Top 5 Misconceptions or Common Misunderstanding About Islam
Islam has one of the largest groups of devout followers among the major religions of the world. However, it is one of the most misunderstood of all religions as well. Its concepts have been twisted around by self-proclaimed “Jihadi terrorists”, who are only using the religion to fulfill their own evil objectives to rule the world. However, what they preach is not the teachings of the Holy Book of Islam, the Quran. What they preach is their own beliefs in the name of religion.
While there are many misunderstandings that people have about Islam, here are five of the most common misconceptions that the Western world has about this religion.
#1 – The Meaning of Jihad | Islam Spread by Sword/Force:
The Meaning of Jihad:
The word “jihad” is the most misconstrued words about Islam and is often used as proof that Islam promotes violence. This is, however, not at all true. Islam does not advocate the killing of innocents, even if they are non-Muslims. People who are using this word to promote violence are only doing so to fulfill their own mean objectives.
The Arabic word “jihad” actually refers to struggle or to exert effort. Jihad can mean different things depending on the context. One of the highest forms of jihad is to fight against one’s self, which simply means to fight against one’s evil inclination and strive to be a better human being.
Jihad may simply refer to the effort of parents to teach the right path to their children. Winning the appreciation of others through one’s good intentions, or by the sweetness of one’s language is also a form of jihad. The key factor in the word is to strive hard for the betterment of one’s soul and the society as a whole.
True, jihad does refer to picking up the sword as well but not for the killing of innocents. In fact, combative jihad is only allowed in Quran for self-defense. You are allowed to pick up the sword to wage war against oppression and tyranny.
This is not different from any other religion in the world. Most religions of the world allow an individual to fight when attacked. Self-defense is permitted and, in fact, encouraged in most religions. So, it is in Islam.
This is clearly indicated in the following verses of the Quran:
“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 seek you peace.” (Quran 8:61)
Islam Spread by Sword/Force:
We also get to hear a lot that Islam spread by force and the sword. There are a lot of voices out there trying to convince the world that advent of Islam is based on the use of force. This is completely false, the spread of Islam is based on logical persuasion and self-example.
The expansion of Islam as a global religion can be attributed to spreading of Islamic ideology throughout the Abbasid caliphate. Large chunks of the population converted to Islam outside the Abbasid caliphate mainly in Central Asia and Africa. The conversions in Africa and Central Asia primarily were influenced by Sufis and Muslim traders in that area. In South East Asia, America and Europe, Islam spread through commerce and migrations. Indonesia is the largest Muslim population in the world and no Muslim conqueror ever went to Indonesia. The spread of Islam in Indonesia is through traders from Indian Subcontinent and Arab peninsula.
#2 – Religious Intolerance and Muslims are Backward and Regressive:
Another common misconception is that Islam does not respect other religions and you are not allowed to practice any other faith when in a Muslim state. This however, is not at all true.
“Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the surest hand-hold, which never breaks.” [Quran, 2:256]
The above verse clearly indicates that there is no compulsion in religion. As long as you stay away from evil, you are allowed to practice the faith of your choice. Non-Muslims are allowed to have their own place of worship and Muslims are strictly prohibited to cause any damage to these places of worship. In an Islamic state, it is the responsibility of the Muslims to make sure that no harm befalls people of other religions just because they follow a different faith.
In fact, Prophet Muhammad clearly warned against the mistreatment of non-Muslims:
“Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” (Hadith, Abu Dawud)
If any Muslim or non-Muslim advocates that Islam does not respect other religions, then he needs to be aware of the respect that Prophet Muhammad conferred on non-Muslims.
At times, Islam is blamed for being backward, regressive and responsible for holding the world back from scientific and technological development. This assertion is developed on the basis of opinions of highly biased people who get a lot of airtime. Islam is not only compatible with science and technology but it actually encourages the mankind to observe and innovate. Islam is a tolerant and science-loving religions and proof of it is a number of scientist and philosophers during the golden era of Islam. There are innumerable Muslim heavyweight scientists and philosophers who have contributed greatly to this world. Al Farabi, Ibn e Sina, Jabar bin Hayan, Ibn e Al-Haythem, Ibn e Khaldun, Al Raz and Omar Khayyam are few to name from a very long list.
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#3 – Women Have No Rights in Islam and Islam Oppresses Women:
Women Have No Rights in Islam:
There are certain Muslim communities around the world that do consider women as doormats and servants of their husbands. However, this does not actually come from Islam but from the beliefs of these respective communities.
This is quite like the various communities belonging to other religions of the world. There are non-Muslim communities in the world where women are killed because they chose to marry a man of their liking or they are burnt because they aren’t able to bear a son or bring the amount of dowry that the husband expected. However, this is not what the religion preaches rather it is the belief of the specific communities.
In Islam, women are allowed to select or reject a suitor. She cannot be forced to marry. This is why a Nikah or marriage is not completed unless the woman says yes. The groom gives a marriage gift to the bride for her own personal use at the time of Nikah.
Divorce is not common and allowed only in extreme circumstances which are clearly stated in the Quran.
“For those who are discontent with their wives, let them wait for four months. If they reconcile, then God is Forgiving, Merciful. And if they insist on the divorce, then God is Hearer, Knowledgeable” [Quran, 2:226-227]
Violence against women is not allowed. Both women and men have equal rights and both are supposed to take care of each others’ needs and wishes.
Women are encouraged to seek education. They are allowed to choose jobs, to drive, and do everything that men are allowed to do.
Islamic women are also allowed to complain and petition against their spouses and others. Many incidents have been reported where Prophet Muhammad heard the complaints of women and dealt justice for them.
Regarding polygamy, Islam does not encourage it and it is only allowed in special circumstances. In fact, men are discouraged to take more than one wife since they may not be able to give equal rights to all their wives, and thus be a sinner.
Islam Oppresses Women:
Leftists all around the globe can be blamed for unjustifiably maligning Islam for the treatment of women. This propaganda is all made up to further a specific ideology and uses the maltreatment of women in some Muslim countries which is due to cultural issues and lack of education mainly rather than religious beliefs. Islam ended the culture of female infanticide or gender-selective killings which were very prevalent in societies at that time of the world. Islam gave property rights to women which were non-existent at that time. Education, male and female, is regarded as compulsory by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Islam allows women to take up employment and they do not have to share their income with husbands and if they do then they are doing them a favor.
Women were pretty active at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Muslim women have fought in wars as soldiers during Muslim conquests and civil wars. Muslim hospitals were first to employ female physicians in the whole world. Islam gives a woman rights to education, property, choose spouse and a lot more. The position of mother, wife and daughter hold high importance in Islamic values. Women are considered as a source of abundance and prosperity. As The Holy Quran says:
“Blessing has been placed among women."(Quran)
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#4 – Islam Promotes Terrorism:
Related to concept of jihad is the misconception that Islam promotes terrorism. Islam does not promote the killing of innocents. The sword is the last resort. Even against oppression, Muslims are encouraged to first try for peace by discussions. They are only allowed to pick up the sword if the oppressor does not back off.
Islam encourages sorting out difference with other states or religions through peaceful discussions.
“…oppression is worse than murder… [Quran, 2:191, 2:217]
This verse clearly shows Quran’s stand on oppression.
Muslims are allowed to fight for self-defense. However, even in such cases, forgiveness and peace are emphasized.
“But if the enemy inclines towards peace, then you also incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that hears and knows (all things)” [Quran, 8:61]
This notion takes root from people deducing relations between Islam and actions of the some of the terrorist groups around the world who have done some nasty things in different parts of the world. I, personally, consider these actions which cause uncalled for harm and inconvenience to others to be inglorious and shocking. Why I think so personally is because my religion taught me to do so.
I admit that Islam is no pacifist religion, but it does not promote or permit violence under normal circumstances. Islam places huge value on the security of life and belongings and considers life a precious gift. A verse in the Holy Quran (5:32) goes on to say:
"Anyone who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind and anyone who has killed another person (except in lieu of murder or mischief on earth) it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind." (Quran)
Islam has designed frameworks to be followed even in the case of a war which includes, not limited to, acceptance of peace accords, restricted warfare and dignified treatment of Prisoners of War.
Islam does not promote violence in any kind and current phenomena of ISIS and other extremist organizations have nothing to do with Islam in essence. The Islamic nation greets with the words of "Assalam o Alaikum" which means Peace be with you.
#5 – Muslims Worship Prophet Muhammad and No Place for Family Life:
Muslims Worship Prophet Muhammad:
The word “Islam” means “surrender/submission” and the word “Muslim” refers to the “one who surrenders/submits”. This is the key to this religion. Muslims surrender or submit to the one and only one God. They believe that no other deserves to be worshipped than God.
Muslims do not worship Prophet Muhammad. He was a messenger just like the other prophets, including Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus and others. Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was the last messenger who came to deliver divine guidance to the entire mankind.
“And Muhammad is no more than a messenger; the messengers have already passed away before him” [Quran, 3:144]
In short, Prophet Muhammad is not the founder of Islam rather he just continued to deliver the divine guidance of the many previous messengers of God or Allah.
No Place for Family Life:
I have read some taunts thrown by people with no or little understanding of Islam that convey the message that Islam does not place any value on women, children and family life as a whole. This is completely false even in the current world scenario as Islam emphasizes a lot on family values and considers it as the nucleus of society. The marriage is considered as the greatest structure of family life. Marrying is considered as half the faith. The Holy Quran conveys a message to us about family and nature of the relationship between the partners. It goes on to say:
"And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves; that you may find peace with them. And He put between you love and compassion. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect." (Quran)
Islam is the second largest religion but I consider it the most understood one. The reason for misunderstanding varies in nature but mostly they are political in nature. Last two decades have seen a lot of physical and political interventions leading to some half truth or twisted facts developing deep roots in cultures where there is less presence of Islam. European countries have larger Muslim populations and have more interaction with Muslims exhibit much lesser Islam phobia than countries where people have lesser interaction. The key to understanding Islam is through higher interaction and logical critique of the propaganda. If 1.7 billion people are at war with the rest, it would have been a complete chaos. They are peace loving and caring people like anyone else in the world who love their culture, families and society.