What is Islam?
Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world’s population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave events which have come associated with their faith.
What do Muslims believe?
Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God; In the Angels created by him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgement and individual accountability for actions; in God’s complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, peace be upon them. But God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet Mohamed through Gabriel.
How does someone become a Muslim?
Simply by saying “there is no God apart from God, and Mohamed is the Messenger of God.” By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all God’s messengers, and the scriptures they brought.
What does Islam mean?
The Arabic word “Islam” simply means “submission,” and derives from a word meaning “peace.” In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of God. “Allah” is the Arabic name for God, which is used by Arab Muslims and Christians alike.
Why does Islam seem strange to some?
Islam may seem exotic or even extreme in the modern world. Perhaps this is because religion doesn’t dominate everyday life in the West today, whereas Muslims have religion always uppermost in their minds, and make no division between secular and sacred. They believe that the Divine Law, the Shari’a, should be taken very seriously, which is why issues related to religion are still so important.
Do Islam and Christianity have different origins?
No. Together with Judaism, they go back to the prophet and patriarch Abraham, and their three prophets are directly descended from his sons, Mohamed from the elder son Ishmael, and Moses and Jesus from the younger son Issac. Abraham established the settlement which today is the city of Mecca, and built the Ka’ba towards which all Muslims turn when they pray.
What is the Ka’ba?
The Ka’ba is the place of worship which God commanded Abraham and Ishmael to build over four thousand years ago. The building was constructed of stone on what many believe was the original site of a sanctuary established by Adam. God commanded Abraham to summon all mankind to visit this place, and when pilgrims go there today, they say “At thy service, O Lord” in response to Abraham’s summons.
Who is Mohamed?
Mohamed, was born in Mecca in the year 570, at a time when Christianity was not yet fully established in Europe. Since his father died before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his uncle from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. The historians describe him as calm and meditative.
Mohamed was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira near the summit of Jabal al-Nur, the “Mountain of Light” near Mecca.
How did Mohamed become a prophet and a messenger of God?
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Mohamed received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Koran. As soon as he began to recite the words he hears from Gabriel, and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year622 God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijra, “migration” in which they left Mecca for the city of Medinah some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
After several years, the Prophet and his followers were able to return to Mecca, where they forgave their enemies and established Muslim definitively. Before the Prophet died at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death, Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China.
How did the spread of Islam affect the world?
Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the simplicity of its doctrine – Islam calls for faith in only One God worthy of worship. It also repeatedly instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and observation.
Within a few years, great civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet, “seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man and woman.” The synthesis of Eastern ad Western ideas and of new thought with old, brought about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature, and history. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.
What is the Koran?
The Koran is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohamed. It was memorized by Mohamed and then dictated to his Companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of its 114 chapters, or Suras, has been changed over the centuries, so that the Koran is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Mohamed fourteen centuries ago.
What is the Koran about?
The Koran, the last revealed Word of God, is the prime source of every Muslim’s faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects which concern us as human beings: wisdom, doctrine, worship, and law, but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. At the same time it provides guidelines for a just society, proper human conduct, and an equitable economic system.
Are there any other sacred sources?
Yes, the sunna, the practice and example of the Prophet, is the second authority for Muslims, A hadith is a reliably transmitted report of what the Prophet said, did, or approved. Belief in the sunna is part of the Islamic faith.
What are the five pillars of Islam?
They are the framework of the Muslim life: faith, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able.
Does Islam tolerate other beliefs?
The Koran says: God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just. [Koran, 60-8]
It is one function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status of minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths: when the caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city.
Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves.
The Patriarch invited him to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but he preferred to pray outside its gates, saying that if accepted, later generations of Muslims might use his action as an excuse to turn it into a mosque. Above is the mosque built on the spot where Omar prayed.
What do Muslims think about Jesus?
Muslims respect and revere Jesus, and await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of God’s messengers to mankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as ‘Jesus’ but always adds the phrase “upon him be peace.” The Koran confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Koran is entitled ‘Mary’), and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation. The Koran describes the Annunciation as follows:
‘Behold!’ the Angel said, “God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. he shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of the righteous. She said, ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so; God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is” [Koran, 3:42-47]
Jesus was born miraculously through the same power which had brought Adam into being without a father:
“Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was. (Koran, 3:59)
During his prophetic mission Jesus performed many miracles. The Koran tells us that he said:
“I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God’s leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers and I raise the dead by God’s leave.” [Koran, 3:49]
Neither Mohamed nor Jesus came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it. In the Koran, Jesus is reported as saying that he came:
“To attest the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey Me.” [Koran, 3:50]
The Prophet Mohamed said:
“Whoever believes there is no God but God, alone without partner, that Mohamed is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit emanating from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven.” [Hadith from Bukhari]
Why is the family so important to Muslims?
The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued, and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families; children are treasured, and rarely leave home until the time they marry.
What about Muslim Women?
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. 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.
Both men and women are expected to dress in a way which is modest and dignified; the traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs.
The Messenger of God said: “The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife.”
Is Islamic marriage like Christian marriage?
A Muslim marriage is not a ‘sacrament’ but a simple, legal agreement in which either partner is free to include conditions. Marriage customs thus vary widely from country to country. As a result, divorce is not common, although it is not forbidden as a last resort. According to Islam, no Muslim girl can be forced to marry against her will; her parent will simply suggest young men they think may be suitable.
How do Muslims view death?
Like Jews & Christians, Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial preparation for the next realm of existence. Basic articles of faith include: the Day of Judgement, resurrection, Heaven and Hell. When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed, usually by a family member, wrapped in a clean white cloth, and buried with a simple prayer preferably the same day. Muslims consider this one of the final services they can do for their relatives, and an opportunity to remember their own brief existence here on earth. The Prophet taught that three things can continue to help a person even after death; charity which he had given, knowledge which he had taught and prayers on their belief by a righteous child.
What about food?
Although much simpler than the dietary law followed by Jews and the early Christians, the code which Muslims observe forbids the consumption of pig meat or any kind of intoxicating drink. The Prophet taught that ‘your body has rights over you’ and the consumption of wholesome food and the leading of a healthy lifestyle are seen as religious obligations.
The Prophet said: “Ask God for certainty [of faith] and well-being; for after certainty, no one is given any gift better than health.”
How does Islam guarantee human rights?
Freedom of conscience is laid down by the Koran itself: “There is no compulsion in religion” [Koran, 2:256] The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred whether a person is Muslim or not. Racism is incomprehensible to Muslims, for the Koran speaks of human equality in the following terms:
“O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All Aware. [Koran, 49-13]