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Criticism of Islam

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Title: Criticism of Islam  
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Subject: List of critics of Islam, Criticism of religion, Islam, Al-Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah, Islamic feminism
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Criticism of Islam

Criticism of Islam has existed since Islam's formative stages. Early written criticism came from Christians, prior to the ninth century, many of whom viewed Islam as a radical Christian heresy.[1] Hindus and Zoroastrians made notable criticism as well. Later the Muslim world itself offered criticism.[2][3][4]

Objects of criticism include the morality of the life of Muhammad, the last prophet according to Islam, both in his public and personal life.[4][5] Issues relating to the authenticity and morality of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, are also discussed by critics.[6] Other criticism focuses on the question of human rights in the Islamic world historically and in modern Islamic nations, including the treatment of women and religious and ethnic minorities in Islamic law and practice.[7][8] In wake of the recent multiculturalism trend, Islam's influence on the ability or willingness of Muslim immigrants in the Western world,[9] and other countries such as India[10][11][12] and Russia,[13][14] to assimilate has been criticized.


Early Islam

John of Damascus a Syrian monk and presbyter, 19th-century Arabic icon

The earliest surviving written criticisms of Islam are to be found in the writings of Christians who came under the early dominion of the Islamic Caliphate. One such Christian was John of Damascus (c. 676–749 AD), who was familiar with Islam and Arabic. The second chapter of his book, The Fount of Wisdom, titled "Concerning Heresies", presents a series of discussions between Christians and Muslims. John claimed an Arian monk (whom he did not know was Bahira) influenced Muhammad and viewed the Islamic doctrines as nothing more than a hodgepodge culled from the Bible.[15] Writing on Islam's claim of Abrahamic ancestry, John explained that the Arabs were called "Saracens" (Greek Σαρακενοί, Sarakenoi) because they were "empty" (κενός, kenos, in Greek) "of Sarah". They were called "Hagarenes" because they were "the descendants of the slave-girl Hagar".[16] In the opinion of John Tolan, a Professor of Medieval History, John's biography of Muhammad is "based on deliberate distortions of Muslim traditions".[17]

Other notable early critics of Islam included:

Medieval world

Medieval Islamic world

In the early centuries of the Islamic Caliphate, the Islamic law allowed citizens to freely express their views, including criticism of Islam and religious authorities, without fear of persecution.[19][20][21] As such, there have been several notable Muslim critics and skeptics of Islam that arose from within the Islamic world itself. In tenth and eleventh-century Syria there lived a blind poet called Al-Ma'arri. He became well known for a poetry that was affected by a "pervasive pessimism." He labeled religions in general as "noxious weeds" and said that Islam does not have a monopoly on truth. He had particular contempt for the ulema, writing that:

Another early critic was the Persian physician Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi in the 10th century. He criticized Islam and all prophetical religions in general in several treatises.[18]:227–230 Despite his views, he remained a celebrated physician across the Islamic world.[23] In 1280, the Jewish philosopher, Ibn Kammuna, criticized Islam in his book Examination of the Three Faiths. He reasoned that the Sharia was incompatible with the principles of justice, and that this undercut the notion of Muhammad being the perfect man: "there is no proof that Muhammad attained perfection and the ability to perfect others as claimed."[24][25] The philosopher thus claimed that people converted to Islam from ulterior motives:

According to Bernard Lewis, just as it is natural for a Muslim to assume that the converts to his religion are attracted by its truth, it is equally natural for the convert's former coreligionists to look for baser motives and Ibn Kammuna's list seems to cover most of such nonreligious motives.[26]

Maimonides, one of the foremost 12th century rabbinical arbiters and philosophers, sees the relation of Islam to Judaism as primarily theoretical. Maimonides has no quarrel with the strict monotheism of Islam, but finds fault with the practical politics of Muslim regimes. He also considered Islamic ethics and politics to be inferior to their Jewish counterparts. Maimonides criticised what he perceived as the lack of virtue in the way Muslims rule their societies and relate to one another.[27] In his Epistle to Yemenite Jewry, he refers to Mohammad, as "hameshuga" – "that madman".[28]

Medieval Christianity

Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above, in Michelino's fresco
  • In Dante's Inferno, Muhammad is portrayed as split in half, with his guts hanging out, representing his status as a schismatic (one who broke from the Church).
  • Some medieval ecclesiastical writers portrayed Muhammad as possessed by Satan, a "precursor of the Antichrist" or the Antichrist himself.[4]
  • Denis the Carthusian wrote two treatises to refute Islam at the request of Nicholas of Cusa, Contra perfidiam Mahometi, et contra multa dicta Sarracenorum libri quattuor and Dialogus disputationis inter Christianum et Sarracenum de lege Christi et contra perfidiam Mahometi.[29]
  • The Tultusceptrum de libro domni Metobii, an Andalusian manuscript with unknown dating, shows how Muhammad (called Ozim, from Hashim) was tricked by Satan into adulterating an originally pure divine revelation. The story argues God was concerned about the spiritual fate of the Arabs and wanted to correct their derivation from the faith. He then sends an angel to the monk Osius who orders him to preach to the Arabs. Osius however is in ill-health and orders a young monk, Ozim, to carry out the angel's orders instead. Ozim sets out to follow his orders, but gets stopped by an evil angel on the way. The ignorant Ozim believes him to be the same angel that spoke to Osius before. The evil angel modifies and corrupts the original message given to Ozim by Osius, and renames Ozim Muhammad. From this followed the erroneous teachings of Islam, according to the Tultusceptrum.[30]
  • According to many Christians, the coming of Muhammad was foretold in the Holy Bible. According to the monk Bede this is in Genesis 16:12, which describes Ishmael as "a wild man" whose "hand will be against every man". Bede says about Muhammad: "Now how great is his hand against all and all hands against him; as they impose his authority upon the whole length of Africa and hold both the greater part of Asia and some of Europe, hating and opposing all."[31]
  • In 1391 a dialogue was believed to have occurred between Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and a Persian scholar in which the Emperor stated:

Enlightenment Europe

In Of the Standard of Taste, an essay by David Hume, the Quran is described as an "absurd performance" of a "pretended prophet" who lacked "a just sentiment of morals." Attending to the narration, Hume says, "we shall soon find, that [Muhammad] bestows praise on such instances of treachery, inhumanity, cruelty, revenge, bigotry, as are utterly incompatible with civilized society. No steady rule of right seems there to be attended to; and every action is blamed or praised, so far as it is beneficial or hurtful to the true believers."[33]

Nineteenth and twentieth century

During the whole 19th and 20th century, numerous personalities have criticized Muslims and Islam, either the criticism was based on the scriptural evidences, or the basic Muslim representation of their culture and religion. While some would suggest the better examples in terms of civilization, economy, awareness, etc., but possess critical view towards Muslims.

The Hindu philosopher Vivekananda commented on Islam:

Dayanand Saraswati calls the concept of Islam to be highly offensive, and doubted that there is any connection of Islam with God:

Pandit Lekh Ram regarded that Islam was grown through the violence and desire for wealth. He further asserted that Muslims deny the entire Islamic prescribed violence and atrocities, and will continue doing so. He wrote:-

The Victorian orientalist scholar Sir William Muir criticised Islam for what he perceived to be an inflexible nature, which he held responsible for stifling progress and impeding social advancement in Muslims countries. The following sentences are taken from the Rede Lecture he delivered at Cambridge in 1881:

Winston Churchill criticized what he alleged to be the effects Islam had on its believers, which he described as fanatical frenzy combined with fatalistic apathy, enslavement of women, and militant proselytizing.[40] In his 1899 book The River War he says:

A young Winston Churchill on a lecture tour of the United States in 1900

Zoroastrian writer Sadegh Hedayat regarded Islam as the corrupter of Iran, he said:

The church historian, Philip Schaff described Islam as spread by violence and fanaticism, and producing a variety of social ills in the regions it conquered.[42]

Anglican priest, scholar and hymn-writer John Mason Neale

Schaff also described Islam as a derivative religion based on an amalgamation of "heathenism, Judaism and Christianity."[43]

J. M. Neale criticized Islam in terms similar to those of Schaff, arguing that it was made up of a mixture of beliefs that provided something for everyone.[44]

Mahatma Gandhi, the most acknowledged freedom fighter of India, he found the history of Muslims to be aggressive, while he pointed that Hindus have passed that stage of societal evolution:-

Jawaharlal Nehru in his book "Discovery of India", describes Islam to have been faith for military conquests, he wrote "Islam had become a more rigid faith suited more to military conquests rather than the conquests of the mind," and that Muslims brought nothing new to his country.

Modern world

Modern Christianity

André Servier a historian who lived in French Algeria at the beginning of the 20th century studied well the customs and manners of the North African people, becoming one of the few French intellectuals who studied in depth Ibn Ishaq's Sira. His research included the Ottoman Empire and the Panislamic movement. He criticized Islam in his book L’islam et la psychologie du musulman saying that:

The early 20th-century missionary James L. Barton argued that Islam's view of the sovereignty of God is so extreme and unbalanced as to produce a fatalism that stifles human initiative:[49]

G. K. Chesterton criticized Islam as a derivative from Christianity. He described it as a heresy or parody of Christianity. In The Everlasting Man he says:

During a lecture given at the University of Regensburg in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI quoted an unfavorable remark about Islam made at the end of the 14th century by Manuel II Palaiologos, the Byzantine emperor.[51][52] As the English translation of the Pope's lecture was disseminated across the world, many Islamic politicians and religious leaders protested against what they saw as an insulting mischaracterization of Islam.[51][52] Mass street protests were mounted in many Islamic countries, the Majlis-e-Shoora (Pakistani parliament) unanimously called on the Pope to retract "this objectionable statement".[53]

Modern Hinduism

Nobel prize winning novelist, V. S. Naipaul stated that Islam requires its adherents to destroy everything which is not related to it. He described it as having a:

Modern African Traditional

Nobel prize winning playwright Wole Soyinka stated that Islam had a role in denigrating African spiritual traditions. He criticized attempts to whitewash what he sees as the destructive and coercive history of Islam on the continent:

Soyinka also regarded Islam as "superstition." He said that it doesn't belong to Africa. He stated that it is mainly spread with violence and force.[56]

Truthfulness of Islam and Islamic scriptures

Reliability of the Quran

12th century Andalusian Qur'an

According to traditional Islamic scholarship, all of the Quran was written down by Muhammad's companions while he was alive (during AD 610-632), but it was primarily an orally related document. The written compilation of the whole Qur'an in its definite form as we have it now was not completed until many years after the death of Muhammad.[57] John Wansbrough, Patricia Crone and Yehuda D. Nevo argue that all the primary sources which exist are from 150–300 years after the events which they describe, and thus are chronologically far removed from those events.[58][59][60]

Critics reject the idea that the Quran is miraculously perfect and impossible to imitate as asserted in the Quran itself.[61] The Jewish Encyclopedia, for example, writes: "The language of the Koran is held by the Mohammedans to be a peerless model of perfection. Critics, however, argue that peculiarities can be found in the text. For example, critics note that a sentence in which something is said concerning Allah is sometimes followed immediately by another in which Allah is the speaker (examples of this are suras xvi. 81, xxvii. 61, xxxi. 9, and xliii. 10.) Many peculiarities in the positions of words are due to the necessities of rhyme (lxix. 31, lxxiv. 3), while the use of many rare words and new forms may be traced to the same cause (comp. especially xix. 8, 9, 11, 16)."[62] According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, "The dependence of Mohammed upon his Jewish teachers or upon what he heard of the Jewish Haggadah and Jewish practices is now generally conceded."[62] John Wansbrough believes that the Quran is a redaction in part of other sacred scriptures, in particular the Judaeo-Christian scriptures.[63][64] Herbert Berg writes that "Despite John Wansbrough's very cautious and careful inclusion of qualifications such as "conjectural," and "tentative and emphatically provisional", his work is condemned by some. Some of negative reaction is undoubtedly due to its radicalness...Wansbrough's work has been embraced wholeheartedly by few and has been employed in a piecemeal fashion by many. Many praise his insights and methods, if not all of his conclusions."[65] Early jurists and theologians of Islam mentioned some Jewish influence but they also say where it is seen and recognized as such, it is perceived as a debasement or a dilution of the authentic message. Bernard Lewis describes this as "something like what in Christian history was called a Judaizing heresy."[66] According to Moshe Sharon, the story of Muhammad having Jewish teachers is a legend developed in the 10th century A.D.[67] Philip Schaff described the Quran as having "many passages of poetic beauty, religious fervor, and wise counsel, but mixed with absurdities, bombast, unmeaning images, low sensuality."[68]

Critics argue that:

  • the Quran contains verses which are difficult to understand or contradictory.[69]
  • Some accounts of the history of Islam say there were two verses of the Quran that were allegedly added by Muhammad when he was tricked by Satan (in an incident known as the "Story of the Cranes", later referred to as the "Satanic Verses"). These verses were then retracted at angel Gabriel's behest.[70][71]
  • The author of the Apology of al-Kindy Abd al-Masih ibn Ishaq al-Kindi (not to be confused with the famed philosopher al-Kindi) claimed that the narratives in the Quran were "all jumbled together and intermingled" and that this was "an evidence that many different hands have been at work therein, and caused discrepancies, adding or cutting out whatever they liked or disliked".[72]

Reliability of the Hadith

Hadith are Muslim traditions relating to the Sunnah (words and deeds) of Muhammad. They are drawn from the writings of scholars writing between 844 and 874 CE, more than 200 years after the death of Mohammed in 632 CE.[73] Within Islam, different schools and sects have different opinions on the proper selection and use of Hadith. The four schools of Sunni Islam all consider Hadith second only to the Quran, although they differ on how much freedom of interpretation should be allowed to legal scholars.[74] Shi'i scholars disagree with Sunni scholars as to which Hadith should be considered reliable. The Shi'as accept the Sunnah of Ali and the Imams as authoritative in addition to the Sunnah of Muhammad, and as a consequence they maintain their own, different, collections of Hadith.[75]

It has been suggested that there exists around the Hadith three major sources of corruption: political conflicts, sectarian prejudice, and the desire to translate the underlying meaning, rather than the original words verbatim.[76]

Muslim critics of the hadith, Quranists, reject the authority of hadith on theological grounds, pointing to verses in the Quran itself: "Nothing have We omitted from the Book",[77] declaring that all necessary instruction can be found within the Quran, without reference to the Hadith. They claim that following the Hadith has led to people straying from the original purpose of God's revelation to Muhammad, adherence to the Quran alone.[78] Syed Ahmed Khan (1817–1898) is often considered the founder of the modernist movement within Islam, noted for his application of "rational science" to the Quran and Hadith and his conclusion that the Hadith were not legally binding on Muslims.[79] His student, Chiragh ‘Ali, went further, suggesting nearly all the Hadith were fabrications.[79] Ghulam Ahmed Pervez (1903–1985) was a noted critic of the Hadith and believed that the Quran alone was all that was necessary to discern God's will and our obligations. A fatwa, ruling, signed by more than a thousand orthodox clerics, denounced him as a 'kafir', a non-believer.[80] His seminal work, Maqam-e Hadith argued that the Hadith were composed of "the garbled words of previous centuries", but suggests that he is not against the idea of collected sayings of the Prophet, only that he would consider any hadith that goes against the teachings of Quran to have been falsely attributed to the Prophet.[81] The 1986 Malaysian book "Hadith: A Re-evaluation" by Kassim Ahmad was met with controversy and some scholars declared him an apostate from Islam for suggesting that "“the hadith are sectarian, anti-science, anti-reason and anti-women."[79][82]

John Esposito notes that "Modern Western scholarship has seriously questioned the historicity and authenticity of the hadith", maintaining that "the bulk of traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad were actually written much later." He mentions Joseph Schacht, considered the father of the revisionist movement, as one scholar who argues this, claiming that Schacht "found no evidence of legal traditions before 722," from which Schacht concluded that "the Sunna of the Prophet is not the words and deeds of the Prophet, but apocryphal material" dating from later.[83] Other scholars, however, such as Wilferd Madelung, have argued that "wholesale rejection as late fiction is unjustified".[84]

Orthodox Muslims do not deny the existence of false hadith, but believe that through the scholars' work, these false hadith have been largely eliminated.[85]

Lack of secondary evidence

The traditional view of Islam has also been criticised for the lack of supporting evidence consistent with that view, such as the lack of archaeological evidence, and discrepancies with non-Muslim literary sources.[86] In the 1970s, what has been described as a "wave of sceptical scholars" challenged a great deal of the received wisdom in Islamic studies.[87]:23 They argued that the Islamic historical tradition had been greatly corrupted in transmission. They tried to correct or reconstruct the early history of Islam from other, presumably more reliable, sources such as coins, inscriptions, and non-Islamic sources. The oldest of this group was John Wansbrough (1928–2002). Wansbrough's works were widely noted, but perhaps not widely read.[87]:38 In 1972 a cache of ancient Qur'ans in a mosque in Sana'a, Yemen was discovered – commonly known as the Sana'a manuscripts. The German scholar Gerd R. Puin has been investigating these Quran fragments for years. His research team made 35,000 microfilm photographs of the manuscripts, which he dated to early part of the 8th century. Puin has not published the entirety of his work, but noted unconventional verse orderings, minor textual variations, and rare styles of orthography. He also suggested that some of the parchments were palimpsests which had been reused. Puin believed that this implied an evolving text as opposed to a fixed one.[88]



Renaissance author Dante criticised Muhammad in his work Inferno, depicting him as being tortured in Hell.

Muhammad is considered as one of the prophets in Islam a model for followers. Critics such as Sigismund Koelle and former Muslim Ibn Warraq see some of Mohammed's actions as immoral.[4][5]

Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf wrote a poetic eulogy commemorating the slain Quraish notables; later, he had traveled to Mecca and provoked the Quraish to fight Muhammad. He also wrote erotic poetry about Muslim women, which offended the Muslims there.[89] This poetry influenced so many[90] that this too was considered directly against the Constitution of Medina which states, loyalty gives protection against treachery and this document will not (be employed to) protect one who is unjust or commits a crime. Other sources also state that he was plotting to assassinate Muhammad.[91] Muhammad called upon his followers to kill Ka'b. Muhammad ibn Maslama offered his services, collecting four others. By pretending to have turned against Muhammad, Muhammad ibn Maslama and the others enticed Ka'b out of his fortress on a moonlit night,[89] and killed him in spite of his vigorous resistance.[92] The Jews were terrified at his assassination, and as the historian Ibn Ishaq put it "...there was not a Jew who did not fear for his life".[93]

Age of Muhammad's wife Aisha

According to scriptural Hadith sources, Aisha was six or seven years old when she was married to Muhammad and nine when the marriage was consummated.[94][95][96][97][98][99]

Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari born in Persia two hundred years after Muhammmad's death, suggested that she was ten years old.[97] Six hundred years after Muhammad, Ibn Khallikan recorded that she was nine years old at marriage, and twelve at consummation. Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi, born about 150 years after Muhammad's death, cited Hisham ibn Urwah as saying that she was nine years old at marriage, and twelve at consummation,[100] but Hisham ibn Urwah's original source is otherwise unknown, and Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi's work does not have the high religious status of the Hadith.

In the twentieth century, Pakistani writer Muhammad Ali challenged the Hadith showing that Aisha was young as the traditional sources claim; arguing that instead a new interpretation of the Hadith compiled by Mishkat al-Masabih, Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, could indicate that Aisha would have been nineteen years old around the time of her marriage.[101]

Morality of the Quran

9th-century Quran in Reza Abbasi Museum

According to some critics, the morality of the Quran appears to be a moral regression when judged by the standards of the moral traditions of Judaism and Christianity it says that it builds upon. The Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, states that "the ethics of Islam are far inferior to those of Judaism and even more inferior to those of the New Testament" and "that in the ethics of Islam there is a great deal to admire and to approve, is beyond dispute; but of originality or superiority, there is none."[102]

  • Critics stated that the Quran[Quran 4:34] allows Muslim men to discipline their wives by striking them.[103] (There is however confusion amongst translations of Quran with the original Arabic term "wadribuhunna" being translated as "to go away from them",[104] "beat",[105] "strike lightly" and "separate".[106] The film Submission, which rose to fame after the murder of its director Theo van Gogh, critiqued this and similar verses of the Quran by displaying them painted on the bodies of abused Muslim women.[107] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the film's writer, said "it is written in the Koran a woman may be slapped if she is disobedient. This is one of the evils I wish to point out in the film".[108]
  • Some critics argue that the Quran is incompatible with other religious scriptures as it attacks and advocates hate against people of other religions.[6][109][110][111] For instance, Sam Harris interprets certain verses of the Quran as sanctioning military action against unbelievers as a whole both during the lifetime of Muhammad and after. The Quran said "fight in the name of your religion with those who fight against you."[112] In The End of Faith Harris argues that Muslim extremism is simply a consequence of taking the Qur'an literally, and is skeptical that moderate Islam is possible.[113] Various calls to arms were identified in the Quran by US citizen Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, all of which were cited as "most relevant to my actions on March 3, 2006" (9:44, 9:19, 57:10-11, 8:72-73, 9:120, 3:167-175, 4:66, 4:104, 9:81, 9:93-94, 9:100, 16:110, 61:11-12, 47:35).[114]
  • Max I. Dimont interprets that the Houris described in the Quran are specifically dedicated to "male pleasure".[115] Henry Martyn claims that the concept of the Houris was chosen to satisfy Mohammed's followers.[116]


13th-century slave market in Yemen

Bernard Lewis writes: "In one of the sad paradoxes of human history, it was the humanitarian reforms brought by Islam that resulted in a vast development of the slave trade inside, and still more outside, the Islamic empire." He notes that the Islamic injunctions against the enslavement of Muslims led to massive importation of slaves from the outside.[117] According to Patrick Manning, Islam by recognizing and codifying the slavery seems to have done more to protect and expand slavery than the reverse.[118]

Unlike Western societies which in their opposition to slavery spawned anti-slavery movements whose numbers and enthusiasm often grew out of church groups, no such grass-roots organizations ever developed in Muslim societies. In Muslim politics the state unquestioningly accepted the teachings of Islam and applied them as law. Islam, by sanctioning slavery, also extended legitimacy to the traffic in slaves.[119]

It was only in the early 20th century (post World War I) that slavery gradually became outlawed and suppressed in Muslim lands, largely due to pressure exerted by Western nations such as Britain and France.[120] Gordon describes the lack of homegrown Islamic abolition movements as owing much to the fact that it was deeply anchored in Islamic law. By legitimizing slavery and - by extension - traffic in slaves, Islam elevated those practices to an unassailable moral plane. As a result, in no part of the Muslim world was an ideological challenge ever mounted against slavery. The political and social system in Muslim society would have taken a dim view of such a challenge.[121] Some Muslim leaders, like Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah did ban slavery, but they had little influence in the Islamic world.[122]

The issue of slavery in the Islamic world in modern times is controversial. Critics argue there is hard evidence of its existence and destructive effects. Others maintain slavery in central Islamic lands has been virtually extinct since mid-twentieth century, and that reports from Sudan and Somalia showing practice of slavery is in border areas as a result of continuing war[123] and not Islamic belief. In recent years, according to some scholars,[124] there has been a "worrying trend" of "reopening" of the issue of slavery by some conservative Salafi Islamic scholars after its "closing" earlier in the 20th century when Muslim countries banned slavery and "most Muslim scholars" found the practice "inconsistent with Qur'anic morality."[125][126]

Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri of Karbala expressed the view in 1993 that the enforcement of servitude can occur but is restricted to war captives and those born of slaves.[127] Dr. Abdul-Latif Mushtahari, the general supervisor and director of homiletics and guidance at the Azhar University, has said on the subject of justifications for Islamic permission of slavery:[128]

In a 2014 issue of their digital magazine Dabiq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant explicitly claimed religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women.[129][130][131][132][133]


"Execution of a Moroccan Jewess (Sol Hachuel)" a painting by Alfred Dehodencq

According to Islamic law apostasy is identified by a list of actions such as conversion to another religion, denying the existence of God, rejecting the prophets, mocking God or the prophets, idol worship, rejecting the sharia, or permitting behavior that is forbidden by the sharia, such as adultery or the eating of forbidden foods or drinking of alcoholic beverages.[134][135] The majority of Muslim scholars hold to the traditional view that apostasy is punishable by death or imprisonment until repentance, at least for adult men of sound mind.[136][137][138]

Laws prohibiting religious conversion run contrary to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "[e]veryone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."[139]

The English historian Christian university allowed them to develop and flourish into the modern university, "the Muslim ones remained constricted by the doctrine of waqf alone, with their physical plant often deteriorating hopelessly and their curricula narrowed by the exclusion of the non-traditional religious sciences like philosophy and natural science," out of fear that these could evolve into potential toe-holds for kufr, those people who reject God."[140]

Islamic law

Bernard Lewis summarizes:

Decision of a Fatwa committee on the case of a convert to Christianity: "Since he left Islam, he will be invited to revert. If he does not revert, he will be killed pertaining to rights and obligations of the Islamic law." The fatwa outlines the same procedure and penalty for the male convert's children, on reaching the age of puberty.

The four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, as well as Shi'a scholars, agree on the difference of punishment between male and female. A sane adult male apostate may be executed. A female apostate may be put to death, according to the majority view, or imprisoned until she repents, according to others.[142]

The Quran threatens apostates with punishment in the next world only, the historian W. Heffening states, the traditions however contain the element of death penalty. Muslim scholar Shafi'i interprets verse Quran 2:217 as adducing the main evidence for the death penalty in Quran.[143] The historian Wael Hallaq states the later addition of death penalty "reflects a later reality and does not stand in accord with the deeds of the Prophet." He further states that "nothing in the law governing apostate and apostasy derives from the letter of the holy text."[144]

William Montgomery Watt, in response to a question about Western views of the Islamic Law as being cruel, states that "In Islamic teaching, such penalties may have been suitable for the age in which Muhammad lived. However, as societies have since progressed and become more peaceful and ordered, they are not suitable any longer."[145]

Some contemporary Islamic jurists from both the Sunni and Shia denominations together with Quran only Muslims have argued or issued fatwas that state that either the changing of religion is not punishable or is only punishable under restricted circumstances.[146] For example, Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri argues that no Quranic verse prescribes an earthly penalty for apostasy and adds that it is not improbable that the punishment was prescribed by Muhammad at early Islam due to political conspiracies against Islam and Muslims and not only because of changing the belief or expressing it. Montazeri defines different types of apostasy. He does not hold that a reversion of belief because of investigation and research is punishable by death but prescribes capital punishment for a desertion of Islam out of malice and enmity towards the Muslim.[147]

According to Yohanan Friedmann, an Israeli Islamic Studies scholar, a Muslim may stress tolerant elements of Islam (by for instance adopting the broadest interpretation of Quran 2:256 ("No compulsion is there in religion...") or the humanist approach attributed to Ibrahim al-Nakha'i), without necessarily denying the existence of other ideas in the Medieval Islamic tradition but rather discussing them in their historical context (by for example arguing that "civilizations comparable with the Islamic one, such as the Sassanids and the Byzantines, also punished apostasy with death. Similarly neither Judaism nor Christianity treated apostasy and apostates with any particular kindness").[148] Friedmann continues:

Human rights conventions

"It is not a treaty...[In the future, it] may well become the international Magna Carta."[149] Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish text of the Universal Declaration in 1949

Some widely held interpretations of Islam are inconsistent with Human Rights conventions that recognize the right to change religion.[150][151] In particular article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[152] states:

To implement this, Article 18 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:

The right for Muslims to change their religion is not afforded by the Iranian Shari'ah law, which specifically forbids it.[150][151][153] Muslim countries such as Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam compliant with Shari'ah.[155] Although granting many of the rights in the UN declaration, it does not grant Muslims the right to convert to other religions, and restricts freedom of speech to those expressions of it that are not in contravention of the Islamic law.

Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami,[156] wrote a book called Human Rights in Islam,[157] in which he argues that respect for human rights has always been enshrined in Sharia law (indeed that the roots of these rights are to be found in Islamic doctrine)[158] and criticizes Western notions that there is an inherent contradiction between the two.[159] Western scholars have, for the most part, rejected Maududi's analysis.[160][161][162]


The [166][167][168] and allows fighting only in self-defense.[169][170]

Orientalist David Margoliouth described the Battle of Khaybar as the "stage at which Islam became a menace to the whole world."[171] According to Margoliouth, earlier attacks on the Meccans and the Jewish tribes of Medina (e.g., the invasion of Banu Qurayza) could be at least plausibly be ascribed to wrongs done to Muhammad or the Islamic community.[171] Margoliouth argues that the Jews of Khaybar had done nothing to harm Muhammad or his followers, and ascribes the attack to a desire for plunder.[171] He describes the reason given by Muhammad for the attack as "its inhabitants were not Moslems" (italics in the source).[171] According to Margoliouth, this became an excuse for unfettered conquest.[172]

Jihad, an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving for the sake of God (al-jihad fi sabil Allah)".[173][174][175] Jihad is an important religious duty for Muslims. A minority among the Sunni scholars sometimes refer to this duty as the sixth pillar of Islam, though it occupies no such official status.[176] In Twelver Shi'a Islam, however, Jihad is one of the 10 Practices of the Religion. The Qur'an calls repeatedly for jihad, or holy war, against unbelievers, including, at times, Jews and Christians.[177] Middle East historian Bernard Lewis argues that "the overwhelming majority of classical theologians, jurists, and traditionalists (specialists in the hadith) understood the obligation of jihad in a military sense."[178] Furthermore, Lewis maintains that for most of the recorded history of Islam, from the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad onward, the word jihad was used in a primarily military sense.[179] According to Andrew Bostom, a number of jihads have targeted Christians, Hindus, and Jews.[180]

The Qur'an: (8:12): "...cast terror in their hearts and strike upon their necks."[181] The phrase that they have been "commanded to terrorize the disbelievers" has been cited in motivation of Jihadi terror.[182] One Jihadi cleric has said:

David Cook, author of Understanding Jihad, said "In reading Muslim literature — both contemporary and classical — one can see that the evidence for the primacy of spiritual jihad is negligible. Today it is certain that no Muslim, writing in a non- Western language (such as Arabic, Persian, Urdu), would ever make claims that jihad is primarily nonviolent or has been superseded by the spiritual jihad. Such claims are made solely by Western scholars, primarily those who study Sufism and/or work in interfaith dialogue, and by Muslim apologists who are trying to present Islam in the most innocuous manner possible."[184] Cook argued that "Presentations along these lines are ideological in tone and should be discounted for their bias and deliberate ignorance of the subject" and that "[i]t is no longer acceptable for Western scholars or Muslim apologists writing in non-Muslim languages to make flat, unsupported statements concerning the prevalence — either from a historical point of view or within contemporary Islam—of the spiritual jihad."[184] Magdi Allam, an outspoken Egyptian-born Italian journalist, has describes Islam as intrinsically violent and characterized by “hate and intolerance”.[185]


Critics such as lesbian activist Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, condemn Islamic laws that make homosexual relations between consenting adults a crime. Since 1994 the United Nations Human Rights Committee has also ruled that such laws violated the right to privacy guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In May 2008, the sexual rights lobby group Lambda Istanbul (based in Istanbul, Turkey) was banned by court order for violating a constitutional provision on the protection of the family and an article banning bodies with objectives that violate law and morality.[187] This decision was then taken to the Court of Cassation and the ban lifted.[188]

The ex-Muslim Ibn Warraq has noted that the Quran's condemnation of homosexuality has frequently been ignored in practice, and that Islamic countries were much more tolerant of homosexuality than Christian ones until fairly recently.[189]

Short-term and limited marriages

Short-term marriage

Nikāḥ al-Mutʿah (Arabic: نكاح المتعة‎ literally pleasure marriage) is a fixed-term or short-term contractual marriage in Shia Islam. The duration of this type of marriage is fixed at its inception and is then automatically dissolved upon completion of its term. For this reason, nikah mut‘ah has been widely criticised as the religious cover and legalization of prostitution.[190][191] The Christian missionary Thomas Patrick Hughes criticized Mut'ah as allowing the continuation of "one of the abominable practices of ancient Arabia." [192] Shi'a and Sunnis agree that Mut'ah was legal in early times, but Sunnis consider that it was abrogated. Ibn Kathir writes that "[t]here's no doubt that in the outset of Islam, Mut'ah was allowed under the Shari'ah".[193] Currently, however, mut'ah is one of the distinctive features of Ja'fari jurisprudence. No other school of Islamic jurisprudence allows it. According to Imam Jafar as Sadiq, "One of the matters about which I shall never keep precautionary silence (taqiyya) is the matter of mu’tah."[194] Allameh Tabatabaei defends the Shia view in Tafsir al-Mizan, arguing that there are mutawatir or nearly mutawatir traditions narrated from the Shia Imams that Mut'ah is permitted. For example, it has been narrated from Muhammad al-Baqir and Ja'far al-Sadiq that they said "regarding the [above] verse, and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed." It means that he increases her dowry or she increases his (fixed) period.[195] Sunnis believe that Muhammad later abolished this type of marriage at several different large events, the most accepted being at Khaybar in 7 AH (629 CE) Bukhari 059.527 and at the Victory of Mecca in 8 AH (630 CE). Most Sunnis believe that Umar later was merely enforcing a prohibition that was established during Muhammad's time.[196] Shia contest the criticism that nikah mut‘ah is a cover for prostitution, and argue that the unique legal nature of temporary marriage distinguishes Mut'ah ideologically from prostitution.[197][198]

Contractually limited marriage

Nikah Misyar (Arabic: المسيار‎) is a Nikah (marriage) carried out through the normal contractual procedure, with the provision that the husband and wife give up several rights by their own free will, such as living together, equal division of nights between wives in cases of polygamy, the wife's rights to housing, and maintenance money ("nafaqa"), and the husband's right of homekeeping and access.[199] Essentially the couple continue to live separately from each other, as before their contract, and see each other to fulfil their needs in a legally permissible (halaal) manner when they please. Misyar has been suggested by some western authors to be a comparable marriage with Nikah mut'ah and that they find it for the sole purpose of "sexual gratification in a licit manner"[200][201] According to Florian Pohl, assistant professor of religion at Oxford College, Misyar marriage is controversial issue in the Muslim world, as many see it as practice that encourages marriages for purely sexual purposes, or that it is used as a cover for a form of prostitutuion.[202]

Professor Yusuf Al-Qaradawi observes that he does not promote this type of marriage, although he has to recognise that it is legal, since it fulfils all the requirements of the usual marriage contract.[203] He states his preference that the clause of renunciation be not included within the marriage contract, but be the subject of a simple verbal agreement between the parties.[204] Islamic scholars like Ibn Uthaimeen or Al-Albani claim, for their part, that misyar marriage may be legal, but not moral. They agree that the wife can at any time, reclaim the rights which she gave up at the time of contract.[205] But, they are opposed to this type of marriage on the grounds that it contradicts the spirit of the Islamic law of marriage and that it has perverse effects on the woman, the family and the community in general.

For Al-Albani, misyar marriage may even be considered as illicit, because it runs counter to the objectives and the spirit of marriage in Islam, as described in the Quran: "And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts)…"[206] Al-Albani also underlines the social problems which result from the “misyar” marriage, particularly in the event that children are born from this union. The children raised by their mother in a home from which the father is always absent, without reason, may suffer difficulties.[207] The situation becomes even worse if the wife is abandoned or repudiated by her husband "misyar", with no means of subsistence, as usually happens.

"Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked about Misyaar marriage; this kind of marriage is where the man marries a second, third or fourth wife, and the wife is in a situation that compels her to stay with her parents or one of them in her own house, and the husband goes to her at various times depending on the circumstances of both. What is the Islamic ruling on this type of marriage? He replied:"

Shaykh al-Albaani was asked about Misyaar marriage and he disallowed it for two reasons:

Ibn Uthaymeen recognized the legality of “misyar” marriage under Shariah, but came to oppose it due to what he considered to be its harmful effects.[210]

Criticism of Muslim immigrants and immigration

French philosopher Pascal Bruckner has criticised the effects of multiculturalism and Islam in the West
Muslim demonstration in Sydney, Australia

The [215]

Emigrants from nearly every Muslim country have immigrated to Canada.[216] According to a recent poll, 54% of Canadians had an unfavourable view of Islam, which was higher than for any other religion.[217]

In the United States, after the Boston Marathon bombings, the immigration processes are assumed to be harder.[218] Far-right commentator Bryan Fischer asked that no more Muslim visas be granted, and no more mosques built,[219] his opinion received support, most notably by the former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

Comparison with communism and fascist ideologies

In 2004, speaking to the Islam and communism: "Islam may provide in the 21st century, the attraction that communism provided in the 20th, both for those that are alienated and embittered on the one hand and for those who seek order or justice on the other."[220] Pell also agrees in another speech that its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited.[221] An Australian Islamist spokesman, Keysar Trad, responded to the criticism: "Communism is a godless system, a system that in fact persecutes faith".[222]

Writers such as Stephen Suleyman Schwartz[223] and Christopher Hitchens,[224] describe Islamist attributes similar to fascism. Malise Ruthven, a Scottish writer and historian who focuses his work on religion and Islamic affairs, opposes redefining Islamism as "Islamofascism", but also finds the resemblances between the two ideologies "compelling".[225] Geert Wilders, a controversial Dutch member of parliament and leader of the Party for Freedom, has also compared Islam to fascism and communism.[226]

Responses to criticism

John Esposito has written a number of introductory texts on Islam and the Islamic world. He has addressed issues including the rise of militant Islam, the veiling of women, and democracy.[227][228] Esposito emphatically argues against what he calls the "pan-Islamic myth". He thinks that "too often coverage of Islam and the Muslim world assumes the existence of a monolithic Islam in which all Muslims are the same." To him, such a view is naive and unjustifiably obscures important divisions and differences in the Muslim world.[229]

William Montgomery Watt in his book Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman addresses Muhammad’s alleged moral failings. Watt argues on a basis of moral relativism that Muhammad should be judged by the standards of his own time and country rather than "by those of the most enlightened opinion in the West today."[98]

Karen Armstrong, tracing what she believes to be the West's long history of hostility toward Islam, finds in Muhammad’s teachings a theology of peace and tolerance. Armstrong holds that the "holy war" urged by the Quran alludes to each Muslim's duty to fight for a just, decent society.[230]

Edward Said, in his essay Islam Through Western Eyes, stated that the general basis of Orientalist thought forms a study structure in which Islam is placed in an inferior position as an object of study. He claims the existence of a very considerable bias in Orientalist writings as a consequence of the scholars' cultural make-up. He claims Islam has been looked at with a particular hostility and fear due to many obvious religious, psychological and political reasons, all deriving from a sense "that so far as the West is concerned, Islam represents not only a formidable competitor but also a late-coming challenge to Christianity."[231]

Cathy Young of Reason Magazine claims that "criticism of the religion is enmeshed with cultural and ethnic hostility" often painting the Muslim world as monolithic. While stating that the terms "Islamophobia" and "anti-Muslim bigotry" are often used in response to legitimate criticism of fundamentalist Islam and problems within Muslim culture, she claimed "the real thing does exist, and it frequently takes the cover of anti-jihadism."[232]

Deepa Kumar, the author of Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization, and the UPS Strike, in her article titled 'Fighting Islamophobia: A Response to Critics' says "The history of Islam is no more violent than the history of any of the other major religions of the world. Perhaps my critics haven't heard of the Crusades – the religious wars fought by European Christians from the 11th to the 13th centuries". Speaking on the Danish Muhammad cartoon controversy she says "The Danish cartoon of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb on his head is nothing if not the visual depiction of the racist diatribe that Islam is inherently violent. To those who can't understand why this argument is racist, let me be clear: when you take the actions of a few people and generalize it to an entire group – all Muslims, all Arabs – that's racism. When a whole group of people are discriminated against and demonized because of their religion or regional origin, that's racism...Arabs and Muslims are being scapegoated and demonized to justify a war that is ruining the lives of millions."[233]

Atheism in Islamic countries

Sharia law (which usually covers only Muslims) assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. When a Muslim becomes a non-believer, he or she becomes guilty of apostasy - a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Eight countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty for such offences.[234] Relatively few Muslim countries, such as Turkey, Albania, Bosnia, and Kazakhstan, do not persecute atheists. In Indonesia, citizens must choose one of six religions, from which atheism and agnosticism are absent. Similarly, Egypt’s draft constitution includes only three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.[234] A recent Pew poll[235] noted that majorities in many Islamic countries approve of Sharia; of these, a large fraction also approve of the death penalty for apostasy (e.g. in Bangladesh (44%), Malaysia (62%), Palestine (66%), Pakistan (76%), Afghanistan (79%), Jordan (82%), and Egypt (86%)).[236] Given the pressure on non-believers, it is thus extremely difficult to determine how many people are actually non-believers or agnostics in the Islamic world.

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  191. ^ Law of desire: temporary marriage in Shi'i Iran, by Shahla Haeri, pg.6.
    • Islam For Dummies, by Malcolm Clark.
    • Islam: a very short introduction, by Malise Ruthven.
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  211. ^ Tariq Modood (2006-04-06). Multiculturalism, Muslims and Citizenship: A European Approach (1st ed.). Routledge. pp. 3, 29, 46.  
  212. ^ Pascal Bruckner - Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists? [9] appeared originally in German in the online magazine Perlentaucher on January 24, 2007.
  213. ^ Pascal Bruckner - A reply to Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash: "At the heart of the issue is the fact that in certain countries Islam is becoming Europe's second religion. As such, its adherents are entitled to freedom of religion, to decent locations and to all of our respect. On the condition, that is, that they themselves respect the rules of our republican, secular culture, and that they do not demand a status of extraterritoriality that is denied other religions, or claim special rights and prerogatives"
  214. ^ Pascal Bruckner - A reply to Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash "It's so true that many English, Dutch and German politicians, shocked by the excesses that the wearing of the Islamic veil has given way to, now envisage similar legislation curbing religious symbols in public space. The separation of the spiritual and corporeal domains must be strictly maintained, and belief must confine itself to the private realm."
  215. ^  
  216. ^ 2001 Census of Canada:
  217. ^ Canadian Public Opinion Poll, 2nd October 2013
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  219. ^ Bryan Fischer Beckel is right no more Muslim student visas, no more mosques
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  227. ^ Esposito, John L. (2002). What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. Oxford University Press.  
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  233. ^ Fighting Islamophobia: A Response to Critics by Deepa Kumar, Monthly Review, April 2006
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