AMERICA IS THE NEW ISLAM
AMERICA IS THE NEW ISLAM
EAST MEETS WEST
THE FOUR UNIVERSAL FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES
FOUND IN BOTH AMERICA AND ISLAM 1
Common and Identical for the Union, Evolution and Happiness of Humanity
A merica's founding principles are elucidated in the Declaration of Independence, her Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Great Seal. They are recaptured and re-invigorated in President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham City Jail. They are her core and guiding principles which closely resemble the form and mission of the Prophet of Islam, indicating her global significance and moral rearmament for each and every individual. 2
As Islam brought to bear these principles for the world through the person and mission of the Prophet and the succeeding Islamic conquests that resulted in a great cultural florescence of humanity--the fruits of which are enjoyed to the present day in Western civilization--so America has brought to bear these same principles for the world in precious documents and symbols that are to formulate all her policy and drive.
These core and guiding principles are:
America:  Equality of Rights and Opportunity : all are equal before God, bringing about the structures for opportunity for all.
Islam: The Prophet preached a message that was intensely democratic, insisting that in the sight of his Lord all people were equal. The social content of his teachings brought social justice to an unjust order 3 . [Further, enforcement of homogeneity of thought was not considered God-centered or Islamic, as the Prophet said, “Difference of opinion within my community is a sign of the bounty of Allah” - see also principle  below.]
America:  Religious Freedom and Free Speech: all are free to worship [and speak] according to their own conscience with no authoritarian insistence or interference.
Islam: Conquered nations of Islam were permitted freedom of worship contingent on a special tax in lieu of the Poor Due, from which they were exempt. Thereafter, every interference with their liberty of conscience was regarded as a direct contravention of Islam. Religious tolerance is at the heart of Islam by the Prophet's own words, “Will you then force men to believe when belief can come only from God?” 4 . [Further, in the conquered lands of Islam, many people were liberated from their oppressors, which brought in the new notion of liberty amongst differing people and religions existing in the same locale.]
America:  E Pluribus Unum: “out of many one.” Despite differing cultures, ethnicities, religions or intellectual differences, there is one common thread that ties all people in together as one, and at the same time makes them unique. That quality is simply recognition of the other's self-worth , no matter what “color,” disposition or social bearing of the person.
Islam: The Prophet himself recognized this living quality or core principle that transcended all differences when he invited a deputy of Christians visiting him to conduct their service in his mosque, adding, “It is a place consecrated to God” 5 .
America:  Protection of Individuality and the Common Good: Individuality cannot come into its full fruition if there is the hard and oppressive hand of government. Likewise, if there are no hard and fast ground rules (such as the Ten Commandments) set by government, the (morally) “unrestrained” and “undisciplined” individual can break the common good of the nation, until there is no “nation.” 6
Thus, in the interest of self, liberty and life, government and individual must complement each other. However, if the individual were less of his or her own “animal” (lower or basal) element and more in his or her own divine (higher or moral) element, the external rule of government would not be necessary, for within the divine or moral element of each and every human being lies the internal rule, the perfect form of self-government .
The wise or dutiful government is one that draws the individual to its own nucleus by providing ways to engage, nurture and make possible the higher, more complete or whole element of the human being, which at the same time enables him or her to shed the lower, less fulfilling and tormenting animal element. And conversely, a wise or dutiful citizenry and media draws out the best from its government by watching or policing the integrity of its leaders so as to preserve not only the protection of individual rights and the common good, but the freedom of the nation itself. 7
The fourth principle we find, of the Protection of Individuality and the Common Good, at the same time contains , it protects the meaning of the statement of man's (unalienable) rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Further, that protection exists in a balance of the two concepts of the personal and collective happiness (through “a nation under God”--referenced in The Gettysburg Address) where there is freedom with responsibility, meaning and accountability. 8
Islam: The Prophet discerned brilliantly the protection of the common good is within the bounds of the protection of the individual when he observed back at his home base following an encounter with the Meccans, “We have returned from the lesser jihad to face the greater jihad .” What this essentially means is that the greater battle is not with one's enemies, but with the enemy within one's own self . 9
“Jihad” literally means “exertion,” but exerting what? Exerting force to the good. The Quran says, “Turn away evil with that which is better” (42:37)--not only within oneself, but through the action of government. Not only is government to protect the framework of its core and guiding principles against those that seek to interfere or subvert it, but it is also to exert force through policy toward that which is better for the individual.
But who is to say what is good or what is better for the individual, the individual him- or herself or the government? Neither, simply the wisdom of the principles that are to lead all, from “leaders” to individuals. However, it is the leader--if we are to follow --who must grasp them more clearly and apply them more fully, which is the reason we have had great Prophets. But in order to be free of evil in our personal and collective life, we must always come back to the core and guiding principles as the basis and personal responsibility of all.
* * *
The wisdom of these core and guiding principles as they parallel themselves in both the advent of Islam and the founding of America are inherent within each and every individual, because they are the divine, transcendent or whole element within ourselves. It is that element that enables us to “see” and “know” equality. However, seeing and knowing the core principles were not “self-evident” or sacred to humanity at the time of the Prophet in the first millennium, hence, the reason for his global mission. Fifteen hundred years after his mission, America represents the more spiritually-evolved humanity in the statement of her Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.…”
1 As they are also to incorporate the economic system. See “The Just Economic system of Planetization” in Chapter 14.
2 We see the principles in the form and mission of the Prophet and not written down in actual “law,” for Islamic law was not “fixed” by the Prophet, but by the early Muslim law schools.
Thus, we find, “The Quran [which means ‘the Recitation'] is not a simple law book [but the hearing of God's Word for the joining and uplift of humanity]. [Only] about 600 of the 6,000 verses in the Quran are concerned with law, many of them covering matters of prayer and ritual. Approximately 80 verses treat legal topics in the strict sense of the term: crime and punishment, contracts, family laws. Therefore, in many instances the doctrines of the law schools remained dependent on the interpretation or opinion of jurists who were, in turn, influenced by the differing customs of their respective social milieu.” From John L. Esposito's Islam, The Straight Path (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 77.
3 All quotes (and commentary--except for the third and fourth principles and bracketed comment) are from Huston Smith's The World Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 227, 256, 257.
4 The Quranic statement supporting the Prophet's statement is, “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:257).
5 Recognition of another's self-worth is respect, enabling unity in diversity or a brother-sisterhood of humanity. The Quran speaks to this same ideal and aspiration through the following:
To every one have We given a law and a way…. And if God had pleased, he would have made [all humankind] one people [people of one religion] . But He hath done otherwise, that He might try you in that which He hath severally given unto you: wherefore press forward in good works. Unto God shall ye return, and He will tell you that concerning which ye disagree (5:48).
Islam, therefore, is not so much about a personal religion * that all members of the human race are to subscribe to, but a recognition that diversity is necessary to create the greater unity or harmony of humankind through which the extraordinary, or more pointedly, in terms of our light-filled divinity, the magnificence of our creation can exist.
* The individuality of each and the coherence of all religions of the one God through history through Judaism, Christianity and Islam is self-evident in the Quranic statement, “We made a covenant of old with the Children of Israel [and] you have nothing of guidance until you observe the Torah and the Gospel” (5:70, 68).
At the same time, Judaism, Christianity and Islam altogether represent the collective “Semitic” religion, that is, the religion that descends from the thought and ethic of Abraham, as it was through history, to socially assimilate and uplift the “fallen” awareness of the human race through a transcendent code and ethic within the material or physical world.
In this light we find, in the coherence of the social-historical religions: i) in the concept of “anti-Semiticism” one has to include Christianity and Islam along with Judaism, for in true and definitive thinking, none can be exclusive of the other; and, ii) to reject Jesus or Christianity from one's religion is to reject the key element of forgiveness in one's awareness. To reject the Torah or Judaism from one's religion is to reject from one's awareness they key idea of the blend or the balance of the higher spiritual with the material of all human reality. To reject the Prophet Muhammad or Islam from one's religion is to reject a keen sense of global justice or a moral order within one's being--a justice and an order that allows us to move from the idea of tribe, or fear and the self-interest, to the all inclusiveness of the human family .
6 The Ten Commandments are simply the structure of a transcendent, moral code and ethic for the basic evolution (vs. devolution or degeneration) of the individual and society as a whole . See also “Human Spirituality and the Spiritual Sphere of the Planet” in chapter 37.
7 The citizenry, and particularly the media responsibility of watching or policing the integrity of government leaders is tantamount to the notion that personal conduct is intrinsically and ethically linked to the (ever present tyrannical) conduct of government as we see in the following put forth by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. (Words in bold type refer to that link):
The importance of this [press freedom] consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officials are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs .*
* How can oppression exist in a democracy? We see from the above quote the advancement of truth and morality is tied into the administration of government, whereby the repression of truth and morality results in government oppression through the dishonorable and unjust mode of conducting affairs. An example of this oppression in a modern-day democracy is the use of power to intimidate people from telling the truth, or seeing the truth by manipulating people's perceptions.
Further, preserving the notion of the “pursuit of happiness” in democracies and holding at bay tyranny also means unmerciful, penetrating vigilance on the government where, in the words of Robert F. Kennedy, to get “men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.”
At the same time, vigilance for the preservation of freedom means vigilance on the preservation of freedom and rights from the clutches of government , not vigilance on citizens by citizens for the government as would happen in a communist or police state. Being patriotic to one's country, i.e. uncompromised freedom, liberty and rights, of all, by all, for all, is therefore, in a democracy, not the same as being blindly patriotic to one's government.
8 Freedom, responsibility and accountability is an interplay between individuals and their government. A “nation under God” holds the government and its laws at bay, which brings in the notion of its antithesis, an “unjust law.”
St. Augustine said that “An unjust law is no law at all” which means there is no compulsion, in an unjust law, to obey or adhere to it. Further, in gauging the moral fiber of laws of nations, we find in Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham City Jail that “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”
The moral law we know (as it holds moral clarity * ) squares, not with the family, color, ethnicity or country but with freedom, equality and truth--a truth that contains the unalienable rights of man. At the same time, in its transcendent quality it is beyond the mind, but at the same time is felt, known or recognized by the mind (to be The Good, True, Beautiful and Right** ). Anything less is error, or simply obeying the rule of men and not the actual rule of law.
* Moral clarity is beyond all emotional attachment, and defines one world from another. It cuts through the comforts and (illusional) security of an unjust order to manifest a world that is in right existence with the rest of creation and each of its creatures. Jesus makes a reference to the unsettling nature of moral clarity (personified in all the great Prophets) when he says:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household (Matthew 10:34--36)
** See more on “ The Good, True, Beautiful and Right ” in chapter 25.
9 See “The Five Interconnected Levels of Planetary Existence”, in chapter 15, pp. 89--90, and “The Mujaddid (Global Renewal) Centers” in chapter 24, p. 159.