What does Islam say about woman? [Archives:2003/654/Culture]

July 28 2003

By Bakr Hamud Aljunaid
[email protected]

In this article I am trying to answer in brief some important questions which some people who read my articles asked me and criticized me why I didn't gave them a brief definition about Islam. I used reference books about Islam to give you more information on Islam.
Islam is a major religion with over 1 billion followers worldwide and nearly 6 million in the USA. some Americans still think it is a cult, some believe all Muslims are terrorists or have 4 wives, or ask me if my wife puts on a veil, walks behind me or does belly dancing for me! Thus, the misconceptions about Islam continue because of a lack of correct information about the basic teachings of Islam.
The ongoing crisis in the Muslim world and the misrepresentation of Islam sometimes by the media, challenges us to answer questions raised by our non-Muslim friends about our way of life in a simple and concise language.
What is Islam? The word “Islam” means peace and submission. Peace means to be at peace with yourself and your surroundings and submission means submission to God and obeying His commandments. A broader meaning of the word “Islam” is to achieve peace by submitting to the will of God. This unique religion with a name which signifies a moral attitude and a way of life. Judaism takes its name from the tribe Judas, Christianity from Jesus Christ, Buddhism from Goutam Buddha and Hinduism from Indus River. However, Muslims should not be called “Mohammedans”. The religion of Islam is the complete acceptance of and obedience to the teachings of God which He revealed to His Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh)
Who is “Allah”? Allah is the Arabic word for “one God”, the same as Eloh in Aramaic. Allah is not God of Muslims only; He is God of all creations, because He is their Creator and the Sustainer.
Who is a Muslim? The word “Muslim” means one who submits to the will of God. This done by declaring the “there is no god except one God and Mohammed is the messenger of God”. In a broader sense, anyone who willingly submits to the will of God is a Muslim, thus all the prophets preceding the prophet Mohammed were Muslims. The Quran specifically mentions Abraham who lived long before Moses and Christ that, “he was not a Jew or a Christian but a Muslim,” because, he had submitted to the will of God. Thus there are Muslims who are not submitting at all tot he will of God and there are Muslims who are doing their best to live an Islamic life. One cannot judge Islam by looking at those Muslims who have a Muslim name but in their actions, they are not living or behaving as Muslims. The state of being a Muslim can be according to the degree to which one is submitting to the will of God, in his beliefs and his actions.
Who Was Mohammed? In brief, Mohammed (peace is upon him) was born in a noble tribe of Mecca in Arabia in the year 570 AD His ancestry goes back to Prophet Ishmael (P), son of Prophet Abraham (P). His father died before his birth and his mother died when he was six. He did not attend any formal school. He was raised first by a nurse as it was the custom those days, and then by his grandfather and uncle. As a young man, he was known as a righteous person who used to meditate in a cave. At age 40, he was given the prophethood when the angel, Gabriel, appeared in the cave. Subsequently, the revelations came over 23 years and are in the book called the Quran which Muslims consider as the final and the last word of God. The Quran has been preserved, unchanged, in its original form and confirms the truth in the Torah, the psalms, and the Gospel. Quran is the only scripture in existence today with its original Arabic text.
Do Muslims Worship Mohammed (pbuh)? No. Muslims do not worship Mohammed (pbuh) or any other prophet. Muslims believe in all prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon, Moses and Jesus. Muslims believe the Muhammad (pbuh) was the last of the Prophets. They believe that God alone is to be worshipped, not any human being.
What do Muslims Think of Jesus (pbuh)? Muslims think highly of Jesus (pbuh) and his worthy mother, Mary. The Quran tells us that Jesus was born of a miraculous birth without a father. “Lo! The likeness of Jesus with Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then He said unto him: Be and he is” (Quran 3:59).
He was given many miracles as a prophet. These include speaking soon after birth in defense of his mother's piety. God's other gifts to him included healing the blind and the sick, reviving the dead, making a bird out of clay and, most importantly, the message he was carrying. These miracles were given to him by God to establish him as a prophet. According to the Quran, he was not crucified but was raised into heaven. (Quran, Chapter Miriam ) Mary).
What Is The Purpose of Worship In Islam? The purpose of worship in Islam is to make the person God-conscious. Thus the worship, whether it is prayer, fasting, or charity, is a means to an end and the end is to seek the pleasure of God by becoming God conscious in thought and in action. Thus he is better blessed to receive His bounties both in this world and the Hereafter.
What Is Jihad? The word “Jihad” means struggle, or to be specific, striving in the cause of God. Any struggle done in day-to-day life to please God can be considered Jihad. One of the highest levels of Jihad is to stand up to a tyrant and speak a word of truth. Control of the self from wrong doings is also a great Jihad. One of the forms of Jihad is to take up arms in defense of Islam or a Muslim country when Islam is attacked. This kind of Jihad has to be declared by the religious leadership or by a Muslim head of state who is following the Quran and Sunnah.
What is The Islamic Year? The Islamic Year started from the migration (Hijra) of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD. It is a lunar year of 354 days. The first month is called Muharram. 1995 AD is in Islamic year 1416 AH (After Hijra).
Was Islam Spread By The Sword? According to the Quran, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256), thus no one can be forced to become a Muslim. While it is true that in many places where Muslim armies went to liberate people of the land, they did carry the sword as that was the weapon used at that time. However, Islam did not spread by the sword. In many places where there are Muslims now, tin the far east like Indonesia, in China, and many parts of Africa, there are no records of any Muslim armies having gone there. To say that Islam spread by the sword would be to say that Christianity was spread by guns, F-16's and atomic bombs, etc., this is not true. Christianity was spread by the missionary work of Christians. Ten percent of all Arabs are Christians. The “Sword of Is lam” could not convert all the non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries. In India, where Muslims ruled for 700 years, they are still a minority. In the USA. Islam is the fastest growing religion and has 6 million followers and no sword is around.
Does Islam promote violence and terrorism? No. Islam is a religion of peace and submission and stresses on the sanctity of human life. A verse in the Quran says, [Chapter 5, verse 32], that “anyone who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind and anyone who has killed another person (except in lieu of murder or mischief on earth) it is as if he has killed the whole mankind.” Islam condemns all the violence which happened in the Crusades, in Spain, in WW II, or by acts of people like the Rev. Jim Jones, David Koresh, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, or the atrocities committed in Bosnia by the Christian Serbs. Anyone who is doing violence is not practicing his religion at that time. However, sometimes violence is a human response of oppressed people as it happens in Palestine. Although this is wrong, they think of this as a way to get attention. There is a lot of terrorism and violence in areas where there is no Muslim presence. For example, in Ireland, South Africa, Latin America, and Sri Lanka. Sometimes the violence is due to a struggle between those who have with those who do not have, or between those who are oppressed with those who are oppressors. We need to find out why people become terrorists. Unfortunately, the Palestinians who are doing violence are called terrorists, but not the armed Israeli settlers when they do the same. As it turned out to be in the Oklahoma City bombing, sometime Muslims are prematurely blamed even if the terrorism is committed by non-Muslims. Islam, a religion of mercy, does not permit terrorism. In the Quran, God has said, “Does not forbid you from showing kindness and dealing justly with those who have not fought you about religion and have not driven you out of your homes. God loves just dealers.” (Quran,60:8)
The Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh) used to prohibit soldiers from killing women and children, and he would advice them ( .Do not betray, do not be excessive, do not kill a newborn child.)And he also said: (Whoever has killed a person having a treaty with the Muslims shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, though its fragrance is found for a span of forty years.)
What is “Islamic Fundamentalism”? There is no concept of “Fundamentalism” in Islam. The western media has coined this term to brand those Muslims who wish to return to the basic fundamental principles of Islam and mould their lives accordingly. Islam is a religion of moderation and a practicing Muslim can neither be a fanatic nor an extremist.
Does Islam promote polygamy? No, polygamy in Islam is to limit the number of wives. Historically, all the prophets except Jesus, who was not married, had more than one wife.
For Muslim men to have more than one wife is a permission which is given to them in the Quran, not to satisfy lust, but for the welfare of the widows and orphans of the wars.
It is not an injunction. In the pre-Islamic period, men used to have many wives.
One person had 11 wives and when he became Muslim, he asked the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), “What should I do with so many wives?” and he said, “Divorce all except the four.” The Quran says, “You can marry 2 or 3 and up to 4 women if you can be equally just with each of them” (4:3). Since it is very difficult to be equally just with all wives, in practice, most of the Muslim men do not have more than one wife. Prophet Mohammed (p) himself from age 24 to 50 was married to only one woman, Khadija. In the western society, some me who have one wife have many extramarital affairs. Thus, a survey was published in “USA. Today” (April 4, 1988, Section D) which asked 4,700 mistresses what they would like their status to be. They said that “they preferred being a second wife rather than the 'other woman' because they did not have the legal rights, or did they have the financial equality of the legally married wives, and it appeared that they were being used by these men.
Does Islam oppress women? No. On the contrary, Islam elevated the status of women 1,400 years ago by giving them the right to divorce, the right to have financial independence and support and the right to be identified as dignified women (Hijab) when in the rest of the world, including Europe, women had no such rights. Women are equal to men in all acts of piety (Quran 33:32). Islam allows women to keep their maiden name after marriage, their earned money and spend it as they wish, and ask men to be their protector as women on the street can be molested. Prophet Mohammed (p) told Muslim men, “The best among you is the one who is best to his family.” Not Islam, but some Muslims men, does oppress women today. This is because of their cultural habits or their ignorance about their religion. Female Genital Mutilations has nothing to do with Islam. It is a pre-Islamic African Custom, practiced by non Muslims including Coptic Christians as well.
What is the Islamic view on euthanasia and suicide? Islam is opposed to both suicide and euthanasia. Muslims do not believe in heroic measures to prolong misery in a terminally ill patient.
How should Muslims treat Jews and Christians? The Quran calls them “People of the Book”, i.e., those who received Divine scriptures before Mohammed (P). Muslims are told to treat them with respect and justice and do not fight with them unless they initiate hostilities or ridicule their faith. The Muslims ultimate hope is that they all will join them in worshipping one God and submit to His will.
“Say (O Muhammad): O people of the Book (Jews and Christians) come to an agreement between us and you, that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall take no partners with Him, and none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are those who have surrendered (unto Him).” (Quran 3:64).