Debunking Common Misconceptions Of Islam

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What are the views against islam? What is islamophobia?

In this section the author will attempt to address some of the main misconceptions regarding Islam. Firstly, there is the misconception that is widely propagated that all Muslims are Arabs. However, the Arabs make up only 15% of the world’s Muslim population. As a matter of fact the Middle East comes in third, after Asia coming in at first (69%) and Africa (27%) coming in at second, with nations that have the most Muslim populations. The second major misconception is that Muslims do not accept Jesus. Therefore, many people are astonished to discover that according to Muslim belief, Jesus is one of the greatest messengers of God. Moreover, it is not possible to be a Muslim without believing in the virgin birth and the many miracles of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus is mentioned numerous times in many verses of the Qur’an and is often used as an example of good virtue and character. The main difference between Christianity and Islam is that Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the son of God.

A further misconception concerning Islam is that it is intolerant towards other religions. ‘Kill the infidel’ is the phrase many people believe is the ideology that Muslims have towards the non-Muslims. In contrast, the truth is that Islam has always held other faiths in great respect and allowed their followers the freedom to practice their religion in peace. In the Qur’an, it is stated:Allah does not forbid you, with regards to those who fight you not for religion nor drive you away out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them, for Allah loves those who are just.”[1] There are numerous historical examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths, such as, when Caliph Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) granted freedom to all religious communities in Jerusalem and said that the inhabitants of his city were safe and that their places of worship would never be taken away from them. He also set up courts that were designated to the non-Muslim minorities.

A further common contemporary misconception based upon the above mentioned issue is that Islam promotes violence and terrorism. On the contrary, the truth is that Islam prohibits terrorism; killing an innocent person is considered a great crime in Islam In the Qur’an it is stated, “For this reason, We made it a law for the children of Israel that the killing of a person for reasons other than legal retaliation or for stopping corruption in the land is as great a sin as murdering all of humankind. However, to save a life would be as great a virtue as to save all of humankind…”[2] In relation to this topic and the views regarding it, many people may have heard of the Arabic term, ‘Jihad’, which is misinterpreted to meanholy war’ when in actuality it means ‘to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, and to persevere’. Jihad can be personal or it can be a community of persons struggling against oppression. In essence, it means to be closer to Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, in lifestyle and community. This type of struggle (jihad) is to ensure that a peaceful and equitable community continues to exist. Defensive means are acceptable to safeguard the wellbeing of the community; however, offensive aggression is strictly prohibited. It is famously reported that Muhammad returned from a battle and said,We have returned from the lesser jihad (going into battle) to the greater jihad (the struggle of the soul).” This means that a Muslim’s struggle against his or her self is far more important than the jihad of going into war. It is important to also know that martyrdom in Islam is not only when a person dies at war. A person who dies while performing the pilgrimage to Mecca, a woman who dies while giving birth, or even a person who drowns are all considered martyrs.

Another misconception based upon the misunderstanding mentioned above, is the notion that Islam was spread by the sword. There is no record in history that shows people being forced at the point of the sword to convert to Islam. In fact, Muslim history has shown that once under Muslim rule, people of different faiths were allowed the freedom to profess, manifest, and practice their faith. For instance, it is a historical fact that while most of Persia became Muslim in a much shorter period after the conquest of the Muslims, most of the citizens of conquered eastern Byzantium (i.e. Middle East) did not begin to embrace Islam until the eight century. According to the book Late Antiquity, A Guide to the Post-Classical World, the Muslim population in the new Islamic realm (up to approximately 800 CE) was counted as a minority, around 5% of the whole. Accordingly, a Muslim population majority in the Middle East is considered to have occurred around the late ninth century.[3] Similarly, the Muslims who spread Islam to the West, including Spain and Morocco, and all the way to India and China in the East, were too small and insignificant in their numbers to impose Islam on the large number of people in these regions.

Perhaps one of the most popular contemporary misconceptions in relation to Islam is that it guides its followers to oppress women, whereas, in actuality nothing can be further from the truth because Islam promotes women’s rights. For instance, in the Qur’an Allah grants women freedoms that previous civilizations did not offer, such as, the right to inherit property, the opportunity to conduct business and to have access to knowledge. Despite such an emphasis on the rights and freedom of women in Islam, the oppression that many women face in Muslim countries today is an unfortunate result of degenerate and backward cultural traditions as opposed to the teachings of Islam. In the Muslim world today, the unfair persecution of women, the denial or violation of their basic rights, including their right to inherit property, is all too familiar to overlook. It should be noted that during pre-Islamic Arabia, women were considered as the property of men, and therefore, denied independence and freedom. The birth of a daughter in a family was considered humiliating and the practice of female infanticide was rampant. The verses in the Qur’an condemned such practices as female infanticide, and gave women rights considered inalienable. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Indeed women are the partners of men[4] underscoring the equality of the two before Allah, especially in terms of rights and obligations. Thus, while there are cultures in the Muslim world that still implement harsh and unjust judgments against women, such practices are not inherent to Islam nor are they a part of the diverse Muslim culture that can trace its roots back fourteen centuries to the earliest Muslims in Arabia i.e. Mecca and Medina.

[1].Q. 60:8[2].Q. 5:32[3]. Bowersock, Brown and Grabar (eds.), Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Post-Classical World, (Cambridge: The Belknap Press), 1999, p. 517.[4].Al-Tirmidhi, Book 1, Hadith 112.

Source: Islam For New Muslims An Educational Guide,Assoc. Prof. Amjad M. Hussain, Erkam Publications

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