Common Misconceptions

Islam encourages terrorism?

Photography: MD Phillips

No form of indiscriminate violence is permitted by Islam—even in an officially declared war by a legitimate state. This has always been a part of Islamic teachings and continues to be what Islamic scholars and the overwhelming majority of Muslims believe today. The Prophet Muhammad ordered that even in war, “Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town, do not kill sheep or animals except for food. Do not burn bees….” (1) There are many such authentically recorded sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on this issue. Even combatants who run away are not to be harmed. The Islamic rules on war are probably the most restrictive and humane in the history of mankind—surpassing even those of modern Western societies.

How could such a faith condone or even indirectly inspire the terrorism we see today? Just because an obscure, relatively few perpetrate certain acts and make certain claims about their justifications (irresponsibly hyped and stereotyped by news and entertainment media), we should not rush to conclusions about the nature of one of the world’s greatest faiths and the general behavior of a quarter of humanity.

Works Cited

  1. Muwatta, Imam Malik, Book 21, Hadith 10, online:

Muslim countries are innately violent?

Photography: MD Phillips

Most Muslim countries are poor, post-colonial nations where public knowledge and official implementation of Islamic teachings is minimal. Law and order are often limited. Yet Islam places so much emphasis on societal non-violence, gentleness and forgiveness that a peace-loving spirit still penetrates to the general culture. Statistics show Muslim countries to have lower murder rates and even lower rates of deaths from political violence than their non-Muslim counterparts!

Professor M. Steven Fish of the University of California, Berkeley points out that despite all the turmoil of recent decades, the past century saw less political deaths in Muslim lands than non-Muslim ones. And bear in mind that Muslims have not had their lands to themselves over the past hundred years, as they’ve been overrun by foreign colonial/post-colonial regimes.

He also shows how Muslim countries have only about a quarter of the murder rate of non-Muslim countries.1 In fact many of the lowest murder rates in the world are found in Muslim countries—far lower than the United States—even in a good year (a few are sampled below).

The Quran describes the inviolable nature of human life:

“…whoever kills a person—unless for murder or for corruption [done] in the land—it is as if he had killed all mankind.” (5:32)

So killing even one human being is no less horrible a crime than killing all of humanity.

(Note: The punishment for murder and corruption does not necessarily entail the death penalty in Islam.)

The Prophet Muhammad did not permit even the killing of an animal without proper justification:

“Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, God will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.”2

The Quran encourages forgiveness instead of retaliation:

“Let them forgive and overlook: do you not wish that God should forgive you? For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (24:22)

“Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish (i.e. don’t punish them).” (7:199)

The Prophet Muhammad encouraged love and compassion for others:

“Love for humanity what you love for yourself.”3

“The best deed after belief in God is benevolent love towards people.”4

“God is compassionate and loves compassion.”5

Violence in Muslim societies should not be attributed to Islam—but a lack of it!

Works Cited

  1. Fish, M. Steven, “No, Islam Isn’t Inherently Violent, And the Math Proves It” The Daily Beast (online), accessed 2/20/18. .
  2. Narrated by An-Nasai
  3. Narrated by Bukhari, Tareekh al-Kabeer
  4. Narrated by Tabarani
  5. Narrated by Bukhari, Al-Adab al-Mufrad

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