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What I find beautiful about Islam is many things: a direct contact between a believer and the One God unencumbered by clergy; the Quran's intense and repetitive emphasis on social justice and strong rights of family and kinship; simplicity and lack of formality of its prescribed ways of worship; the obligation of paying charity (zakat) based on not on your income but your accumulated wealth--which in turn encourages circulation of wealth; beauty of its prophetic traditions that serve as guiding lights in everyday life; its demonstrable commitment to racial equality that goes back a millennium and and half; its utter prohibition of excessive consumption and wasteful ways of living; and the depth of meaning, and the linguistic and literary treasures contained in the Quran.

I find my faith guiding my actions in almost every sphere of my life. Whether its in being a responsible parent and spouse, or trying to do justice to my work obligations, or being a part of community. Of course, it exhibits in practicing of the five pillars of Islam, namely, the profession of faith itself, the five daily prayers, charitable giving, Ramadan fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca.

I am truly concerned about the contemporary dominance of narrow and
exclusive interpretation of Islamic text and traditions over more universal and expansive understanding of the beauty of its message. Furthermore, the rise of consumer culture in the Muslim world that inhibits contemplation, is likely to further expand this gap by making religious thinking the sole property of the mullahs who tend to favor the more restrictive meaning of Islam.

In the end, I'd like to share one of my favorite verses from the Quran (Chapter 2, Verse 177)

2:177 It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing.