The religion, Islam, is one of the most-followed religion in the world with billions of adherents worldwide which is a surprise that a lot of people especially Westerners still hold some false misconceptions about it.
Here are the top 10 misconceptions about Islam:
Muslims are Arabs
Misconception: All Muslims are Arabs
The common image of a Muslim is a turbaned Arab man with a long beard. However, this image is part of the minority of Muslims. Arabs make only 15% of the world’s Muslim population.
As a matter of fact, the Middle East comes in third with East Asia coming in at first (69%) and Africa (27%) coming in at second.
Another common misconception is that all Arabs are Muslims. While the vast majority of Arabs are Muslims (75%), there are many other religions that Arabs practice including Christianity and Judaism.
Muslims and Jesus
Misconception: Muslims Hate Jesus
There are many similarities between the historical references of Christianity and Islam.
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 was God.
Islam and Jihad
Misconception: Jihad means to fight for the sake of God
The true Arabic meaning of the word jihad is struggle. However, in Islam, it is often used to describe the striving in the way of god.
There are many forms of jihad but the most important ones are Jihad al-nafs (jihad against one’s self), jihad bil-lisan (jihad by being vocal), jihad bil yad (jihad by using action), and Jihad bis saif (jihad by using the sword).
Each jihad is ranked differently and it was 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 struggling against himself and his soul is more important than the jihad of going into war.
Extremist leaders and Islamophobes, each on opposite sides of the spectrum, have changed, edited or misinterpreted the Qur’an to suit their needs.
Virgins For Martyrs
Misconception: 72 virgins await any martyr
The Qur’an and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) are conclusive regarding suicide being forbidden.
Surah (4:29) states: “Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves” and Surah (2:195) says: “And do not throw yourselves in destruction” are just two of the many examples.
These aforementioned verses just reinforce the sanctity of human life in the sight of God and on no account should somebody take another life except on rare occasions such as a threat to your family, life or property.
Misconception: Islam is intolerable to other religions
“Kill the infidel” is the phrase many people believe is the ideology that Muslims have towards the non-Muslims. This, though, is not a correct portrayal of Islamic law. Islam has always given respect and freedom of religion to all faiths.
In the Quran, it says “God 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 God loves those who are just”.
There are many historical examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faith. One such example was when the caliph Umar was the ruler of Jerusalem from 634 to 644 AD.
He granted freedom to all religious communities 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. Whenever he would visit holy areas he would ask for the Christian patriarch Sophronius (pictured below) to accompany him.
The Sharia Law
Misconception: Sharia Law is archaic and cruel
Sharia law or Islamic law is about protecting the innocent and upholding Islamic values.
This includes prayer, charity and fasting (to remember those in the world who don’t have enough to eat) during the holy season of Ramadan.
Sharia Law is not about extreme punishments for minor offences.
Where the confusion lies is that the penalties for offences during the early Islamic period (during Muhammad’s life and sooner thereafter) seemed cruel however the Islamic laws of this period were leaps and bounds above pre-Islamic Arabia.
Pre-Islamic Arabia was tribal and vindictive. There were no formal laws or rules. The tribes were male-dominated. Women, with a few rare exceptions, had no rights and were viewed as sex objects only. For the smallest reasons, young girls were buried alive.
There were no formal governments whatsoever. Flogging for minor offences in the early Islamic period might seem harsh but in pre-Islamic Arabia, certain death would come as a consequence.
In modern times, extremists believe applying the early archaic Islamic laws are appropriate however humanity has significantly advanced through education in the modern era. We have gained a greater understanding of mental illness, as well as recognized the importance of equal rights for women.
And, most importantly, we have reached a greater comprehension in the use of contemporary rehabilitation protocols and therefore have gained a higher success rate.
In short, there is no need for such harsh punishments to rehabilitate a person. This understanding did not exist in the early Islamic society and for that matter did not exist in any society during the antiquity period.
Misconception: Women have no rights
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(s) was even reported saying that “women are the twin halves of men”.
A Muslim woman is allowed to reject and accept any suitor for marriage and has the right to seek a 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.
Islam And Terrorism
Misconception: Muslims are terrorists
This is by far the biggest misconception of Islam, 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 labelled 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 Surah (5:32) which says “If anyone kills a person, it is as if he kills all mankind while if anyone saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind”.
Another verse is Surah (2:256) which says “There shall be no compulsion in religion.”
The leaders of terrorist groups, with their warped agenda, recruit young men who are desperate, improvised, and poor. They lack meaning and direction in life and have little or no knowledge of the religion they claim to represent.
There is nowhere in Islam, whether it be in the Quran or the teachings of Muhammad, that promotes the killing of innocent people.
By the Sword
Misconception: Islam was spread by the sword
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!
Misconception: Children have no rights
Children, according to Islamic law, have various rights.
One of these is the right to be properly brought up, raised, and educated. Islam encourages children to be brought up well because it is the responsibility of an adult to raise his child to become a moral and ethical adult.
Children must also be treated equally. When giving financial gifts they should all be the same amount and there should be no preference among them.
Children are even permitted to take moderately from their parent’s wealth to sustain themselves if the parent declines to give them proper funds for living.
A child is also not allowed to get hit in the face or hit by anything larger than a pencil.