Monday, January 24, 2011
The Myths of Islam
Muslims often complain of the popular "misconceptions" about their religion in the West.
We took a hard look, however, and found that the most deeply held myths of Islam are the ones generated by Muslims and Western apologists. The only glaring exception to this is the misconception that all Muslims are alike (they aren't, of course), but even Muslims fall into this as well, as evidenced by the various contrary factions insisting that they are the true Muslims, while those who disagree with them are either infidels, hijackers, or hypocrites.
Don't be fooled! Hear the myths, but know the truth.
Islam Means ‘Peace’
Lesser educated Muslims sometimes claim that the root word of Islam is “al-Salaam,” which is “peace” in Arabic.
An Arabic word only has one root. The root word for Islam is “al-Silm,” which means “submission” or “surrender.” There is no controversy about this among Islamic scholars. al-Silm (submission) does not mean the same thing as al-Salaam (peace), otherwise they would be the same word.
Submission and peace can be very different concepts, even if a form of peace is often brought about through forcing others into submission. As the modern-day Islamic scholar, Ibrahim Sulaiman, puts it, "Jihad is not inhumane, despite its necessary violence and bloodshed, its ultimate desire is peace which is protected and enhanced by the rule of law."
In truth, the Qur’an not only calls Muslims to submit to Allah, it also commands them to subdue people of other religions until they are in a full state of submission to Islamic rule. This has inspired the aggressive history of Islam and its success in conquering other cultures.
Islam Respects Women as Equals
The Qur’an places men and women on equal foundation before Allah. Each person is judged according to his or her own deeds. Women have equal rights under Islamic law.
Merely stating that individuals will be judged as such by Allah does not mean that they have equal rights and roles, or that they are judged by the same standards.
There is no ambiguity in the Qur’an, the life of Muhammad, or Islamic law as to the inferiority of women to men despite the efforts of modern-day apologists to salvage Western-style feminism from scraps and fragments of verses that have historically held no such progressive interpretation.
After military conquests, Muhammad would dole out captured women as war prizes to his men. In at least one case, he advocated that they be raped in front of their husbands. Captured women were made into sex slaves by the very men who killed their husbands and brothers. There are four Qur’anic verses in which "Allah" makes clear that a Muslim master has full sexual access to his female slaves, yet there is not one that prohibits rape.
The Qur’an gives Muslim men permission to beat their wives for disobedience, but no where does it command love in marriage. It plainly says that husbands are “a degree above” wives. The Hadith says that women are intellectually inferior, and that they comprise the majority of Hell’s occupants.
Quran - Sura 4:34-
As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and I'll conduct admonish them, refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them: but if they to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is most high, great.
Under Islamic law, a man may divorce his wife at his choosing. If he does this twice, then wishes to remarry her, she must first have sex with another man. Men are exempt from such degradations.
Muslim women are not free to marry whom they please, as are Muslim men. Their husband may also bring other wives (and slaves) into the marriage bed. And she must be be sexually available to him at any time (as a field ready to be “tilled,” according to the holy book of Islam).
Muslim women do not inherit property in equal portion to males. Their testimony in court is considered to be worth only half that of a man’s. Unlike a man, she must cover her head - and often her face.
If a woman wants to prove that she was raped, then there must be four male witnesses to corroborate her account. Otherwise she can be jailed or stoned to death for confessing to “adultery.”
Given all of this, it is quite a stretch to say that men and women have “equality under Islam” based on obscure theological analogies or comparisons. This is an entirely new ploy that is designed for modern tastes and disagrees sharply with the reality of Islamic law and history.
Jihad Means 'Inner Struggle'
Islam’s Western apologists sometimes claim that since the Arabic word, Jihad, literally means “fight” or “struggle,” it refers to an “inner struggle” rather than holy war.
In Arabic, "jihad" means struggle. In Islam, it means holy war.
The Qur’an specifically exempts the disabled and elderly from Jihad (4:95), which would make no sense if the word is being used merely within the context of spiritual struggle. It is also unclear why Muhammad would use graphic language, such as smiting fingers and heads from the hands and necks of unbelievers if he were speaking merely of character development.
With this in mind, Muslim apologists generally admit that there are two meanings to the word, but insist that “inner struggle” is the “greater Jihad,” whereas “holy war” is the “lesser.” In fact, this misconception is based only on an a single hadith that is extremely weak and unreliable.
By contrast, the most reliable of all Hadith collections is that of Bukhari. Jihad is mentioned over 200 times in reference to the words of Muhammad and each one carries a clear connotation to holy war, with only a handful of possible exceptions (dealing with a woman's supporting role during a time of holy war).
Islam is a Religion of Peace
Muhammad was a peaceful man who taught his followers to be the same. Muslims lived peacefully for centuries, fighting only in self-defense - and when it was necessary. True Muslims would never act aggressively.
Muhammad organized 65 military campaigns in the last ten years of his life and personally led 27 of them. The more power that he attained, the smaller the excuse needed to go to battle, until finally he began attacking tribes merely because they were not part of his growing empire.
After Muhammad’s death, his successor immediately went to war with former allied tribes which wanted to go their own way. Abu Bakr called them 'apostates' and slaughtered anyone who did not want to remain Muslim. Eventually, he was successful in holding the empire together with blood and violence.
The prophet of Islam's most faithful followers and even his own family soon turned on each other as well. There were four caliphs (leaders) in the first twenty-five years, each of which was a trusted companion of his. Three of these four were murdered. The third caliph was murdered by those allied with the son of the first caliph. The fourth caliph was murdered in the midst of a conflict with the fifth caliph, who began a 100-year dynasty of excess and debauchery that was brought to an end in a gruesome, widespread bloodbath by descendents of Muhammad’s uncle (who was not even a Muslim).
Muhammad’s own daughter, Fatima, and his son-in-law, Ali, who both survived the pagan hardship during the Meccan years safe and sound, did not survive Islam after the death of Muhammad. Fatima died of stress from persecution within three months, and Ali was later assassinated by Muslim rivals. Their son (Muhammad’s grandson) was killed in battle with the faction that became today’s Sunnis. His people became Shias. The relatives and personal friends of Muhammad were mixed into both warring groups, which then fractured further into hostile sub-divisions as Islam expanded.
Muslim apologists, who like to say that is impossible for today's terrorists to be Muslim when they kill fellow Muslims, would have a very tough time explaining the war between Fatima's followers and Aisha to a knowledgeable audience. Muhammad explicitly held up both his favorite daughter and his favorite wife model Muslim women, yet they were invoked respectively by each side in the violent civil war that followed his death. Which one was the prophet of God so horribly wrong about?
Muhammad left his men with instructions to take the battle against Christians, Persians, Jews and polytheists (which came to include millions of unfortunate Hindus). For the next four centuries, Muslim armies steamrolled over unsuspecting neighbors, plundering them of loot and slaves, and forcing the survivors to either convert or pay tribute at the point of a sword.
Companions of Muhammad lived to see Islam declare war on every major religion in the world in just the first few decades following his death - pressing the Jihad against Hindus, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Buddhists.
By the time of the Crusades (when the Europeans began fighting back), Muslims had conquered two-thirds of the Christian world by sword, from Syria to Spain, and across North Africa. Millions of Christians were enslaved by Muslims, and tens of millions of Africans. The Arab slave-trading routes would stay open for 1300 years until pressure from Christian-based countries forced Islamic nations to declare the practice illegal (in theory). To this day, the Muslim world has never apologized for the victims of Jihad and slavery.
There is not another religion in the world that consistently produces terrorism in the name of God as does Islam. The most dangerous Muslims are nearly always those who interpret the Qur’an most transparently. They are the fundamentalists or purists of the faith, and believe in Muhammad’s mandate to spread Islamic rule by the sword, putting to death those who will not submit. In the absence of true infidels, they will even turn on each other.
The holy texts of Islam are saturated with verses of violence and hatred toward those outside the faith, as well as the "hypocrites" (Muslims who don't act like Muslims). In sharp contrast to the Bible, which generally moves from relatively violent episodes to far more peaceful mandates, the Qur’an travels the exact opposite path (violence is first forbidden, then permitted, then mandatory). The handful of earlier verses that speak of tolerance are overwhelmed by an avalanche of later ones that carry a much different message. While Old Testament verses of blood and guts are generally bound by historical context within the text itself, Qur'anic imperatives to violence usually appear open-ended and subject to personal interpretation.
From the history of the faith to its most sacred writings, those who want to believe in "peaceful Islam" have a lot more to ignore than do the terrorists. By any objective measure, the "Religion of Peace" has been the harshest, bloodiest religion the world has ever known. In Islam there is no peace unless Muslims have power - and even then...
Islam is Tolerant of Other Religions
Religious minorities have flourished under Islam. Muslims are commanded to protect Jews and Christians (the People of the Book) and do them no harm. The Qur'an says in Sura 109, "To you, your religion. To me, mine."
Religious minorities have not “flourished” under Islam. In fact, they have dwindled to mere shadows after centuries of persecution and discrimination. Some were converted from their native religion by brute force, others under the agonizing strain of dhimmitude.
What Muslims call “tolerance,” others correctly identify as institutionalized discrimination. The consignment of Jews and Christians to dhimmis under Islamic rule means that they are not allowed the same religious rights and freedoms as Muslims. They cannot share their faith, for example, or build houses of worship without permission.
Historically, dhimmis have often had to wear distinguishing clothing or cut their hair in a particular manner that indicates their position of inferiority and humiliation. They do not share the same legal rights as Muslims, and must even pay a poll tax (the jizya). They are to be killed or have their children taken from them if they cannot satisfy the tax collector’s requirements.
For hundreds of years, the Christian population in occupied Europe had their sons taken away and forcibly converted into Muslim warriors (known as Jannisaries) by the Ottoman Turks.
It is under this burden of discrimination and third-class status that so many religious minorities converted to Islam over the centuries. Those who didn’t often faced economic and social hardships that persist to this day and are appalling by Western standards of true religious tolerance and pluralism.
For those who are not “the People of the Book,” such as Hindus and atheists, there is very little tolerance to be found once Islam establishes political superiority. The Qur’an tells Muslims to “fight in the way of Allah” until “religion is only for Allah.” The conquered populations face death if they do not establish regular prayer and charity in the Islamic tradition (ie. the pillars of Islam).
Tamerlane and other Muslim warriors slaughtered tens of millions of Hindus and Buddhists, and displaced or forcibly converted millions more over the last thousand years. Islamists in Somalia behead Christians. In Iran, they are jailed.
One of the great ironies of Islam is that non-Muslims are to be treated according to the very standards by which Muslims themselves would claim the right to violent self-defense were the shoe on the other foot. Islam is its own justification. Most Muslims therefore feel no need to explain the ingrained arrogance and double standard.
There are about 500 verses in the Qur’an that speak of Allah’s hatred for non-Muslims and the punishment that he has prepared for their unbelief. There is also a tiny handful that say otherwise, but these are mostly earlier verses that many scholars consider to be abrogated by the later, more violent ones.
As for Sura 109, any true Qur'an scholar will point out that the purpose of the verse was to distinguish Islam from the gods of the Quraysh (one of which was named "Allah") rather than to advocate religious tolerance for non-Muslims. At the time that he narrated this very early verse, Muhammad did not have any power, and thus no choice but to be "tolerant" of others. By contrast, there was no true tolerance shown when he returned to Mecca with power many years later and demanded the eviction or death of anyone who would not convert to Islam. In fact, he physically destroyed the cherished idols of the people to whom he had previously addressed in Sura 109.
If tolerance simply means discouraging the mass slaughter of those of a different faith, then today's Islam generally meets this standard more often than not. But, if tolerance means allowing people of other faiths the same religious liberties that Muslims enjoy, then Islam is fundamentally the most intolerant religion under the sun.
Islam and the “Golden Age” of Scientific Discovery
Muslims often claim that their religion fostered a rich heritage of scientific discovery, “paving the way” for modern advances in technology and medicine. On this topic, they usually refer to the period between the 7th and 13th centuries, when Europe was experiencing its “Dark Ages” and the Muslim world was acquiring new populations and culture through violent conquest.
Although there is no arguing that the Muslim world was relatively more advanced during this period than the “Christian” world, the reasons for this have absolutely nothing to do with the Islamic religion (other than its mandate for military expansion). In fact, the religion tends to discourages knowledge outside of itself, which is why the most prolific Muslim scholars have always tended to be students of religion rather than science.
[It is a fact that the country of Spain alone translates more learning material and literature into Spanish each year than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the 9th century.]
There are four basic reasons why Islam has little true claim to scientific achievement:
First, the Muslim world benefited greatly from the Greek sciences, which were translated for them by Christians and Jews. To their credit, Muslims did a better job of preserving Greek text than did the Europeans of the time and this became the foundation for their own knowledge. (One large reason for this, however, was that access by Christians to this part of their world was cut off by Muslim slave ships and coastal raids that dominated the Mediterranean during this period).
Secondly, many of the scientific advances credited to Islam were actually “borrowed” from other cultures conquered by the Muslims. The algebraic concept of “zero”, for example, is erroneously attributed to Islam when, in fact, it was a Hindu discovery that was merely introduced to the West by Muslims.
In truth, conquered populations contributed greatly to the history of “Muslim science” until gradually being decimated by conversion to Islam (under the pressures of dhimmitude). The Muslim concentration within a population is directly proportional to the decline of scientific achievement. It is no accident that the Muslim world has had little to show for itself in the last 800 years or so, since running out of new civilizations to cannibalize.
Third, even accomplished Muslim scientists and cultural icons were often considered heretics in their day, sometimes with good reason. One of the greatest achievers to come out of the Muslim world was the Persian scientist and philosopher, al-Razi. His impressive works are often held up today as “proof” of Muslim accomplishment. But what the apologists often leave out is that al-Razi was denounced as a blasphemer, since he followed his own religious beliefs – which were in obvious contradiction to traditional Islam.
Fourth, even the contributions that are attributed to Islam (often inaccurately) are not terribly dramatic. There is the invention of certain words, such as alchemy and elixir (and assassin, by the way), but not much else that survives in modern technology which is of practical significance. Neither is there any reason to believe that such discoveries would not have easily been made by the West following the cultural awakening triggered by the Reformation.
As an example, consider that Muslims claim credit for coffee, since the beans were discovered in Africa (at the time, an important venue for Islamic slave trading) and first processed in the Middle East. While this is true, it is also true that the red dye used in many food products, from cranberry juice to candy, comes from the abdomen of a particular female beetle found in South America. It is extremely unlikely that the West would not have stumbled across coffee by now (although, to be fair, coffee probably expedited subsequent discoveries).
In fact, the litany of “Muslim” achievement often takes the form of rhapsody, in which the true origins of these discoveries are omitted - along with their comparative significance to Western achievement. One often doesn't hear about the dismal fate of original accomplishments either. Those who brag about the great observatory of Taqi al-Din in [freshly conquered] Istanbul, for example, often neglect to mention that it was quickly destroyed by the caliphate.
At the end of the day, the record of scientific, medical and technological accomplishment is not something over which Muslim apologists want to get into a contest with the Christian world. Today’s Islamic innovators are primarily known for turning Western technology, such as cell phones and airplanes, into instruments of mass murder.
To sum up, although the Islamic religion is not entirely hostile to science, neither should it be confused as a facilitator. The great achievements that are said to have come out of the Islamic world were made either by non-Muslims who happened to be under Islamic rule, or by heretics who usually had little interest in Islam. Scientific discovery tapers off dramatically as Islam asserts dominance, until it eventually peters out altogether.
Islam is Opposed to Slavery
Islam is intolerant of enslaving human beings. The religion eradicated the institution of slavery thanks to the principles set in motion by Muhammad, who was an abolitionist.
There is not the least bit of intolerance for slavery anywhere in the Qur’an. In fact, the “holy” book of Islam explicitly gives slave-owners the freedom to sexually exploit their slaves – not just in one place, but in at least four separate Suras. Islamic law is littered with rules concerning the treatment of slaves, some of which are relatively humane, but none that prohibit the actual practice by any stretch.
The very presence of these rules condones and legitimizes the institution of slavery. Adding to this is the fact that Muhammad was an avid slave trader. After providing ample evidence of his activities according to the most reliable Muslim biographers, the Center of the Study of Political Islam summarizes its findings as such:
Muhammad captured slaves, sold slaves, bought slaves as gifts of pleasure, received slaves as gifts, and used slaves for work. The Sira is exquisitely clear on the issue of slavery. (Muhammad and the Unbelievers: a Political Life)
Even the very pulpit from which Muhammad preached Islam was built by slave labor on his command!
As such, this deeply dehumanizing horror has been a ubiquitous tradition of Islam since the days of Muhammad to the current plight of non-Muslims in the Sudan, Mali, Niger and Mauritania, as well as other parts of the Muslim world.
There has never been an abolitionary movement within Islam (just as the religion produces no organized resistance to present-day enslavement). The abolition of slavery was imposed on the Islamic world by European countries, along with other political pressures that were entirely unrelated to Islamic law.
Although horrible abuses of slaves in the Muslim world were recorded, there has been little inclination toward the documentation and earnest contrition that one finds in the West. The absence of a guilty Muslim conscience often leads to the mistaken impression that slavery was not as bad under Islam - when it is actually indicative of the explicit tolerance the religion has for the practice
So narcissistic is the effect of Islam on the devoted, that to this day many Muslims believe in their hearts that the women and children carried off in battle, along with their surviving men folk, were actually done a favor by the Muslim warriors who plucked them from their fields and homes and relegated them to lives of demeaning servitude.
Shame and apology, no matter how appropriate, are almost never to be found in Dar al-Islam. Caliphs, the religious equivalent of popes, maintained harems of hundreds, sometimes thousands of young girls and women captured from lands as far away as Europe and consigned to sexual slavery. Hungarians were hunted like animals by the Turks, who carried 3 million into slavery over a 150 year period in the 1500-1600's. In India, 200,000 Hindus were captured and transported to Iranian slave markets in just a two year span (1619-1620) by one of the kinder Muslim rulers.
African slaves were often castrated by their Muslim masters. Few survived to reproduce, which is why there are not many people of African descent living in the Middle East, even though more slaves were taken out of Africa in the 1300 years of Arab slave trading than in the 300 years of European slavery. The 400,000 slaves brought to America, for example, have now become a community of 30 million, with a much higher standard of living than their African peers.
There is no William Wilberforce or Bartoleme de las Casas in Islamic history as there is in Christianity. When asked to produce the name of a Muslim abolitionist, apologists sometimes meekly suggest Muhammad himself. But, if a slave owner and trader, who commanded the capture and sexual exploitation of slaves, and left a 13-century legacy of divinely-sanctioned slavery, is the best that Islam can offer in the way of an abolitionist, then no amount of sophistry will be enough to convince any but the most ignorant.
Islam is Completely Incompatible with Terrorism
Islam is completely incompatible with acts of terrorism. It is against Islam to kill innocent people.
Islam does prohibit killing innocent people. Unfortunately, you don't qualify.
Even though many Muslims earnestly believe that their religion prohibits the killing of innocent people by acts of terrorism, the truth is certainly more complicated. This is why the Jihadis and their detractors are both able to point fingers at the other, while confidently insisting that they, themselve, are the true Muslims. It is also why organizations that commit horrible atrocities in the name of Allah, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, receive moral and financial support from mainstream Muslims and Islamic charities.
In fact, the definition of "terrorism" in Islam is ambiguous at best. And the definition of an “innocent person” in Islam isn't something that Muslim apologists advertise when they say that such persons aren't to be harmed. The reason for this is that anyone who rejects Muhammad is not considered to be innocent under Islamic law.
Consider that a great deal of the Qur'an is devoted to describing the horrible punishment that awaits those who refuse to become Muslim. How can Muslims say that the subjects of such divine wrath are innocent persons?
The most protected and respected of all non-Muslims are the dhimma, the “people of the book.” These would specifically be Jews and Christians who agree to Islamic rule and pay the jizya (tribute to Muslims). Yet, the word “dhimmi” comes from the Arabic root meaning “guilt” or "blame." ["...the dhimmi parent and sister words mean both 'to blame' as well as safeguards that can be extended to protect the blameworthy" Amitav Ghosh, "In an Antique Land"].
So, if even the dhimma have a measure of guilt attached to their status (by virtue of having rejected Allah’s full truth), how can non-Muslims who oppose Islamic rule or refuse to pay the jizya be considered “innocent?”
Even within the Islamic community there is a category of Muslims who are also said to bear guilt – greater even than the average non-believer. These are the hypocrites, or “Munafiqin,” whom Muhammad referred to in the most derogatory terms. A hypocrite is considered to be a Muslim in name only. They are distinguished either by an unwillingness to wage holy war or by an intention to corrupt the community of believers (by befriending Christians or Jews, for example).
When Muslims frequently kill Muslims in the name of Allah, they usually do so believing that their victims are Munafiqin or kafir (unbelievers). This is actually a part of Islamic Law known as takfir, in which Muslims are declared apostates and then executed. (A true Muslim would go to paradise anyway, in which case he or she could hardly be expected to nurse a grudge amidst the orgy of sex and wine).
In addition to the murky definition of innocence, there is also the problem of distinguishing terrorism from holy war. Islamic terrorists rarely refer to themselves as terrorists, but usually as holy warriors (Mujahideen, Shahid, or Fedayeen). They consider their acts to be a form of Jihad.
Holy war is something that Muhammad commanded in the Qur’an and Hadith. In Sura 9:29, he establishes the principle that unbelievers should be fought until they either convert to Islam or accept a state of humiliation under Islamic subjugation. This is confirmed in the Hadith by both Sahih Muslim and Bukhari.
In many places, the prophet of Islam says that Jihad is the ideal path for a Muslim, and that believers should “fight in the way of Allah.” There are dozens of open-ended passages in the Qur’an that exhort killing and fighting – far more than there are of peace and tolerance. It is somewhat naïve to think that their inclusion in this "eternal discourse between God and Man" was of historical value only and not intended to be relevant to present-day believers, particularly when there is little to nothing within the text to distinguishe them in such fashion.
Combine the Qur’anic exhortation to holy war with the ambiguity of innocence and a monumental problem develops that cannot be patched over by mere semantics. Not only is there a deep tolerance for violence in Islam, but also a sharp disagreement and lack of clarity over the conditions that justify this violence... and just whom the targets may be.
Even many Muslims who claim to be against terrorism still support the “insurgency” in Iraq, for example, and often entertain the allegation that there is a broader “war against Islam.” Although American troops in Iraq are trying to protect innocent life and help the country rebuild, Muslims around the world and in the West believe that it is legitimate for Sunnis and Shias to try and kill them.
Enjoying the sanction of holy war, the Mujahid reasons that it is permissible to attack fellow Iraqis – the ones helping the Americans… even if they are part of a democratically-elected Iraqi government. These non-combatants and combatants alike are believed to be the “Munafiqin” or "Takfir" assisting the enemy “Crusaders.”
Although we use Iraq as an example here, this is the same rationale that is ultimately behind all Islamic terror, from the Philippines to Thailand. Wherever the religion of Islam is a minority, there are always radicals who believe that violence is justified in bringing it to dominance - just as Muhammad taught by example in places like Mecca and the land of al-Harith.
And what of the so-called “innocents” who suffer from the bombings and shootings? Even in Muhammad’s time they were unavoidable. The much-touted hadith in which Muhammad forbade the killing of women, for example, also indicates that there were such casualties in his conflicts.
If there is any doubt that he believed that the forbidden is sometimes necessary, it should be put to rest by an incident in which Muhammad's men warned him that a planned night raid against an enemy camp would mean that women and children would be killed. He merely replied “they are of them,” meaning the men.
This is the slippery slope that is opened by the sanction of holy war. What starts out as the perception of a noble cause of self-defense against a supposed threat gradually devolves into a "let Allah sort them out" campaign through a series of logical steps that are ultimately justified by the sublime goal of Islamic rule.
Islam is not intended to co-exist as an equal with other religions. It is to be the dominant religion with Sharia as the supreme law. Islamic rule is to be extended to the ends of the earth and resistance is to be dealt with by any means necessary.
Apologists in the West often shrug off the Qur'an's many verses of violence by saying that they are relevant only in a “time of war.”
To this, Islamic terrorists would agree. They are at war.
Islam is a Democracy
Islam is compatible with democratic principles. The religion itself is a democracy.
A democracy is a system in which all people are judged as equals before the law, regardless of race, religion or gender. The vote of every individual counts as much as the vote of any other. The collective will of the people then determines the rules of society.
Under Islamic law, only Muslim males are entitled to full rights. The standing of a woman is often half that of a man's - sometimes even less. Non-Muslims have no standing with a Muslim. In fact, a Muslim can never be put to death for killing an unbeliever.
The Islamic state is guided by Islamic law, derived from the Qur'an and Sunnah. A body of clerics interprets the law and applies it to all circumstances social, cultural and political. The people are never to be placed above the Qur'an and Sunnah any more than man should be above Allah.
It is somewhat debatable as to whether there are any states in the Muslim world that qualify as actual democracies. There is no denying, however, that the tiny handful that are often held up as democratic nations are ones in which deep tension exists between the government and religious leaders, as the latter often complain that democracy is an idolatrous system imposed on them.
Islam does not facilitate democracy.
The Qur'an is the Muslim Counterpart to the Bible
The Qur'an is to Muslims what the Bible is to Christians (and the Torah to Jews).
The Qur'an only contains what is presented as the literal words of Allah - as relayed by Muhammad. It can be compared to a manufactured text that includes only the words of Jesus (the so-called "red-letter" verses) extracted from their New Testament historical context and then randomly mixed together (the chapters of the Qur'an are arranged by size and themes are rarely consistent even within each chapter).
By contrast, the Bible contains history and biographical detail. For example, there is nothing in the Qur'an that details Muhammad's life, whereas the Bible contains four books that present all that is known about the biography of Jesus. Another distinction is that when the Bible commands violence - as it does in a handful of Old Testament verses - the intended target is explicitly defined within the passage, leaving little doubt that it is a recounting of history and not an open-ended command for anyone else to do the same.
Despite the rhapsody with which Muslims sing the Qur'an's praises, there is an obvious reason why only a minority have actually bothered to delve deeper than an occasional sporadic perusal through its pages. The random arrangement of verses and near absence of context makes it difficult to understand. For this reason the Qur'an is rarely printed without the incorporation of voluminous commentary (that usually expresses the personal preferences of the translator).
In fact, the Muslim counterpart to the Bible is the Qur'an, Hadith and Sira combined.
The Hadith is a collection of anecdotes and historical snippets of Muhammad's life based on the relayed narrations of those who lived with him. Unfortunately, authenticity varies. But the most dependable compilers are agreed by Muslims scholars to be Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, followed by Abu Dawud. It is on the Hadith that Islamic law (Sharia) is based.
The Sira is the biography of Muhammad's life. Again, there are reliability issues which would appear somewhat bewildering to Christians, given that the gospels were well in place within the first few centuries following the crucifixion - which preceded Muslim history by over 600 years. Still, the most reliable biography of Muhammad was compiled by Ibn Ishaq, who wrote about 150 years after his death. His original work survives only in what was "edited" by a later translator (Ibn Hisham, who admitted that he filtered out several accounts that were of a distasteful nature).
A failure to recognize that the Bible is only comparable to the Qur'an, Hadith and Sira together often leads to faulty accusation and misplaced analysis.
The Religion of Peace
Qur'an is Counterpart to the Bible, Islam is a Democracy, Islam is forbidden Terrorism, Islam and Slavery, Islam and Science, Islam is Tolerant of Other Religions, Islam is a Religion of Peace, Jihad Means Inner Struggle, Women in Islam, Islam means peace