Sources for Information: There are two main sources I will be using. One of them is a book by Suzanne Haneef called “What Everyone Should Know about Islam and Muslims.” The other is from a short essay off of a website called http://www.rahmana4.piczo.com. This website has been updated (to a more clear, readable version) at http://www.taqwa.co.uk/index.html. All of this is in my own words, except for when I specifically designate it as a quote (or if it’s italicized).
The creator of the website I mentioned above compiled a list called : “10 THINGS NON MUSLIMS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ISLAM.” In Section One, I am going to use a few of his examples that I think are most important.
1. Allah is God
2. The biggest sin is Islam is shirk: “associating partners with God.”
3. Translations of the Qur’an are not the Qur’an.
4. Not all Muslims are Arabs; not all Arabs are Muslims.
5. Culture is not religion
6. Jihad does not mean “holy war.”
7. Islam does not promote, sponsor, condone or encourage terrorism or murder.
1. Allah is God. What this means is that the term “Allah” (pronounced “ul-LAH” not “AL-uh”) is the Arabic word for the English word God. For example, Christians that live in Iraq (and therefore speak Arabic) call God “Allah.”
However, often people will still use the term Allah even when speaking English. All believers of the monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) are worshipping the same God.
2. Translations of the Qur’an are not the Qur’an. Muslims believe that Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammed all were delivering the same message from God (each of these prophets are mentioned by name in the Qur’an.)** I mean, really, everything is pretty much the same in the major religions, despite various minor discrepancies. Believe in one God, treat your neighbor as you yourself want to be treated, don’t take God’s name in vain,…all the things pointed out in the ten commandments…don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, etc. Muslims believe that each time a prophet came to deliver a message, they were essentially saying the same things. But over time, the messages were getting mixed up and jumbled, and some people were making changes to it over some things they didn’t like, and a lot of stuff got developed that wasn’t ever a part of the message each prophet was delivering. The Torah, the Bible, while preserving the basic principles of the messages, have been changed and revised, and are therefore not in their original form.
The Qur’an is believed to be God’s Word, delivered to Muhammed from the Angel Gabriel through a period of 23 years, from 610 A.D. to 632 A.D. The Qur’an has been preserved in its original form in Arabic. Each accent mark on each word has remained the same over time. “Allah has guaranteed that He will protect the Qur’an from human tampering, and today’s readers can find exact copies of it all over the world. The Qur’an of today is the same as the Qur’an revealed to Muhammad (saas) “ (website University of California, Muslim Student Association, Compendium of Muslim Texts; http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/).
Because of the preservation of its original form, which was revealed to Muhammed in Arabic, any other version of the Qur’an written in any other language, is only a translation of the Qur’an. It is clearly labeled as such on each of the front covers. “Translations are treated with great respect but are simply not equally valid” (rahmana4 essay).
**Origination of Islam: The story goes that Abraham and Sarah were supposed to have a child but were having difficulty. Assuming Sarah was barren, Abraham had a child with Hagar named Ishmael. (All of this story is in the Bible: Genesis 16 and Genesis 21. There is a detailed description of the story at this address: http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/SFS/an0601.asp). Later, Sarah did have a child named Isaac. “Having fulfilled her marital duty and God’s promise, Sarah demanded that Abraham reject Hagar and Ishmael” (website religionfacts.com). Ishmael’s descendents became the Muslims, Isaac’s descendents became the Jews.
3. The biggest sin in Islam is called “shirk”: “associating partners with God.” The whole basis of the religion is the “shahada.” The shahada in English goes like this: “There is no god but God.” What that means is exactly as it sounds. Nothing can compare to God. God is the creator of everything. God has no mother, no daughter, no son. God created us so that we can worship him, that’s our only point for being here, is just to worship him. He doesn’t require us to worship him, it is for US that we were created to have the chance to worship him and go to heaven in the end.
This issue, about shirk, is a sensitive one between Christians and Muslims.: “Muslims accept Jesus (in Arabic, “Isa”) as a prophet, and an extremely important one at that. However, they do not accept the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God (literally or metaphorically), although they do believe he is the son of Mary (in Arabic, “Maryam”). They further believe that at the time of the Crucifixion, another man was substituted for Jesus and made to look like him. Jesus was then raised up, “body and soul” by God into heaven. This is probably the most significant point of difference between Christians and Muslims” (quote from rahmana4 website essay). Muslims believe that Christians are committing shirk when they say that “Jesus is the son of God.” They see this as putting too much emphasis on Jesus, which takes away from believing in one true God. Muslims believe in Jesus, but as a prophet.
4. Not all Arabs are Muslims; not all Muslims are Arabs.
“Only about twelve percent of the world’s Muslims are Arabs. Also, not all Arab customs are Muslim. All Muslims do not speak Arabic, although prayers are to be said in Arabic, and Muslims are encouraged to learn to read Arabic so that they can understand the Qur’an” (rahmana4 essay). That pretty much sums that up.
5. Culture is not religion. “So much of the oppression and misogyny (female illiteracy, “honor” killing, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, physical abuse, etc.) we hear about in quasi- and pseudo-Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran stems from patriarchal cultural customs and baggage and not from Islam, although it’s always “justified” with supposed religious dictates and self-serving interpretations of scripture.
If any of these countries actually thoroughly implemented Islam as intended and honored the spirit as well as the letter of the “law,” women, for example, would not only have far more rights and freedoms than they currently do in any of these countries, but the behavior of men and the actions of governments would have to change so radically that you would probably not recognize these countries at all. Islamic concepts and requirements are that different from how these countries currently operate” (rahmana4 essay).
In short: “It’s absolutely essential not to see any one Muslim, genuine or otherwise, as representative of all Muslims” (rahmana4 essay).
6. Jihad does not mean “holy war.” The word “jihad” literally means “struggle.” The word is used to represent the internal and external struggle.
“This has to be one of the most damaging, most persistent myths about Islam. The Western media have helped perpetuate this, but there are plenty of benighted Muslims who insist on misapprehending and incorrectly using this term. Jihad is correctly translated as “struggle” or “endeavour”… It encompasses the idea of struggling or fighting for good or against evil, but that does not necessarily mean with violence, and it certainly does not mean that any crackpot claiming to be Muslim and waving a Qur’an around can decide who is good and who is evil, and start killing people. There is a well-known Islamic saying indicating that any kind of military conflict is the “minor jihad”; the “major jihad” is the struggle to control and improve oneself” (rahmana4 essay).
This goes on to explain that there are passages in the Qur’an describing battles and aggression which are narrating actual historical events. Militant Muslims will quote these parts of the Qur’an out of context, as if these parts of the Qur’an are advising them to courses of action or religious duties.
“They are also offset by many other passages enjoining peace, mercy, goodness, tolerance, patience, forgiveness, compassion, restrictions in warfare, etc. It seems the bin Ladens and “Muslim” militants of the world just haven’t gotten to those parts of the Qur’an yet” (rahmana4 essay).
7. Islam does not promote, sponsor, condone or encourage terrorism or murder.