7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Islam.

Via on Sep 4, 2010

Bismillah, ar Rahman, ar Rahim. (In the name of Allah, most beneficent and merciful.)

Ramadan kareem!

1. Mystical Oneness with God
In a mystical sense, Islam is a non-dualist religion. When I first read these words by ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatima bint Muhammad, I was overwhelmed with a sense of, “Oh my God! Exactly!”

Thus whoever attaches attributes to [God] recognizes His like, and who recognizes His like regards Him two; 
and who regards Him two recognizes parts for Him;
 and who recognizes parts for Him mistook Him;
 and who mistook Him pointed at Him;
 and who pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him;
 and who admitted limitations for Him numbered Him.
Whoever said in what is He, held that He is contained;
 and whoever said on what is He held He is not on something else.

~ Ali ibn Abi Talib

Ali ibn Abi Talib was of the house of Muhammad—peace be upon him. Ali was the first Muslim to convert after the Prophet was said to have been visited by the angel that brought God’s words to Muhammad. Those words were the Qur’an (the recitation). Fatima bint Muhammad—peace be upon her—was the daughter of Muhammad.

Ali and Fatima were two of the earliest Muslims. So the mystical fibre of Islam is root-deep.

2. Who is Allah?
Allah has the same roots as the Aramaic “El” and the Hebrew Elah. Allah literally means “The God.” “al” means ‘the,” and “elah” (or some variation of it) means “god.” God does not have a gender in Islam, though is referred to as “He” out of respect.

Yeah, I know, kinda messed up, but at least Muslims don’t actually think God is some guy sitting in the clouds. It is considered a grave violation and failing to give attributes to Allah, because as with anything, defining Him/It limits It/Him.

3. Islam and Peace
The Arabic words “Islam” (for the religion) and “salaam” (peace) are from the same Semitic roots; S-L-M. The word Islam means submission, and is taken to mean submission to God (similar perhaps to the expression “God-fearing”). It could as easily mean peace, purity, safety.

In common understanding, to be Muslim means to have surrendered your will to God; to have submitted one’s will to the grace of Allah.

4. Jihad
The word jihad has come to be synonymous with “holy war” in the American vernacular. It has been used by the Palestinian people to mean “uprising.”

Jihad actually means struggle.

“The best jihad is (by) the one who strives against his own self for Allah, The Mighty and Majestic,”
~ the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him).

5. Honoring Your Mother in Islam
There are many Hadiths (loosely; stories that offer the teachings of The Prophet) that beautifully address the role of the mother in Islam.

One such says: I said to the Holy Prophet, “O Messenger of Allah, I desire to go on a (military) expedition and I have come to consult you.” He asked me if I had a mother, and when I replied that I had, he said, “Stay with her because Paradise lies beneath her feet.”

Another says; I asked the Prophet who has the greatest right over a man, and he said, “His mother.”

One of my favorites goes like this: I asked, “Messenger of Allah, to whom should I be dutiful?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then to whom should I be dutiful?” He replied, “Your father, and then the next closest relative and then the next.”

6. Marriage in Islam
While arranged marriage is still common in many Muslim cultures, any woman has the right to refuse a marriage match. And, while polygamy is considered lawful in Islam, a polygamous marriage may only occur where both (or all) women are in accord with the choice to be co-wives.

Divorce is legal in Islam, and a woman is guaranteed a divorce settlement even before marriage. Additionally, in marriage a man’s property becomes communal property by law, but a woman’s property remains in her own claim.

7. Sex in Islam
“Permitted to you on the night of the Fasts is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and you are their garments.”
(Qur’an, 2:187)

Obviously, Islam has a long way to go in regards to creating a healthy relationship with sex. (Still, don’t we all?)

Yes, it’s a homophobic religion, and one with strict regulation of sexuality beyond even that.

However, when sex happens within the container of the laws of Islam, i.e.; between a lawfully wedded woman and man, Islam (on the whole) has fewer sex-negative or sex phobic views than you would think.

Contraception is allowed, as is first-trimester abortion. In addition, sex has many extra-procreative purposes in Islamic faith, including deepening companionship between husband and wife.

“The Prophet himself, while not divulging all aspects of his own sexual life, was known for his nature as a loving husband who was sensitive and physically demonstrative. In several hadith, he speaks about the importance of foreplay and speaking in loving terms during sexual relations. Again, the concept of mutual satisfaction is elucidated in a hadith which advises husbands to engage in acts that enable a woman to achieve orgasm first. …Sexual dissatisfaction is considered legitimate grounds for divorce on the part of either wife or husband.”
- Source.

There’s even the suggestion that sexual intimacy between man and wife is a gift of worship, and something a Muslim will be rewarded for by Allah.

Female circumcision is not an Islamic practice, but an African tribal one, that predates the introduction of Islam to the areas that practice female circumcision (aka FGM, or female genital mutilation). The vast majority of Islamic countries and cultures do not practice female circumcision at all.

In honor of Ramadan, the most holy month in Islam, I hope we can all take a moment to honor the diversity of faiths that hold the world together, as much as they might tear it apart.

Clinging to anything causes suffering, and there is no exception to the rule here. But while we share the air, we share breath. Let’s be inspired by each other. And allow the outer jihad to give way to the greater jihad; the jihad of one’s own soul.

About Lasara Allen

Lasara is wife to her true love, and mother to two amazing young women. She’s also a best-selling author, an educator, and an activist. Lasara’s first book, the bestselling Sexy Witch (nonfiction, Llewellyn Worldwide), was published in 2005 under the name LaSara FireFox. As of 3/6/2012, after a coaching sabbatical, Lasara has openings for three three-week, individual, personally tailored coaching and mentoring programs. She also has slots in a cohort-model group coaching program available for a limited amount of time. Lasara is available for one-session commitments as well. Make whatever commitment feels best for you. Lasara offers individual coaching on topics such as; * Mental and Physical Health and Wellness - accepting your diagnosis (or that of a loved one) - learning to live with awareness of strengths and vulnerabilities - Learning to live gracefully within your spectrum of the possible * Mindful Relationships - self as primary partner - loving partnerships, friendships and connections - marriages - parenting - family * Spiritual Contemplation and Alignment - Entering into and committing to your spiritual inquiry - Learning to listen to listen for and hear the divine in your life - Inquiring into the role that faith may play in informing your path - The role of meditation, contemplation, and prayer in your practice For more information and endorsements, visit: http://lasaraallen.com/about-lasara/coaching-services/

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103 Responses to “7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Islam.”

  1. Hi,Thank you for your article above. I love Elephant Journal’s articles on spirituality and, as a Muslim, I appreciate your inclusion of Islam in your journal. There are two glaring factual inaccuracy in the article, though.1 – Ali ibn Abi Talib was not the first person to convert to Islam; he was the youngest amongst the earliest converts since he was only 10 years old at the time. The first person to accept Islam was Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) wife, Khadijah bint Khuwailid. He confided in her when he first received revelation and she immediately accepted Islam upon hearing it. I don’t think you’ll have any difficulty varifying this since it’s one of the basic historical facts about Islam and a point of pride for many Muslim women ;)2 - Hadith (singular), ahadith (plural) or hadiths (Anglicized plural) are not merely stories, as the writer states. They are recorded and rigorously verified sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that complements the Quran. For example, the Quran calls on Muslim to perform the daily prayer; the ahadith provide the details as to how (perform ablution before hand, stand upright, read certain verses, prostrate, etc.) Where the Quran calls for fasting in Ramadan, the ahadith details the precise period of fasting, what invalidates the fast, who is exempt from fasting, etc. I know it sounds like a small matter of substituting one word for another; however, when you consider the implication that these ahadith have on the practice of Muslims, the term stories is gravely inaccurate.On a different point, I find it offensive that the writer simply stated in passing that Islam is a homophobic religion. I feel it is somewhat tactless to say so in an article purported to shed light on little-known facts about the religion. Yes, Islam does not permit homosexual acts. But it, nonetheless, acknowledges that some people are born with homosexual tendencies, which are not considered wrong. It is a sin for a Muslim to engage in homosexual acts; still, that is a matter between him/her and God, and no human being has the right to punish or harm the doers in any way. Any law/ruling/fatwas that permit the punishment of LGBT people are rooted in misinterpretations of Quranic texts and ahadith. In Islam, every person is afforded the same respect regardless of  gender, ethnicity, status, nationality, or sexual orientation. So even though I do not believe that homosexual acts are permissable, I am obligated to stand up for any LGBT person/group that are oppressed, just as I am obligated to stand up for other victims of oppression.

    Thanks for reading my comment ;)

  2. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Jeffrey Miller
    Look forward to reading more, let me know if I can help, I'm not a Sheikh, but I have been muslim since I was 15 and have been through many different nodes From Sufi to Salafi, now walikng the middle path as best I can.I studied alot of Buddhism before I was Muslim and still read alot about it.I love the focus on quieting the mind.
    Peace

  3. Marcus says:

    And so we have a situation in which girls die as a result of their injuries following legal rape, as in Yemen this year, and in which young girls are married to 80 year-old-men, as happened in Saudi recently.

    And this kind of Islamic child abuse is on the rise in the west too:
    Canada: http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010
    Britain: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/feb/22/ukcrime….

    Lasara, I'm not saying that every Muslim man is a child-rapist. But I am saying that those who are, are supported by Islamic teachings, Islamic law, Islamic traditions, Islamic religious authorities, Islamic cultures and Islamic history.

    A question to you Lasara: do you condemn Muhammed's rape of Aisha?

  4. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    I think he is, just like I was above, trying to give some historical perspective to the argument.

  5. Jeffrey Miller says:

    And who says its a wrong?

  6. Jeffrey Miller says:

    last time I checked Mormons were christians, and I dont know how many christian communitys yyou have been to in asian, africa, or eastern europe?

  7. Kathryn says:

    For the record, I had a hard time getting a Borders in south Jersey to carry "Sexy Witch".

  8. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Thank you, Kathryn! Exactly.

  9. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Guest,

    As I have said too, reform must come from within the culture and religion itself. Otherwise we are just as bad as the things we fear "they" are.

    Nomani is a true hero. May she live a long and productive life, and may many follow after her who carry her torch.

  10. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    "Guest",

    Perhaps bigotry is a more accurate word.

  11. West says:

    Guest:

    You’re making point after point, easily verifiable. Naming names, posting quotes, stuff that can be falsified. You’re saying it dispassionately, politely, and clearly.

    Well done.

  12. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    And 16 = age of consent is ALSO an easily verifiable point.

  13. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    The UNICEF reported that: "… Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research, the highest religious authority in Egypt, issued a statement saying FGM/C has no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions and that it is harmful and should not be practised."

    Coptic Pope Shenouda, the leader of Egypt's minority Christian community, said that neither the Qur'an nor the Bible demand or mention female circumcision.

  14. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Jordan:
    I am in NO WAY defending "honour killings". There is NO honor in them, they are an absolute atrocity, and I pray for the day when they are no longer part of the fabric of any culture.

    …and…ONCE AGAIN, Muslims do not hold the corner on violence against women!

    "The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor-killing victims may be as high as 5,000."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor_killing

    AND:

    Reported rapes in United States hit 20-year low: report
    (– AT ~89,000!!! ed. addition)

    "The FBI pins the number of rapes reported last year to about 89,000, an average of 29 women being raped for every 100,000 people. These numbers sharply contrast against the data from 1992, with roughly 100,000 reported rapes – an 18 percent drop. Statistics for 2009 are not yet available."

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2009/10/

    Apples and oranges, perhaps. But…"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…"

  15. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Saudi:
    Yes, there is a LOT of room for improvement on the issue of women's rights But there are also reformist steps being made:

    "The presence of powerful businesswomen—still a rare sight—in some of these groups helps get them heard.[18] Prior to 2008, women were not allowed to enter hotels and furnished apartments without a chaperon or mahram. With a 2008 Royal Decree, however, the only requirement needed to allow women to enter hotels are their national ID cards, and the hotel must inform the nearest police station of their room reservation and length of stay, however this happens with everybody staying in the hotel not just women.[19]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Saud

    And, as I've said repeatedly, I AM NOT supporting Islam in whole cloth! Nor do I defend Pagansim that way, nor Christianity, nor open-relationship models, nor American values, etc.

    It takes a critical thinker to recognize that nothing is made of ONE thing.

  16. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    Guest: "Little girls are genitally butchered in the name of Islam and with the blessing of Islamic Holy men,"

    A 2005 report titled "Children in Islam: Their care, development and protection" issued by UNICEF and the International Islamic Center for Population Studies and Research at Al-Azhar University states:

    "Islam and female circumcision: From an Islamic perspective, the Quran says nothing relating explicitly or implicitly to female circumcision. The use of the general term ‘Sunnah Circumcision’ is nothing but a form of deceit to misguide people and give the impression that the practice is Islamic. As for the traditions attributed to the Prophet, peace be upon him, in this regard, past and present scholars have agreed that none of these traditions are authentic and should not be attributed to the Prophet."
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/fem_cirm3.htm

  17. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    "Why is modern day Islam so prone to violence…?"

    Maybe it has something to do with the fat that we're bombing the crap out of a few Islamic countries?

    Iraq Body Count – Documented civilian deaths from violence" (as of today)
    97,767 – 106,703
    http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

    " Iraq Body Count (IBC) records the violent civilian deaths that have resulted from the 2003 military intervention in Iraq. Its public database includes deaths caused by US-led coalition forces and paramilitary or criminal attacks by others.

    IBC’s documentary evidence is drawn from crosschecked media reports of violent events leading to the death of civilians, or of bodies being found, and is supplemented by the careful review and integration of hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures.

    Systematically extracted details about deadly incidents and the individuals killed in them are stored with every entry in the database. The minimum details always extracted are the number killed, where, and when.

    Confusion about the numbers produced by the project can be avoided by bearing in mind that:

    * IBC’s figures are not ‘estimates’ but a record of actual, documented deaths.
    * IBC records solely violent deaths.
    * IBC records solely civilian (strictly, ‘non-combatant’) deaths.
    * IBC’s figures are constantly updated and revised as new data comes in, and frequent consultation is advised."

  18. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    "99% of terrorists are Muslim."

    How do YOU define terrorism, and where did you get this #?

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