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Jihad means holy war
In Arabic, the word jihad means to strive, struggle and exert effort. It is a central and broad Islamic concept that primarily means to struggle against evil inclinations within oneself.
Islam is not confined to the boundaries of the individual but extends to the welfare of society and humanity in general. An individual cannot keep improving himself/herself in isolation from what happens in their community or in the world at large. Hence it also means struggle to improve the quality of life in society and the struggle against injustice, oppression and tyranny.
The word ‘Jihad’ is generally misunderstood and consequently evokes strong reactions. It is a word frequently used in the press, directly or subtly, to mean holy war. In fact the term “holy war” was coined in Europe during the period of the Crusades. It is an alien concept to the Islamic framework. War is not ‘holy.’
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In recent years, a great deal of attention in the media has been given to the threat of “Islamic Fundamentalism”. Unfortunately, due to a twisted mixture of biased reporting in the media and the actions of some misguided Muslims, the word “Islam” has become almost synonymous with “terrorism”. However, when one analyses the situation, the question that should come to mind is: Do the teachings of Islam encourage terrorism? The answer: Certainly not! Islam totally forbids the terrorist acts that are carried out by some misguided people.
Islam encourages peace, mercy and forgiveness. Killing innocent people totally contradicts the teachings of Islam.
Islam was spread by the sword
Many non-Muslims, when they think about Islam, picture religious fanatics with a sword in one hand and a Qur’an in the other. This myth, which was made popular in Europe during the Crusades, is totally baseless. First of all, the Holy Qur’an clearly says “Let there be no compulsion in religion”. In addition to this, Islam teaches that a person’s faith must be pure and sincere, so it is certainly not something that can be forced on someone. Dissociating the myth that Islam was “spread by the sword”, the (non-Muslim) historian De Lacy O’ Leary wrote: “History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever accepted.” (Islam at the Crossroads, London, 1923, p. 8).
Muslims ruled Spain for roughly 800 years. During this time, and up to when they were finally forced out, non-Muslims there were treated with the utmost of respect and had flourishing communities. Additionally, Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in the Muslim lands of the Middle East for centuries. Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan all have thriving Christian and/or Jewish populations.
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Islam is a religion only for Arabs
Less than 20% of the Muslim population is Arab. There are more Indonesian Muslims than Indian or Arab Muslims and it is a myth that all Muslims are Arabs. It should also be clarified that not all Arabs are Muslims. An Arab can be a Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist – or of any other religion or ideology. Also, many countries that some people consider to be ‘Arab’ are not ‘Arab’ at all – such as Turkey and Iran (Persia). The people who live in these countries speak languages other than Arabic as their native tongues and are of a different ethnic heritage than the Arabs.
Islam is meant for all people regardless of race, nationality or linguistic background. Taking a look at the Muslim World, from Nigeria to Bosnia and from Malaysia to Afghanistan is enough to prove that Islam is a universal message for all of mankind.
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Islam oppresses women
Numerous verses of the Qur’an make it clear that men and women are equal in the sight of God. According to the teachings of Islam, the only thing that distinguishes people in the sight of God is their level of righteousness. Many people are surprised to find out that Islamic Law guaranteed unprecedented rights to women over 1400 years ago. For example, Islam jurisprudence clearly states that women have the right to vote, seek an education, own property, financial independence, operate a business and receive equal pay for equal work. The very same rights that were only granted to women in Europe and America recently.
The principal difference in the way these rights came about is also important. In the Europe rights became part of the law only after women had been through great political struggles. In Islam, rights were given by God through revelation. They cannot be reversed by anyone’s decision.
If women in the Muslim World today don’t have their rights and if a particular society oppresses women, it does so in spite of Islam, not because of it.
Muslims do not believe in Jesus
Many people are surprised to find out that according to Muslim belief, Jesus, the son of Mary, is one of the greatest messengers of God. Muslims are taught to love Prophet Jesus (pbuh), and a person cannot be a Muslim without believing in the virgin birth and miracles of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him.
Terrorism is supported in Islam
This misconception is one of the most widely held misconceptions about Islam today.
The Qur’an states;
“…Whoever kills an innocent soul it is as if he killed the whole of Mankind. And whoever saves one, it is as if he saved the whole of Mankind…” (Surah Al Maidah, Chapter 5 Verse 32)
It is clearly Islamically unlawful to murder an innocent person. Hence, if anyone kills an innocent person, they have committed a grave sin, and certainly the action cannot be claimed to have been done “in the name of Islam.”
Islam is intolerant of other religions
The Qur’an states;
“Those who believe in the Qur’an, and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians – any who believe in God and the last day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Surah Al Baqarah, Chapter 2 Verse 62)
God has commanded Muslims in the Qur’an not to insult other faiths. In fact Christians and Jews are given an honourable title in the Qur’an, ‘the people of the Book.’
The Prophet of Allah (pbuh) said, “One who kills a non-Muslim person (under the guardianship of an Islamic state) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.”
He also said, “Whoever hurts a non-Muslim person (under the guardianship of an Islamic state), I am his adversary, and I shall be an adversary to him on the Day of Resurrection.”
Muslims worship Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
Early researchers of Islam called it `Muhammadanism’, implying in some way that Muslims worshipped the Messenger of God (pbuh). However, as was described elsewhere, a “Muslim” is “one who submits to God.” The essence of Islam is pure, pure, pure monotheism. God says in the Qur’an:
“Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the One on whom all depend; He begets not, nor is He begotten. And there is none comparable to Him” (Surah Al-Ikhlas, Chapter 112)
“Muhammad is no more than a messenger: many were the messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.” (Surah: Al Imran, Chapter 3 Verse 114)
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