There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Yep…that means 1 in every 5 person in the world is a Muslim. Did you know that??
And guess what…. Islam is the fastest growing faith in the world (1) but why is it that Islam is the most misunderstood faith today?
Now, when you mention the word Islam today…after the chap has recovered from a nervous breakdown, the first thing that pops in his head is that '…oh yeah…that's that "paki-religion" innit… those dodgy looking blokes with long beards hijacking planes, blowing up buildings and chopping peoples hands….'.
Before you know it the word 'terrorist' and 'backward' will come to mind, women chained to the kitchen sink, guys with many wives and 'they hate Jesus' will be their idea of Islam.
Well, you know what mate…if this is your image of Islam then I suggest you switch off the media bashing from the telly and start to think for yourself what Islam is and what it offers the world today.
That's exactly what the likes of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Chris Eubank, Cat Stevens, Jemima Khan did…and they had no choice but to be amazed with the teaching and lifestyle of Islam.
The Revival will hopefully get rid of most of the misconceptions that the western world has about Islam. Check it out:
1: "Muslims are violent, terrorists and 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 London, or Serbian Orthodox militiamen rape and kills innocent Muslim civilians; these acts are not used to stereotype an entire faith. Oh no! Never are these acts attributed to the religion of the perpetrators. But you know what… how many times have we heard the words 'Islamic, Muslim fundamentalist.' linked with violence- especially after the recent terrorist attacks carried out in the world trading centre and the Pentagon?
Don't forget: there is no concept of "Fundamentalism" in Islam. The western media has coined this term to brand those Muslims who wish to return to the basic fundamental principles of Islam and mould their lives accordingly. Islam is a faith of moderation and a practicing God fearing Muslim can neither be a fanatic nor an extremist you na'a mean man? Terrorism has absolutely nothing to do with Islam whatsoever! In th eeyes of Islam it is a massive crime and the attackers need to be bought to justice.
Islam is a faith of peace and submission and stresses on the sanctity of human life. A verse in the Quran says, [Chapter 5, verse 32], that "anyone who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind and anyone who has killed another person it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind."
The word Jihad represents a concept, which is much misunderstood in the West…and no…it's not Holy War! The first thing that people think of is '…that Osama bin Ladin geezer..' and images of suicide bombing. Actually, the word "Jihad" means struggle, or to be specific, striving in the cause of God. Any struggle done in day-to-day life to please God can be considered Jihad. (You surprised..?)
One of the highest levels of Jihad is to stand up to a tyrant and speak a word of truth. Control of the self from wrong doings is also a great Jihad. One of the forms of Jihad is to take up arms in defence of Islam or a Muslim country when Islam is attacked. This kind of Jihad has to be declared by the religious leadership or by a Muslim head of state that is following the Quran and Sunnah (example of the Prophet Muhammad-pbuh). Jihad on the battlefield is the use of force in order to implement peace as a last resort….this making any sense, mate?
Even in war, according to Islam a Muslim is still not allowed to harm or kill traders, merchants, and contractors if they do not take part in actual fighting. It is totally against Islam for a Muslim to kill non-combatants, women, minors, servants, the blind, monks, elderly, those physically incapable of fighting and the insane or delirious. Combatants are only those who are physically capable of fighting. Even prisoners of war are given protection and cannot be harmed. Now you tell me, are these the rules, laws and etiquettes of terrorists and fanatics?
Nowhere does Islam allow the killing of innocent people!
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 you seek peace. And trust in God for He is the One that hears and knows all things." (Quran 8:61)
The Christian scholar Ira G. Zepp, Jr. states in his book 'A Muslim Primer' (1992, Wakefield Editions, US) pp.133-135: '… It is crucial to note here that what is condoned is defensive warfare; Islam cannot justify aggressive war. Muhammad and the Traditions are also against killing non-combatants, torturing of prisoners, the destruction of crops, animals and homes.'
It must be kept in mind that the western countries defend the use of war as necessary to implement peace, but when this necessity is applied by Muslims then its evil….of course! Christianity allows the use of war in order to spread Christianity, which is given the name of "Holy Crusade".
So remember me old chap, there is nothing wrong with Jihad and we must be wary of the negative propaganda by the media. But don't forget the terrorist attacks in America if they were carried out by Muslims, has got nothing to do with Jihad. It is terrorism and totally against the teachings of Islam. Even though there may be hatred against America due to its biased foreign policy against the Muslims- nothing can justify these terrorist attacks.
You see Islam means peace and a Muslim is one who is peaceful and brings peace….so how can it have anything to do with violence and terrorism?
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.
Is it a bird, is it a plane…no, it's superwoman! Oh yes…Islam elevated the status of women 1,400 years ago by declaring them equal to men, giving them the right to work, right to education to the highest level, right to vote, right to take public office, right to join the army, right to divorce (God forbid), right to inheritance, right to marry who she wishes (yippie!!) and so on and so forth, the list is endless….you got all day?
The idea that women are second class citizens and worth half a man is a myth. Never forget that women are equal to men in all acts of piety (Quran 33:32).
The Qur'an also abolished the practice whereby inheritance went to only the oldest male heir. Instead, a woman can inherit from her father, her husband, and her childless brother (see Qur'an 4:7, 32, 176).
Islam gave women political rights including voting and taking part in political activities such as sitting in parliament and becoming MP's. Lets not forget that women only got the right to vote in Britain in the beginning of the 20th century!
In Islam when a woman gets married she does not surrender her maiden name, but keeps her distinct identity. Some Muslim women have adopted the surnames of their husbands, but this is due to cultural influence, not Islam. In a Muslim marriage the groom gives a dowry to the bride, not to her father. This becomes her private property to keep or spend, and is not subject to the dictates of her male relatives. Any money she earns or receives is similarly her very own.
Under Islamic Law a woman cannot be married off without her consent. She has final approval on a marriage partner and she can refuse and cancel a marriage arranged without her consent. So a forced marriage has absolutely nothing to do with Islam She also has the right to initiate a separation from marriage if her rights under marriage are not being granted. Widows have the right to remarry, and they are in fact encouraged to do so.
The Qur'an places on men the responsibility of protecting and maintaining their female relatives. This relieves women of the need to earn their own living….but can work if they want to. It also means that a man must provide for his wife even if she has money of her own. She is not obligated to spend her money in the maintenance of her family. Also, a woman cannot be forced or does not have to cook, clean, wash-up etc for her family (…now that's what I call girl power!). This is a collective responsibility upon the husband and wife. The example of our noble Prophet (Peace be upon him) is that although he was such a great leader, he assisted in the house cleaning and mended his own clothes.
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, and I am the kindest to my wife."
Islam emphasizes modesty. No person should be seen as a sex object. There are certain guidelines both for men and women that their dress should neither be too thin nor too tight to reveal body forms. For men, they must at least cover the area from the knee to navel and for women; their dress should cover all areas except the hands and face. The veil is not essential but if a woman chooses do so it is up to her. Nowadays, topless and mini skirts are OK but covering yourself is 'oppression'…. Who you trying to fool?
Not Islam, but some Muslim men, do oppress women today. This is because of their cultural habits or their ignorance about Islam. Female Genital Mutilations has nothing to do with Islam. It is a pre Islamic African Custom, practiced by non-Muslims including Coptic Christians as well.
3: Muslims worship a different God. Muslims worship Muhammad.
Muslims believe in one God (Allah). 'Who's that then?' Allah is the Arabic word which is the name of the true God. It is exactly the same word, which the Jews, in Hebrew, use for God (eloh), the word that 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 do not worship Muhammad (pbuh) or any other prophet. Muslims believe in all prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon, Moses and Jesus. Muslims believe that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was the last of the prophets and God alone is to be worshiped, not any human being. God is one. He has no partners or children. There is none like Him.
All the prophets came down preaching about the same God: Allah Almighty.
4: "Islam was spread by the sword. It 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 is as correct as saying Lord Archer is an honest chap!
Islam has always given respect and freedom of religion to all faiths. 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)
Islam did not spread by the sword because in many places where there are Muslims now, in the Far East like Indonesia, in China, and many parts of Africa, there are no records of any Muslim armies going there. The "Sword of Islam" could not convert all the non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries. In India, where Muslims ruled for 700 years, they are still a minority. In the U.S.A., Islam is the fastest growing religion and has over 6 million followers without any sword around.
It is an important part 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.
Islamic law also allows 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.
Huston Smith discusses in his book entitled The World's Religions, how the prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, granted freedom of religion to the Jews and Christians under Muslim rule.
The prophet had a document drawn up in which he stipulated that Jews and Christians shall be "protected from all insults and harm; they shall have an equal right with our own people to our assistance and good offices," and furthermore, that they shall "practice their religion as freely as the Muslims" (Quoted in The World's Religions by Huston Smith, Harper Collins, 1991, p. 256). Smith points out that Muslims regard that document as "the first charter of freedom of conscience in human history and the authoritative model for those of every subsequent Muslim state" (p. 256).
5: "All Muslims are Arabs. Islam is a 'paki-religion'. "
Islam has got nothing to do with race or any country or nationality. Islam is for all nations and for all times. The Muslim population of the world is around 1.2 billion. One out of five people in the world are 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. 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 and over 2 million in Britain.
Also don't forget that the "Nation of Islam" has got nothing to do with Islam. It is a racist organisation, which believes God is black, all white people are devils and Elijah Muhammad is the last messenger of God. Clearly its followers are NOT Muslims. Its leader now is Louis Farrakhan who has been allowed to come to the UK recently. So don't be fooled by these people!
6: "All Muslim men marry four wives."
John Esposito, a western author on Islam, says: '…Although it is found in many religious and cultural traditions, polygamy is most often identified with Islam in the minds of Westerners. In fact, the Qur'an and Islamic Law sought to control and regulate the number of spouses rather than give free license. (John Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University, 1988, p. 97).
Esposito then goes on to explain that in a society which allowed men an unlimited number of wives, Islam limited the number of wives to four. Then he continued to say: '..The Qur'an allows a man to marry up to four wives, provided he can support and treat them all equally. Muslims regard this Quranic command as strengthening the status of women and the family for it sought to ensure the welfare of single women and widows in a society whose male population was diminished by warfare, and to curb unrestricted polygamy.'
Karen Armstrong explains in her book entitled Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam. (Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1991, p. 191) She says: …'We have to see the ruling about polygamy in context. In seventh-century Arabia, when a man could have as many wives as he chose, to prescribe only four was a limitation, not a license to new oppression.
Now you're probably thinking that most Muslim men would have four wives. However, as Huston Smith points out, "multiple wives are seldom found in Islam today" (The World's Religions, p. 252). Ira Zepp, Jr. says, "less than 2% of Muslim marriages are polygamous" (A Muslim Primer, p. 180).
There is no doubt that the second wife legally married and treated kindly is better off than a mistress without any legal rights or social respect. The west should think twice before it criticises Islam when many marriages in the west break up due to the male natural desire of seeking another partner. Islam has solved this problem by allowing more than one wife.
7: "Muslims are backward people."
This claim can only be made if you've had too many pints because anyone who has studied Islam and the Muslims know this a load of cobblers. Islam made 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. I don't know about you but if this is backward then I'm the Pope!
8: "Muslims don't believe in Jesus or any other Prophet. "
A Muslim cannot be a Muslim if he does not believe in Jesus. Muslims respect and revere Jesus, upon him be peace, and await his Second Coming. His true name is "Isa" which was changed by Christians to Jesus.
Muslims consider him as one of the greatest of God's messengers to mankind- and not God or the Son of God. 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 tells us that Jesus was born of a miraculous birth without a father. "Lo! The likeness of Jesus with Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then He said unto him: Be and he is" (Quran 3.59). He was given many miracles as a prophet.
These include speaking soon after his birth in defence of his mother's piety. God's other gifts to him included healing the blind and the sick, reviving the dead, making a bird out of clay and most importantly, the message he was carrying. These miracles were given to him by God to establish him as a prophet. According to the Quran, he was not crucified but was raised into Heaven. (Quran, Chapter Maryam).
A final word:
Remember: Islam is the fastest growing faith in the world and it is the answer to the problems facing the world today. Study Islam and speak to sincere Muslims.
Don't judge Islam on what you see on the telly or what some Muslims and Muslim 'so-called' leaders or groups are doing. After you have studied the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad then believe me… you will be so impressed that the only natural thing for you to do is…. to embrace Islam.
1. (The Junior Encyclopaedia of Canada, Hurtig Publishers, Canada, 1990, Vol. 2, p. 396).For further information see: A Brief Illustrated Guide to understanding Islam Women in Islam Why women are turning to Islam (video) Questions this modern age asks about Islam Contact The Revival to discuss the issues mentioned.
© The Revival 2001