Islamophobic Canards

breaking the stereotypes

A necessary clarification concerning misconceptions about Islam & Muslims

Via Gareth Bryant’s blog

Author’s Note:
I would like to clarify some common misconceptions about Islam & Muslims, which have been taken to be factual, by both Non-Muslims as well as other Muslims. I purposely chose to mention theological issues in this particular post, being that these issues are of the utmost important to clarify for both Non-Muslims & Muslims.1. Allah (means “God”) is the Arabic word for “God”:
The word for god in the Arabic language is “Ilah”, hence the famous Islamic slogan:
(“La ilaha illal-lah”) “There is no god except Allah”.1 This slogan is one half of the Islamic Testimony of Faith, which is required to be said by someone who wants to become a Muslim. The word “Ilah” (much like the word “God” in English2) means an object of worship.3 Based upon that, anything or anyone can be a god. In fact, the Islamic definition of this first half of the Testimony means that there is no object of worship in truth except Allah. People worship many different things like fame, fortune, power, etc. There are all types of gods, but there is only one Allah.
The word “Allah” is a very unique word in the Arabic language, because it cannot be made dual, plural, feminine, indefinite or an object of possession (i.e. in the Arabic language, a person cannot say: “two Allah’s”, “three Allah’s”, “feminine Allah”, “an Allah”, or “my Allah”). Many people may very well ask: Well, what does Allah mean if not “God”? My answer to that would simply be this: the name “Allah” is a specific word in the Arabic language that has been chosen by the Lord of the Universe as His principal name, even though He informs us in His Book (the Qur’an) of His other names.4 The closest possible translation of the word “Allah” in English would be “The One-True God”.

2. Muslims worship Muhammad:
Muslims are not allowed to worship anyone except Allah Himself. We do not give created things any level of Divinity. Divinity is only for Allah, and He does not share His Divinity with anyone.5 Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is only the Messenger of Allah6; the one whom was given the Book of Allah (the Qur’an). Allah taught him His speech (the Qur’an) though he could not read or write it.7

3. Muslims worship Stones & Statues:
Not only are Muslims prohibited from worshipping other Humans, we are also banned from worshipping Animals, forces of Nature, Planets & Stars, engraved images, sculptures, etc. There has been some people and groups who have suggested that Muslims worship the Black-Stone, which is embedded in one of the corners of the Ka`bah in the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, as well as an ancient Pagan-Arab goddess named Al-lat, whom many have stated that the Muslims got the name “Allah” from the name “Al-lat”. Many people lie upon the Muslims to try to accuse us of not being truly monotheistic. Theologically, as well as linguistically this is all wrong. Firstly, Allah tells us in His Book how the Pagan-Arabs worshipped many other gods & goddesses, including Al-lat.8 Secondly, the names “Allah” & “Al-lat” are two completely different words in the Arabic language with separate meanings.9

4. Islam means “Peace”:
The word Islam does not mean “Peace”, rather it means submission. In fact, the Islamic definition of this word means: “Submission to Allah with Oneness (meaning to worship Allah alone, as one god), to humble one’s self with it, and to free one’s self from Association (Polytheism) and its (branches) people.”10

5. Muslims believe in the Bible:
We do not accept the Bible as the word of Allah, because of what the word Bible means. The word itself simply means a collection of books.11We do believe in the Torah, Psalms, and Gospel as they were first revealed. Allah informs us of how the people whom these previous books were initially revealed to eventually changed what was in those books.12

6. Muslims do not believe in Jesus:
We do believe that Jesus (Peace be upon him) is in fact the Christ (for the record, Allah mentions him as the Christ more than five times in the Qur’an)13, but that is as far as it goes. We do not regard him as the “Son of Allah” because he is not. We also do not regard him as the one who died for the sins of Humanity.14 Allah has no parents, no children, and no equal.15

7. Islam is an “Abrahamic-Faith”:
The whole concept that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have the same origin is ridiculous. Islam predates Abraham (Peace be upon him), because according to Islamic text, the first Muslim was the first Human, Adam (Peace be upon him).16 As for Judaism & Christianity, these two religions did not exist during the lifetime of Abraham (Peace be upon him), on the contrary, they appeared at least 3,000 years after the death of Abraham (Peace be upon him).17

8. Muhammad was the founder of Islam:
Muhammad (Peace be upon him) did not founded Islam. Islam predates him as well Abraham (Peace be upon him), which was previously mentioned. He was however the Seal of the Prophets & Messengers who called Humanity to Islam.18

9. Members of the “Nation of Islam” or the “Five-Percent Nation” are Muslims:
The “Nation of Islam” is a total facade; formerly led by Elijah Poole (better known as “Elijah Muhammad) who taught his followers that the founder of the “Nation of Islam”; a man named Wallace D. Ford (better known as “Master Fard Muhammad”) was Allah (as well as the fallacy that African-Americans were a “Nation of Gods”), and that he was the “Messenger of Allah”, who was sent to the “Black-Man” in the Western Hemisphere; often referring to them as the “Lost Tribe of Shabazz”.19 This man was a complete theological fraud who preyed upon the ignorance of his own people (to acquire dominance in the African-American community) for his own selfish interests. He never taught his followers the correct theological fundamentals of Islam, and is personally responsible for misguiding countless African-Americans, as well as painting an overall false image of Islam & Muslims to other people across the globe.

As for the “Five-Percent Nation”, their founder was a rogue member of the “Nation of Islam” named “Clarence 13X”. The core beliefs of both the “Nation of Islam” & the “Five-Percent Nation” are almost identical, with the exception that the divinity of the “Black-Man” is emphasized more among “Five-Percenters”. They also have a belief that they are the selected few who are righteous, thus making them only 5% of the Human population. Everyone else falls into the category of the “Eighty-Fivers”; the 85% who are the “Ignorant-Masses” or the 10% who “Build & Destroy”. They also practice Numerology, something that is regarded as a Major-Sin according to Islamic-Law.20

10. Muslims Jews & Christians believe in the same god:
If Muslims, Jews, & Christians all believed in the same god then there would be no such thing as a Muslim, Jew, or Christians would there? The Jews believe that they are the chosen “People of God”. Does this mean that every single Human that ever lived who is not Jewish is damned? The Christians believe that Jesus (Peace be upon him) died for their sins. What about all of the other Humans that ever lived before the time of Jesus (Peace be upon him) are they also damned? Where is the justice? As Muslims, we believe that Allah has sent guidance to every nation, and to every people, regardless of ethnicity, regional, or continental origin.21

1. Lisan-ul`Arab (The Arabic Language [Lexicon of the Arabic Language])

2. Webster’s Dictionary

3. Al-`Aqidat-ul-Islamiyyah (Islamic Creed), Muhammad Jamil Zino

4. Noble Qur’an: Chpt. 59, V. 22-24

5. Noble Qur’an: Chpt. 18, V. 26

6. Noble Qur’an: Chpt. 48, V. 29

7. Noble Qur’an: Chpt. 7, V. 157

8. Noble Qur’an: Chpt. 53, V. 19

9. Lisan-ul-`Arab, Chick Publications

10. Al-Qawlu-ul-Mufid (The Beneficial Speech), Muhammad ibn-`Abd-il-Wahhab ibn-`Ali al-Wasabi

11. Webster’s Dictionary

12. Noble Qur’an: Chpts. 2, V. 65 & 79; 5, 60

13. Noble Qur’an: Chpts. 3, V. 40; 4, 156, 157 & 171; 5, 17, 72 & 75; 9, 30 & 31

14. Noble Qur’an: Chpt. 4, V. 157

15. Noble Qur’an: Chpt. 112, V. 3 & 4

16. Qasas-ul-Anbiya’ (Stories of Prophets), Isma`il Ibn-Kathir ad-Dimashqi

17. Noble Qur’an: Chpt. 3, V. 67

18. Noble Qur’an: Chpt.. 33, V. 40

19. Message to the Black Man in America, Elijah Muhammad; World Religions, MacMillan Compendium, MacMillan Library
Reference, U.S.A.; Encyclopedia of African-American Religions

20. Al-Kaba’ir (The Major-Sins), Muhammad ibn-`Uthman adh-Dhahabi

21. Noble Qur’an: Chpt. 16, V. 36

Gareth Bryant/2011

Myth: Muslims are allowed to lie to non-Muslims

A popular right-wing myth is that Muslims are allowed to lie to non-Muslims. They use this canard to deride any peaceful Muslim politician or leader, dismissing everything said as a lie. It conveniently feeds into the narrative that Muslims are dangerous and just waiting for the chance to be terrorists etc.

This is just plain false. Muslims are commanded to tell the truth in almost every circumstance. Lying is considered a big sin in Islam; one that the Quran specifically condemns. “..the curse of Allah is on him if he is of those who lie.” (Quran 24:7) Intentionally saying something you know to be false is considered so serious that many Muslims even think lying as a joke is a sin.

However, with every law there’s an exception. In cases of great danger, such as when your life is threatened for being a Muslim, a Muslim is allowed to hide their beliefs. The earliest Muslims were routinely harassed for their beliefs, and many killed. In such extreme situations, a Muslim is allowed to hide their beliefs and pretend to be of another religion.

One of the early sahabas, Ammar ibn Yasir, (may God be pleased with him), was frequently tortured by his slaveowner, Abu Jahl. One day, Abu Jahl killed Ammar’s mother and father in front of him, for refusing to go back to the polytheist religion of Mecca (she became the first martyr of Islam). After witnessing her die, Abu Jahl tortured Ammar until he forced him to curse the Prophet Muhammad and deny his faith in Islam. Full of regret, he ran to Muhammad crying, telling him of what had happened and what he had said under duress. Muhammad asked him if in his heart he meant anything they made him say. He said never, that in his heart he still believed in Allah even though they forced him to say otherwise. Muhammad comforted Ammar, and not only told him that God forgave him, but he told Ammar that if the disbelievers were to torture him again, he should again deny his faith in public. It is said that another verse from the Quran was immediately revealed in response to this:

Any one who, after accepting faith in God, utters Unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from God, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.(16:106)

The concept of hiding your faith is known as Taqiyya, and it is used as a form of self-preservation as a last resort. While martyrdom is seen as one of the highest honors, Muslims are not required to die for their faith.

Some Muslim scholars say that Muslims are allowed to lie in only three circumstances.

Humaid b. ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Auf reported that his mother Umm Kulthum daughter of ‘Uqba b. Abu Mu’ait, and she was one amongst the first emigrants who pledged allegiance to Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him), as saying that she heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: A liar is not one who tries to bring reconciliation amongst people and speaks good (in order to avert dispute), or he conveys good. Ibn Shihab said he did not hear that exemption was granted in anything what the people speak as lie but in three cases: in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them).

(Sahih Muslim:Book 032, Number 6303)

This hadith only specifies three cases where lying is not a sin. The first is during a battle, such as you can lie during war. The other two relate to trying to bring people together for peace and harmony with good intentions. The last one involves spousal relations; telling your wife she looks beautiful when you don’t really mean it, etc. (This does not mean you can lie to your spouse anytime, but only when used for the intention of repairing a relationship.) These are narrow exceptions to the general prohibition on lying, and are aimed at avoiding a greater calamity or sin.

The Islamophobic canard that Muslims can lie about anything is quite pernicious, and it’s been used for decades to undermine many good-hearted attempts at mutual understanding. When mainstream Muslim leaders condemn terrorism, often someone on the far-Right claims that they’re doing a form of taqiyya and secretly love the violence. It’s offensive and wrong.

Myth: Under Sharia Law, a Woman’s Testimony is Half that of a Man’s

This myth has been busted courtesy of Loonwatch:

Women as Witnesses under Sharia

[Islamophobe] Robert Spencer writes:

In court, a woman’s testimony is worth half as much as that of a man. (Quran 2:282)

Islamic legal theorists have restricted the validity of a woman’s testimony even further by limiting it to, in the words of one Muslim legal manual, “cases involving property, or transactions dealing with property, such as sales.”  Otherwise only men can testify.

There are two claims made here: (1) a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s;  (2) a woman’s testimony is accepted only in financial transactions (even then only by half), and rejected altogether in other cases, including rape.

Of course the reality is that Spencer has spoken a half-truth, which is what he normally does.  Spencer’s modus operandi is simple: he presents the absolutely most conservative view as if it is not only the most authoritative one but also the only one.  He then compares this ultraconservative Islamic opinion with the most liberal Judeo-Christian view, and then says aha!

The issue revolves around the following Quranic verse:

O you who believe! When you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness…and call from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other. (Quran, 2:282)

Some Islamic jurists opined that the Quranic verse only permitted a woman’s testimony in cases related to financial transactions.  Therefore, they reasoned, it ought to be excluded in all other cases.  This opinion was prominent in the writings of medieval jurists, and is clung onto by some ultraconservative Muslims.

However, Spencer neglected to inform his readers of less stringent views that abound today.  Contemporary Muslims argue that the Quranic verse 2:282 has nothing to do with the courts or legal system in general:

…There is no verse anywhere in the Qur’an, which directs a court of law to consider a woman’s witness to be half reliable as that of a man. As for the verse 282 of Al-Baqarah, which is presented to substantiate the viewpoint in question, it has quite a different meaning and implication than what is construed from it…

Actually this verse addresses the common man. It does not relate to the law and thus gives no directive regarding judicial matters. In other words, it does not call upon the state, the legislative council or the legal authorities. This verse just invokes the common man’s attention for taking precautionary measures in case of a particular situation of conflict…

The verse states that when two or more individuals enter into an agreement for a loan for a fixed period of time, they should write it down thereby avoiding any misunderstanding or dispute. As a further safeguard to avoid such misunderstanding, they should make two men witnesses to the agreement. In case they are not able to find two men, then they may take two women instead of a man…Obviously, if this were a directive pertaining to judicial matters, it would have addressed the state or legal authorities. [1]

In other words, these Muslims argue that the Quranic verse cannot be generalized to all court cases; instead, it simply pertains to financial matters, and contracts of debt in specific.  It is argued that the women of pre-Islamic Arabia were generally unaware of the intricacies of the business world.  Tahir Haddad, an Islamic thinker of the early twentieth century, writes:

The fact that woman lagged behind man in all aspects of life [in the pre-Islamic times] made her less proficient in intellectual and mathematical tasks, especially since at that time she did not get her share of education and culture to prepare her for that…[which was taken into] account when it was decided that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man…[in] issue[s]…such as debts. [2]

The lack of business acumen that women of that particular time generally possessed was the reason that a woman’s singular testimony about a contract of debt might be rejected by the common man, resulting in conflicts.  The intent of the Quranic verse was after all to prevent infighting between Muslims, as was often the case between creditors and debtors.  Therefore, argue these contemporary Muslims, witnesses had to be produced who would be accepted by the common man as being authoritative.

Some contemporary Muslims even argue that such a restriction (i.e. the requirement of two women as witnesses instead of one) would not be applicable if the cause for the restriction (i.e. the lack of business acumen on the part of the woman) was not present.  The Islamic cleric Muzammil Siddiqi[3] issued the following fatwa (religious edict):

Question:

Does Islam regard the testimony of women as half of a man’s just in cases of transactions or in every case? Who are the scholars that maintain the first view? What is the evidence of those scholars saying that her testimony is not accepted in cases of murder and adultery?

Answer:

The word shahadah [testimony] in its various forms has occurred in the Qur’an about 156 times. There is only one case (Al-Baqarah 2:282) where there is a reference to gender. Apart from this one reference, there is no other place where the issue of gender is brought in the context of testimony. According to the Qur’an, it does not make any difference whether the person testifying is a male or female; the only objective is to ascertain accuracy and to establish justice and fairness. In one place in the Qur’an, there is an explicit reference that equates the testimonies of the male and female (See Surat An-Nur 24:6-9).

Only in the context of business transactions and loan contracts, it is mentioned that if two men are not available for testimony, then one man and two women are to be provided for that particular purpose (See Surat Al-Baqarah 2:282). The reason is not because of gender; it is given in the Qur’anic verse: If one errs, the other may remind her. Some scholars have suggested that this was due to the fact that most women in the past and even now were not involved in the intricate business dealings. So the Qur’an accepted their testimony, but to insure justice indicated that there should be two.

It is also important to note that the Shari`ah emphasizes that we follow the law exactly in the matters of worship; in economic dealings, however, the issue of justice is the main factor. If a judge sees that there is a woman who is very qualified and has good understanding of business transactions, the judge may consider her testimony equal to the testimony of a man. This will not be against the teachings of the Qur’an. [4]

Jamal Badawi, [5] another Islamic cleric (who Spencer himself quotes as an authority from time to time), comments:

The context of this passage (verse, or ayah) [verse 2:282] relates to testimony on financial transactions, which are often complex and laden with business jargon. The passage does not make blanket generalization [against the testimony of women]…In numerous societies, past and present, women generally may not be heavily involved with and experienced in business transactions. As such, they may not be completely cognizant of what is involved…

It must be added that unlike pure acts of worship, which must be observed exactly as taught by the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, testimony is a means to an end, ascertaining justice as a major objective of Islamic law. Therefore, it is the duty of a fair judge to be guided by this objective when assessing the worth and credibility of a given testimony, regardless of the gender of the witness. A witness of a female graduate of a business school is certainly far more worthy than the witness of an illiterate person with no business education or experience. [6]

Robert Spencer claims that the Sharia itself excludes a woman’s testimony in cases of rape; yet, this is not the interpretation of Sharia that many Muslims follow:

The simple point is that this verse peculiarly relates to bearing witness on documentary evidence i.e. sale deeds, leasing agreements, loan agreements, guarantee cards and trust deeds etc. In the above related cases, one is free to choose the witnesses. But, in cases of accidents, theft, murder, robbery, rape, and hijacking etc the witnesses are not a matter of choice. Whosoever is present at the scene should and can be taken as a witness. Thus we cannot say that the witness of a woman in cases other than documentary evidence, as explained above, will be affected by this verse. [7]

Jalal Abualrub [8], a “Wahhabi” [9] cleric, writes:

The Quran states that we need two women [as] witnesses in cases of financial transactions in place of one man.  There is no proof whatsoever that this is also the case in any other dispute, including criminal cases such as rape.  In fact, a woman’s testimony is accepted in the most important aspect of Islam: the religion itself.  Did anyone ask Aishah to bring another witness or a man to support her narrations of the Prophet’s practices and sayings? [10]

What Spencer will do is simple: he will cite various Islamic clerics, mostly classical medieval ones, as a proof that the Sharia itself says such-and-such.  Yet, the reality is that even though most Muslims believe that the Sharia is divinely one, they also acknowledge that there are multiple interpretations of it.  If some Islamic scholars argued that a woman’s testimony ought to be excluded, others argued that it should be considered equal to that of a man’s.  Spencer attempts to portray the ultraconservativeinterpretation of the Sharia as the only one–and to him it is the only authoritative one, with all other understandings deemed as either “taqiyya based” or simply unorthodox and therefore unrepresentative (as if Spencer is the pope of Islam!).

Yet, contemporary Muslims point out that the opinions of Islamic jurists (including the classical ones) are just that: opinions.  Unlike papal decrees in Catholicism, the rulings of Islamic clerics are neither infallible or binding. Imam Abu Hanifa, the eminent jurist who founded the Hanafi school of thought, decreed:

What comes from the Messenger of God, we accept with our mind and heart, by my father and mother, we cannot oppose it. What comes from the Companions, we choose from. As for what comes from other sources, well, they are human beings as we are. [11]

So while the Muslims find the Quran and authentic hadiths/sunna to be infallible and binding, they do not view the interpretations of them to be such.  Along this line, Jalal Abualrub wrote:

We should avoid thinking of the opinions of the scholars as infallible.  What is infallible is the Quran and Sunnah alone.  Scholars of all schools have their own opinions and fatawa that may either be correct or wrong.  For instance, a Maliki scholar can claim whatever opinion his madhhab says, but we are not bound by and certainly the religion is not bound by it.

So when Allah states in Surat al-Baqarah that in regards to financial transactions the testimony of two women can be used with the testimony of one man, no one has the right to make this specific ruling apply in other cases.  Let me remind you again: the female Companions [of the Prophet] have narrated and testified on countless occasions about aspects of creed, fiqh and other Islamic topics.  Have you heard any of the [male] Companions ever say that their testimony cannot be accepted unless they bring another woman and man to agree?  I mentioned this because money issues and criminal issues are certainly far less important than religious issues that establish a ruling for all times.

It must be remembered that the scholars  are not infallible, and their efforts are only explanatory–they are not the final authority.  We respect the scholars, but we agree that they are human and make mistakes. [12]

Abualrub brings up the point that the testimony of women was accepted on aspects of religion and creed, which are more important than crime and punishment.  This is one proof that contemporary Muslims use, namely that the female Companions bore witness to the actions of the Prophet Muhammad; there is no rule in Islam that the testimony of a woman in this regard be considered half of a man’s.

Another proof that contemporary Muslims use–to prove that a woman’s testimony is equal to that of a man’s–is the Quranic passage 24:6-9 (just two verses down from the verses that Spencer has quoted).  In these verses, the husband may testify against the wife that she has committed adultery, but if the wife gives her own testimony declaring this to be a lie, then the wife’s testimony trumps that of her husband’s.  Muzammil Siddiqi writes:

In one place in the Qur’an, there is an explicit reference that equates the testimonies of the male and female (See Surat An-Nur 24:6-9). [13]

Jamal Badawi comments:

Most Qur’anic references to testimony (witness) do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and females…

[Verse 2:282] cannot be used as an argument that there is a general rule in the Qur’an that the worth of a female’s witness is only half the male’s. This presumed “rule” is voided by the above reference (24:6-9), which explicitly equates the testimony of both genders on the issue at hand. [14]

Contemporary Muslims point out that many classical scholars permitted female judges; how could it be then that a woman would be permitted to serve as a judge but not as a witness, the former of which is in charge of the latter?  The judge uses his wisdom to give judgment, whereas a witness simply retells what he/she witnessed.  Therefore, if a woman is allowed to be a judge, she ought to be permitted to be a witness as well.  Tahir Haddad wryly comments:

The assertion [that women ought to be barred from serving as witnesses]…is even stranger in view of the fact that according to the jurisprudence of the four orthodox Islamic law schools a woman is allowed to act as a judge to rule on differences between people in a role similar to that of a man.  Abu-Hanifa al-Nu’man [Imam Abu Hanifa] who was a contemporary of some of the Prophet’s Companions, confirmed that it is acceptable in Islam [for her to be a judge]…So, do we deduce from this that Islam…[bars her as] a witness…and at the same time elevates her by conferring her the responsibilities of a judge? [15]

Jalal Abualrub notes that the words of some of the fallible scholars contradicts the infallible authentic hadiths; Abualrub quotes the following narration in the Islamic texts:

When a woman went out in the time of the Prophet for prayer, a man attacked her and raped her. She shouted and he went off, and when a man came by, she said: “That man did such and such to me.” And when a company of the emigrants came by, she said: “That man did such and such to me.” They went and seized the man whom they thought had had intercourse with her and brought him to her.

She said: “Yes, this is he.” Then they brought him to the Apostle of God.  When [the Prophet] was about to pass sentence, the man who had [actually] assaulted her stood up and said: “Apostle of God, I am the man who did it to her.”

[The Prophet] said to her: “Go away, for God has forgiven you.” But he told the [innocent] man some good words, and to the [guilty] man who had had raped her, he said: “Stone him to death.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4366)

Abualrub points out that contrary to Robert Spencer’s claim that a woman’s testimony is not accepted in cases of rape, the Prophet Muhammad convicted a man based solely on one woman’s testimony.  Abualrub comments:

As for the woman mentioned in the narration, it is clear that no one asked her for four witnesses nor did anyone suspect her character, and her testimony alone was used as proof, and the innocent man who was wrongly accused was set free, while she was not punished even though she identified the wrong man, so how can the critics of Islam today claim that the Shari’ah itself says a woman is to be lashed for failing to bring forth four witnesses, when this woman in the narration not only did not do that but also identified the wrong man!? [16]

Abualrub mentions a number of salient points here, which we shall discuss in greater detail in the next part of this article.  But for now, the bolded part is most relevant to our discussion, as it shows that contemporary Muslims have a very strong proof that in their religion a woman’s testimony is to be accepted in cases of rape, contrary to what Robert Spencer–the self-proclaimed pope of Islam–insists.

Women as Witnesses under the Judeo-Christian Laws

What we have thus far concluded is that yes it is true that some Muslims (such as those living in the medieval times and some ultraconservatives today) believe that a woman’s testimony is rejected in most legal proceedings.  On the other hand, many contemporary Muslims feel otherwise, a fact that Robert Spencer conveniently ignores.

But Spencer’s half-truth does not end there.  He also purposefully neglects to mention that a woman’s testimony is rejected in traditional Halakha (Jewish law) and Biblical law (of the Christians). The Jewish Virtual Library declares that there has been a longstanding “rabbinic rule that a woman is ineligible to testify as a witness.” [17] Rabbi Aaron Mackler writes:

The vast majority of Orthodox rabbis, and some Conservative rabbis, do not accept the legitimacy of women serving as witnesses. [18]

The Talmud forbade Jewish courts from accepting women as witnesses:

The Talmudic interpretation of the law held that women or slaves were not admitted as witnesses; nor could one such testify on the basis of testimony heard form an eye-witness. [19]

It is for this reason that the testimony of a woman is not accepted in the Orthodox rabbinical courts up until this day.  However, like the Muslims, there is a difference of opinion amongst Jewry; Reform Jews and some Conservative rabbis accept women as witnesses.

We see then that the situation of the Muslims and the Jews with regard to this issue is very similar if not identical; why is it then that Robert Spencer arrives at dramatically different conclusions about Islam/Muslims/Quran/Sharia than he does about Judaism/Jews/Talmud/Halakha?  Why does Spencer entitle the chapter of his book as “Islam oppresses women,” but not say “Judaism oppresses women?”  If one criticizes the Quran for one thing, should not such a person criticize the Talmud for the exact same thing?  It seems there is one standard for Islam and another for Judaism and Christianity.  This is indeed the modus operandi for the Islamophobic movement in general; I have already in a previous article detailed Daniel Pipes’ fantastic double standards towards Sharia and Halakha.

The traditional Biblical law also excluded women from serving as witnesses. The Bible says:

One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses…The two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. (Deuteronomy 19:15-17)

Notice that Robert Spencer argues that the four witnesses in the Quranic verse 24:4 ought to be males, since the word “witnesses” appears in the masculine.  Yet, this was the exact same logic that Christian scholars used: the Bible uses the word “men” when it refers to witnesses.  John Gill, a well-renowned Biblical scholar of the eighteenth century, commented on this verse that it

teaches that there is no witness by women; and so it is elsewhere said, an oath of witness is made by men, and not by women; on which it is observed that a woman is not fit to bear witness, as it is written “then both the men,” [meaning] men and not women. [20]

Medieval Islamic and Christian scholars opined that witnesses ought to be male, based on the fact that both holy books (the Quran and Bible respectively) used masculine words for “witnesses.”  Yet, for some reason Robert Spencer argues that the Quran specifically requires male witnesses, whereas the Bible does not!  Again, this exposes Spencer’s  bias.

 

References:

1. http://www.renaissance.com.pk/Julrefl12y4.html#1.

2. al-Tahir al-Haddad, Muslim Women in Law and Society: Annotated Translation of al-Tahir al-Haddad, 38. ISBN 0415418879, 9780415418874

3. Muzammil H. Siddiqi is the President of the Fiqh Council of North America

4. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1203515453417&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar

5. Jamal Badawi is a member of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Fiqh Council.

6. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar&cid=1119503544348

7. http://www.renaissance.com.pk/Julrefl12y4.html#1.

8. Jalal Abualrub is a prolific Islamic author and translator

9. The proper term is “Salafi”. “Wahhabi” is considered offensive; it has been used here only because readers may be unfamiliar with “Salafi”.

10. Jalal Abualrub, http://islamlife.com/religion2/

11. as quoted in Tariq Ramadan’s Radical Reform, 53.

12. Jalal Abualrub, http://islamlife.com/religion2/

13. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1203515453417&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar

14. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1119503544348&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar

15. al-Tahir al-Haddad, Muslim Women in Law and Society: Annotated Translation of al-Tahir al-Haddad, 38.

16. Jalal Abualrub, http://islamlife.com/religion2/

17. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/agunot1.html

18. http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/teshuvot/docs/20052010/mackler_women_witnesses.pdf

19. Jacob Nuesner, Understanding Rabbinic Judaism, 67. ISBN 0870682385, 9780870682384

20. John Gill’s Exposition to the Bible, Commentary on Deuteronomy 19:17, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/deuteronomy-19-17.html

Myth: Terrorists Get 72 Virgins in Paradise

One of the more persistent islamophobic canards today is that “Terrorists are promised 72 virgin women when they die.” The “72 virgins” idea is probably the most overblown idea that people seem to remember about Islam. The stereotype has only worsened since 9/11. Islam is a rich religion filled with complex doctrines of monotheism and tolerance, yet it seems the most common question I’m asked about is the virgins. There’s a lot more to Paradise than just sex and physical pleasure, you know.

Before I go describing this in detail, I want to note that I’m taking the issue and the ayat (verses) out of their proper context. One really should read the whole Surah (chapter) to get a better understanding of the religious signifigance. Nearly a third of the Qur’an talks about the life after this one, so while there are Surahs and chapters to describe the hereafter, I’m just discussing a few ayat which talk about the servants; a minor perk in the grand scheme of Paradise. Personally I think the greatest reward is to be in the presence of God Almighty. Plenty of non-Muslims take one of these single verses and generalize that all of heaven is lascivious, but that simply isn’t the case.

To start off, you need to understand what the rewards in Jannah (Paradise) are. The Quran says that those who do get into Paradise will be rewarded with blessings that eclipse anything on earth; unlimited food of your choice, riches, and wishes come true. Things considered sinful on Earth such as wine will be allowed, and people will be able to eat and drink all they want and not get full or hungover or sick. People will be reunited with their friends and relatives, we will all be made young again, and there will be no anger or pain. Everyone will be given palaces to live in, and clothing fit for royalty, with luxurious couches and thrones for everyone. There will be rivers of the purest water, milk, wine, and honey, all of which are better than any you will find on earth. Those who get to the highest part of Paradise, Jannah al-Firdaus, will also be able to see God with their own eyes. So, in a sense, Heaven is a paradise filled with pleasures. Also, one needs to imagine the context of when this idea of Paradise was revealed to the people; of the extremely stark and difficult life of ancient Bedouin Arabia. Something as simple as the constant flow of water in a stream was considered miraculous, so it would be natural to imagine heaven depicted this way, flowing with streams of water under the shade of huge trees. (Well what did you expect Paradise to be? Clouds, wings, and harps?)

Also, the believers who make it into Paradise, male and female, are promised beautiful companions, known as “Houris” in Arabic. The Quran describes them in some detail as such:

“Serving the believers will be immortal youths with jeweled and crystal cups filled with the purest wine which will neither give them headache nor hangover, with fruits and meats of their desire. They will be fair ones with lovely intense eyes like guarded pearls; A reward for the good deeds of their past life.” (56:17-24)

“We have created mates for them and made them virgins, matched in age, for the companions of the right hand.” (56:35-38)

“They will be chaste, restraining their eyes in modesty, never touched by man or Jinn.”(55:56)

“Serving them will be immortal servants. When you see them, they will look like scattered pearls.” (76:19)

The Islamic scholar Yusuf Ali defines the word “Houris” in his english interpretation of Qur’an as “Youths of perpetual freshness.” He also described them in his commentary: “The companionship of Beauty and Grace is one of the highest pleasures of life. In this bodily life it takes bodily form. In the higher life it takes a higher form…The pronoun in Arabic is in the feminine gender. It is made clear that these maidens for heavenly society will be of special creation,-of virginal purity, grace, and beauty, inspiring and inspired by love, with the question of time and age eliminated.”

The Houris are basically creations of God, intelligent yet soulless and created to serve the believer who goes to Paradise. They are created for the purpose of serving the believer, and as such, they dont exactly have free will. They are described as pure, beautiful, lustrous, virgin, and more perfect than any human on earth. Imagine the spouse of your dreams.

Women aren’t left out: A man in paradise will get numerous female servants for himself, while a woman would get male servants. The Quran says that women shall be compensated just as well and says about the believers that “they” (the gender unspecified) shall have perfected mates/spouses as a reward of their deeds (2:25, 3:15, 4:57). So women will get the man of their dreams. Actually, even better than you could dream of.

In Paradise, you can marry them. You can interpret the “mates” as being spouses. Even if you were married on earth, they will be invisible to your spouse. Islam is pretty clear in saying that guiltless sex is a reward in Paradise. Since they are more like spouses, they will probably be given the status of one instead of a servant.

There is no direct evidence in the Qur’an to support there being 70 or 72 for each person. The numerical value of 70 is derived from a Quranic commentary by Quranic scholar Ibn Kathir. The number 72 comes from a hadith that says “The smallest reward each for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 wives, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine and ruby, as wide as the distance from Damascus to Yemen.”(source)

Do Muslims believe it literally? Are they required to? This particular Hadith has technical weaknesses in its chain of transmitters and is therefore not considered 100% authenticly faultless, though it is listed in an authoritative collection. As a result, Muslims are not required to believe in it, though many inevitably do (but an even more respectable Hadith with virtually the same message can be found in a separate hadith collection). Most Muslims believe that they will experience incredible physical pleasures when they enter heaven, and that you will be happier in heaven than you could possibly be in this life. Some say that the houris are a metaphor for the ineffable joys of the afterlife. “Ineffable” is the perfect word to describe it, since God promises rewards beyond imagination, meaning you can’t even guess what reward lies ahead since there is no equal on Earth. Ergo, if you can imagine the greatest, richest, best thing in this life, then what will actually be there will be even better.

So, to answer the question “Do terrorists get 72 virgins in Paradise?” The Question is wrong. Anyone who gets into Heaven will get the servants, it’s not specific to martyrs. The more important question is, who is privileged to enter heaven according to Islam? That’s a longer topic for another post. (Hint: Islam is unambiguous on the issue of suicide and hurting innocent people; they’re Completely sinful) In case it’s not clear to anyone, Terrorists who hurt innocent people are sinning, so it’s up to God if they’ll go to Paradise or not. You see, bad deeds aren’t rewarded, only punished.

Myth: Islam Was Spread by the Sword

There’s a stereotypical image of Islam being spread by an Arab riding in on a camel from the desert with a Quran in one hand and a scimitar (a curved sword) in the other, offering a choice of either accepting Islam or losing one’s head. Many Hollywood movies since the 1940s have created this image in people’s minds, as has European propaganda since before the Middle Ages. Even Popes have brought up such false claims in speeches, only later to retract them. Also, many people falsely assume that this is the primary motivation of any terrorist claiming to be Muslim.

  1. Forcible conversion is prohibited in Islam. The Quran says “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and another surah says  “And neither I am going to worship that which you have worshipped, nor will you worship the One whom I worship. For you is your faith, and for me, my faith” (109:4-6).
  2. The religion did not “spread by the sword.” Initially, there were military confrontations between the Muslim state and the existing world powers of Rome and Persia. However, the areas conquered were put under Muslim administration and the populations were free to maintain their own beliefs. Muslims ruled Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon from the 8th century and sizeable Christian communities continued to exist over the past 13 centuries through this day.  Muslims ruled India for 1000 years without the vast majority of  the population converting to Islam (India is 85% Hindu today). For 700 years the Muslims ruled Moorish Spain; they allowed freedom of religion and trade and education. Historians consider the era to be the “Golden Age of Judaism” because Jewish people flourished under that rule while elsewhere throughout Europe they were victims of anti-Semitism. Jewish art and scholarship is said to have peaked in this age. Maimonides, the eminent Talmud scholar, was born and wrote while the Moors ruled. The prosperity ended after the reconquista, when the Spanish Inquisition descended and both Jews and Muslims were persecuted.
  3. The largest Muslim country in the world today is Indonesia, having over 200 million citizens. It never saw a Muslim soldier. Islam spread there and in Malaysia and the Philippines by trade. That was also the case of Islam’s spread in West African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Chad and Niger. China has double the Muslim population of Saudi Arabia and yet there was no army or invaders that made them convert. Also, Islam is the fastest growing religion in America today with one estimate of anywhere between 300 and 500 converts daily. This is taking place without any soldiers or even missionaries.
  4. Ahmed Rehab, an American Muslim civil rights activist, further debunked the notion in an opinion piece:

    In other words, for a Muslim to be a Muslim, he or she must accept Islam free of force or coercion. God wishes for us to choose him because we want him, and for no other reason but that. This is a key point that is often misunderstood. Since faith is a matter of the heart, it can never be forced. It is technically impossible that Islam could ever be spread by the sword or by coercion, as some suggest, since even if at gun point (or at the sword blade), one could just as well proclaim to be a Muslim to avoid death, but reject Islam in their heart.

    That is not to say that an “empire,” whether Islamic or otherwise, cannot be spread by the sword. But faith cannot. Just as no physical force can coerce you to love someone you do not love, none can coerce you to believe something you do not believe.

    God understands this; in fact, He ordained that it be so. Since He is a judge of hearts first and foremost, it is logically necessary that He makes faith a matter of free choice, a matter of the heart and mind. Islam can only be spread by invitation (Da’wah) and persuasion (Hujjah), not coercion (Ikrah). The Qur’an explicitly states: “La Ikrah fel Deen” or “Let there be no compulsion in matters of faith.” (Ultimately, Muslims believe that faith is decreed by divine guidance.)

  5. Middle East and Islamic history Professor Juan Cole wrote:

    In fact, the Qur’an at no point urges that religious faith be imposed on anyone by force. This is what it says about the religions:

    ‘ [2:62] Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians– any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. ‘

    …In fact, in early Islam it was hard to join, and Christians who asked to become Muslim were routinely turned away. The tyrannical governor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj, was notorious for this rejection of applicants, because he got higher taxes on non-Muslims. Arab Muslims had conquered Iraq, which was then largely pagan, Zoroastrian, Christian and Jewish. But they weren’t seeking converts and certainly weren’t imposing their religion.

The beginning

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem,

I’ve been involved in so many discussions with other Americans about Muslims, and I’m struck by how many weird stereotypes I keep hearing. Some are from bad Hollywood movies and the cartoonish villains inside them, and some are from chain letter emails citing false sources, and others are just a mystery. I keep running into the same arguments, and I wind up having to debunk the same things over and over. It’s like I should just copy-paste my responses since it’s the same old stuff repeatedly.

A canard is an unfounded or false, deliberately misleading fabrication. The word is often used to describe the various anti-Semitic myths about Jews, for example. It’s a shame that such canards exist in this day and age, and just as the Jewish community has worked hard to dispel such myths about themselves, I intend to do the same for Muslims. This will be a very difficult job, and I hope my small blog is a starting point. Please help me, in any way you can. Can you write? Contact me.

–Sulayman As-Suqali.

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