Misconceptions About Islam

The following communication was received from Australia via the IWW listserv. I am reprinting it here in the hope that it will dispel some of the misconceptions and outright lies spread about our Muslim sisters and brothers in the corporate-controlled media. Islam is not the enemy. -- Ted M.

Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the world today. Despite the fact that 1.2 Billion people follow Islam and it is the fastest growing religion in the world. Read and learn - ignorance breeds unnecessary fear and hatred. Knowledge fosters understanding and harmony between people.

(Sorry about the length of the article)

Ahmed Kilani


1.Muslims are violent, terrorists and/or extremists.

This is the biggest misconception about 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 consult 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 Allah' 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-defence, in defence 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 Allah against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. Allah does not love transgressors." (Quran 2:190) "If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in Allah 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'. The greatest form of 'jihad' is the inner struggle of the soul, which everyone wages against their egotistic desires for the sake of attaining inner peace.

2: 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 people's 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 equality.

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. 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 Allah 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.

3: 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 Allah. Allah 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 (i.e. Jesus) or have associates, nor does He have human-like attributions as found in other faiths.

4: Islam was spread by sword and is 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, however, is not a correct portrayal of history. Islam has always given respect and freedom of religion to all faiths. The Quran says: "Allah 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 Allah loveth those who are just." (Qur'an 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." (Qur'an 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 Protestantism..."

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 people are equal in the sight of Allah. "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 honoured of you in Allah's sight is the greatest of you in piety. Allah is All-Knowing, All- Aware."

5: All Muslims are Arabs. The Muslim population of the world is around 1,2 billion. One out of every five people in the world is a Muslim. They are a vast range of races, nationalities, and cultures from around the globe from the Philippines 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. Thirty percent 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.

6: 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 Allah worthy of worship. It also repeatedly instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and observation. Within a few years, great civilisations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet, '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. The first ever universities and hospitals were established by Muslims.

7: Muhammad was the founder of Islam and Muslims worship him.

Muhammad was born in Makkah 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 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 received his first revelation from Allah 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 Allah had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 Allah gave them the command to emigrate.

This event, the Hijrah or 'migration', in which they left Makkah for the city of Madina, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. After several years, the Prophet Muhammad and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the death of Prophet Muhammad 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.

While Muhammad 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 Prophets 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 was sent to all of mankind. Muhammad is the last and final messenger sent to deliver the message of Islam. Muslims revere and honour him 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 Allah by His leave and as an illuminating lamp." (Qur'an 33:45-46)

8: Muslims don't believe in Jesus or any other Prophets.

Muslims respect and revere Jesus and await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of Allah's messengers to mankind.The Qur'an 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, "Allah has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary, Allah gives you good news of a word from Him whose name shall be the Messiah, Eesa(Jesus) son of Mary, honoured in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to Allah. 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; Allah creates what He wills. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, "Be!" and it is." (Qur'an 3:42-47)

Jesus was born miraculously through the same power, which had brought Adam into being without a father: "Truly, the likeness of Eesa(Jesus) with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, 'Be!' and he was." (Qur'an 3:59)

During his prophetic mission Jesus performed many miracles. The Qur'an 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 Allah's leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by Allah's leave." (Qur'an 3:49)

Neither Muhammad nor Jesus came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One Allah brought by earlier Prophets, but to confirm and renew it.

In the Qur'an Jesus is reported as saying that he came: "And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Taurat (Torah), and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you; and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord, so fear Allah and obey me." (Qur'an 3:50)

The Prophet Muhammad said: "Whoever believes there is no Allah but Allah, alone without partner, that Muhammad (PBUH) is His messenger, that Eesau(Jesus) is the servant and messenger of Allah, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit emanating from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by Allah into Heaven."

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