TOP TEN MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ISLAM
MISCONCEPTION #1: Muslims are violent, terrorists and/or extremists.
Islam oppresses women.
The image of the typical Muslim woman wearing the veil and forced toÂ stay home and forbidden to drive is all too common in most peoplesÂ thoughts. Although some Muslim countries may have laws that oppress women, this should not be seen as coming from Islam. Many of these countries do not rule by any kind of Shari’ah (Islamic law) and introduce their own cultural standpoints on the issue of genderÂ equity.
Islam on the other hand gives men and women different roles and equityÂ between the two is laid down in the Quran and the example of theÂ Prophet (peace be upon him). Islam sees a woman, whether single orÂ married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own andÂ dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage gift is given byÂ the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps herÂ own family name rather than taking her husband’s. Both men and womenÂ are expected to dress in a way that is modest and dignified. TheÂ Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said: “The most perfect in faithÂ amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to hisÂ wife.”
Violence of any kind towards women and forcing them against theirÂ will for anything is not allowed. A Muslim marriage is a simple, legalÂ agreement in which either partner is free to include conditions.Â Marriage customs thus vary widely from country to country. Divorce isÂ not common, although it is acceptable as a last resort. According toÂ Islam, a Muslim girl cannot be forced to marry against her will: herÂ parents simply suggest young men they think may be suitable.
Muslims worship a different God.
Allah is simply the Arabic word for God. Allah for Muslims is theÂ greatest and most inclusive of the Names of God, it is an Arabic wordÂ of rich meaning, denoting the one and only God and ascribing noÂ partners to Him. It is exactly the same word which the Jews, inÂ Hebrew, use for God (eloh), the word which Jesus Christ used inÂ Aramaic when he prayed to God. God has an identical name in Judaism,Â Christianity, and Islam; Allah is the same God worshiped by Muslims,Â Christians and Jews. Muslims believe that Allah’s sovereignty is toÂ be acknowledged in worship and in the pledge to obey His teaching andÂ commandments, conveyed through His messengers and prophets who wereÂ sent at various times and in many places throughout history.Â However, it should be noted that God in Islam is One and Only. He,Â the Exalted, does not get tired, does not have a son ie Jesus orÂ have associates, nor does He have human-like attributions as found inÂ other faiths.
Islam was spread by the sword and intolerant of other faiths.
Many social studies textbooks for students show the image of an ArabÂ horseman carrying a sword in one hand and the Quran in the otherÂ conquering and forcibly converting. This, though, is not a correctÂ portrayal of history. Islam has always given respect and freedom ofÂ religion to all faiths. The Quran says: “God forbids you not, withÂ regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you outÂ of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for GodÂ loveth those who are just. 60:8)
Freedom of religion is laid down in the Quran itself: “There is noÂ compulsion (or coercion) in the religion (Islam). The right
direction is distinctly clear from error”. (2:256) ChristianÂ missionary, T.W. Arnold had this opinion on his study of the question
of the spread of Islam: “.. of any organized attempt to force theÂ acceptance of Islam on the non-Muslim population, or of any
systematic persecution intended to stamp out the Christian religion,Â we hear nothing. Had the caliphs chosen to adopt either course ofÂ action, they might have swept away Christianity as easily asÂ Ferdinand and Isabella drove Islam out of Spain, or Louis XIV madeÂ Protestanism …”
It is a function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status ofÂ minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have
flourished all over the Islamic world. History provides manyÂ examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths: when the caliphÂ Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom ofÂ worship to all religious communities in the city. Proclaiming to theÂ inhabitants that their lives, and property were safe, and that theirÂ places of worship would never be taken from them, he asked theÂ Christian patriarch Sophronius to accompany him on a visit to all theÂ holy places. Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set upÂ their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by theÂ minorities themselves. The life and property of all citizens in anÂ Islamic state are considered sacred whether the person is Muslim orÂ not.
Racism is not a part of Islam, the Quran speaks only of human equalityÂ and how all peoples are equal in the sight of God. “O mankind! WeÂ created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you intoÂ nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly,Â the most honored of you in God’s sight is the greatest of you inÂ piety. God is All-Knowing, All- Aware. (49:13)
All Muslims are Arabs
The Muslim population of the world is around 1.2 billion. 1 out of 5Â people in the world is a Muslim. They are a vast range of races,Â nationalities, and cultures from around the globe–from theÂ Phillipines to Nigeria–they are united by their common Islamic faith.Â Only about 18% live in the Arab world and the largest MuslimÂ community is in Indonesia. Most Muslims live east of Pakistan. 30%Â of Muslims live in the Indian subcontinent, 20% in Sub-Saharan Africa,Â 17% in Southeast Asia, 18% in the Arab world, and 10% in the SovietÂ Union and China. Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan make up 10% of theÂ non-Arab Middle East. Although there are Muslim minorities in almostÂ every area, including Latin America and Australia, they are mostÂ numerous in Russia and its newly independent states, India andÂ central Africa. There are about 6 million Muslims in the UnitedÂ States.
The Nation of Islam is a Muslim group.
Islam and the so called “Nation of Islam’” are two differentÂ religions. NOI is more of a political organization since its membersÂ are not limited to a single faith. Muslims consider this group to beÂ just one of many cults using the name of Islam for their own gain.Â The only thing common between them is the jargon, the language usedÂ by both. “The Nation of Islam” is a misnomer; this religion should beÂ called Farrakhanism, after the name of its propogator, Louis Farrakhan.
Islam and Farakhanism differ in many fundamental ways. For example,Â Farakhan followers believe in racism and that the ‘black man’ was theÂ original man and therefore superior, while in Islam there is noÂ racism and everyone is considered equal in the sight of God, the onlyÂ difference being in one’s piety. There are many other theologicalÂ examples that show the ‘Nation’s teachings have little to do withÂ true Islam. There are many groups in America who claim to representÂ Islam and call their adherents Muslims.
Any serious student of Islam has a duty to investigate and find theÂ true Islam. The only two authentic sources which bind every MuslimÂ are 1. the Quran and 2. authentic or sound Hadith. Any teachings underÂ the label of “Islam” which contradict or at variance with the directÂ understanding of fundamental beliefs and practices of Islam form theÂ Quran and authentic Hadith should be rejected and such a religionÂ should be considered a Pseudo-Islamic Cult. In America there are manyÂ pseudo-Islamic cults, Farrakhanism being one of them. An honestÂ attitude on the part of such cults should be not to call themselvesÂ Muslims and their religion Islam. such an example of honesty isÂ Bahaism which is an off-shoot of Islam but Bahais do not callÂ themselves Muslims nor their religion, Islam. In fact Bahaism is notÂ Islam just as Farrakhanism is not Islam.
All Muslim men marry four wives.
The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all times andÂ so accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife but the right is granted, according to the Quran, only on condition that the husband isÂ scrupulously fair. No woman can be forced into this kind of marriageÂ if they do not wish it, and they also have the right to exclude it inÂ their marriage contract.
Polygamy is neither mandatory, nor encouraged, but merely permitted.Â Images of “sheikhs with harems” are not consistent with Islam, as aÂ man is only allowed at most four wives only if he can fulfill theÂ stringent conditions of treating each fairly and providing each withÂ separate housing etc. Permission to practice polygamy is notÂ associated with mere satisfaction of passion. It is ratherÂ associated with compassion toward widows and orphans. It was the Quran that limited and put conditions on the practice of polygamyÂ among the Arabs, who had as many as ten or more wives and consideredÂ them “property”.
It is both honest and accurate to say that it is Islam that regulatedÂ this practice, limited it, made it more humane, and instituted equalÂ rights and status for all wives. What the Qur’anic decrees amount to,Â taken together is discouragement of polygamy unless necessity for itÂ exists. It is also evident that the general rule in Islam is monogamyÂ and not polygamy. It is a very tiny percentage of Muslims thatÂ practice it over the world. However, permission to practice limitedÂ polygamy is only consistent with Islam’s realistic view of the natureÂ of man and woman and of various social needs, problems and culturalÂ variations.
The question is, however far more than the inherent flexibility ofÂ Islam; it also is the frank and straightforward approach of Islam inÂ dealing with practical problems. Rather than requiring hypocriticalÂ and superficial compliance, Islam delves deeper into the problems ofÂ individuals and societies, and provides for legitimate and cleanÂ solutions which are far more beneficial than would be the case if theyÂ were ignored. There is no doubt that the second wife legally marriedÂ and treated kindly is better off than a mistress without any legalÂ rights or expermanence.
Muslims are a barbaric, backward people.
Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was theÂ simplicity of its doctrine-Islam calls for faith in only one GodÂ worthy of worship. It also repeatedly instructs man to use hisÂ powers of intelligence and observation. Within a few years, greatÂ civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet (pbuh), ‘seeking knowledge is an obligation for every MuslimÂ man and woman’.
The synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas and of new thought withÂ old, brought about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics,Â astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature, and history.Â Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and alsoÂ the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics),Â were transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam. SophisticatedÂ instruments which were to make possible the European voyages ofÂ discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant andÂ good navigational maps.
Muhammad was the founder of Islam and Muslims worship him.
Muhammad(pbuh) was born in Mecca in the year 570. Since his fatherÂ died before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he wasÂ raised by his uncle from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grewÂ up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, soÂ that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes.Â The historians describe him as calm and meditative. Muhammad (pbuh)Â was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadenceÂ of his society.
It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of HiraÂ near Mecca. At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat,Â Muhammad(pbuh) received his first revelation from God through theÂ Angel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for 23 years isÂ known as the Quran. As soon as he began to recite the words he heardÂ from Gabriel, and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him,Â he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution,Â which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command toÂ emigrate.
This event, the Hijra ‘migration’, in which they left Mecca for theÂ city of Medina, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. AfterÂ several years, the Prophet and his followers were able to return toÂ Mecca, where they forgave their enemies and established IslamÂ definitively. Before the Prophet saw dies at the age of 63, theÂ greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his deathÂ Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China. HeÂ died with less than 5 possessions to his name.
While Muhammad (pbuh) was chosen to deliver the message, he is notÂ considered the “founder” of Islam, since Muslims consider Islam to beÂ the same divine guidance sent to all peoples before. Muslims believeÂ all the prophets from Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus etc. were all sentÂ with divine guidance for their peoples. Every prophet was sent to hisÂ own people, but Muhammad(pbuh) was sent to all of mankind. MuhammadÂ is the last and final messenger sent to deliver the message of Islam.Â Muslims revere and honor him (pbuh) for all he went through and hisÂ dedication, but they do not worship him. “O Prophet, verily We haveÂ sent you as a witness and a bearer of glad tidings and a warner andÂ as one who invites unto God by His leave and as an illuminatingÂ lamp.”(33:45-6)
Muslims don’t believe in Jesus or any other prophets.
Muslims respect and revere Jesus, upon him be peace, and await hisÂ Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of God’sÂ messengers to mankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply asÂ ‘Jesus’, but always adds the phrase ‘upon him be peace’ (abbreviatedÂ as (u) here). The Quran confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of theÂ Quran is entitled ‘Mary’), and Mary is considered the purest woman inÂ all creation. The Quran describes the Annunciation as follows:
“Behold!” the Angel said, “God has chosen you, and purified you, andÂ chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary, God gives youÂ good news of a word from Him whose name shall be the Messiah, JesusÂ son of Mary, honored in this world and the Hereafter, and one of thoseÂ brought near to God. He shall speak to the people from his cradle andÂ in maturity, and shall be of the righteous.” She said: “O my Lord!Â How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?” He said: “EvenÂ so; God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing, He says to it,Â “Be!” and it is” (Quran 3:42-47).
Jesus (u) was born miraculously through the same power, which hadÂ brought Adam (u) into being without a father: “Truly, the likeness ofÂ Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust,Â and then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was.” (3:59) During his propheticÂ mission Jesus (u) performed many miracles. The Quran tells us that heÂ said: ” I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for youÂ out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breath into itÂ and it becomes a bird by God’s leave. And I heal the blind, and theÂ lepers, and I raise the dead by God’s leave.” (3:49) Neither MuhammadÂ (pbuh) not Jesus (u) came to change the basic doctrine of the brief inÂ One God brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it.
In the Quran Jesus (u) is reported as saying that he came: “To attestÂ the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of whatÂ was forbidden you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, soÂ fear God and obey Me. (3:50) The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:Â “Whoever believes there is no god but God, alone without partner,Â that Muhammad (pbuh) is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant andÂ messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit emanatingÂ from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received byÂ God into Heaven. “(Hadith related by Bukhari).