The word Muslim literally means to one who submits to God, our Creator. To me it means to follow the same basic teachings of all the Prophets, from Abraham, Moses, Jesus to Muhammad (peace be upon them), by submitting to the Will of God and striving to lead a righteous and pious life. It means giving charity, even if all you have to give is a smile, and being a good neighbor. It means representing Islam not just by your good deeds, but also by your good character.
I find beauty in the simplicity of Islam. The simple message of worshiping one God, for me, answers the question, "What is the purpose of life?". There is also great beauty in the straightforward daily rituals of worship such as the five daily prayers and the ritual purification before the prayers. This gives Muslims a chance to take a break from our daily lives and focus on remembering our Creator throughout the day, striving to be God-Conscious at all times.
One of the great strengths of Islam is it's diversity and unifying quality. It was taught 1400 years ago by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that racism is impermissible and that we are all equal, both men and women, in the eyes of God, except in terms of pity and good deeds. It was also taught that we were made into nations and tribes so that we may know one another. Islam teaches that shouldn't let out cultural differences or nationalism get in the way of uniting together as the one human race.
A concern that is central to American Muslims is one of Islamophobia. It unfortunate that a small but vocal minority of Islamophobes use their positions in the media to attack, distort and flat out lie about Islam and Muslims. My concern is that American Muslims aren't given an equal platform to respond to the attacks. It's unfortunate but many of the Muslim organizations can't afford or aren't given the opportunity for airtime to combat many of the stereotypes and misinformation that are circulated about Islam and Muslims. Hopefully in the future American Muslim community will become increasingly able to have access to the mainstream media to lend it's voice to the conversation.
My overall hope would be that the Muslim world, or the Ummah, unites together under the teachings of Islam, setting aside petty differences, and works towards a future of peace, prosperity and happiness, together, within the framework of Islam.
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