Skip to comments.Shedding light on Islam (A Moderate's Perspective)
Posted on 11/14/2004 4:32:15 AM PST by MidTown_Doc
Shedding light on Islam Although welcomed in Memphis, the faith is misunderstood
By Bima Said Special to Viewpoint November 14, 2004
When foreigners talk about the United States, they all know about New York. They all know about Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.
I'm sure they also know about Elvis Presley and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But not all foreigners know that Elvis was from Memphis and that rock and roll was born here.
Perhaps not all foreigners are aware that King was assassinated in Memphis, and that the National Civil Rights Museum was built on the site of the Lorraine Motel, where King was shot.
I was really delighted during my three weeks in Memphis. Participating in an International Journalism Exchange program sponsored by American Society of Newspaper Editors and International Center for Journalists, I felt lucky to have a newspaper attachment with The Commercial Appeal.
Being able to look at an American newsroom's practices was an amazing experience. But what fascinated me the most was the overall religious scene of this city.
I felt a lot of peace here; everyone was tolerant of other faiths. There are several churches, Jewish synagogues, Hindu temples and Islamic mosques. I visited the Muslim Society of Memphis (MSM) and was surprised to learn that four other mosques are in the city.
I was even more surprised when Nabil Bayakly, community relations director for MSM, told me that Muslims here were never victims of harassment as a result of the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001.
By contrast, he told me that as many as four people convert to Islam every month, and more people are becoming interested in learning about Islam after 9/11.
Still, Americans hold numerous misconceptions about Islam. Since many Americans have asked me questions about my religion, it has come to my attention to straighten this out. Here is my list of the top 10 misconceptions about Islam.
Misconception No. 10: Muslims don't believe in Jesus or any other prophets.
Jesus is considered as one of the greatest of God's messengers to mankind. Muslims respect and revere Jesus, upon Him be peace, and await His Second Coming.
A Muslim never refers to Him simply as Jesus, but always adds the phrase "upon him be peace." The Koran confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Koran is titled "Mary"), and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation.
Misconception No. 9: Muhammad was the founder of Islam, and Muslims worship him.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in Mecca in the year 570. Because his father died before his birth and his mother shortly afterward, he was raised by his uncle from the respected tribe of Quraysh.
As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. Historians describe him as calm and meditative.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence of his society.
It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira near Mecca.
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad (peace be upon him) received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for 23 years, is known as the Koran.
As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel and to preach the truth God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution. The persecution grew so fierce that in 622 God gave them the command to emigrate.
This event, the Hijrah or "migration" in which they left Mecca for the city of Medina, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
After several years, the Prophet and his followers were able to return to Mecca, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the death of the Prophet at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the west and as far east as China.
He died with fewer than five possessions to his name.
While Muhammad (peace be upon him) was chosen to deliver the message, he is not considered the "founder" of Islam, since Muslims consider Islam to be the same divine guidance sent to all peoples before.
Muslims believe all the prophets, from Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, etc., were all sent with divine guidance for their peoples. Every prophet was sent to his own people, but Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to all of mankind.
Muhammad is the last and final messenger sent to deliver the message of Islam. Muslims revere and honor him for all he went through and his dedication, but they do not worship him.
Misconception No. 8: Muslims are a barbaric, backward people.
Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam is the simplicity of its doctrine -- Islam calls for faith in only one God worthy of worship. It also repeatedly instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and observation.
Within a few years, great civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet (peace be upon him), "seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man and woman."
The synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas and of new thought with old brought about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature and history.
Many crucial systems such as algebra, Arabic numerals and the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics) were transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam.
Sophisticated instruments that made possible the European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.
Misconception No. 7: All Muslim men marry four wives.
The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all times, and so it accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife but the right is granted, according to the Koran, only on condition that the husband is scrupulously fair.
No women can be forced into this kind of marriage if they do not wish it, and they have the right to exclude it in their marriage contract.
Polygamy is neither mandatory nor encouraged, but merely permitted. A man is only allowed at most four wives only if he can fulfill the stringent conditions of treating each fairly.
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 Koran that limited and put conditions on the practice of polygamy among the Arabs, who had as many as 10 or more wives and considered them "property."
It is 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. It is also evident that the general rule in Islam is monogamy and not polygamy. A very tiny percentage of Muslims throughout the world practice it.
Misconception No. 6: The Nation of Islam is a Muslim group.
Islam and the so-called Nation of Islam (NOI) are two different religions. NOI is more of a political organization because its members are not limited to a single faith. Muslims consider this group to be just one of many cults using the name of Islam for their own gain.
The only thing common between them is the jargon, the language used by both. NOI is a misnomer; this religion should be called Farrakhanism, after its propagator, Louis Farrakhan.
Islam and Farrakhanism differ in many fundamental ways. For example, Farrakhan followers believe in racism and that the black man was the original man and is therefore superior. In Islam, there is no racism and everyone is considered equal in the sight of God, the only difference being in one's piety.
There are many other theological examples that show the NOI's teachings have little to do with true Islam. There are many groups in America that claim to represent Islam and call their adherents Muslims.
Any serious student of Islam has a duty to investigate and find the true Islam. Malcolm X is an example of an NOI member who later found the true Islam, realizing that it is much different than NOI. After finding the true Islam, Malcolm X changed his name to Al-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz.
Misconception No. 5: All Arabs are Muslims.
Not all Muslims are Arabs, and not all Arabs are Muslims. The Muslim population of the world is around 1.2 billion. One out of five people in the world is a Muslim.
Muslims are a vast range of races, nationalities and cultures from around the globe -- from the Philippines to Nigeria -- and are united by their common Islamic faith. Only about 18 percent live in the Arab world; the largest Muslim community is in Indonesia. Most Muslims live east of Pakistan. Thirty percent of Muslims live in the Indian subcontinent, 20 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 17 percent in Southeast Asia, 18 percent in the Arab world, and 10 perent in the Soviet Union and China.
Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan make up 10 percent of the non-Arab Middle East. Although Muslim minorities are in almost every area, including Latin America and Australia, they are most numerous in Russia and its newly independent states, and in India and central Africa. There are about 6 million Muslims in the United States.
Misconception No. 4: Islam was spread by the sword and 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 Koran in the other, conquering and forcibly converting. That is not a correct portrayal of history.
Islam has always given respect and freedom of religion to all faiths. The Koran says: "God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loves those who are just (Koran 60:8)."
Freedom of religion is laid down in the Koran itself: "There is no compulsion (or coercion) in the religion (Islam).The right direction is distinctly clear from error (Koran 2:256)."
It is a function 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. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance toward other faiths, such as when the caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city.
Proclaiming to the inhabitants that their lives and property were safe and that their places of worship would never be taken from them, he asked the Christian patriarch Sophronius to accompany him on a visit to all the holy places.
Islamic law also permits 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.
Racism is not a part of Islam; the Koran speaks only of human equality and how all peoples are equal in the sight of God. "O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God's sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware (Koran 49:13)."
Misconception No. 3: Muslims worship a different God.
Allah is simply the Arabic word for God. Allah for Muslims is the greatest and most inclusive of the names of God. It is an Arabic word of rich meaning, denoting the one and only God and ascribing no partners to Him.
It is exactly the same word the Jews, in Hebrew, use for God (eloh), the word 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 believe Allah's sovereignty is to be acknowledged in worship and in the pledge to obey His teaching and commandments, conveyed through His messengers and prophets who were sent at various times and in many places throughout history.
However, it should be noted that God in Islam is One and Only. He, the Exalted, does not get tired, does not have a son or have associates, nor does He have human-like attributions as found in other faiths.
Misconception No. 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.
Many of these countries do not rule by any kind of Shari'ah (Islamic law), and introduce their own cultural standpoints on the issue of gender equity.
Islam, on the other hand, gives men and women different roles, and equity between the two is laid down in the Koran and the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage gift is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her family name rather than taking her husband's.
Both men and women are expected to dress in a way that is modest and dignified. 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."
Violence of any kind toward women and forcing them against their will for anything is not allowed. A Muslim marriage is a simple, legal agreement in which either partner is free to include conditions.
Marriage customs thus vary widely from country to country. Divorce is not common, although it is acceptable as a last resort. According to Islam, a Muslim girl cannot be forced to marry against her will.
Misconception No. 1: Muslims are violent, terrorists and/or extremists.
Even before the 9/11 attacks, this was already the biggest misconception in Islam. It no doubt resulted from the constant stereotyping and bashing the media give Islam.
When a gunman attacks a mosque in the name of Judaism, a Catholic IRA guerrilla sets off a bomb in an urban area, or Serbian Orthodox militiamen rape and kill innocent Muslim civilians, these acts are not used to stereotype an entire faith. Never are these acts attributed to the religion of the perpetrators. Yet how many times have we heard the words "Islamic fundamentalist" linked with violence?
Politics in so-called Muslim countries may or may not have any Islamic basis. Often dictators and politicians will use the name of Islam for their own purposes. One should go to the source of Islam and separate what the true religion of Islam says from what is portrayed in the media.
Islam literally means "submission to God," and is derived from a root word meaning peace.
Islam may seem exotic or even extreme in the modern world. Perhaps this is because religion doesn't dominate everyday life in the West, whereas Islam is considered a way of life for Muslims, and they make no division between secular and sacred in their lives.
Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat, which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock.
The Koran says: "Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors (Koran 2:190)."
War, therefore, is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law.
The term "jihad" literally means struggle. Muslims believe there are two kinds of jihad. The other jihad is the inner struggle of the soul that everyone wages against egotistic desires for the sake of attaining inner peace.
Contact Bima Said at firstname.lastname@example.org
A religious order that prevents you from questioning or thinking about it has issues. Any "religion" that demands death for leaving it has more issues.
80% of the Mosques in America are Wahabi.
You article quotes someone from '.id'/ Indonesia.
Try posting your BS/whitewash on an Arab board.
Is there such a thing as an honest adult Muslim?
Islam = LIES, LIES, LIES, DEATH DEATH DEATH! Always has, always will.
#2 same here.
It can't be sooo bad...look, CAT STEVENS is a member of this gangsta-religion of peace..
In the Islamic media ... he is a moderate. I do appreciate you turning your fear of another opinion (I personally don't agree with the article) into a personal attack.
Nice show of adult behavior......
It's terribly unfortunate that so many Christians get hung up on the "Allah" thing and overlook all the other things that are so much more important, one of which is the "lie to protect the faith".
Notice how he handles Jesus ~ you'd never guess from what he says that he's not a Trinitarian, and that's just the beginning. Protestants should be concerned about the Islamic view of Jesus' mother, Mary, of course, and Hindus should worry about this "(only the) second coming" business.
What a load of hooey.
My post was NOT a personal attack.
It was an enlightened and discerning observation... resulting in a suggestion to you that you might find Fruitful.
I have done so.. recently Posted an article from a Indonesian moderate...on an American Muslim board with an Arab leaning.
They scoffed that he didn't have a beard ,, and these were North Amercian Muslims.
That 'Cat Stevens' Islam plays well to Unsophisticated Americans. BUT they are NOT "Just like us".. even the moderates that post on other boards I converse with.
They do NO Beliove Jesus is the son of God.
(your article delicately doesn't mention that.)
They believe the Bible is Corrupt.. every word.
They do NOT share a vision of a Democratic society.
Any true Muslim is for a Sharia Goverment.
Also Capitalism is considered a Weestern Vice.
Here is a BRIEF conversation I had on the 'WhyIslam' Forum:
From an 'American' Islamic board:
MY questions in small case.. his answer sin CAPS...
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The question is clearly an important one; and the article poses several obvious questions.
Can Muslims have a Democratic society?
WE BELIEVE IN SHURA, NOT DEMOCRACY. DEMOCRACY TAKES AWAY THE BELIEF THAT ULTIMATELY GOD ALONE IS THE LAW GIVER E.G PEOPLE IN THE USA MAY SOON VOTE FOR "DEMOCRATICALLY" FOR SAME SEX MARRIAGES, WHICH (UNDER ANY RELIGION, NOT JUST ISLAM) IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN THE SIGHT OF THE ULTIMATE LAW GIVER.
Do they want one?
SHURA IS THE WAY OF THE MUSLIMS, NOT DEMOCRACY
Should a country be ruled by a religous or a secular leader?
THERE IS NO SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IN ISLAM, AND I'M PROUD TO SAY THAT.
Should Muslims who are a Minority in a country work to make it Shari'a instead of whatever that country currently is?
NO, THEY SHOULD CONCENTRATE ON DAWAH 100% IMHO. WHICH IS WHY WE ARE ON THIS FORUM IN THE FIRST PLACE.
WHAT should "Muslims in the West" Do about the countries they live in and changing their politics.. or world politics.
DO WHATEVER BENEFITS THE MUSLIMS BOTH IN THE COUNTIRES THEY LIVE IN AND THE REST OF THE WORLD, FOR EXAMPLE SUPPORTING POLITICIANS LIKE RALPH NADER WHO SAYS HE'LL STOP GIVING AID TO ISRAEL.
Should Muslims try and convert non-Muslims?
IF YOU SAW PEOPLE BURING IN A HOUSE AND YOU COULD SAVE THEM, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? THIS IS THE ATTITUDE A MUSLIM IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE TO NON MUSLIMS.
Is the goal a World where everyone is a Muslim? A Universal Ummah?
THAT IS UPTO GOD. IN MANY PLACES IN THE QURAN, HE SAYS HE COULD HAVE DONE THIS IF IT WAS HIS WILL, BUT IT WAS NOT HIS WILL TO DO THIS. AT THE SAME TIME, IT IS THE DUTY OF MUSLIMS TO CARRY THE MESSAGE TO EVERYONE THEY COME INTO CONTACT WITH.
What should be the reaction of Muslims to Politicians (or others) who become apostate/nonbelievers or convert to another religion?
IN AN ISLAMIC COUNTRY, IT WOULD BE LIKE DEFECTING TO THE ENEMY.
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Nice cherry picking from the Koran to suit the author's thesis-one must look at Islam's actions, not it's words, in order to get the true sense of what they are about...and quite frankly, I have seen enough.
Mohammed prayed to a moon god. That is satanic.
Gee, Abdul, thanks for straightening us out.
What about the part where Muslims are authorized to lie to their women and their infidel enemies?