Islam is a natural and complete way of life. It encourages one to give due attention to their relationship with their Creator (God). It teaches that people find true lasting happiness and peace through being close to God, following His guidance and performing good deeds.Muslims constitute approximately one fifth of the world’s population, making Islam one of the largest religions. Belief in and worship of the One True God is the purpose of life and cornerstone of Islam.The Arabic word “Islam” literally means “submission” to the One True God alone. One who voluntarily surrenders their will to God is called a Muslim, who can be from any racial or ethnic background.
A distinguishing feature of Islam, unlike many other religions, is that it is not named after a person or tribe.
The 6 Aspects (Articles) of Belief
1. Belief in Allah
“Allah” is the unique Arabic name of The One True God. Allah has no rivals, partners, equals, children or parents. He is not like His creation, as nothing shares His divine essence and perfect attributes. Some of His names and attributes include: The Creator, The Most Merciful, The Most High, The All-Powerful, The Most Just, The All-Wise, The Sustainer and The All-Knowing.
He is the Creator and Sustainer of all, the One who has granted us countless blessings, such as our faculties of hearing, seeing and thinking, as well as the ability to walk, talk and be productive. As such, we should acknowledge, thank and worship Him alone by following His guidance.
It is rational to conclude that such a complex and balanced universe is not possible by any other than a powerful and intelligent being. It is therefore illogical to believe that the universe created itself, or was the result of random or coincidental events.
2. Belief in the Angels
Angels are made from light, have allocated tasks and never disobey their Creator. Details about a few have been revealed, such as Gabriel, who delivers God’s message to the Prophets, and the Angel of Death, who takes the souls of people.
3. Belief in the Revealed Books
Allah sent divine revelation to His Messengers as a guidance and mercy to mankind. These include the Torah and Gospel as originally revealed to Moses and Jesus respectively, and the Quran as revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
The Quran is the literal word of God and the final revelation to all of mankind. There are many clear signs and miracles that it is from God, examples of which include:
- Contains a simple, pure and universal message which appeals to Man’s inherent beliefs about Almighty God.
- Contains a unique style of language that is universally known as the pinnacle of Arabic eloquence and linguistic beauty – yet the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was known, historically, to be illiterate.
- Contains many scientific facts which have only been discovered recently despite being revealed over 1400 years ago.
- Free from any errors or contradictions.
- Preserved, word-for-word, since it was revealed in its original Arabic language, unlike other scriptures which have been distorted, changed or lost.
The most rational explanation for the many unique and miraculous aspects of the Quran is that it can only be from God. Together with the authentic sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is the primary source of Islamic knowledge.
4. Belief in the Prophets
Muslims believe that thousands of Prophets were sent by Allah, at least one to every nation, to convey God’s revelation. These Prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). Their mission was to return people to the worship of the One True God, to serve as practical examples of how to obey God, and to guide people to the path of salvation. Prophets do not share in any part of God’s divinity, and any type of prayer or worship towards the Prophets, or to God through them, is strictly forbidden and considered a violation of God’s right to be worshipped alone.
– Prophet Jesus
Muslims believe that Jesus is an honourable prophet of God, born miraculously through his virgin mother Mary. He performed many miracles with the permission of God, such as healing the sick, curing the blind and speaking as a newborn defending his mother from accusations. Although Muslims respect and love Jesus, they do not worship him. He is not considered the son of God, nor part of a trinity, nor does he share in any of God’s perfect attributes. God says:
It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When he decrees an affair, He only says, ‘Be’ and it is.Quran 19:35
– Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final Prophet sent to all of mankind. He came with the Quran to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied, and was a perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful and brave human being. As with Jesus, Muslims do not worship Muhammad.
5. Belief in the Day of Judgement
The Day of Judgment is the inevitable event when each one of us will stand before our Creator and be questioned about our good and bad deeds. Every one of our actions will be accounted for, regardless of size.
On this momentous Day, Allah, the All-Just, will settle all matters fairly and no person will be wronged. Everyone’s rights will be returned. All will be treated justly, by either the reward of Paradise, or the punishment of the Hellfire. Without a Day of Judgement, life would be grossly unfair, as not everyone receives justice in this world.
6. Belief in Divine Destiny
Allah knows everything from the past, the present, and anything that will occur in the future. He has power over all things – nothing occurs without His knowledge and permission.
Every person has been given the free will to choose between right and wrong, and will be held to account accordingly
Free will does not contradict the fact that events can only occur with God’s knowledge and permission. Nor does it mean that God’s power over everything prevents or restricts people’s free will. God’s knowledge of people’s decisions does not mean that they are being forced to make such decisions, and God is not necessarily pleased with everything that He allows to occur.
The 5 Pillars of Worship
The foundation of a Muslim’s life.
1. The Declaration of Faith
The declaration of faith is bearing witness that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger. It must be based on a sincere and firm belief in the heart, followed by action. With this declaration, a person rejects all false deities, asserts that Allah is the only One worthy of worship, and accepts His final Messenger, hence becoming a Muslim.
2. The Five Daily Prayers
Prayer establishes a personal and spiritual connection between the Muslim and their Creator, and is a constant and practical reminder of a person’s duty to obey God. The five prayers are prescribed once each at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. Each prayer can take a few minutes to perform, consisting of recitation of the Quran, supplications, praising Allah, and various movements. In preparation for prayer, Muslims wash certain parts of their body, such as the face and hands, to ensure spiritual and physical purity.
3. The Annual Charity
The annual charity is an obligation on every Muslim who meets certain criteria (e.g. has wealth above a certain threshold). A mere 2.5% of one’s annual wealth is donated to those who are eligible, such as the poor, the needy or those in debt. It purifies one’s wealth and carries many benefits for both the giver and the receiver. One benefit is it reduces the gap between the rich and poor, ensuring everyone has their basic needs met.
4. The Annual Fasting
Every year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. It serves as a spiritual purification, nurtures patience and self-restraint, and provides many health benefits.
5. The Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, in Saudi Arabia, must be performed once in a person’s life, if they are physically and financially able. It occurs annually in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, unifying people of every colour, race, status and age, as they join in worship of the One True God. All pilgrims wear simple and similar clothing, which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God. This great journey consists of many components, including sacrifices, travelling and praying at various sites. Such an experience is life altering and humbles a person, making them more patient and thankful.
The Concept of Worship
Any action that Allah is pleased with.
Islam’s concept of worship is not restricted to only the five pillars. Worship is an all-inclusive term for any actions that are pleasing to Allah. Everyday activities can become acts of worship by purifying one’s intention and ensuring one’s actions are in line with God’s guidelines. Examples include smiling, being good to one’s neighbours, supporting one’s family, being honest, and even removing rubbish from the road.
It should be noted that Allah is not in need of anyone’s worship, rather, we are in need of Him and our worship is for our benefit.
The above-mentioned aspects of faith and acts of worship make up the essence of Islam. When practised, Islam fulfils the spiritual, physical, psychological and social needs of all people, and is a practical and rational way of life. Furthermore, it is the only way of life which is accepted by God Almighty, and the only path that leads to everlasting Paradise.
Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.Quran 16:97
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
Just as Moses (peace be upon him) was sent with the Torah (the original uncorrupted revelation sent to Moses) and Jesus (peace be upon him) with the Gospel (the original, uncorrupted revelation – not the present-day versions), Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent with the Qur’an to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied.
The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) wife, ‘A’isha, was once asked to describe the Prophet (peace be upon him), and she replied that “his character was a reflection of the Quran” (Muslim, 40), meaning he meticulously implemented the noble teachings of the Qur’an into his daily life. We will demonstrate how he translated these noble teachings into noble actions.
Mission of Mercy
And We (God) have not sent you (Muhammad) except as a mercy for mankind.”Qur’an 21:107
As well as calling people to pray, fast and give charity, the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught that one’s faith in God should also affect one’s treatment of others. He said: “The best of you are they who have the best character.”
Many sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) emphasise the relationship between belief and action, for example: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbour, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep quiet.”
The final Messenger (Peace be upon him) taught humans to show mercy and to respect each other:“He who does not show mercy to others, will not be shown mercy.”
In another narration, some people requested the Prophet (peace be upon him) to invoke God to punish the disbelievers but he replied: “I have not been sent as one to curse but as a mercy.”
Let them forgive and overlook: do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”Qur’an 24:22)
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was all for forgiveness and no amount of crime or aggression against him was too great to be forgiven by him. He was the best example of forgiveness and kindness, as mentioned in the following verse of the Qur’an: “Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” (Al-Qur’an 7:199)
Indeed the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”Qur’an 49:13
“All humanity is from Adam and Adam is from clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a black over a white; except through piety.”
“God does not judge you according to your appearance and your wealth, but He looks at your hearts and looks into your deeds.”
It is related that once a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) called another companion in an offensive way, “Son of a black woman!” The Prophet (peace be upon him), became angry and replied, “Do you condemn him because of the blackness of his mother? You still have within you traces of ignorance from the pre-Islamic period.”
Good deeds and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is best, then he with whom you had enmity shall become as a loyal friend.”Qur’an 41:34
Islamic sources include a number of instances where the Prophet (peace be upon him) had the opportunity to take revenge upon those who wronged him, but refrained from doing so.
He taught man to exercise patience in the face of adversity: “The strong is not the one who overcomes people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.”
Practising patience and tolerance does not mean that a Muslim should be a passivist and not defend himself in case of attack. Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) stated that, “Do not wish to meet the enemy, but when you meet (face) the enemy, be patient (i.e. stand firm when facing the enemy).”
By the grace of Allah, you are gentle towards the people; if you had been harsh and hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you.”Qur’an 3:159
On one occasion, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) reacted angrily after being insulted by a person.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised her: “Be gentle and calm, O ‘Aisha, as Allah likes gentleness in all affairs.”
He also said: “Show gentleness! For if gentleness is found in something, it beautifies it, and when it is taken out from anything, it makes it deficient.”
And the servants of The Most Gracious (God) are those who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: ‘Peace.’ ”Qur’an 25:63
Addressing his companions, he said: “Allah has revealed to me, that you must be humble. No one should boast over one another, and no one should oppress another.”
Such was his humbleness that he was fearful of being worshipped, a privilege only befitting God:
“Do not exceed bounds in praising me as the Christians do in praising Jesus, Son of Mary. I am only the Lord’s servant; then call me the Servant of Allah and His Messenger.”
The Ideal Husband
And live with them (your spouses) in kindness.”Qur’an 4:19
Not only was he a devoted husband, he also encouraged his companions to follow his example: “The most perfect of the believers in faith are the best of them in morals. And the best among them are those who are best to their wives.”
The Ideal Example
Indeed you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character.”Qur’an 68:4
It is important when trying to understand Islam that one goes directly to its sources: The Qur’an, and the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and that anyone does not judge Islam based on the errant actions of a few Muslims.
Comments from Non-Muslims
Mahatma K Gandhi, a major political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, remarked: “It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle.”
George Bernard Shaw, the British playwright, declared: “The world is in dire need of a man with the mind of Muhammad; religious people in the Middle Ages, due to their ignorance and prejudice, had pictured him in a very dark way as they used to consider him the enemy of Christianity. But after looking into the story of this man I found it to be an amazing and a miraculous one, and I came to the conclusion that he was never an enemy of Christianity, and must be called instead the saviour of humanity. In my opinion, if he was to be given control over the world today, he would solve our problems and secure the peace and happiness which the world is longing for.”
The word Hijab comes from the Arabic root word ‘Hajaba’, which means to conceal or cover. In an Islamic context, Hijab refers to the dress code required for Muslim females who have reached puberty. Hijab is the requirement of covering or veiling the entire body with the exception of the face and hands. Some also choose to cover their face and hands and this is referred to as Burqa or Niqab. The Hijab is not required in situations where there are only females and certain male relatives present. However, hijab is not just about outer appearances; it is also about noble speech, modesty, and dignified conduct. These righteous manners are also required of men. Muslim males are also required to dress in loose and unrevealing clothing in order to maintain their modesty and dignity.
The Hijab is Obedience
Although there are many benefits of Hijab, it is first and foremost a commandment from God. Therefore, wearing it is an act of faith and obedience to The Creator, as mentioned in the Quran:
Tell the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men).”Quran 33:59
God, the All-Wise, knows what is best for His creation, and has therefore provided guidance in order to benefit humankind. The wearing of hijab, just like any other act of obedience to The Creator, brings one closer to their Lord and helps bring a sense of satisfaction and contentment to the person wearing it. The Hijab in no way suggests that women are inferior to men.
The Hijab is Modesty
Islam promotes modesty and decency and seeks to minimise immorality within society. The Hijab, amongst other things, helps attain this goal.
Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: That is purer for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty. They should not display their beauty except that which is apparent; that they should draw their veils over their chests and not display their beauty…”Quran 24:30-31
Note that in the above verses, it is men who are addressed first in regards to lowering their gaze and guarding their modesty. This counters the claim that all responsibility for such modesty is shouldered by women.
While Islam discourages public displays of immodest dress and sexual behavior, being a practical religion, Islam encourages love, affection and intimacy between married couples in private.
The Hijab is Protection
The wisdom behind the Hijab is to minimise sexual enticement and moral degradation in society as much as possible for both men and women. The Hijab helps protect men, women and society by creating stability in both families and communities in a number of ways:
- Shields from unwanted advances.
- Shields women from perverted looks and superficial scrutiny.
- May help reduce the likelihood of sexual assaults against women.
- Shields from sexual exploitation of women based on appearance.
- Shields from temptations and harmful desires.
The Hijab is Dignity
The Hijab promotes a woman’s femininity rather than suppressing it, and grants women dignity and self-respect for who they are, as opposed to being judged by superficial standards, such as appearance. This grants women the power to shape their own dignity via more meaningful standards, such as righteousness, knowledge and societal contribution, rather than having a consumer society dictate their worth through material means, such as how they look or how much money they earn. In the sight of God, men and women do not have to be identical in order to be equal, and this is reflected in the different roles and responsibilities which apply to each.
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakkul Karman, ‘The mother of Yemen’s revolution,’ when asked about her Hijab by journalists and how it is not proportionate with her level of intellect and education, replied:
“Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is a regression back to the ancient times.”
The Hijab is Respect
In a number of societies today, many women are taught from early childhood that their worth is proportional to their attractiveness. They are compelled to follow unrealistic and demeaning standards of beauty in order to satisfy unreasonable peer pressure and community expectations. In such a superficial environment, where so much emphasis is placed on external beauty, the internal beauty of the individual counts for very little.
Islam however, teaches that a woman is to be respected according to her virtuous character and actions rather than by her looks or physical features, of which she has little or no control. She does not have to use her body and charms to gain recognition or acceptance in society, as the Hijab directs self-worth away from appearance and onto qualities such as piety, virtue, modesty and intellect – attributes which are more equally accessible to all.
Every woman who wears a hijab or burqa is a unique individual, and it is unfair and inaccurate to make a sweeping judgement about all such women based on one item of clothing they have in common.
The Hijab in the Bible
The Hijab is not something new. Muslim women follow the example of righteous women in the past such as Mary, the mother of Jesus. Some of the evidence from the bible includes the following two verses.
“And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.” 1 Corinthians 11:3-6
“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10
The Hijab is Confidence
The Hijab enables women to have confidence in themselves as human beings. It increases the self-esteem of women by allowing them to focus on what really matters in life. The obsession with physical appearance can have dangerous and unhealthy consequences, as some women go to harmful lengths in order to feel accepted by an increasingly demanding society. The Hijab helps prevent such mental and physical harms associated with a lack of confidence, by limiting self-consciousness based on appearance.
“I don’t wear it because I am oppressed, I wear it because I am empowered.”Joumana, 23, Melbourne
The Hijab is NOT…
- It does NOT hinder contribution to society.
- It is NOT a symbol of oppression.
- It is NOT required in places where there are only females and close male relatives.
- It is NOT a sign of female inferiority to men.
- It is NOT a means to restrict a woman’s freedom to express her views and opinions.
- It is NOT a means to restrict women from pursuing an education or a suitable career.
- It is NOT a portable prison.
- It is NOT an act of defiance, confrontation or protest against non-Muslims.
- It is NOT something new – it has been practiced by many righteous women historically.
- It is NOT against community values – community values necessitate that people should not be judged by what they wear, nor discriminated against or mistreated, based on their choice of clothing or appearance.
- It is NOT worn with the intention of being intimidating or anti-social.
What Muslim Women Say About the Hijab
“I wore it at the age of 17 and now regret not wearing it earlier.” Faten, 27, Melbourne
“It’s not about being ready enough to wear it, it’s about being fortunate enough to wear it.” Madina, 22, Melbourne
“Wearing Hijab represents my freedom, my choice, not my oppression by the wants of men and media.” Nusaybah, 45, Melbourne
“I like wearing the hijab because I’m doing it for the sake of Allah, and every time I think about that, it puts a smile on my face.” Aisha, 13, Melbourne
“It allows me to realise my goals by having a career and going to school without worrying about the prying eyes of men. It forces people not to judge me based on my appearance, but on my thoughts and character.” Ms. Flavia, 22, USA
“My body is my business, and I shouldn’t have to defend what I wear to anyone. It is part of my religion, and the fact that I choose to wear it does not make me any less human.” Ms. Yasmin, 21, Australia
The Hijab is an act of obedience between the Muslim woman and her Creator. It is a source of empowerment and dignity, and millions of Muslim women around the world choose to wear the Hijab as part of their faith. Far from being oppressive, the Hijab is an act of liberation, purity and most importantly, belief. Respect for women is an important aspect of Islamic teachings, and this is illustrated via the Hijab.
True equality will occur when women do not need to display themselves to be valued nor defend their decision to keep their bodies to themselves.
Misconceptions About Islam
What do you REALLY know?
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”
“The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.” – Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
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”
Muslims worship the same God worshipped by Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. The word “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for Almighty God – an Arabic word of rich meaning, denoting the one and only God. Allah is also the same word that Arabic speaking Christians and Jews use to refer to God.
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”
The media generally portrays any Muslim who fights as a terrorist, regardless of whether they fight justly or unjustly, or whether they are oppressing others or being oppressed.
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.
If anyone murders an innocent person, it will be as if he has murdered the whole of humanity. And if anyone saves a person it will be as if he has saved the whole of humanity.”Quran 5:32
Misconception 4 – “Islam Oppresses Women”
In Islam, men and women are viewed as equals before God, in terms of both receiving equal reward and accountability for their actions. The only thing that distinguishes people in the sight of God is their level of piety.
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”
The Quran is the divine literal word of God Almighty, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the angel Gabriel. It is a criterion for the truth, containing guidance for humanity to live by. The Quran cites lessons from preceding generations and the history of the Prophets in order that we may learn from their experiences. It further teaches us about ourselves and our Creator, as well as the purpose of our existence which is to acknowledge God, worshipping Him alone.
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”
To observe the hijab, Muslim women are required to modestly cover their body with clothes that do not reveal their figure in front of non-closely related males. However, hijab is not just about outer appearances; it is also about noble speech, modesty, and dignified conduct.
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”
Only about 20% of Muslims in the world are Arabs, meaning that up to about 80% of Muslims are non-Arabs. For example, there are more Indian and Indonesian Muslims than Arab Muslims.
Islam teaches that an individual is not superior to another because of race or colour, and is strictly against any form of racism. Islam has a universal message for all of mankind – that is, that everyone can gain peace and success only by acknowledging and worshipping the One True God.
Misconception 8 – “Jihad is Terrorism”
The essence of Jihad is to struggle and sacrifice for one’s religion in a manner which is pleasing to God. Linguistically, it means to “struggle” and can refer to one’s striving to do good deeds, give charity, or to join an Islamic military action. The most commonly known form is the military Jihad which is permitted in order to preserve the well being of society, to prevent oppression from spreading, and to promote justice. This can be either defensive or offensive, depending on the circumstance.
Misconception 9 – “Muslims Worship Muhammad or the Moon God”
Yet another misconception is that Muslims worship Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This is entirely untrue, and is easily refuted by the actual saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him):“Do not over-praise me as the Christians over-praised Jesus, the son of Mary. I am His slave, so refer to me as ‘God’s slave and Messenger.’ “
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:
Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah Who created them, if you really worship Him.”Quran 41:37
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”
Arranged marriages are cultural practices which are predominant in certain countries throughout the world. Although not restricted to Muslims, forced marriages have become incorrectly associated with Islam.
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.
Learning about Islam from unqualified sources without verification is dangerous and leads to misunderstandings. Do not be misled into accepting misconceptions and false information about Islam – the belief shared by more than a quarter of mankind.
Does not the guidance for all humanity, the message of Islam, deserve to be carefully pondered over and reflected on?
The Concept of God in Islam
There are many rational reasons for believing in God. Three simple reasons are described below:
1. Order of the Universe
Imagine walking along the beach and finding a watch in the sand. Would you believe that the watch came together by itself? You would not conclude that the watch just happened to emerge from the sand by random chance. All the intricate working parts could not simply develop from the materials that lay buried in the earth. The watch must have a manufacturer. And if the watch tells accurate time we expect the manufacturer must be intelligent. Natural coincidences cannot produce a working watch. Consider the planet earth. Its timing is so strictly regulated around the sun that scientists can publish in advance the sunrise and sunset times. Just as a watch has an intelligent maker to keep accurate time, so too must the earth have an intelligent maker to keep accurate time around the sun. Could this occur by itself? In the same way, when we see the order, precise laws and systems within ourselves and throughout the entire universe, is it not rational that the universe has an organiser? This ‘organiser’ is best explained by the existence of God – the one who brought about the order in the universe.
2. Beginning of the Universe
Modern science concludes that the universe has a beginning. This is based on a recent discovery that the universe is expanding, and if we go back in time, the universe converges – which points to a beginning. There are three possible explanations for the beginning of the universe, either:
- The Universe came from nothing,
- The Universe created itself, or
- The Universe was created.
As for the second explanation, simple logic tells us that something cannot do anything before having existed. This leaves the third point as the only rational explanation: a higher and intelligent being, God, created the universe.
Some people may ask, “Who created God”? God, The Creator, is different to His creation. If He was the same as creation, He would also need a creator, leading to an infinite amount of creators, which is impossible. He is beyond time and the physical matter of this universe. God has always existed and has no beginning; therefore the question of who created God is irrational.
3. Revelation from God
If God revealed a book of guidance to humanity, we would expect that such a book would contain clear evidence of the existence of God.
There are clear signs that the book of Islam, the Quran, is the word of God. Below is a very brief summary of reasons that support this claim:
- The Quran was revealed over 1400 years ago and contains many scientific facts that were unknown to the people of that time which have only been discovered recently by contemporary science. Examples include: water being the origin of all living things (Quran 21:30);
- the expanding universe (Quran 51:47); and the individual orbits of the sun and moon (Quran 21:33).
- The Quran contains many historical facts that were unknown to the people of that time as well as numerous predictions which have both proven to be correct.
- The Quran is free from any errors or contradictions.
- The Quran has been preserved, word-for-word, since it was revealed in its original Arabic language, unlike other scriptures which no longer exist in their original form.
- The simple, pure and universal message of the Quran appeals to Man’s inherent beliefs about Almighty God.
- The Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was known in history to be illiterate. Yet, the Quran contains a unique style of language that is universally known as the pinnacle of Arabic eloquence and linguistic beauty.
The most rational explanation for the many unique and miraculous aspects of the Quran is that it is from God.
Who is God?
And your god is One God. There is no god but He.”Quran 2:163
The main beauty of Islam is that it acknowledges the complete perfection, greatness and uniqueness of God with absolutely no compromises. This is reflected in Islam’s pure teachings of the attributes of God.
God is One & Unique
- God has no partners, no equals and no rivals.
- God has no father, mother, sons, daughters or wives.
- God alone is worthy of all worship.
- Had there been more than one God, it would reflect deficiency in His power or authority as this would involve God having rivalry, making compromises or needing agreement with other gods.
God is All-Powerful
- God has full authority and power over all things.
- Everything is completely subservient and dependent on Him.
- Obedience to God does not increase His Power, nor does disobedience decrease His power in any way.
God is The Most High
- There is nothing above or comparable to God.
- The attributes of God do not resemble that of His creation.
- No part of God is present in anyone or anything.
- God is perfect and does not have any human limitations, such as resting on the seventh day after he created the universe, as claimed by some other religions.
God is The All-Just & All-Merciful
- God does not need to sacrifice himself to forgive sins nor is anyone “born into sin”.
- God judges everyone based on their own deeds and everyone is accountable for their own actions.
- Humans may distinguish themselves and earn God’s favour through belief, virtue and piety only – not through race, wealth or social class.
The Nature of Jesus
When explaining the concept of God in Islam it is important to discuss the status of Jesus, given the widespread confusion and claims about the nature of Jesus.
Some Christians claim that “Jesus is God” – that is, he is the incarnation of God on earth and that God took on a human form. However, according to the Bible, Jesus was born, ate, slept, prayed and had limited knowledge – all attributes not befitting God. God has attributes of perfection whereas Man is the opposite and lacks such perfection. So how can anything be two complete opposites both at the same time? This is not rational.
However, some people may ask, “If God can do anything, why can’t he become a man?” By definition, God does not do ungodly acts, so if God became man and took on human attributes, he would, necessarily, no longer be God.
Furthermore, the Bible contains many verses in which Jesus speaks and behaves as if God is a separate being to himself. For example, Jesus “fell on his face and prayed” (Matthew 26:39). If Jesus was God, then would a God fall on his face and pray? And, who would he be praying to?
Some Christians also claim that “Jesus is the Son of God” but we should ask ourselves, what does this actually mean? Surely God is far removed from having a physical and literal son. Rather, we find that the term “Son of God” is symbolically used in the earliest biblical languages for a “righteous person”. It is used throughout the Old Testament for many righteous people such as David, Solomon and Israel – not exclusively for Jesus. “…Israel is my firstborn son,” (Exodus 4:22) is one such example.
The Islamic belief about Jesus explains who the real Jesus was, whilst maintaining the pure belief about God and His Greatness. Jesus was as an honourable Prophet sent by God to call to the worship of God alone.
It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; He is perfect and flawless.”Quran 19:35
And worship Allah and associate none with Him.”Quran 4:36
God is Worshipped Directly
God does not need any partners or intermediaries. Everyone always has direct access to worship God, as He hears all who praise and call upon Him. Worshipping Allah indirectly (e.g. through idols, statues or other intermediaries) is viewed as compromising Allah’s Oneness and purity of worship that He alone, is worthy of.
All Prophets Called to the Worship of God
And We (God) certainly sent into every nation a Messenger, saying, ‘Worship Allah and avoid false gods.’ “Quran 16:36
Muslims believe in all the Prophets that Allah sent. These prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. They all came with the same message – to call their people to the belief and worship of the One True God.
The Purpose of Life is to Worship God
The ultimate purpose of life is to acknowledge the greatness of God, establish a direct connection with him, and worship Him alone. The concept of worship in Islam is not limited to rituals such as praying and fasting, it includes all actions that are pleasing to God such as having good manners, being honest, establishing justice, being patient and helping the needy.
In conclusion, the foundation of Islam is belief in the Oneness and Uniqueness of Almighty God, who is the Creator and Lord of all, perfect in all His attributes. He alone deserves all worship. Therein lies our success in this life and the next.
Women’s Rights in Islam
Over fourteen hundred years ago, Islam gave women rights that women in the West have only recently began to enjoy. In the 1930’s, Annie Besant observed, “It is only in the last twenty years that Christian England has recognised the right of woman to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times. It is a slander to say that Islam preaches that women have no souls.” (The Life and Teachings of Mohammed, 1932).
Men and women all descended from a single person – the Prophet Adam (peace be upon him). Islam does not accept for either of them anything but justice and kind treatment.
Equal Reward & Equal Accountability
Men and women worship Allah in the same way, meaning they worship the same God (Allah), perform the same acts of worship, follow the same scripture, and hold the same beliefs. Allah (the Arabic word for the One true God of all creation), judges all human beings fairly and equitably. Allah emphasises the just treatment and reward due to both men and women in many verses of the Qur’an:
Allah has promised to the believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss.”Qur’an 9:72
Never will I allow the loss of the work of any worker amongst you, male or female; you are of one another.”Qur’an 3:195
If we compare Islam to other religions, we see that it offers justice between the sexes. For example, Islam dismisses the idea that Eve is more to blame than Adam for eating from the forbidden tree. According to Islam, Adam and Eve both sinned, they both repented and God forgave them both.
Equal Right to Knowledge
Both men and women are equally encouraged to seek knowledge. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Education is compulsory for every Muslim.”
Also, great female Muslim Scholars existed at and around the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Some were from his family and others were his companions or their daughters. Prominent amongst them was Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) through whom a quarter of the Islamic law has been transmitted.
Other females were great scholars of jurisprudence and had famous male scholars as their students.
Equal Right to Choose a Spouse
Islam has honoured women by giving them the right to choose a spouse and keep their original family name once married. Additionally, many have the impression that parents force their daughters into marriage. This is a cultural practice, and has no basis in Islam. In fact, it is prohibited.
At the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), a woman came to him and said, “My father has married me to my cousin to raise his social standing and I was forced into it.” The Prophet sent for the girl’s father and then in his presence gave the girl the option of remaining married or nullifying the marriage. She responded, “O Messenger of Allah, I have accepted what my father did, but I wanted to show other women (that they could not be forced into a marriage).”
Equal yet Different
While men and women have equal rights as a general principle, the specific rights and responsibilities granted to them are not identical. Men and women have complementary rights and responsibilities.
Aside from external and internal anatomical differences, scientists know there are many other subtle differences in the way the brains of men and women process language, information and emotion, just to mention a few.
A socio-biology expert, Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, said that females tend to be higher than males in verbal skills, empathy and social skills, among other things, while men tend to be higher in independence, dominance, spatial and mathematical skills, rank-related aggression, and other characteristics.
It would be foolish to treat both genders the same and to ignore their differences. Islam teaches that men and women have complementary, yet different, roles because it is best suited to their nature. God says:
And the male is not like the female.”Qur’an 3:36
Does not the One who created, know? And He is the Most Kind, the All Aware.”Qur’an 67:14
The Family Unit
God created men and women to be different, with unique roles, skills and responsibilities. These differences are not viewed as evidences of superiority or inferiority, but of specialisation. In Islam, the family is of central importance. The man is responsible for the financial well being of the family while the woman contributes to the family’s physical, educational and emotional well being. This encourages cooperation rather than competition. By fulfilling their mutual responsibilities, strong families are created and hence strong societies.
Also, emotionally, neither men nor women live a happy life without one another. Allah describes this beautifully by saying:
They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.”Qur’an 2:187
Clothing provides comfort, warmth and security as well as making one look good – this is how the relationship between the husband and wife is defined in Islam.
Love & Mercy in Spousal Relations
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also encouraged men to treat their spouses in the best way, “The best of you are those who are best (in treatment) to their wives.”
And among His signs is that He created or you wives amongst yourselves that you may dwell in tranquillity with them; and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts). Surely in this are Signs for people who reflect.”Qur’an 30:21
Aisha (the Prophet’s wife) was once asked how the Prophet’s conduct was in his home. She said,“He was like one of you at home, yet he was most lenient and most generous … He was ready to give a helping hand to his wives in the ordinary work of the house, [he] sewed his own clothes and mended his own shoes.” In general, he helped in whatever work his wives did.
Lofty Positions of Mothers & Daughters
A mother has the greatest influence on a child especially in the earlier years through her affection, care and love. Undoubtedly, the success of a society is due to mothers. Therefore, it is only right for Islam to honour and raise their status.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
And we have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his Parents, His mother bears him with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship.”Qur’an 46:15
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was once asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who among people is most deserving of my good treatment?” He said, “Your mother.” The man asked twice more,“Then who?” and was given the same response. Only until the fourth time did the Prophet respond,“Then your father.” Reward is not only given to the good and kind treatment towards mothers. In fact, Islam has designated a special reward for raising daughters that is not granted for raising sons.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever Allah has given two daughters and is kind towards them, they will be a reason for him entering Paradise.”
Before Islam, women were considered shameful, female children were buried alive, prostitution was rampant, divorce was only in the hands of the husband, inheritance was only for the strong, and oppression was widespread. Islam came and abolished these practices. Even now, in “developed countries”, women are not granted respect, dignity and honour, let alone equal pay for equal work. Islam, however, regards women as precious and valuable, not to be disrespected or disgraced. The mistreatment of women in some Middle-Eastern countries or Muslim families is due to cultural factors that some Muslims wrongly follow, not because of Islam. Why would many women around the world willingly enter Islam if it is an oppressive religion?
We end with the words of our Lord and your Lord, the Creator and Sustainer of all men and women:
Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, and the believing men and the believing women, and the obedient men and the obedient women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women, and the humble men and the humble women… Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward.”Qur’an 33:35