Islam is shrouded in misconception some perpetuated by the media, our own biases, other religions, and many other forces that tell us what to believe. Being Muslim can be difficult, especially at a time when many of the misconceptions about your religious beliefs are very negative.
Here, Muslim people take a moment to share a common misconception about their religion that they want to clear the air about. If you’d like to read more, check out the source link at the end of the article.
Comments may be edited for clarity.
Former Muslim. One thing that I find even some Muslims don’t know: Muslims actually believe in the second coming of Christ. He is accepted as a Prophet, who brought a new Gospel, the part that Muslim’s disagree with is that he is son of God. Everything else is the same, including that he will come back at the end of times and will lead the righteous to Heaven.
The top five largest Muslim populations are in:
None of these are in the Middle East or Arab. In fact, the Middle East & North Africa account for less than a quarter of all the world’s Muslims.
Except for Nigeria, all of them have had a female head of state
In Indonesia, the fastest growing religion is Christianity. In Pakistan, the fastest growing religion is Hinduism. In Nigeria, the fastest growing religion is Folk religion. Map of fastest growing religion in each country, based on PEW
Technically, there are more Muslim-majority countries which impose restrictions on the usage of headscarves, than those which mandate them.
That’s not to say that Arabs as an ethnic group are to blame for the problems. This is aimed at addressing the misconception that Muslims = Arab and vice versa.
The 72 virgins in heaven isn’t real.
You cannot say ____ will go to hell for ____. Only God knows who goes to heaven and hell. And speaking of God, Allah means God in Arabic. Christians also use the term Allah if they speak Arabic. It’s not just a “Muslim” thing.
There is no forced marriage in Islam. But there are Muslims who force a marriage.
This is actually towards Muslims but, guys, you/we can touch dogs. We just gotta wash your hands afterwards….
The biggest misconception is the over-simplification of Islam. It’s extraordinarily complex and people seem to think that a 30 minute Google search is enough to understand it.
The verses of the Quran are not to be (all) taken literally. The Quran says it itself: He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking fitnah (division), and searching for [their own] interpretation, but no one knows its [true] meaning except Allah… ” The two types of verses are muhkamaat and mutashabihat. The translations are very subtle and difficult, and still debated. The gist is that some are fundamental and others less so, and that the less fundamental will be used by evil people to justify what they want to.
The Quran is considered the word of God but exactly what that means is not known. Historically it’s been a subject of much debate. The spectrum goes from complete and utter literally believing its God’s word to thinking of it in a context and not a part of God and therefore, prone to being flawed. Famously the rationalist Mu’tazila school followed this thought. To this day it’s still a difficult and subtle question of whether the Quran is a part of creation or creator.
There’s a curiosity in the Quran’s use of “verse”. What is translated as verse (as above) is actually the word for “sign”. The Quran uses that same word to refer to the natural world as “signs” too – e.g the changing of the winds, the variation of animals in the world, etc. It explicitly states that the heavens (not Heavens) and the Earth are filled with “signs”. This is partly what led to the whole Islamic rationalism thing.
Islamic sexuality is not as rigid as people believe. There’s explicit mentions of some people being mukhannathun in the hadith and historical records. They don’t fit neatly into gay/bi/trans/non-binary but they are something along those lines (and were particularly commonly singers and entertainers). There’s a reference in the Quran to “men who do not possess the desire for women”. They were traditionally the matchmakers of society. This is the background to why you had 9th/10th century clerics talking about not blaming “men who are by their nature effeminate” and why Iran funds sex change operations. It’s also why the Ottoman Caliphate was among the first-ish to decriminalize homosexuality in 1856, and why Morocco was where Oscar Wilde fled to practise his homosexuality. It’s a little more complex than that because “sexuality” back then – including in Greco-Roman times – was defined by an action, not as a trait.
5. Many interpretations do not view hell as permanent. This stems mostly from the most important Islamic phrase that begins (almost) every single Chapter. It’s the Islamic “in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit”. It goes In the name of Allah alRahmaan, alRaheem. I’ve not translated the last two because the common translations are WRONG. They’re mistranslated as “most compassionate” and “most merciful” but in English those are synonyms and come from separate roots. In Arabic they are from the same root “r -h-m” and so can’t mean the same thing. The correct translation is that they both mean “the all-merciful” but that the first kind of mercy extends to all living things, and the second is specifically in response to actions i.e sin/good. That the all-encompassing mercy is stressed and comes first implies that we will all end up in heaven (along with other verses where it says “My punishment – I afflict with it whom I will, but My mercy encompasses all things.”
6. Forced Marriages are completely and unequivocally unIslamic. Anyone who’s been to an Islamic marriage ceremony knows this. Islam sees two sides to marriage, the spiritual side and the let’s get down to business side. The latter side is why marriage in Islam revolves around the “nikah” aka contract. It’s very much down to earth. You set a whole bunch of vows, you have a dowry (male to female) and have to decide on a prenuptial agreement. Some interpret that you are free to put anything you want in your nikah e.g “husband must give wife a foot rub every night” and set your own terms, though the cleric probably would frown on silly additions like the one above. I can imagine much more serious ones about money and children that would be allowed. Anyway, as any contract it must be signed by both THREE TIMES (each) who must also say “qabalit” – I consent – three times in public during the ceremony. The vast majority of (especially stricter) interpretations state the bride must do it in private with just the imam marrying her and two or three witnesses of her choice. If she hesitates or does not say “qabalit” even once – it is not valid and the imam will not perform the ceremony. Even stricter interpretations put strict rules on who can be the witness. Most agree that the groom cannot be one. Many extend this to her parents. Forced marriages are a cultural stain but not Islamic in the slightest.
In summary, it’s simply not something a 30 minute Google search will teach you. This statement could just as well be made about anything and I wish people understood this.
A lot of things in Islam are not strictly black and white. I like to imagine some areas, such as the core beliefs of Islam, being rigid (believe in Allah, His Messengers, His Books, His Angels, the Destiny, etc) and unchangeable. But as you extend from that, its depends on the person, and the situation.
Situations might include everyday life-related or sharia related (before anybody starts crucifying me for writing sharia – I mean the religious code/law that is abided, which in daily life does not involve things like killing nor stoning people).
Oh my God, so many things. I’m sure a lot of them have already been addressed by others, but they merit repetition.
Allah is the same as the Judeo-Christian God, not some other deity. Arab Christians worship Allah. On a similar note, Muslims revere Jesus Christ as not only one of the greatest prophets, but as the Messiah, and we believe in the second coming. When it comes to Jesus, we are functionally the middle ground between Christians and Jews, affirming his status as the messiah, but rejecting that he is divine. I should probably add that we believe in pretty much all the Judeo-Christian Prophets from Abraham to Noah to Moses.
Judaism and Islam are so incredibly similar, when you sit down and compare them, its often just the words that are different. And even then, they’re often not that different.
No, Muslims are not commanded to kill all infidels. As a matter of fact, the Qu’ran strictly forbids killing someone just because they practice a different religion, and specifically notes that Christians and Jews are “People of the Book”; those who received the revelations of God before Islam. While we believe that the Bible has endured changed, we believe that it was once, like the Qu’ran, the direct word of God.
You are not going to send me to hell by shooting me with a bullet dipped in pig blood. I honestly don’t now where this came from, but the idea that getting killed in a particular way is a sin is laughable.
5. I don’t want to impose Sharia on anybody. This stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what Sharia is. It is religious law synthesized from the Qu’ran, so by following the Sharia, you are following the tenets of Islam. Some countries have adopted “Sharia legal systems” and many of the laws contained have no basis in Islam. Furthermore, Sharia commands Muslims to obey the laws of the land in which they are living, provided they don’t directly conflict with the core of the religion.
6. The Qu’ran does not command that women wear Hijab or Niqab. It merely says that both genders should be modest in how they dress. This should be an individual choice, depending on what you believe to be modest.
7. The whole 72 virgins thing. I have no idea where that comes from.
8. The Qu’ran does not generally command the killing of apostates. It would in fact, be counter-productive, since hypocrisy is one of the greatest sins in Islam. The idea that you must remain a Muslim or die would just encourage you to pretend to believe, which is pointless, since God knows and sees all.
9. Muslims speak a lot of different languages, not just Arabic. Most Muslims do not in fact speak Arabic. While we are encouraged to learn to read Arabic since it is the language of the Qu’ran, most don’t speak it, and many cannot read it.
10. All Muslims are not the same. While we do generally adhere to the same basic texts, there are a wide range of different views, just like any other religion. While some things are foundational, and not really up for debate, there’s a lot of stuff that is, so there are a range of views.
There’s probably a lot more I could mention, but this is already long, so I’ll stop here. Baby steps.
Former Muslim here. One thing that nobody realizes, Muslim or not, is that Muslims think that Adam was a Prophet and Christians & Jews do not. They simply view him as the first human.
Whoever tries to explain Islam as either a religion of pure peace or pure evil is doing a disservice. Islam is the word of God Himself, as per our belief. Therefore we consider it to be inherently good overall. But since it’s the word of God, it’s also pragmatic. It accepts that resorting to war is a natural human tendency and will happen one way or the other, so rather than having an unrealistic ban on war and getting mowed down by your enemies, Islam instead gives you a code of war. What to do, what not to do. Kill enemies, but don’t who surrender. Treat them with kindness even after you have captured them. Don’t kill women and children. Hell, don’t even kill people who made it to the battle field but decided not to fight from there, etc.
So yes, it does tell us to fight in certain context, but it also gives us the rules of engagement. Most people misconstrue that part.
We dont worship Muhammed. We worship God alone.
We believe in all prophets including Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Isaac and so on.
Islam doesn’t command you to kill infidels or anyone period. These are cherry picked verses that explain a historical battle, not a command.
We are not allowed to forcefully convert anyone.
We do not believe in “genital mutilation.” Circumcision is a recommend thing which is common with Christians, Jews and atheists alike. Its not about mutilating the body, but about cleanliness. Women do not have to have any sort of procedure done.
Islam is the 2nd biggest religion in the world and soon to be the biggest at the current rate. Muslims are all over the world, and there are many white Muslims from nations like Turkey, Algeria, Bosnia, Montenegro, and many more.
We do not believe in owning slaves, and definitely not the type of slavery during America’s early years. Historically there were slaves during a much earlier age period which is not like the idea of the slavery we learn in school but rather an exchange of services for shelter, food and protection. We do not currently live in a time where it’s ideal and hence its no longer seen.
Here are a few things that are actually misconceptions:
-Female genital mutilation is not a Muslim problem. It’s done in some areas that happen to be Muslim, and some that aren’t Muslim. But it’s not a Muslim tradition in origin, and it’s not done in some of the most conservative societies like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
-The region with the most Muslims in the world is actually South Asia (Pakistan, India, Indonesia, etc.). The reason why it’s so linked to the middle east and North Africa is because that’s the area that was under the caliphate, and so it was ruled by Islamic theocracy.
No longer practicing, have since become an Atheist, but there’s a lot of stuff that circulates in the media about how halal food is slaughtered, how it’s barbaric and such. For starters, the livestock slaughtered for proper halal meat is free range. It’s never raised in batteries and is given a healthy diet and in general, raised with great care.
The actual slaughter of the animal is performed with a swift slice with a sharp knife. This is to ensure that death is as swift as possible and I believe it also cuts off a lot of the livestock’s nerves so if it does take any time to die, death is relatively painless. This is how proper halal meat is made. While there are ‘halal’ farmers who don’t follow the steps to the letter, these meats aren’t truly considered halal. It’s just lazy. And when the ritual is performed correctly, is probably a lot less stressful and painful for the animal involved than going to a slaughter house to get a bolt fired into it’s skull before being electrocuted.
As well as this, in certain situations there are instances where muslims can have meat that isn’t halal as part of their diet. If you live in an area where halal is not readily accessible, you can eat other meats as part of your regular diet.
As a Muslim woman:
1/- I have dreams and ambitions, I study hard, I want to be cultivated, I read a lot (Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen…), I drive and I workout
2/- I love and want to be loved. I AM A women too. I want flowers, and poems and chocolate and wild surprises and romantic date nights…I have feelings to, and I want whoever my partner is to love me just like Noah loved Allie in The Notebook.
3/- True muslims have stopped forcing marriage on their daughters since the era of Muhammed pbuh, literally every single girl I know married the man she wanted to marry, sometimes their parents wouldn’t even agree but they would do it anyway…And their parents would still be there for the wedding, because they understand it’s a personal choice.
4/- Nobody touches our genitals or cuts anything off…Seriously, what the heck is up with that?
5/- I have a sense of fashion. I like make-up and nice clothes, I wear shorts and sexy bras, strapless dresses and every single thing any other woman would wear…Just not everybody has to see it.
6/- If you walk past us in a bikini, we don’t judge. 99% of the time a muslim woman is staring at a non-muslim woman is because she’s wondering about what skin routine she has, or what lipstick she’s using….Uh, except if you’re 100% naked, I would probably be like wtf? Cause I really don’t understand people who do that.
7/- If you’re non-Muslim, get to know us before you judge.
I am an American-Pakistani Muslim woman who wears the hijab. I did not wear it when I lived in Pakistan, rather started when I moved to the US. I am not forced to wear it.
Fatwa does not mean death sentence. It means a legal opinion expressed by a prominent religious scholar about how Islamic laws apply to a certain situation. For example, if a new species of fish enter the market, an observant Muslim may inquire a religious scholar as to whether he trusts whether this species is halal (OK to eat) or haram (forbidden to eat). The scholar would then research about the fish and compare it against religious laws about food and issue a fatwa saying whether he believes this specific fish is halal or haram. That’s all fatwa is.
The problem is that most non-Muslims have heard of exactly one fatwa ever, and thus believe that is what fatwa is. In reality, that does not even represent the minority of fatwas. That was a fringe case even then and definitely since.
Halal meat isn’t a crueller way to get meat, it is, in fact, a lot more merciful, and designed to provide the safest cleanest meat possible while causing the animal as little pain as possible. Heck, it’s a sin to let the animal see the knife first and the animal has to have been properly fed and taken care of to be considered halal.
I hate saying that I used to be Muslim because I’ve pretty much been told by my constituents that Islam is the religion of destruction and sheep sex so I would rather not associate with it. However, it points out a bigger issue that people cannot be comfortable in their own skin without being vilified. Now I know some of you may be saying “Oh you’re blowing it out of proportion.”
I can’t post pictures of myself in my cultural garb on social media because it puts me in this box. A box that I would love to be in, but honestly I’m much happier by not even saying I’m muslim to begin with. That’s how bad it is. I tell people I’m half Indian and half Pakistani and that’s it. I usually don’t touch religion since it’s such a hot button issue.
“Muslims are ignorant and believe that women shouldn’t be able to drive “ad infinitum
When it’s kind of the opposite. Muslims hold a similar “Storyline” to the other main religions with modifications here and there. Because of this we have to think differently about our origins. I personally never took religion too seriously but because Islam’s viewpoints were different than others I got to have a more objective viewpoint of religion and therefore I feel as if I’m more tolerant than my peers.
They have more or less stayed in their religions that are all highly praised. Whereas Islam is CONSTANTLY under scrutiny and it forces people who are believers to always question their faith and their morals.
Overall, I wouldn’t say I’m muslim in a religious sense. However the morals, such as the 5 pillars of Islam were instrumental in my personal development. I know I’m just one voice but I talk to so many other Muslims in my place and they feel the same. Honestly, we just want people to listen to us for once instead of making us into a 5 minute piece on the nightly news and moving on to hydrogenated soy bean milk.
Muslim is a very diverse term, my mosque is filled with people from different backgrounds and cultures. The main thing we have in common is our religion.
One misconception is that there is some real, true form of Islam.
Right wing bigots like to say that moderates don’t exist and the only real Islam is the hard core Saudi style.
Moderates like to say the Wahhabi extremists are not the real Islam.
Wahabbi fundamentalists don’t think you’re a muslim unless you toe their extremist line.
And that’s just levels of severity within one strain.
You also have splits in Islam according to history and doctrine so there are groups like Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadiyas, Ishmailis etc who call each other heretics and say only they follow the truth.
When Someone like Obama or Trump starts going on about real Islam they MISS THE POINT.
You can’t deal with some theoretical real Islam that hold to the original teachings of the prophet (be they peaceful and tolerant or extreme and hateful)
You can only deal with Islam as it exists in the wild. And the Islam in the wild is not the demon the neoNazis think it is and it’s not the blameless bastion of feminism and peace the Democrats want you to think it is.
It’s a religion like any other with lots of problems in doctrine and practice that conflict with secular humanist values but also which promotes good values like charity and brotherhood and humility.
Islam is what it is on the ground. Not simply what the books say. Or what we wish it was.
3 Things from a moderate muslim guy born in Texas, raised in California… 1) We aren’t some weird ritualistic medieval society or anything, at least me and every friend I have who’s muslim in the states aren’t. Most of us don’t talk about our religion too often, we just kind of hang, watch Game of Thrones (or insert your favorite tv show) and go to mosque occasionally. There are very few differences, and I can’t stress that ENOUGH, with every other religion. It tends to feel like people have this view that I and my other Muslim friends have these weird rituals we perform every night away from the public eye. I guess we pray a lot, but really that’s about it and even then some of us miss those when we have really difficult schedules
2) When we eat Pork… nothing happens it’s just really bad. Seriously I get asked this on the daily or whenever me and a few friends order a pizza.
“Hey you can’t eat like, pork right?” “Right” “Well what happens if you do?” “Lightning strikes me and I turn into Charlize Theron.” “Heck, really?” “No dude, I just feel guilty for a few hours.”
It’s haram or whatever, yeah, and I don’t eat pork– but I’m not gonna explode unless you put dynamite in the darn thing. 3) Allah and God are the same. Allah is just the Arabic word for God. It’s not some separate entity. Some people may not believe that, but we’re like the Return of the Jedi to Judaism and Christianity’s Star Wars and Empire. The characters are pretty much the same, even if there are slight differences.
But that’s the best way I can explain things.