Meaning of Islam
Islam means to submit freely to The Commandments and Will of The One and Only God (Allah). This submission should come from within, from sound belief in and conviction to Allah, with no doubt. It should also come from love, trust, and affection.
Allah is not a special god for Muslims, but Allah is The Creator of all creatures, including mankind.
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace on him) is the Messenger of Allah. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace on him) received The Word of Allah (revelation), through the archangel Gabriel (The Holy Spirit). This revelation comprises the Religion of Islam.
The Qur’an is the authentic collection of this revelation recorded in book form. It is the exact, unchanged Word of Allah to all mankind.
A Muslim is any male or female person who believes in Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace on him) as His Messenger who then testifies to that belief to witnesses announcing his/her acceptance of Islam as his/her religion. “Muslim” should not be confused with “Arab”; A Muslim is a person who follows the religion of Islam and s/he can be of any race while Arab refers to a race of people. An Arab can choose to be of any religion or belief system be it Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, atheism, or any faith. Arabs make up less than 18% of the Muslim population of the world today, which is estimated to be over one-fifth of the world’s population, or more than a billion people.
Islam is a simple and practical religion. It has established, clear, and easily understandable beliefs and laws that any follower or student of the religion can easily understand. Islam affirms belief in a decent, civilized society. Islam also does not demand impossible goodness of its followers, but it recognizes that all human beings make mistakes and sin. No one is exempt. Islam preaches peace, mercy, justice, tolerance, equality, love, truth, forgiveness, patience, morality, sincerity and righteousness.
Islam is the religion that preaches the Oneness of God, the Oneness of mankind and the Oneness of the Message.
Basic Beliefs in Islam
Oneness of God: “Tawheed”
Muslims believe that there is ONLY One supreme God (Allah). In Islam to believe in Allah is not only to believe in Allah’s existence but also to believe in all Allah’s attributions, to worship Allah alone, and to obey all Allah’s commands. Tawheed includes the oneness of the Lordship, oneness of Worship and oneness of Names and Attributes:
A) Oneness of Lordship: To believe that Allah is The ONLY Creator, Provider, and The Commander.
B) Oneness of Worship: To believe that Allah is the ONLY God who should be worshiped, and obeyed as Allah prescribed.
C) Oneness of Allah’s Names and Attributes: To believe that Allah Is Perfect and His Names and Attributes are Perfect according to what Allah tells us about Himself in the Quran, believing that those Names and Attributes, in their perfection, belong only to Allah.
◊ Muslims believe that NO one shares Allah’s divinity that is neither angel nor human. Allah says:
“And Allah makes none to share in His decision and His rule.”(Holy Quran 18:26)
◊ Muslims do not believe that Allah sleeps, gets tired, or dies. Those attributes are only for Allah’s creations. Allah has neither Weakness nor Weariness.
◊ Muslims do not believe that human beings are created in the image of Allah.
◊ Muslims believe that there is no intermediary who will take any one nearer to Allah or plead on anyone’s behalf. They believe that any individual can directly supplicate to Allah and ask for anything he/she wants.
Oneness of Mankind
◊ People are created equal in the sight of Allah. There is no superiority of one over another for any reason except piety and righteousness. Muslims are required to respect the dignity of mankind, regardless of religion, race, nationality, or place of birth, all of mankind are honored.
◊ People are not to be judged on factors that they had no choice over, such as gender, color, size, race, health, etc. Islam teaches that human diversity is a sign of the richness of Allah’s mercy and the beauty of His creation. Prophet Muhammad said: “Surely Allah does not look at your faces or your bodies, but looks at your hearts and your deeds”.
◊ In Islam there are no priests, priesthood or holy men, and no one has special access to sacraments, there are however, scholars who are knowledgeable of Islam, and their duty is to truthfully explain Islam to others. THEY ARE JUST ADVISORS.
◊ Islam teaches people to be moderate in their life. Muslims should not give up totally this life for the hereafter, nor give up the work for the hereafter totally for this life only.
Oneness of The Message
Muslims believe that Allah Sent Messengers to each nation throughout the history of humankind. Messengers came with the same message: to worship the One Supreme God and to obey His Commands.
Innocence of mankind at Birth. Muslims believe that people are born free of any sin and bear no responsibility for other’s faults and sins. It is only after they reach the age of puberty, and they knowingly commit sins that they will be held responsible for their actions in this life and the hereafter.
There is no original sin in Islam. Muslims believe that both Adam and Eve were equally tempted, both sinned, and were both responsible for disobeying Allah. Both were remorseful and repented, and Allah forgave both of them.
Muslims believe that no soul is responsible for the sins and faults of others, even if they are their parents, children, wives or husbands.
Muslims believe that forgiveness is always available through repentance. Muslims pray for repentance directly to Allah, without any intermediary.
Salvation in Islam is only through belief and practice; both go together, side-by-side, to be granted salvation.
Pillars of Islam
There are five pillars of Islam:
- Shahada (Testify)
- Salah (Prayer)
- Seyam (Fasting)
- Zakat (Charity)
- Hajj (Pilgrimage)
The verbal commitment and pledge that there is no deity but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
Watch the Shahada Video for correct pronunciation.
Salah (Mandatory Worship Prayer)
It is the duty of every Muslim, male and female, after reaching the age of puberty, to perform five Salats (Prayers) at specific times during the day and night. These five specific times are: – Dawn, Noon, Afternoon,Sunset, and Night. A ritual called Wudu (Cleaning several parts of the body with water) is a prerequisite to Salah.
The above picture is one “rak’a”, i.e, one set of standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting. Each Salah consists of several Rak’a. Muslims are strongly encouraged to pray in the masjid, but if that is beyond their ability, they can pray anywhere that is clean; Muslims do not make Salah in a bathroom.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the lunar calendar) is from sun up to sun down only and is an obligation on every adult healthy Muslim, male or female. Fasting is total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, gum chewing, intimate relations, and taking anything into the body. If a person is ill and needs to take medication, s/he cannot fast. Fasting is also a time to discipline one’s self from bad behaviors, such as arguing and saying mean things. Those who are ill or unable to fast for health or reasons of age are exempt from fasting. However, they should feed the poor one meal for every day they miss of fasting. Women who are pregnant, menstruating, or nursing, or any who are traveling, are also exempt from fasting. However, when their situation changes, they make up the days of fasting or feed the poor one meal for each day of fasting they missed.
Zakat is an annual obligatory charity on every Muslim, male or female, who possesses over the last year money or property that exceeds their minimum needs. The requirement is 2.5% of one’s excess wealth. It is also called a tax because it supports the government workers who are not free to make money elsewhere.
The performance of the pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia is required once in a lifetime of every Muslim, if financially able, as well as physically able. Hajj begins every year during the month of Dul Hejja; Dul Hejja is the 12th month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar year. The Hajj is a spiritual journey where a Muslim forgets all worldly things and devotes his\her attention and time to Allah alone.
Pillars of Faith
In Islam, there are six pillars of faith: Belief in Allah, His angels, His books to mankind, His Prophets and Messengers, the Day of Judgment, and Destiny.
1. Belief in God (Allah)
Islam teaches that there is one Unique God (Allah) who should be worshiped and obeyed.
2. Belief in Mala-eka (Angels)
Muslims believe that Allah created unseen creatures such as Angels. Muslims believe in their existence, their names, their tasks, and descriptions as explained in the Quran and in the Sunnah (Teachings of the Prophet).
3. Belief in the Books of Allah
Muslims believe that Allah from time to time revealed books to mankind through His Prophets. These books originated from the same divine source; they are all divine revelations. Muslims believe in the original text of these books when they were revealed. The five prominent divine books are: 1) Abraham’s Scrolls; 2) Zabur (Psalms) revealed to Prophet David; 3) Tawrah (Torah) revealed to Prophet Moses; 4) Injil (Gospel) revealed to Prophet Jesus; 5) Quran revealed to Prophet Muhammad.
4. Belief in the Prophets of Allah
Muslims believe that Allah sent Prophets to all mankind as messengers for their guidance. Muslims believe in their existence, their names, and their messages, as Allah and His Prophet informed about them. Prophets are void of divinity because divinity is exclusive only to Allah (God) the Almighty. They are all righteous, truthful, and pious men chosen by Allah to be models to all mankind, both their words and deeds being in accordance with the divine commandments.
5. Belief in Yawm al-Qiyama (Day of Judgement)
Muslims believe that the life of this world and all that is in it will come to an end on one appointed day, when everything will be annihilated. This day will resurrect all the dead; Allah will judge with perfect justice each person individually according to his good or bad actions that he did during his life, and every victim will have his/ her rights. Allah will reward those who lead a righteous life and did good deeds by sending them to Paradise (Jannah). Allah forgives whom He pleases of those who disobeyed His Command, or punish them in the Hellfire (Jahannam).
6. Qada wal-Qada (Destiny, Divine Decree)
Muslims believe that since the whole universe is entirely under the direction and control of Allah, then everything that is or that happens in this universe, from the smallest to the greatest event is governed by Allah. Muslims put their trust in Allah only. They are required, however, to make a sincere effort to strive and do their best, and not simply sit back and let things take their course in blind resignation. Such belief gives a person a tremendous degree of inner certainty, confidence and peace of heart, especially in the face of afflictions. Moreover, he lives with the assurance that whatever is to come to any individual, including death, cannot fail to come at its appointed time.
The Islamic Shariah (Laws of Islam)
Shariah is the divine code of practice which guides a Muslim in all affairs of his/her life, it is divided into two categories: Ebadat (system of worship), and Muamalat (system of dealing). The main source that governs all the laws of Islam is Allah through two channels; the first is the Quran, the book of Allah, and the second is the Sunnah, which is the authentic recording of the sayings, traditions of the Prophet and whatever his companion said or did to which he showed no objection.
The Lawful and the Unlawful in Islam
The basic rule governing the issue of the lawful and the unlawful is that things are lawful unless one of the sources of the Islamic laws specifies that they are unlawful. In Islam it is prohibited to drink alcohol, use drugs, use interest, and all immoral conducts. It is also prohibited to eat the meat of pork, predators (animals and birds) and all dead animals.
War is not an objective of Islam nor is it the normal course of Muslims; it is only the last resort and is used under the most extraordinary circumstances, when all other attempts at just and peaceful solutions to the dispute fail. In Islam, every being is entitled to enjoy a free and peaceful life, regardless of religious, geographical or racial considerations. If non-Muslims are living peacefully or even indifferently with the Muslims, there can be no grounds or justification to declare war on them or to begin hostilities, embark on any act of aggression, or violate their rights.
In Islam Jihad does not mean “Holy war”. And is not a declaration of war against other religions and certainly not against Christians and Jews, as some people want it to be perceived. Jihad literally means “striving, struggling or exerting more effort than usual for the betterment of one’s self and the community at large.” It has an internal, societal and combative dimension.
– The internal dimension of Jihad encompasses the struggle against the evil inclinations of the self; it involves every Muslim’s earnest, moral efforts to resist all internal or external inclination towards sin of all kinds. This includes the struggle to overcome problems, difficulties, tasks, and temptations.
– The social dimension includes struggling against social injustice and creating a communal identity based on charity, respect and equality. Also it takes the form of calling people with the community to enjoin good and forbid evil.
– Finally, the combative aspect of jihad is in the form of a just war to be used against aggression or to fight forces of tyranny and evil oppression, and, even then, to observe the strict limits of conduct prescribed by Islam that preserves the life of innocents and the sanctity of the environment.
– Islam rejects all forms of terrorism, extremism, fanaticism and fundamentalism. The religion of Islam guarantees the sanctity of life (the life of a non-Muslim is considered as sacred as that of a Muslim), honor, property, and freedom to embrace and practice any religion they freely choose, and all other conducts as long as those conducts do not hurt others. To terrorize people or spread fear in any society or hurt others; all are considered major sins in Islam; Allah prescribed severe punishments for those who are involved in such actions.
Women in Islam
Islam looks at the woman as an equal, mature and capable partner of a man, without whom a family cannot exist and teaches that men and women are all the creation of Allah, existing on a level of equal worth and value.
In some societies women are treated according to ancestral customs and tribal tradition, but in Islam they are treated with full respect and honor. Islam preserves women’s honor and dignity, and requires that she must be treated with respect and honor. Her femininity should not be exploited in any way, rather she is to be regarded and treated as human individual whose sexuality does not enter into her relationship with any person other than her husband.
In Islam marriage cannot take place unless the female freely agrees to it and a dowry is given to her. Islam puts priorities for the husbands and wives. The responsibility for providing for the family is on the husband, while the responsibility to care for the house and raising the children is on the wife. These are the main priorities, but cooperation between the husband and the wife is required and highly recommended.
For both males and females, Islam requires that they wear proper, decent, modest, and clean clothes.
Muslim women also are instructed by Allah in the Quran to wear as a minimum Hijab (head covering). At home, with her immediate family like her husband children, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and other males (family members who are forbidden to them to marry her), and with other women, a Muslim woman may take her outer garments off, and be free to beautify herself as she wants.
Unlawful clothing and adornment:
Tight clothing, transparent clothing, clothes that expose those parts of the body which are sexually attractive, extravagant clothes, swim suits, makeup or perfume in public, wigs and hairpieces. Gold and silk are prohibited to Men only, but lawful for Women.
Generally in Islam, women’s beauty and sexual attributes are not for public display.
Traditions Interfering with Islam
The adherence to Islam (as with other religions) varies with the strength of the beliefs of the people. Sometimes culture and traditions interfere with religion, or even overshadow the religion. Some people claim that something in their culture or tradition is part of the religion, when it is not. Or do things that have no justification in Islam and are prohibited; yet that gets portrayed by others as the tenets of the religion of Islam.
Also the beliefs and practices of Muslims should not be judged according to the beliefs and the laws of other religions since some lawful practices of one religion can be portrayed by other religion as unlawful or even wrong.
Sometimes a conduct of certain people can be offensive to others and vice versa in spite of the fact that this conduct is not meant to offend others. For example Islam commands Muslims to lower their eyes when they are talking to people of opposite gender out of respect and honor for the others. This can be offending to other cultures where eye contact is very important when communicating.
To live in peace and harmony in this world, one should realize that people were created differently and vary in the colors of their skin, their languages, and in their religions, cultures, and traditions. Some people may be different, but it does not mean that they are bad or evil.