Yahoo posted this video alleging to respond to “misconceptions” about Islam. I decided to respond in a post on here since there is no comment section on this video.
First of all, I would say that the biggest misconception about Islam is that it is a “loving and peaceful religion” as Yahoo calls it in their video description, considering that its central holy book says things like “God will punish them by your hands” and “God does not love unbelievers”. But I will stick to responding to the specific claims in the video.
Text from the Yahoo video appears below in green text.
10. Misconception: “Most Muslims are Arabs.” Under 20% of the world’s Muslims are Arabs. 62% of Muslims live across Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and China.
This point is valid, however I would hope that people already knew that most Muslims in the world are not Arab.
Also, I would add that since supporters of Islam admit that adherents to Islam are racially diverse, it makes no sense to call people “racist” for criticizing Islam.
9. Misconception: “Muslim Men Have 4 Wives.” The Quran set a limit of 4 wives at a time when polygamy was widespread. Today polygamy makes up about 5% of Islamic Marriages.
My first point is that I don’t think that anyone out there thinks that all Muslim men do have four wives. They are just under the impression they are allowed to have four wives. So Yahoo has not addressed a real misconception. Pointing out that the Quran said it was acceptable to have four wives at a time when polygamy was common and that only 5% of Muslim marriage are polygamous does not refute the belief that polygamous marriage is permitted in Islam.
Furthermore, it does not logically follow from the fact that polygamy was common at the time and place Muhammad lived that therefore polygamy is morally acceptable or fair. The fact that something was widely considered acceptable in the past in certain places is not support for the claim that the Quran teaches justice and good morals. If those practices were immoral then all you have said is that the Quran supports old, immoral practices.
Regardless, the truth regarding Islamic doctrinal support for polygamy is more complex than whether it allows it or not. The Quran permits polygamy in only a certain circumstance (and unsurprisingly, only men can have multiple spouses).
In verse 4:2 God speaks of orphans, protecting their money, and warning against consuming their money unjustly. God is speaking to the men who are entrusted with the protection of orphans and their money. If a man fears that he cannot perform the duty as a guardian to the orphans and their money on his own, and in a just manner, then he is permitted to marry the woman of his choice to bring a motherly figure who would support the man in the raising of the orphans. God allows 2, 3 and 4 (depending on the number of orphans the man is taking care of).
In short, a man is permitted to have multiple wives if he is taking care of orphans and he is worried that he may not be able to take care of their money fairly (I don’t know how much money an orphan is likely to have, but let’s view the doctrine for what it is). Therefore, the Quran allows a man to be married to multiple other women in order for them to help care for the children (I’m not sure how this is supposed to prevent a man from dealing unjustly with the orphans money, but again, let’s go along with it).
However, we should note that given this explanation we might ask why it is necessary to take these women as wives whom you can have sex with, or why women are not permitted by the Quran to have multiple husbands for the same reasons.
On a related note, Muhammad made sure to give himself the best deal in this regard in verse 33:50 of the Quran:
O Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who fled with you; and a believing woman if she gave herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet desired to marry her– specially for you, not for the (rest of) believers; We know what We have ordained for them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess in order that no blame may attach to you; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
That allowance Muhammad gave to himself could make you question the degree of Muhammad’s benevolence and “fairness” in matters relating to marriage and women. Later in this article I will discuss more on this matter in response to another alleged misconception.
8. Misconception: “Muslims are taking over the West.” There are only 7 million Muslims in the US – only 25% of them white or black converts. Europe has 38 million Muslims – just 5% of the population.
This is a generally valid point, however it does not have much to do with whether Islam is actually harmful or not. Yahoo’s response also does not address whether or not the proportion of the Muslim populations are growing which is what matters in regard to the question of any group “taking over”.
And personally, considering that the US and Europe were already taken over by Christianity, I’m more concerned with religion in general than just Islam in particular, although Islam may possibly present a more significant danger to freedom of speech and civil rights if they come to wield strong enough influence. But I feel confident that secular moral values and beliefs will be influential enough to prevent a “Muslim takeover” if enough people remain vocal about the logical validity and morality of religious beliefs.
7. Misconception: “Muslims worship Muhammad.” Islam decrees that it is blasphemy to worship anyone or thing other than Allah. Muslims do have a deep respect for Muhammad and believe he was sinless.”
This is true, however when a group of religious people thinks that someone is sinless and the most perfect person to have ever lived (as I have seen Muslims describe him), and many will riot and issue death threats over him being depicted disparagingly (or in some cases, being visually depicted at all), then it sure borders on “worship” even if they do not pray to him as a god.
And if one’s goal is to support the claim that a certain religion is loving and peaceful then it is not a good idea to point out what harmless things that religion considers “blasphemy”, as blasphemy is a concept designed to punish differing belief.
Also, this section of the video interestingly fails to mention that Christianity is “blasphemy” in Islamic doctrine for this reason, since Islamic teaching considers it a wicked blasphemy to claim that Jesus is God, equal to God, or the son of God.
I would also argue that there is a problem with any beleif system that believes anyone was utterly “sinless” and perfect, and that we should follow their example and all their words.
6. Misconception: “You can never leave Islam.” The Quran says a person can leave Islam, return to it, and leave again if they wish. But in countries like Egypt, nearly 70% of people support executing those who leave Islam.
Since they provide no citation, I don’t know what verses Yahoo is using to base their claim that the Quran says a person can leave, rejoin, then leave Islam again.
The verse closest to mentioning that particular situation is 4:137 which simply condemns remaining an unbeliever and says that God will not forgive them for it. it does not mention whether or not humans should punish such a person, but it certainly does not say it is okay either:
Those who believe, then reject faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject faith, and go on increasing in unbelief,- Allah will not forgive them nor guide them nor guide them on the way.
Verse 9:66 also touches on the subject and says:
Make ye no excuses: ye have rejected Faith after ye had accepted it. If We pardon some of you, We will punish others amongst you, for that they are in sin.
There are more verses like this and they all amount to the same thing: severe condemnation and hatred of disbelief, but no direct orders for humans to issue punishments for leaving Islam.
The question of killing people who leave Islam does not have a simple answer. It is easy to interpret the Quran as supporting such a death penalty or rejecting it.
Rejection of the death penalty seems to be based on three things:
1) The Quran does not explictly say to kill people who leave Islam. This is a rather weak defense however, since the right way to behave can be deduced based on what else the Quran says without needing a command expicitly describing what to do in a particular situation.
2) Verses 4:88-91 explain that if people turn away from truly following Islam and remain peaceful then you have no justification to harm them. Harming such people is only justified by these verses if the “hypocrites” wage war (Although it would have been more clear if verse 89 did not mkae the straightforwrd, broad statement that the apostates should be killed, while the following verses need to make caveats).
3) Verse 2:256-257 says “There is no compulsion in religion” (then proceeds to say that truth and error are clear and that unbelievers will abide in fire forever). Liberal Muslims take this verse to mean that no one should compel another person to adopt Islam or remain a Muslim by threats of force. However it is odd phrasing to use if the verse intended that message. Given the context, it seems to be saying that God himself does not force anyone to believe or not believe (although God clearly threatens people in the Quran and even violates free will). It does not appear to be a command about how Muslims should behave. If it was, then I suspect that it would have been worded very differently, more similarly to the other commands in the Quran.
Support for the death penalty is based on the following:
1) The hadith – collections of sayings of Muhammad recorded by other people – are highly trusted sources among Muslims. The reliability of the hadith in terms of having recorded the actual words of Muhammad is suspect and some Muslims reject them (the hadiths record sayings of Muhammad and those close to him that have been passed down by oral tradition for almost 200 years). But for those who accept them as legitimate, the question of killing unbelievers has a clear answer. They assert that Muhammad unambigiously said to kill a person for leaving Islam and that it was legal to do so. For example, Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 260 reads:
Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn ‘Abbas, who said, “Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, ‘Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'”
And the same text in Volume 9, Book 83, Number 37 says:
“Allah’s Apostle never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: (1) A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas,) (2) a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse and (3) a man who fought against Allah and His Apostle and deserted Islam and became an apostate.”
2) The Quran says that it is permissible to kill a person if they spread fitna (mischief or corruption). See verse 5:32-33. Disbelief is heavily demonized and considered extremely dangerous and evil by the Quran, so openly identifying as a nonbeliever, criticizing Islam, or influencing others in ways that lead to them go “astray” from Islam is widely viewed as mischief and corruption legally punishable by death.
This BBC article quotes Mr. Shahin, who explains this view:
Abdelsabour Shahin, an Islamist writer and academic at Cairo University, told the BBC that although Islam in principle enshrined freedom of belief, there were severe restrictions on that freedom.
“If someone changes from Islam to kufr (unbelief), that has to remain a personal matter, and he should not make it public,” he said.
In other words, an apostate in a Muslim society, according to this view, forfeits his freedom of expression. If he goes public he should be executed, says Dr Shahin.
But if the Koran has not stipulated the killing of apostates, how does Dr Shahin come to this judgement?
He says there is an authoritative and unambiguous hadith (saying of the prophet) which calls for the killing of the apostate – “He who changes his religion should be killed”, says Dr Shahin, quoting from the sayings of the prophet.
Others disagree. Professor Abdelmouti Bayoumi of the Islamic Research Academy in Cairo told the BBC that the generality of the aforementioned hadith has been restricted by another hadith from the prophet.
Dr Bayoumi says that according to that hadith changing one’s religion alone is not enough for applying capital punishment.
He says the apostate has also to be found working against the interests of the Muslim society or nation – only then should he be executed.
Dr Bayoumi’s stance is a good example of modernisers, who try to reconcile between Islamic tradition and modern practice.
An apostate in this perspective is a traitor. He is punished, not for what he believes in, but for what he does and which could be harmful to the interests of the state.
But Dr Shahin says the mere fact that someone goes public with his apostasy “amounts to fitna (sedition, or civil strife), he is thus like someone fighting Islam, and should therefore be killed.”
5. Misconception: “Islam oppresses women.” Muslim feminists say Islam is fair, allowing women their own property and income. But some Islamic States discriminate against women e.g. in divorce and sexual abuse laws.
Having your own property and income are not the only factors in regard to fair treatment.
In Quranic teaching, it is acceptable for a man to hit his wife for repeatedly disobeying him (4:34); women are commanded to cover themselves to a degree not required of men (24:30-31); women are considered dumber and less reliable witnesses (2:282, 24:4); men can have up to four wives while women are never said to be allowed to have more than one husband (4:3); and men can have sex with girls they own as slaves (4:3, 4:24, 23:5-6, 70:29-30).
4. Misconception: “Muslims hate Jesus.” Jesus features heavily in the Quran as a miracle worker and important Prophet. Jesus is seen as the ideal person by Muslims – but they don’t belive he was the Son of God.
I’m not sure who thinks that Muslims hate Jesus, but perhaps such people exist. What the Quran viciously condemns however, is viewing Jesus as God, equal to God, or as the son of God – in other words, Christianity.
3. Misconception: “Muhammad Married an Underage Girl.” An Islamic saying suggests Muhammad’s wife Aisha was 6 years old when they married. However historians estimate that she may have been as old as 19.
That “Islamic saying” is a hadith trusted by millions of Muslims, which alleges to record the words of Muhammad and others close to him. And it does not merely “suggest” that Aisha was 6 years old when they married; it says so explictly. And it is not just one hadith, but many which talk about Aisha and mention or indicate her age when Muhammad married her. Several of them purport to be the words of Aisha herself. You can read them at this link.
Just saying she “could” have been “as old as” nineteen is not a convincing statement to refute the idea that Muhammad married a 6 year old. It is dishonest to label something a “misconception” if you do not have any better evidence to back it up. The articles I have found so far that try to refute the idea that Muhammad married her at such a young age do not provide sources to support their claims. So as it stands for me currently, the hadiths are the most reliable sources available on the matter (See note below).
As many people including Muslims point out, the practice of marrying very young girls was not uncommon in Muhammad’s time, so he was doing nothing unusual or sickening by the standards of his day. But Yahoo, like various religion-sympathizers, is trying to make religious prophets appear as if they conformed to what are now modern liberal moral values. So they do not want to accept that Muhammad married a child even if that certainly appears to be what happened.
2. Misconception: “Jihad is Holy War.” Jihad means “exerted effort” and mainly refers to the struggle for self-improvement. One type of Jihad is “by the sword”, but Muhammad says this is the least important one.
According to Yahoo’s own response to this “misconception”, holy war is indeed a type of Jihad. So Yahoo has not refuted the idea they are claiming to challenge, but rather have supported it and merely said Jihad can also mean other things.
And claiming that “Muhammad says this is the least important one” seems an odd thing to say.
Yahoo does not cite where Muhammad said this so that we can view the verse or hadith for ourselves. What they seem to be referring to is a lone claim that appears in none of the official hadith collections and was asserted by the Muslim scholar Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi who was born nearly 400 years after Muhammad died:
We were told by Layth, on the authority of ‘Ata’, on the authority of Abu Rabah, on the authority of Jabir, who said, ‘The Prophet (salallaahu ‘alayhee wa sallam) returned from one of his battles, and thereupon told us, ‘You have arrived with an excellent arrival, you have come from the Lesser Jihad to the Greater Jihad – the striving of a servant (of Allah) against his desires.’
The Quran and hadiths indeed describe Jihad as both internal struggles and open warfare, but I am unsure as to whether Muhammad ever said one type was “greater” or “lesser”. However, considering the importance of unquestioning belief and submission in Islamic ideology, I would not be susprised that “internal striving” would be considered the more important type of Jihad. But that leads me to my next point:
Of what relevance is it to say that one is less important than the other? The issue is what actions are sanctioned and considered valid by Islamic ideology regardless of what aspects are considered more or less “important” than others. Something being explicitly sanctioned but described as “less important” is completely different from that thing being condemned or forbidden.
1. Misconception: “Muslims are terrorists.” The majority of Muslims condemn terrorism, with 62% saying it is never acceptable. Since 9/11, of the 20,000 terror attacks by extremist Muslims most have been in Islamic countries and had Islamic victims.
I don’t know who is claiming that literally all Muslims are terrorists other than possibly a few deluded right-wing fundamentalist Christians, but apparently Yahoo considers that a common enough view to include in their list.
Personally my view is that Islam is a harmful belief system and influence, not that all people who identify as “Muslim” personally have dangerous or hateful views. Religion is one influence in life and can tend to be more harmful than good overall, but it is not nearly the only influence that shapes people. For a more detailed explanation on this matter, see my article about Things To Be Mindful Of When Debating Criticism Of Islam.
Also, I do not understand the last comments by Yahoo regarding the location and victims of terror attacks. They seem to be trying to imply that terror attacks mostly occurring in Islamic countries and harming people who identify as Muslims is evidence that Islam is not responsible for the violence.
If so, they are taking a very simplistic viewpoint. One can certainly argue that the majority of violence in the middle east is not the result of Islam, but not on the basis of Yahoo’s reasoning. There is no reason why one group who identifies as Muslim would not attack another group that identifies as Muslim if they view that group as not “true” Muslims or that they are working against Islam. The Quran repeatedly warns of disingenuous believers (which it calls “hypocrites”) and condemns the,m as well as anyone who goes “astray” from the “right path” according to what the Quran dictates.