ISLAM: ExplainedWritten by: by ahmad Sakr :: (View All Articles by: ahmad Sakr)
This guide to understanding Islam has been collated by the Islamic Association of Australia (IAA) with the hope that it will give Non-Muslims a better understanding of what Islam truly is. It also aims to clear some of the myths that have been surrounding Islam for far too long.
Although compiled by 'IAA', the actual writings are by the late Professor Doctor Mahmud Es'ad Cosan (May God grant him peace) and Ahmad H. Sakr. All necessary steps have been taken to ensure that the original texts have not been changed or lost their original meaning and where appropriate, extra comments have been added in brackets to help Non-Muslims gain a better understanding insh'Allah.
If you have any questions at all about Islam after reading this guide, then please do not hesitate to contact us with whatever questions and/or comments you may have. We will be glad to be of service. Enjoy!
Yours in Islam,
Islamic Association of Australia.
Meaning of Islam
The name of this religion is Islam, the root of which is Silm and Salam which means peace. Salam may also mean greeting one another with peace. One of the beautiful names of God is that He is the Peace. But Islam is more then this. It means submission to the One God and to live in peace with the Creator, within one's self, with other people and with the environment. Thus, Islam is a total system of living. A Muslim is supposed to live in peace and harmony with all these segments; hence, a Muslim is any person anywhere in the world whose obedience, allegiance, and loyalty are to God, the Lord of the Universe.
Followers of Islam
The followers of Islam are called Muslims. Muslims are not to be confused with Arabs. Muslims may be Arabs, Turks, Persians, Indians, Pakistanis, Malaysians, Indonesians, Europeans, Africans, Americans, Australians, Chinese, or other nationalities.
An Arab could be a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew or an atheist. Any person who adopts the Arabic language is called an Arab. However, the language of the Qur'an (the Holy Book of Islam) is Arabic. Muslims all over the world try to learn Arabic so that they may be able to read the Qur'an and understand its meaning. They pray in the language of the Qur'an, namely Arabic. Supplications to God could be in any language (but preferably Arabic).
While there are one billion Muslims in the world there are about 200 million Arabs. Among them, approximately ten percent are not Muslims. Thus Arab Muslims constitute only about twenty percent of the Muslim population of the world.
Allah - the One and the Only God
Allah is the name of the One and Only God. Allah (Praise be to Him, The Most High - s.w.t.) has ninety-nine beautiful names, such as: The Gracious, The Merciful, The Beneficent, The Creator, The All-Knowing, The All-Wise, The Lord of the Universe, The First, The Last, and others. He is the Creator of all human beings. He is the God (for all mankind, regardless of their religion. This includes..) the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the atheists, and everybody else. Muslims worship God whose name is Allah (in Arabic). They put their trust in Him and they seek His help and His guidance.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him - s.a.w.)
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him - s.a.w.) was chosen by God to deliver His Message of Peace, namely Islam. He was born in 570 C.E. (Common Era) in Makkah, Arabia. He was entrusted with the Message of Islam when he was at the age of forty years. The revelation that he received is called the Qur'an, while the message is called Islam.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) is the very last Prophet of God to mankind. He is the final Messenger of God. His message was and is still to the Christians, the Jews and the rest of mankind. He was sent to those religious people to inform them about the true mission of Jesus, Moses, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (peace be upon them all).
Prophet Muhammad (saw) is considered to be the summation and the culmination of all the prophets and messengers that came before him. He purified the previous messages from adulteration and completed the Message of God for all humanity. He was entrusted with the power of explaining, interpreting and living the teaching of the Qur'an.
Source of Islam
The legal sources of Islam are the Qur'an and the Hadith. The Qur'an is the exact word of God; its authenticity, originality and totality are intact. The Hadith is the report of the sayings, deeds and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). The Prophet's sayings and deeds are called Sunnah. The Seerah is the writings of followers of Prophet Muhammad (saw) about the life of the Prophet. Hence, it is the life history of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) which provides examples of daily living for Muslims.
Some Islamic Principles
A. Oneness of God: He is One and the Only One. He is not two in one or three in one. This means that Islam (strongly) rejects the idea of trinity or such a unity of God which implies more than one God in one. (Islam also strongly rejects the idea that the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) is God's son or equivalent to God.)
B. Oneness of mankind: People are created equal in front of the Law of God. There is no superiority for one race over another. God made us of different colors, nationalities, languages and beliefs so as to test who is going to be better than others. No one can claim that he is better than others. It is only God Who knows who is better. It depends on piety and righteousness.
C. Oneness of Messengers and the Message: Muslims believe that God sent different messengers throughout the history of mankind. All came with the same message and the same teachings. It was the people who misunderstood and misinterpreted them. Muslims believe in Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ismail, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus, (peace be upon them all) and Muhammad (saw). The Prophets of Christianity and Judaism are indeed the Prophets of Islam.
D. Angels and the Day of Judgment: Muslims believe that there are unseen creatures such as angels created by God in the universe for special missions. Muslims believe that there is a Day of Judgment when all people of the world throughout the history of mankind till the last day of life on earth, are to be brought for accounting, reward and punishment.
E. Innocence of Man at Birth: Muslims believe that people are born free of sin. It is only after they reach the age of puberty and it is only after they commit sins that they are to be charged for their mistakes. No one is responsible for or can take the responsibility for the sins of others. However, the door of forgiveness through true repentance is always open.
F. State and Religion: Muslims believe that Islam is a total and a complete way of life. It encompasses all aspects of life. As such, the teachings of Islam do not separate religion from politics. As a matter of fact, state and religion are under the obedience of Allah (swt) through the teachings of Islam. Hence, economic and social transactions, as well as educational and political systems are also part of the teachings of Islam.
Practices of Islam
God instructed the Muslims to practice what they believe in. In Islam there are five pillars, namely:
1. Creed (Shahada): The verbal commitment and pledge that there is only One God and that Muhammad (saw) is the Messenger of God, is considered to be the Creed of Islam.
2. Prayers (Salat): The performance of the five daily prayers is required of Muslims.
3. Fasting (Saum): Fasting is total abstinence from food, liquids and intimate intercourse (between married couples) from dawn to sunset during the entire month of Ramadan.
4. Purifying Tax (Zakat): This is an annual payment of a certain percentage of a Muslim's property which is distributed among the poor or other rightful beneficiaries.
5. Pilgrimage (Hajj): The performance of pilgrimage to Makkah is required once in a life time if means are available. Hajj is in part in memory of the trials and tribulations of Prophet Abraham, his wife Hagar and his eldest son Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon them all).
Other Related Aspects
A. Calendar: Islamic practices are based on the lunar calendar. However, Muslims also use the Gregorian calendar in their daily religious lives. Hence, the Islamic calendar includes both the common era and the migration (Hijra) year of the Prophet of Islam from Makkah to Madinah in the year of 623 C.E.
B. Celebrations (Eid): Muslims have two celebrations (Eid). They are, Eid of Sacrifice and Eid of Fast-Breaking. The Eid of Sacrifice is in remembrance of the sacrifice to be by Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) of his son. The Eid of Fast-Breaking comes at the end of the month of fasting, Ramadan.
C. Diets: Islam allows Muslims to eat everything which is good for the health. It restricts certain items such as pork and its by-products, alcohol and any narcotic or addictive drugs.
D. Place of Worship: The place of worship is called Mosque or Masjid. There are three holy places of worship for the Muslims in the world. These are: Mosque of Kaaba in Makkah, Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) in Madinah, and Masjid Aqsa, adjacent to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. A Muslim may pray any where in the world whether in a Mosque, a house, an office, or outside. The whole world is a place of worship. It is preferable that Muslims pray in a congregation, however, he/she may pray individually anywhere.
E. Holidays: The holy day of the Muslims is Friday. It is considered to be sacred and the Day of Judgment will take place on Friday. Muslims join together shortly after noon on Friday for the Friday congregational prayer in a Mosque. A leader (Imam) gives a sermon (Khutba) and leads the congregational prayer.
The Muslims of the early period of the Islamic era were pioneers in medicine, chemistry, physics, geography, navigation, arts, poetry, mathematics, algebra, logarithms, calculus, etc. They contributed to the Renaissance of Europe and world civilization.
Muslims are required to respect all those who are faithful and God conscious people, namely those who received messages. Christians and Jews are called People of the Book. Muslims are asked to call upon the People of the Book for common terms, namely, to worship One God, and to work together for the solutions of the many problems in the society.
Christians and Jews lived peacefully with Muslims throughout centuries in the Middle East and other Asian and African countries. The second Caliph Umar, did not pray in the church in Jerusalem so as not to give the Muslims an excuse to take it over. Christians entrusted the Muslims, and as such the key of the Church in Jerusalem is still in the hands of the Muslims.
Jews fled from Spain during the Inquisition, and they were welcomed by the Muslims. They settled in the heart of the Islamic Caliphate. They enjoyed positions of power and authority.
Throughout the Muslim world, churches, synagogues and missionary schools were built within the Muslim neighborhoods. These places were protected by Muslims even during the contemporary crises in the Middle East.
Very Brief History
The Creator of the Universe, our Exalted Lord wants us to be good servants to Him. Allah (swt) has sent us many Prophets from Adam down to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them all) to show us what we must do and how we must do it in order to gain His approval. To this end He has also allowed many holy pages and books to descend, such as the Torah, Zaboor, Gospel and Qur'an.
Prophet Muhammad (saw), whose coming was announced in earlier holy books, is the last and greatest prophet. His sovereignty will continue until Doomsday and no other prophet will follow him. Allah (swt) sent him to us as an envoy to convey His orders, as a teacher to correct degenerated beliefs and as an educator adorned with the highest morality.
Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wassalam), worked undauntedly throughout his blessed life and fulfilled his sacred mission in the best possible way. He was sent as a messenger to all humankind. Therefore, he did not restrict his efforts to his own people. In spite of the difficulties of that time and limited transportation and communication possibilities, he conveyed his message to all by means of writing letters (some of which are still preserved in museums) and by sending envoys to neighbouring countries. He called to Islam the rulers of the Byzantium, Iranian Sassanid Empires, the kings of Egypt, Abyssinia and Bahrain.
His first four caliphs, Mujtahid imams (expounders of Islamic law), God-fearing scholars, true spiritual guides and pious statesmen continued ardently spreading enlightenment and calling others to Islam. They spread Islam to large nations and distant lands. For centuries Islam dominated continents and oceans with excellence and honour.
Later, Muslims forgot their main objective and fell into the pursuit of the pleasures and splendours of this world. They failed to carefully observe their enemies and they neglected the pursuit of knowledge and scientific research. As a result, the situation changed. Because Muslims failed to unite as a whole, they were defeated by their enemies, lost territory and became subjected to abasement and slavery.
(Today we see Muslims spread throughout the world and by the Grace of Almighty Allah, many of them have achieved and are achieving great things. However, unfortunately the western world is not shown these positive sides of Islam, but on the contrary are constantly fed violent images of extremist Muslims doing some very unislamic things. At this point it should also be mentioned that the word Jihad does not mean Holy War. It means 'to strive in the way of Allah (swt)'. This can be any kind of striving which involves either spiritual or personal effort, material resources or arms.)
Many people of the world do not know the religion of Islam or they misunderstand or misinterpret it. The enemies of religion continue obstinately, vindictively, and jealously with malice and for personal gain with their deliberate aversion, deception, misleading comparisons and slander. But just as "the sun can not be plastered over by mud" sooner or later the truth will become apparent.
But what really astounds us and makes us feel regret is not the Non-Muslims, but rather, that some Muslims themselves do not know the true requirements of Islam and do not fully comprehend its essence (and thus give people the wrong interpretation of Islam). Both ignorant persons and intellectuals hold illusions about Islam and practice superstitions and false beliefs.
For example, it is supposed that good morality is comprised of not interfering with the affairs of others and getting along well with everyone. But actually Islam is based upon basic principles as "hubb-i fillah, bug'z-i fillah" (liking whom Allah likes, disliking whom Allah dislikes), "emr'i ma'ruf, nehy-i munker" (commanding what is good, forbidding what is evil) and "helping the oppressed and struggling against the oppressor."
It is also supposed that Islamic worship consists only of praying, fasting and holy pilgrimage. But in reality participating in various activities, beneficial to others and eagerly being of service to others earns one many spiritual rewards.
Materialists, for example, try to arrange their lives and activities on the basis of comfort in this world, easy earnings, living it up and living for pleasure. Islam, however, teaches us that this world is not a place for comfort and that it is necessary to sweat for wages; that it is necessary to risk affliction and hardship; that we must take upon the problems of our Muslim brothers and sisters and that we must struggle for our ideals, sacrificing our possessions and lives when necessary.
Muslims have been greatly harmed by such false suppositions; in fact they are still suffering great pain. Let us then, finally wake up to reality and to the truth. Let us embrace the true Islam.
Islam is a prospectus sent to us as a result of the Mercy and Kindness of Allah (swt). It is a "user's manual" presented to us to instruct us how to best use the blessings and opportunities bestowed upon us to live in the best and most positive way. It is a natural religion compatible with the demands of life. Without believing in and embracing Islam, it is not possible to fully comprehend the meaning of life or to harmonise with one's environment, nature and the universe or to take advantage of available opportunities. At the end of life one is both spiritually, and physically desperate and full of regret.
Justice is the key to individual and social, national and international progress and success.
Islam is not just a spiritual and other-worldly-system of religious ceremonies and worship. It is at the same time a complete, flawless and just system pertaining to physical, health, family, social, human, universal, economic, business, military, behavioural, academic and cultural matters. Islam is not an ascetic monasterial system that cuts off from life, this world, environment, humanity and human activities. On the contrary, it is directed towards life, humanity and community, government and the universe and to the organisation of the relationships among these. Islam is an active and dynamic system, a mode of living as Allah (swt) wishes, and an exalted, noble and divine way.
According to Islam, just as one gains spiritual reward for Zikar (remembrance of Allah), Salaat (prayers) and fasting, one also gains such reward for cleaning one's teeth, bathing, marriage, treating one's family well, honesty in business, politeness and effort in public jobs, truthful witnessing in the courts, just governing, virtuous administration, sincerity in religious struggle, and valour and courage in holy war.
So let us do every task according to the exalted principles of Islam, taking into consideration the pure and just religion's laws, in a spirit of divine inspiration and with pleasure and ardour of worship in order that it will be possible as both individuals and as a community to attain happiness and well-being insh'Allah.
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