Misconceptions about common issues and aspects of Islam

Jihad & Fighting in wars

Jihad does not mean “holy war”. In fact, there is no such thing in Islam. Yes, a Muslim is only allowed to engage in war if the cause is to defend or protect, but this does not make the war holy or like a crusade. This concept was only found in Christendom during the middle ages when Christians went to Jerusalem to liberate the city from the Muslims. Ironically, the Christians went there with this intention but they themselves were liberated, spiritually, socially and culturally.

Muslims in this case defended themselves from attack or defended those who were being attacked. They eventually lost the city to the Crusaders but was reconquered in the 12 C by Salahuddin Ayyoubi.

Muslims may also fight in a war if they are protecting the weak. Muslims may not attack others in an aggressive act. They may not kill women, children or the elderly and they may not do harm to the environment such as to trees or harvests or to animals or livestock. They may not rape women during war and they must treat prisoners of war humanely.

One of the first treaties for the humane treatment of prisoners was created by the prophet Muhammad 14 centuries ago after the battle of Badr.

Suicide bombing

Suicide bombing is condemned by the majority of scholars. Suicide is not permissible in Islam at all. The killing of civilians is also not allowed.

To take your life in the act of killing others is not an Islamically permissible action.
To kill on person is like killing all of humanity.

Extremism

Muslims are against any form of extremism. Islam teaches the path of moderation, in any act, whether in prayer or fasting, being with family, working or eating.
Islam is against violent extremism and condemns any acts that target men, women, children or the elderly.

Terrorism
In the same way Islam condemns extremism, Islam is against terrorism. Terrorism as defined as a violent act against the state targeting civilians, this is not a permissible form of warfare or defence.

Multiculturalism
ISLAM teaches the benefits of pluralism and breaks down barriers of race or culture. Islam is a universal message of the brotherhood of mankind. Islam is against racism and teaches tolerance and acceptance of all people of all backgrounds regardless of their faith, race or creed.

Integration
Islam teaches Muslims who migrate to follow the law of the land and to respect the leaders of the land. It teaches to do good works amongst the community and not to create mischief and to lead by example. It teaches one to live in harmony with the community and to follow the customs of the land as long as they do not clash with your faith.

Democracy
Democracy is an Islamic value. It is known as shura and ijma (consultation and consensus). In Muslim societies the leader is chosen by the people and for the people and must rule as one of the people. There is no justification for royalty or for special treatment as a leader. In fact the responsibilities are much more onerous and must be guided by Islamic principles, which are much stricter than any man-made principles. Eg, honesty, transparency, justice and compassion, freedom of speech and religion, equality and fairness, conflict of interests, manner of speech or accusations without the accused to be there to defend themselves, no special privileges, a modest income, no exalted status and equality before the law etc.

Voting
Voting is simply a choice. There is no rule in Islam which prevents a person from voting. However, Muslims must know who they are supporting and what values and principles that person stands for and if a member of a party what the party stands for.
The guiding principles of voting in an election is whether that person or party is advocating anything which clashes with the Islamic principles of fairness and justice.

Corporal punishment
Islam believes in preserving the chastity of society and upholds the highest degree of morals and social behaviour, to protect the moral fabric of society. Therefore in an Islamic state, corporal punishment would be allowed for certain crimes, however, the burden of proof is very strict. For instance in the case of adultery, there must be at least 4 witnesses. In the case of theft, one must understand why that person stole, if it was out of desperation or poverty, then they should be forgiven.

Interfaith relations
Muslims are allowed to have dialogue between non-Muslims and it is a responsibility for all Muslims to inform others about their faith.

Muslim identity
Muslims are from diverse ethnicities and cultures. Islamic community in Australia is not an homogeneous community. Muslims identify as Muslims from one ummah or family. However, their nationality can be based on where they live and which passport they carry.
Muslims do not prioritise what part of their identity is more important. To ask a Muslim if they are Muslim or Australian first is like asking them do they prefer their left hand over their right or vice versa.

Halal products
Halal meat is simply meat that has been prepared in a manner which is acceptable by God. It maintains the most humane method of slaughter (by not severing the spinal chord), the healthiest way to prepare the meat (by draining the blood) and by declaring that one is doing it in the name of God and not for any other purpose, this makes the slaughter ethically and spiritually fair.

Mixing with non-Muslims
Muslims are allowed to mix with non-Muslims. There is no prohibition nor is it valid to discriminate against, hate, abuse or exploit non- Muslims.
Muslims are advised simply to guard against any negative influences in their lives that may weaken their iman or faith.

Mixing of men and women
Men and women are allowed to be together as long as there are others in the room. However, it is discouraged to have a man and a woman alone in a private room, regardless if they are Muslim or not. In such cases, it is advisable to leave the door open or to call in a third person.

Shaking hands
It is not preferred for a Muslim woman to shake hands with a man. If it can be avoided it should be done, however, sometimes when a person puts out his hand it is sometimes awkward and the Muslim woman should use her discretion.

Equality of men and women
Men and Women are equal in the eyes of God. That is that they totally equal in status and that neither one is better than the other.

The Hijab
Muslim women are required to wear a veil when in public. This is generally accepted as the covering of the head and neck and the body up to the ankles and the wrists. (showing the face)

Women’s rights
Muslim women have rights that they were granted 1400 years ago. The rights of equality to men, the rights to kindness and loving treatment by their spouses, the rights to safety and comfort in the home, the rights to own their own property or to earn their own income, the rights to retain their names, to inheritance, initiate divorce and to a dowry.
Muslim women have the same obligations to pray and observe the fasts and pay zakat as men, (women are exempt from praying during menstruation).

Extra note on “beating”
As a Muslim it is unacceptable to treat one’s wife with nothing less than the way you would want to be treated yourself, that is, with dignity, respect, equality and love. A wife is not one’s chattel or property. As Muslims we are taught to respect women as the bearers and guardians of sons and daughters, as teachers and as home-makers and as the one’s who console and nurture their relationship with their husband.

Nowhere in the history of the Prophet’s marriages was there a case of beating his wife. The prophet had several disputes with his wife but they never resulted in any violence. Therefore, the Prophet as the model whom Muslims follow, a husband is to treat his wife with respect and love and not allowed to use violence against her (or the children for that matter).

Domestic violence is a disease of society today, in every society, regardless of religion. We as modern day people have inherited a patriarchal attitude towards women and hence we still get these incidences of violence occurring, however, it is something that happens because men abuse their power and strength and often take advantage of a woman’s softness or gentleness.