Introduction to Islam
The Meaning of Islam
ISLAM is derived from the Arabic root “SALEMA”: peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His law.
Everything and every phenomenon in the world, other than man is administered TOTALLY by God-made laws i.e. they are obedient to God and submissive to His laws i.e. they are in the STATE OF ISLAM. Man possesses the quality of intelligence and choice, thus he is invited to submit to the good will of God and obey His law ie. become a Muslim. Submission to the good will of God, together with obedience to His beneficial law, i.e. becoming a Muslim is the best safeguard for man’s peace and harmony.
Islam dates back to the edge of Adam and its message has been conveyed to man by God’s Prophets and Messengers including Abrahim, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Islam’s message has been restored and enforced in the last stage of the religious evolution by God’s last Prophet and Messenger Muhammad.
The word Allah in the Arabic language means God, or more accurately The One and Only Eternal God, Creator of theUniverse, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, MostCompassionate, Most Merciful. The word Allah to mean God is also used by Arabic speaking Jews and Christians.
Articles of Faith
Allah, the One and Only God
A muslim believes in ONE GOD, Supreme and Eternal, Infinite and Mighty, Merciful and Compassionate, Creator and Provider. God has no father nor mother, no sons nor was He fathered. None equal to Him. He is God of all mankind, not of a special tribe or race.
God is High and Supreme but He is very near to the pious thoughtful believers; He answers their prayers and help them. He loves the people who love Him and forgives their sins. He gives them peace, happiness, knowledge and success. God is the Loving and the Provider, the Generous, and the Benevolent, the Rich and the Independent the Forgiving and the Clement, the Patient and the Appreciative, the Unique and the Protector, the Judge and the Peace. God’s attributes are mentioned in the Quran.
God creates in man the mind to understand, the soul and conscience to be good and righteous, the feelings and sentiments to be kind and humane. If we try to count His favours upon us, we cannot, because they are countless. In return for all the great favours and mercy, God does not need anything from us, because He is Needless and Independent. God asks us to know Him, to love Him and to enforce His law for our benefit and our own benefit and our own good.
Messengers and Prophets of God
A Muslim believes in all the Messengers and Prophets of God without any discrimination. All messengers were mortals, human beings, endowed with Divine revelations and appointed by God to teach mankind. The Holy Quran mentions the names of 25 messengers and prophets and states that there are others. These include Noah, Abrahim, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Their message is the same and it is Islam and it came from One and the Same Source; God, and it is to submit to His will and to obey His law; i.e., to become a Muslim.
Revelations and the Quran
A Muslim believes in all scriptures and revelations of God, as they were complete and in their original versions. Allah, the Creator, has not left man without guidance for the conduct of his life. Revelations were given to guide the people to the right path of Allah and sent down to selected people, the prophet and messengers, to convey it to their fellow men.
The message of all the prophet and messengers is the same. They all asked the people of their time to obey and worship Allah and none other. Abrahim, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad who were revealed their own book of Allah, were sent at different times to bring back straying human being from deviation to Right Course.
The Quran is the sacred book of the Muslims. It is the last book of guidance from Allah, sent down to Muhammad, peace be upon him, through the angel Jibraeel (Gabriel). Every word of it is the word of Allah. It was revealed over a period of 23 years in the Arabic language. It contains 114 Surahs (chapters) and over 6000 verses.
The Quran deals with man and his ultimate goal in life. Its teachings cover all areas of this life and the life after death. It contains principles, doctrines and directions for every sphere of human life. The theme of the Quran broadly consists of three fundamental ideas: Oneness of Allah, Prophethood and life after death. The success of human beings on this earth and in the life hereafter depends on obedience to the Quranic teaching.
The Quran is unrivalled in its recording and prservation. The astonishing fact about this book of Allah is that it has remained unchanged even to a dot over the past fourteen hundred years. No scholar has questioned the fact that the Quran today is the same as it was revealed. Muslims till today memorize the Quran word by word as a whole or in part. Today, the Quran is the only authentic and complete book of Allah. Allah is protecting it from being lost, corrupted or concealed.
The Angels of Allah
There are purely spiritual and splendid beings created by Allah. They require no food or drink or sleep. They have no physical desires nor material needs. Angels spend their time in the service of Allah. Each charged with a certain duty. Angle cannot be seen by the naked eyes. Knowledge and the truth are not entirely confined to sensory knowledge or sensory perception alone.
The Day of Judgement
A Muslim believe in the Day of the Judgement. This world as we know it will come to an end and the dead will rise to stand for their final and fair trial. On that day, all men and women from Adam to the last person will be resurrected from the state of death for judgement. Everything we do, say, make, intend and think are accounted for and kept in accurate records. They are brought up on the Day of Judgement.
One who believe in life after death is not expected to behave against the Will of Allah. He will always bear in mind that Allah is watching all his actions and the angles are recording them.
People with good records will be generously rewarded and warmly welcomed to Allah’s Heaven. People with bad records will be fairly punished and cast into Hell. The real nature of Heaven and Hell are known to Allah only, but they are described by Allah in man’s familiar terms in the Quran.
If some good deeds are seen not to get full appreciation and credit in this life, they will receive full compensation and be widely acknowledged on the Day of Judgement. If some people who commit sins, neglect Allah and indulge in immoral activities, seem SUPERFICIALLY successful and prosperous in this life, absolute justice will be done to them on the Day of Judgement. The time of the Day of Judgement is only known to Allah and Allah alone.
Qadaa and Qadar
A Muslim believes in Qadaa and Qadar which related to the ultimate power of Allah. Qadaa and Qadar means the Timeless Knowledge of Allah and His power to plan and execute His plans. Allah is not indifferent to this world nor is He neutral to it. It implies that everything on this earth originates from the one and only creator who is also the Sustainer and the sole source of guidance.
Allah is Wise, Just and Loving and whatever He does must have a good motive, although we may fail sometimes to understand it fully. We should have strong faith in Allah and accept whatever He does because our knowledge is limited and our thinking is based on individual consideration, whereas His knowledge is limitless and He plans on a universal basis. Man should think, plan and make sound choice, but if things do not happen the way he wants, he should not lose faith and surrender himself to mental strains or shattering worries.
The Purpose of Life
A Muslim believe that the purpose of life is to worship Allah. Worshipping Allah does not mean we spend our entire lives in constant seclusion and absolute meditation. To worship Allah is to live life according to His commands, not to run away from it. To worship Allah is to know Him, to love Him, to obey His commands, to enforce His laws in every aspect of life, to serve His cause by doing right and shunning evil and to be just to Him, to ourselves and to our fellow human beings.
Status of Human Being
A Muslim believes that human being enjoys an especially high ranking status in the hierarchy of all known creatures. Man occupies this distinguished position because he alone is gifted with rational faculties and spiritual aspirations as well as powers of action. Man is not a condemned race from birth to death, but a dignified being potentially capable of good and noble achievements.
A Muslim also believes that every person is born muslim. Every person is endowed by Allah with spiritual potential and intellectual inclination that can make him a good Muslim. Every person’s birth takes place according to the will of Allah in realization of His plans and in submission to His commands. Every person is born FREE FROM SIN. When the person reaches the age of maturity and if he is sane, he become accountable for all his deeds and intentions. Man is free from sin until he commits sin. There is no inherited sin, no original sin. Adam committed the first sin, he prayed to Allah for pardon and Allah granted Adam pardon.
A Muslim believes that man must work out his salvation through the guidance of Allah. No one can act on behalf of another or intercede between him and Allah. In order to obtain salvation, a person must combine faith and action, belief and practice. Faith without doing good deeds is as insufficient as doing good deeds without faith.
Also, a Muslim believes that Allah does not hold any person responsible until he has shown him the Right Way. If people do not know and have no way of knowing about Islam, they will not be responsible for failing to be Muslim. Every Muslim must preach Islam in words and action.
Acceptance of Faith
A Muslim believes that faith is not complete when it is followed blindly or accepted unquestioningly. Man must build his faith on well-grounded convictions beyond any reasonable doubt and above uncertainty. Islam insures freedom to believe and forbids compulsion in religion (one of the oldest synagogues and one of the oldest churches in the worlds is in Muslim countries).
A Muslim believes that the Quran is the word of Allah revealed to prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. The Quran was revealed from Allah on various occasions to answer questions, solve problems, settle disputes and to be man’s best guide to the truth. The Quran was revealed in Arabic and it is still in its original and complete Arabic version until today. It is memorized by millions.
A Muslim also believes in a clear distinction between the Quran and the Traditions (called Hadits) of the Prophet Muhammad. Whereas, the Quran is the word of Allah, the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (hadits i.e.: his teachings, sayings, and actions) are the practical interpretations of the Quran. Both the Quran and the Hadits of Prophet Muhammad are the primary sources of knowledge in Islam.
Application of Faith
God has laid down for a Muslim four major exercises of faith, some are daily, some weekly, some monthly, some annually and some are required as a minimum of once in a lifetime. These exercises of faith are to serve man’s spiritual purposes, satisfy his human needs and to mark his whole life with a Divine touch. These major exercises of faith are:
Praying, to the Creator on a daily basis, is the best way to cultivate in a man a sound personality and to actualize his aspiration. Allah does not need man’s prayer because He is free of all needs. Salah is for our benefit which are immeasurable and the blessings are beyond imagination.
In salah, every muscle of the body joins the soul and the mind in the worship and glory of Allah. Salah is an act of worship. It is a matchless and unprecedented formula of intellectual meditation and spiritual devotion, of moral elevation and physical exercise, all combined.
Offering of salah is obligatory upon every Muslim male and female who is sane, mature and in case of women free from menstruation and confinement due to child birth. Requirements of salah: performing of ablution (Wudu), purity of the whole body, clothes and ground used for prayer, dressing properly and having (or declaring) the intention and facing the Qiblah; the direction of the Ka’bah at Mecca.
Obligatory Salah: Five daily salahs, the Friday’s noon congregation salah and the funeral salah.
Highly recommended salah: Those accompanying the obligatory salah and the two great festival salahs.
Optional salah: Voluntary salah during the day and night.
Times of Obligatory Salah:
- Early Morning – after dawn and before sunrise.
- Noon – after the sun begins to decline from its zenith until it is about midway on its course to set.
- Mid-afternoon – after the expiration of the noon salah time until sunset.
- Sunset – immediately after sunset until the red glow in the western horizon disappears.
- Evening – after the expiration of the sunset salah until dawn.
Salah should be offered in its due time, unless there is a reasonable excuse. Delayed obligatory salah must be made up. In addition to the prescribed salah, a Muslim expressed gratitude to God and appreciation of His favours and asks for His mercy all the time. Especially at times of, for example: childbirth, marriage, going to or rising from bed, leaving and returning to his home, starting a journey or entering a city, riding or driving, before or after eating or drinking, harvesting, visiting graveyards and at time of distress and sickness.
Fasting is abstaining completely from eating, drinking, intimate sexual contacts and smoking from the break of dawn till sunset. It is a matchless Islamic institution which teaches man the principle of sincere love to God. Fasting teaches man a creative sense of hope, devotion, patience, unselfishness, moderation, willpower, wise saving, sound budgeting, mature adaptability, healthy survival, discipline, spirit of social belonging, unity and brotherhood.
Obligatory fasting is done once a year for the period of the month of Ramadan; the ninth month of the Islamic year. Recommended fasting every Monday and Thursday of every week, three days in the middle of each Islamic month, six days after Ramadan following the Feast Day and a few days of the two months before Ramadan. Fasting of Ramadan is a worship act which is obligatory on every adult Muslim, male or female if he/she mentally and physically fit and not on a journey. Exception: women during their period of menstruation and while nursing their child and also in case of travel and sickness.
Charity Giving (Zakah)
Charity giving is an act of worship and spiritual investment. The lateral meaning of Zakah is purity and it refers to the annual amount in kind or coin which a Muslim with means must distribute among the rightful beneficiaries. Zakah does not only purifies the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. It also purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness and it fosters instead good-will and warm wishes for the contributors.
Zakah has a deep humanitarian and social-political value; for example, it frees society from class welfare, from ill feelings and distrust and from corruption. Although Islam does not hinder private enterprise or condemn private possession, it does not tolerate selfish and greedy capitalism. Islam adopts a moderate but positive and effective course between individual and society, between the citizen and the state, between capitalism and socialism, between materialism and spiritualism.
Zakah is paid on the net balance after paying personal expenses, family expenses, due credits, taxes, etc. Every Muslim, male or female who at the end of the year is in possession of the equivalent of 85 g of gold (approx. $1400 in 1990) or more in cash or articles of trade, must give Zakah at minimum rate of 2.5%. Taxes paid to government do not substitute for this religious duty. Contributor should not seek pride or fame but if disclosing his name and his contribution is likely to encourage others, it is acceptable to do so.
The recipient of Zakah are: the poor, the needy, the new Muslim converts, the Muslim prisoners of war (to liberate them), Muslim in debt. Also employees appointed to collect Zakah, Muslim in service of research or study or propagation of Islam, wayfarers who are foreigners in need of help.
The Pilgrimmage (Hajj)
It is a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in a lifetime and it is obligatory upon every Muslim male and female who is mentally, physically and financially fit. It is the largest annual convention of faith on earth (in 1989: 2.5 million). Peace is the dominant theme. Peace with Allah, with one’s soul, with one another, with all living creatures. To disturb the peace of anyone or any creature in any shape or form is strictly prohibited.
Muslim from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe assemble in Mecca in response to the call of Allah. There is no royalty but loyalty of all to Allah, the Creator. It is to commemorate the Divine rituals observed by the Prophet Abrahim and his son Ishmael, who are the first pilgrim to the house of Allah on earth; the Ka’bah. It is also to remember the grad assembly of the Day of Judgement when people will stand equal before Allah.
Muslims go to Mecca in glory of Allah, not to worship a man. The visit to the tomb of Prophet Muhammad at Madena is highly recommended but not essential in making the Hajj valid and complete.
Islam is a Code of Life
It is a Muslim belief that Muhammad’s mission was for the whole world and for all the time; because:
Its universality has been clearly confirmed by the Quran (Surah 7: verse 158, 6:19, 34:28, 81:27).
It is a logical consequences of the finality of his prophethood. He had to be the guide and the leader for all men and for all ages.
Allah has provided, through him, a complete code which is to be followed, and this in itself supports the concept of finality, because without completeness, the need for other prophets would remain.
It is a fact that during the last 1400 years no man has arisen whose life and works bear even the slightest resemblance to that of a prophet. Nor has anyone presented a book which could be remotely considered a divine communication. Still less has there been a man to claim legitimate authority as a law-giver fro mankind.
The mission of Muhammad, as well as of other prophets who brought the universal message of Islam, does not end with the announcement of the message. He has to guide the people by explaining to them the implications of the Islamic creed, the morale code, the divine injunctions and commandment, and the form of worship that sustains the whole system. He has to exemplify the faith so others can pattern their participation in the evolution of Islamic culture and civilization. The believers must grow under his guidance into an organized community so that Allah’s word will prevail over all other words.
- Spiritual Life: prayer (salah), fasting, charity giving (zakah), pilgrimage (hajj), love for Allah and His Messenger, love for truth and humanity for the sake of Allah, hope and trust in Allah at all times and doing good for the sake of Allah.
- Intellectual Life: True knowledge based on clear proof and indisputable evidence acquired by experience or experiment or by both. The Quran points to the rich sources of knowledge in the whole universe. Islam demands faith in Allah on the basis of knowledge and research and leaves wide open all field of thought before the intellect to penetrate as far it can reach.
- Personal Life: purity and cleanliness, a healthy diet, proper clothing, proper behaviour, and good healthy sexual relations within marriage.
- Family Life: A family is a human social group whose members are bound together by the bond of blood ties and/or marital relationship and nothing else (adoption, mutual alliance, common law, trial marriage…etc.). Marriage is a religious duty on all who are capable of meeting its responsibilities. Each member of the family has rights and obligations.
- Social Life: Man is ordained by Allah to extend his utmost help and kindness to other family members, relations, servants and neighbours. No superiority on account of class, colour, origin or wealth. Humanity represents one family springing from the one and the same father and mother. The unity of the humanity is not only in its origin but also in its ultimate aims.
- Economical Life: Earning one’s living through decent labour is not only a duty but a great virtue as well. Earning is man’s private possession. The individual is responsible for the prosperity of the state and the state is responsible for the security of the individual. The Islamic economic system is not based on arithmetical calculations alne but also on moral and principles. Man comes to this world empty-handed and departs empty-handed. The real owner of things is Allah alone. Man is simply a trustee.
- Political Life: The sovereignty in the Islamic State belongs to Allah; the people exercise it by trust from Him to enforce His laws. The ruler is only an acting executive chosen by the people to serve them according to Allah’s law. The State is to administer justice and provide security for all citizens. Rulers and administrators must be chosen from the best qualified citizens. If an administration betrays the trust of Allah and the people, it has to be replaced. Non-Muslim can administer their personal life of marriage, divorce, foods and inheritance according to the Islamic law or to their own religious teachings. They may pay Zakah or a different tax tributes “Jizyah”. They are entitled to full protection and security of the State including freedom of religion.
- International Life: Man has a common origin, human status and aim. Other people’s interests and right to life, honour and property are respected as long as the right of Muslim are in tact. Transgression is forbidden. War is only justified if the state security is endangered. During war, destruction of crops, animals and homes, killing non-fighting women, children and aged people are forbidden.
- Sayyid Abu Al-‘Ala Maududi, Islam: Its Meaning and Message, in M. Tariq Quraishi (ed.), American Trust Publications, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1984, 12-14.
- Islam, An Introduction. Undated. Compiled by Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim Elmasry c/o KW Islamic Association, P.O. Box 823, Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA N2J 4C2, (519) 885-2225.