I have lived for some time among Muslims in the Middle East during the 1980s and 1990s–and taught many of them here in the USA since the late 1990s. This contact has begotten enormous admiration for them. My colleague, Mike Parker, suggested that I post some reasons why I admire them. I thought that this was a grand idea. The only problem I have is choosing only seven reasons (Mike suggested five.). I won’t have space for many more. This list is in no particular order:
1. Islam asks for alms of 2.5% of Muslims’ income to care for the needy. As you know, we Latter-day Saints fast for two meals per month, then give a fast offering, for the same purpose. As our Prophets and Apostles and other authorities ask for a generous fast offering, I think the Muslim 2.5% level is a good benchmark in determining generosity of offerings.
2. Muslims care for personal morality. When I was a grad assistant several years ago, some of my Muslim students approached me asking about a Evangelical-led protest of the university’s “Gay Pride Week.” They wanted to join the Evangelicals’ protest against moral degeneration. I’ll tell you how it went another day.
3. The Quran often fills in historical gaps left by the Bible. For example, rape was a capital crime in ancient Egypt (actually in most societies–until recently), yet, the Patriarch Joseph was imprisoned, rather than executed [Genesis 39:7-20]. Why was that? The Sura, “Yusuf” (“Joseph”), clarifies: Potiphar’s (The Quran calls him by his title, Aziz) wife was a known liar, but to prevent Potiphar from losing face, Joseph had to suffer some punishment–an unfortunately too-common occurance throughout history! [See Quran 12:27-33].
4. Muslim culture seems to put a high premium on hospitality. In my experience, typical Muslims seem quite eager to give the shirts off their backs–if that is what it takes–to show their guests a good time. It is so important to them, they will feel insulted if they are not permitted to show hospitality.
5. Remember all those Greek and Roman plays and other writings? While some of them were preserved by medieval Christian monks, it is quite possible that much of the literature, history, and other accomplishments of ancient Greece and Rome would have been lost forever without the Muslims copying them down. As things stand, it took more than a millennium to regain the flush toilet; imagine how long it would take if we would have had to “reinvent the wheel.”
6. The Muslims didn’t just preserve knowledge; they extended it. For example, the bane of high school freshmen everywhere, algebra, was a Muslim invention, from 1,000 years ago.
7. Moreover, the Muslims have enriched our lives with fine literature like the stories of Sinbad, the sailor (not the comedian!), “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and Aladdin and his genie.
There are many more things for which I admire them that I haven’t listed. Maybe some other day.
Another reason I thought that this list was a good idea was that many people think of Islam as a barbaric religion. These people tend to confuse Islamofascism with Islam. I will distinguish the two some other time.