|Proverbs 4: 27|
It must be the beard.
Maybe it is the psychology in mass media that pushes fear and promotes the conversion to Islam as an answer to western hegemony.
Maybe it is also how I am heard; not pushing the divisive narrative but speaking towards a unity that dissolves the mindset of 'east vs west' or 'religion vs religion'.
To the question of being a Muslim, I sometimes answer “yes, I am Muslim” in order to open the door to dialogue and an explanation of what words mean.
Sadly, I sometimes initially see fear or suspicion in people's eyes when hearing my response.
But I am quick to follow up with a lesson of words so they don't misunderstand and lose heart.
I explain what the term “Islam” means, and also the term “Muslim” and how these are derived from the word for “peace” (salaam) and “submission” (aslama).
I explain how I am both at peace and in full submission to both God and man.
I then explain how there was a Man who exemplified peace and submission as no other man before or after Him.
I explain it is because of Christ that I am at peace, and have peace in my heart and mind...exemplified in my flesh and my actions.
I go further, depending on how the conversation develops, if at all.
I explain it is because of how Christ reacted to persecution, and what He accomplished on the cross, that I can follow His example and be fully submitted to God in all things, and also submit to men and their evil inclinations.
There has been a war for your heart, mind and soul since man was fashioned from the clay / dust of the earth.
All of us are behind enemy lines physically speaking, but to those in the light; we are the very temple God lives in and has established on earth via the kingdom of His Son.
Our very bodies are sanctuaries, for us and for others.
The words that speak His inspiration forward the kingdom in ways not easily perceived by fleshly eyes.
To proclaim the risen Christ – Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all mankind (those who are sanctified by God's choice and grace) – is cause for consternation for those whose heart and minds have yet to be touched by God's right hand.
However, we see a perfect peace and full submission to God in the Son of Man; the Christ.
Submission is a difficult idea to ponder, for it is perceived as weakness and somehow allowing others to get away with something, or have their way over you.
As some forms of Islam would have it, the idea of submitting to men is contradictory to the call in the Quran to 'fight in the way of Allah' (or do whatever is necessary to provide defense and temporal justice for oneself and others).
This is where the physical fails to explain the spiritual.
Submission to a violent man isn't accepting their wickedness, but resigning one's dependence on God, not oneself.
Being at peace and not responding to violence with violence is not illogical, it is the teaching of staying righteous in the face of evil:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Matthew 5: 43-48Being perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect also means not being tempted by evil by becoming a violent man when confronted by evil.
To promote 'peace' and 'submission' while failing to actually stay at peace is to contradict the very definition of these words, revealing the difference man's religion and God's Way.
Understandably, it is difficult to fault the idea of justifying violence for violence done when the human examples are violent.
Where in the Gospel teaching is violence a proper response to violence?
It does not exist, as we can read in Matthew 5.
What else does the teaching of righteousness say:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
- Matthew 5: 38-41We believe that the law, and its requirements, were fulfilled in Christ.
Yet, not everyone believes or understands this, so the law is still at work in their hearts and minds, having not perceived that the new age of grace and love has been firmly established by God through Christ.
The method of carnal justification is clearly taught in the sources that claim to be at peace and in submission to God (those who identify with being a Muslim and living in Islam).
The opportunity to mention “identity” is key when explaining what a Muslim is supposed to be.
Explaining and showing how this identity, based on carnal inspirations written down as poetry and believed to be from Above, contradicts the very definition of the word.
It is difficult for people who do not know God according to God's revelation, but according to outside perception, to identifying with 'who' and 'what' God is.
Thus why religious methods are employed and human rules are instituted.
Religion teaches people that they can know God, or understand God, by doing certain external religious activities (like praying at a certain time, or physically in a certain manner, and other external things).
Religion teaches that by following the methods of men that one can be 'good' or achieve a righteousness of sorts, or have one's good deeds hopefully outweigh one's misdeeds.
But when righteousness is rejected for the methods of violence, how can righteousness be recognized for who He became?
Does peace come to one's heart, mind and body according to certain external methods?
The religious would argue 'yes'.
So would those who desire an esoteric way of life, but is peace truly found in these people or methods?
The answer will be made evident when the individual is put to a test.
Will the individual lash out and reflect what evil is doing to them?
Or will the individual exemplify peace when confronted by violence, indifference or some form of attack?
Will the individual reflect God as expressed through Christ?
Or will the individual reflect a man's carnal impulse and earthly justification for force and violence?
So when I answer the question of whether I am a Muslim, I say both “yes” and “no”.
Yes I am a Muslim according to the very definitions of that word and the words that have provided a meaning to that word.
No I am not a Muslim according to what has been developed from certain Muslim's ideas of who and what God is, and the man who proclaimed himself to be a prophet of God, but has been shown to actually deny the message of Christ and is, by definition, shown to anti-Christ according to his poetry, his actions and the witnesses around him.
Does God really need me, or a man, to be violent in order to defend God or His message?
Hasn't God called us to be at peace, like the Son He revealed from Above was always at peace even in the face of death?
How can God be revealed and depended on if I, or a man, were to act upon our own carnal instincts, but not on the perfect example of Jesus Christ?
One is either from below, or from Above.
Those from Above know and understand peace, and thus are exactly what the term “Muslim” desires to exemplify...for they stay at peace no matter what happens to them.
There are many 'Muslims' who are actually Christians, and there are many 'Christians' who are actually Muslims.
There are also many who do not identify with either of these two seemingly opposed ideologies, yet are called heavenward as sons and daughters of God... and they shall identify as being children of God instead of weak ideologies.
I am grateful that none of us are judged according to our faulty identity attachments, but according to what has been gifted us and what we've done with such gifts...and these gifts are given from God, not from ourselves.