Meaning of Islam: Myths, stereotypes hide
By Altaf Ali |South Florida
Sun-Sentinel Sept 15, 2008
Ask the average person what they
know about Islam, they might say, "It is the religion of the Arabs"
or "Jihad means holy war."
Some would even say that the Quran, Islam's revealed text, "promises
terrorists 72 virgins when they die."
Unfortunately, there are many myths and stereotypes about Islam. The "72
virgins" belief is probably the most misused and abused stereotype.
Add the misperceptions of Jihad and you'll have an accumulation of myths and
fears that will inevitably lead to Islam being marginalized and stigmatized.
Today, negative opinions about Islam are unfortunately escalating.
The Pew Research Center
and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a survey last year
indicating that 45 percent of Americans said Islam is more likely than other
faiths to encourage violence among its believers.
Let me set the record straight: suicide is forbidden in Islam.
In fact, suicide is forbidden in the Quran and in the sayings and example,
Hadith, of the Prophet Muhammad. The Quran and authentic Hadith are very clear
and explicit about what happens to anyone who commits suicide.
Prophet Muhammad said, "A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed
suicide, and so God said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I
forbid Paradise for him."
A few years ago, the Fiqh Council of North America
reaffirmed Islam's condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism by issuing
the following fatwa, or formal religious ruling: "We have consistently
condemned terrorism and extremism in all forms and under all circumstances, and
we reiterate this unequivocal position. Islam strictly condemns religious
extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives.
"There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting
civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of
attack is haram - prohibited in Islam - and those who commit these barbaric
acts are criminals, not 'martyrs.'"
The Quran states: "Whoever kills a person unjustly, it is as though he has
killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all
The closest reference to "72 virgins" comes from a saying of the
Prophet Muhammad, "The smallest reward for the people of Paradise is an
abode where there are 80,000 servants and 72 companions, over which stands a
dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine, and ruby, as wide as the distance from
Al-Jabiyyah [a Damascus suburb] to Sana'a [ Yemen ]."
Even if it is an authentic saying of Prophet Muhammad, there is no reference to
suggest that if someone commits acts of terrorism they would be rewarded with
72 virgins in Paradise .
The reference "terrorists are rewarded with 72 virgins in paradise"
goes against the nature and true essence of the teachings of Islam. One cannot
achieve paradise by committing acts of injustice.
Islam is a faith that adheres to peace and justice.
Yes, there are some who are misguided and commit acts of violence, but one
cannot hold an entire faith of 1.5 billion people accountable for the actions
In Islam, people who commit good deeds are rewarded and those who commit evil
deeds are punished.
Terrorists, all terrorists regardless of race, ethnicity or religion, will be
and should be punished not rewarded.
Nowhere in the Quran will one find, "Terrorists will receive 72 virgins
when they die."
This stereotype about Islam and Muslims needs to be put to rest once and for
Altaf Ali is executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on