I've been discussing the Islam faith more and more nowadays. The growth of the religion, the war that being fought against "Muslims" and my own research into the lives of the Prophet and Rumi have been catalysts for engaging in discussion with others. I have found that many people do not have even the basic understanding of Islam. Being ignorant of this religion allows stereotypes and other false ideas to run rampant within the mind.
Islam means, "full surrender to God, Allah." A Muslim, is therefore, one who has surrendered everything to Allah. Yes, the Qu'ran is the main scripture for the Muslims, but few realize that Islam also follows the Old Testament. They may have a few differences, such as, Abraham attempting to slay Ishmael, whereas, Christians and Jews believe it was Isaac. Still, they hold the Old Testament as truth. They even believe in angels, for it was Gabriel who revealed the Qu'ran to Muhammad. They even speak of Jesus, though they regard him as a man of faith rather than the Son of God.
There's two main branches of Islam, the Sunni and the Shia. Obviously, there might be more than those groups who focus on different aspects of the faith.
Now, many people are speaking of Jihad. It has come to mean waging war against non-believers. But, I found that it actually can mean fighting or struggling to get closer to Allah. They have classified four types of Jihad: Jihad against one's own self, Jihad of the tongue, Jihad of the hand, and Jihad of the sword.
Any serious student of the spiritual life can understand that Jihad is in every other religion and spiritual practice, though it may have different names. From Buddhism to Christianity there's always a fight for the soul. We can either submit to our senses and mind or we can try to fight against them by taking sincere surrender of the Lord and the Lord's devotees.
I have been meditating on how close the religions are to each other, yet people are so focused on the differences rather than the similarities.
His Holiness Bhakti-tirtha Swami has written in his Spiritual Warrior 6: " In one sense, religions are like vehicles that people choose to ride in according to their nature. The vehicle is not as significant as its ability to carry you where you need to go. It is unfortunate when people want to push other drivers off the road or cannot appreciate another driver who has a different car. Of course, some vehicles just do not function properly at all, and others look very good but still have trouble because they are not kept up properly. However, if we have a good vehicle and continue to move along the road, we will progress towards the destination. All bona fide religious systems emphasize that one must righteously pursue God consciousness. Sectarianism is a creation of humankind. If people do not fix themselves on the pursuit of God consciousness and only maintain superficial connections, they will create more fragmentation and exploitation."