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The name of Allah in the Hagia Sophia,Wikipedia Turkey.
Islam is often seen as a monolith, when it is as diverse as any other tradition, with followers running the gamut from modernizers to traditionalists. Some commentators talk as if the world of Islam was more or less identical with the Arab world — whereas in fact a majority of Muslims are not native Arabic speakers... Stereotypes also depict Muslims as opposed to the West, despite a history not only of conflict but also of commerce and cooperation, and of influencing and enriching each other's art and science. European civilization would not have advanced to the extent it did had Christian scholars not benefited from the learning and literature of Islam in the Middle Ages, and later.
—Kofi Annan, seventh Secretary General of the United Nations, 2004.[1]
If the people of this religion are asked about the proof for the soundness of their religion, they flare up, get angry and spill the blood of whoever confronts them with this question. They forbid rational speculation, and strive to kill their adversaries. This is why truth became thoroughly silenced and concealed.
—Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi[2]
Party Like It's 632
Icon islam.svg
Turning towards Mecca

Islam (Arabic: اَلْإِسْلَامُ)‎, is chronologically the third major monotheistic Abrahamic religion. It is the second-largest religion in the world after Christianity, with an estimated number of 1.8 billion followers (known as Muslims) worldwide.[3] Islam was founded by Muhammad (c. 570 CE - c. 632 CE), whom his followers regard as the last divine prophet and who relayed the text of the Qur'an, which believers in Islam see as the authentic and final revelation of God (Arabic: Allah); Muhammad later became a powerful military leader whose followers spread Islam across the Middle East[4] and southern Asia.

There is no central religious authority in Islam; the two most widespread sects are Shi'a and Sunni, but many other forms are practiced worldwide. Most Muslims follow the 5 basic tenets of their religion, known as the Five Pillars of Islam. They also obey particular dietary rules, known as halal, and other restrictions on behavior, including a set of rules for women and restrictions on depicting God, Mohammed, and often living creatures. More controversially, many Muslims feel duty-bound to spread their religion: a prominent concept is Jihad, a pious struggle which can take many forms, ranging from intellectual, social, and economic efforts to holy war.[5]

In Arabic, "Islam" means "submission" (root word aslama — "submits"[6]; compare also the common root word for as-salamu alaykum, Arabic greeting meaning "peace be upon you"). Some argue that if the root word is the same, then the meaning is also the same, and claim that since salam means peace, Islam means "peace through submission" (to God, specifically), as it descends etymologically from the root word aslama, meaning "submission"; therefore, a Muslim is "one who has submitted to (or made peace with) God".[citation needed] However, the root word being the same does not necessarily mean that the meaning is the same, hence "Islam" most plausibly means just submission [to God].[7][better source needed]

Historically, English-speakers long referred to Islam as Mohammadanism or Mahometanism; politically correct circles now consider this an insult since it implies worship of Mohammed, as Christians worship Christ. Islamic belief goes the other way, denying the divinity of Christ, though they do revere him as a prophet.

Mussulman and Moslem are also old words for a Muslim; again, these are no longer used in English, but equivalent terms remain in common use in other European languages (such as Portuguese, Russian, and French) and in Indic languages (such as Urdu, Hindi, and Gujarati). Islam's pejorative term for non-Muslims is "Kaffirs", which means "Deniers of truth".

Islam is particularly controversial in the West, hated by a section of the population, because of 9/11 and because of the rise of Islamism, the idea that Islam should be a political system with control over most elements of society, and the use of Islamic terrorism to establish a wholly Islamic society (often conflated by anti-Muslims with Sharia law, which is a more general term for any Islamic jurisprudence). Whether or not to classify violent holy warriors like Osama bin Laden (1957–2011) as "true Muslims" remains a matter for debate among Muslim scholars. This is a common problem with many other religions that preach peace and harmony, yet frequently have violent histories and theology.


Eid prayers at Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan.
[R]ighteous is he who believes in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and the Scripture, and the prophets. Who gives money, though dear, to near relatives, and orphans, and the needy, and the homeless, and the beggars, and for the freeing of slaves; those who perform the prayers, and pay the obligatory charity, and fulfill their promise when they promise, and patiently persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and in the time of conflict.
Qur'an 2:177.


Muslims believe in one god, whom they call Allah. Islam's god is (generally) the same deity as the one in Judaism and Christianity; Allah is merely the Arabic word for 'God'. We say "generally" because an issue arises in the fact that Christians believe in the Trinity, and Muslims emphatically do not because it clashes with their concept of absolute monotheism.[8]

The nature of Allah/God is the defining doctrine of Islam. Called the tawḥīd or "tawhid" (Arabic: توحيد‎), the doctrine declares that God is the single, whole, and unique creator and sustainer of the universe.[9] It comes from sura 112 of the Quran, stating "He is God—One and Indivisible; God—the Sustainer ˹needed by all˺. He has never had offspring, nor was He born. And there is none comparable to Him."[10]

Muslims typically view Allah as an absolute power, to the point where they attribute all good and bad things in the universe to Him and focus on their sincere acceptance of this absolute control.[11] Since nothing can happen without Allah's say-so, Muslims often say in sha' allah (God willing) when making plans, speculations, or predictions.[12]

Allah's absolute supremacy is also constantly affirmed by another common Muslim saying, the Takbir, "Allahu akbar" (Arabic: ٱللَّٰهُ أَكْبَرُ).[13] The takbir is a reminder that Allah is greater than all things, and it's said during prayers, festivals, and in certain social situations of either distress or joy.

Iman (belief in the six articles of faith)[edit]

Ilkhanate Iranian depiction of Muhammad's first revelation from the angel Jibril.

Along with the tawhid, Islamic theology generally centers around six articles of faith, one's belief in which is called iman (إِيمَان). According to the Quran, iman must be combined with righteous deeds in order for one to enter Paradise.[14] The six articles are:

  • Acceptance of the tawhid, or the oneness and supremacy of God.
  • Belief in angels (Arabic: ملاًئِكة malā'ikah, "messengers"). Angels are a central part of the Islamic religion, with the Archangel Gabriel, or Jibril, being the one who gave Muhammad the first revelation.[15] According to Islam, there are millions of angels which God uses as intermediaries when interacting with humans, since God is apparently too good for that kind of busywork.[16] They are explicitly not God's helpers, since God doesn't need no damn helpers.
  • Belief in the Revelations. Muslims believe that their special book, the Quran, was revealed verbatim to Muhammad by God's angels. They also notably accept earlier revelations as well, such as the Torah revealed to Moses, the Psalms revealed to King David, and the Gospel revealed to Jesus.[16] Muslims believe that their book, however, is the most up-to-date.
  • Belief in God's prophets. According to Islam, God has sent a great number of prophets to aid humanity when they went astray. Prophets named in the Quran include some names that might be familiar to Christians, including Abraham (ʾIbrāhīm), Moses (Mūsā), Job (ʾAyyūb), and Jesus (Īsā).[16] (Wikipedia has a full list if you're interested for some reason[17]). Yes, contrary to what some dumbass Christian fundamentalists might think, you actually can't be a Muslim without following Jesus. Muslims, though, believe Jesus was just a very special prophet and not the Son of God, and Muslims believe that Jesus was taken into Paradise directly by God rather than being crucified.[16][18] The most important prophet in Islam, though, is Muhammad, who Muslims believe presented the most recent and most important revelations.
  • Belief in Judgement Day, which Muslims call Yawm al-Qiyāmah, or the "Day of Resurrections." On Resurrection Day, Muslims believe that God will raise every human being from the dead in a very literal sense and then give all of us our final judgements on whether we go to Heaven or Hell for eternity.[19]
  • Belief in predestination. Since God is omniscient, Muslims take a similar view to Calvinists in believing that God already knows who will go to heaven or hell and indeed knows everything that will happen period.[20] This somehow also doesn't interfere will free will.

The Five Pillars[edit]

The concept of "Five Pillars" in Islam does not occur in Qur'an, but only in hadith.[21]

Islam (i.e., the Qur'an, plus Hadiths) has five core pillars, which are considered to be vitally important parts of Islam. All Muslims are expected to follow them, and both Sunnis and Shias agree on the essential details of carrying out the five pillars.[22]

Shahada (Profession of Faith)[edit]

The shahada inscribed at Istanbul's Topkapı Palace.

The Shahada (Arabic: ٱلشَّهَادَةُ) is a simple declaration that one accepts the tawhid, or the oneness of God. It is normally said in Arabic: " lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāhu muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh (لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا الله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله), meaning "There is no god but God (and) Muhammad is the messenger of God." In order to be considered a Muslim, one must recite and truly believe the shahada at least once in a lifetime.[23] Muslims also believe that reciting the shahada as their last words before death are promised to enter Paradise.

Once a convert has professed their faith, they cannot change their mind and take it back without being considered an apostate by the Muslim community. Many Muslim scholars believe that the punishment for apostasy should be death,[24] and such death penalties are imposed in a number of Islamic countries, including Pakistan[25] and Saudi Arabia.[26]

The shahada is, however, often spoken into the ear of newborn babies as both a blessing and a proxy oath.[27] The five daily Muslim prayers also include recitations of the shahada, so practicing Muslims are pretty much guaranteed to hit that once-a-lifetime quota. Still, the person's true belief in the phrase is what matters, far more so than than the phrase itself.[28]

Saudi Arabia's national flag notably has the shahada as its central design.[29] Yes, that's what that writing means.

Salah (prayer)[edit]

Lt. Asif I Balbale of the US Marine Corps leads Afghans in their final prayer of the day.

Prayer must be performed five times per day for Muslims. In Muslim-majority areas, the prayer times will be announced by a muezzin who will sing the call to prayer known as the adhān.[30] They're picked carefully for the quality of their character and their voices, and good ones can put on a very beautiful performance. In Turkey, there's an annual competition for the most talented muezzin.[31]

The five prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and after dark. Luckily, God is apparently a reasonable fella, so the five daily prayers can be waived or modified during special times like war, travel, or illness.[32] Private prayers are appreciated, but public worship in a mosque is generally preferred by Muslims due to the unity and community found in public practice.[32]

Salah is led by an imam, and Muslims perform a ritual cleansing called wudu prior to beginning their prayers.[33] When they enter the mosque, Muslims remove their shoes and sit on the floor facing the qiblah or prayer wall, which faces them in the direction of the Kaaba shrine at Mecca. Each prayer consists of a series of prostrations and is divided into a number of sections called Raka'ah. Each raka'ah includes recitations from the Qur'an including Al-Fatihah, the first sura. Prayers are made during the dawn, early afternoon, late afternoon, evening, and night-time and are of prescribed lengths. The dawn prayer is 2 Raka'ah, the early afternoon and late afternoon prayers are 4 Raka'ah, the evening prayer is 3 Raka'ah, and the night-time prayer is 4 Raka'ah. This becomes impossible once you are around Arctic and Antarctic poles, where morning and nights can last for months. The Qur'an is ambivalent on the existence of such poles. It is also impossible in outer space.[34]

Muslims aren't unreasonable about things, though, and public prayer rituals are altered for major events. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, major Muslim mosques around the world took necessary but unhappy steps such as closing down and telling Muslims to pray at home or else simply banning prayer in close groups.[35]

Zakat (charity)[edit]

The third pillar involves donating a portion of their incomes to charity. Typically, a Muslim gives 2.5% of their accumulated wealth (or savings) to charities, often organized through local mosques; however, it is becoming acceptable to bypass the mosque's role as a middleman to charities and donate directly to the charity.[36] Faithful Muslims believe that it is the responsibility of all to help the needy and reduce economic inequality.[37] It's a much nicer belief and practice than American-style "fuck you, I got mine" capitalism.

Also important is sadaqah, which is an act of voluntary charity which goes beyond the zakat and brings one closer to God.[38] Charities around the world exist for sadaqah, including in the United States.[39] Acts of service (basically being a nice person), as Muhammad is stated to have said "It is also charity to utter a good word."[40][41]

Sawm (fasting)[edit]

Malaysians celebrating Eid ul-Fitr.

The fourth pillar stresses fasting during the month of Ramadan. During this month, which rotates throughout the year due to the fact that the Islamic calendar is lunar, Muslims must abstain from food, drink (including water), smoking, and sexual intercourse from sunrise (specifically when a thread of light can be discerned from the darkness) to sunset. The goal of the fast, as with most ascetic pursuits, is to rid oneself of material concerns and to bring oneself closer to God. Women who are pregnant or menstruating, those who are ill or elderly, and pre-pubescent children are exempt from the need to fast. It is worth noting that during Ramadan, life typically flips around: people sleep during the day and at night wake up to do normal life.[42]

Luckily, there is some flexibility. Muslims who are physically or mentally unwell may be excused from some or all parts of the fast, as are children under twelve, the very old, people travelling, and women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or menstruating.[43] Adults who take the exemption are expected to either make it up later or donate extra to charity.

Muslims are meant to participate in the fast in order to build self-discipline, practice obedience to God, and experience empathy for the starving poor.[43] At the end of the fast, Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, a festival which celebrates the end of the fast and thanks God for helping Muslims through it.[44] Presumably quite hungry at this point, Muslims partake in a daytime feast with friends and family.

Hajj (pilgrimage)[edit]

The Kaaba in Mecca. Quite the popular travel destination.
See the main article on this topic: Hajj

A pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca during the month of Dhul-Hijah. Every Muslim must make the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime so long as they are financially able and so long as their absence won't place hardship on their family.[45] Hajj al-badal, or Hajj by proxy, is an option for those who are unable to make the journey themselves, although Muslims greatly frown on appointing someone to take your place if you are capable of going yourself.[46]

Once approaching the city of Mecca, Muslims wear white sheets in order to make them more uniform in appearance and attempt to eliminate class differences. During the Hajj, Muslims partake in certain rituals meant to evoke the actions of Muhammad. They circumambulate the Kaaba or "House of Allah", a practice that earlier pagans also used to perform, and then they walk seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah (where Hagar searched for water for her baby Ishmael), travel to Mt. Arafat (where Muhammad delivered his Farewell Sermon), and symbolically stone the devil.

Unfortunately, the meaning of the Hajj has been undermined somewhat since the Saudi Arabian government has taken control. Although all pilgrims of the hajj are supposed to be equal according to Muhammad's vision, better tents cost more, and the truly rich get to stay in the glitzy hotels that directly overlook the Grand Mosque; the poor meanwhile trudge through garbage-filled areas to buy from open air markets and sleep in ramshackle structures.[47] Admittance used to be just $800, but it's now gone up via mandatory travel packages ranging between $1,000 to $20,000 depending on distance while fees for even basic accommodations can go as high as $7,000 once the Saudis are done nickel-and-diming you.[48] Mecca is now a glittering skyline of skyscrapers, shopping malls[49] and luxury hotels, including a massive Big Ben-like clock tower that looms over the main mosque of Mecca.[50] What was that religious story about offending God with a big tower? There's even a freaking KFC.[51]


Reciting the Quran for Ramadan in Iran.

The holy text of Islam is the Qur'an, which Muslims treat as the revealed word of Allah. Muslims believe that the angel Gabriel transmitted its verses to Muhammad, Allah's final prophet. Muhammad, who was illiterate, dictated the revelations to his followers. The followers eventually compiled these teachings, both written and transmitted orally, to form the Qur'an. Muslims regard Muhammed as the chief and final prophet.

The sunnah, or recorded practices of the Prophet as passed down in books of hadith (literally: "news"), clarify the practices of Islam, and are nearly as important to the practice of the religion as the Qur'an itself (except for Quranists.Wikipedia) The Sunni hadith collections are called the Kutub al-Sittah (the six books), the Shi'a hadith collections are called the Kutub al-Arba'a (the four books). Ibadis have their own hadiths, in particular the Jami Sahih. Although Muslims do not regard Jesus Christ as the son of Allah, he functions as an historically important Islamic prophet, ranking as a precursor to Muhammad and helping prepare the world for the "final revelation". Additionally, Muslims believe that Jesus will return at the end of times.[citation needed]

One issue that Islam struggles with that other religions do not is that it has a policy of abrogation,[52] wherein later revelations can supersede earlier ones.[53] Most of Muhammad's more peaceful pronouncements came from earlier revelations [during the early Mecca period — when Muslims were weaker], and the more warlike revelations came after [Medina period, after 622 — when Muslims gained military strength], so unfortunately Salafism and other militant interpretations of the Qur'an are consistent with this policy, and also with Muhammad's own actions — several hadiths and Quranic verses tell of him taking part in raids during the war periods.[citation needed]

Schisms and denominations[edit]

Phylogeny of Islamic denominations and schools of thought.
Islamic schoolsWikipedia by general area of influence.
"Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects — you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah; then He will inform them about what they used to do."
Qur'an 6:159

A literal reading of Qur'an and hadiths would lead to a conclusion that only one Islam is legitimized under its theology. Hadith Abu Dawood 4597[54] stated that there will be 73 sects, and only 1 of them will go to Heaven, and rest will go to Hell. Therefore, the existence of differences among Muslims is not necessarily a proof of Islamic theological pluralism.

There are many different denominations within Islam,[55] but the two most notable groups within modern Islam are the Sunni and the Shi'a. The schism between the Sunni and Shi'a is akin to the schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches — it is interesting that both splits occurred as a result of power struggles, personality clashes, and theological differences. Before dying, Muhammad did not make clear instructions as to how the caliphs were to be elected, and the Qur'an does not have such instructions either. It is ambivalent on that account, despite Qur'an claiming that "… We [Allah] have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything." Qur'an 16:89[56]

Muhammad's cousin Ali was expected by some followers, the party of Ali (Shiat Ali), to be his successor in the fledgling Rashidun Caliphate. Instead, Muhammad's companion Abu Bakr became the first Caliph from 632 to 634. He died of natural causes in 634, but his reign was mostly marked by a fight against 'Ridah', or apostasy, in the form of tax collection (Zakat was collected by the government at the time). After him came Omar, from 634 to 644, who called himself the 'Commander of the Faithful', tying the Church and military together. The third Caliph was Uthman, from 644 to 656, and who called himself 'Caliphate Allah' (lit. the Successor to God). Uthman was 'elected' through a quid pro quo style election in which he made promises to families with lots of power and money, and he is hated by the people. Uthman today is a major source of contention with Islam because late into his reign, he collected all copies of the Qur'an and burned those not exactly like his. Typically, it is considered that A) he did it or B) the people hated him so much that they just pinned the event onto him. He was murdered in 656. Finally, as the fourth caliph, Ali took his place, and reigned from 656 to 661. It is worth mentioning that Ali refused the title of caliph because he regarded it as tainted by Uthman. After that, the murder of Ali's son Husayn solidified the schism. Ali was later killed in a fight with the Kharijites, lead by Mu'awiyah, and with his death, the golden age of Islam is considered over.

Within and around these groups there are other subsets of Islam. Among these is Sufism, which is generally thought of as an ascetic spiritual movement similar in philosophy to Buddhism, but could be as fundamentalist as Salafism and Wahhabism, as Hassan Al Bana, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a Sufi. Druze, Yazidism, and Ba'hai are offshoots of Islam, though not traditionally considered to be included within the Islamic faith, but as independent religions.

  • Shi'a/Shi'ites, who represent about 10-20% of Muslims globally,[57][58] believe that the prophet Muhammad appointed Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor. Shi'a prefer hadiths attributed to the Ahlul Bayt (the prophet's family) and close associates. Shi'as consider the city of Karbala holy.
  • Sunnis are about 87-90% of the global Muslim population.[57] They consider Abu Bakr to be Muhammad's legitimate successor. There are four major schools of legal interpretation among Sunnis; Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali, and Shafi'i. They make up roughly 80+% of the world's Muslims.[58] Sunni beliefs are typically based on the Qur'an and the Kutub al-Sittah (the six books of hadith). The Kutub al-Sittah consists of Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan al-Sughra, Sunan Abu Dawood, Jami al-Tirmidhi, and Sunan ibn Majah. Sunnis are sometimes called Bukharists.
  • Sufism is a pan-denominational movement which promotes "Islamic mysticism". It's unpopular with non-Sufis, as the movement emphasizes personal faith over legalism, contemplation over action, and development of the soul over social interaction.[59] Sufis have come under attack from Islamic extremists because their focus on introspection and their reverence towards saints are considered heretical in some circles.[60] Sufism is also more popular in some regions (such as Senegal, where more than 95% of the Muslims in the country belong to a Sufi brotherhood)[61] than others.
  • Ahmadiyya is a reformist denomination founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed in 1889, who called himself subordinate prophet within Islam, and is considered to be the Mahdi.[62] Their motto is "love for all; hatred for none."[63] Mainstream Muslims reject Ahamadiyya as heresy because they view Muhammad as the last prophet of Islam and Ahmed as a pretender.[62]
  • Ahl al-Quran, also known as Quraniyoon, is an Islamic denomination that generally rejects the authoritative nature of hadith collections, and considers the Qur'an to be the only dependable religious text.
  • Nondenominational Muslims are those who do not follow a particular branch and simply call themselves "Muslim".[citation NOT needed]
  • Ibadi is a very small branch of Islam with only 3 million followers that is only dominant in Oman.[64] Ibadism developed out of the Seventh Century Khawarij sect; nowadays their theology is characterized by a more accommodating attitude towards the "corrupt monotheist", a rejection of the physical nature of God, and a rejection of the need for an overall leader of the Islamic faith.[65]
  • Alawites are an off-shoot of the Shi'a movement which deifies Ali (regarding him as incarnation of God), Muhammad's son-in-law, and considers the Five Pillars of Islam to be symbolic and non-mandatory. They also do not recognize the prohibition on alcohol.[66][67]They, allegedly, have their own scripture. The Assad dynasty in Syria is Alawite, and their harsh rule over the country's Sunni majority helped feed the tensions that led to that country's civil war.[68]
  • The Nation of Islam is a US-based organization which blends elements of Islamic teaching with elements of liberation theology and black nationalism.[69] Originally, the movement held its founder, Wallace D. Fard, as the Mahdi, though since the late 1970s it has largely reintegrated with mainstream Sunni Islam. Louis Farrakhan, a prominent minister within the movement, rejected this reintegration and led a schism of the organization, retaining the Nation of Islam name but introducing huge amounts of antisemitism along with the study of Dianetics.[70]
  • 5-percenters self-identify as Muslims and follow the Five-Percent Nation, which holds that black people are the original humans and that Islam is a way of life, not just a religion.[71] Their name comes from the idea that 10% of the world are the elites who keep the 85% ignorant while the remaining 5% are those who seek to spread the truth.[71]
  • Liberal Reformist, refers to many movements of Islamic modernists and progressives who seek to reform the religion in a more liberal or progressive direction. Some argue the religion has been traditionally interpreted in a conservative manner and isn't inherently conservative while others argue, according to Postmodernist thinking, that the Qur'an, like any religious scripture, is so vague it can be interpreted in endless varieties. Note there is no unified group representing this denomination. Rather, it's made up of many individuals and organizations. A modern example would be Muslims for Progressive Values, an organization that uses Islamic history and scripture to argue for progressive positions such as interfaith marriage and LGBT rights. Conservative and traditionalist Muslims, in addition to other critics, argue that these movements often ignore the Hadith (in which many of traditional Islam's more rigid social positions are found), support positions that are clearly against Islamic teachings, or whitewash Islam to fit a liberal agenda.

Muhammad's theological importance and hadiths[edit]

The gates of the Prophet's MosqueWikipedia in Medina. It says, "Muhammad the Apostle of God."

In Islam, Muhammad is the ideal human being, for all times, greater than all other prophets [Jesus, Abraham etc.], and an example for all Muslims to emulate. He is the last prophet sent by God to mankind, the Qur'an being the last book, which contains solutions to all problems humans have/will have/can have, ever.

After Muhammad, no more prophets will be sent, and no other further revelations from God will be made. Muhammad was the source on how Islam is to be followed, and what a verse actually means.

This necessitated that the hadiths [which were not codified until 200 years after Muhammad's death], as the Qur'an by itself lacks context and chronology.

According to critics, this leads to an inherent problem within Islamic theology. As the Qur'an claims that it was revealed because earlier messages [the Bible and Torah] were corrupted by fallible humans and that only the Qur'an is protected by Allah from corruption,[72] Hadiths have no such protection and were recorded and transmitted by fallible humans, and hence are possibly as erroneous as the Bible and Torah. However, without hadiths, the Qur'an would lose all context and chronology, and Islam's five pillars of support would also be lost.

This is a point of endless conflict between Quranists and non-Quranists [Quran + Hadiths]. Liberal reformers do not consider it a problem, as per them, "Islam is whatever you think it is".

Social mores[edit]

Islamic calligraphy decorates the Hagia Sofia. Not bad.

Muslims also adhere to a number of dietary and behavioral rules, including prohibitions on eating unclean meat like pork[73] and never consuming alcohol, and maintaining certain standards of cleanliness.

A related concept is Taqiyya, an allowance for Muslims to conceal their religious beliefs during times of persecution, such as the Spanish Inquisition, though it has also been practiced by Shi'a facing persecution at the hands of Sunni Muslims. Some non-Muslims believe that it really means that you can pretend to have peaceful viewpoints while secretly harboring extremist ones. This has unfortunately been used to validate persecution of Muslims by Islamophobes.

Making artworks depicting God's creations is seen as a form of idolatry and as such is strictly forbidden by certain hadiths. Hence traditional Islamic art very rarely depicts people, and seldom animals, but focuses instead on geometric patterns, calligraphy and non-pictorial decoration. Not all Muslims believe this due to varying interpretations of the hadiths, while some believe only making 3D models is haram. Most Islamic art depicting humans or animals most likely came from Persia, as Persian traditions of paintings depicting humans sometimes won out over an artist's religious beliefs. The vast majority of devout Muslims hold that images of the prophet Muhammad to be particularly blasphemous, though there is no evidence in the hadiths that confirms this. Because of all this, the most important aspects of Islamic art include architecture, such as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, intricate geometric patterns, and calligraphy.

Some Muslims, mostly Salafi, believe it is forbidden to play or listen to musical instruments, due to it being a "distraction" or supposedly "Satanic" noises made by instruments,[74] basing this on a hadith. Many believe music with instruments is okay as long as it's not mixed with lewd content.[75] Despite the common viewpoint against it, listening to music with instruments is widely accepted in Islamic countries, even Saudi Arabia to a certain extent.[note 1]


See the main article on this topic: Alcohol
O you who believe! Do not approach the prayer while you are drunk, so that you know what you say…
Qur'an 4:43

The position of Alcohol within Islam is not as simple as many people think. Wine was grown and enjoyed in parts of Arabia before the advent of Islam. The Koran has varying views on wine, but the final chronological statement on alcohol is regarded by most modern Muslims and the final word on the topic:[76]

O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling, idolatry, and divination are abominations of Satan's doing. Avoid them, so that you may prosper. Satan wants to provoke strife and hatred among you through intoxicants and gambling, and to prevent you from the remembrance of God, and from prayer. Will you not desist?
Qur'an 5:90-91

Notably, the passage only said to avoid alcohol, not that it was forbidden outright (haram), so Islamic scholars have at times argued over whether this was a strict prohibition or not.[76]

There was a syncretic schism of the Shia branch of Islam known as the QarmatiansWikipedia (or Carmathians) (c. 900-1077) who actually embraced alcohol consumption, and were notorious for their sacking of Mecca and theft of the black stone from the Kaaba.[77]:74 During the Middle Ages "Muslim science" made advances while European science largely languished in protoscience and pseudoscience. Jabir ibn HayyanWikipedia (a.k.a. Geber) (c. 721–c. 815) is regarded as the father of modern chemistry; among other advances, he developed the process of distillation (which Aristotle had previously worked out in principle but not in practice).[77]:71-72 Later, the Persian polymath Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-RaziWikipedia (854–925) discovered alcohol (Arabic etymology: الكحل‎, al-kuḥl) by using the distillation process.[77]:72 The physician Al-ZahrawiWikipedia (936–1013), who lived where alcohol was forbidden was nonetheless perhaps the first person to describe some of the health effects of excessive drinking (convulsions, apoplexy, dementia, paralysis, gout, and liver disease).[77]:72

During the Middle Ages, some prominent Muslims (e.g., AvicennaWikipedia (c. 930–1037), Omar KhayyamWikipedia (1048–1131) and AverroesWikipedia (1126–1198)) argued that wine could be beneficial, at least under some circumstances.[77]:72-73 Caliphs were known at this period to hold impressive drinking parties,[76] and it was also a period of Islamic wine poetry, most notably by Abu Nuwas.Wikipedia[78]

Many modern Muslims do drink. For example, the CEO of the Murree BreweryWikipedia of Pakistan guessed that 99% of his domestic customers were Muslim (at least in part because 97% of Pakistan is Muslim).[79]

Islam, politics and Arab identity[edit]

Population percentage of Muslims per nation.

The fact that Islam arose in the Arabian peninsula and that translations of the Qur'an are considered to be less faithful than the original Arabic text means that Islam has become largely associated with Arab culture. Insistence on the infallibility of the Qur'an and the fallibility of humans give theological support to perspective that all translations are necessarily prone to errors. The Arabic association can lead to nationalistic tendencies within the Arab world being blended with, and indeed disguised as, expressions of Islamic faith; believers are duped, with the promise of a glorious martyrdom, into serving nationalist causes, often violently. This is consistently demonstrated by Al Qaeda and other militant groups; a fundamental reason for their existence is to protest perceived imperialism and aggression by Western governments in the Middle East. Seen as particularly offensive is Western support for the nation of Israel, and to a lesser degree, other non-democratic, secular, corrupt, and oppressive regimes in oil-rich nations, especially pre-revolutionary Iran. Al Qaeda made no objection to the non-democratic and oppressive (but Sharia-based) regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

This philosophy has translated even to non-Arab Muslim extremists, such as those active in Kashmir, southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Almost invariably, statements from Islamic militants are in Arabic, regardless of their background. Perhaps because of this, being "Muslim" is often viewed as no different from being "Arab" in the mindsets of many people throughout the (non-Arab) world despite the fact that the largest Muslim populations in the world are not ethnically Arabs. Interestingly, Heinrich Himmler of the Nazi SS was a supporter of Islam[80] — particularly extreme Islam, as he thought it engendered a warrior spirit — and he recruited Bosnian Muslims, Arabs, and Indians into the 'racially pure' SS.

Since Mohammad's day, Islam retains a strong element of tribalism, particularly the use of loyalty oaths to living persons, and a theological dichotomy between Muslims and non-Muslims. The separation is heavily and repeatedly referred to in Qur'an, and it is almost practically impossible to turn to a random chapter in the Qur'an and find nothing disparaging or demonizing said about Kuffars/non-Muslims.

Islamic law and statehood[edit]

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

Literal reading of Islam, as well as its application by Muhammad, shows a necessary overlap between state and religion.

"Legislation is not but for Allah."[81][82]

An increasing number of nations use Islamic law[citation needed] as the entire or partial basis of their legal systems; states governed entirely by religion in this way are known as theocracies. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-majority country.[83] Islamic theocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Iran have been sharply criticized by human rights advocates for their cruel and illiberal treatment of women, homosexuals (who are sometimes executed),[84] and "apostates" (ex-Muslims).

Sharia is Islamic law, based on the teachings of the Qur'an and other texts regarded as sacred, such as the hadith. Most sharia deals with aspects of the social contract, though treatment of crime and punishment is also covered. Interpretations of Sharia vary widely, and some of the stricter variants, enforced in the fundamentalist Islamic states of the Middle East can involve brutal punishments for crimes such as sodomy (homosexuality), adultery, and fornication (premarital sex). In some countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, victims of rape have been punished as adulterers or fornicators when they have been unable to prove rape charges; this has obviously had the effect of discouraging women from filing rape charges with police.

Muslims also follow rulings from various schools of Islamic jurisprudence called fatwas. Though the term fatwa has come to be synonymous with declarations of war by some extremists within Islam (leading to a certain amount of envy from fundamentalist Christians who wish they could pronounce death sentences on anyone they disagree with rather than settling for mere imprecatory prayer), a fatwa can be issued by Islamic scholars on issues as simple as questions regarding conduct in daily life. Fatwas are not legally enforced and can be simply refuting another fatwa or Islamic viewpoint.

Jihad: Crusade and/or puritanism[edit]

The early Islamic conquests.

Another highly disputed concept in Islam is jihad, which has often come to be synonymous with the concept of war waged by Muslims against the Western world. The misunderstanding occurs because the only jihad that affects non-Muslims is the lesser jihad.

Theologically, jihad has two meanings. The greater jihad is the struggle to improve one's self and one's society (read: "become better Muslims"). The lesser jihad is against the enemies of Islam, and can be violent or non-violent, as well as aggressive or defensive. In all history, it was used to expand as well as defend the Islamic state under order of the caliph. Muhammad engaged in both aggressive and defensive jihad.

"It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion, although those who associate others with Allah [Polytheists] dislike it" — Qur'an 9:33[85]

"The Messenger of Allah was asked about the best jihad. He said: "The best jihad is the one in which your horse is slain and your blood is spilled." — cited by Ibn Nuhaas and narrated by Ibn Habbaan."[86]

While Muslim apologists argue that it is in propagation of "morality and justice", it is essentially the same as the propagation of Islam, as you will find that the vision of "morality and justice" they are referring to is that of their particular religion.

Book of Jihad[edit]

Book 019, Number 4292: "Ibn 'Aun reported: I wrote to Nafi' inquiring from him whether it was necessary to extend (to the disbelievers) an invitation to accept (Islam) before m[eet]ing them in fight. He wrote (in reply) to me that it was necessary in the early days of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) made a raid upon Banu Mustaliq while they were unaware and their cattle were having a drink at the water. He killed those who fought and imprisoned others. On that very day, he captured Juwairiya bint al-Harith. Nafi' said that this tradition was related to him by Abdullah b. Umar who (himself) was among the raiding troops."[87]

Book 019, Number 4294: "It has been reported from Sulaiman b. Buraid through his father that when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and to be good to the Muslims who were with him. He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhairs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muilims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them. When you lay siege to a fort and the besieged appeal to you for protection in the name of Allah and His Prophet, do not accord to them the guarantee of Allah and His Prophet, but accord to them your own guarantee and the guarantee of your companions for it is a lesser sin that the security given by you or your companions be disregarded than that the security granted in the name of Allah and His Prophet be violated When you besiege a fort and the besieged want you to let them out in accordance with Allah's Command, do not let them come out in accordance with His Command, but do so at your (own) command, for you do not know whether or not you will be able to carry out Allah's behest with regard to them."[87]

By some, the term jihad is considered analogous to the English word "crusade", which can here refer to any noble Islamic endeavour, or it can mean, well, crusade. However, this is arguable, as Crusades are not inherent in the doctrine of Christianity in the way jihad is in Islam — as it was exemplified by Muhammad himself.

Treatment of non-Muslims[edit]

Conscription of Christian boys in the Ottoman Empire, 1558.

Historically, all the first four Islamic states under the "Righteously guided Caliphs" required that Jews and Christians pay the jizya, a tax levied exclusively against non-Muslims which was of a higher amount than zakat.[88][89]

Qur'an 9:29[90] is cited as the justification of this:

"Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture — [fight] until they give the jizya willingly while they are humbled."

The free practice of religion in Muslim countries is a source of controversy. The Qur'an guarantees the free practice of religion for Jews and Christians (although adherents to these religions are expected to pay tribute and to acknowledge Muslim rule if in certain Islamic states). Regardless, the reality is sometimes quite the opposite. In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, other religions are banned from open practice and apostasy can be a capital offense.

As Sahih Muslim Hadith 4366 says, "Narrated by Umar ibn al-Khattab Umar heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims."

Other states, such as Iran, nominally allow other religions to exist, though those religions (including the Ba'hai and Zoroastrian faiths) are typically persecuted. Some states including Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia, and Pakistan, have significant non-Muslim minorities which are treated with varying degrees of persecution, though the rise of fundamentalism in these countries has led to an increase in outbreaks of violence.

Historically speaking, oppression of non-Arab Muslims and non-Muslims in general lead to the Abbasid RevolutionWikipedia. This had the effect of changing Islam from what was previously regarded as an Arab ethnoreligion to a universal religion. The Abbasid Revolution also saw the nature of the Caliphate itself change, from an Arab empire to a cosmopolitan, multiethnic state.[91]

Critics and criticism[edit]

Freedom of expression[edit]

An example of an Islamophobic cartoon.
Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas: A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet (ﷺ) and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (ﷺ) and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. […] He sat before the Prophet (ﷺ) and said: Messenger of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her. Thereupon the Prophet (ﷺ) said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood.
—Sunan Abi Dawud 4361, Eng Book 39, Hadith 4348, Book 40, Hadith 11[92]
An Islamist protester in London, 6 February 2006.

The most famous recent case of free expression conflicting with fundamentalist dogma is that of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which echoed the controversy regarding the Danish cartoons, only with a considerably higher body count. Both instances involved unflattering depictions of Muhammed, which violates (Sunni) Islamic teachings regarding both blasphemy and idolatry.

Salman Rushdie's 1988 novel The Satanic Verses provoked outrage among many Muslims. The book was banned in India and protests in which the book was burned were held in London, England. Ayatollah Khomeini, then-Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa against Rushdie, calling on all good Muslims everywhere to do their best to kill him. Guess what? He had to go into hiding too. Even worse, governments that should have known better, like the UK and the US, shunned him instead of coming to his aid and defending his right to free speech.[citation needed]

However, while an argument can be made (as it is above) that prohibitions on the depiction of Muhammad are a violation of the principle of freedom of expression, this is arguably a double edged sword. Islam is a politically sensitive topic, and Muslims in the West are a marginalized group. Depictions of Muhammad can easily turn into a vehicle for Islamophobia (as evidenced by the caricature to the right).


Women in Afghanistan veiled in burkas

Qur'an 4:34 states "Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance — [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand."

Muslim men are allowed to have up to 4 wives, but Muslim women can not have 4 husbands. Many argue the justification for it is due to many men dying in war and thus leaving their wives widowed.[citation needed]

The often-forced wearing of the burqa and sister garments by many in the Middle East is another example of societal coercion. These women must dress in a conservative fashion in public at all times to avoid social harassment or worse. Granted, in the West Muslim women face discrimination for covering up.[93]

However, there are open feminists who are practicing and devout Muslims, such as Amina Wudud and Irshad Manji, who maintain the two are compatible. The criticism of Muslim feminists is that Western feminism patronizes Muslim women, and denies them agency. Reducing Muslim women to the status of "victims." To quote Cornell University:

The debate over women's rights and Islam is often politicized and riddled with stereotypes. Muslim women are not all Woman power logovictims, renegades or standard-bearers for religious or cultural authenticity. They are not foils with which to bash Islam or through which sympathetic Westerners can congratulate themselves on their cultural superiority. True solidarity with women in the Muslim realm means paying less attention to self-serving male rulers and to cosmetic official initiatives and more to the lively, often contentious debates taking place within Muslim societies. True solidarity means paying more attention to the diverse voices of women and to their ideas of how they want to advance their own cause. These voices are secular and religious, young and old; they are also often critical of Western policies in the region.[94]

This view of Muslim women as being helpless victims has also been a justification for colonialism.[95]

Comments on non-Muslims[edit]

Extremist believers during a protest in a non-Muslim majority country, Australia.

The Qur'an states that those who, after receiving the message of Qur'an, do not convert, are dumb, deaf, and blind. The Qur'an's term for non-Muslims (especially atheists, Christians, and/or Jews) is "Kuffar", which literally means "Denier of truth".

Qur'an 2:171 "And the example of the disbelievers is similar to one who calls upon one that hears nothing except screaming and yelling; deaf, dumb, blind — so they do not have sense."

Qur'an 6:39 "And those who deny Our signs are deaf and dumb in realms of darkness; Allah may send astray whomever He wills; and may place on the Straight Path whomever He wills."

However, as "signs" of Allah, Qur'an states things like Qur'an 16:79: "Do they not see the birds suspended in mid-air up in the sky? Nothing holds them there except Allah. There are certainly Signs in that for people who have faith." So it is nothing more than argument from ignorance.

Holding views such as these about non-Muslims are not just limited to fringes in Taliban. Even among the most modern of Muslims, liberal defenders of Islam and critics of Islamists, like Mehdi Hassan (Viral Oxford Debate hero), these views are found —

The kuffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of Islam, the rational message of the Qur'an; they are described in the Qur'an as “a people of no intelligence”, Allah describes them as not of no morality, not as people of no belief – people of “no intelligence” – because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort it requires to shake off those blind prejudices, to shake off those easy assumptions about this world, about the existence of God. In this respect, the Qur'an describes the atheists as “cattle”, as cattle of those who grow the crops and do not stop and wonder about this world.[96]

A response to criticism of these verses is that it was only referring to non-believers that they were at war with, and that Muslims can't start wars but only fight defensively. A counter to this response is the offensive wars undertaken by the caliphs, especially the Rashidun caliphateWikipedia (the first four successors to Muhammad), considered to be role models for Muslims, as well as by the prophet Muhammad himself.[97][98] However, a counter to this criticism is that the Umayyad caliphateWikipedia (the successors to the Rashiduns, and who expanded on the size of the Caliphate even more than the Rashiduns) didn't want people converting. It hurt their bottom line when people converted, since they no longer had to pay the jizya tax. To quote G.R. Hawting:

The problem for the Umayyads was that they had come to power as leaders of a conquering Arab elite and to have allowed the conquered peoples to enter Islam en masse would have abolished or at least weakened the distinction between the elite and the masses. The crucial privileges of Islam, from this point of view, were in the area of taxation. In principle the Arabs were to be the recipients of the taxes paid by the non-Arabs. If the conquered peoples were allowed to become Muslims, and to change their position from that of payers to that of recipients of taxes, the whole system upon which the Umayyads depended would collapse. But as the pressure from the non-Arabs built up, and the universalist notion of Islam became stronger, this problem became increasingly urgent for the dynasty and played a major part in the generally negative attitude of Muslims towards the Umayyad dynasty.[99]

In fact, the Umayyad ambivalence towards converts (converts to Islam were still required to pay the jizya, Islamic law be damned) played a large part in the collapse of the Umayyad caliphate.[100] It does show however that Islam was initially regarded as an Arab property, and not a universal one (which is again contrary to Islamic doctrine). In fact, it can be argued that the spread of Islam to non-Arabs was an unintended consequence of Islamic law than deliberate policy. (Again, conversion hurt the caliphate's bottom line.)

Evil Jews[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Antisemitism
The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (the Boxthorn tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.
—Sahih Muslim, 41:6985

Jews have been persecuted in all Muslim countries to various degrees, and by Muhammad himself.

"You [Jews and Christians] should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I wish that I should expel you from this land Those of you who have any property with them should sell it, otherwise they should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle (and they may have to go away leaving everything behind)."[101]


See the main article on this topic: Homophobia

Homosexuals are severely punished in Islamic states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia (except that Iran doesn't have any). Punishments can include flogging, beatings, mutilation of the genitals, and in some cases, execution. Gays being thrown off roofs and then stoned (not in the good way) has been the common punishment in ISIS-controlled parts of Syria and Iraq.

Death penalty for acts of homosexuality are mentioned in numerous hadiths such as the following:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet said: If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done... (Sahih)
Sunan Abi Dawud (4462 / 40:112 / 39447) (Also mentioned in several Hasan Haddith such as:

Jami` at-Tirmidhi (1456 / 17:40 / 3:15:1456) & Sunan of Ibn Majah (3:20:2561 / 20:2658) - (3:20:2562 / 20:2659), as well as Bulugh al-Maram (10:1255 / 10:1216))

In hadiths, even "effeminate men" were ordered to be turned out of houses by Muhammad:

Narrated Ibn Abbas: the Prophet cursed effeminate men and those women who assume the similitude [manners] of men. He also said: "Turn them out of your houses." He turned such and such a person out, and Umar [a principal companion of Muhammad] also turned out such and such person.
Bukhari (6834 / 8:82:820) & Bukhari (5886 / 7:72:774)

Secular states that have large Muslim populations tend to be more ambivalent regarding queer matters. Bosnia for instance has legalized homosexual activity, and progress is being made, but is still less LGBTQ friendly than comparable nations in Western Europe.[102] Granted, until very recently the West wasn't very queer friendly either, and still isn't in some aspects and areas (just try being openly gay in the American South or openly trans in the UK).

Corporal punishment for children in religious schools[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Corporal punishment
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Command a boy to pray when he reaches the age of seven years. When he becomes ten years old, then beat him for prayer.
—Abu Dawud[103]

This is a notable problem in certain Islamic regions. This has been known to even take place in certain madrassas (religious schools) in the United Kingdom.[104][105]

Sharia as applying to non-Muslims[edit]

The notion that non-Muslims should also be subject to Islamic jurisprudence is a key tenet of Islamism, and both instances brought Islamists scurrying out of the woodwork. Such individuals, like any religious fanatics, lack a sense of humor, and provoked a seemingly endless and quite unnecessary series of absurd debates across the Western world based entirely on whether they find something personally offensive or not. Should we allow this? Well, we allow jokes about Christians and Jews? Why not? Should we exercise restraint when using our right to freedom of speech? Are we refusing to show the cartoons on national news because we don't want to offend Muslims, or because we're scared of offending Muslims? The answer to those questions, in order, is: Yes, Yes, and the news networks were scared of being blown up or something equally horrid. In our eyes, the cartoons' only real crime were being unfunny. And no violence is needed to make that point. Yet the extremist Muslim position survives and thrives in the latest South Park episode which parent companies Comedy Central and Viacom heavily censored in order not to offend the already ridiculously fragile sensibilities of many Muslims. Appropriately for South Park, however, the images of Muhammad were so cartoonishly over-censored (especially Kyle's speech at the end, of which only a few words — mostly pronouns and conjunctions — can be heard) that the censorship itself has the feeling of satire.

People can be assaulted or even murdered because a militant Muslim or lynch mob believes they have broken sharia in some way.[106] In Bangladesh 3,000 people have been arrested following attacks and killing of atheist and other bloggers. As of June 2016, it is unclear whether this will make a difference.[107]

Promotion of creationism and pseudoscience[edit]

See the main articles on this topic: Creationism and Pseudoscience

The Qur'an in several places concurs with the outline of the Creation story in Genesis. Specifically, Adam is taken to be the first human, formed by God in an act of creation out of clay. Unlike the Bible, the Qur'an explicitly claims to be the actual word of God, and so it is unusual for Muslims to believe that the Qur'an contains errors. However, the Islamic text is somewhat vaguer than Genesis, leaving some room for interpretation, and it is not impossible to find Muslims who accept evolution as fact, though it might be impossible to find Qur'anic support for evolution of man from "non-man" organisms.

Many Muslims (such as liberal Muslims) are theistic evolutionists and support the idea that Muslim religious teachings are compatible with evolution. For example, Shaikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, an American Muslim and specialist in Islamic law has argued in Islam and Evolution that a belief in macroevolution is not incompatible with Islam, as long as it is accepted that "God is the Creator of everything" (Qur'an 13:16) and that God specifically created humanity (in the person of Adam; Qur'an 38:71-76).[108] However other Muslims claim that evolution contradicts Muslim teachings and take a position similar to the position of Christian creationists.

In modern times, anti-science attitudes are a serious problem in some Islamic states; although creationism is more usually associated with fundamentalist Christianity. While some Muslims, such as Zakir Naik, tacitly promote creationism and pseduoscience by defending the inaccuracy of the Qur'an, people like Harun Yahya actively promote creationism and pseudoscience and attack evolution.

By contrast, medieval Islam was at least relatively pro-science, with early scientists such as Ibn al-Haytham and AvicennaWikipedia significantly advancing their fields and paving the way for similar movements in Europe in the centuries to follow.[109]


Islam has been used as an excuse for violence in the past and present. DAESH notably wants to recreate the Caliphate, and has embarked on a violent (ironically enough) crusade to reach its goal. The expansion of Islam was also violent in certain aspects, but so was the expansion of Christianity into the New World. Islam, in Southeast Asia, was notably spread by traders and not warriors.[110]

However, Islam also has a pacifistic current. Muslims in SenegalWikipedia even created a non-violent resistance movement to French colonialism.[111] Islam is in this respect like other religions in that it has both militaristic and pacifistic currents. The argument that Islam is special in its capacity for violence is fallacious.

Muhammad's character[edit]

In literal Islam, Muhammad is the ideal human being which Muslims should strive to emulate (only to a degree that the Qur'an allows).

Muhammad had 13 wives, owned slaves, and prescribed severe torture (Qur'an 8:12). Among Muhammad's wives, one (named Aisha) was 6 years old at the time of marriage and 9 years old at the time of the consummation of the marriage[note 2] (Sahih Bukhari 5:58:236), when Muhammad was around 54.

These have become problematic facts for some Muslims, as their modern sensibilities contradict with the infallible moral nature of Muhammad, for all times.

Muslims generally respond by saying it was culturally accepted then or claiming cultural relativism (which implies that Muhammad is not an ideal for all places and all times), totally denying the validity of hadiths, or taking the postmodern revisionism approach where "Anything can mean anything" (liberal Muslims). Another massive problem for the apologists is the fact that the fourth verse of the 65th chapter of the Quran ("Surah at-Talaq") seems to imply the consummation of marriages to pre-pubescent girls, and this is how virtually all Muslim scholars have interpreted it.[112] (Criticism of Mohammed's marriage to Aisha possibly when she was 9 is by far the most commonly used criticism of Islam as well.)[citation needed]

Criticism from Muslim scholars[edit]

In Islamic history, there have been a number of Muslim scholars who criticized certain practices and beliefs of the religion. A notable example was the famous polymath Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Al-Bīrūnī.Wikipedia In his book "The Chronology of Ancient Nations", he dedicated many parts in refuting unfounded ideas which he believed to be irrational or unscientific. For example, he writes with a ridiculing tone (p.293):

This is certainly the same sort of hallucination frequently occurring among those Muslims who try to derive mystical wisdom from the comparison of the name of Muhammad (محمد) with the human figure. According to them the Mīm is like his head, the Hā like his body, the second Mīm like his belly, and the Dāl like his two feet. These people seem to be completely ignorant of lineaments, if they compare the measure of the head and the belly (both expressed by the same letter Mīm) and the quantity of the limbs which project out of the mass of the body, forgetting at the same time the means for the perpetuation of our race. Perhaps, however, they meant individuals of the feminine, not of the masculine sex. I should like to know what they would say of such name as in their outward form, but for the addition or omission of one letter, resemble the form of the name of Muhammad, for instance, حمید or مجید {Hamīd or Majīd), and others. If you would compare some of them according to their method, the matter would simply become ridiculous and ludicrous."[113]:293

In the same book, he criticizes the way Islamic clerics knowingly attempt to deceive adherents for financial gains through superstitious beliefs relating to gem stones:

To this category, too, belong certain forgeries, e.g. some Shi'a preacher once asked me to teach him something which he might utilize. So I produced to him from the Kītāb-altalwī of Alkindī the recipe of (an information how to make) an ink composed of various pungent materials. This ink you drop upon an agate and write with it; if you then hold the tone near the fire the writing upon the stone becomes apparent in white colour. Now, in this manner he wrote (upon stones) the names Muhammad, 'Ali, etc., even without doing the thing very carefully or understanding it particularly well, and then he proclaimed that these stones were formations of nature and had some from such and such a place. And for such forgeries he got much money from the Shi'a people."[113]:294

Many people either identifying as Muslims or those who have left the religion but reside in countries with strict Islamic laws against criticizing the religion do so using pseudonyms to avoid repercussions or being identified.


See the main article on this topic: Islamophobia

Islamophobia is a defined as "an irrational fear of Muslims", and considered a form of bigotry.

The term is controversial, with some arguing that it is a label used to de-legitimise and silence every criticism of Islam and every argument that shows that Islamism is a plausible (and the most probable) result of Islamic doctrine, and others claiming that it describes the pattern of irrational fear-mongering and ignorance that leads to hate crimes against minorities and the restriction of their rights. Additionally, some other people (including some Muslims themselves) might also argue that since opposing a religion is not always the same as hating everyone who follows it, a more accurate term for anti-Muslim bigotry would be “Muslimophobia”.[114]

Basically, Islamophobes are generally those who think there is something bad in Islamic text itself, and hence something bad in all true Muslims, where definition of true Muslims being those Muslims who do not use inconsistent methods to interpret Islam based on personal moral conveniences.

Some who argue against Islamophobes claim that there is nothing bad in Islamic text as text has no meaning beyond what one forces it to mean, and all bad committed in the name of Islam is a result of "wrong" interpretations of Islam, where a wrong interpretation is any interpretation that leads to something negative.

While it is important to allow criticism of Islam, it is also important to note that many self-professed "critics" of Islam will often engage in a bait-and-switch where they will pretend to critique the excesses of Islam (not always unjustifiably) but do so not out of desire to reform Islam or encourage critical discussion of the religion, rather doing so as a means of promoting a Western-supremacist, Western-imperialist, hyper-Zionist, Hindu nationalist, or racist political agenda, often going as far as to mesh criticism of Islam with whatever right-wing political cause they promote. Examples of this abound, but the best example is Sam Harris, who oftentimes seems to fail to understand the difference between criticism of Islam and Zionist propaganda, going as far as to associate Palestinian resistance efforts (the Second Intifadah specifically) with Muslim immigration in Europe, even when said immigration is decidedly not Palestinian. Moreover, in recent years, Harris has begun promoting scientific racialism. Is this related to his racist biases against culturally Muslim ethnicities? You decide.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Academic resources

Online resources


  • Islam, UCB Libraries GovPubs


  1. Well, it's not illegal per se.
  2. Yes, we're using euphemisms to try to soften the blow.


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