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Learning Islam: Common Misconceptions Debunked


September 13, 2023


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When one embarks on the path to “learn about Islam,” it’s crucial to differentiate between the core teachings of the faith and the misconceptions that have arisen over the years. Islam, a religion with a rich history spanning over 1,400 years, has been the subject of numerous myths and misconceptions. In this article, we will debunk some of these misconceptions, ensuring that those eager to understand the essence of Islam receive a clear and factual perspective.

1. Misconception: Jihad Means Holy War

One of the most misunderstood terms in the West is “Jihad.” Many associate it with “holy war.” In reality, the term “Jihad” in Arabic means “struggle” or “effort.” In the Islamic context, it denotes a believer’s inner struggle against sin. While Jihad can refer to a physical struggle for the sake of God, its primary meaning revolves around the spiritual battle against one’s lower desires.

  • Misconception: Jihad Means Holy War
  • Truth: For those keen on “learning Islam“, it’s vital to understand that “Jihad”, often misconstrued, primarily denotes a believer’s spiritual battle against lower desires [2].

2. Misconception: All Muslims are Arabs

It’s a common misconception that all Muslims are Arabs. While Islam did originate in the Arabian Peninsula, today, only about 20% of Muslims worldwide are Arabs. The majority of Muslims hail from countries outside the Middle East, with significant populations in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

  • Misconception: All Muslims are Arabs
  • Truth: A significant realization when learning Islam is its diverse followership. While its roots trace back to the Arabian Peninsula, a majority of its adherents belong to different regions of the world [4].

3. Misconception: Women in Islam are Oppressed

As more people express interest to “learn about Islam,” this misconception often stands out. Islam granted women numerous rights over 1,400 years ago, which includes the right to inheritance, choosing a spouse, seeking knowledge, and more. The misinterpretation or cultural practices in some societies should not be mistaken as teachings of Islam.

  • Misconception: Women in Islam are Oppressed
  • Truth: An essential aspect of “learning Islam” is recognizing the empowerment it provided women over 1,400 years ago, which was revolutionary for its time [6].

Islam, at its core, is a religion of peace. The very word “Islam” is derived from the Arabic word “Salam,” meaning peace. The Holy Quran, Islam’s sacred scripture, states, “Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as if he has killed all of humanity” (Quran 5:32). It’s essential to differentiate between the actions of a few extremists and the teachings of a faith that promotes compassion, justice, and peace.

  • Misconception: Islam Promotes Violence
  • Truth: Central to “learning Islam” is understanding its foundational principle of peace, as highlighted in the Holy Quran: “Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as if he has killed all of humanity” (Quran 5:32) [8].

5. Misconception: Muslims Worship a Moon God

Muslims worship the same One God that Christians and Jews do. The crescent moon seen on some Islamic symbols is a cultural representation and has no religious significance in Islam. Allah, the Arabic term for God, is the same word Arab Christians use for God.

  • Misconception: Muslims Worship a Moon God
  • Truth: Symbols can be misleading. When “learning Islam“, it becomes evident that the crescent moon is merely a cultural icon without religious significance in the faith [10].

6. Misconception: Islam is a Recent Religion

Some believe Islam is a new religion that sprang up recently. However, Muslims believe that Islam, meaning submission to the will of God, has always been the fundamental tenet of monotheism since the time of Adam. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is regarded as the last in a series of prophets that includes figures like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

  • Misconception: Islam is a Recent Religion
  • Truth: Learning Islam takes one through a journey of time, revealing that its core belief has been consistent since the era of the Prophet Adam [12].

7. Misconception: Muslims Do Not Believe in Jesus

One might be surprised to learn that Jesus (Isa in Arabic) is a revered prophet in Islam. The Quran has an entire chapter dedicated to Mary (Maryam), and it describes Jesus’s miraculous birth, his teachings, and his miracles. While Muslims do not believe Jesus is divine, they hold him in high esteem as one of God’s mightiest messengers.

  • Misconception: Muslims Do Not Believe in Jesus
  • Truth: Jesus holds a revered position in Islam, which is an enlightening revelation for many who are “learning Islam[14].

8. Misconception: Muslims are Required to Eat Halal Meat Only

While many Muslims prefer halal (lawful) meat because it’s slaughtered in God’s name, the Quran permits eating the food of “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews) unless specifically prohibited, like pork.

  • Misconception: Muslims are Required to Eat Halal Meat Only
  • Truth: While halal meat is preferred, “learning Islam” also highlights the Quran’s allowance for Muslims to consume food from “People of the Book” with specific exceptions [16].

In Conclusion

It’s natural to have misconceptions about things unfamiliar to us. The key is to remain curious and open-minded. If you’re genuinely curious about deepening your understanding, consider joining courses offered by platforms such as the IQRA Network. As we continue our journey to learn about Islam, it’s essential to differentiate between the religion’s core teachings and the myths surrounding it. By understanding the true teachings of Islam, we promote unity, respect, and peace amongst diverse communities worldwide.

References

  1. Esposito, J. (2002). What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam. Oxford University Press.
  2. Bonner, M. (2006). Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice. Princeton University Press.
  3. Khan, M. A. (2009). The Concept of Jihad in Islam. Islamic Foundation Bangladesh.
  4. Pew Research Center. (2017). The Changing Global Religious Landscape.
  5. Esposito, J. (2008). The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press.
  6. Ahmed, L. (1992). Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. Yale University Press.
  7. Badawi, J. (1971). The Status of Women in Islam. American Trust Publications.
  8. Nasr, S. H. (2003). The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity. HarperOne.
  9. The Quran. (5:32).
  10. Hodgson, M. G. S. (1974). The Venture of Islam, Volume 1: The Classical Age of Islam. The University of Chicago Press.
  11. Peters, F. E. (1994). Allah’s Commonwealth: A History of Islam in the Near East. Simon & Schuster.
  12. Armstrong, K. (2000). Islam: A Short History. Modern Library.
  13. Lings, M. (1983). Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. Inner Traditions.
  14. Firestone, R. (1999). Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews. American Jewish Committee.
  15. Khalidi, T. (2001). The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature. Harvard University Press.
  16. Regenstein, J. M. (2003). The Role of the Halal Food Industry in Australia. Food Australia.
  17. Maqsood, R. W. (1994). The Halal and Haram in Islamic Dietary Laws. Kazi Publications.
  18. Ali, A. Y. (2001). The Meaning of the Holy Quran. Amana Publications.
  19. Rippin, A. (2005). Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Routledge.
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