Among the blessings and favors that God has bestowed upon humanity is
that He endowed them with an innate ability to recognize and acknowledge His
existence. He placed this awareness deep in their hearts as a natural disposition
that has not changed since human beings were first created. Furthermore, He
reinforced this natural disposition with the signs that he placed in creation
that testify to His existence. However, since it is not possible for human
beings to have a detailed knowledge of God except through revelation from
Himself, God sent His Messengers to teach the people about their Creator Who
they must worship. These Messengers also brought with them the details of how
to worship God, because such details cannot be known except by way of
revelation. These two fundamentals were the most important things that the
Messengers of all the divine revelations brought with them from God. On this
basis, all the divine revelations have had the same lofty objectives, which
1. To affirm the Oneness of God - the praised
and glorified Creator – in His essence and His attributes.
2. To affirm that God alone should be worshipped
and that no other being should be worshipped along with Him or instead of Him.
3. To safeguard human welfare and oppose
corruption and evil. Thus, everything that safeguards faith, life, reason,
wealth and lineage are part of this human welfare that religion protects. On
the other hand, anything that endangers these five universal needs is a form of
corruption that religion opposes and prohibits.
4. To invite the people to the highest level of
virtue, moral values, and noble customs.
The ultimate goal of every Divine Message has always
been the same: to guide the people to God, to make them aware of Him, and to
have them worship Him alone. Each Divine Message came to strengthen this
meaning, and the following words were repeated on the tongues of all the
Messengers: “Worship God, you have no god other than Him.” This message was conveyed
to humanity by prophets and messengers which God sent to every nation. All of
these messengers came with this same message, the message of Islam.
All the Divine Messages came to bring the life of the
people into willing submission to God. For this reason, they all share the
name of “Islam”, or “submission” derived from the same word as “Salam”, or “peace”,
in Arabic. Islam, in this sense, was the religion of all the prophets, but why
does one see different variations of the religion of God if they all emanated
from the same source? The answer is twofold.
The first reason is that as a result of the passage of
time, and due to the fact that previous religions were not under the Divine
protection of God, they underwent much change and variation. As a result, we
see that the fundamental truths which were brought by all messengers now differ
from one religion to another, the most apparent being the strict tenet of the
belief and worship of God and God alone.
The second reason for this variation is that God, in His
infinite Wisdom and eternal Will, decreed that all the divine missions prior to
the final message of Islam brought by Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of
God be upon him, be limited to a specific time frame. As a result, their laws
and methodologies dealt with the specific conditions of the people whom they
had been sent to address.
Humanity has passed through numerous periods of
guidance, misguidance, integrity, and deviation, from the most primitive age to
the heights of civilization. Divine guidance accompanied humanity through all
of this, always providing the appropriate solutions and remedies.
This was the essence of the disparity that existed
between the different religions. This disagreement never went beyond the
particulars of the Divine Law. Each manifestation of the Law addressed the
particular problems of the people it was meant for. However, the areas of
agreement were significant and many, such as fundamentals of faith; the basic
principles and objectives of the Divine Law, such as protecting faith, life,
reason, wealth, and lineage and establishing justice in the land; and certain
fundamental prohibitions, some of the most important of these being idolatry,
fornication, murder, theft, and giving false witness. Moreover, they also
agreed upon moral virtues like honesty, justice, charity, kindness, chastity,
righteousness, and mercy. These principles as well as others are permanent and
lasting; they are the essence of all the Divine Messages and bind them all
What is Islam? (part 2 of 4): The Origins of Islam
But where does the message of Muhammad, may the
mercy and blessings of God be upon him, fit in with the previous messages
revealed by God? A brief history of the prophets might clear this point.
The first human, Adam, followed Islam, in that
he directed worship to God alone and none else and abided by His commandments.
But through the passage of time and the dispersal of humanity throughout the
earth, people strayed from this message and began directing worship to others
instead of or along with God. Some took to worshipping the pious who passed
away amongst them, while others took to worshipping spirits and forces of
nature. It was then that God started to send messengers to humanity steering
them back to the worship of God Alone, which accorded to their true nature, and
warning them of the grave consequences of directing any type of worship to
others besides Him.
The first of these messengers was Noah, who was
sent to preach this message of Islam to his people, after they had started to
direct worship to their pious forefathers along with God. Noah called his
people to leave the worship of their idols, and ordered them to return to the
worship of God Alone. Some of them followed the teachings of Noah, while the
majority disbelieved in him. Those who followed Noah were followers of Islam,
or Muslims, while those that did not, remained in their disbelief and were
seized with a punishment for doing so.
After Noah, God sent messengers to every nation
who had strayed from the Truth, to steer them back to it. This Truth was the
same throughout time: to reject all objects of worship and to direct all
worship without exception to God and none else, the Creator and Lord of all,
and to abide by His commandments. But as we mentioned before, because each
nation differed in regards to their way of life, language, and culture,
specific messengers were sent to specific nations for a specific time period.
God sent messengers to all nations, and to the Kingdom of Babylon He sent Abraham – one of the earliest and greatest prophets – who
called his people to reject the worship of the idols to which they were
devoted. He called them to Islam, but they rejected him and even tried to kill
him. God put Abraham through many tests, and he proved true to all of them.
For his many sacrifices, God proclaimed that he would raise from amongst his
progeny a great nation and choose prophets from amongst them. Whenever people
from his progeny started to stray away from the Truth, which was to worship
none but God alone and to obey His commandments, God sent them another
messenger steering them back to it.
Consequently, we see that many prophets were
sent amongst the progeny of Abraham, such as his two sons Isaac and Ishmael,
along with Jacob (Israel), Joseph, David, Solomon, Moses, and of course, Jesus,
to mention a few, may the peace and blessings of God be upon them all. Each
prophet was sent to the Children of Israel (the Jews) when they went astray
from the true religion of God, and it became obligatory upon them to follow the
messenger which was sent to them and obey their commandments. All of the
messengers came with the same message, to reject worship of all other beings
except God Alone and to obey His commandments. Some disbelieved in the
prophets, while others believed. Those that believed were followers of Islam,
From amongst the messengers was Muhammad, may
the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, from the progeny of Ishmael, the
son of Abraham, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, who was sent as
a messenger in succession to Jesus. Muhammad preached the same message of
Islam as the previous prophets and messengers – to direct all worship to God
Alone and none else and to obey His commandments – in which the followers of
the previous prophets went astray.
So as we see, the Prophet Muhammad was not the
founder of a new religion, as many people mistakenly think, but he was sent as
the Final Prophet of Islam. By revealing His final message to Muhammad, which
is an eternal and universal message for all of mankind, God finally fulfilled
the covenant that He made with Abraham.
Just as it was incumbent upon the those who were
alive to follow the message of the last of the succession of prophets which was
sent to them, it becomes incumbent upon all of humanity to follow the message
of Muhammad. God promised that this message would remain unchanged and fit for
all times and places. Suffice is it to say that the way of Islam is the same
as the way of the prophet Abraham, because both the Bible and the Quran portray
Abraham as a towering example of someone who submitted himself completely to
God and directed worship to Him alone and none else, and without any
intermediaries. Once this is realized, it should be clear that Islam has the
most continuous and universal message of any religion, because all prophets and
messengers were “Muslims”, i.e. those who submitted to God’s will, and they
preached “Islam”, i.e. submission to the will of Almighty God by worshipping
Him Alone and obeying His commandments.
So we see that those who call themselves Muslims
today do not follow a new religion; rather they follow the religion and message
of all prophets and messengers which were sent to humanity by God’s command,
also known as Islam. The word “Islam” is an Arabic word which literally means “submission
to God”, and Muslims are those who willfully submit to and actively obey God,
living in accordance with His message.
What is Islam? (part 3 of 4): The Essential Beliefs
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Description: A look at some of the beliefs of Islam.
Published on 16 Jan 2006 - Last modified on 18 Mar 2014
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> Beliefs of Islam
> What is Islam
There are many aspects of belief in which one
who adheres to Islam must have firm conviction. From those aspects, the most
important are six, known as the “Six Articles of Belief”.
1) Belief in God
Islam upholds strict monotheism and belief in God forms the heart of
their faith. Islam teaches belief in one God who neither gives birth nor was
born Himself, and has no share in His caretaking of the world. He alone gives
life, causes death, brings good, causes affliction, and provides sustenance for
His creation. God in Islam is the sole Creator, Lord, Sustainer, Ruler, Judge,
and Savior of the universe. He has no equal in His qualities and abilities,
such as knowledge and power. All worship, veneration and homage is to be
directed to God and none else. Any breach of these concepts negates the basis
2) Belief in the Angels
Adherents to Islam must believe in the Unseen
world as mentioned in the Quran. From this world are the angels’ emissaries of
God, each assigned with a specific task. They have no free-will or ability to
disobey; it is their very nature to be God's faithful servants. Angels are not
to be taken as demigods or objects of praise or veneration; they are mere
servants of God obeying His every command.
3) Belief in the Prophets and Messengers
Islam is a universal and inclusive religion. Muslims
believe in the prophets, not just the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and
blessings of God be upon him, but the Hebrew prophets, including Abraham and
Moses, as well as the prophets of the New Testament, Jesus, and John the Baptist.
Islam teaches God did not send prophets to Jews and Christians alone, rather He
sent prophets to all nations in the world with one central message: worship God
alone. Muslims must believe in all prophets sent by God mentioned in the
Quran, without making any distinction between them. Muhammad was sent with the
final message, and there is no prophet to come after him. His message is final
and eternal, and through him God completed His Message to humanity.
4) Belief in the Sacred Texts
Muslims believe in all books that God has sent
down to humanity through His prophets. These books include the Books of
Abraham, the Torah of Moses, the Psalms of David, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
These books all had the same source (God), the same message, and all were
revealed in truth. This does not mean that they have been preserved in truth.
Muslims (and many other Jewish and Christian scholars and historians) find that
the books in existence today are not the original scriptures, which in fact
have been lost, changed, and/or translated over and over again, losing the
As Christians view the New Testament to fulfill
and complete the Old Testament, Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad
received revelations from God through the angel Gabriel to correct human error
that had entered into the scriptures and doctrine of Judaism, Christianity and
all other religions. This revelation is the Quran, revealed in the Arabic language,
and found today in its pristine form. It seeks to guide mankind in all walks
of life; spiritual, temporal, individual and collective. It contains
directions for the conduct of life, relates stories and parables, describes the
attributes of God, and speaks of the best rules to govern social life. It has
directions for everybody, every place, and for all time. Millions of people
today have memorized the Quran, and all copies of the Quran found today and in
the past are identical. God has promised that He will guard the Quran from
change until the end of times, so that Guidance be clear to humanity and the
message of all the prophets be available for those who seek it.
in Life after Death
Muslims believe that a day will come when all of
creation will perish and resurrected in order to be judged for their deeds: The
Day of Judgment. On this day, all will gather in the presence of God and each
individual will be questioned about their life in the world and how they lived
it. Those who held correct beliefs about God and life, and followed their
belief with righteous deeds will enter Paradise, even though they may pay for
some of their sins in Hell if God out of His Infinite Justice chooses not to
forgive them. As for those who fell into polytheism in its many faces, they
will enter Hellfire, never to leave therefrom.
in the Divine Decree
Islam asserts that God has full power and
knowledge of all things, and that nothing happens except by His Will and with
His full knowledge. What is known as divine decree, fate, or
"destiny" is known in Arabic as al-Qadr. The destiny of every
creature is already known to God.
This belief however does not contradict with the
idea of man's free will to choose his course of action. God does not force us
to do anything; we can choose whether to obey or disobey Him. Our choice is
known to God before we even do it. We do not know what our destiny is; but God
knows the fate of all things.
Therefore, we should have firm faith that
whatever befalls us, it is according to God's will and with His full
knowledge. There may be things that happen in this world that we do not
understand, but we should trust that God has wisdom in all things.
What is Islam? (part 4 of 4): Islamic Worship
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Description: A look at some of the essential practices of Islam, with
a brief explanation of who are Muslims.
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> Beliefs of Islam
> What is Islam
There are five simple but essential observances that all
practicing Muslims accept and follow. These “Pillars of Islam” represent the
core that unites all Muslims.
1) The ‘Declaration of Faith’
A Muslim is one who testifies that “none deserves
worship but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” This declaration is known as the “shahada” (witness, testimony). Allah is the Arabic name for
God, just as Yahweh is the Hebrew name for God. By making this simple
proclamation one becomes a Muslim. The proclamation affirms Islam’s absolute
belief in the oneness of God, His exclusive right to be worshipped, as well as the doctrine that associating anything else with God is the one unforgivable sin
as we read in the Koran:
“God does not forgive anyone for associating something with
Him, while He does forgive whomever He wishes to for anything else. Anyone who
gives God partners has invented an awful sin.” (Quran 4:48)
The second part of the testimony of faith states that
Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, is a prophet of God
like Abraham, Moses and Jesus before him. Muhammad brought the last and final
revelation. In accepting Muhammad as the “seal of the prophets,” Muslims
believe that his prophecy confirms and fulfills all of the revealed messages,
beginning with Adam’s. In addition, Muhammad serves as the role model through
his exemplary life. A believer’s effort to follow Muhammad’s example reflects
the emphasis of Islam on practice and action.
2) The Prayer (Salah)
Muslims worship five times a day: at daybreak, noon, mid afternoon, sunset, and evening. It helps keep believers mindful of God in the
stress of work and family. It resets the spiritual focus, reaffirms total
dependence on God, and puts worldly concerns within the perspective of the last
judgment and the afterlife. The prayers consist of standing, bowing, kneeling,
putting the forehead on the ground, and sitting. The Prayer is a means in
which a relationship between God and His creation is maintained. It includes recitations from the Quran, praises of God, prayers for forgiveness and other
various supplications. The prayer is an expression of submission, humility, and adoration of God. Prayers can be offered in any clean place, alone or together, in a
mosque or at home, at work or on the road, indoors or out. It is preferable to
pray with others as one body united in the worship of God, demonstrating
discipline, brotherhood, equality, and solidarity. As they pray, Muslims face Mecca, the holy city centered around the Kaaba - the house of God built by Abraham and his son Ishmael.
3) The Compulsory Charity (Zakah)
In Islam, the true owner of everything is God, not man.
People are given wealth as a trust from God. Zakah is worship and
thanksgiving to God by supporting the poor, and through it one’s wealth is
purified. It requires an annual contribution of 2.5 percent of an individual’s
wealth and assets. Therefore, Zakah is not mere “charity”, it is an obligation on those who have received their wealth from God to meet the needs of less fortunate members of the community. Zakah is used to support the poor and the
needy, help those in debt, and, in olden times, to free slaves.
4) The Fast of Ramadan (Sawm)
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar
which is spent in fasting. Healthy Muslims abstain from dawn to sunset from
food, drink, and sexual activity. Fasting develops spirituality, dependence upon God, and brings identification with the less fortunate. A special evening
prayer is also held in mosques in which recitations of the Quran are heard. Families
rise before dawn to take their first meal of the day to sustain them till
sunset. The month of Ramadan ends with one of the two major Islamic
celebrations, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, called Eid al-Fitr, which is
marked by joyfulness, family visits, and exchanging of gifts.
5) The fifth Pillar is the Pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca
At least once in a lifetime, every adult Muslim who is
physically and financially able is required to sacrifice time, wealth, status,
and ordinary comforts of life to make the Hajj pilgrimage, putting himself
totally at God’s service. Every year over two million believers from a diversity
of cultures and languages travel from all over the world to the sacred city of
to respond to God’s call.
Who are Muslims?
The Arabic word “Muslim” literally means “someone who is
in a state of Islam (submission to the will and law of God)”. The message of
Islam is meant for the entire world, and anyone who accepts this message
becomes a Muslim. There are over a billion Muslims worldwide. Muslims
represent the majority population in fifty-six countries. Many people are
surprised to know that the majority of Muslims are not Arab. Even though most
Arabs are Muslims, there are Arabs who are Christians, Jews and atheists. Only
20 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims come from Arab countries. There
are significant Muslim populations in India, China, Central Asian Republics, Russia, Europe, and America. If one just takes a look at the various peoples
who live in the Muslim World - from Nigeria to Bosnia and from Morocco to Indonesia - it is easy enough to see that Muslims come from all different races, ethnic
groups, cultures and nationalities. Islam has always been a universal message
for all people. Islam is the second largest religion in the world and will
soon be the second largest religion in America. Yet, few people know what