ISLAM, MUSLIMS, AND AMERICA
How Do American Muslims Participate in American Public Life? Though American Muslims are often viewed as recent immigrants, in fact, Muslims have been in America since before the founding of the U.S. Today, there are approximately 3-6 million Muslims (the number is difficult to estimate), with about half of this population born in the U.S. Today, American Muslims are present in aspects of American life, and occupy roles of taxi drivers, doctors, lawyers, academics, athletes, media personalities, and serve in the armed forces.
Is There Conflict Between Being a Muslim and an American? There is no conflict in being both Muslim and American. This question is like asking whether there is a conflict between being a Christian and an American. One is a religious identity, while the other is a national identity. Both impact one’s life but play different roles in shaping one’s identity. While Muslims, like other immigrants, maintain their identity and culture in a multicultural, multi-religious society, the values they hold in common with the great majority of Americans —values such as respect for education, hard work, family, democracy, individual rights, and liberty—are mainstream American values
Do American Muslims Practice Wahhabism? Wahhabism began as an eighteenth-century reform movement in the Arabian Peninsula focused on what its founder, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, perceived as the straying of Muslims from what he believed was “pure Islam.” He formed an alliance with Ibn Sa'ud, a powerful tribe of Arabia, thereby expanding Wahhabism's reach. Wahhabism evolved into an ultra-conservative and puritanical form of Islam practiced mainly in Saudi Arabia, but it has spread to other Muslim-populated countries through well-funded literature and educational campaigns. Wahhabism has been adopted only in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. Out of the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, only 0.5 percent practice Wahhabism. Today, the vast majority of Muslims worldwide, including American Muslims, reject this strict and intolerant version of Islam and anyone who
Is It True That Many Muslims Around the World Hate America? Muslims around the world generally admire America for its technology, liberty, education, innovations, and accomplishments. During the Arab Spring, protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya used American social media to advocate many American ideals, such as democracy. If some Muslims disagree with specific aspects of foreign or domestic policies, this cannot reasonably be described as “hatred” of America, and in fact many Americans are critical of some of these policies.
ISLAM AND TERRORISM
Does Islam Promote Violence? No, the very name “Islam” is derived from the word “salaam,” which means “peace through following God’s guidance.” Muslims commonly greet each other with “Salaam alaikum,” which means “peace be upon you.” One of the names of God is “As-Salaam,” the “Giver of Peace.” Islam allows for warfare only to protect people from aggression or to fight injustice, including injustice against people of other faiths.
What is the Islamic View of Terrorism? Islamic teachings view terrorism as the most extreme violation of the sanctity of life. Terrorism, which is defined as the use of violence and threats to intimidate, coerce, or exact retribution, especially for political purposes, flagrantly and directly violates at least three interrelated Islamic principles: respect for life, right to due process, and individual responsibility. Even during a state of war, it is forbidden to target innocent civilians, specifically women, children, and the elderly.
Why Don't Muslims Speak Out Against Terrorism? Muslims have consistently and repeatedly denounced terrorism since before September 11, 2001. Unfortunately, these statements are rarely noted in American media, leading many people to think erroneously that Muslims have not denounced terrorism. See Book 3, Page 72, for a comprehensive list of condemnations.
Is Islam a Political Movement or Ideology? No. Islam is a religion that focuses primarily on cultivating good character and drawing close to God. Like people of other faiths, American Muslims participate in American political life by voting in elections and getting involved in community organizing around issues or candidates.
ISLAM: AN ABRAHAMIC FAITH
Do Muslims Worship the Same God as Christians and Jews? Yes, Muslims worship the same God; the God of the prophet Abraham. The word for God in Arabic is “Allah,” which merely means “God,” in the same way that “Allaha” in Aramaic and “Elohim” in Hebrew mean “God.” The three faiths may differ on the way they think of God, but they still worship the same God of Abraham.
Does Islam Recognize Any of the Biblical Prophets? There are twenty-five prophets mentioned by name in the Qur'an. They include many who are mentioned in the Bible as well, including Adam, Noah, Lot, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Aaron, Moses, David, Job, Ezekiel, Jonah, Elijah, Zachariah, John, and Jesus. Of these prophets, Moses is mentioned in the Qur'an the most (136 times), followed by Abraham (69 times) and Jesus (59 times).
What Do Muslims Believe About Jesus? Muslims revere Jesus as a great prophet as well as a messenger who received revelation from God. They believe that he was, like all other prophets, only a human being, born to the Virgin Mary through an act of God, just as Adam is believed to have been created by God without a father or mother. The Qur'an describes Jesus' conception and birth, as well as his many miracles, such as healing the sick.
How Do Muslims View the Virgin Mary? Muslims believe that she is the Virgin Mother of the Prophet Jesus. An entire chapter in the Qur'an is named after her. The chapter called Mary (“Maryam” in Arabic) and other verses in the Qur'an emphasize her piety, righteousness, and status as an exemplar for all people, male and female.
How Does Islam View Other Religions? Respect for freedom of religion and conscience is a basic Islamic principle, and there are numerous Qur'anic verses that state that diversity, including religious diversity, is part of God's divine plan. Moreover, Muslims believe that the salvation of all people, Muslims included, lies with God alone
Are Muslims Obligated to Forcibly Convert non-Muslims? No. Forced conversion violates the Islamic principles of respect for human dignity and for freedom of religion and conscience. The Qur'an states, “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and describes religious pluralism as part of God’s plan. The existence of old churches, temples, and synagogues throughout the Muslim world in places like Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, India, and Bosnia and the existence of minority religious populations in those areas demonstrate that this command was historically followed by many Muslim societies.
SHARI'AH, HONOR KILLINGS, AND OTHER MISUNDERSTOOD CONCEPTS
What is Shari'ah? Shari'ah comes from an Arabic word meaning “path to the water.” Shari'ah is often translated as “Islamic law,” and is based on the Qur'an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) as well as scholarly interpretation. The bulk of Shari’ah deals with issues such as prayer, fasting, diet, and other daily activities. Shari'ah is said to have six main objectives: to protect life, property, lineage, religion, intellect, and dignity. Shari'ah rulings or religious commandments are similar to the Ten Commandments. Both claim divine authority, but require human interpretation, are religiously binding, and in that sense, are “sacred law.” Only some of them are social and, of these, only a very few intersect with government law
Is There a Conflict Between Following the Constitution and Following Shari'ah? The Constitution protects rights such as religious freedom, privacy, and private property. The Constitution allows people to follow their conscience as it relates to culture, behavior, and lifestyle, so long as they respect others' rights and their actions are compatible with the common good. American Muslims can follow Shari'ah (Islamic values and way of life) in the same way that other religious practitioners follow their values, rules, and lifestyles. The basic parts of Shari'ah (rituals; marriage and family life; charity and ethical business practices) are private and voluntary. Americans who voluntarily follow Shari’ah are simply exercising a part of American religious freedom. On the other hand, American Muslims are obligated to follow the law of the land and the U.S. Constitution
Is Shari'ah Substitution the U.S. Constitution? With Muslims making up 1 percent to 2 percent of the American population there is little danger or evidence that Shari'ah is being substituted for U.S. law in American courts. The Constitution allows the personal practice of faith for Muslims—which is the main focus of Shari'ah—just as it does for observant Jews and Christians, including the observance of rules regarding personal worship and some family laws. However, no religious law can supersede state or federal law. Additionally, Shari’ah commands Muslims to observe the law of the land in which they dwell, and American Muslims generally have no desire to substitute any form of Islamic law for the Constitution or other American laws.
What is a Fatwa? A fatwa is an Arabic term that means a legal opinion or ruling given by a qualified jurist or Islamic scholar on issues pertaining to Islamic law that generally have not previously been decided. These opinions are non-binding, and Muslims are free to choose the scholars whose rulings they follow.
What is Taqiyyah? Does Islam encourage Muslims to Lie and Deceive? The term taqiyyah is little known to most Muslims. It comes from a principle developed during the early years of Islam when Muslims were being persecuted for their faith that allowed Muslims to conceal their religious beliefs or identity if they feared for their life or imminent harm because of their religion. Contrary to claims by some ant-Muslim activists, this principle in no way encourages Muslims to lie or deceive.
What is Daw'ah? The Arabic term daw'ah means “to invite.” In Islamic theology, it means to invite others to learn about Islam. Contrary to Daesh's belief that daw'ah means forced conversion, the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an forbid Muslims from forcing people to convert to Islam, as exemplified by the following verse: “There is no compulsion in [the acceptance of] religion” (2:256). Furthermore, early Muslims never practiced forced conversions and actually encouraged Muslims to learn about other faiths. To practice daw'ah, Muslims can engage in scholarship, participate in their communities as model citizens, and encourage interfaith conversations.
Why Do Muslim Countries Use Barbaric Execution Practices and Punishments like Beheading, Stoning, Flogging, and Cutting Off Hands? These severe punishments, known as hudud (derived from hadd, meaning “limit”), are mentioned in the Qur'an to denote the maximum allowable punishments for specific crimes—not the preferred punishments. Such punishments were more commonly implemented 1,400 years ago in the tribal society of Arabia and even then were only rarely imposed because the conditions for imposing them were so strict. For instance, according to Islamic texts, the punishment of stoning for adultery can only be carried out if there is testimony by four eyewitnesses—a virtually impossible condition. Capital punishment for murder could be avoided if the victim’s family agreed to monetary compensator for their loss—a normal practice in the society of the time.
These punishments are very similar to those found in the Hebrew Bible, which, like the Qur'an, spoke to social conditions and attitudes vastly different from those of later times and different places. Today, most Muslim-populated countries do not practice these punishments; within Islamic jurisprudence there is a broad spectrum of interpretations and applications of Islamic Law (Shari'ah) and, as a result, Muslim countries apply it in their own context. Out of the 57 nations that make up the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, 52 do not allow these maximum punishments. Where they are practiced, such as under the Taliban or Daesh, the required legal due process, which renders these punishments nearly impossible to enforce, is not followed, which is why many Muslims have condemned their use.
Do Muslims Believe They Will be Rewarded with 72 Virgin in Paradise? While the Qur'an mentions “hour is,” which are described as wide-eyed beings in Paradise, it also mentions young men of eternal youth. However, the Qur'an does not mention the number 72; while there are a few hadith or prophetic sayings that mention this number, they are not considered reliable, so most Muslims have never heard of them nor is it a topic that is generally emphasized or discussed. Furthermore, those who commit violence against innocent people are criminals, not martyrs.
WOMEN AND ISLAM
Are Men and Women Equal in Islam? According to normative teachings, men and women have freedom of choice and the same nature, origin, responsibility, and accountability before God. Historically, Islam promoted women’s rights and granted women freedoms that they did not have before, such as the right to inherit property, conduct business, and have access to knowledge. Many Muslims, in America and elsewhere, advocate complete equality between men and women
How Are Women Treated in Muslim Countries? There are over 50 Muslim-majority countries in the world and they differ widely on women's rights, depending on a variety of factors, including political development, social and economic circumstances, and cultural views and practices; even within a single country, there may be considerable differences because of region (urban or rural), education, and even family circumstances. In many Muslim-majority countries women are involved at the highest levels of education, employment, and politics, with many female physicians, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals. Muslim women have even been heads of state in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Kosovo, and Pakistan. In other Muslim-majority countries, societies, or families, the position of women is very different and women’s freedoms are seriously inhibited due to social, historical, and cultural conditions and oppressive patriarchal attitudes and practices.
Does Islam Call For or Allow 'Honor Killings'? No. “Honor killings”—which refer to violence generally against girls or women by one or more family members who believe the victim has brought dishonor upon the family—are prohibited by Islam for a number of reasons. First, they violate the sanctity of life, which is considered sacrosanct; second, they fail to respect the right of due process for anyone accused of a crime; and, third, they contradict the principle that each individual is responsible for his or her own actions and that no individual or family member should be held responsible for the behavior of another. In fact, the Qur'an specifically prohibits even speaking ill of a woman without the testimony of four witnesses and calls for the punishment of one who does so without this virtually impossible to satisfy requirement.
Why do Some Muslim Women Cover their Hair and Faces? Many Muslim women accept an interpretation of the Qur'an established in the formative period of Islam that references Qur'anic verses and hadith (prophetic sayings) as obligating women to cover their hair and much of their body for the sake of modesty. Some Muslim women understand modesty to require covering their faces as well. Therefore, when in public, some women choose to wear a hijab (which covers the head and hair), while a smaller number wear a burqa (which covers the body and face), or niqab (covering for the face that leaves only the eyes exposed). Whether or not a Muslim woman wears one of the aforementioned articles of clothing is generally a matter of her personal choice and interpretation of her religion, and is often informed by cultural norms.
Why Is It that Muslim Men Can Marry More Than One Woman? Muslims actually view monogamy as the ideal, as reflected in God’s creation of life in pairs of male and female, which is mentioned in various Qur'anic verses. Where polygamy is illegal, as is the case in the U.S. and other Western as well as many Muslim countries, it is not lawful for Muslims to marry more than one wife. The Qur'an only allows men to marry more than one wife on the condition that he treats all wives equally, a standard that the Qur'an warns is difficult to achieve, clearly implying a preference for monogamy. The Qur'an declared polygamy permissible 1,400 years ago in the context of war, when caring for orphans was a major concern; polygamy in this situation was supposed to assist widowed women with children who otherwise would have been left to fend for themselves in a brutally patriarchal social order. Polygamy was, of course, not peculiar to the Arabian Peninsula; it was widespread in many cultures, including that represented by the Hebrew Bible, where some patriarchs are depicted as having multiple wives.