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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Top 10 Misapprehensions about Islam

In this article, we will try to clear up many of the misconceptions that are prevalent about Islam. In the words of Swiss journalist and author, Roger Du Pasquier “The West, whether Christian or dechristianised, has never really known Islam. Ever since they watched it appear on the world stage, Christians never ceased to insult and slander it in order to find justification for waging war on it. It has been subjected to grotesque distortions the traces of which still endure in the European mind. Even today there are many Westerners for whom Islam can be reduced to three ideas: fanaticism, fatalism and polygamy.
Before jumping into the list of misconceptions directly, it is important to give a little interesting background about the source of Islam.
Islam is the name of a way of life which the Creator wants us to follow. We avoid the word religion because in many non-Islamic societies, there is a separation of “religion and state.” This separation is not recognized at all in Islam: the Creator is very much concerned with all that we do, including the political, social, economic, and other aspects of our society. Hence, Islam is a complete way of life.
Of course, there does exist a more cultivated public whose ideas about Islam are less deformed; there are still precious few who know that the word islam signifies nothing other than ’submission to God’. One symptom of this ignorance is the fact that in the imagination of most Europeans, Allah refers to the divinity of the Muslims, not the God of the Christians and Jews; they are all surprised to hear, when one takes the trouble to explain things to them, that ‘Allah’ means ‘God’, and that even Arab Christians know him by no other name. “
Several misconceptions are listed below. Instead of simply stating the misconception by itself, we have also included some reasons why people might adopt that misconception.

1. Islamic Terrorism
People think it this way because they believe:
  • Muslims can be terrorists
  • Muslims engage in `holy wars’ (jihad)
  • it has a harsh and cruel judicial system
This misconception is one of the most widely held misconceptions about Islam today, given unfairly by stereotyping and the public image that the media gives. Has anyone else noticed how when a specific group of people attack another group of people it is labeled as a ‘hate crime’, but when a Muslim opens fire on anybody it is quickly regarded as ‘terrorism’. Many political dictators and officials or extremist groups use the name of Islam as a strategy to garner followers and attention when many of their practices go against the true basis of Islam. The media has also portrayed Islam as a cult or a club where if you join you become a terrorist and that is now part of your agenda. However all over the world people practice Islam in the true form and use it as a way of life. There are many verses in the Quran that go against the idea of terrorism. Some of these verses include “fight in the way of Allah those that fight you but do not transgress limits for god does not love transgressors.” This basically means do not fight except in self defense and even in doing so do not go beyond defense. Another verse states “if they seek peace, then you seek peace,” which means do not attack people for no reason or kill innocent people. There is nowhere in Islam, whether it be in the Quran or the teachings of Muhammad, that promotes the killing of innocent people.The Creator unambiguously states clearly it is Islamically unlawful to murder anyone who is innocent of certain crimes. Hence, if any Muslim kills an innocent person, that Muslim has committed a grave sin, and certainly the action cannot be claimed to have been done “in the name of Islam.”
Another reason advanced in support of the misconception is that the Creator has imposed `jihad’ on Muslims. The term “holy war” is from the time of the Crusades and originated in Europe as a rallying cry against the Muslims in Jerusalem. Jihad is an Arabic word meaning struggle, The Creator unequivocally orders us to fight oppression and persecution, but not to kill the innocent. Since this subject is a huge one, we simply summarize part of it by noting that it is unlawful to kill women, children, the infirm, the old, and the innocent. From the Sunnah, specifically in the study of the Sunnah called Sahih Bukhari, we find:
Narrated ‘Abdullah: During some of the Ghazawat of the Prophet a woman was found killed. Allah’s Apostle disapproved the killing of women and children.[4:52:257]
A third reason often cited for the misconception about Islam which says that this way of life tolerates the killing of innocents is that the judicial system of Islam is unnecessarily harsh. This reason is weak in two respects. First, it presupposes that human beings are more just and more merciful than the Creator, and therefore we can change the law. Second, it is often based on gross oversimplifications of Islamic law, such as saying “all thieves get their hands cut off.” The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) loves not those who do wrong. But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame. The blame is only against those who oppress men and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a grievous penalty. And whoever is patient and forgiving, these most surely are actions due to courage.

2. Islam Oppresses Women

People think In Islam, women are inferior to men because:
  • a man can marry up to 4 wives, a woman can marry only one man
  • a man’s share of inheritance is bigger than a woman’s
  • a man can marry a non-Muslim, a woman cannot
  • women must wear the veil
This widely held misconception does not remotely follow from the reasons given. The first and most important observation to make about the popular question “Are men and women equal?” is that it is a badly-formed, unanswerable question. The problem which many people conveniently ignore is that “equal” is not defined. This is a very critical point: the equality must be specified with respect to some measurable property. For example, women on average are superior to men if we ask who is shorter in height than the other (“Growth and Development”, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1992). Women are also superior on average if we ask whom do children bond to deeper, mothers or fathers. Women are also superior on average if we ask who has a tendency to socialize more. On the other hand, men are superior on average if we ask who is taller in height than the other. And so on: every question can be turned around, and more importantly these are properties which are irrelevant.
The image of a woman wearing a veil from head to toe, a woman who gets unfair justice or a woman who is not allowed to drive is an all too familiar notion when it comes to women treatment in Islam. And while there are Muslim countries in the world that do implement many harsh rulings against women, this should not be portrayed as Islamic law. Many of these countries have cultural differences that go against the teachings of Islam. It should be noted that during pre-Islam Arabia women were used for fornication only and had no independence. The birth of a daughter in a family was considered humiliating and the practice of female infanticide was uncontrolled. When Islam came to being, verses in the Quran condemned the practice of female infanticide. Islam gave back many human rights to the woman and Muhammad (PBUH) was even reported saying that “women are the twin halves of men.” 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 but cannot at all force. A Muslim woman is allowed to reject and accept any suitor for marriage and has the right to seek divorce. There is nothing in Islam that forbids a Muslim woman from exiting her house and is allowed to drive. Also in regards to education, a woman is obligated to seek knowledge and it is considered a sin if she refuses.
Given that husbands are obligated to provide for wives, and that marriage is a highly recommended goal of Islam, it is easy to see why women’s inheritance share is half that of men. We note also that men are obligated to provide a suitable dowry to women on marriage. In fact, it is preferable at this point to speak in terms of husbands and wives instead of men and women. Allah says in the Qur’an (translation),
And give women their dowries as a free gift, but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment and with wholesome result.[4:4]
While men are allowed to marry up to four wives, they are also commanded to meet the preconditions of being able to financially support them. They must also deal with each wife justly and fairly with respect to marital and economic obligations. Allah says in the Qur’an (translation),
[4:3] If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.
While it is irrelevant to Islam, it is worthwhile to note that both Judaism and Christianity allow polygamy. The idea is not as foreign to the non-Muslims as is often claimed.
Finally, the wearing of the veil by women is also an illogical premise to claim that women are inferior to men. It is more appropriate to indict a society of female exploitation if it tolerates pornography rather than if it enforces the veil. Given that Allah is neither male nor female, given that He does not endear people to Himself based on their gender, given that the Creator cares about all of us male or female, given that the sexual and violent drive of men is stronger than that of women…given all this, it is illogical to cast a negative light on the following injunctions contained in the Qur’an (translation),
O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better in order that they may be known (to be Muslims) and not be annoyed…[33:59]

3. Muslims Worship a Different God
People interpret Muslims have a different God:
  • Muslims worship Allah
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.

4. Muslims Hate Jesus
 It is assumed that Islam rejects Jesus because:
  • Jesus is not accepted as `the Son of God’
Many people are amazed to find out that according to Muslim belief, Jesus is one of the greatest messengers of God. One cannot be a Muslim without believing in the virgin birth and the many miracles of Jesus Christ. Jesus is also mentioned in many verses of the Quran and is often used as an example of good virtue and character. However, the main difference between Christianity and Islam is that Muslims do not believe that Jesus is God or son of God. Jesus is respected as much as Muhammad (Pbuh) is.
Muslims  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 follows:

“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 he said: ” 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 it.
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. ”

5. Prophet Muhammad Was a Pedophile
This is a strong wrongly assumed idea in many people because:

Muhammad (PBUH) married a nine years old girl

While it is true that he married a girl that was at the age of nine that does not constitute pedophilia. Historically, the age at which a girl was considered ready to be married has been puberty. This was the case in Biblical times, and is still used today to determine the age of marriage in many parts of the world. This was part of the norm and is not something that Islam invented. The girl he got married to had reached puberty 3 years before marriage. (The first mensturation “menarche” marks the onset of puberty) It is upon reaching the age of puberty that a person, man or woman, becomes legally responsible for their actions under Islamic law. (Because puberty marks the onset of child-bearing age). At this point, they are allowed to make their own decisions and are held accountable for their actions. It should also be mentioned that in Islam, it is unlawful to force someone to marry someone that they do not want to marry. There is no indication that the society at that time criticized this marriage due to the girl’s young age. On the contrary, the marriage was encouraged by the girl and her family and was welcomed by the community at large so there is no point in thinking that Prophet (pbuh) married her without her consent or that he is a pedophile.

6. Islam is Spread by Sword
Islam is intolerant of other religions because
  • the Qur’an condemns the other religions as false
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.  Historian De lacey O’Leary states “History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.” There is no record in history that shows people being forced by sword point to convert to Islam. When Islam spread through countries they would set up private churches and synagogues for the non Muslims they were governing and because of the good treatment they had received they themselves would convert. If one considers the small number of Muslims who initially spread Islam to the west all the way from Spain and Morocco and into east from India and China one would realize that such a small group of people could not force others to be members of a religion against their will. It is also interesting to note that when the Mongols invaded and conquered large portions of the Islamic empire, instead of destroying the religion they adopted it!

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, they are all held as one equal citizens.

Prophet (pbuh) said,
“One who kills a non-Muslim person under protection will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.”
He also said:
Whoever hurts a non-Muslim person under protection, I am his adversary, and I shall be an adversary to him on the Day of Resurrection.
7. Denial of Human Rights is Acceptable
This widely held misconcept that in Islam because people think
  • Islam is against pure democracy
  • Islam tolerates slavery
The misconception does not follow from the reasons given, and the reasons ignore a great deal of information.
It is clear in Islam that the state’s obligation of obedience to the individuals is as important as the obedience of the Creator. Therefore those who are charged with authority are not allowed in any case to differ in anything among themselves and the people. Allah orders us to conduct our matters by taking counsel among ourselves, or by consulting each other. This is the methodology of the Islamic state, to consult one another, but to always keep the Qur’an and Sunnah paramount because it holds for justice and equality for each and every individual.
As for slavery, Islam is unique among the `religions’ in its close attention to the peaceful removal of this practice. Before the advent of Islam, slavery was widespread all over the world. The Messenger of Islam taught us that freeing slaves was a great deed in the sight of Allah. We find:
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Whoever frees a Muslim slave, Allah will save all the parts of his body from the (Hell) Fire as he has freed the body-parts of the slave.”
As a result of the teachings of Islam, slavery was almost completely eradicated from many areas of the Muslim world, peacefully and without bloodshed.

8. Muslims are Savages, Backward People

The concept that Islam produces a lazy backward, uneducated society came to being because people think:
  • Modern technology and science are condemned
  • Seeking education isn’t allowed
  • Muslims are barbaric in wars
The reasons given for this misconception are false, and the misconception itself is actually refuted directly by the Qur’an and Sunnah. It also repeatedly instructs man to  use his powers of intelligence and observation. 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 by Muslim Scientists, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.

Many of the theories and concepts science is proving today were told by Islam 1400 years back. Many of them you shall see if you open Quran, but here we tell one:

The nonbelievers of Makkah said to Prophet that if you are truly a prophet split the moon and if you do, we shall believe. It was a full moon that night. And so the prophet prayed to God to grant him this miracle. And the moon was split, Half was seen over mount Saffa and other half on Mount Kaikaan. The nonbelievers said that prophet has  casted a spell on us, however if he played a trick on us, he can’t do at all the people in the world, let us wait until the people of Albaidah come, if they saw the split of moon too, then it is true, if not then we all know, it was a trick of magic. When the people from Albaidah came they said they too saw the moon split.  The nonbelievers didn’t believe even then and said “Oh how powerful Muhammad’s magic is” One of the British Brothers, David Mosa Pidcook who was planning to enter elections under the banner of religion, a friend gave him copy of Quran translated in english, he opened it and came across surat Al- Qamar (Chapter: The moon), he read “The hour has come and moon has split” looking at this he exlaimed “the moon has split?” He then stopped and didn’t open it again. Then one day while watching a program on  BBC, where there was a debate between three experts. The discussion was about if the amount of money paid by NASA to send a human to land on the surface of the moon to study the inner structure of the moon was worth it or not?  The American government authorised a budget of $100, 000, 000, 000  for this project. One of the discoveries of that project was that there is a layer of material that splits the moon deep down to its core into two halves and we thereby have concluded with only explanation that the moon was split at some times in its history like two perfect halves and rejoined.

Watching this, David Mosa jumped off his seat exclaiming, “this is Muhammad’s miracle that happened over 1400years ago, this must surely be a true religion” so as once this surat Al Qamar was a cause of disbelieving Islam, it was now the reason for him embracing it.
The disbelievers will never accept any proof even if it is clear to them and they will turn away from it. Allah described in the same verses the reaction of the disbelievers [this also applies to the people of our time] The sura reads [54:2-8 ] ‘when they get faced with the truth, they turn away, and say: (This is continuous magic). And every matter will be settled [according to the kind of deeds (for the doer of good deeds, his deeds will take him to Paradise, and similarly evil deeds will take their doers to Hell)].
Moreover people think Muslims are savages and barbaric during war.
Quite the contrary, when it comes to the conduct of war there are ten rules that every Muslim army must obey:
1. Do not commit treachery
2. Do not deviate from the right path
3. Do not mutilate dead bodies
4. Do not kill children
5. Do not kill women
6. Do not kill aged men
7. Do not harm or burn trees
8. Do not destroy buildings
9. Do not destroy an enemy’s flock, unless you use it for your food
10. When you pass people who have devoted their lives to monastic services leave them alone
During the crusades when Saladin defeated the franks he honored the defeated Frankish army and supplied them with food and during the third crusade when Saladin’s enemy king Richard fell sick, Saladin sent him a gift of fruits and horses.

10. Islam is Racist

The misconceptions leading to this thinking are:
  • Nation of Islam espouses the superiority of the black man
  • The Nation of Islam recognizes God as a black man
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.
One of the great misconceptions of the twentieth century is that the so-called `Nation of Islam’ is a Muslim community, or more precisely: a community which submits to Allah by following the Qur’an and Sunnah. The `Nation of Islam’ is a man-made way of life which borrowed some elements of Islam and then mixed them with a large number of inventions and lies to reach their present doctrines.
It suffices to point out the `Nation of Islam’s deviation in two areas. First, they reject the essence of Islam by concocting a story wherein the Creator takes the form of a black man. From their on-line publications, we find that the `Nation of Islam’ believes in
…one God (Allah) and that Allah (God) appeared in the Person of Master W. Fard Muhammad, July, 1930; the long awaited `Messiah’ of the Christians and the `Mahdi’ of the Muslims…
However, the Creator states in the Qur’an (translation),
[6:103] No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things.
The `Nation of Islam’ also claims that white men are `devils’, and that black people are in general superior to all other races. However, from the Sunnah, specifically in the Messenger of Allah’s farewell sermon, we find the Messenger (pbuh) saying:
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action.
There are many other beliefs which the `Nation of Islam’ holds which take it outside of Islam. It is interesting to note that in the mid-1970′s, the overwhelming majority of the group realized its errors and converted to true Islam. There is, however, a splinter group which remains active today.
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.

Sources and Credits:
(Quran and Hadith)
(Islam: A Brief Introduction, Islamic Circle of North America,
Jamaica, New York)
(Understanding Islam and the Muslims, The Islamic Affairs Department
The Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington DC, 1989.)
(Badawi, Jamal, Polygamy in Islamic Law, The Muslim Students’
Association of the United States & Canada,)
(Islam and Farrakhanism Compared, The Institute of Islamic Information
and Education, Chicago, Illinois)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can not generalize the mentality of ─░slam as a mom is from turkey and my father is in contrast from they have been married!!i dont know the rest, but turkey is quite tolerant in this term of being a i visit my grandparents in i see women can wear like casual chic or short clothes like in milano.and all guys have to marry just one guy not MORE!!also i have meet a lot of friendly, open minded people and i recognize that even teenage girls can be dating with their boyfriend in crowd very closely u know... ─░ think that there are two sides especially in side is like one of us and the other side is maybe PARTLY like u described which is quite complicated to discuss.

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