The Faith of Islam
Knowing more about each other's religion helps to understand each other. I hope that this page will help you understand Islam and Muslims also. I also hope to explain with facts why we have a small percentage of Muslims who commit barbaric acts that seem to violate the Koran (Qur'an).
"Allah" is "God" in Arabic. "God" is an English word. "God" is a different word in different languages. For example, it is "Gott" in German, "Isten" in Hungarian, "Dios" in Spanish, "Kami" in Japanese, and so on. I discovered that Christian Arabs worship God like Christians do anywhere in the world. The Christian Arabs pray to Allah (God) obviously in Arabic, just like Muslim Arabs pray to Allah (God). Christians and Muslims pray to the same God.
I also discovered that the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible, are holy books in the Qur'an for Muslims. Muslims claim that the Bible was altered in its earlier days, but the Qur'an was not. The truth is that the Qur'an was also altered in its early days (ref. Uthman). As one will see below, Islam, the religion of Muslims, has many things in common with Christianity, not just God. Many of us do not realize this. I certainly did not a few years ago, despite the fact that I made many business trips to Arab countries in the Middle East years ago.
Most of the text below, with the exception of "Conclusions and Questions" is from the Islamic Center of America, www.icofa.com, an excellent brief description of Islam. The Qur'an is the word of God (Allah) in Islam, delivered through the Archangel Gabriel to Muhammad. We added Qur'anic references to all points made in this document, with the help of the Grand Mosque in Bahrain, with many thanks to Syed R. Ali. These additional references are marked in red.
The University of Southern California link we are providing about Sunnah/Hadith, is the second most important part of Islam after the Qur'an. Simply put, it covers how the Prophet Muhammad approved various questions that arise in life, based on the Qur'an. Both the Qur'an and Sunnah/Hadith are vital parts of how a Muslim may act or live his life.
It is very difficult to translate accurately from one ancient language to a modern one, and you may want to verify some things in the Qur'an like I did. There are several officially approved translations from the Qur'an (7th Century Arabic) to English, like the M. Asad version, the Yusuf Ali version and the Pictall or Shakir version. You can use them all at the Islamic City Web site or at the University of Southern California Web site to check accurately anything quoted by anyone from the Qur'an or Islam in general. They are a great tool, especially since there are so many misquotes AND "partial" quotes around from the Qur'an on the Internet. One should always read at least one or two verses prior to the verse of interest to understand its context better. Now you have a reliable, official source to verify any such quotes.
Muhammad introduced to the world the Faith of Islam, whose followers, the Muslims,
are approximately one fifth of the world's population. "Islam" means readiness
to accept and obey the commandments of God.
The Prophet introduced a book that contains the doctrines of the faith, along with many other things. The book is "The Qur'an" which means "The Recited." It is a fitting name to the most recited book. Every Muslim is supposed to pray five times a day, and a portion of the Qur'an must be recited in every prayer. The Qur'an is in Arabic and it is recited in Arabic even in countries where Arabic is not spoken, in order to maintain the original text of the Qur'an. Those who recite the Qur'anic prayers know exactly what they are saying even if their native language is not Arabic.
The book was introduced by the Prophet, not as his own, but as containing the
direct words of God. The teaching of Islam forms two departments: (1) The
Doctrines that deal with man's belief, and (2) the practical part which deals
with man's action as a practicing Muslim. As to the department that deals with
the Muslim's belief, there are some doctrines pertaining to God; and some
others concerning life after death; others dealing with the Prophethood; and
others pertaining to man.
GOD AND HIS ATTRIBUTES
Islam teaches that the Universe had been created by a Mighty, Wise, Merciful, Ever-living and Loving God. In proclaiming this doctrine, Islam does not rely on a book or authoritative word, not even the words of the prophets, because the belief in God should come before the belief in any prophet or religious book. Furthermore, the religious books and the prophets are not believed by all people, while the evidence of the existence of God must be universal and available to everyone. For this, the Holy Qur'an offers the very existence of the universe, its order, the life, the marvelous structures of the eyes and the hearing as signs of the existence of God, His Wisdom and benevolence. Islam describes God as Infinite in life, power and knowledge.
That God is only One is the most emphasized theme in the Holy Qur'an. Islam is uncompromising in Monotheism (the belief in the oneness of God). God is One Alone, without partner or associate. For this, Islam is called the religion of the belief in One God. Professing the belief in His oneness is the first phrase in the Declaration of The Faith:
"I bear witness that there is no god but the Almighty God, and that
Mohammad is a Messenger of God."
"The Almighty God, there is no god but He, the Ever-living, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist. Slumber overtakes Him not nor sleep. To Him belongs what is in the Heavens and whatever is on the Earth. Who is he that intercedes with Him but with His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He chooses. His power extends over the Heavens and the Earth, and the preservation of them both tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Great." (2:255)
DO THE MUSLIMS BELIEVE IN A TRINITY?
The Holy Qur'an denies
emphatically any real paternal relation between God and any other living or
non-living being. No man or angel can be called a son or child of God in the
true sense of the word. From the Qur'an:
Muslim theologians say that parenthood of God to any living or non-living being is inconceivable in bodily term, and is degrading to the Most High. No relation is conceivable except the relation between the Creator and the creature, since everything is created by Him.
Fatherhood cannot be logically ascribed to God. God is not a father of any
being, yet He is much more compassionate to us than a father.
THE WILLING GOD
The Creator of the
Universe creates and does what He does, not by necessity, but by His free will
". . . And to God belongs the kingdom of the Heavens and the Earth and what is between them. He creates what He chooses (to create). And God has the power over everything." (5:17)
The concept of an Almighty implies freedom, unlimited freedom. A human being without freedom is not almighty because such a person is necessitated to take one direction and is not able to change that direction, since there would be no alternatives. An Almighty, therefore, must have alternatives and absolute freedom to choose either, otherwise He would be able to do one thing, unable to do another. Furthermore, a person without freedom is not perfect, such a person is not God.
THE EVER PRESENT GOD
God, according to the Holy Qur'an, is Ever-present. He is nearer to man than his blood vein, and knows what man's mind suggests to him. He encompasses the infinite Universe. If all this is true, He must be invisible.
"There is no secret counsel between three but He is the Fourth of them, nor between five but He is the Sixth of them, nor between less than that or more but He is with them wheresoever they are; then He will, on the day of resurrection, inform them of what they did. . . " (58:7).
"Vision comprehends Him not, and He comprehends (all) vision." (6:104)
THE JUST GOD
"The Almighty," the Holy Qur'an declares, "bears witness that there is no god but He, and (so do) the angels and those who are possessed of knowledge, maintaining justice. There is no god but He, the Mighty, the Wise." (3:17)
The Doctrine of the justice of God invites us to believe in many other doctrines:
A. "God," the Qur'an declares, "does not impose on any soul to do something beyond its ability. " (2:286) Such an imposition is inconsistent with justice.
"Shall I seek a lord other than God, while He is the Lord of all things? And no soul earns (evil) but against itself. Nor does a bearer of a burden bear the burden of another. Then to your Lord is your return, so He will inform you of that in which you differed." (6:165)
C. God does not condemn the whole human race for one man's sin. If no one is responsible for another's actions, mankind could not be condemned by God because of the sin of Adam and Eve. A fair-minded judge does not take a son for his father's crime because it is injustice.
D. God does not condemn a person because he fails to believe in a religious doctrine if he sincerely searches for the truth and exhausts all his means. When he does his utmost and fails to find the truth, he must be excused in the eyes of God because He does not impose on a human being a duty beyond his ability.
GOD IS REVEALING
To cultivate and bring His human creatures out of darkness, the Almighty mercifully and compassionately has revealed some principles and laws to mankind through messages received by some chosen persons. The messages sometimes were conveyed to the rest of the people only orally; and sometimes they were preserved by being recorded by the prophets or their disciples in some books. The final of these records, the Muslims believe, is the Holy Qur’an. The book declares itself to be an accurate record of the direct revealed words of God, and that it contains no word from Mohammad himself.
DO MUSLIMS BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE?
The Muslims revere the original Old and New Testaments, because the Qur'an recognizes them as holy books. < /p>
WHAT ABOUT LIFE AFTER DEATH?
Man's life is not terminated by his or her physical death. He continues to live some sort of life happily or unhappily, the Qur'an affirms:
"And think not of those who died in the way of God as dead. Nay, they are alive, provided with sustenance from their Lord, rejoicing in what God has given them out of His grace, and they rejoice for those who (being left) behind them, have not yet joined them, that they have no fear, nor shall they grieve. They rejoice for the favor of God and (His) grace and that God wastes not the reward of the believers." (3:168-170)
THE QUESTION OF RESURRECTION
Since God is the Lord of justice, He is expected to reward the good doers and penalize the bad doers. Millions and millions had led a good life, and millions were oppressed and lived under the yokes of tyranny. They lived and died without being rewarded or redressed and the tyrants passed away without being penalized.
Islam tells us that there is an ample time for rewards and punishment to take place. There will be a Day appointed by God and known only to Him on which every human being will be resurrected and then he or she will give an account of what he did during the span of his lifetime. Not even the weight of an atom from man's good or bad deeds will be overlooked. The Qur'an declares:
"On that day (the Day of Judgment) men will come forth in sundry bodies that they may be shown their works. So who does an atom's weight of good will see it. And he who does an atom's weight of evil will see it." (99:7-8)
Man's resurrection is a highly important theme in the Holy Qur'an. It is mentioned in most of its chapters. In many passages the belief in it is placed next to the belief in God. And in many passages deniers of the Hereafter are denounced and shown to be wrong.
"Does not man see that We have created him from the small life-germ? Then lo! He is an open disputant . . . Says he: who will give life to the bones, when they are rotten? Say: He will give life to them Who brought them into existence at first, and He is Knower of all creations, Who produced fire for you out of the green tree, so that with it you kindle. Is it not He Who created the Heavens and the Earth able to create the like of them? Yea! and He is the Creator (of all), the Knower. His command, when He intends anything, is only to say to it: Be, and it is. So glory be to Him in Whose hand is the kingdom of all things. And to Him you will be returned" . . . (36:77-83)
WHAT IS THE PROPHETHOOD?
A prophet is a chosen person commissioned by God to convey His revealed message to the people. The revelation may be a direct kind made by spiritually showing some specific truths to the prophet and creating a clear knowledge of the truth in his mind; sometimes it is made by creating words audible to the prophet in some unspeaking object, as happened to Moses when he heard the words of God coming from a tree, and sometimes by sending an angel messenger to the commissioned prophet with a clear message. From the Qur'an:
"And it is not destined to a mortal that God should speak to him, except by inspiration or from behind a veil, or by sending a messenger to reveal by His permission what He chooses. Surely He is High, Wise." (42:52)
There are certain
doctrines in Islam pertaining to the Prophethood:
A human prophet may be able to demonstrate his truthfulness by performing a wonder from which we may infer that he is empowered by God, since his performance is humanly impossible. We cannot infer the same if an angel performs a like wonder, because we do not know his nature. A human flight, unaided by a scientific device, for example, would be unnatural to us and miraculous if it happens. An angelic flight is neither miraculous to us nor necessarily unnatural to the angels, since the gravity may have no effect on him. Only the angels can distinguish between what is natural and unnatural to them. So if a prophet would be sent to an angelic society, he must be an angel.
For this reason the Holy Qur'an refutes the argument of those who thought wrongly that a human should not be a messenger of God:
"And nothing prevents people from believing when the guidance comes to them except that they say: Has God raised up a mortal to be a messenger? Say: Had there been in the Earth angels walking securely about, We would have sent down to them from Heaven an angel as a messenger." (17:94-95)
(2) A Muslim is supposed to profess that: Mohammad is a major and universal prophet sent by God to all mankind.
"Say: O mankind, surely I am the Messenger of God to you all, of Him, Whose is the kingdom of the Heavens and the Earth. There is no god but He; He gives life and causes death. So believe in God and His messenger, the unschooled Prophet who believes in God and His words and follow him so that you may be guided aright." (7:158)
The main evidence of his prophethood is the wonderful book he introduced. The Holy Qur'an, in fact, is unique in its Arabic style and beauty. The book contains a challenge to all Arabic-speaking people of all generations and to all mankind to compose some Arabic speech comparable to it or to some of its chapters. It declares that whenever people succeed in producing such a work, they, in fact, would disprove the prophethood of Mohammad because that would actually prove that the Qur'an is a human work. The Holy Qur'an has stood the test for 14 centuries. The Muslims consider the Qur'an a permanent miracle.
(3) A Muslim is supposed to recognize the Biblical prophets, since they are recognized by the Holy Qur'an.
"Say: We believe in God and (in) that which has been revealed to us, and (in) that which has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Tribes, and (in) that which was given to Moses and Jesus and (in) that which was given to the rest of the prophets from their Lord. We do not make any distinction between any of them and to Him do we submit." (2:136)
Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus are frequently mentioned in the Qur'an, and considered by the Muslims as major prophets. Jesus is highly revered in the Qur'an, and to him many important miracles are ascribed.
For this, no Muslim would remain Muslim when he denies the holiness of Jesus or any of those recognized prophets.
On the other hand, Islam states unequivocally that all these prophets are only mortal beings. They are all good servants of God and created by Him. None of them is a god or a son of God. Islam agrees with Christianity that Jesus was born miraculously from a mother without father but that does not make him a god nor a son of God. Adam was created without father or mother, and that did not make him a god or a son of God. From the Holy Qur'an:
"The status of Jesus in the eyes of God is like the status of Adam. He created him from soil, then said to him: Be and he was. (This is) the truth from thy Lord, so be not of the disputers." (3:58-59)
(4) Mohammad has been declared in the Holy Qur’an as the Final of the Prophets.
"Mohammed is not a father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets, and God is Ever-knowing of all things." (33:40)
A seal of a message would come as its close. For this a Muslim is supposed to believe in Mohammad not only as a Prophet, but also as the Final of the Prophets.
This declaration is actually a remarkable prophecy. It informs that the world will never witness a prophet after Mohammad till the end of the world.
A great many individuals have appeared during the last 14 centuries claiming prophethood, but none of them acquired the recognition of the people nor demonstrated a convincing evidence of his claim. And now, about 14 centuries after his death, Mohammad stands in the history a true Final Prophet.
PERTAINING TO MAN
Islam not only holds the justice of God a basic principle in its teaching, but also distinguishes itself in showing its consistency by proclaiming that:
(1) Every human being is born pure, completely pure and free from any sin. Man is not poisoned by the heredity of the sin of Adam and Eve, since it is inconceivable that God, the Most Just and Merciful, would condemn the whole human race which contains thousands of generations for a sin committed in the early time before the birth of any of these generations.
Every man is born pure, and remains pure until he, himself, commits a sin. By doing that, he loses his purity, but he can restore it by sincere repentance and genuine change of attitude. For restoring such purity, he needs no middle man's intercession, since God is ever present. He knows his sincerity and answers his prayer for forgiveness. The Qur'an declares:
"And when My servants ask thee concerning Me, surely I am Nigh. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So they should respond to My call and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way." (2:186)
(2) Man is a free agent, because he is endowed with a free will. He acts by his will and his will is not produced by necessity, because man is able to have an opposite will and choose another alternative. Were man unfree and predestined to take certain courses with no alternatives, he would be like a machine that would deserve neither punishment for bad doing, nor reward for good action. To penalize an unfree person is an act of injustice.
Since man is endowed with the capability of choosing, he should not expect God to improve his condition with no effort on his part, because he can change his own condition by his own will and effort. From the Holy Qur'an:
" . . . Surely God changes not the condition of people, until they change their own condition" . . . (13:11)
(3) Men are equal. No one can rightly claim his superiority over others because of his birth or being related to a particular nationality or race or color, or sex. Being related to a certain race, or sex or nation or family is not the individual's choice, nor is it acquirable by his efforts. He cannot be justly considered superior or inferior to the others for having such a relation. For this, people stand equally in the eyes of God, the Most Just.
They all are His human creatures, and none of them would acquire preference in His eyes except by choosing to be obedient to Him. The Holy Qur'an declares:
"O Mankind, certainly We have created you from a male and female and made you nations and families that you may recognize each other. Surely the most honored among you in the sight of God is your most righteous. " (49:13)
The prophet proclaimed the principle of equality when he addressed the proud Meccans after he prevailed over his opponents and acquired undisputed power in Arabia:
"O People of Quraish, surely God has done away with the boastfulness of the period of ignorance (the pre-Islamic period in Arabia) and its pride upon the ancestors. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab. (Nor is there any superiority for non-Arab over an Arab). Your father is Adam and Adam was created from soil. Surely the most honored among you in the sight of God is your most righteous. "
No one, according to this teaching, has the right to claim more rights than the other. Even the pious people cannot claim superiority because such a claim is unpious. Piety is the obedience to God and serving mankind, and the claim of superiority is a disservice to mankind.
Islam not only has established equality of the white and the non-white in theory, but also made it an accomplished fact in the Muslim practice. Throughout the Muslim world you find no problem of segregation between white and non-white. They live side by side with normal relation.
There is no room in Islam for dividing the people into religious class and laymen. People are equal in the eyes of God and religion is every Muslim's business. There is no special authority for religious leaders that allows them to excommunicate any Muslim or to deny him membership in the community. The Muslim religious leaders are no more than learned instructors in the laws and theology, with no special authority. Nor is the world divided between Caesar and God. The whole Universe belongs to God.
SANCTITY OF LIFE AND FREEDOM
No man should be ruled without his permission. Man is a respectable being. His life, property and freedom are sacred and inviolable. His right of private ownership, his authority over what he owns, his political and social freedoms are not to be suppressed.
The Prophet declared:
"Your life and wealth are sacred and inviolable amongst one another until ye appear before your Lord . . . Nothing which belongs to another is lawful unto his brother, unless freely given out of good-will. Guard yourselves from committing injustice . . . "
It is not unusual to find in modern days a religious majority advocating and practicing religious freedom and tolerance. Nor is it unusual to find now or in the Dark Ages some oppressed religious minorities crying out for tolerance and soliciting their freedom from some oppressing majorities. What is unusual is to find in the seventh century a religious majority, preaching religious freedom and practicing what it preached in dealing with the religious minorities of its country.
This is what took place at the time of Mohammed. The Muslims during the Meccan period, which lasted 13 years, had experienced the worst kind of persecution and hardship at the hand of their opponents. When Islam prevailed in Arabia, and the Muslims became powerful enough to persecute the others a Heavenly declaration was revealed to the Prophet:
"There shall be no compulsion in religion. The truth stands clear from error . . . " (2:256)
The Prophet and his followers lived up to this doctrine, and went beyond it in dealing with the followers of the Christian Faith. A Christian group from Yemen came to Medina to meet the Prophet and debate some religious issues. When they wanted to perform their religious service on Sunday, the Prophet offered them his mosque to use it for that purpose.Even in debating a religious issue with a Christian or a Jew, the Muslims are instructed by the Qur'an to follow a certain way:
"And debate not with the people of the Scripture but with the kindest manner and say (to them): Our God is your God, and we are submissive to Him." (29:46)
THE PRACTICAL DEPARTMENT
So far we have dealt with Islamic doctrines. It is time to turn to the practical department of Islamic teaching which contains the laws that deal with man's action. The practical teaching is extensive, because it covers many aspects of the human activities. Man's devotion to God, ethical behavior, marital relations, transactions, taxation, political, judicial and social conducts are among the many fields with which the Islamic laws have dealt.
THE ISLAMIC DEVOTION
A Muslim can worship God by rendering any good service to mankind, whether to a large or small community or to a needy individual, when such services are done unselfishly and with the intention of pleasing the Almighty. But there are a few prescribed devotions.
(1) The Muslim's prayer contains many ways through which a person may demonstrate a feeling of respect and glorification towards the Great One. To show such a feeling you may praise the Great, recite His words, stand humbly in front of Him, bow to Him or prostrate. All these elements are contained in the Islamic prayer, demonstrating glorification of God through meditation accompanied with these physical postures and motions.
Bowing and prostration have further significance. They demonstrate man's belief in the Presence of God. You can meditate about an absent being, but you can only bow to a present one.
(2) Fasting is another kind of worship to the Almighty. The imperative Islamic fasting comes during the lunar month of Ramadan in which the Holy Qur'an was revealed. Fasting is a commemoration of the revelation and a thanksgiving for it. To perform this duty a Muslim is supposed to give up eating and drinking and sexual activity from dawn to sunset for the whole month.
(3) Visiting the Ka'aba in Mecca and many other sacred places in its vicinity is another Islamic duty.
(4) The Muslim also is called upon to protect the religious, political, and social freedoms on both national and individual levels. These freedoms are sacred and must be protected and defended.
Another duty is to give away a portion of the individual's wealth whether it is monetary or farm products, or livestock: 2 1/2 percent of the money treasured for one year and 5 percent of the farm product if it is grown through irrigation and 10 percent if it is grown by rain; and according to a respectable Islamic School, 20 percent of the balance left over from the yearly income made by any legitimate means must be spent for the welfare of the people.
ARE THERE ANY COMMANDMENTS OR
A Muslim is expected to avoid certain things in his practical way of life, because they are specifically prohibited by the Qur'anic teaching. Thus, the violation of any of these prohibitions constitutes, from the Islamic point of view, a major sin.
It is prohibited:
1. To ascribe to God as partner. (4:46, 116)
2. To feel safe and indifferent when disobeying God. (7:99)
3. To lose hope in mercy of God when you disobey Him. (39:53)
4. To swear in His Name falsely. (2:225)
5. To break a covenant deliberately. (8:27; 17:34)
6. To kill a human being other than in self-defense or in defense of your country against aggression. (17:33; 25:68)
7. To run away from battle while you are defending sacred principles. (8:15-16)
8. To be a traitor to your nation. (8:27)
9. To steal. (5:38-39)
10. To be homosexual. (7:81; 4:16)
11. To commit adultery. (17:32)
12. To cheat in measuring or weighing when selling or purchasing. (83:1-3)
13. To use an orphan's fund or property in a way that is not in the orphan's interest. (4:10)
14. To insult your parents. (17:23-24)
15. To scandalize people, especially women, or even to inform a person of some bad doing of a believer, unless concealing it is harmful to others. (104:1; 24:23)
16. To backbite a believer. (49:12)
17. To spread hatred among people by preaching prejudice. (49:13)
18. To lie deliberately. (40:28; 24:7)
19. To spy on others, except to protect your nation or yourself. (49:12)
20. To conceal truth when called for testimony in litigation. (2:283)
21. To be a briber or accept bribery. (2:188)
22. To convey to a person a bad word of another person about him. (17:53; 68:11-16)
23. To envy people, wishing them ill. (113:1-5)
24. To hinder a good cause deliberately. (4:167)
25. To be a hypocrite. (9:68)
26. To fail to discharge a trust deliberately or negligently. (8:27)
27. To be extravagant. (7:31; 25:67)
28. To be profane. (10:68)
29. To give a false testimony. (25:72)
30. To insult a believer for no legitimate reason. (49:11)
31. To antagonize people, especially relatives, for no right cause. (4:36)
32. To be proud, looking down upon others. (31:18; 16:23)
33. To be an oppressor or to aid an oppressor. (42:42)
34. To violate a deceased's will deliberately. (2:181)
35. To be a deceiver. (35:43; 16:94)
36. To give a false testimony at a litigation. (25:72)
37. To neglect the duty of advising people to do good and avoid evil, when such an advice is needed and likely to be effective. (3:104; 110)
38. To gamble. (2:218; 5:90-91)
39. To take intoxicant. (2:219; 5:90-91)
40. To eat pork or any swine's product. (2:173; 5:3)
41. To eat meat of an animal that died by itself (this does not include fish which dies outside the water). (2:173; 5:3)
42. To drink or eat blood (this does not include transfusion of blood). (2:173; 5:3)
43. To neglect any of the Islamic devotional duties (221:40-60), such as the daily prayers (2:110; 1959), fasting in Ramadan (2:183; 185), paying the regular charity (2:110; 3:180), and pilgrimage to Mecca. (3:96-97)
44. To practice magic. (20:73; 10:77) As in sorcery, a much more common practice centuries ago. "But sorcerers can never come to a happy end!"