Why does Islam allow Muslim men to marry up to four times? Isn't that degrading to women?

The overwhelming majority of Muslim men are in monogamous relationships. However, it is true that Islam does allow (not mandate) a man to have up to four wives. At the time when this allowance was given to Muslims, men had an unlimited amount of wives and concubines. Therefore, the Islamic rule to allow this was intended to limit this practice. The Qur'an and Hadith also advise men not to marry more than once unless they can treat each wife equally.

Does Islam state that Jews are the enemy of Muslims?

No. There is no statement in the Qur'an that says Jews are the enemy of Muslims. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding that has roots in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, there is nothing in the Qur'an that states that Muslims must be at war with all non-Muslims. The sanctity of all human life is paramount.

Did the Prophet Muhammad really marry someone only nine years old?

The wife to whom you are referring is A'isha, his last wife. Her age is disputed among Muslim scholars, but her father Abu Bakr, the Prophet's closest friend, would not have agreed to such a marriage if it were considered inappropriate. This is an old charge against the Prophet to malign his character.

Do women have low status in Islam? Why can't they drive, work, or go to school in countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia?

The fact that women can't drive, work, or go to school in some Muslim countries is a cultural phenomenon having nothing to do with Islam. Women have equal status with men in Islam. In fact, the Qur'an holds up two women--Mary, Jesus's mother (the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur'an) and Pharoah's wife--as examples of ideal believers.

Are there really 72 virgins waiting in heaven for suicide bombers?

The Qur'an mentions virgins, or pure maidens (houris) in Paradise, but the number 72 comes from a hadith. This reward is specifically accorded to martyrs, not suicide bombers. Martyrdom, or being killed in "the way of Allah" (as stated in hadith) is considered noble--for example, dying in battle for Islam or being persecuted for the faith. Suicide is strictly forbidden by Islam, as is the killing of innocent civilians. So a suicide bomber who kills innocent people is committing a heinous double sin and would never be admitted to Paradise.

Is the Ramadan fast just about giving up food and drink between sunrise and sunset?

Giving up food and drink is one of the lesser important aspects of the fast. The fast of Ramadan is a complete spiritual exercise designed to free the believer from all the shackles of the human condition and focus him or her on the obedience of God alone.

Does Islam accept other prophets beside the Prophet Muhammad?

I believe Islam is the only religion that accepts all the Judeo-Christian prophets as legitimate along with the Prophet Muhammad.

Muslims are taught to believe in, honor, and revere all of God's prophets, from Adam until Muhammad, who is the last one or "Seal of the Prophets" (peace be upon them all).

Is Allah the same as God for Christians and Jews?

Allah is simply the Arabic name for God. He is identical with the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. If one were to pick up an Arabic copy of the Bible, she would find that the word for God would be Allah. In fact, in the original New Testament Jesus calls God "Eloi,"  which is the Aramaic version of Allah.

Do you have other questions about Islam? Send them here: Islambook@beliefnetstaff.com.

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