most part, marginal people and mere joiners. They may even be viewed as souls lost in the “lonely crowd” so characteristic of modern society. They join not because they have become thoroughly indoctrinated in the faith of this or that particular group. Nor is it because they have developed an unselfish love for humanity. Rather, they join because they do not properly appreciate their own Islamic heritage. As a result of this and of their living in non-Muslims environments, they may not acquire the necessary knowledge and courage to stand out as Muslims. If such “Muslims” have any real interest in religion, they will not deviate from the path of Islam, which stands for the highest level of religious evolution and human aspiration. Moreover, if they do really care for the spiritual and moral welfare of mankind, they will find the greatest satisfaction within the framework of Islam. So, whenever they join any other group they can only show a superficial interest and will settle for poor substitutes. The result is that they lose the spiritual contact with their fellow Muslims and remain marginal in their new circles of association.
When the ultimate consequences of the total situation are analyzed, they will be found deplorable and harmful to all parties concerned. A loss to the Muslim platform is a greater loss to all other worthy platforms. The true Muslim can contribute most effectively to the realization of responsible citizenship and universal peace, mutual understanding and human brotherhood, freedom of conscience and maintenance of human dignity. All these principles are part and parcel of Islam. They are enjoined upon the Muslim and entrusted to him. If a Muslim, who is supposed to stand for these principles, is lost or grows indifferent, it means that humanity at large will be deprived of his valuable contributions. This is no small loss.
The Muslims have good reasons to believe that their Book, the Glorious Qur’an, is the Master Book of Revelation and the Standard of Religious Truth. They also believe that Islam has come to reaffirm the Eternal Divine Message and settle the past religious disputes so that man may embark upon creative constructive activities in all walks of life. This does not mean that the Muslims set themselves apart from or above the rest of mankind. They try neither to impose Islam nor to classify the human race into inferior and superior ranks. They do not entertain the concept of favored and condemned nations or endorse the doctrine of the Chosen and the Gentile. Rather, they are commissioned to convey the Divine Message to mankind and to make their indispensable contribution to humanity. In other words, the Muslims cannot afford to be indifferent, exclusive, or arrogant. It is their solemn duty to open wide their minds to all the realities of life and stretch far their arms to all people of whatever class, creed, race, or nationality. The good which they can do and the services they can render will fully materialize only when they put Islam into practice and associate with other people in the kind, humane spirit of Islam.
In view of all these circumstances, we are trying to make a fresh introduction to Islam. It is not our intention to cause the Muslims to become blind fanatics or narrow-minded people because Islam is strongly opposed to such things. Our hope is to re-acquaint these Muslims and their like with the truth of Islam and provide them with a spiritual insight into the universe and a moral approach to the human condition. If this is realized, it will make them responsible citizen of their respective countries, honorable members of the human race, and, above all else, God – minded people.
Does the picture I have drawn here mean a pessimistic outlook on the future of Islam in the modern world? Or is it a brave confession of the despair and helplessness to which the Muslims may seem subject? Or is it a reflection of the expected outcome of a losing spiritual battle the Muslims are fighting in the New World? Certainly not. Pessimism and despair are contrary to the spirit of Islam, and helplessness is incompatible with faith in God. The future of Islam is the future of humanity, and if humanity has any future - which I believe it has - there is a great and bright future in store for Islam. The spiritual battle which the Muslims are fighting today is not a losing battle, although the progress appears to be slow. If the Muslims, for any reason, lose their spiritual battle, humanity will suffer irreparable losses.
The significance of this preface, then, is to draw a realistic picture of the situation which is confronting the Muslims of the New World. It is to warn parents and children alike of the dangers that are approaching and of the losses that must be prevented. Moreover, it is to remind all those who are genuinely interested in the spiritual well-being of humanity that they have to be alert and take a fresh attitude toward humanity and its problems.
To Allah’s care we leave our Muslim brethren, and in Him do we have infinite confidence that our endeavors will not be in vain; ‘I only desire reform to the best of my power; and my success (in the task) can only come from God. In Him I trust, and unto Him I look.’ (Qur’an, 11:88).