If you are an intelligent, clear-thinking person contemplating Islam, I recommend thedeenshow.com, a program intended to guide you in that direction. Is this because I want you to convert? No, it's because watching the show for a while will keep you from making that fatal mistake. Notice I said if you are "intelligent and clear-thinking". There are apparently many muddled ex-pastors and others out there who have never given up their search for the perfect religion and the perfect book. Hope springs eternal in the human breast.
A recent program was entitled "The Five Main Misconceptions About Islam". If you have the time, we could turn this into a classroom exercise. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, and watch the 40 minute presentation. If you can counter the "Five Misconceptions", you don't need me. If you can't, or thought they were convincing, read on.
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The top five misconceptions, from 5 to 1.
Misconception number 5: The Quran copies stories from the Old Testament.
In spite of the fact that dozens of stories from the Bible are repeated in the Quran hundreds of times, Dr. Sabeel insists they were not copied because Allah is the author of every word in the Quran. If they were copied, according to him, they would have been exactly the same. Here are a few things to consider:
1) Muhammad's society was an illiterate one, where stories were passed by oral tradition at poetry fairs and around caravan campfires. It's inconceiveable that stories in the Quran would appear exactly as they were in their original sources. I'm amazed that someone would argue that the fact that stories do not appear in the Quran exactly as they were in the Old Testament indicates they did not come from that source.
2) Muhammad deliberately changed the Old Testament stories because he had a specific reason for telling them. Every story told by Muhammad about the Biblical prophets contained the same basic theme. The prophet was calling his people back to God, and if they did not obey they would be punished. This was to confirm Muhammad's claim that he was a prophet just like them and Allah would punish those who did not follow him. As an example, the story of Abraham in Quran 60:4 speaks of the enmity between Abraham and his people because the people had rejected him, and as a result the people were under the judgment of Allah. The earlier Biblical account contains nothing of this, but simply gives the historical account of Abraham moving from Iraq to Palestine. Muhammad altered the story for his own purposes.
3) Imagine a story that contained all the elements of a good tale: a beautiful woman, sex, family drama, and mystery. Now imagine men repeating this story around campfires for hundreds of years. What do you imagine the result would be? It doesn't take much imagination to realize the salacious elements of the story would increase with the telling. Next compare the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 and Yusuf (Joseph) in Quran 12. The Biblical story is almost boring in its simplicity. An attractive young man was sold by his brothers as a slave to Egypt, his master's wife tried to seduce him, he refused her advances, she told her husband he had tried to rape her, and the angry husband threw him in prison.
Now read the story in sura 12 of the Quran hundreds of years and thousands of campfires later. It contains numerous senusal details that never appeared in the original. The wife rips the shirt from Yusuf's back and throws a dinner party for her friends to impress them with his attractiveness. When they see him, they all lose control and cut their hands with their knives. Muslims believe this literally happened, in spite of the fact that it is difficult to believe the wife of an ancient Egyptian official would host a dinner party to show off the man she desired, and the guests would really cut their hands with knives.
4) The reality is the Old Testament is not the only source of the stories Muhammad copied into the Quran. One of the most nonsensical stories in the Quran is that of King Soloman and the magic bird Hudhud. The reason it is nonsensical is that parts of it were copied almost word for word from a pre-Islamic Jewish Aramaic childrens story called "The Second Targum of Esther" (or, Targum Sheni). The Muslim response to the Targum, of course, is to insist it must have been written centuries later after the Quran. The abundant historical proof this could not be true is available online; googling the above subjects will give both the historical evidence and the Muslim counter-claims.
4. Misconception number 4: The word "Allah" was an Arabic god or the moon god.
The word "Allah, according to Dr. Sabeel is the Arabic word for "the Creator", and Allah has always been the one true God.
This is an example of what I have previously posted; Muslims easily present "facts" without proof that can require the serious student hours of research to confirm or deny. Google "the history of allah" and carefully read the scientific and historical information available. Agricultural societies tended to worship the sun, and pastoral societies preferred the moon. Muhammad's was a pastoral society, and the moon god Allah was very important to them. This god, by the way, even had a female counterpart. Words are feminized in Arabic by adding a "t". The Arabs worshipped Allah and Allat (Mr. and Mrs. Allah!). Seriously, Allat was probably the daughter and not the wife of Allah.
There are additional psychological tidbits worth thinking about. Muhammad's father was "Abdallah", the servant of Allah. Muhammad had other relatives named after other local gods; Abdel-shams and Abdel-manaf. Did Muhammad emphasize the god Allah in memory of the father he never had? If his father had been Abdel-shams, would the god of the Muslims today be Shams, the sun god?
If there is no connection between Allah and the moon, why is the moon so important today to Muslims? The months of the Arabic year and religious holidays are all based upon the cycle of the moon. Mosque minarats by the thousand show the symbol of the crescent moon. The Arabic Red Cross is the "Red Crescent".
Muslims actually have a far greater challenge to face than who was Allah. Arab historian Jawad Ali in his book Mufasil Adyan Al Arab Qabal Al Islam , The Religions of the Arabs Before Islam, examines the 360 idols that were located in the kabah. These idols included Wudd, Rahman, Rahim, and many more. In his desire to attract the worshippers of these idols, Muhammad simply took them and inserted them into the Quran and the "99 names of God". All but one of the chapters of the Quran begin with Allah, Rahman, and Rahim. The god Ya-sin even had an entire Quranic chapter named after him! Why did Muhammad incorporate the idols of the Arabs into the Quran?
How do Muslims counter the above historical evidence? Denial.
3. Misconception number three: Jihad means Holy War.
Muslims love to argue that because the expression "holy war" (Al Harb Al Muqadasah) does not occur in the Quran, jihad is not related to fighting.
Rather than go into a detailed discussion of the meaning of jihad, let me give a few quick comments. Having just returned to the US after six years in the Middle East, I'm amazed at the way Islam is presented in the west as opposed to how it is interpreted in the Arab world. Dr. Wafa Sultan writes at length how Muslims change the definition of words to suit their audiences. Jihad is presented to the American audience as an inner spiritual struggle to improve oneself. Reference is often made to a weak hadith (that means, one that has been discredited by Arab historians and you would never hear quoted in the Muslim world) where Muhammad said the "greater jihad" was spiritual self-improvement, and the "lesser jihad" was fighting. The statistical fact is that 97 percent of the references to jihad in the Quran and the hadith mean only one thing: opposing the unbeliever to remove obstacles to the spread and domination of Islam. This jihad can take many forms, including fighting, money, and writing, but its only goal is to spread Islam.
2. Misconception number two: Women in Islam are Oppressed Because they Wear the Scarf.
The real question here is not "to veil or not to veil"; it is "does Islam honor women"?
Let's begin with the women in Muhammad's life. How did Muhammad honor his late mother Amina by refusing to pray at her grave? How did he honor his first wife Khadija by adopting no craft or profession? When they married, she was rich; when she died, they were poor. How did he honor her by not helping raise their children? There's not a word in Islam about Muhammad the father.
How did Muhammad honor the innocence, the childhood of Aisha by having sex with her when she was nine years old? How did he honor her by marrying many more women soon afterwards? How did Muhammad honor Aisha by suspecting her of adultery when she was innocent? Her own words were, "If I lied and said I did it, you would believe me; when I tell the truth and say I didn't, you don't believe me."
How did Muhammad honor his daughter-in-law Zaynab by encouraging her to divorce his son so that he, Muhammad, could marry her? Why didn't he use his influence as a "prophet" to help save, rather than destroy, their marriage? (for any women reading this, what would you honestly think if your father-in-law tried to get you to divorce his son so that he could add you to his list of conquests?). How did Muhammad honor his wife Hafsah when he lied to get her out of the house so he could sleep with the Christian slave girl he had recently given her? How did Muhammad honor Sofiya, the 17 year-old Jewish girl he took as a wife after he tortured and killed her husband? One of Muhammad's associates first claimed her, but Muhammad offered the associate two other women so that he, Muhammad, could have her.
If that is Muhammad's "honor" to his wives, you can imagine his mercy to his opponents. How did Muhammad honor the Jewish women who had lived in Medina for centuries? Within a few years of his arrival, they were all gone, sent out with only what they could carry while he appropriated all their wealth and property. Many hundreds of them were now widows, after he beheaded from six to nine hundred of their husbands, brothers, and sons in one day.
Muhammad honored Muslim women, you say? How did he do that when the Quran states that a man must perform ablutions after he has gone to the bathroom or touched a woman (Quran 4:43)? How is putting a woman on the level of feces honoring her? How did Muhammad honor women by stating that three things can invalidate the prayer of a man: a passing dog, donkey, or a woman? How is putting her on the level of a dog or a donkey honoring to her? How did he honor women by stating they were deficient in intelligence and religion? Can you really not see the connection between that and the fact that hundreds of millions of Muslim women today are functionally illiterate because education has been denied them?
How did Muhammad honor women when he stated that most of the inhabitants of hell are women? Muslims argue these are only "bad women". Well, bad women do things with bad men. Why aren't the men in hell?
How did Muhammad honor women by stating that, "Heaven for women is at the feet of their husbands."? Muslims love to quote the hadith that "Heaven is at the feet of mothers". The Muslim heaven must have a lot of feet. By the way, most Muslim women are mothers. How can heaven be at their feet if the majority of them are in hell?
How did Muhammad honor women by telling them their husbands could divorce them at any time with a word, or take other wives without informing them? How did he honor them by describing them as possessions of their husbands (Quran 4:3)?
The most basic human rights for a woman include the freedom to believe what she wants, and marry who she chooses. These rights are denied her in Islam. Although Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women, the Muslim woman does not have that choice. And neither of them have the right to not believe in Muhammad.
1. Misconception number one - Islam is synanamous to violence and terrorism.
Islam, according to Dr. Sabeel, is a peaceful religion.
I'll concede the point, to an extent. Islam was peaceful until Muhammad first began to mock the gods of the Quraysh. Ibn Ishaq describes Islam's first incident of violence in "The Life of Muhammad" as follows:
"Sad ibn Abu Waqqas was praying with a group of the prophet's companions, when a group of polytheists came and rudely interrupted them. They blamed them for what they were doing, until they came to blows. Sad smote a polytheist with the jawbone of a camel, and wounded him. This was the first blood to be shed in Islam."
That was a few pages into Muhammad's official biography. The rest of the biography is violence and jihad. So statistically, the peaceful stage lasted about 2 percent of the book. The remaining 98 percent is conflict.