TOP TEN MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT
By Huma Ahmad
Muslims are violent, terrorists and/or
This is the biggest misconception in Islam, no doubt resulting
from the constant stereotyping and bashing the media gives Islam. When a
gunman attacks a mosque in the name of Judaism, a Catholic IRA guerrilla
sets off a bomb in an urban area, or Serbian Orthodox militiamen rape and
kill innocent Muslim civilians, these acts are not used to stereotype an
entire faith. Never are these acts attributed to the religion of the
perpetrators. Yet how many times have we heard the words 'Islamic, Muslim
fundamentalist. etc.' linked with violence.
Politics in so called "Muslim countries" may or may not have any
Islamic basis. Often dictators and politicians will use the name of Islam
for their own purposes. One should remember to go to the source of Islam
and separate what the true religion of Islam says from what is portrayed
in the media. Islam literally means 'submission to God' and is derived from
a root word meaning 'peace'.
Islam may seem exotic or even extreme in the modern world. Perhaps
this is because religion doesn't dominate everyday life in the West, whereas
Islam is considered a 'way of life' for Muslims and they make no division
between secular and sacred in their lives. Like Christianity, Islam permits
fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those
who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules
of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against
destroying crops, trees and livestock.
NOWHERE DOES ISLAM ENJOIN THE KILLING OF INNOCENTS..
The Quran says:
"Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress
limits. God does not love transgressors." (Quran 2:190)
"If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in God for He is the
One that heareth and knoweth all things." (Quran 8:61) War, therefore, is
the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the
sacred law. The term 'jihad' literally means 'struggle'. Muslims believe
that there are two kinds of jihad. The other 'jihad' is the inner struggle
of the soul which everyone wages against egotistic desires for the sake of
attaining inner peace.
Islam oppresses women.
The image of the typical Muslim woman wearing the veil and forced to stay
home and forbidden to drive is all too common in most peoples 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 gender equity.
Islam on the other hand gives men and women different roles and equity between
the two is laid down in the Quran and the example of the Prophet (peace be
upon him). Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual
in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings.
A marriage gift is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use,
and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband's. Both
men and women are expected to dress in a way that is modest and dignified.
The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said: "The most perfect in faith
amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife."
Violence of any kind towards women and forcing them against their will for
anything is not allowed. A Muslim marriage is a simple, legal agreement in
which either partner is free to include conditions. Marriage customs
thus vary widely from country to country. Divorce is not common, although
it is acceptable as a last resort. According to Islam, a Muslim girl cannot
be forced to marry against her will: her 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 the greatest
and most inclusive of the Names of God, it is an Arabic word of rich meaning,
denoting the one and only God and ascribing no partners to Him. It is exactly
the same word which the Jews, in Hebrew, use for God (eloh), the word which
Jesus Christ used in Aramaic when he prayed to God. God has an identical
name in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; Allah is the same God worshiped
by Muslims, Christians and Jews. Muslims believe that Allah's sovereignty
is to be acknowledged in worship and in the pledge to obey His teaching and
commandments, conveyed through His messengers and prophets who were sent
at various times and in many places throughout history. However, it should
be noted that God in Islam is One and Only. He, the Exalted, does not get
tired, does not have a son ie Jesus or have associates, nor does He have
human-like attributions as found in other faiths.
Islam was spread by the sword and intolerant of other faiths.
Many social studies textbooks for students show the image of an Arab horseman
carrying a sword in one hand and the Quran in the other conquering and forcibly
converting. This, though, is not a correct portrayal of history. Islam has
always given respect and freedom of religion to all faiths. The Quran says:
"God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your]
faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with
them; for God loveth those who are just. 60:8)
Freedom of religion is laid down in the Quran itself: "There is no compulsion
(or coercion) in the religion (Islam). The right direction is distinctly
clear from error". (2:256) Christian missionary, T.W. Arnold had this opinion
on his study of the question of the spread of Islam: ".. of any organized
attempt to force the acceptance of Islam on the non-Muslim population, or
of any systematic persecution intended to stamp out the Christian religion,
we hear nothing. Had the caliphs chosen to adopt either course of action,
they might have swept away Christianity as easily as Ferdinand and Isabella
drove Islam out of Spain, or Louis XIV made Protestanism ..."
It is a function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status of minorities,
and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the
Islamic world. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards
other faiths: when the caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam
granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city. Proclaiming
to the inhabitants that their lives, and property were safe, and that their
places of worship would never be taken from them, he asked the Christian
patriarch Sophronius to accompany him on a visit to all the holy places.
Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts,
which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves. The life
and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred whether
the person is Muslim or not.
Racism is not a part of Islam, the Quran speaks only of human equality and
how all peoples are equal in the sight of God. "O mankind! We created you
from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes,
so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of
you in God's sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-
All Muslims are Arabs
The Muslim population of the world is around 1.2 billion. 1 out of 5 people
in the world is a Muslim. They are a vast range of races, nationalities,
and cultures from around the globe--from the Phillipines to Nigeria--they
are united by their common Islamic faith. Only about 18% live in the
Arab world and the largest Muslim community is in Indonesia. Most Muslims
live east of Pakistan. 30% of Muslims live in the Indian subcontinent, 20%
in Sub-Saharan Africa, 17% in Southeast Asia, 18% in the Arab world, and
10% in the Soviet Union and China. Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan make up 10%
of the non-Arab Middle East. Although there are Muslim minorities in almost
every area, including Latin America and Australia, they are most numerous
in Russia and its newly independent states, India and central Africa. There
are about 6 million Muslims in the United States
The Nation of Islam is a Muslim group.
Islam and the so called "Nation of Islam'" are two different religions. NOI
is more of a political organization since its members are not limited to
a single faith. Muslims consider this group to be just one of many
cults using the name of Islam for their own gain. The only thing common
between them is the jargon, the language used by both. "The Nation
of Islam" is a misnomer; this religion should be called Farrakhanism,
after the name of its propogator, Louis Farrakhan.
Islam and Farakhanism differ in many fundamental ways. For example, Farakhan
followers believe in racism and that the 'black man' was the original man
and therefore superior, while in Islam there is no racism and everyone is
considered equal in the sight of God, the only difference being in one's
piety. There are many other theological examples that show the 'Nation's
teachings have little to do with true Islam. There are many groups in America
who claim to represent Islam and call their adherents Muslims.
Any serious student of Islam has a duty to investigate and find the true
Islam. The only two authentic sources which bind every Muslim are 1. the
Quran and 2. authentic or sound Hadith. Any teachings under the label of
"Islam" which contradict or at variance with the direct understanding
of fundamental beliefs and practices of Islam form the Quran and authentic
Hadith should be rejected and such a religion should be considered a
Pseudo-Islamic Cult. In America there are many pseudo-Islamic cults, Farrakhanism
being one of them. An honest attitude on the part of such cults should be
not to call themselves Muslims and their religion Islam. such an example
of honesty is Bahaism which is an off-shoot of Islam but Bahais do not call
themselves Muslims nor their religion, Islam. In fact Bahaism is not 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 and 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 is scrupulously fair. No woman can be
forced into this kind of marriage if they do not wish it, and they also have
the right to exclude it in their marriage contract.
Plygamy is neither mandatory, nor encouraged, but merely permitted.
Images of "sheikhs with harems" are not consistent with Islam, as a man is
only allowed at most four wives only if he can fulfill the stringent conditions
of treating each fairly and providing each with separate housing etc. Permission
to practice polygamy is not associated with mere satisfaction of passion.
It is rather associated with compassion toward widows and orphans. It was
the Quran that limited and put conditions on the practice of polygamy among
the Arabs, who had as many as ten or more wives and considered them "property".
It is both honest and accurate to say that it is Islam that regulated this
practice, limited it, made it more humane, and instituted equal rights and
status for all wives. What the Qur'anic decrees amount to, taken together
is discouragement of polygamy unless necessity for it exists. It is also
evident that the general rule in Islam is monogamy and not polygamy. It is
a very tiny percentage of Muslims that practice it over the world. However,
permission to practice limited polygamy is only consistent with Islam's realistic
view of the nature of man and woman and of various social needs, problems
and cultural variations.
The question is, however far more than the inherent flexibility of Islam;
it also is the frank and straightforward approach of Islam in dealing with
practical problems. Rather than requiring hypocritical and superficial
compliance, Islam delves deeper into the problems of individuals and societies,
and provides for legitimate and clean solutions which are far more beneficial
than would be the case if they were ignored. There is no doubt that the second
wife legally married and treated kindly is better off than a mistress without
any legal rights or expermanence.
Muslims are a barbaric, backward people.
Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the simplicity
of its doctrine-Islam calls for faith in only one God worthy of worship.
It also repeatedly instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and
observation. Within a few years, great civilizations and universities were
flourishing, for according to the Prophet (pbuh), 'seeking knowledge is an
obligation for every Muslim man and woman'.
The synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas and of new thought with old, brought
about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography,
architecture, art, literature, and history. Many crucial systems such as
algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of the zero (vital to
the advancement of mathematics), were transmitted to medieval Europe from
Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European
voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant
and 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 father died before
his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his uncle
from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grew up, he became known for his
truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his
ability to arbitrate in disputes. The historians describe him as calm and
meditative. Muhammad (pbuh) was of a deeply religious nature, and had long
detested the decadence of his society.
It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of
Hira near Mecca. At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat,
Muhammad (pbuh) received his first revelation from God through the Angel
Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for 23 years is known as the Quran.
As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel, and to preach
the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers
suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God
gave them the command to emigrate.
This event, the Hijra 'migration', in which they left Mecca for the city
of Medina, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. After several years,
the Prophet and his followers were able to return to Mecca, where they forgave
their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet saw
dies at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within
a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East
as China. He died with less than 5 possessions to his name.
While Muhammad (pbuh) was chosen to deliver the message, he is not considered
the "founder" of Islam, since Muslims consider Islam to be the same divine
guidance sent to all peoples before. Muslims believe all the prophets from
Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus etc. were all sent with divine guidance for their
peoples. Every prophet was sent to his own people, but Muhammad(pbuh) was
sent to all of mankind. Muhammad is the last and final messenger sent to
deliver the message of Islam. Muslims revere and honor him (pbuh) for all
he went through and his dedication, but they do not worship him. "O Prophet,
verily We have sent you as a witness and a bearer of glad tidings and a warner
and as one who invites unto God by His leave and as an illuminating
Muslims don't believe in Jesus or any other prophets.
Muslims respect and revere Jesus, upon him be peace, and await his Second
Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of God's messengers to mankind.
A Muslim never refers to him simply as 'Jesus', but always adds the phrase
'upon him be peace' (abbreviated as (u) here). The Quran confirms his virgin
birth (a chapter of the Quran is entitled 'Mary'), and Mary is considered
the purest woman in all creation. The Quran describes the Annunciation as
"Behold!" the Angel said, "God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen
you above the women of all nations. O Mary, God gives you good news of a
word from Him whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored
in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He
shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of
the righteous." She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man
has touched me?" He said: "Even so; God creates what He will. When He decrees
a thing, He says to it, "Be!" and it is" (Quran 3:42-47)
Jesus (u) was born miraculously through the same power, which had brought
Adam (u) into being without a father: "Truly, the likeness of Jesus with
God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to
him, 'Be!' and he was." (3:59) During his prophetic mission Jesus (u) performed
many miracles. The Quran tells us that hesaid: " I have come to you with
a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure
of a bird, and breath into it and it becomes a bird by God's leave. And I
heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God's leave." (3:49)
Neither Muhammad (pbuh) not Jesus (u) came to change the basic doctrine of
the brief in One God brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew
In the Quran Jesus (u) is reported as saying that he came: "To attest the
law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden
you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey
Me. (3:50) The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "Whoever believes there is no
god but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad (pbuh) is His messenger,
that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary
and a spirit emanating from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall
be received by God into Heaven. "(Hadith related by Bukhari).
1. (Islam: A Brief Introduction, Islamic Circle of North America, Jamaica,
2. (Understanding Islam and the Muslims, The Islamic Affairs Department The
Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington DC, 1989.)
3. (Badawi, Jamal, Polygamy in Islamic Law, The Muslim Students'
Association of the United States & Canada,)
4. (Islam and Farrakhanism Compared, The Institute of Islamic
Information and Education, Chicago, Illinois)
5. (Jihad Explained, The Institute of Islamic Information
& Education, Chicago, Illinois)