In the past twenty years, since the tragic events of 9/11, there exist numerous misconceptions about the Islamic faith. People in America have a lazy understanding of Islam and the Muslim people, much of which has been fueled by the media and politics. Even though Islam is the 2nd largest religion in the world, the vast majority of Americans don’t realize Islam is a religion that promotes peace and an understanding that Muslims believe all difficulties will be alleviated through God’s mercy that brings about a sense of ease to one’s heart and soul.
In the 94th chapter of the Holy Qur’an, verse 5 and 6 states
Behold, with every hardship comes ease; verily with every hardship comes ease.
This verse reminds believers that there is ease and goodness after any hardship we face in life, so believers in God should persevere with patience.
Furthermore, in the 2nd chapter of the Holy Qur’an, verse 286 says
God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned.
This verse indicates that God has given different tests and responsibilities to everyone. This verse also reminds us that everyone can succeed relying on faith and that we must be conscious of our actions because we will be accountable for all that we do in this world.
At its core, Islam is a religion that is defined by peace. Islam means ‘submission to the will of God’, meaning those who follow Islam follows God’s laws and guidance for mankind. Followers of Islam are called Muslims and the term Muslim means ‘one who submits to God’.
Muslims greet each other by saying ‘Assalam-u-Alaikum’ which translates roughly to ‘peace be upon you’. Like the majority of followers of other religions, the majority of Muslims believe in working towards a just and peaceful world. The Holy Qur’an teaches that God desires for Muslims to elevate peace among human beings through control of negative emotions such as anger and aggression.
The following hadith, which is a recorded saying of the Prophet Muhammad, refers to the importance of spreading peace:
Verily, peace is among the names of God he has placed on the earth, so spread it between yourselves. If a man greets people with peace and they answer him, he is favored a degree over them as he has reminded them. If they do not answer him, he is answered by angels who are better and purer than them.
Clearing the Misconception
A big misconception that people believe is that Muslims are inherently violent and that the Quran instructs Muslims to inflict harm upon non-believers. But this is not true at all! The Quran was sent down to teach all of humanity how to live mercifully with one another, and in this, it includes that one can defend oneself and their family should the threat of harm come to them.
In the 2nd Chapter of the Holy Qur’an, verse 190, God states
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight you, but do not transgress, for Allah does not like transgressors.
This verse directs Muslims to fight those who first instigate a fight, and not to transgress meaning not to oppress another or violate one’s right to life and justice. This verse is referring to when the Muslims agreed with the Arabic tribe of Quraysh (a clan of people who lived in Mecca and used to oppress the Muslims) to complete a pilgrimage in Mecca. They were going into Mecca for Umrah (the less pilgrimage as per Islamic theology) and verses were revealed that the Muslims should not fight with anyone unless in self-defense.
Statistics about violence and extremism
There are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world as of 2015 – roughly 24% of the global population according to a Pew Research Center estimate. But while Islam is currently the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity), it is the fastest-growing of the world’s major religions. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century.
In comparison to the 2000s, there was a sharp decline in the proportion of terrorist attacks carried out by left-wing, environmentalist extremists during the first seven years of the 2010s (from 64% to 12%). At the same time, there was a sharp increase in the proportion of attacks carried out by right-wing extremists (from 6% to 35%) and religious extremists (from 9% to 53%) in the United States. (START)
In conclusion, Islam is a religion that emphasizes peace and the spreading of good will. Islam and its followers are not taught to express extremism but rather to maintain a spiritual balance in their everyday lives. With the abundance of misinformation that continues to exist in our society, it is incumbent upon individuals to learn more about the Islamic faith and the Muslim peoples. If you take the courageous step of moving out of your comfort zone and learning new perspectives on life through a religious and cultural lens different than you own, you will find that Muslims are welcoming and loving people and they will fill your heart with joy and your stomach with amazing food.