In this six part series our non-religious Interact Blogger Sam Toller delves deeper into the major world religions and discusses specific aspects within each of these faiths that he personally admires. This week: Islam.
I have always regarded myself as spiritual, but I have never chosen to follow a specific faith. I’ve always been put off by the endless and sometimes violent disagreements over something that is meant to be moral and peaceful. Although I appreciate other people’s decisions about their own spirituality, I have never appreciated much about the religions themselves. Until, about two weeks ago, when asking a friend about his plans for further education, he told me that he wouldn’t be able to get a student loan.
He explained briefly that borrowing money is not permitted within Islam. I have always been sceptical of the restrictions that various religions place on their followers. But this was one that, at face value, I fundamentally agreed with. I have never agreed with the idea of spending money that isn’t truly yours, and interest, which strikes me as ‘paying for the passing of time’ is a nasty addition to the package. This religious law both impressed and intrigued me. After some further research, I found even more that I was in agreement with. Riba (interest) is forbidden, as it is seen as the exploitation of someone else’s less fortunate circumstance. On the other hand, this does promote charity, of whom the giver will ‘receive their reward many fold’ (1).
In a few clicks, I had developed a deeper understanding and admiration for a religion which, like many others, I had preconceived ideas about. These were collations of people I knew, things I had been taught and what had been portrayed in the media. It paints a fair picture, but one with a lack of context, and a dash of prejudice emerging from the latter influence. So I decided to delve a little further.
In contrast to the forbidden Riba, loans should be ‘Mithl’ (equal, alike), meaning that the lender receives exactly the amount they lent. At first, this seems to be a near definition of fair. But ‘Mithl’, in an economic context, is implied by the Qur’an to mean equal in weight or quantity, rather than value. Consequently, even a 0% interest loan is forbidden, as inflation would cause the value of the loan to change; although it is the same quantity that must be repaid. This makes it extremely difficult for Muslims to access further education without funding from themselves or relatives. Although I disagree with this obstruction to further education, I still understand and admire the reasoning behind it.
Since then, I have not suddenly converted or found God, or decided to spread the word, but I have become enlightened; in a sense. With a bit of research and understanding, it is hard to deny that religion has no positive effects for even the atheists of the world. Good morals, a strong community and a charitable heart are things that everyone can aspire to have, and that religion pioneers.
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