Islam is one of the world’s largest religions yet it is also one of the most misunderstood. For various reasons – be they political, economic, biased media or fear of the “other” – mistruths and misconceptions have been spread about Islam. The key to understanding Islam and Muslims is to resist stereotypes and examine each situation according to Islamic teachings and authentic sources
Misconception 1 – "Muslims Do Not Share Good and Noble Values with non-Muslims"
Some people allege that Islamic values are somehow incompatible with decent “Western” values. Such claims could not be further from the truth.
Muslims cherish noble and universal values such as:
- being honest and just
- keeping one’s word
- allowing freedom of religion
- respecting parents, relatives, neighbours, and the elderly
- being charitable, generous, and looking after the poor and needy
- not lying, cheating, swearing or backbiting anyone.
Muslims are required to contribute positively towards society and to always conduct themselves with the highest of morals and best of actions.
Misconception 2 – "Muslims Worship a New God Called Allah"
However, although Muslims, Jews and Christians believe in the same God (the Creator), their concepts regarding Him differ significantly. For example, Muslims reject the idea of God having any partners or being part of a ‘trinity’, and ascribe perfection only to God, the Almighty.
Misconception 3 – "Islam Permits Terrorism"
In war, the targeting of innocent non-combatants is a despicable act which Islam clearly prohibits. In fact, Muslims are not allowed to destroy plants and animals unnecessarily, let alone innocent humans. However, it is important to distinguish between terrorism and legitimate resistance to occupation, as the two are very different.
The Quran clearly demonstrates the seriousness of killing an innocent person, and emphasises the value of human life.
Misconception 4 – "Islam Oppresses Women"
This verse proves that real honour and status is not attained because a person is rich or poor, black or white, male or female, but attained through piety and devoutness.
Allah, the Creator of both genders, has assigned different roles and responsibilities for each, taking into account their differences. Women are given the utmost respect and honour, such as the right to equal pay, choice of spouse, pursuit of education, and the right to divorce and inheritance.
Unfortunately, there are some Muslim women who are oppressed and not given their rights. This is not the fault of Islam. The problem is that in some countries, people follow certain cultural practices and traditions which have nothing to do with Islam.
Misconception 5 – "The Quran is Just another History or Poetry Book"
God did not create humans to simply wander aimlessly. The test of one’s faith is in using one’s intellect, free will and reasoning abilities to contemplate and recognise God’s signs – one of the greatest signs being The Quran.
The Quran contains within it many miracles, so that we can have no doubt about its authenticity. The best way to discover what the Quran is actually about, is to read it for yourself.
Misconception 6 – "Hijab is Oppressive"
Although there are many benefits of the hijab, the key reason Muslim women observe hijab is because it is a command from Allah (God), and He knows what is best for His creation.
The hijab empowers a woman by emphasising her inner spiritual beauty, rather than her superficial appearance. It gives women the freedom to be active members of society, while maintaining their modesty.
The hijab does not symbolize suppression, oppression or silence. Rather, it is a guard against degrading remarks, unwanted advances and unfair discrimination. So the next time you see a Muslim woman, know that she covers her physical appearance, not her mind or intellect.
Misconception 7 – "All Muslims are Arabs"
Misconception 8 – "Jihad is Terrorism"
Misconception 9 – "Muslims Worship Muhammad or the Moon God"
Islam teaches Muslims to respect all of God’s Prophets and Messengers – but respecting and loving them does not mean worshipping them.
A related claim is that Muslims worship the “moon God” which is also totally incorrect. Worshipping the moon, or anything other than Allah, is strictly prohibited in Islam:
Islam acknowledges the complete perfection, greatness and uniqueness of God with absolutely no compromises. He is the Most Just and the Most Merciful. Worshipping Him alone is the most important belief in Islam, as mentioned in the Quran in numerous places.
Misconception 10 – "Islam Permits Forced Marriages"
In Islam, both males and females have the right to choose or reject their potential spouse, and a marriage is considered null and void if a woman’s genuine approval is not granted prior to the marriage.
Misconception 11 – "Islam Forces People to Become Muslim"
God says, “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error.” Quran 2:256
Although it is a duty on Muslims to convey and share the beautiful message of Islam to others, no one can be compelled to accept Islam. To accept Islam, a person must sincerely and voluntarily believe and obey God, so, by definition, no one can (or should) be forced to accept Islam.
Consider the following:
- Indonesia has the largest Muslim population yet no battles were fought to bring Islam there.
- There are around 14 million Arab Coptic Christians that have been living in the heart of Arabia for generations.
- Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the western world today.
- Although fighting oppression and promoting justice are valid reasons for waging jihad, forcing people to accept Islam is not one of them.
- Muslims ruled Spain for around 800 years yet never coerced people to convert.
Does not the guidance for all humanity, the message of Islam, deserve to be carefully pondered over and reflected on?