Here’s a Novel Idea: You Should Learn about Islam from Actual Muslims

The latest diatribe by a prominent critic of Islam doesn’t evince any knowledge of Islam.

In his recent Washington Times article about the way Islamic law has shaped how Muslims live, Daniel Pipes reveals several surprising “facts” about Islam. 

For example, I was surprised to learn that Muslims not eating pork has resulted in “catastrophic deforestation” — even though United Nations studies have shown that South America and southern parts of Africa (both largely Christian) have the highest levels of deforestation, while the Middle East and North Africa (both largely Muslim) has shown little change. Also, Prophet Muhammad specifically forbade cutting trees unless absolutely necessary, even in times of great need. Jews also don’t eat pork, either, but I don’t see Pipes blaming Judaism for deforestation.

Next, I was surprised to learn that high government standards are distressing and the cause of widespread harm. Pipes alleges that Islam’s “unattainably high standards for governmental behaviors” led to “systematically deploying slaves as soldiers.” While some Muslim regimes had slaves, Islam also combated slavery and promoted human equality — a fact explored by scholars like historian Lerone Bennett, Jr.:

As a religious ethic, Islam was unusually effective in cutting across racial lines. All Moslems, whatever their color, were brothers in faith. “If a Negro slave is appointed to rule you,” Mohammed said, “hear and obey him, though his head be like a dried grape.” In this climate, a man could be a slave today and a prime minister tomorrow. An extraordinarily large number of Negroes played heroic roles in the rise and spread of Islam . . . [and] there were . . . numerous black generals, administrators, and poets . . . . [R]ace was not a crucial factor in the Islamic world.

According to Pipes, Islam is also to blame for the Taliban’s anti-polio campaign. But Muslims worldwide have condemned the Taliban’s bogus claim that polio renders children infertile. Let’s also recall that some in the West are anti-vaccine due to the similarly bogus claim that vaccines cause autism. Yet in these cases, we (rightly) blame those individuals, not Christianity or Judaism.

Another surprise from Pipes: the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, hajj, has been the cause of both extremism and disease. Neither allegation holds water. A 2008 Harvard study found that hajj “increases belief in equality and harmony among ethnic groups and Islamic sects and leads to more favorable attitudes toward women, including greater acceptance of female education and employment. Increased unity within the Islamic world is not accompanied by antipathy toward non-Muslims. Instead, hajjis show increased belief in peace, and in equality and harmony among adherents of different religions.” As for disease: observant Muslims wash their hands, feet, face, and noses at least 15 times a day. Meanwhile, Christian and Jewish Europe suffered 25 million deaths due to the Bubonic plague, caused in part by not bathing. Pipes employs a nasty double standard here: apparently any disease related to hajj is blamed on Islam, but 25 million deaths in Europe is just a random act of nature.

I was also surprised to see Pipes inveigh against Ramadan fasting because of supposed health problems associated with the practice. Overwhelming medical science has confirmed the outstanding benefits of fasting as Islam prescribes — it combats cancer, heart disease, obesity, and can delay Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Pipes complains that “60% of respondents reported excessive weight gain after Ramadan” while conveniently forgetting that America has a higher obesity rate than all but three of the world’s 55 Muslim majority nations. Are Christianity and Judaism to blame for obesity here?

It’s likewise surprising to see Pipes mock Islam’s approval of first-cousin marriages. First, the Bible encourages first cousin marriages (Numbers 36:1-11; Genesis 24:48-51; I Chronicles 23:22). Likewise, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Joseph and Mary mother of Jesus were first cousins. And the “negative [medical] consequences” warned of are no different than a woman bearing children in her late 30s or early 40s.

Pipes baselessly claims that Islam gives women “lower social and legal status,” ignoring the fact that Islam was the first, and indeed only, Abrahamic faith to give women equal right to marry, divorce, own property, and have an equal say in political affairs. Likewise, Muslims have consistently and vehemently condemned female genital mutilation as well as honor killings.

Then there is Pipes’ concern about the historic and current practice of polygamy. But Islam did not establish polygamy, but rather limited it and enforced the condition that a husband must treat each wife with absolute justice — or not marry. Islam obliges a man to marry only if he is able to treat his wife with absolute justice, full financial support, and full emotional support. Once this is accomplished, Islam permits a man to consider polygamy, but only under strict conditions.

Pipes correctly notes that orphans enjoy an honored status in Islamic law, but baselessly claims that status is tied to tribal structure. The Qur’an universally condemns anyone who oppresses orphans and universally commends anyone who helps orphans. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad was an orphan, and Muslims who abuse orphans do so contrary to Islamic law.

Of course, Pipes also presents the oft-repeated lie that Islamic teachings result in suicide terrorism. Islam categorically condemns suicide and murdering innocents, and the religion did not invent suicide terrorism. 

What’s most shocking about Pipes’ article is not something he says, but something he does not do. In his entire editorial about Islamic law, he does not make a single reference to any Qur’anic verse or hadith. His entire analysis of Islamic law and its supposed effects occurs without a single reference to actual Islamic law. 

We should learn about Islam from practicing Muslims, not Taliban extremists like the ones Pipes cites, and not anti-Islam extremists like Pipes.


Qasim Rashid
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  • KT Shamim

    Masha’Allah. And JazakAllah. Ownage!

  • bm

    Shiites killing Sunnis and vice versa 24/7. What else is there to learn?..

  • S. Taalay Ahmed

    Great article. Keep up the good work.

  • chris turner

    which actual Muslim should I ask, Taliban, boko haram, sunni, shia, wahabi, Zakir Naik, …?
    Are any of them not Muslims?
    They say they are, who is anyone to to say they are not.
    How do you/we tell?
    Is there a test?
    Is it like the wizard of OZ, “only bad Muslims are ugly”

    • DAVE

      You’re missing the point. It’s about learning Islam from those who practice it in the right way.
      To answer your question is there a test? Yes, it is those who follow the five pillars of Islam and practice and preach non-violence.

      That is not to say that you or I can call those who claim to be Muslims, non Muslims. This is because that judgement is surely for God to cast.

      Example, just because there are extremist Christians in Central Africa at the moment being violent, it does not mean that it defines all Christian behaviour. It certainly like Islam does not mean the religion is violent nor encourages it.

      • bm

        The koran demands death to all infidels. What else do I need to learn?

        • Christopher Janney

          To be clear, and I say this as a Muslim, the Qur’an does not say death to all infidels. The Holy Qur’an simply states no different than the Bible, which is that non-believers and those who plot against God’s Prophets will meet death and be codemned to hell. Repeatedly in the Qur’an there is clarification that you should not cause harm to any one of any faith, and in fact we are called to protect not only mosques but also churches and synagogues, as they are places where God is worshipped. Everything is about being committed to God and focused on God.

          I would like to further clarify a bit about the violence in the Qur’an, because I know I was confused about it before I took the time to learn it. The context surrounding the discussion of killing anyone is the critical component. When we look at the context, it was during a time when there were non-believers (called infidels) that were plotting, attacking, and finding any way possible to come after Prophet Muhammad and his followers. The tribes and peoples geographically nearest to him were afraid of what he was teaching, and wanted to irradicate it. Therefore, God at some points gave direction for them to defend themselves and Islam. However, for anyone that actually studies the Qur’an, as I wish more of the extremists would actually do, you find that there are strict rules about when, where, and how to fight. There are rules on what you can and can’t do after a battle, including the ways to treat people and property. The battles that took place were strongly attempted to be diverted, but in some cases those that wished harm upon the early Muslims just would not back down. In order to protect themselves, they fought. Sometimes they won, and there are other times they lost quite a few people as well. It was not all about going out and slaughtering every person that refused to become a Muslim. However, there is clarification that if during a battle someone makes the claim that they believe in the one true God and the Holy Prophet, then they should immediately be accepted as a Muslim, no questions.

          For those that were not Muslims, they were more than welcomed in to Islamic cities. In fact, they paid LESS taxes than the Zakat that the Muslims paid. If you look back to pictures from even as short as 20 – 30 years ago, places like Pakistan and Afghanistan had advanced technology, education, modern clothes, womens rights…so what happened? The Taliban. They are a militarized menace. If you want to point fingers at a large contributor of the problem, you start there. Islam is not the problem, any more than Catholicism was the problem in Ireland during the religious battles there. Keep things in context, please. If history can teach us anything it is that every religion, culture, population, whatever has had thier negative groups that caused a bad image. If instead we work together as one collective population of human beings instead of trying to point out who is wrong and bad all the time, we could probably fix much more.

          • bm

            Sunni imams demanding death to the infidel Shiites and vice versa vitiate all your commentary.

          • Christopher Janney

            I’m sorry, but the actions of those few does not represent everyone, nor is it following Islam. I know that is all you hear, but believe me, for every one person saying something like that you have many others saying the opposite, but of course that doesn’t make the public arena. Don’t get me wrong, Islam is struggling right now in many places, but not because of the teachings of Islam, which is perfect and pure from God. Instead, it is from the twisting by human beings as has happened with so many other religions.

          • bm

            Every imam preaches death to infidfels so your words are bogus. Might want to change religions or evaluate atheism.

          • DAVE

            The number of muslims in the world stands at around 1.6 billion. if even a 1/4 of that population decided to follow what a minority of misguided imams preach ‘death to infidels’, as you love repeating, then you would not be sitting behind your computer typing your responses… no infidel in this world would exist. Do you know why you are still typing your responses? Because your statement is not true.

            Might want to evaluate your thought process and logic.

          • DAVE

            Right… Because those are the only two sects under the banner of Islam. (please pick up on sarcasm)
            And no, not all sunni/shi’a imams preach violence, they are in a minority. Therefore, the commentary expressed above is not redundant.

          • bm

            Please do not include the NT in your comparisons of the koran to the bible.

        • DAVE

          Does it?

          Jews, Christians and Muslims have lived side by side in harmony throughout history. Even when non-Muslims lived under Islamic sovereignty they were given a special status and citizenship known as ‘dhimmis’. This gave non-believers security by the state and all the rights of an ordinary Muslim. Hence, they were not killed for being infidels.

          Let’s take religion somewhat out of the discussion for a moment and merely apply some logic and reason. If the Quran does preach what you say (which it does not). Let us pretend it does for a moment. Then surely every Muslim (1.6 billion of them) should be killing an infidel as we discuss this topic. Why are all the Muslims not doing it? If what you claim is true, then there would not be a moments peace in this world. Are the majority of Muslims disobeying their holy scripture? Have they all got it wrong and you have got it right?

          Apply either of the two points considered above and your statement ceases to stand.

          • Life’s Traveller

            “Even when non-Muslims lived under Islamic sovereignty they were given a special status and citizenship known as ‘dhimmis’.”

            You make it sound so cute and appealing. “Special status”, who wouldn’t want that?

            Well, 3rd class status within a society that requires that I pay for my life with what amounts to institutionalized “protection money”, know as the Jizya (oh, you didn’t mention that either) doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time.

            For anyone that’s interested, non-Muslims in Syria are currently being compelled by the rebel extremists to ransom their lives by paying the Jizya. More details on this process can be found by searching for the news articles.

          • DAVE

            You already pay for your life in the country you live in with tax…. do you not? It’s the same thing. Think about it. The life you life you live and its standard is paid for in tax.

            And I’m not too sure how bluntly I can put this, but I’ll try for humanity’s sake: Islam is not a religion that preaches violence and muslims do not practice violence. If they did, 1.7 billion people would be killing non-believers at every turn. It is simply not a logical statement nor suggestion to say that Islam or Muslims are violent. To do so would be defying reason.

            It is just like me saying every atheists is violent and wants to kill everyone because of their beliefs. Just because there have been atheists in the world who have killed people. Or the whole of Northern Ireland is extreme because of the IRA. It would not make sense for me to bundle the majority of these people under one heading (of violent) because of the actions of some… they are not all like that.

            Forget the versers of the Quran for the moment and every other sentence you believe is violent… Look around… You’re still alive. Because, they (practicing muslims) are not violent.

          • Life’s Traveller

            No. I don’t pay for my life with taxes. I paid for a reasonable portion of the total services that my society provides to me as an individual. If I had less than a specified amount of income then I would pay no taxes.If I had income and chose not to pay income tax then my society might take legal action to try to extract this payment but under no circumstance would I be killed for not paying.

            In terms of atheists, please show me where anything amounting to a doctrine for atheists encourages anything remotely similar to:

            Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly
            while they are humbled. – Surat At-Tawbah 9:29

            Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not. – Surat Al-Baqarah 2:216

            Islam teaches supremacy, and the struggle for Islamic dominance, both political, and where necessary armed. The reason why I feel under no imminent threat is two-fold. Firstly. armed jihad, where I live is currently impractical because under the current circumstances, its unlikely to be effective, and everyone knows it. Secondly, because a given teaching is hateful, doesn’t mean that all adherents necessarily accept the doctrine fully. Humans being what we are, are want to fail.

    • Life’s Traveller

      You ask exactly the correct question. The illusive answers that you’ve obtained from Muslims are very illuminating, in their tendency towards misinformation.

      There are two sets of criteria that distinguish all Muslims, and neither of them directly includes “practice and preach non-violence” as DAVE has described in his valiant attempt at half-truth.

      All Muslims practice the Five Pillars of Islam which determine their behaviors in certain specific areas (ritual prayer, declaration of faith etc.).

      All Muslims subscribe to the Six Articles of the Islamic Faith, which outlines completely their beliefs, including a belief in the Qur’an as a holy scripture.

      And that’s it. There are no Muslims (that I’m aware of) for which these practices and beliefs do not apply. Anything more than these, simply amount to distinctions between various sects within Islam.

      Where most of the issues originate, in my opinion, are not in their practice of the 5 Pillars, but in their beliefs, particularly their belief in the Qur’an as the direct word of God. The Qur’an is convoluted, inconsistent and in many places, either literally hateful and intolerant, or else completely open to interpretation on the part of any individual with no systemic regulation of doctrinal heresy.

      This is why there is such a wide range of observable behaviors found with Islam adherents.

      • Zorro

        I understand your pain in seeing the extremely disruptive behaviour of “extremist Muslims in Syria” or elsewhere. And rightly as you say they misinterpret the Quran. And we all Muslims are as well extremely pained by their behaviour, as this is not preached either by Muhammad or the Quran. We doubly pained as the naive non-muslims blame the whole Muslim population indiscriminately for their despicable, inhumane and suicidal acts and most of the time these terrorist acts are being done against Muslims themselves (here I mean that they should not have been done at all rather than being done against any other group). It’s easy to identify any true Muslim or for that matter any lover of God and true follower of the Quran: it’s the peaceful people, lovers of humanity. You cannot say you love God the Creator and at the same time you do harm to its creation! What kind of love is this?

        And as far as I know a great majority of the 1.6 billion muslims are peaceful and condemn the terrorists and their acts.

        Type ‘Humanity First’ on google, and you’ll see Muslims love for humanity in practice.

        • Life’s Traveller

          Unfortunately, there’s a bit more to it than simply extremists behaving badly.

          The ideals of Islamic supremacy and the call for jihad (straight out of the Qur’an), of all forms (and not just the violent variety) in order to promote Islam throughout the world, would be an unparalleled catastrophe for humanity, in my opinion.

          If Muslims want to live poorly (once the resources run out) in traditional Muslim countries, then from my perspective, that’s their business, however leave the rest of us in peace without trying to further the extent of an ideology that in 113 years has managed to garner 1, or possibly 2 Nobel prizes (depending on who you talk to ) in any of the scientific realms of discovery. Those that, for the most part have created the modern world, and that constitute the best hope for the continued existence of humanity on this planet.

        • BM

          Please respond to the following as previously requested:
          Want to learn about the violent Islam, ask a Muslim to quote Surah 5.51, 8.12, 8.36, 9.12, 9.29, 9.31, 9.37, 9.121……And of course, they will tell you that said passages were passed on to Mohammed by Gabriel/Allah so the passages must be obeyed…The idiocy of it all!

          • Life’s Traveller

            Actually I think that you’re more likely to hear something like “But look at all of the verses of the Qur’an that talk about moderation and tolerance”, and they would be correct and I’m sure well able to quote these.

            The Qur’an is highly inconsistent, probably because its entirety was recited over a long period of time and as conditions changed, the nature of the verses also changed. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective) this inconsistency didn’t escape the early followers of Muhammad, and so the method of Abrogation of Verses was brought forth to provide a clear method for resolving any inconsistencies. If you’re not familiar with this concept, it is full discussed by searching on “The Problem of Abrogation inthe Quran”
            the early followers of Muhammad,

            Interestingly the verses that you have chosen to quote from
            At-Taubah surah 9, and Al-Maeda surah 5 are essentially the last revealed verses of any substance, and so the final word from Islam of the matters discussed.

          • BM

            Putting a safe and peaceful end to all of this Muslim inanity:

            From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi—-–

            The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

            ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

            Are you ready?

            Using “The 77 Branches of Islamic “faith” a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true “faith” (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings.” i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

            The First Five of the 77 Branches:

            “1. Belief in Allah”

            aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

            “2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence.”

            Evolution and the Big Bang or the “Gi-b G-nab” (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the “akas” for Allah should be included if you continue to be a “crea-tionist”.

            “3. To believe in the existence of angels.”

            A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No “pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies” ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and “tin–ker be-lls”. Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

            “4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore.”

            Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

            Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

            Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

            “5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings
            be upon him) alone.”

            Mohammed spent thirty days “fasting” (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a “pretty wingy thingy”. Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed’s “fast, hunger-driven” hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

            Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

          • BM

            Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the “two-minute” cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

            Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

          • Life’s Traveller

            If I read your comment correctly, you see the real problem being the Islamic belief in the truth of the Qur’an, the recited verse of Mohammad, and in the example of the life of Mohammad, as written down in the Haddiths.

            If so, that sounds about right to me, however the real problem is how to convince Muslims, who have been brought-up to hold these ideals as sacred, to renounce significant portions of their doctrine. I don’t see this as a likely possibility to achieve from outside of Islam, given the significant power and influence of childhood indoctrination.

            All that can reasonably be achieved is to try to limit the possible range of actions of the Islamists, but I’m not frankly too optimistic as to the possibilities of success given the lack of courage on the part of Western leadership. Its a difficult problem.

      • BM

        Excellent review!!!

      • chris turner

        thanks, I was intrigued by the “non violence” part of the answer. In the same way that “some people are more equal than others” , some are more non-violent than others, and pre-emptive non-violence and self-protection can get pretty non-violent e.g. Hitler “protecting” fellow germans in the Sudatenland and Poland, USA drone bombing Afganistan and Pakistan today.

        • Life’s Traveller

          Cheers. I think there are religions where non-violence is a part of the core doctrine (Jainism is one that comes to mind), however by all objective measures, Islam is as far from this ideal as one can imagine.

  • Atiya malik

    Thank you for taking the time to find the appropriate references to make your points clear. Anyone who has at least an Elementary school education, knows that if you make broad statements without giving concrete evidence, you fail the test. Which is why the article written by Pipes has failed. Also, it was so full of anger and hatred, I could not finish reading it.

    This article however is so positive and uplifting, one wants to continue reading, not only for the beauty of the writing, but for the beautiful message of the faith it represents, well done!

  • Qudsia

    I read Pipes article. It was a fluff piece, to say the least. I’m glad the rebuttal here is well written and includes appropriate references. It was amusing to see Pipes using Islam’s advanced teachings against racism, slavery and orphan abuse, and its teachings to promote social justice into something negative.

  • CanadianConvertoIslam

    After 9/11, Daniel Pipes was “at the ready” to tell the world to fear all Muslims. Thirteen years later, he shows that he still remains anti-Muslim with a capital A. Consequently, it is delightful to read Qasim Rashid decimate his list of arguments point by point. Mr. Rashid proves that this is an age of reason and enlightenment.

  • bm

    Want to learn about the violent Islam, ask a Muslim to quote Surah 5.51, 8.12, 8.36, 9.12, 9.29, 9.31, 9.37, 9.121……And of course, they will tell you that said passages were passed on to Mohammed by Gabriel/Allah so the passages must be obeyed…The idiocy of it all!

    • DAVE

      You sound quite extreme for your hate of Islam. The irony.

  • muslimsforpeace

    JazakAllah for a wonderful piece full of logic, reasoning and facts…i wonder how writers like Pipes find it appropriate to write article full of allegations without quoting any solid basis to support their view, from scripture of Muslims.

    • bm

      Muslims for peace? Clean up the koran and then we might listen.

  • WmarkW

    Good point.
    Should we also learn about Nazism from Nazis instead of Jews?