Muslims are violent, terrorists and/or extremists.
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
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.
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,
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
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
The Muslim population of the world is around 1,2 billion.
One out of five 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. 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.
Islam and the so called "Nation of Islam (NOI)" 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
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 NOI'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. Read about
X in relation to this misconception, where he found the true Islam,
realizing that it is much different than NOI.
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.
Polygamy 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.
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'.
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 Hijrah or '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 death of Prophet (saw) 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.
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 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, "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 wills. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, "Be!" and it is." (Qur'an 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." (Qur'an 3:59)
In the Qur'an Jesus (u) 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)