Despite the newfound fame under the Trump administration and the rising tide of Islamophobia, Islam and Muslims remain arcane in the west.
When I first came to the United States some 35 years ago, Islam and Muslims were relatively unknown. Sure there was the Israel-Palestine conflict and the Islamic revolution in Iran that Americans were very familiar with. Beyond the politics, very few knew much about Muslims and Islam or the difference between the two.
I recall one of my physician friends asking me this question at work around year 1984: “Hey Ejaz, are you an Islam?
I smiled and said, “No, I am a Muslim”, leaving my friend a little bewildered.
Fast forward to 2018. Islam and Muslims are no longer mixed up. However, Islam and Muslims remain rather poorly understood.
Many myths and misconception still prevail. Here are a few facts about Islam and Muslims that may still be surprising to many.
- Allah is not a separate God from the God of the Bible. Allah in Arabic means ‘the God’, or just ‘God’. It is derived from two root words, Al, means the, and Ilah, means deity or God. Arabic translations of Bible use ‘Allah’ for God and many Coptic Christians use Allah in their daily lives, referring to God. I wrote about this in more detail on a prior post- Same God of Abraham With 99 Names.
- Muslims do NOT worship Muhammad. That’s considered a major sin.
- Muhammad was not the first Prophet of Islam- he was the last. Hebrew prophets mentioned in Old Testament and New Testament are considered prophets of Islam, bringing the same overarching message from the same God. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, Jesus are all considered prophets of Islam- in fact are viewed as some of the most noble ones. Muhammad is therefore viewed as the one who completed Islam- the religion of submission to One God.
- The Prophet mentioned by name the most often in the Qur’an is NOT Muhammad. It is Moses. The story of Moses, Israelites and Pharaoh is the most oft-repeated story in the Quran. Prophet Muhammad is mentioned by name only 4 times (3 times as Muhammad and 1 time as Ahmad). However there are numerous references to him without naming him. Muhammad is indeed the most revered prophet, the best of humans (Khairul Bashar) and is considered the most perfect creation by Muslims. The Qur’an has frequent commands to ‘obey God and obey the messenger’ (meaning Muhammad).
- Jerusalem is the 3rd holiest city in Islam after Mecca and Medina. The Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem is the third holiest shrine after Ka’aba in Mecca and the Prophet’s mosque in Medina. In fact the Al Aqsa mosque was the initial Qibla (Muslims face in that direction during the prayers).
- Muslims face Ka’aba during prayers. Millions of Muslims perform pilgrimage (Hajj and Umrah) each year and the rituals include circling Ka’aba. However Muhammad did NOT build it. Rather Abraham and his oldest son, Ishmael, built it. I had shared my own experience at Hajj last year in a series of posts.
- Mary is mentioned by name in the Qur’an more often than in the Bible. There is a whole chapter named after her- in fact she is the only woman with a chapter named after her. For more detail, you may want to read my post, Do Muslims Revere Mary, The Mother of Jesus?
- Jesus is nicknamed Rooh Allah– Spirit of God- but the concept is not the same as the “holy spirit” in the doctrine of trinity. He is considered one of the 5 most elite prophets, the other 4 being Noah, Abraham, Moses and Muhammad. More details can be found on this topic here: Do Muslims Revere Jesus More Than The Christians?
- Most Muslims are not Arabs or Middle Eastern. Most Muslims don’t speak Arabic. Arabian Peninsula/Middle East/North African regions are predominantly Muslim, but the entire region makes up about 20% of Muslims.
The majority of the Muslims (62%) live in the Asia-Pacific, including large populations in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/09/muslims-and-islam-key-findings-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/
- The Qur’an was not authored by Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims consider the Qur’an to be the literal word of God, transmitted to him through archangel Gabriel.