In this article, we will try to clear up many of the misconceptions that are prevalent about Islam. Before jumping into the list of misconceptions directly, it is important to give a little interesting background about the source of Islam.
Islam is the name of a way of life which the Creator wants us to follow. We avoid the word religion because in many non-Islamic societies, there is a separation of "religion and state." This separation is not recognized at all in Islam: the Creator is very much concerned with all that we do, including the political, social, economic, and other aspects of our society. Hence, Islam is a complete way of life.
The source of Islam is Allah, the Creator of everything known and unknown to us. He is One, and He is Unique. Allah has taught us about Islam via two mediums: the Qur`an and the Sunnah. Both the Qur`an and Sunnah were transmitted to us, humanity, via the Messenger of Allah: Muhammad bin Abdullah, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him (saas). The Messenger of Allah was nothing more and nothing less than a mortal messenger of the immortal Creator.
The Qur`an is a book containing the literal Word of Allah. It was transmitted from Allah to an angel of His (Gabriel), and from the angel to the Messenger of Allah who delivered it to us. The Qur`an covers a wide variety of topics, including evidence to support its claim of being the Word of the Creator, stories of earlier generations, rules which humanity is asked to obey, and information about the Hereafter. The Qur`an claims that it is protected from change by other than Allah, and this is confirmed by its 1400 year history. The earliest copies and the latest copies are the same.
The Sunnah is the term used to describe how the Messenger of Allah (saas) lived his life. The Messenger`s life is an example for all Muslims, or those who accept Islam, to follow. Whatever the Messenger (saas) did, said, or approved of is a source of Islam just as much as the Qur`an. The Messenger`s role is not overemphasized: his life was dictated by what the Creator desired, and the Messenger did not add or subtract to Islam according to his own personal whim. His life was such that his wife called him "a walking Qur`an."
The Qur`an and Sunnah are the only two mediums by which Allah has directly taught us about Islam. This leads us to the following simple but critical principle:
If any man or woman engages in a belief or action which clearly contradicts the Qur`an or Sunnah, then that belief or action cannot be thought of as `Islamic`.
This rule applies whether the man or woman is Muslim or non-Muslim. Hence, we cannot equate Islam and the Muslims. Islam is the way of life; Muslims are people who claim to follow that way of life. A Muslim may claim to follow Islam, but be wrong. In the context of misconceptions, we can restate the above principle in a slightly different way:
Some misconceptions about Islam are due to the wrong beliefs and actions of Muslims, and others are due to a significant lack of understanding and false stereotyping by non-Muslims.
Several misconceptions are listed below. Instead of simply stating the misconception by itself, we have also included some reasons why people might adopt that misconception. Therefore, each entry in the list is given in the following form:
<Statement of misconception> because:
After each misconception and its possible reasons, we show briefly why the misconception is false by showing one or more of three possibilities:
a reason is false
the reason does not logically lead to the misconception
a key piece of information is being ignored
Our answers to the misconceptions are drawn from the Qur`an and Sunnah. All other approaches are insufficient: Islam is a way of life which is very firmly based on a scholarly approach, an approach which is based on knowledge.
Islam is `the religion of peace` because:
the Arabic word Islam is derived from the Arabic word "Al-Salaam" which means peace.
It might seem strange to think of this as a misconception, but in fact it is. The root word of Islam is "al-silm" which means "submission" or "surrender." It is understood to mean "submission to Allah." In spite of whatever noble intention has caused many a Muslim to claim that Islam is derived primarily from peace, this is not true. Allah says in the Qur`an (translated):
[2:136] Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have surrendered. [Arabic "Muslimoon"]
A secondary root o