Does Islam Encourage Terrorism?

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 the world’s second largest religion and the beliefs of a quarter of humanity.

Works Cited

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

What is Jihad?

Jihad does not mean or imply holy war. In Arabic the word, harb al-muqaddas, would translate to holy war. But no such term actually exists!

Islam does not deem war to ever be holy. The Prophet Muhammad said: “Never wish to meet your enemy [in war], but ask God for safety.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

He also stated: “The most detested of names to God are ‘War’ and ‘Bitterness’.”(Abu Dawud)

The word jihad in Arabic means struggle or striving for something and is used generically as such.

When used as an Islamic technical term, jihad can have the following meanings (in order of priority):

  1. Struggle against the self: meaning personal, inner striving to increase one’s knowledge of Islam, implement it, invite others to it, and bear any hardships one may encounter in calling people to Islam. In addition, any struggle one may undergo in resisting evil inclinations is also included in this category of jihad.

The Prophet himself confirmed this as the “greater jihad” compared to the lesser one on the battlefield.

  1. Strive to improve society.
  2. Struggle, in self-defense, against an invader.
  3. Struggle against oppression, tyranny (if, for example, Muslims aren’t allowed to practice their faith or even for persecuted non-Muslims)

The last two can be undertaken in a variety of ways (i.e. politically, economically, intellectually, etc.), armed combat being only a last resort.

A military struggle officially considered jihad must first be sanctioned by a recognized, legitimate authority or state representing the Muslim community. But there are strict rules limiting the nature of warfare:

“Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress….” (2:190)

Furthermore, the rules of war in Islam are among the strictest and most humane ever:

  • Noncombatants cannot be harmed: women, children, elderly, the ill, servants, monks, etc.
  • Cities cannot be burned or destroyed
  • Churches, synagogues, monasteries cannot be molested
  • Trees cannot be cut down
  • Farms cannot be destroyed
  • Animals cannot be killed (unless for food)

Bodies are not to be mutilated nor prisoners mistreated or tortured (but instead shown some hospitality, if possible). If the enemy offers peace then Muslims are to incline also towards peace:

“But if they incline to peace, then you also incline to it…..” (Qur’an 8:61)

Jihad cannot be conducted to steal resources from others or impose imperialism. Defeated peoples are not to be converted by force.

All these rules are to be taken very seriously—as a matter of one’s faith—, final reckoning for them being with God on the Day of Judgement.

As for modern terrorism, it isn’t categorized as jihad because it deliberately targets non-combatants and is not sanctioned to begin with by a state or recognized authority representing the Muslim community.

Some Muslims do translate the word jihad as holy war, but this is usually just to follow convention in Western literature. In fact, the term and concept of holy war actually come out of Medieval Christendom and European experiences, such as the Crusades. They were inaccurately projected later by Westerners onto Islam.

Religion being associated with war is considered dangerous in Western societies due to the peculiarities of the European experience with Christianity and colonialism. The combination of making armed conflict into something holy and having little to no moral laws governing it made the European version of religiously endorsed war almost synonymous with horrendous brutality and fanatical bigotry. This was in part because Christianity (unlike Islam) has no legal system. Even when modern Western societies introduced more humane, secular laws; they were (and continue to be) frequently ignored. In the heat of conflict, such abstract ideals often have little impact upon the consciences of soldiers and statesmen.

This is why the Islamic approach of regulating warfare with spiritual values on a spiritual society has had a far more positive impact historically.1 For in Islam; following tolerant, humane and just rules of engagement are not just a professional or philosophical ideal, but a religious obligation—connected directly to one’s immediate relationship with God and the fate of one’s eternal soul.


Works Cited


Are Muslim countries innately violent?

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 Qur’an 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 terrible 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 Qur’an 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

Does Islam Oppress Women?

This is one of the most inaccurate myths ever created about Islam. Muslims would respond that it’s not only untrue but that Islam uplifts a woman’s status higher than any other faith or philosophy—both spiritually and in a worldly sense.

In most societies the ideal of life is to gain as much happiness as possible from wealth or power or public praise or sensual/worldly pleasures. It is not surprising that in these cultures women now demand not just equity but absolute,identical equality with men in terms opportunities to pursue these aims. (Yet such identical equality would—even if gradually implemented—still be unfair and inconsiderate to women because they are different from men, with a host of inherently different needs.)

In Islam, however,the ideal of life is completely different. The primary focus of living is for an individual—man or woman—to cultivate a relationship with the Creator.It is from this relationship that one experiences the greatest joy, a sense of purpose, and the drive to live life passionately.

To pursue this Islamic ideal men and women are completely equal:

“For men and women who are devoted to God– believing men and women, obedient

men and women, truthful men and women, steadfast men and women, humble men and

women, charitable men and women, fasting men and women, chaste men and women,

men and women who remember God often– God has prepared forgiveness and a rich

reward.” (Qur’an 33:35)

“And their lord responded to them, ‘Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another….’” (Qur’an 3:195)

The pursuit of wealth, power and praise for their own sake are not permitted in Islam. And though luxury, recreation and sensual pleasures are allowed, they are regulated in a way by which one doesn’t harm the body or others or a person’s potential to grow in his or her relationship with God.

As for roles in society, men and women have equity. First and foremost the genders help each other in getting closer to God and making society more righteous:

“The believing men and believing women are Auliya’ (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and pay the poor-due….” (Qur’an 9:71)

Thus all men and women are to help each other in this pursuit—like a family (which is why Muslims often refer to each other as “brother” and “sister”, even if strangers).

Both genders have certain duties to fulfill in society for God. These may be different for the sexes based on their physical and psychological makeup. Yet once they’ve fulfilled their gender-based responsibilities in a particular field, one sex can operate in the field of the other.

So for example, females are naturally better than males at nurturing, are gentler with children, make better teachers for the young, are better at providing emotional support to a family, more organized and clean, etc. Thus they are assigned the task of raising and educating children, providing emotional stability to a family and encouraged (though not required) to manage a household; men being urged to help them in doing so. In addition, women feel a greater sense of inner satisfaction in these than men.

Males, on the other hand, naturally excel in procuring food, shelter and providing security for the family and society, as they feel an inner sense of fulfillment when doing this.

But once men and women have properly tended to the primary responsibilities of their respective genders, they can help members of the opposite gender to complete their tasks or even take on the roles alone.

So in the case of women, they have the option to support the family financially, but the men must do so. Women have the option to engage in commerce, but the men must do so. Women have the option to contribute to the political administration of society, but the men must do so. Women may be granted the option to fight in a war, but the men must do so.Women have the option to pray publically in the mosque, but the men must do so. Women have the option to become Islamic scholars and preach, but the men must do so.

It seems women actually have the better deal here, as Islam places fewer obligations on women than men. From cradle to grave it is the responsibility of the men of their household or the state to provide for women’s food, shelter and clothing. Yet a woman is not required to contribute anything financially to the household or the children she shares with her husband—regardless of how wealthy she may be.This is why women are often more affluent than men in Islamic societies.

And contrary to popular myth, in Islamic law a girl cannot be forced to marry someone she rejects. There has never been any debate on this matter among Muslim jurists.

Women are also entitled—and in fact highly encouraged—to get an education. Islamic societies have historically produced countless thousands of female scholars1, whereas most if not all other civilizations in the world can claim few if any (including the entire gamut of Western history) till the 20th century.

All this is part of honoring women’s supremely valued status in Islam as bedrocks of the family, as mothers and as the cherishers of the next generation. Indeed, a mother is to be honored far more than a father in lslam (though both are owed tremendous devotion).

These Islamic values are also established to be considerate of women’s gentle, caring nature; an aspect of their special psychology and biology. The Qur’an tells men regarding women, “…live with them in kindness….” (4:19). And the Prophet Muhammad said, “…the best of you are those who are the best to their women….”2Moreover, he specifically warned men regarding their wives, “…do not beat them, and do not revile them.”3

The portrayal of Muslim women by movies and the media as being oppressed is grossly inaccurate and is in fact a peculiarly Western myth. Worse still, the supposed abuse is unjustly blamed on Islamic teachings.

In the current postcolonial era where even among Muslims,Islam is often poorly understood; local culture and ignorance can lead to the treatment of women in un-Islamic ways. But there is no proof that this is essentially worse than in wealthy, educated, secular nations where even if rampant physical/sexual abuse of women, workplace inequality and sexual objectification are ever eliminated; women will still not receive the special care, concern and dignity that Islam offers them.

This is not to mention the especially meaningful life it can provide women (and men); liberated from the enslavement of materialism, physical passions, living to impress others, and the psychological chaos of popular culture.

Islam offers humanity a balanced approach to gender interaction—one which provides spiritual equality among the genders and a caring, considerate equity for women with men in worldly matters.

It will always be a refreshingly unique perspective, promoting genuine concern among men and women for one another’s well-being. 

Works Cited

  1. AkramNadwi, Islamic scholar and former research fellow at Oxford University, discovered over 8,000 female Islamic scholars in the field of Hadith Studies alone, over the course of Muslim history. And there may be many more. This complex field evaluates reports of the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and doings. Moreover, comparable numbers of Muslim women certainly achieved scholarship in other fields as well. See: Nadwi, Akram. Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam, second revised edition, Interface Publications Ltd (2013).
  2. Tirmidhi: sahih
  3. Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah. Al-Albani: sahih

Do Muslims Believe in Jesus?

It is a requirement in Islam to believe in Jesus. Jesus was both a Prophet and a great Messenger of God who brought the Gospel. God in the Qur’an actually tells of miracles Jesus performed (by God’s Power) that are not even mentioned in the Bible. The Qur’an also confirms that Jesus was born to a virgin mother, Mary, and that he is the Messiah.

No other major religion besides Christianity honors Jesus except Islam, and Islam is the only religion that says Jesus was sent by God—not a God himself. Furthermore, Muslims are more observant of Jesus’ own religious traditions, teachings, Biblical law, and the general laws of the Prophets than the majority of Christians and Christian denominations. For example, Muslims are pure monotheists, avoid pork and alcohol, prostrate to God, greet each other with “peace,” fast periodically, practice modesty, etc.

Jesus taught the same message as other Prophets sent by God: worship God alone and follow Divine Prophetic guidance in doing good (i.e. Islam).Yet following his leaving this world, Islam teaches that much of the message of Jesus as well as the Gospel was altered or lost.

Today, many secular and even religious scholars in the West would agree with this. They say the historical Jesus never called on people to worship him. The concept of the Trinity was developed much later, and Jesus preached his message primarily to the Jewish people—not intending to bring a religion to humanity as a whole.

This is what Muslims have said all along.

It is difficult to distinguish in the New Testament what Jesus actually said or even taught from what others later mistakenly attributed to him. Much of the theology and practices of Christianity developed long after Jesus, over centuries.

Muslims therefore rely on revelation from God Himself to understand Jesus. The Qur’an is revelation; but unlike the original Gospel, it has been perfectly preserved and is meant for all humanity. In it, God sets the record straight on Jesus. Here is one example:

“O People of the Book [Jews and Christians]!  Do not exceed the limits in your religion, and attribute to God nothing except the truth.  The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His command that He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him.  So believe in God and in His Messengers, and do not say: ‘God is a Trinity.’ Give up this assertion; it would be better for you.  For God is indeed (the only) One God.  Far be it from His glory that He should have a son.  To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth.  And God is sufficient for a guardian.” (Qur’an 4:171)

What is Sharia Law?

The term “Sharia Law” is not really a Muslim one nor is the concept behind it. In the popular media it refers to certain punishments of Islamic law which are deemed harsh and unnecessary. There are even some in the U.S. who imagine Muslims are trying to abolish the Constitution and legal system of the country and establish “sharia” as the new law of the land.

However these paint a highly distorted picture of sharia and its practitioners.

The Arabic word, shariah, linguistically means a flowing water source or (path to one) that benefits people. Islamically, shariah denotes the guidance God has given to mankind in the form of explanations, prescriptions and commandments. So it essentially refers to the totality of the Islamic faith. (The “law” part of the term “sharia law” is generally not used by Muslims.)

Thus shariah is something that one lives by in his or her day-to-day life as a Muslim. Being friendly to one’s neighbors, showing devotion to one’s parents, helping the poor, treating animals with kindness, praying, fasting, not stealing, not hurting others, etc. are all examples of living the shariah.

The legal aspects of sharia address—in a general way—not only how an individual is to lead his or her personal life but also how a society is to be wisely structured and governed. Laws are thus prescribed for various aspects of social life such as business contracts, inheritance, marriage, etc.

Critics of Islam point to some aspects of the shariah’s penal code—for example,cutting the hand of a thief, stoning for adultery, and execution for rapists—as being too harsh.

But shariah and its few punishments are misunderstood. Here are ten things you didn’t know about the shariah:

  1. Only a tiny portion of the sharia’s specific laws are about punishments, however this is not how it is portrayed. This would be like setting aside the U.S.Constitution, Declaration of Independence, most of the U.S. legal system, and all of America’s cherished values and telling a man from Mars that the U.S. is just about lethal injection and the life-in-prison sentence!
  2. The sharia penal code primarily addresses Muslims in a society that is Islamic—not non-Muslims or a secular non-Muslim country. In a culture where people live the righteous, spiritual and holistic lifestyle that Islam teaches, acts subject to the shariah’s penal code would be uncommon anyway (and even less likely to result in a maximum sentence if convicted). The things that entice one to steal, commit adultery, rape, murder, etc. are preventatively eliminated in a shariah-based culture, so the occurrence of such sins is greatly minimized except among those who are absolutely adamant, criminal or brazen in their conduct.
  3. The few strong punishments of the sharia penal code are primarily meant to be psychological deterrents—not fervidly enforced. For example, one of the requirements for stoning of adulterers is to produce four credible witnesses who actually saw the male organ completely enter the female’s. This alone is almost impossible. What makes it even less likely to get four witnesses(or even one) is that the shariah makes it illegal to spy on people in their homes—even if it is well known that such sins are being committed at a particular residence.The government too is banned from investigating people’s domestic privacy for any reason except imminent danger to public safety. Thus for adulterers to actually get themselves stoned, they would have to flagrantly do the act out in the open.So sins done in private are not subject to legal punishment. The shariahsimply tries to scare people away from doing such things publically.
  4. A thief’s hand may be cut if he repeats the act after being caught and warned two or three times. But the property stolen must be over a certain value. Stealing food to eat is not punished by amputation. So this punishment is primarily aimed at career criminals.
  5. Judges must go out of their way to actually find excuses for the defendant to not be punished or to be given a lighter sentence—even if they believe him or her to be guilty.The judge can actually play the role of the suspect’s attorney!He or she follows in the footsteps of the Prophet, searching for any sort of excuse for the defendant, including ignorance of the law or a multitude of doubts about the case which could result in acquittal or a lighter sentence.Thus, the sharia punishments are not frequently carried out in a true Islamic society. For instance, the Ottoman Empire—one of the largest in history, covering three continents and countless nationalities—only implemented stoning for adultery once in 500 years!
  6. If a person faces the death penalty for murder, the family of the victim decides whether to allow the execution or to forgive and accept monetary compensation instead. Islam encourages forgiveness and a shariah-inspired society itself serves as rehab for the criminal.
  7. Honor killings are not part of the shariah.
  8. There are no Muslim countries where shariah is the law of the land. Most have only elements of the shariah mixed with post-colonial and contemporary secular Western laws. This makes it unfair to judge the shariah and the Islamic legal system it inspired with random news reports about stonings, honor killings and the like.
  9. The claim that Muslims are trying to impose “sharia law” on America is ridiculous because, as mentioned above, the shariah is for Muslims in an Islamic The U.S. is predominantly non-Muslim and obviously not an Islamic society. Many American Muslims may indeed want “sharia” consideration for their holidays, daily prayers at work, rules of inheritance, etc. But this would be within the existing legal framework.
  10. The shariah instructs Muslims to obey whatever the laws of their land are. It doesn’t matter if the society has a non-Islamic legal system. The only exception to this is if a law compels a Muslim to disobey the shariah. But in most societies—especially where there is freedom of religion—this is not an issue.

What’s the difference between Sunni’s and Shiites?

The word Sunni refers to one who follows the Sunnah (i.e. ways and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad). Shiite (Arabic: Shi’a) means partygroup or supporters. After the Prophet Muhammad’s death, a few felt leadership of the community (caliphate) should always come from the Prophet’s family, beginning with his cousin Ali.

Though Ali himself is thought to have shared this opinion, he gave his support and maintained his love for other leaders (even naming two sons after the first two caliphs). As the decades passed, however, a few individuals from the outer territories of the early Muslim state began a political movement urging the caliphate of Ali (though Ali himself was not affiliated with them).

Thisshi’a (party)soon developed an ideology which, over generations, evolved into a theology quite different from the doctrines of the mainstream Muslim community. Several sects within Shiism also emerged over time.

However, Shiites claim there was a grand conspiracy against Ali and his family by nearly the entire Muslim community and that the true teachings of Islam have been suppressed from the world by Sunnis. Among these teachings, they maintain, is the concept of Imamate wherein Ali and anointed Imams of his lineage were assigned a special role in Islam by God and the Prophet. The Imams are also believed to possess supernatural powers.

Sunnis deny all this as absurd and lacking in any historical or scriptural evidence.

The differences between Sunnis and Shiites extend to fundamental issues of creed as well as significant differences in law and even religious rituals. The two attend separate mosques (except for the holy mosques in Mecca and Medina), do not usually pray together and generally do not intermarry.

Sunni’s make up over 90% of the Muslim population worldwide. Most of the rest is considered Shiite. Various sects of Shiites are found in many parts of the Muslim world; but the most numerous are the Twelvers who are concentrated in Iran, the largest majority Shiite country.

(This site takes a Sunni perspective.)