Misconceptions about Islam

Differentiation between Islam and Muslims

If you want to know what is Islam you must look to its original sources: The Quran and the Sunnah. This presents Islam as it is, drawing on its original sources rather than judging it by the later day interpretations and commentaries or the practices of present day Muslims in different parts of the world. A distinction is made between Islam as presented by the Prophet Muhammad and his companions (information about which is available to us in the Qur’an and the sunnah) and Islam as represented by later Muslim generations — both in theory and practice.

Islam and Muslims

A Muslim once gave a non-Muslim a copy of the Quran to read. With great enthusiasm and deference, the non-Muslim took the Quran, and read it from beginning to end. When the two next met, the non-Muslim returned the copy of the Quran with these words: “Now give me the other Quran to read.” The Muslim thought that his friend wanted a different translation of the Quran, so he found one and handed it to him. The non-Muslim examined it for a few minutes, then said: “But this is the same Quran. What I meant was—give me the Quran that you people practice in your daily lives.”

The Obsession with Historical Glory

As mentioned above, one of the major reasons for the original Islam becoming an alien religion among the Muslims is that for latter day generations the basis for the Islamic ethos became the later history of Islam instead of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Muslims found their glorious history far more attractive than the Qur’an and Sunnah. For them they were just sets of words. Their history, on the contrary, gave them an immense sense of pride, as it was full of imperial grandeur and conquests.

The Veil of Interpretation

One reason for original Islam becoming alien is that as time went by self-styled interpretations of the Qur’an and Sunnah gradually placed a veil over the original content of these texts. A time came when the original Islam was completely obscured from view. The wrong, man-made interpretations took the place of revealed guidance. In later times, people mistakenly took them to be the real Islam.