Most people would probably be embarrassed to admit that they don’t know much about faiths other than their own, which is OK because most people didn’t major in Theology and most people aren’t religious scholars. However, with the current political climate and with hate crimes on the rise, ignorance about faiths, beliefs, and cultures different from our own is dangerous. Here are some basic facts about Islam that everyone should know.
- Islam is an Abrahamic religion. Abrahamic religions are religions whose followers descended from Abraham and whose followers believe in the monotheistic God of Abraham. Abrahamic religions include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This means that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God, but each religion worships Him a little differently. The God of Islam is not a deity separate from that of Christians and Jews, it is the same one.
- Muslims believe in Jesus. In the Quran, Jesus is a prophet. He is a child of God but not the Son of God, as Christians believe. Still, Jesus is a very important figure in the Quran.
- The Quran includes a lot of the Bible. You know how the Torah makes up the first five books of the Bible? The Quran contains references to people and events in the Bible, and adds other people and events in its 114 Surahs, or chapters. Another difference between the Bible and the Quran is that the Bible has several authors while the Quran only has one, the Prophet Muhammad.
- The Quran doesn’t explicitly tell women to wear hijabs and burqas, but many Muslim women happily choose to wear hijabs/burqas. Depending on the translation, it can be interpreted that God wanted women to wear hijabs and burqas (or something like them), or it can be interpreted as God wanting women to dress modestly.
- This is the ayat, or verse, used to justify wearing hijabs and burqas: Surah Al-Ahzab [33:59] Prophet, tell your wives, daughters, and the wives of the believers to cover their bosoms and breasts. This will make them distinguishable from others and protect them from being annoyed. God is All-forgiving and All-merciful.
- The Quran also encourages modesty in men.
- “Not all interpreters have concluded that the Prophet mandated the hijab. For example, the founder of the fundamentalist Muslim Women’s Association, Zaynab al-Ghazali, states that while veiling and separation was obligatory for Muhammad’s wives, whether a believing woman follows their example of piety is a matter of personal choice. Western scholars and more liberal Islamic scholars have also argued that the legal requirement of hijab is a later development that grew out of styles and social norms in the Arab world, not a core Islamic doctrine.” –John Green, attorney who received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his Ph.D. in religion from Duke
- Islam does not encourage terrorism. Islam prohibits a Muslim from killing any innocent person. The attacks on Manchester were reprehensible to everyone, including Muslims.
- Surah Al-Ma’idah [5:32] For this reason, We made it a law for the children of Israel that the killing of a person for reasons other than legal retaliation or for stopping corruption in the land is as great a sin as murdering all of mankind. However, to save a life would be as great a virtue as to save all of mankind.
- Islam encourages interfaith marriages.
- Surah Al-Ma’idah [5:5] As to marriage, you are allowed to marry the chaste from among the believing women and the chaste from among those who have been given the Book before you (are lawful for you); provided that you have given them their dowries, and live with them in honor, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines.
- Read this for more.
- Muslims do Friday prayers, some in addition observe the Sabbath. In Abrahamic theology, God made the world in 6 days and took the throne, or rested, on the seventh. Some Muslims do not interpret the taking of the throne as a day of rest and therefore don’t hold a Sabbath. Some observe Jummah/Friday as a day of non-work and others observe as-Sabt/Saturday as a non-work day since it means Sabbath.
- Muslims pray 5 times a day and have to be clean when doing so. Prayers are one of the five pillars of Islam. Wudu, the washing of hands, arms, head, and feet with water for spiritual purification, is performed by Muslims before speaking to God through prayer. Prayer times are traditionally dictated by the position of the Sun.
- Halal is similar to kosher. If something is halal, it is permissible according to Islam. If something is haram, it is not permissible according to Islam. Halal food is food that is OK to eat, meaning no pork and no alcohol (among a few other things).
- I remember the distinction between halal and haram through a joke a friend in college told me: “I just want a girl who is halal in the streets, haram in the sheets,” a play on the lyrics to Usher’s song Yeah! It’s kind of a corny joke, but it made me laugh at the time.
- Islam is the second largest religion in the world, after Christianity, with an estimated 1.6 billion followers.
In talking about Islam, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance leads to xenophobia, racism, hate speech, and the rise of racially-motivated hate crimes–as we saw in Portland, Seattle, Virginia, and the list goes on.
The more we learn about faiths, beliefs, and cultures different from our own, the more we can understand each other and hopefully more peace will come from that.