An End to Ignorance
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An End to Ignorance

Making associations is a part of human nature. When I say the word flower, what comes to mind? The words..beautiful, scented, love, spring, happiness probably come to mind. We all know what a flower is, most all of us have held one at one time or another. Now when I say the word Islam, what comes to mind? Iím sure it varies, but the most common responses from non-Muslims are words like Arabs, terrorists, guerilla warriors, oppression..

No one is to blame for this negative image of Islam other than ignorance. Those who contribute to the negative image only do so out of a lack of real knowledge, also.

There are many misconceptions of Islam and Muslims. It wasnít until I was 14 that I discovered the real Islam. My parents brought me up with strong morals and values, but I didnít receive any education about religion. I used to live in a really small city where there were no Muslims. I attended church with my friends before I even set foot in a Mosque in America. Islam scared me then since all i had to rely on were the stereotypes. It was when I turned 13 that I decided to adopt a religion. I read every book I could get a hold of and researched every religion I could think of. After reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, who was a member of the Nation of Islam before converting to real Islam two years before his death, I learned that the two have nothing in common other than the word Islam. This made me explore Islam further. It surprised me that most everything I knew about Islam was wrong.

I learned of how simple it really is, only having five basic pillars: believe in God and his Messengers, pay charity yearly, fast for 30 days in Ramadan, take a pilgrimage to Mecca, and pray five times a day.

Two things that seem difficult to understand to non-Muslims are praying and fasting in Islam. Each prayer has a certain time, such as before sunsrise, a few hours after sunrise, etc. Spending about 30 minutes a day praying is really no big deal, even though it may seem like a hassle. It doesnít take away from life. During school, Iím not able to perform prayer, but I still remember to recite the prayer to myself on time and perform it later. Itís like taking a break from your problems five times a day. It helps.

Ramadan is something I could go in-depth with, but due to my limited time, I wonít.

Info on Fasting

For 30 days each year, all Muslims are to fast from sunrise to sunset. It teaches self-discipline and brings people closer to spirituality. It shouldnít harm peopleís health and if it would, then then they donít have to fast. the sick, elderly, young children, travellers, and others donít have to fast. Muslims are able to carry on normal activities and still have plenty of energy during Ramadan. I even ran the 12 minute run in Saberís class while fasting.

Another big misconception in Islam is about the role of women. Modesty is important in Islam for both men and women. How they choose to cover their body is up to them. Some women wear the burqa, which covers them from head to toe, only leaving the eyes visible. This was also worn in history by the wealthy Persian Christians, Hindus, and Assyrians as a cultural practice. Islam enforces modesty, not invisibility. However, there is no disrespect for anyone in how they accomplish the task of modesty.

Something I get asked a lot is why can men have 4 wives in Islam. To understand this, we have to look at history. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. David had 99 wives. Islam limited the number to only four. It is permitted, but it is also discouraged. It was allowed in only certain situations where a woman needed financial support or a slave needed to be freed. This doesnít really apply anymore, so that is why only 2% of the entire Muslim population has more than one wife now.

Even though a country consists of many Muslims, it doensít make it a Muslim Nation. There is no democracy in these countries. Corrupted governments and bad economics is what causes them problems. Islamic law is called Sharia and there is no government system that practices it. Their laws are their own and donít even represent Islam. For example, women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive. Why not? The Quran says that women are the twin halves of men, both created from the same soul. They are to have the the same rights as men and should be given the simple right to drive a car. Why Saudi Arabia doesnít allow women to drive is because the men make the laws. As itís happened in America, women will also someday liberate themselves, but it has to be gradual.

In the Quran, the Islamic holy book, it says that women must receieve the same education as men. they can hold careers, be outspoken, vote, leave their house by themselves, be their own person. Women in Islam also do not even change their last name when they get married. The first convert to Islam was Muhammadís successful wife, Khadija.

Nowadays, for every 1 male convert to Islam, there are 4 female converts. The real role of women in Islam isnít how it is portrayed.

The media has a lot to do with the stereotypes of Islam. As any journalist knows, they want stories that are powerful and affect the emotions and thoughts of the reader. This means they cover mostly all the horrible stuff that goes on in these underdeveloped countries consisting of Muslims.

Iím sure you all remember the Oklahoma City bombing and how the first to be suspected were Muslims, just because one crazy individual decided to blow up the World Trade Center a few years before. But when Timothy McVeigh was found gulty, no one even mentioned religion anymore. Fundamentalsists exist in every religion. There are the KKK, who claim to be Christian but commit awful acts. People donít look to the KKK to represent Christianity, just as terrorists shouldnít be looked to for representing Islam. They represent aggression and a lack of knwledge of Islam and how the Prophet even said that ďthe pen is mightier than the sword.Ē

The Quran says ďO believers, be you securers of justice, witness for God. Let not detestation for people move you not to be equitable; be equitable, that is nearer to godfearing.Ē The word Jihad means self-defense in Arabic, it doesnít mean holy war. The word holy war does not even appear in the Quran.

The Quran also says, ďLet there be no compulsion in the religion. The right direction is distinctly clear from error.Ē Muslims are told to live at peace with everyone, especially non-Muslims. The Moors in Spain were a perfect example of this until they were all forced out or killed.

Only about 10% of the Muslim population are Arabs. Actually, the most Muslims live in Indonesia. In 1998, Islam became the second largest religion in the America.

If I were to ask you what the most common boys name in the world is right now, most of you would say Michael or James or Matt and other names weíve heard. But did you know that the most common name is Muhammad? Every large city in America now has a Muslim community and a Mosque. The computer is very powerful in spreading Islamic awareness, from thousands of websites and software to a prayer call which blares out from the computer when itís time to pray.

The Almanac Book of Facts states that the population increased by 137% in the last decade. Christianity increased 46% while Islam increased 235%. In America alone, more than 100,000 people per year are converting to Islam.

The point is that Islam is growing. And so all these negative stereotypes must be overcome before anyone can learn to, not necessarily adopt the beliefs, but to simply understand them and live peacefully.