By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
NORTHBOROUGH – The word “Islam” is derived from the word “peace,” a Muslim woman told more than 100 people gathered at St. Rose of Lima Parish Sunday.
Mona Ives was giving a talk, “Islam 101: Muslim Life and Culture,” and answering questions.
She said she worships at the Worcester Islamic Center on East Mountain Street in Worcester and is an interfaith coordinator there. She was brought up in Worcester and West Boylston. She has a degree in Islamic theology, with a concentration in comparative religions, from the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Father James A. Houston, St. Rose’s pastor, set the stage for the evening by reminding people that they are all one family.
Ernest Rivard, St. Rose’s pastoral assistant and chair of the Northborough Interfaith Clergy Association, noted that Pope Francis’s recent interfaith peace gathering in Assisi is an example for them to follow.
“We have to give visible witness of that on the local level,” Mr. Rivard said.
He said the parish invited Mrs. Ives to speak after members of its social concerns ministry, Frederick and Patricia Link, took a course she taught at Assumption College. Mr. Link recently died and the evening was dedicated to him.
Mr. Rivard asked Mrs. Ives to share about peace traditions of Islam and she said there are many Islamic peace movements.
“Terrorism has no place in Islam,” though there are people who call themselves Muslim and commit acts of terror, she said.
Fighting in Islam is allowed only in self defense, she said. Even in self defense, Muslims are prohibited from fighting women, children, the sick and clergy from any religion.
To show how things are sometimes taken out of context or quoted only in part – to justify violence or to condemn Muslims as violent – she shared a passage from the Muslims’ holy book the Quran: “Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed, God does not like transgressors. And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you … And if they cease, then indeed, God is forgiving and merciful.” (2:190-193)
The mainstream academic method of interpreting the Quran is to look at a topic holistically, as it is written about throughout the book, and to look at the historical context, which explains what was happening at the time “that passage was revealed,” she said.
Shariah Law, derived from the Quran and Mohammed’s life, encompasses all of life, Mrs. Ives said. Its penal codes which allow for executions and other severe punishments can rarely be enforced, she said. They may be applied only to Muslims and only in an Islamic state, and the world does not consider ISIS an Islamic state, she said. The punishments may not be applied without two to four witnesses or if a person repents.
No effort is being made to put Shariah Law on the books in the United States, she said. She said Muslims are to obey the law of the land in which they live.
Summarizing Muslims’ beliefs, Mrs. Ives said they believe in one God, angels, prophets, holy books, a day of judgment, and the supremacy of God’s will.
“We believe its the same God the Christians and the Jews believe in,” she said. Like Christian Arabs, Muslims call God “Allah,” which means “the one God.”
Muslims believe God sent more than 200,000 prophets, to tell each nation or group about the oneness of God, she said. Prophets began with Adam, included Jesus and ended with Mohammed, who was sent for all people, she explained.
Mrs. Ives said Muslims believe in the holy books revealed to David (Psalms), Moses (the Torah), Jesus (the Gospels) and Mohammed (the Quran).
Muslims believe those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds will go to heaven, and the others will go to hell, she said.
Men and women can choose how they will dress modestly to show devotion to God and to present their character instead of their figure, Mrs. Ives said. She said women can be perfectly empowered while dressing modestly. While some women might be forced to dress a certain way, God doesn’t wish anyone to be compelled, she said.
Islam is built on five pillars, Mrs. Ives said. One is testification of faith; people become Muslims by saying they believe in the one God and that Mohammed is God’s servant and messenger.
The other pillars are: obligatory charity to atone for wrong uses of one’s wealth, prayer five times daily, a pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, and fasting from food, drink, sex and sins of the tongue during the daytime in the month of Ramadan.
“It’s a labor of love” required for all who are able to, from puberty on, Mrs. Ives said of fasting. Many children want to be like older folks and might fast half a day to practice, she said. They’re also taught to pray as soon as possible.
Mr. Rivard closed with silent prayer for victims of violence caused by ISIS and the coalition of nations fighting them. He asked that God grant insight and peace and said people are always better when listening to each other.