Throughout the recent years since 9/11 that has been a growing increase in Islamophobia and racist attacks on Muslims attacking as if all Muslims are terrorists and that it is the religion that is at fault. So why is this way of thinking growing in the UK in particular?
In British education I always wondered why we only learnt about religions in comparison to Christianity, a very common way of teaching religious studies in this country. This meant as a teenager I never gained a full understanding of different religions. All I knew is that in Hinduism there were multiple gods, Sikhism there are the 5 Ks (Kara, Kachera, Kirpan, Khalsa, Kesh and Kanga), in Judaism they eat Kosher and wear kippot, and Islam they eat halal which in my lessons we were taught this practice was inhumane. But why were we not told that Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same god but in different ways?
With this in mind, and having been searching for answers to life’s big questions, I made the decision that Islam deserved to be looked at seriously and for me to actually read the Quran to see if it truly had this notion of hate and terrorism at its heart that so many non-Muslims believe. In the very first surah, Al-Fatihah, one line stood out to me straight away “The entirely merciful, the most gracious” which echoed the verse in the bible (exodus 34:6) “the compassionate and gracious God”. There were so many verses that were very similar between the two books. This just increased my confusion as to why there was so much hate surrounding Islam.
We don’t blame Christianity for the individual believers that assault others, abuse their wives and children, who preach racism and hate, or those that commit huge genocides. So why does society condemn a whole religion for a minority of Muslims that have formed rebellious and terrorist groups?
The only thing I can think of are the main difference between how the different religions have been taught over the years. Here is just a summary of how each book describes treatment of others and how you should behave in society.
So, the teachings of modesty are in both books, however, one major different is that only one teaches both sexes to dress and act modestly while the other focuses solely on women’s behaviour.
Can you guess which one?
I bet you thought the latter was the Quran.
If you did, you are wrong.
The Quran teaches both men and women to dress modesty. That to be a good Muslim you need to cover your awrah, for women this is most of their body and only revealing their face, hands and feet, using the hijab (meaning veil, not just the scarf), however, if it affects her safety then she may remove her hijab to protect herself as the reason behind the hijab is to protect women from unwanted gazes. For Muslim men they also are taught to dress modestly, making sure that at a minimum they are covered from their navel to below their knees. However, they are told to cover up as much as possible because it is only fair that they also follow the idea of dressing modestly and fully covering their awrah. Men and women both must avert their gaze from the opposite sex to make sure they are not tempted, and it doesn’t if they were jewellery or bejewelled garments if women don’t wear fake gold or silver and men don’t wear gold.
The Bible is different, Men can dress in any way they wish in regard to modesty and behave as they wish as long as they repented, whereas women are taught to dress modestly in respectable apparel and not wear any gold or jewels that for be costly or attract attention. This idea, in my opinion, puts the blame on women if they attract unwanted attention because they dressed wrongly and didn’t follow teachings.
Does this teaching in the different religion come down to who they teach caused the original sin? Quite possibly.
In Christianity women are to blame and is why they are made to suffer painful childbirth, all because Eve took the first bite and tempted Adam. Whereas in Islam that temptation was the first lesson by Allah in the ways in which Shaytan tempts humans into sin, so neither Eve nor Adam holds the blame for they are equal in the lesson.
Having grown up in a Christianity country and only really learning white Christian history, I thought that throughout the whole world women didn’t get equal rights and until the early 1920s after they got the vote. And before I read the Quran, which is 1400 years old, I thought this was same in every culture and religion didn’t play a part. How wrong I was.
In Islam, men and women are moral equals in the eyes of God and they are expected to fulfil the same duties in terms of worship. When Islam started it helped women in the communities by fully embracing women having their own human rights meaning girls and boys were equal preventing female infanticide. So, what are the main differences regarding women that the religions teach?
· Christianity: Paid to the bride’s family only showing women and girls were property of the men in the family.
· Islam: Paid directly to the wife by the husband as a symbol of her financial independence and a symbolic promise that he will look after her
· Christianity: Wives and mothers are URGED to be “workers at home” (Titus 2.5) in simple terms this stands for housewives.
· Islam: So as long as the job role is permissible in Islam and provides Halal income (not going against the teachings of the Quran), guarantees her physical safety and protects her chastity and religion a woman is free to work and earn her own money.
· Christianity: Has a very dark history on the views of female education and the education of women to a high level is a rather modern concept in the Christian world. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12) This has been used over the centuries to ensure women didn’t get better education than men and didn’t hold positions of power in the workplace.
· Islam: encourages both men and women to learn and seek knowledge and it is even stated as a duty of every Muslim. One major example of this is Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, Khadijah, who managed her own large business where she employed several males because she had a right to her education in order to improve her understanding of business and raise her level of wisdom. There is no difference between men and women in terms of education within the teachings of the Quran and Islam.
4. Violence against Women
· Christianity: The bible isn’t very friendly towards women and even punishes for the crimes of men for example;
i. Rape: “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife.” (Deuteronomy 22:28-38) “If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, you shall...stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help...and the man because he violated his neighbour’s wife." (Ephesians 5:22-23)
ii. Obedience to husbands: "Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church." (Corinthians 14:34-35)
· Islam: Slightly different here are examples;
i. Rape: So if a woman is forced against her will outside of marriage (zina) or in her marriage then the rapist is punished, the woman can gain financial compensation for the attack on her body. If she is married, she has a complete right to seek a divorce and be free of her husband because he caused her harm. She has not sinned and is seen purely as a victim (see Quran verse 24:22)
ii. Obedience to Husbands: “There is no obedience to a human being in a matter which involves disobedience to God. Indeed, obedience only involves matters that are lawful” (Prophet Muhammad, recorded by Al-Bukhari) As if the husband attacks his wife or goes against the Quran and Islamic teachings the wife no longer needs to be obedient to him because it would mean she is no longer following God. “Men are protectors of women, because Allah has made some of them excel others and because they spend their wealth on them…” [4: 34].
So, we all know about Jesus Christ and Muhammad, in learning about Islam in the UK we learn solely that they follow the teaching of Muhammad and have nothing to do with Jesus Christ, the son of God.
This I think causes a lot of misunderstandings when it comes to the lessons of Islam and makes it stand out as very different to Christianity.
However, in Islam, Jesus is seen as just a man who was a prophet of God same as Muhammad, who was the last prophet on Earth. Therefore, they do not celebrate Christmas or Easter because the do not believe in celebrating the birth and death as they do believe he was crucified and instead believe he is still alive in paradise and will return on the Day of Judgement. Whereas in the Christian religion he is seen as the son of God on Earth and therefore superior to the rest of us and should be celebrated twice each year.
I hope this helps you understand the differences between the two and convinces you to look deeper into different religions instead of just following what is taught in schools and said in media. For all sources expect the religious books twist the verses to fit their agendas. I have tried within this article to be as unbiased as possible while still raising awareness that Islam is not as scaring as it is made out to be in the media.