MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ISLAM (Finale)
By Huma Ahmad
MISCONCEPTION #8: Muslims are a barbaric, backward people.
Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the simplicity of its doctrine-Islam calls for faith in only one God worthy of worship. It also repeatedly instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and observation. Within a few years, great civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet (pbuh), 'seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man and woman'.
The synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas and of new thought with old, brought about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature, and history. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.
MISCONCEPTION #9: Muhammad was the founder of Islam and Muslims worship him.
Muhammad(pbuh) was born in Mecca in the year 570. Since his father died before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his uncle from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. The historians describe him as calm and meditative. Muhammad (pbuh) was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira near Mecca.
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad(pbuh) received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel.
This revelation, which continued for 23 years is known as the Quran. As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel, and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to emigrate.
This event, the Hijra 'migration', in which they left Mecca for the city of Medina, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. After several years, the Prophet and his followers were able to return to Mecca, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet saw dies at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China. He died with less than 5 possessions to his name. While Muhammad (pbuh) was chosen to deliver the message, he is not considered the "founder" of Islam, since Muslims consider Islam to be the same divine guidance sent to all peoples before. Muslims believe all the prophets from Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus etc. were all sent with divine guidance for their peoples. Every prophet was sent to his own people, but Muhammad(pbuh) was sent to all of mankind. Muhammad is the last and final messenger sent to deliver the message of Islam. Muslims revere and honor him (pbuh) for all he went through and his dedication, but they do not worship him.
"O Prophet, verily We have sent you as a witness and a bearer of glad tidings and a warner and as one who invites unto God by His leave and as an illuminating lamp."(33:45-6)
MISCONCEPTION #10: Muslims don't believe in Jesus or any other prophets.
Muslims respect and revere Jesus, upon him be peace, and await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of God's messengers to mankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as 'Jesus', but always adds the phrase 'upon him be peace' (abbreviated as (u) here). The Quran confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Quran is entitled 'Mary'), and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation. The Quran describes the Annunciation as follows:
"Behold!" the Angel said, "God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of the righteous." She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?" He said: "Even so; God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, "Be!" and it is" (Quran 3:42-47)
Jesus (u) was born miraculously through the same power, which had brought Adam (u) into being without a father: "Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, 'Be!' and he was." (3:59)
During his prophetic mission Jesus (u) performed many miracles. The Quran tells us that he said: " I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breath into it and it becomes a bird by God's leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God's leave." (3:49)
Neither Muhammad (pbuh) not Jesus (u) came to change the basic doctrine of the brief in One God brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it.
In the Quran Jesus (u) is reported as saying that he came: "To attest the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey Me. (3:50)
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "Whoever believes there is no god but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad (pbuh) is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit emanating from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven. "(Hadith related by Bukhari).
Sources: (Islam: A Brief Introduction, Islamic Circle of North America, Jamaica, New York) (Understanding Islam and the Muslims, The Islamic Affairs Department The Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington DC, 1989.) (Badawi, Jamal, Polygamy in Islamic Law, The Muslim Students' Association of the United States & Canada,) (Islam and Farrakhanism Compared, The Institute of Islamic Information and Education, Chicago, Illinois) (Jihad Explained, The Institute of Islamic Information & Education, Chicago, Illinois)