ISLAM - A place to share my journey on the deen

I am posting about something close to my heart. Muslim/Christian relations.

I firmly believe that if true dialogue could be achieved between the Muslim and Christian / Judeo-Christian "worlds" then the one world in which we live would be a different pace. A better place. So here are 10 common misconceptions about Islam that I would like to attempt to clear up.

1) Probably the biggie....Muslims don't believe in Jesus. Totally untrue, the Holy Quran (book of scripture of the Muslims) mentions Jesus approximately 28 times. Here is one of my favourite verses about Jesus; "Behold the angel said; "Oh Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary. Held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of those nearest to Allah" [Chapter 3, vs 45). The difference is that Muslims, whilst we revere Jesus (Isa in Arabic), understand him to be a Prophet rather than a son of Allah (God).

2) Muslims aren't allowed to read the Holy Bible. I read mine at least weekly and I teach my daughter important lessons about good character from it too. Whilst there may be Muslims who don't read the Bible and some who are convinced they aren't allowed to, the Holy Quran mentions the books of scripture called Torah (Old Testament) and Injeel (New Testament or Gospel). That's the best endorsement I can think of as a Muslim!

 3) All Muslims agree with terrorism. There are extremists everywhere, in every religion. Those extremists have always used violence and terror as a means of forcing others to adhere to their viewpoint. The overwhelming majority of Muslims condemn acts of terror whomever they are perpetrated by. Islam/ the Holy Quran do not advocate terrorism or acts of wanton destruction. Yes I know soundbites from the Quran have been plastered all over the media to prove Islam is a religion of terror, but couldn't the same be done with the Holy Bible? An eye for an eye sound familiar? When a person who claims Christ performs an act of terror, they not Christianity are seen as crazy. The same is true of those extremists who claim Islam.

4) Islam was spread by the sword. Again incorrect. Yes during the establishment of the Muslim world in the Middle East wars were fought by Muslims. However historically, the people who lived in Muslim governed countries were free to practice their religion. Some had to pay a tax to do so but that is still better than mass eviction (the Jews of Elizabethan England) or murder (the Christians of Rome). It is fair to say that no religious state is unblemished by war. The word Islam means Peace in Arabic.

 5) Muslim women are oppressed by the religion and men. Ooooh my hubby has a good giggle about this one! He claims the only people who can think this are those who haven't met a Muslim husband and seen how henpecked they are! Cheek. But no, Islam is a way of life that gives a huge amount of respect and inalienable rights to women. We are not playthings, washerwomen or punching bags. I am not saying oppression doesn't happen. Of course it does, but this has nothing to do with the religion. Most often it comes from misogynistic cultures which have chosen to misinterpret the Holy Quran. There are many Muslims, male and female working to change this unfortunate reality through education. I as a Muslim woman I am far from oppressed, finding Islam liberated me from the shackles of a lifestyle that could only lead to Gods displeasure and death.

 6) Connected to this is...Muslim women are forced to wear hijab (generally used to describe the headscarf). I have met a lot of Muslim women and am yet to meet one who is forced to wear the scarf. In fact I have met more women who have fought for the right to wear it when family, friends and society have encouraged the opposite. Why the hijab? Well its the same reason that many of my Christian sisters are expressing their desire to dress more please God. It is that simple really. For Muslim women it is one of the ways we show our obedience to and love for Allah (God). It is also a manifestation of belonging to a particular way of life, like the Christian cross or the Jewish yamulke.

7) Muhammad (peace be upon him) married a child...I hesitated as to whether I should include this one as it is such a "hot potato". I think the first thing to attempt to clarify is the age of the girl (Aishah) the Prophet married. It is widely agreed by historians that she was married between the ages of 9 and 12 and that the marriage was not consummated for 2-3 years. I hear your gasps of disapproval, but hang on. This marriage happened over 1400 years ago when the age of "consent" across the world was considered the age of puberty which ranged from 9 to 12 years old. Remember people lived shorter lives and girls were considered women on the beginning of their menstrual cycle. With this in mind the age of Aishah doesnt seem so bad. Add to this the fact there was a gap between "vows" and consummation and it becomes clearer. If the Prophet were alive today, things would have been different (imho) due to differences in society between now and then.

8) Muslim men are allowed as many wives as they want; Not quite. Islamically they are permitted a maximum of 4 wives. The Holy Quran states this in Chapter 4, Verse 3. However, it is very clearly stated that if a man can not treat (and by this is meant maintain equally, physically, emotionally, financially) then one wife is better. In fact in the large majority of the Muslim world, muslim couples are just that, couples. Historically, polygamy was made lawful during the time of Prophet Muhammad (saw) in order to protect the women and children widowed/orphaned due to war. Muslim women are not forced to enter or stay in polygamous marriages.

9) Forced marriage is lawful in Islam; emphatically NO! Forced marriage is a detestable cultural practice and has nothing to do with Islam AT ALL! The laws of Islam, called Sharia, specifically disallow the forced marriage of any Muslim to another. A woman has the right to say yes or no to a potential husband. Arranged marriages are very different from forced marriages and are permissible in Islam but no force can be applied to either party.

10) Muslims aren't allowed to have FUN! : To end on a lighter note, there is often a misconception that we are a miserable lot who take ourselves too seriously. Well this may well be the case for some, after all miserable-ness is a hobby for some people, but I can assure you, Islam is full of joy for those who are of a mind to be joyous. Which I for one am!

Thankyou for reading these few words. I am not claiming to be a scholar of anything and these are my opinions from my limited knowledge.

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