UTRGV Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History Interprets Islam Religion
WESLACO – A Rio Grande Valley professor said there are many ways to interpret the Islam religion; therefore he understands the confusion over President’s Trump executive order.
Nearly 1.7 billion people in the world identify as Muslim and followers of Islam. UTRGV professor of modern Middle Eastern history Dr. Tamer Balci is also one of the hundreds of Muslims living in the Valley.
“Islam is the name of the religion. Muslim is the ones that follow Islam. It’s like Christianity. It’s the name of religion, and Christians are followers of Christianity,” he said. “I mean the Muslim community here - they are mostly professionals, doctors, engineers and professors like me.”
Balci said more branches of the religion began to emerge as it evolved. Followers of Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali can be differentiated by country of origin and matters of practice.
“Shia believed that leader has to come from the family of Prophet Mohammed. And for Sunni, the suitable Muslim would be fine,” he said. “The Sunni approach became: do not judge between Ali and Muawiyah and respect them. So, respect the leadership that has been the Sunni approach.”
Balci explained the Islamic religion does not discriminate against racial background.
“Islam means peace and another meaning is submission. So, when you become Muslim you are to submit to Islam and the rules of Islam,” he said.
According to Balci, there are five pillars of Islam that are considered to be the basic followings of a Muslim:
- Shahadah: Sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith.
- Salat: Performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day.
- Zakat: Paying an Alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy, two and a half percent of savings. Does not have to be a Muslim-related organization
- Sawm: Fasting during the month of Ramadan.
- Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca.
Balsi said radical Muslims do not follow the basic rules.
“To define what radical Islam is, you have to define what normal Islam is first,” he said. “These organizations like ISIS – even though they use the name of Islam – don’t consider them Islam at all because they violate basic rules of Islam clearly.”
Balci said he wants people to be informed and motivated to ask more questions. He urged anyone with questions or in need of more clarification to contact their local mosque.
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