Questions Posed by Non-Muslims about ISLAM - Answered by Dr. Zakir Naik

In order to convey the message of Islam, dialogue and debate becomes inevitable. The Glorious Qur’an says: “Invite all to the way of thy Lord, with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious!” [Al-Qur’an 16:125]

In conveying the message of Islam to a non-Muslim, it is sometimes not sufficient to only highlight the positive nature of Islam. Most non-Muslims are not convinced about the truth of Islam because there are a few questions about Islam at the back of their minds that remain unanswered.

They may agree with your contentions about the positive nature of Islam. But, in the same breath, they will say - “Ah! You are the same Muslims who marry more than one woman. You are the same people who keep women under subjugation. You are fundamentalists, etc.” I personally prefer asking the non-Muslim upfront, what he feels is wrong in Islam. I encourage them to be very frank and open and convince them that I can take criticism about Islam. In the past few years of my da’wah experience I have realized that there are barely 20 common questions that a non-Muslim has regarding Islam. Whenever you ask a non-Muslim, “what do you feel is wrong in Islam?”, he poses five or six questions, and these questions invariably fall among the 20 most common questions. Logical replies can convince the Majority The twenty common questions about Islam can be answered using the Qur’an and Hadith as the base along with reason, logic and science. Majority of non-Muslims can be convinced with these answers. If a Muslim memorizes or simply remembers these answers, Inshallah he will be successful, if not in convincing non-Muslims about the truth of Islam, in at least removing misconceptions about Islam and neutralizing the negative thinking about Islam and Muslims that the non-Muslim may be having. That is the reason why I have answered the questions in point form, with separate sub-headings which is easier to remember. A few non-Muslims may have counter arguments to these replies for which further information may be required.

Misconceptions due to Media : The common misconceptions about Islam arise in the minds of the common non-Muslims, because they are constantly being bombarded with misinformation about Islam. International media is mainly controlled by the western world, whether it is satellite channels, radio stations, magazines or books. Recently the Internet has become a powerful medium of information. Though it is not controlled by anybody, one finds a large amount of virulent propaganda about Islam on the Internet. Of course, Muslims too are utilizing this tool to portray the right image of Islam and Muslims, but we are a bit slow in countering the attack. I hope such efforts will increase and continue to be pursued.

Misconceptions change with time The common questions about Islam are different in different periods and eras. These twenty common questions compiled are based on present times. Decades earlier, the questions were different and decades later too, these questions may change depending upon how Islam is projected by the media.

Misconceptions are the same throughout the world I have interacted with people in different parts of the world and have found these twenty common questions about Islam to be the same everywhere. There may be a couple of additional questions depending upon the locale. For instance in America, the additional common question was: “Why does Islam prohibit taking and giving of interest?” I have included among these twenty common questions, certain questions more common among the Indian non-Muslims. For instance, “why do Muslims have non-vegetarian food?” The reason for including such questions is that people of Indian origin are spread throughout the world and constitute about 20% i.e. 1/5th of the world population. Thus, their questions are common questions asked by non-Muslims throughout the world.

Misconceptions of non-Muslims who have studied Islam There are many non-Muslims who have studied Islam. Most of them have only read books on Islam written by biased critics of Islam. These non-Muslims have an additional set of twenty common misconceptions about Islam. For instance, they claim to have found contradictions in the Qur’an, they contend that the Qur’an is unscientific, etc.

Was Islam Spread by The Sword?

Q. How can Islam be called the religion of peace when it was spread by the sword?

Ans: It is a common complaint among many non-Muslims that Islam would not be having millions of adherents all over the world, if it had not been spread by the use of force. The following points will make it clear, that far from being spread by the sword, it was the inherent force of reason and logic that was responsible for the rapid spread of Islam.

1. Islam means peace Islam comes from the root word ‘salaam’, which means peace. It also means submitting one’s will to Allah (SWT). Thus Islam is a religion of peace, which is acquired by submitting one’s will to the will of the Supreme Creator, Allah (SWT).

2. Sometimes force has to be used to maintain peace Each and every human being in this world is not in favour of maintaining peace and harmony. There are many, who would disrupt it for their own vested interests. Sometimes force has to be used to maintain peace. It is precisely for this reason that we have the police who use force against the criminal and anti-social elements to maintain peace in the country. Islam promotes peace. At the same time, Islam exhorts it followers to fight where there is oppression. The fight against oppression may, at times, require the use of force. In Islam force can only be used to promote peace and justice.

3. Historian De Lacy O’Leary’s opinion De Lacy O’Leary in the book “Islam at the crossroad” (Page 8) gives the best reply to the misconception that Islam was spread by the sword: “History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myth that historians have ever repeated.”

4. Muslims ruled Spain for 800 years The Muslims ruled Spain for about 800 years. The Muslims never used the sword to force the people to convert. Later the Christian Crusaders came to Spain and wiped out the Muslims. There was not a single Muslim who could openly give the Azan, that is the call for prayers.

5. 14 million Arabs are Coptic Christians Muslims were the lords of Arabia for 1400 years. For a few years the British ruled, and for a few years the French ruled. Overall, the Muslims ruled Arabia for 1400 years. Yet today, there are 14 million Arabs who are Coptic Christians, i.e. Christians since generations. If the Muslims had used the sword there would not have been a single Arab who would have remained a Christian.

6. More than 80% non-Muslims in India The Moghuls ruled India for about a thousand years. If they wanted, they had the power of converting each and every non-Muslim of India to Islam. Today more than 80% of the population of India are non-Muslims. All these non-Muslim Indians are bearing witness today that Islam was not spread by the sword.

7. Indonesia and Malaysia Indonesia is a country that has the maximum number of Muslims in the world. The majority of people in Malaysia are Muslims. May one ask, “Which Muslim army went to Indonesia and Malaysia?”

8. East Coast of Africa Similarly, Islam has spread rapidly on the East Coast of Africa. One may again ask, if Islam was spread by the sword, “Which Muslim army went to the East Coast of Africa.”

9. Reason for Spread of Islam Even when Muslims won battles they never forced the non-Muslims to accept Islam. The behaviour, brotherhood, honesty and justice of the Muslims and the universality and practical approach of Islam were the reasons for non-Muslims to accept Islam. Islam spread a great extent by the Muslim traders and businessmen who spread in different parts of the world and whose behaviour impressed the non-Muslims.

10. Thomas Carlyle The famous historian, Thomas Carlyle, in his book “Heroes and Hero worship”, refers to this misconception about the spread of Islam: “The sword indeed, but where will you get your sword? Every new opinion, at its starting is precisely in a minority of one, in one man’s head alone. There it dwells as yet. One man alone of the whole world believes it; there is one man against all men. That he takes a sword and tries to propagate with that, will do little for him. You must get your sword! On the whole, a thing will propagate itself as it can.’

11. No compulsion in religion With which sword was Islam spread? Even if Muslims had the sword they could not use it to spread Islam because the Qur’an says: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error” [Al-Qur’an: 2:256]

12. Sword of the Intellect It is the sword of intellect. It is the sword that conquers the hearts and minds of the people. The Qur’an says: “Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.” [Al-Qur’an:16:125]

13. Increase in the world religions from 1934 - 1984. An article in Readers digest ‘Almanac’, year book 1986, gave the statistics of the increase of percentage of the major religions of the world in half a century from 1934 to 1984. This article also appeared in ‘The Plain Truth’ magazine. At the top was Islam, which increased by 235%, and Christianity had increased only by 47%. Which war took place in this century, which converted millions of people to Islam?

14. Islam is the fastest growing religion in America and Europe Today the fastest growing religion in America is Islam. The fastest growing religion in Europe is Islam. Which sword is forcing people in the West to accept Islam in such large numbers?

15. Dr. Joseph Adam Pearson Dr. Joseph Adam Pearson rightly says, “People who worry that nuclear weaponry will one day fall in the hands of the Arabs, fail to realize that the Islamic bomb has been dropped already, “it fell the day MUHAMMAD was born”. (Pbuh)


Q. Why is a man allowed to marry more than one wife in Islam? Or why is polygamy allowed in Islam?


1. Definition of Polygamy Polygamy means a system of marriage whereby one person has more than one spouse. Polygamy can be of two types. One is polygyny where a man marries more than one woman, and the other is polyandry, where a woman marries more than one man. In Islam, limited polygyny is permitted and polyandry is completely prohibited. Now coming to the original question, why is a man allowed to have more than one wife?

2. Qur’an is the only religious scripture in the world that says “marry only one” Qur’an is the only religious book, on the face of this earth, that contains the phrase ‘marry only one’. There is no other religious book that instructs men to have only one wife. In none of the religious scriptures like the Vedas, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, the Geeta or the Bible does one find a restriction on the number of wives. According to these scriptures one can marry as many as one wishes. It was only later, that the Hindu priests and the Christian Church restricted the number of wives to one.

Many Hindu religious personalities, according to their scriptures, had multiple wives. King Dashrat, the father of Rama, had more than one wife. Krishna had several wives. In earlier times, Christian men were permitted as many wives as they wished, since the Bible puts no restriction on the number of wives. It was only a couple of centuries ago that the Church restricted the number of wives to one.

Polygyny is permitted in Judaism. According to Talmudic law, Abraham had 2 wives, and Solomon had hundreds of wives. The practice of polygyny continued till Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah. (960 A.D to 1030 A.D) issued an edict against it. The Jewish Sephardic communities living in Muslim countries continued the practice till as late as 1950, when an Act of the chief Rabbinate of Israel extended the ban on marrying more than one wife.

3. Hindus are more polygamous than Muslims The report of the ‘Committee of The Status of Woman in Islam’, published in 1975 mentions on page numbers 66,67 that the percentage of polygamous marriages between the year 1951 -1961 was 5.06 among the Hindus and only 4.31 among the Muslims. According to Indian law only Muslim men are permitted to have more than one wife. It is illegal for any non-Muslim in India to have more than one wife. Despite it being illegal, Hindus have more multiple wives as compared to the Muslim. One can imagine what would have been the percentage of polygamous marriages among the Hindus if the Indian government had made it legal for them. Earlier, there was no restriction even on Hindu men with respect to the number of wives allowed. It was only in 1954, when the Hindu Marriage Act was passed that it became illegal for a Hindu to have more than one wife. At present it is the Indian Law that restricts a Hindu man from having more than one wife and not the Hindu scriptures. Let us now analyse why Islam allows a man to have more than one wife.

4. Qur’an permits limited polygyny As I mentioned earlier, Qur’an is the only religious book on the face of the earth that says ‘marry only one’. The context of this phrase is the following verse from Surah Nisa of the Glorious Qur’an: ‘Marry woman of your choice in twos’ threes’ or fours’ but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly, (with them), then only one’ [Al-Qur’an 4:3]

Before the Qur’an was revealed, there was no upper limit for polygyny and many men had scores of wives, some even hundreds. Islam put an upper limit of four wives. Islam gives a man permission to marry two, three or four women, only on the condition that he deals with them justly. In the same chapter i.e. Surah Nisa verse 129 says: ‘It is very difficult to be just and fair between women’. [Al-Qur’an (4:129)]

Therefore polygyny is not a rule but an exception. Many people are under the misconception that it is compulsory for a Muslim man to marry more than one wife.

Broadly, Islam has five categories of Do’s and Dont’s.

(i) ‘Farz’ i.e compulsory

(ii) ‘Mustahab’ i.e recommended or encouraged

(iii) ‘Mubah’ i.e permissible

(iv) ‘Makruh’ i.e ‘not recommended’ or discouraged

(v) ‘Haram’ i.e prohibited or forbidden

Polygyny falls in the middle category of things that are permissible. It cannot be said that a Muslim who has two, three or four wives is a better Muslim as compared to a Muslim who has only one wife.

5. Average life span of females is more than that of males By nature males and females are born in approximately the same ratio. During paediatric age however, in childhood itself a female child has more immunity than a male child. A female child can fight the germs and diseases better than the male child. For this reason, there are more deaths among males as compared to the females during paediatric age.

During wars, there are more men killed as compared to women. More men die due to accidents and diseases than women. The average life span of females is more than that of males, and at any given time one finds more widows in the world than widowers.

6. India has more male population than female due to female foeticide and infanticide. India is one of the few countries, along with the other neighbouring countries, in which the female population is less than the male population. The reason lies in the high rate of female infanticide in India, and the fact that more than one million female foetuses are aborted every year in this country, after they are identified as females. If this evil practice is stopped, then India too will have more females as compared to males.

7. World female population is more than male population In the USA, women outnumber men by 7.8 million. New York alone has one million more females as compared to the number of males, and of the male population of New York one-third are gays i.e sodomites. The USA as a whole has more than twenty-five million gays. This means that these people do not wish to marry women. Great Britain has four million more females as compared to males. Germany has five million more females as compared to males. Russia has nine million more females than males. God alone knows how many million more females there are in the whole world as compared to males.

8. Restricting each and every man to have only one wife is not practical Even if every man got married to one woman, there would still be more than thirty million more females in USA who would not be able to get husbands (considering that America has twenty five million gays). There would be more than four million females in Great Britain 5 million females in Germany and nine million females in Russia alone who would not be able to find a husband.

Suppose my sister happens to be one of the unmarried women living in USA, or suppose your sister happens to be one of the unmarried women in USA. The only two options remaining for her are that she either marries a man who already has a wife or becomes public property. There is no other option. I have posed this question to hundreds of non-Muslims and all opted for the first. However a few smart people before accepting, said they would prefer their sisters to remain virgins. Biologically, it is not possible for an average man or a woman to remain celibate throughout life. It may be possible in exceptional cases of one in ten thousand. In the vast majority, the person either gets married or performs illicit sex or indulges in other sexual perversions. Sex hormones are released in the adult body every day. That is the reason why Islam has prohibited monasticism.

In Western society it is common for a man to have mistresses and/or multiple extra-marital affairs, in which case, the woman leads a disgraceful, unprotected life. The same society, however, cannot accept a man having more than one wife, in which women retain their honourable, dignified position in society and lead a protected life.

Thus the only two options before a woman who cannot find a husband is to marry a married man or to become public property. Islam prefers giving women the honourable position by permitting the first option and disallowing the second. There are several other reasons, why Islam has permitted limited polygyny, but it is mainly to protect the modesty of women.


Q: If a man is allowed to have more than one wife why does Islam prohibit a woman from having more than one husband?

Answer: A lot of people, including some Muslims, question the logic of allowing Muslim men to have more than one spouse while denying the same ‘right’ to women. Let me first state emphatically, that the foundation of an Islamic society is justice and equity. Allah has created men and women as equal, but with different capabilities and different responsibilities. Men and women are different, physiologically and psychologically. Their roles and responsibilities are different.

The following points enumerate the reasons why polyandry is prohibited in Islam:

1. If a man marries more than one wife, the parents of the children born of such marriages can easily be identified. The father as well as the mother can easily be identified. In case of a woman marrying more than one husband, only the mother of the children born of such marriages will be identified and not the father. Islam gives tremendous importance to the identification of both parents, mother and father. Psychologists tell us that children who do not know their parents, especially their father undergo severe mental trauma and disturbances. Often they have an unhappy childhood. It is for this reason that the children of prostitutes do not have a healthy childhood. If a child born of such wedlock is admitted in school, and when the mother is asked the name of the father, she would have to give two or more names! I am aware that recent advances in science have made it possible for both the mother and father to be identified with the help of genetic testing. Thus this point was applicable for the past, and may not be applicable for the present.

2. Man is more polygamous by nature as compared to a woman.

3. Biologically, it is easier for a man to perform his duties as a husband despite having several wives. A woman, in a similar position, having several husbands, will not find it possible to perform her duties as a wife.

4. A woman who has more than one husband will have several sexual partners at the same time and has a high chance of acquiring v


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