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MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ISLAM

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

Despite being in existence and being practiced for more than 1500 years there are many misconceptions and myths surrounding Islam and Islamic way of life. This column will over the next two to three articles attempt to demystify some of those common misconceptions that cause some misunderstanding and intolerance nowadays.

MISCONCEPTION – MUSLIMS WORSHIP A DIFFERENT GOD:

Allah is the Arabic word for God. Allah for Muslims is the greatest and most inclusive of the Names of God. Because of the closeness of the languages in the cradle of religion, the word God translated into Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew is the same word Allah, Eloi and Eli which Jesus Christ used in Aramaic when he prayed to God when he said ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani’ (My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me) (Matthew 27: 46-47). This shows that God has an identical name, with a slight variation in pronunciation in the language. Allah is the same God worshiped by Muslims, Christians and Jews. 

It is an Arabic word, rich in meaning, denoting the one and only God and ascribing no partners to Him. Muslims believe that Allah's sovereignty is to be acknowledged in our daily life, our worship and in obeying His teachings and commandments, conveyed to us through His messengers and prophets who were sent at various times and in different places throughout history.  However, it should be noted that God in Islam is One and Only. He, the Exalted, does not get tired, does not have a son i.e. Jesus or have associates / partners.

MISCONCEPTION – ISLAM IS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT RELIGION BECAUSE THEY DON'T BELIEVE IN JESUS OR ANY OTHER PROPHETS:

Muslims accept and respect all of the prophets mentioned in the Bible and Torah; to reject one is to reject the creed of Islam. There are twenty six Biblical Prophets mentioned in the Quran.  
Muslims respect and revere Jesus (pbuh) in Arabic known as Eesa. We consider him as one of the greatest of God's messengers to mankind.  A Muslim never refers to him simply as 'Jesus/Eesa', without adding ‘peace be upon him’ (abbreviated as pbuh). The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth (this chapter is entitled 'Mary'), which describes Mary as the purest woman in all creation. Three chapters of the Quran feature the life of Jesus, his mother Mary and their family, and each one reveals details of Jesus’ life that are not found in the Bible. They also believe that he performed great miracles through the Power of Allah. Muslims understand his role according to the Quran, and the traditions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad.  The major difference is that Muslims do not believe that Jesus is God, nor, the son of God; neither do they believe in the concept of Trinity. Muslims also believe that Jesus will return to earth in the last days and await his Second Coming.

The Qur'an describes the Annunciation as follows:

"Behold!" the Angel said, "God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations.  O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honoured in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God.  He shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of the righteous." She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?" He said:  ‘Even so; God creates what He will.  When He decrees a thing, He says to it, Be! and it is’. (Qur'an 3:42-47)

Jesus (pbuh) was born miraculously through the same power, which had brought Adam (pbuh) into being without a father: "The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam.  He created him of dust, and then said to him, 'Be!' and he was." (Qur'an 3:59)

During his prophetic mission Jesus (pbuh) performed many miracles. The Qur'an tells us that he said: ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord:  I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breath into it and it becomes a bird by God's leave.  And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God's leave.’ (Qur'an 3:49)

Neither Muhammad nor Jesus (pbut) came to change the basic doctrine of the brief in One God brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it. In the Qur'an Jesus (pbuh) is reported as saying: ‘I have come to you to attest the law which was before me.  And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey Me.’ (Qur'an 3:50).

This matches with the Bible verse: ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil’ (Matthew 5:17)

MISCONCEPTION – PROPHET MUHAMMED (PBUH) WAS THE FOUNDER OF ISLAM AND MUSLIMS WORSHIP HIM.

Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was born in Mecca in the year 570. His father died just before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his uncle.  As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity. He was described as a person of a religious nature. It became his habit to retreat to the Cave of Hira near Mecca to meditate. At the age of 40, while engaged in such a retreat, Muhammed (pbuh) received his first revelation from Allah through the Angel Gabriel.  This revelation, which was passed on over 23 years, is known as the Qur'an. He began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel, and to preach the message and the truth which Allah had revealed to him.

Before he died at the age of 63 the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China While Muhammed (pbuh) was chosen to deliver the message, he is not considered the "founder" of Islam, since Muslims consider Islam to be the same divine guidance sent to all people before. Muslims believe all the prophets from Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus etc. were all sent with divine guidance for their peoples.  ‘We Muslims believe in Allah, and the Revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob and the tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to all the Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between one and another of them and we submit to Allah (Quran 2:136).      

Every prophet was sent to his own people, but Muhammed (pbuh) was sent to all of mankind.  Muhammed is the last and final messenger sent to deliver the message of Islam. Muslims revere and honour him (pbuh) for all he went through and his dedication, but they do not worship him. "O Prophet, verily We have sent you as a witness and a bearer of glad tidings and a warner and as one who invites unto God by His leave and as an illuminating lamp." (Quran 33:45-46)

To be continued

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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