History of Islam

The history of Islam centers around one person, Muhammad (also spelled Muhammed or Mohammed). He was born around 570 A.D. and was raised by his extended family after the death of his parents. As he grew, he became dissatisfied with polytheism and came to believe in one God, Allah. He began to have religious visions around age 40. During these visions, Muhammad would receive “messages” or “revelations” from Allah. He would memorize them and teach them to his followers. These visions are now recorded in the Qur’an (or Koran). Muhammad continued to receive these visions and messages until his death in 632 A.D.

The Expansion of Islam

Muhammad’s new faith was not widely accepted in his hometown of Mecca. Therefore, he and his followers moved to Medina which means “City of the Prophet”. This movement is known as the Hijirat or “the flight”. It marks the turning point in Islam and serves as the beginning date on Islamic calendars.

At first, Muhammad was sympathetic to both Christians and Jews, but after their rejection of his teaching, he turned from Jerusalem as the center of worship for Islam to Mecca. He realized he must return to Mecca, and he did, conquering the city. Islam quickly spread throughout the area.

When Muhammad died, he left no document appointing a successor. Some people thought that one of the original converts who had taught with Muhammad, some wanted a member of a powerful political family in the area, and others felt that ‘Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad had been divinely designated as successor. An early believer, Abu Bakr was appointed, but died within two years.

Eventually, a power struggle developed as different groups of Muslims believed their method of establishing a successor were the best. The largest argument was over whether the successor should be elected or chosen through heredity. This controversy produced the main body of Islam known as the Sunnis (followers of the prophet’s way) and other numerous sects including the Shi’a and the Sufis. The Sunnis are the majority in Islam today.

The Shi’a are the group of Muslims who believe that the successorship should remain within Muhammad’s family, and that leaders are spiritually chosen, not politically chosen. They carry with them the pain of Muhammad’s son-in-law, ‘Ali, who was murdered by Mu’awiya in order to obtain power. Today, the Shi’a dominate Iran.

The Sufis are a group who believes that orthodox Islam is too mechanical and impersonal. This group of Islamic mystics seek for direct personal experience of the Divine.

Nationalism in the Arab world since the rise of Israel as a political power has kept Islam strong. It is a rapidly spreading religion because of its cultural and political appeal and its universal message of peace, temperance and the brotherhood of man.

References

McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983. Twelfth printing, June 1992.

Shelley, Fred M. and Audrey E. Clarke, eds. Human and Cultural Geography. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1994.

Images

‘The Expansion of Islam’ courtesy of The Expansion of Islam

‘Muhammad’ courtesy of World Religions in Images

Written by Sara Wenner, 2001

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Islamic Terms

Allah The Supreme Being. The name of God.

Hadith The sacred sayings of Muhammad, handed down by oral tradition and finally written down.

Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca. One of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.

Hegira Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D.

Islam “submission to the will of Allah”

Koran (Qur’an) The inspired word of God given to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.

Mecca The birthplace of Muhammad, and the holy city of Islam.

Medina Holy city named for Muhammad after he fled there in 622 A.D.

Muhammad Prophet and founder of Islam. Born around 570 A.D., died 632 A.D.

Moslem (Muslim) Follower of Muhammad. “one who submits”

Mosque Islamic place of worship.

Muezzlin Moslem crier who announces the hour of prayer.

Ramadan The ninth month of the Moslem year, when Muhammad received the Qur’an from heaven, now a month of fasting.

Salat Moslem daily prayer ritual. One of the five pillars of Islam.

Shi’ites Moslem sect which insists that Muhammad’s son-in-law ‘Ali was Muhammad’s rightful successor.

Sufis Iranian philosophical mystics who have interpreted Islam for themselves.

Sunnites Largest Moslem sect which acknowledges all of Muhammad’s successors.

Surahs What the chapters of the Qur’an are called.

The Dargah- one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Muslims

References

McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983. Twelfth printing, June 1992.

Shelley, Fred M. and Audrey E. Clarke, eds. Human and Cultural Geography. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1994.

Images

‘The Dargah’ courtesy of About Rajasthanhttp://www.rajasthanweb.com/about/religion/index.htm

Written by Sara Wenner, 2001

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Basic Beliefs of Islam

The teachings of Islam are comprised of both faith and duty (din). One branch of Muslim learning, “Tawhid”, defines all that a man should believe, while the other branch, “Shari’a,” prescribes everything that he should do. There is no priesthood and no sacraments. Except among the Sufis, Muslims receive instruction only from those who consider themselves adequately learned in theology or law.

The basis for Islamic doctrine is found in the Qur’an (Koran). It is the scripture of Islam, written by Muhammad and his disciples as dictated by the Angel Gabriel. It alone is infallible and without error. The Qur’an is comprised of 114 surahs, or chapters, arranged from longest to shortest. For Muslims, the Qur’an is the word of God, and he carrier of the revelation of Muhammad, the last and most perfect of God’s messengers to mankind.

In addition to the Qur’an, other documents are also referred to by followers of Islam. A number of additional sayings of Muhammad were complied in the Hadith (“tradition”). The Torat (of Moses), Suhuf (books of the prophets), Zabur (psalms of David), and the Injil (gospel of Jesus) are also studied and considered to be revelations, although they are believed to have been corrupted through time.

Five Articles of Faith

The five articles of faith are the main doctrines of Islam. All Muslims are expected to believe the following:

  1. Allah. Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam believes there is one true Allah (The Arabic translation of the word God). Allah alone is the creator of all the universe.
  2. Angels. Angels exist and interact with human lives. They are comprised of light, and each have different purposes or messages to bring to earth. Each man or woman has two angels who record his actions; one records good deeds, the other bad deeds.
  3. Scripture. There are four inspired books, the Torah of Moses, the Psalms (Zabin) of David, the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Injil) and the Qur’an. All but the Qur’an have been corrupted by Jews and Christians.
  4. Prophets. God has spoken through numerous prophets throughout time. The six greatest are: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Muhammad is the last and greatest of Allah’s messengers.
  5. Last Days. On the last day there will be a time of resurrection and judgment. Those who follow Allah and Muhammad will go to Islamic heaven, or Paradise. Those who do not will go to hell.

The Five Pillars of Faith

The five pillars of faith are observances in Islam which are duties each Muslim must perform.

  1. Creed (Kalima)– One must state, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah.” publicly to become a Muslim.
  2. Prayer (Salat)– Prayer must be done five times a day (upon rising, at noon, in mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before going to sleep) towards the direction of Mecca. The call to prayer is sounded by the muezzin (Muslim crier) from a tower (minaret) within the mosque.
  3. Almsgiving (Zakat)– Muslims are legally required to give one-fortieth of their income to the needy. Since those whom alms are given are helping the giver achieve salvation, there is no sense of shame in receiving charity.
  4. Fasting (Ramadan)– During the holy month of Ramadan, faithful Muslims fast from sunup to sundown each day. This develops self-control, devotion to God, and identity with the needy.
  5. Pilgrimage (Hajj)– Each Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if they have the means to do it and are physically capable of the trip. It is an essential part of gaining salvation, so the old or infirm may send someone in their place. It involves a set of rituals and ceremonies.

A sixth religious duty associated with the five pillars is Jihad, or Holy War. This duty requires that if the situation warrants, men are required to go to war to defend or spread Islam. If they are killed, they are guaranteed eternal life in Paradise.

References

McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983. Twelfth printing, June 1992.

Shelley, Fred M. and Audrey E. Clarke, eds. Human and Cultural Geography. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1994.

Images

‘Islam1’ courtesy of Yogic insights into Islam by Knowledge of Reality Magazine

‘Muhammad’ courtesy of World Religions in Images

Written by Sara Wenner, 2001

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Chapter 1

God supported His last Prophet Muhammad  with many miracles and much evidence which proved that he is a true Prophet sent by God.  Also, God supported His last revealed book, the Holy Quran, with many miracles that prove that this Quran is the literal word of God, revealed by Him, and that it was not authored by any human being. This chapter discusses some of this evidence.

(1) The Scientific Miracles
in the Holy Quran

The Quran is the literal word of God, which He revealed to His Prophet Muhammad  through the Angel Gabriel.  It was memorized by Muhammad , who then dictated it to his Companions.  They, in turn, memorized it, wrote it down, and reviewed it with the Prophet Muhammad .  Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad  reviewed the Quran with the Angel Gabriel once each year and twice in the last year of his life.  From the time the Quran was revealed, until this day, there has always been a huge number of Muslims who have memorized all of the Quran, letter by letter.  Some of them have even been able to memorize all of the Quran by the age of ten.  Not one letter of the Quran has been changed over the centuries.

The Quran, which was revealed fourteen centuries ago, mentioned facts only recently discovered or proven by scientists.  This proves without doubt that the Quran must be the literal word of God, revealed by Him to the Prophet Muhammad , and that the Quran was not authored by Muhammad  or by any other human being.  This also proves that Muhammad  is truly a prophet sent by God.  It is beyond reason that anyone fourteen hundred years ago would have known these facts discovered or proven only recently with advanced equipment and sophisticated scientific methods.  Some examples follow.

Biblical Prophecies on the Advent of
Muhammad , the Prophet of Islam

The Biblical prophecies on the advent of the Prophet Muhammad  are evidence of the truth of Islam for people who believe in the Bible.

In Deuteronomy 18, Moses stated that God told him: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).1

From these verses we conclude that the prophet in this prophecy must have the following three characteristics:

1)  That he will be like Moses.

2)  That he will come from the brothers of the Israelites, i.e. the Ishmaelites.

3)  That God will put His words in to the mouth of this prophet and that he will declare what God commands him.

Let us examine these three characteristics in more depth:

1)  A prophet like Moses:

There were hardly any two prophets who were so much alike as Moses and Muhammad .  Both were given a comprehensive law and code of life. Both encountered their enemies and were victorious in miraculous ways.  Both were accepted as prophets and statesmen.  Both migrated following conspiracies to assassinate them.  Analogies between Moses and Jesus overlook not only the above similarities but other crucial ones as well.  These include the natural birth, the family life, and death of Moses and Muhammad  but not of Jesus.  Moreover Jesus was regarded by his followers as the Son of God and not exclusively as a prophet of God, as Moses and Muhammad  were and as Muslims believe Jesus was.  So, this prophecy refers to the Prophet Muhammad  and not to Jesus, because Muhammad  is more like Moses than Jesus.

Also, one notices from the Gospel of John that the Jews were waiting for the fulfillment of three distinct prophecies.  The first was the coming of Christ.  The second was the coming of Elijah.  The third was the coming of the Prophet.  This is obvious from the three questions that were posed to John the Baptist: “Now this was John’s testimony, when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.  He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.”  They asked him, “Then who are you?  Are you Elijah?”  He said, “I am not.”  “Are you the Prophet?”  He answered, “No.” (John 1:19-21).  If we look in a Bible with cross-references, we will find in the marginal notes where the words “the Prophet” occur in John 1:21, that these words refer to the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18:18.2  We conclude from this that Jesus Christ is not the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:18.

2) From the brothers of the Israelites:

Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac (Genesis 21).  Ishmael became the grandfather of the Arab nation, and Isaac became the grandfather of the Jewish nation.  The prophet spoken of was not to come from among the Jews themselves, but from among their brothers, i.e. the Ishmaelites.  Muhammad , a descendant of Ishmael, is indeed this prophet.

Also, Isaiah 42:1-13 speaks of the servant of God, His “chosen one” and “messenger” who will bring down a law.  “He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.  In his law the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42:4)Verse 11, connects that awaited one with the descendants of Kedar.  Who is Kedar?  According to Genesis 25:13, Kedar was the second son of Ishmael, the ancestor of the Prophet Muhammad .

3) God will put His words in the mouth of this prophet:

The words of God (the Holy Quran) were truly put into Muhammad’s  mouth.  God sent the Angel Gabriel to teach Muhammad  the exact words of God (the Holy Quran) and asked him to dictate them to the people as he heard them.  The words are therefore not his own.  They did not come from his own thoughts, but were put into his mouth by the Angel Gabriel.  During the life time of Muhammad , and under his supervision, these words were then memorized and written by his companions.

Also, this prophecy in Deuteronomy mentioned that this prophet will speak the words of God in the name of God.  If we looked to the Holy Quran, we will find that all its chapters, except Chapter 9, are preceded or begin with the phrase, “In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”
Another indication (other than the prophecy in Deuteronomy) is that Isaiah ties the messenger connected with Kedar with a new song (a scripture in a new language) to be sung to the Lord (Isaiah 42:10-11).  This is mentioned more clearly in the prophecy of Isaiah: “and another tongue, will he speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:11 KJV).  Another related point, is that the Quran was revealed in sections over a span of twenty-three years.  It is interesting to compare this with Isaiah 28 which speaks of the same thing, “For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there.” (Isaiah 28:10).

Note that God has said in the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18, “If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” (Deuteronomy, 18:19).  This means that whoever believes in the Bible must believe in what this prophet says, and this prophet is the Prophet Muhammad .

(5) Miracles Performed by
the Prophet Muhammad

Many miracles were performed by the Prophet Muhammad  by God’s permission.  These miracles were witnessed by many people.  For example:

n  When the unbelievers in Makkah asked the Prophet Muhammad  to show them a miracle, he showed them the splitting of the moon.1

n  Another miracle was the flowing of water through Muhammad’s  fingers when his companions got thirsty and had no water except a little in a vessel.  They came to him and told him that they had no water to make ablution nor to drink except for what was in the vessel.  So, Muhammad  put his hand in the vessel, and the water started gushing out between his fingers.  So, they drank and made ablution.  They were one thousand five hundred companions.2

There were also many other miracles that were performed by him or which happened to him.

(6) The Simple Life of Muhammad

If we compare the life of Muhammad  before his mission as a prophet and his life after he began his mission as a prophet, we will conclude that it is beyond reason to think that Muhammad  was a false prophet, who claimed prophethood to attain material gains, greatness, glory, or power.

Before his mission as a prophet, Muhammad  had no financial worries.  As a successful and reputed merchant, Muhammad  drew a satisfactory and comfortable income.  After his mission as a prophet and because of it, he became worse off materially.  To clarify this more, let us browse the following sayings on his life:

n  Aa’isha, Muhammad’s  wife, said, “O my nephew, we would sight three new moons in two months without lighting a fire (to cook a meal) in the Prophet’s  houses.”  Her nephew asked, “O Aunt, what sustained you?”  She said, “The two black things, dates and water, but the Prophet  had some Ansar neighbors who had milk-giving she-camels and they used to send the Prophet  some of its milk.”1

n  Sahl Ibn Sa’ad, one of Muhammad’s  companions, said, “The Prophet of God  did not see bread made from fine flour from the time God sent him (as a prophet) until he died.”2

n  Aa’isha, Muhammad’s  wife, said, “The mattress of the Prophet , on which he slept, was made of leather stuffed with the fiber of the date-palm tree.”3

n  Amr Ibn Al-Hareth, one of Muhammad’s  companions, said that when the Prophet  died, he left neither money nor anything else except his white riding mule, his arms, and a piece of land which he left to charity.4

Muhammad  lived this hard life till he died although the Muslim treasury was at his disposal, the greater part of the Arabian Peninsula was Muslim before he died, and the Muslims were victorious after eighteen years of his mission.

Is it possible that Muhammad  might have claimed prophethood in order to attain status, greatness, and power?  The desire to enjoy status and power is usually associated with good food, fancy clothing, monumental palaces, colorful guards, and indisputable authority.  Do any of these indicators apply to Muhammad ?  A few glimpses of his life that may help answer this question follow.

Despite his responsibilities as a prophet, a teacher, a statesman, and a judge, Muhammad  used to milk his goat,5 mend his clothes, repair his shoes,6 help with the household work,7 and visit poor people when they got sick.8  He also helped his companions in digging a trench by moving sand with them.9  His life was an amazing model of simplicity and humbleness.

Muhammad’s  followers loved him, respected him, and trusted him to an amazing extent.  Yet he continued to emphasize that deification should be directed to God and not to him personally.  Anas, one of Muhammad’s  companions, said that there was no person whom they loved more than the Prophet Muhammad , yet when he came to them, they did not stand up for him because he hated their standing up for him,10 as other people do with their great people.

Long before there was any prospect of success for Islam and at the outset of a long and painful era of torture, suffering, and persecution of Muhammad  and his followers, he received an interesting offer.  An envoy of the pagan leaders, Otba, came to him saying, “…If you want money, we will collect enough money for you so that you will be the richest one of us.  If you want leadership, we will take you as our leader and never decide on any matter without your approval.  If you want a kingdom, we will crown you king over us…”  Only one concession was required from Muhammad  in return for that, to give up calling people to Islam and worshipping God alone without any partner.  Wouldn’t this offer be tempting to one pursuing worldly benefit?  Was Muhammad  hesitant when the offer was made?  Did he turn it down as a bargaining strategy leaving the door open for a better offer?  The following was his answer: {In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful}  And he recited to Otba the verses of the Quran 41:1-38.11  The Following are some of these verses:

 A revelation from (God), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful; a Book whereof the verses are explained in detail; a Quran in Arabic, for people who know, giving good news and warning, yet most of them turn away, so they do not listen.  (Quran, 41:2-4)

On another occasion and in response to his uncle’s plea to stop calling people to Islam, Muhammad’s  answer was as decisive and sincere: {I swear by the name of God, O Uncle!, that if they place the sun in my right-hand and the moon in my left-hand in return for giving up this matter (calling people to Islam), I will never desist until either God makes it triumph or I perish defending it.}12

Muhammad  and his few followers did not only suffer from persecution for thirteen years but the unbelievers even tried to kill Muhammad  several times.  On one occasion they attempted to kill him by dropping a large boulder, which could barely be lifted, on his head.13  Another time they tried to kill him by poisoning his food.14  What could justify such a life of suffering and sacrifice even after he was fully triumphant over his adversaries?  What could explain the humbleness and nobility which he demonstrated in his most glorious moments when he insisted that success is due only to God’s help and not to his own genius?  Are these the characteristics of a power-hungry or a self-centered man?

(7) The Phenomenal Growth of Islam

At the end of this chapter, it may be appropriate to point out an important indication of the truth of Islam.  It is well known that in the USA and the whole world, Islam is the fastest-growing religion.  The following are some observations on this phenomenon:

n  “Islam is the fastest-growing religion in America, a guide and pillar of stability for many of our people…” (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Los Angeles Times).1

n  “Moslems are the world’s fastest-growing group…” (The Population Reference Bureau, USA Today).2

n  “….Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the country.” (Geraldine Baum; Newsday Religion Writer, Newsday).3

n  “Islam, the fastest-growing religion in the United States…” (Ari L. Goldman, New York Times).4

This phenomenon indicates that Islam is truly a religion from God.  It is unreasonable to think that so many Americans and people from different countries have converted to Islam without careful consideration and deep contemplation before concluding that Islam is true.  These converts have come from different countries, classes, races, and walks of life.  They include scientists, professors, philosophers, journalists, politicians, actors, and athletes.  (To read the stories of people who have converted to Islam, please visit the links at Stories of New Muslims.)

The points mentioned in this chapter constitute only some of the evidence supporting the belief that the Quran is the literal word of God, that Muhammad  is truly a prophet sent by God, and that Islam is truly a religion from God.

Islam provides many benefits for the individual and the society.  This chapter mentions some of the benefits gained through Islam for the individual.

(1) The Door to Eternal Paradise

God has said in the Quran:

 And give good news (O Muhammad) to those who believe and do good deeds, that they will have gardens (Paradise) in which rivers flow….  (Quran, 2:25)

God has also said:

 Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and for Paradise, whose width is as the width of the heavens and the earth, which has been prepared for those who believe in God and His messengers….  (Quran, 57:21)

The Prophet Muhammad  told us that the lowest in rank among the dwellers of Paradise will have ten times the like of this world,1 and he or she will have whatever he or she desires and ten times like it.2  Also, the Prophet Muhammad  said: {A space in Paradise equivalent to the size of a foot would be better than the world and what is in it.}3  He also said: {In Paradise there are things which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has thought of.}4  He also said: {The most miserable man in the world of those meant for Paradise will be dipped once in Paradise.  Then he will be asked, “Son of Adam, did you ever face any misery?  Did you ever experience any hardship?”  So he will say, “No, by God, O Lord!  I never faced any misery, and I never experienced any hardship.”}5

If you enter Paradise, you will live a very happy life without sickness, pain, sadness, or death; God will be pleased with you; and you will live there forever.  God has said in the Quran:

 But those who believe and do good deeds, We will admit them to gardens (Paradise) in which rivers flow, lasting in them forever….  (Quran, 4:57)

(2) Salvation from Hellfire

God has said in the Quran:

 Those who have disbelieved and died in disbelief, the earth full of gold would not be accepted from any of them if one offered it as a ransom. They will have a painful punishment, and they will have no helpers.  (Quran, 3:91)

So, this life is our only chance to win Paradise and to escape from Hellfire, because if someone dies in disbelief, he will not have another chance to come back to this world to believe.  As God has said in the Quran about what is going to happen for the unbelievers on the Day of Judgment:

 If you could but see when they are set before the Fire (Hell) and say, “Would that we might return (to the world)!  Then we would not reject the verses of our Lord, but we would be of the believers!”  (Quran, 6:27)

But no one will have this second opportunity.

The Prophet Muhammad  said: {The happiest man in the world of those doomed to the Fire (Hell) on the Day of Judgment will be dipped in the Fire once.  Then he will be asked, “Son of Adam, did you ever see any good?  Did you ever experience any blessing?”  So he will say, “No, by God, O Lord!”}1

3) Real Happiness and Inner Peace

Real happiness and peace can be found in submitting to the commands of the Creator and the Sustainer of this world.  God has said in the Quran:

 Truly, in remembering God do hearts find rest.  (Quran, 13:28)

On the other hand, the one who turns away from the Quran will have a life of hardship in this world.  God has said:

 But whoever turns away from the Quran,1 he will have a hard life, and We will raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment.  (Quran, 20:124)

This may explain why some people commit suicide while they enjoy the material comfort money can buy.  For example, look at Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam), formerly a famous pop singer who used to earn sometimes more than $150,000 a night.  After he converted to Islam, he found true happiness and peace, which he had not found in material success.2

4) Forgiveness for All Previous Sins

When someone converts to Islam, God forgives all of his previous sins and evil deeds.  A man called Amr came to the Prophet Muhammad  and said, “Give me your right hand so that I may give you my pledge of loyalty.”  The Prophet  stretched out his right hand.  Amr withdrew his hand.  The Prophet  said: {What has happened to you, O Amr?}  He replied, “I intend to lay down a condition.”  The Prophet  asked: {What condition do you intend to put forward?}  Amr said, “That God forgive my sins.”  The Prophet  said: {Didn’t you know that converting to Islam erases all previous sins?}1

After converting to Islam, the person will be rewarded for his or her good and bad deeds according to the following saying of the Prophet Muhammad : {Your Lord, Who is blessed and exalted, is most merciful.  If someone intends to do a good deed but does not do it, a good deed will be recorded for him.  And if he does do it, (a reward of) ten to seven hundred or many more times (the reward of the good deed), will be recorded for him.  And if someone intends to do a bad deed but does not do it, a good deed will be recorded for him.  And if he does do it, a bad deed will be recorded against him or God will wipe it out.}2

What Is Islam?

The religion of Islam is the acceptance of and obedience to the teachings of God which He revealed to His last prophet, Muhammad .

Some Basic Islamic Beliefs

1) Belief in God:

Muslims believe in one, unique, incomparable God, Who has no son nor partner, and that none has the right to be worshipped but Him alone.  He is the true God, and every other deity is false.  He has the most magnificent names and sublime perfect attributes.  No one shares His divinity, nor His attributes.  In the Quran, God describes Himself:

 Say, “He is God, the One.  God, to Whom the creatures turn for their needs.  He begets not, nor was He begotten, and there is none like Him.”  (Quran, 112:1-4)

Chapter 112 of the Quran written in Arabic calligraphy.

No one has the right to be invoked, supplicated, prayed to, or shown any act of worship, but God alone.

God alone is the Almighty, the Creator, the Sovereign, and the Sustainer of everything in the whole universe.  He manages all affairs.  He stands in need of none of His creatures, and all His creatures depend on Him for all that they need.  He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, and the All-Knowing.  In a perfect manner, His knowledge encompasses all things, the open and the secret, and the public and the private.  He knows what has happened, what will happen, and how it will happen.  No affair occurs in the whole world except by His will.  Whatever He wills is, and whatever He does not will is not and will never be.  His will is above the will of all the creatures.  He has power over all things, and He is able to do everything.  He is the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, and the Most Beneficent.  In one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad , we are told that God is more merciful to His creatures than a mother to her child.1  God is far removed from injustice and tyranny.  He is All-Wise in all of His actions and decrees.  If someone wants something from God, he or she can ask God directly without asking anyone else to intercede with God for him or her.

God is not Jesus, and Jesus is not God.2  Even Jesus himself rejected this.  God has said in the Quran:

 Indeed, they have disbelieved who have said, “God is the Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary.”  The Messiah said, “Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord.  Whoever associates partners in worship with God, then God has forbidden Paradise for him, and his home is the Fire (Hell).  For the wrongdoers,3 there will be no helpers.”  (Quran, 5:72)

God is not a trinity.  God has said in the Quran:

 Indeed, they disbelieve who say, “God is the third of three (in a trinity),” when there is no god but one God.  If they desist not from what they say, truly, a painful punishment will befall the disbelievers among them. Would they not rather repent to God and ask His forgiveness?  For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.  The Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary, was no more than a messenger…  (Quran, 5:73-75)

Islam rejects that God rested on the seventh day of the creation, that He wrestled with one of His angels, that He is an envious plotter against mankind, or that He is incarnate in any human being.  Islam also rejects the attribution of any human form to God. All of these are considered blasphemous.  God is the Exalted.  He is far removed from every imperfection.  He never becomes weary.  He does not become drowsy nor does he sleep.

The Arabic word Allah means God (the one and only true God who created the whole universe).  This word Allah is a name for God, which is used by Arabic speakers, both Arab Muslims and Arab Christians.  This word cannot be used to designate anything other than the one true God.  The Arabic word Allah occurs in the Quran about 2700 times.  In Aramaic, a language related closely to Arabic and the language that Jesus habitually spoke,4 God is also referred to as Allah.

2) Belief in the Angels:

Muslims believe in the existence of the angels and that they are honored creatures.  The angels worship God alone, obey Him, and act only by His command.  Among the angels is Gabriel, who brought down the Quran to Muhammad .

3) Belief in God’s Revealed Books:

Muslims believe that God revealed books to His messengers as proof for mankind and as guidance for them.  Among these books is the Quran, which God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad .  God has guaranteed the Quran’s protection from any corruption or distortion.  God has said:

 Indeed, We have sent down the Quran, and surely We will guard it (from corruption).  (Quran, 15:9)

4) Belief in the Prophets and Messengers of God:

Muslims believe in the prophets and messengers of God, starting with Adam, including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them).  But God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad .  Muslims believe that Muhammad  is the last prophet sent by God, as God has said:

 Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but he is the Messenger of God and the last of the prophets…  (Quran, 33:40)

Muslims believe that all the prophets and messengers were created human beings who had none of the divine qualities of God.

5) Belief in the Day of Judgment:

Muslims believe in the Day of Judgment (the Day of Resurrection) when all people will be resurrected for God’s judgment according to their beliefs and deeds.

6) Belief in Al-Qadar:

Muslims believe in Al-Qadar, which is Divine Predestination, but this belief in Divine Predestination does not mean that human beings do not have freewill.  Rather, Muslims believe that God has given human beings freewill.  This means that they can choose right or wrong and that they are responsible for their choices.

The belief in Divine Predestination includes belief in four things: 1) God knows everything.  He knows what has happened and what will happen.  2) God has recorded all that has happened and all that will happen.  3) Whatever God wills to happen happens, and whatever He wills not to happen does not happen.  4) God is the Creator of everything.

Is There Any Sacred Source
Other than the Quran?

 

Yes.  The sunnah (what the Prophet Muhammad  said, did, or approved of) is the second source in Islam.  The sunnah is comprised of hadeeths, which are reliably transmitted reports by the Prophet Muhammad’s  companions of what he said, did, or approved of.  Belief in the sunnah is a basic Islamic belief.

What Do Muslims Believe about Jesus?

Muslims respect and revere Jesus (peace be upon him).  They consider him one of the greatest of God’s messengers to mankind.  The Quran confirms his virgin birth, and a chapter of the Quran is entitled ‘Maryam’ (Mary).  The Quran describes the birth of Jesus as follows:

 (Remember) when the angels said, “O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him (God), whose name is the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, revered in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (to God).  He will speak to the people from his cradle and as a man, and he is of the righteous.” She said, “My Lord, how can I have a child when no mortal has touched me?” He said, “So (it will be).  God creates what He wills.  If He decrees a thing, He says to it only, ‘Be!’ and it is.”  (Quran, 3:45-47)

Jesus was born miraculously by the command of God, the same command that had brought Adam into being with neither a father nor a mother.  God has said:

 The case of Jesus with God is like the case of Adam.  He created him from dust, and then He said to him, “Be!” and he came into being.  (Quran, 3:59)

During his prophetic mission, Jesus performed many miracles.  God tells us that Jesus said:

 “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord.  I make for you the shape of a bird out of clay, I breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s permission.  I heal the blind from birth and the leper.  And I bring the dead to life by God’s permission.  And I tell you what you eat and what you store in your houses….”  (Quran, 3:49)

Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified.  It was the plan of Jesus’ enemies to crucify him, but God saved him and raised him up to Him.  And the likeness of Jesus was put over another man.  Jesus’ enemies took this man and crucified him, thinking that he was Jesus.  God has said:

 …They said, “We killed the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of God.” They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but the likeness of him was put on another man (and they killed that man)…  (Quran, 4:157)

Neither Muhammad  nor Jesus came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in one God, brought by earlier prophets, but rather to confirm and renew it.1
 

The Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

 

What Does Islam Say about Terrorism?

Islam, a religion of mercy, does not permit terrorism.  In the Quran, God has said:

 God does not forbid you from showing kindness and dealing justly with those who have not fought you about religion and have not driven you out of your homes.  God loves just dealers.  (Quran, 60:8)

The Prophet Muhammad  used to prohibit soldiers from killing women and children,1 and he would advise them: {…Do not betray, do not be excessive, do not kill a newborn child.}2  And he also said: {Whoever has killed a person having a treaty with the Muslims shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, though its fragrance is found for a span of forty years.}3

Also, the Prophet Muhammad  has forbidden punishment with fire.4

He once listed murder as the second of the major sins,5 and he even warned that on the Day of Judgment, {The first cases to be adjudicated between people on the Day of Judgment will be those of bloodshed.6}7

Muslims are even encouraged to be kind to animals and are forbidden to hurt them.  Once the Prophet Muhammad  said: {A woman was punished because she imprisoned a cat until it died.  On account of this, she was doomed to Hell. While she imprisoned it, she did not give the cat food or drink, nor did she free it to eat the insects of the earth.}8

He also said that a man gave a very thirsty dog a drink, so God forgave his sins for this action.  The Prophet  was asked, “Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?”  He said: {There is a reward for kindness to every living animal or human.}9

Additionally, while taking the life of an animal for food, Muslims are commanded to do so in a manner that causes the least amount of fright and suffering possible.  The Prophet Muhammad  said: {When you slaughter an animal, do so in the best way.  One should sharpen his knife to reduce the suffering of the animal.}10

In light of these and other Islamic texts, the act of inciting terror in the hearts of defenseless civilians, the wholesale destruction of buildings and properties, the bombing and maiming of innocent men, women, and children are all forbidden and detestable acts according to Islam and the Muslims.  Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the vast majority have nothing to do with the violent events some have associated with Muslims.  If an individual Muslim were to commit an act of terrorism, this person would be guilty of violating the laws of Islam.

Human Rights and Justice in Islam

Islam provides many human rights for the individual.  The following are some of these human rights that Islam protects.

The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred, whether a person is Muslim or not.  Islam also protects honor.  So, in Islam, insulting others or making fun of them is not allowed.  The Prophet Muhammad  said: {Truly your blood, your property, and your honor are inviolable.}1

Racism is not allowed in Islam, for the Quran speaks of human equality in the following terms:

 O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes for you to know one another.  Truly, the noblest of you with God is the most pious.2  Truly, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.  (Quran, 49:13)

Islam rejects certain individuals or nations being favored because of their wealth, power, or race.  God created human beings as equals who are to be distinguished from each other only on the basis of their faith and piety.  The Prophet Muhammad  said: {O people!  Your God is one and your forefather (Adam) is one.  An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person,3 except in piety.}4

One of the major problems facing mankind today is racism.  The developed world can send a man to the moon but cannot stop man from hating and fighting his fellow man.  Ever since the days of the Prophet Muhammad , Islam has provided a vivid example of how racism can be ended.  The annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah shows the real Islamic brotherhood of all races and nations, when about two million Muslims from all over the world come to Makkah to perform the pilgrimage.

Islam is a religion of justice.  God has said:

 Truly God commands you to give back trusts to those to whom they are due, and when you judge between people, to judge with justice….  (Quran, 4:58)

And He has said:

 …And act justly.  Truly, God loves those who are just.  (Quran, 49:9)

We should even be just with those who we hate, as God has said:

 …And let not the hatred of others make you avoid justice.  Be just: that is nearer to piety….  (Quran, 5:8)

The Prophet Muhammad  said: {People, beware of injustice,5 for injustice shall be darkness on the Day of Judgment.}6

And those who have not gotten their rights (i.e. what they have a just claim to) in this life will receive them on the Day of Judgment, as the Prophet  said: {On the Day of Judgment, rights will be given to those to whom they are due (and wrongs will be redressed)…}7

What Is the Status of Women in Islam?

Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings without any guardianship over her (whether that be her father, husband, or anyone else).  She has the right to buy and sell, give gifts and charity, and may spend her money as she pleases.  A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband’s.

Islam encourages the husband to treat his wife well, as the Prophet Muhammad  said: {The best among you are those who are best to their wives.}1

Mothers in Islam are highly honored.  Islam recommends treating them in the best way.  A man came to the Prophet Muhammad  and said, “O Messenger of God!  Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?”  The Prophet  said: {Your mother.}  The man said, “Then who?”  The Prophet  said: {Then your mother.}  The man further asked, “Then who?”  The Prophet  said: {Then your mother.}  The man asked again, “Then who?”  The Prophet  said: {Then your father.}2

The Family in Islam

The family, which is the basic unit of civilization, is now disintegrating.  Islam’s family system brings the rights of the husband, wife, children, and relatives into a fine equilibrium.  It nourishes unselfish behavior, generosity, and love in the framework of a well-organized family system.  The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued, and it is seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members.  A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families and by treasuring children.
 

 

How Do Muslims Treat the Elderly?

In the Islamic world, one rarely finds “old people’s homes.” The strain of caring for one’s parents in this most difficult time of their lives is considered an honor and a blessing and an opportunity for great spiritual growth.  In Islam, it is not enough that we only pray for our parents, but we should act with limitless compassion, remembering that when we were helpless children, they preferred us to themselves.  Mothers are particularly honored.  When Muslim parents reach old age, they are treated mercifully, with kindness and selflessness.

In Islam, serving one’s parents is a duty second to prayer, and it is their right to expect it.  It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the old become difficult.

God has said:

Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents.  If one of them or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them.  And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, “My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small.”  (Quran, 17:23-24)

What Are the Five Pillars of Islam?

The Five Pillars of Islam are the framework of the Muslim life.  They are the testimony of faith, prayer, giving zakat (support of the needy), fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Makkah once in a lifetime for those who are able.

1) The Testimony of Faith:

The testimony of faith is saying with conviction, La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadur rasoolu Allah.  This saying means “There is no true god (deity) but God (Allah),1 and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God.”  The first part, “There is no true god but God,” means that none has the right to be worshipped but God alone, and that God has neither partner nor son.  This testimony of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which should be said with conviction in order to convert to Islam (as explained previously on this page).  The testimony of faith is the most important pillar of Islam.

2) Prayer:

Muslims perform five prayers a day.  Each prayer does not take more than a few minutes to perform.  Prayer in Islam is a direct link between the worshipper and God.  There are no intermediaries between God and the worshipper.

In prayer, a person feels inner happiness, peace, and comfort, and that God is pleased with him or her.  The Prophet Muhammad  said: {Bilal, call (the people) to prayer, let us be comforted by it.}2  Bilal was one of Muhammad’s  companions who was charged to call the people to prayers.

Prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night.  A Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories, or universities.

(For detailed information on how to perform prayer, please refer to the links at How to Perform Prayer or refer to the book entitled A Guide to Salat (Prayer) by M. A. K. Saqib.3)

3) Giving Zakat (Support of the Needy):

All things belong to God, and wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust.  The original meaning of the word zakat is both ‘purification’ and ‘growth.’  Giving zakat means ‘giving a specified percentage on certain properties to certain classes of needy people.’  The percentage which is due on gold, silver, and cash funds that have reached the amount of about 85 grams of gold and held in possession for one lunar year is two and a half percent.  Our possessions are purified by setting aside a small portion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.

A person may also give as much as he or she pleases as voluntary alms or charity.

4) Fasting the Month of Ramadan:

Every year in the month of Ramadan,4 all Muslims fast from dawn until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations.

Although the fast is beneficial to health, it is regarded principally as a method of spiritual self-purification.  By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry, as well as growth in his or her spiritual life.

5) The Pilgrimage to Makkah:

The annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah is an obligation once in a lifetime for those who are physically and financially able to perform it.  About two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe.  Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj is performed in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.  Male pilgrims wear special simple clothes which strip away distinctions of class and culture so that all stand equal before God.

Pilgrims praying at the Haram mosque in Makkah.  In this mosque is the Kaaba (the black building in the picture) which Muslims turn toward when praying.  The Kaaba is the place of worship which God commanded the Prophets Abraham and his son, Ishmael, to build.

The rites of the Hajj include circling the Kaaba seven times and going seven times between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa, as Hagar did during her search for water.  Then the pilgrims stand together in Arafa5 and ask God for what they wish and for His forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Day of Judgment.

The end of the Hajj is marked by a festival, Eid Al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers.  This, and Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the two annual festivals of the Muslim calendar.

 

 

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