Author: Daniel Masters, Isma'il Kaka and AbdurRahman R. Squires
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Yusuf Estes - AUB - Misconceptions about
Misconception #1: Muslims worship a different God
First of all, there is only One God who created the Universe and all of
mankind. Throughout history, people have created false gods in their minds and
come up with false ideas about Almighty God, but regardless of this there is
still only One True God - and He alone is worthy of worship. Unfortunately, some
non-Muslims have come to incorrectly believe that Muslims worship a different
God than Jews and Christians. This might be due to the fact that Muslims
sometimes refer to God as "Allah", but also because over the centuries there
have been many lies and distortions spread by the enemies of Islam. In
actuality, Muslims worship the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus --- the
same God as Christians and Jews.
The word "Allah" is simply the Arabic word for
Almighty God and it is the same word that Arabic speaking Christians and Jews
use to refer to God.
If you pick up an Arabic translation of the Christian Bible, you will see
the word "Allah" where "God" is used in English. For more information on the
word "Allah", please read:
Who is Allah?
But even though Muslims, Jews and Christians believe in the same
God, their concepts about Him differ quite a bit. For example, Muslims
reject the idea of the Trinity or that God has become "incarnate" in the
world. Also, the teachings of Islam do not rely on or appeal to
"mystery" or "paradox" --- they are straightforward and clear. Islam
teaches that God is Merciful, Loving and Compassionate and that He has
no need to become man (nor do humans need for Him to). One of the unique
aspects of Islam is that it teaches that man can have a personal and
fulfilling relationship with Almighty God without compromising the
transcendence of God. In Islam there is no ambiguity in Divinity --- God
is God and man is man.
Muslims believe that God is the "Most Merciful", and that he deals
directly with human-beings without the need of any intermediary.
Actually, the phrase "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the
Merciful" is one of the most repeated verses in the Holy Qur'an.
Additionally, the pure and straightforward teachings of Islam demand
that Almighty God be approached directly and without intermediaries.
This is because Muslims believe that God is completely in control of
everything and that He can bestow His Grace and Mercy on His creatures
as He pleases - no Atonement, Incarnation or blood sacrifice is
necessary. In summary, Islam calls people to submit to the One True God
and to worship Him alone.
Misconception #2: Muslims worship Muhammad
According to Islamic belief, the Prophet Muhammad was the last Messenger of
God. He, like all of God's prophets and messengers - such as Noah, Abraham,
Moses and Jesus -- was only a human being.
Christians came to the mistaken assumption that
Muslims worship Muhammad by formulating an incorrect analogy - they worship
Jesus so they assumed Muslims worship Muhammad.
This is one of the reasons that they called Muslims by the incorrect name
"Mohammedans" for so many years!
Muhammad, like Jesus, never claimed divine status. He called people
to worship only Almighty God, and he continually emphasized his humanity
so that people would not fall into the same errors as Christians did in
regards to Jesus. In order to prevent his deification, the Prophet
Muhammad always said to refer to him as "the Messenger of God and His
Muhammad was chosen to be God's final
--- to communicate the message not only in words but to be a
living example of the message. Muslims love and respect him because he
was of the highest moral character and he brought the Truth from God -
which is the Pure Monotheism of Islam. Even when Islam was in its very
early stages, God revealed that Muhammad "was sent as a mercy to all of
mankind" - thus informing us that the message of Islam would become very
Muslims strive to follow the great example of Muhammad, peace be
upon him, but they do not worship him in any way. Additionally, Islam
teaches Muslims to respect all of God's prophets and messengers - but
respecting and loving them does not mean worshipping them. All true
Muslims realize that all worship and prayer must be directed to Almighty
God alone. Suffice it to say that worshipping Muhammad --- or anyone
else --- along with Almighty God is considered to be the worst sin in
Islam. Even if a person claims to be Muslim, but they worship and pray
to other than Almighty God, this cancels and nullifies their Islam. The
Declaration of Faith of Islam makes it clear that Muslims are taught
only to worship God. This declaration is as follows: "There is nothing
divine or worthy of being worshipped except for Almighty God, and
Muhammad is the Messenger and Servant of God".
Misconception #3: Islam is a religion only for Arabs
The fastest way to prove that this is completely false is to state
the fact that only about
15% to 20% of the Muslims in the world are Arabs.There are more Indian Muslims than Arab Muslims, and more Indonesian
Muslims than Indian Muslims! Believing that Islam is only a religion for Arabs
is a myth that was spread by the enemies of Islam early in its history. This
mistaken assumption is possibly based on the fact that most of the first
generation of Muslims were Arabs, the Qur'an is in Arabic and the Prophet
Muhammad was an Arab.
However, both the teachings of Islam and the history of its spread
show that the early Muslims made every effort to spread their message of
Truth to all nations, races and peoples. Furthermore, it should be
clarified that not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs.
An Arab can be a Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist - or of any other
religion or ideology.
Also, many countries that some people
consider to be "Arab" are not "Arab" at all -- such as Turkey and Iran
The people who live in these countries speak languages other than
Arabic as their native tongues and are of a different ethnic heritage
than the Arabs.
It is important to realize that from the very beginning of the
mission of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, his followers came from
a wide spectrum of individuals -- there was Bilal, the African slave;
Suhaib, the Byzantine Roman; Ibn Salam, the Jewish Rabbi; and Salman,
the Persian. Since religious truth is eternal and unchanging, and
mankind is one universal brotherhood, Islam teaches that Almighty God's
revelations to mankind have always been consistent, clear and universal.
The Truth of Islam is meant for all people regardless of race,
nationality or linguistic background. Taking a look at the Muslim World,
from Nigeria to Bosnia and from Malaysia to Afghanistan is enough to
prove that Islam is a Universal message for all of mankind --- not to
mention the fact that significant numbers of Europeans and Americans of
all races and ethnic backgrounds are coming into Islam.
Misconception #4: Islam degrades women
Even though many aspects of Islam are misunderstood by non-Muslims, the
ignorance, misinformation and incorrect assumptions that are made in regards to
Islam's treatment of women are probably the most severe. Numerous verses of the
Qur'an make it clear that men and women are equal in the site of God.
According to the teachings of Islam, the
only thing that distinguishes people in the site of God is their level
of God-consciousness. Due to this, many people are surprised to
find out that
Islamic Law guaranteed rights to women over
1400 years ago that women in the Europe and America only obtained
recently. For example, Islam clearly teaches that a woman is a
full-person under the law, and is the spiritual equal of a male. Also,
according to Islamic Law, women have the right to own property, operate
a business and receive equal pay for equal work. Women are allowed total
control of their wealth, they cannot be married against their will and
they are allowed to keep their own name when married. Additionally, they
have the right to inherit property and to have their marriage dissolved
in the case of neglect or mistreatment. Also, Islam
does not consider woman an "evil temptress", and thus does not blame
woman for the "original sin". Women in Islam participate in all forms of
worship that men participate in.
Actually, the rights that Islam gave to women over 1400 years ago
were almost unheard of in the West until the 1900s. Less than fifty
years ago in England and America, a woman could not buy a house or car
without the co-signature of her father or husband! Additionally, Islam
gives great respect to women and their role in society --- it gives them
the right to own property, marry who they want and many other rights.
Also, it should be mentioned that the Prophet Muhammad's mission stopped
many of the horrible practices in regards to women that were present in
the society of his time. For example, the Qur'an put an end to the pagan
Arab practice of killing their baby daughters when they were born.
Additionally, Islam put restrictions on the unrestricted polygamy of the
Arabs of the time, and put many laws in place to protect the well-being
Today, most of the so-called reforms in the status of women came
about after the West abandoned religion for secularism. Even those in
the West who claim to follow the so-called "Judeo-Christian tradition"
really follow the values of Western liberalism --- but just to a lesser
degree than their more liberal countrymen. For more on this subject,
Women in Islam versus
Women in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition --- The Myth and The Reality..
If women in the Muslim World today don't have their rights, it is not
because Islam did not give them to them. The problem is that in many
places alien traditions have come to overshadow the teachings of Islam,
either through ignorance or the impact of Colonialization.
Misconception #5: Muhammad wrote the Qur'an
In addressing this misconception, it is interesting to not that no other
religious scripture claims to the direct word of Almighty in toto as clear and
as often as the Holy Qur'an. As the Qur'an clearly says:
"if had been written by man, you would have found
many discrepancies therein".
At the time the Qur'an was revealed, the Arabs recognized that the
language of the Qur'an was unique and that it was distinctly different
from the language normally used by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon
him. The Arabs of that time, by the way, were known for their beautiful
poetry and Muhammad was known to be an illiterate man! The Qur'an
clearly says that Muhammad was unable to read and write, so if this
wasn't true, certainly his contemporaries would have protested and
rejected him. However, there are no reports of this. Certainly there
were people who rejected Muhammad's message, just like other prophets
were rejected, but none for this reason. On the contrary, Muhammad,
peace be upon him, had thousands of loyal followers and the results of
their efforts spread Islam from Spain to China in just over a century!
It is also interesting to note that even though the Qur'an is not
poetry, the Arabs more or less gave up writing poetry after it was
revealed. It could be said that the Qur'an is the piece of Arabic
literature par excellence - and Muhammad's contemporaries realized that
they couldn't out do it. Additionally, it is easy to prove that Muhammad
did not possess a great deal of the knowledge which is expounded in the
Qur'an: such as knowledge of historical events, previous prophets and
natural phenomenon. The Qur'an says in several places that Muhammad and
his people did not know these things - so, again, if this wasn't true,
certainly his contemporaries would have rejected his claims. Suffice it
to say that not only is the Qur'an the most memorized and well preserved
scripture on earth, it is also unequaled in eloquence, spiritual impact,
clarity of message and the purity of its truth.
Misconception #6: Islam was spread by the sword
Many non-Muslims, when they think about Islam, picture religious fanatics on
camels with a sword in one hand and a Qur'an in the other. This myth, which was
made popular in Europe during the Crusades, is totally baseless. First of all,
the Holy Qur'an clearly says "Let there be no compulsion in religion". In
addition to this, Islam teaches that a person's faith must be pure and sincere,
so it is certainly not something that can be forced on someone. In debunking the
myth that Islam was "spread by the sword", the (non-Muslim) historian De Lacy O'
"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 accepted." (Islam at the Crossroads, London,
1923, p. 8.).
It should also be known that Muslims ruled Spain for roughly 800
years. During this time, and up to when they were finally forced out,
the non-Muslims there were alive and flourishing. Additionally,
Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in the Muslim lands of the
Middle East for centuries. Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine,
Lebanon, Syria and Jordan all have Christian and/or Jewish populations.
If Islam taught that all people are supposed
to be killed or forced to become Muslims, how did all of these
non-Muslims survive for so long in the middle of the Islamic Empire?
Additionally, if one considers the small number of Muslims who initially
spread Islam from Spain and Morocco in the West to India and China in
the East, one would realize that they were far too few to force people
to be members of a religion against their will. Additionally, the great
empire and civilization established by the Muslims had great staying
power -- its citizens were proud to be part of it.
The spread of Islam stands in contrast to the actions of the
followers of Christianity, who since the time of the Emperor Constantine
have made liberal use of the sword - often basing their conduct on
Biblical verses. This was especially true of the colonization of South
America and Africa, where native peoples were systematically wiped-out
or forced to convert. 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. This is a unique
occurrence in history - the conquerors adopting the religion of the
conquered! Since they were the victors, they certainly could not have
been forced to become Muslims! Ask any of the over one billion Muslims
alive in the world today whether they were forced! The largest Muslim
country in the world today is Indonesia --- and there were never any
battles fought there! So where was the sword? How could someone be
forced to adhere to a spiritually rewarding and demanding religion like
Misconception #7: Muslims hate Jesus
Many non-Muslims are surprised to find out that according to Muslim belief,
Jesus, the son of Mary, is one of the greatest messengers of God. Muslims are
taught to love Jesus, and a person cannot be a Muslim without believing in the
virgin birth and miracles of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him. Muslims believe
these things about Jesus not because of the Bible or any other religion, but
simply because the Holy Qur'an says these things about him. However,
Muslims always emphasize that the miracles of Jesus, and all other prophets,
were by "God's permission".
This having been said, many Christians feel to not believe that
Jesus is the "Son of God", "God Incarnate" or the "Second Person" of the
Trinity. This is because the Qur'an clearly
says that Almighty God does not have a "Son" --- neither allegorically,
physically, metaphorically or metaphysically.
The Pure Monotheism of Islam rejects the notion of "defining" God
(which is basically what the "Doctrine of the Trinity" does), saying
that someone is "like" God or equal to him, or praying to someone else
Also, Islam teaches that titles such as "Lord" and "Savior" are due
to God alone. In order to avoid misunderstanding, it should be clarified
that when Muslims criticize the Bible or the teachings of Christianity,
they are not attacking "God's Word" or Jesus Christ, peace be upon him.
From the Muslim point of view, they are defending Jesus and God's Word
--- which they have in the form of the Qur'an. Muslim criticism is
targeted at writings that some people claim are God's word, but Muslim's
simply don't accept their claim that they are really God's word in toto.
Additionally, Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the Atonement
are criticized by Muslims precisely because they did not originate from
Jesus, peace be upon him. In this way, Muslims are the true followers of
Jesus, peace be upon him, because they defend him from the exaggerations
of the Christians and teach the Pure Monotheism that Jesus himself
Misconception #8: Islam is fatalistic
Most Muslims find it rather odd that their religion, which strikes a
beautiful balance between faith and action, could be accused of being
"fatalistic". Perhaps this misconception came about because Muslims are taught
to say "Praise be to God!" whenever anything good or bad happens. This is
because Muslims know that everything comes from Almighty God, who is the
All-Knowing Sustainer of the Universe, and that since a Muslim should rely
completely on God, whatever happened must have been for the better. However,
this does not mean that Muslims are not taught to take action in life --- just
the opposite is true.
Islam requires not only faith, but action --- such as
regular prayer, fasting and charity.
To be more precise, in Islam actions are part of one's faith. Islam
total rejects the extreme beliefs of some religions that teach that you
shouldn't go to a doctor when sick, but only pray for God to heal you.
Islam's outlook is very positive, since it teaches that human beings can
take positive action in this life. This was certainly what was taught by
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, to his followers --- since they
obviously took the action of spreading Islam from Spain to Morocco in a
very short period of time. Even though Islam teaches that God knows what
human beings will do before they do it, human beings still have free
will. Certainly God, who is All-Knowing and All-Wise, knows what is
going to happen to everyone before it happens -- to deny this would be a
denial of God Himself. However, if human-beings did not have free will,
it would be ridiculous and un-just for God to demand that they do
certain things and believe certain things. Far from being "fatalistic",
Islam teaches that a human-being's main purpose in life is to be
Due to this, Muslims worry less about material matters and view
their earthly life in a proper perspective. This is due to the fact that
Islam clearly teaches that if people worship and depend on Almighty God
alone, then they have nothing to worry about - since God wants what is
best for them. True freedom, from the Islamic perspective, does not mean
aimlessly following all of your human desires for food, drink, wealth
and sex. On the contrary, freedom means being able to control one's base
desires and fulfilling them in a proper and legal way. This brings one's
desires in tune with what God wants for us --- only then is a person
Misconception #9: The Islamic Threat
In recent years, a great deal of attention in the media have been given to
the threat of "Islamic Fundamentalism". Unfortunately,
due to a twisted mixture of biased reporting in the
Western media and the actions of some ignorant Muslims, the word "Islam" has
become almost synonymous with "terrorism". However, when one analyzes the
situation, the question that should come to mind is: Do the teachings of Islam
encourage terrorism? The answer: Certainly not! Islam totally forbids the
terrorist acts that are carried out by some misguided people. It should be
remembered that all religions have cults and misguided followers, so it is their
teachings that should be looked at, not the actions of a few individuals.
Unfortunately, in the media, whenever a
Muslim commits a heinous act, he is labeled a "Muslim terrorist".
However, when Serbs murder and rape innocent women in Bosnia, they are
not called "Christian terrorists", nor are the activities in Northern
Ireland labeled "Christian terrorism".
Also, when right-wing Christians in the U. S. bomb abortion
clinics, they are not called "Christian terrorists". Reflecting on these
facts, one could certainly conclude that there is a double-standard in
the media! Although religious feelings play a significant role in the
previously mentioned "Christian" conflicts, the media does not apply
religious labels because they assume that such barbarous acts have
nothing to do with the teachings of Christianity. However, when
something happens involving a Muslim, they often try to put the blame on
Islam itself -- and not the misguided individual. Certainly, Islamic Law
allows war --- any religion or civilization that did not would never
survive --- but it certainly does not condone attacks against innocent
people, women or children. The Arabic word "jihad", which is often
translated as "Holy War", simply means "to struggle".
The word for "war" in Arabic is "harb",
not "jihad". "Struggling", i.e. "making jihad", to defend Islam, Muslims
or to liberate a land where Muslims are oppressed is certainly allowed
(and even encouraged) in Islam.
However, any such activities must be done according to the
teachings of Islam. Islam also clearly forbids "taking the law into your
own hands", which means that individual Muslims cannot go around
deciding who they want to kill, punish or torture. Trial and punishment
must be carried out by a lawful authority and a knowledgeable judge.
Also, when looking at events in the Muslim World, it should be kept in
mind that a long period of colonialism ended fairly recently in most
Muslim countries. During this time, the peoples in this countries were
culturally, materially and religiously exploited - mostly by the
so-called "Christian" nations of the West. This painful period has not
really come to an end in many Muslim countries, where people are still
under the control of foreign powers or puppet regimes supported by
Also, through the media, people in the West are made to believe that
tyrants like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Moamar Qaddafi in Libya are
"Islamic" leaders -- when just the opposite is true. Neither of these
rulers even profess Islam as an ideology, but only use Islamic slogans
to manipulate their powerless populations. They have about as much to do
with Islam as Hitler had to do with Christianity! In reality, many
Middle Eastern regimes which people think of as being "Islamic" oppress
the practice of Islam in their countries. So suffice it to say that
"terrorism" and killing innocent people directly contradicts the
teachings of Islam.
MISCONCEPTION #10: All Muslim men marry four wives.
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
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
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.