What is Islam?

What is Islam?

God in His mercy had sent messengers to convey us, to different peoples, in different times. Each prophet came with guidance and miracles that were relevant for his time and for his people, but the message was the same: That there is only one God and worship is for him alone.

This “Islam” is the same as the religions brought by all the prophets of God. Islam is the same as the religion of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them all) but with more details. God has in His Grace, addressed this issue to man in His final revelation, the Noble Quran.

“Do they seek other than the religion of Allah (God)? When to him submit all creatures in the heavens and on the earth; and to him, they shall all be returned (83). Say [O, messenger]: “we believe in Allah (God) and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the sons of Jacob and what was given to Moses, Jesus and to [other] messengers from their creator and nurturer; we consider no discrimination between one and another among them and to Allah, we are submitted”. (84)
(Surah Al-e-Imran, verse 83, 84)

Man was to follow each prophet when he came, till the advent of another prophet Thus the latter prophet was followed since there was new guidance relevant to that latter time.  Miracles were also for that time and for those people. All this is evident. For example, when Jesus (PBUH) said to the Children of Israel:

“And I have come to attest what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful to you certain things that were forbidden before; I have come to you with a Sign from your creator And Nurturer, so fear from the disobedience of Allah’s commands and obey me.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, verse 50)

Consequently, God has sent the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as His last messenger to mankind. This implies that he must come with a complete and clear guidance, and a clear proof, for all humanity and all times till the Last Day. Otherwise the message is void. Also, the message must be confirming the previous messengers of before. The revelation, guidance, and miracle he received is the Quran.

Now, let’s see more about this last religion, Islam.

Islam (/ˈɪslɑːm/; Arabic: اسلام) is a verbal noun originating from the root “S-L-m” which forms a large class of words mostly relating to concepts of wholeness, safeness and peace. It is an Abrahamic religion articulated by the Quran. It is revealed to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the last prophet of God. The adherent of Islam is called Muslim. Today, Muslims are known in 2 main groups: Shia and Sunni.

In Islam God is called Allah. Other non-Arab Muslims might use different names as much as Allah, for instance “Tanri” in Turkish, “Khodā” in Persian or Ḵẖudā in Urdu.

Allah is described in Surah Al-Ikhlas in the Quran as: “Say [O, Messenger!]: “Allah is the one and the only creator (1) Allah is the Absolute independent,[free from all attachment](2) Neither he has a son nor a daughter, nor he is born of any other being (3) And there is no equal, no match and no mate for Allah, the Almighty (4).” (Surah Al-Ikhlaas)

Allah is the term with no plural or gender used by Muslims and Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews to reference God. In addition, Muslims and Jews repudiate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and divinity of Prophet Jesus (PBUH), comparing it to polytheism.

In Islam, Muslims are not expected to visualize God. God is described and referred to by certain names or attributes, the most common being “Al-Rahman”, meaning “The Compassionate” and “Al-Rahim”, meaning “The Merciful”.

In Islam, Allah is viewed as a personal god who responds whenever a person in need or distress calls him. There are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God who states, “…And [through the embracing knowledge] we are nearer to him [Human] than his jugular vein.” (Surah Qaf, verse 16)

Also, the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by Allah’s sheer command, “…Be, and it comes to existence,”

General Principles of Islam

In Islam there are 5 main principles are called Osul-e-Din (the principles of the religion):

  • Tawhid (Shia and Sunni belief)
  • Nabuwwah (Shia and Sunni belief)
  • Ma’ad (Shia and Sunni belief)
  • Adalah (just Shia Belief)
  • Imamate (just Shia Belief)

Tawhid (Oneness)

In Islam, Tawhid means to assert the unity of God, it is not just unity of Allah Almighty but also Uniqueness, as defined in Quran Surah 112(Al-Ikhlas), He is not born of anyone nor gave birth to any one, nor is any one like Him. The opposite of Tawhid is “Shirk”, which means “Association” or “Partnership” in Arabic. In Muslims view, polytheism and idolatry is known as “Shirk”.

Tawhid is the most important principle that each Muslim must believe it. Also, Tawhid is mentioned in the other Abrahamic religions. (Uniqueness and unity of God is distorted in Christian religion)

Nabuwwah (Prophet Hood)

“Nabuwwah” means “Prophet Hood”. It comes from the world “Nabi” that is mentioned in Old Testament too, as the meaning of God’s messenger. Nabi denotes that God has appointed Prophets and Messengers to teach mankind the religion. Religion is the perfect system of how to live in “peace” or “submission to God”. Prophets are Messengers which are appointed by God to bring the message of God to people and spread that message while the Imam (leader) is appointed by God to protect that message since ordinary people will fail to do so.

If people were left with the message alone, the true message could not survive long and would have undergone changes. Imams were therefore appointed to take care of the message and prevent people from going astray after the last prophet.

Nabi receives inspiration in three ways. Sometimes, God reveals directly to his heart. Sometimes, God reveals facts on something such as mountain or tree (like Moses who Allah spoke to him by a tree). The third way of revelation is sending messages to the Nabi (prophet) by an angle.

Ma’ad (The Day of Resurrection and judgment)

Yaum al-Qiyamah or “Day of the Resurrection“, also known as “Day of the Account”, “Day of the Gathering”, and the “Great Announcement”.

Ma’ad is a fundamental tenet of faith in Islam. After the annihilation of this world, Allah will raise mankind for Judgment. The trials and tribulations of Resurrection Day are detailed in the Quran.

In Surah al-Zalzalah describes this as, “then he who has done a particle-weight of good shall see it, [and shall receive the reward for it] (7). And he who has done a particle-weight of evil shall see it [and shall receive the recompense for it] (8).” (Surah Al-Zilzal, verse 7, 8)

Also, The Quran lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell, such as disbelief in God, and dishonesty; however, the Quran makes it clear God will forgive the sins of those who repent. Deeds, such as charity, prayer and compassion towards animals, will be rewarded with entry to heaven. Muslims view heaven as an eternal place of joy and bliss, with Quranic references describing its features and the physical pleasures to come.

They believe the time of “Resurrection Day” is preordained by Allah but unknown to man. Every human, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is held accountable for his or her deeds and are judged by Allah accordingly.

In fact, Allah revive human to reward benefactors and punish wicked as he has promised in all Abrahamic religions especially in the Quran.

Adalah (justice)

Adalah is described in Shia theology as one of the principles of Islam. It comes from the root “A-D-l” as the meaning of justice. Adalah is a quality of Allah that includes following meanings:

  • It means everything Allah does is based on benefit and wisdom
  • It means all human are the same before Allah and they are equal, no one is superior than the others unless by virtue
  • It means Justice, i.e. Allah never ignores even the smallest positive or negative deeds of mankind
  • It means Allah has created every creature in right position, by materials that exactly is needed for that creature and finally, there are an equality and appropriateness through all creatures and phenomena in the whole universe
  • It means the creation of the whole universe is based on a purpose and nothing is aimless or vain

 Imamate (Leadership)

As it is mentioned before, Imam should continue the revolution of the prophet and be leader after the prophet. Islam prescribes very high qualification for a divine leader. He should be the most knowledgeable, the wisest, and the most gallant of all people. He should also be immune from every kind of sin, mistake and error. So, Imams are determined by God, before and their names and their signs is revealed to the prophet. This is just described in Shia theology as another principles of Islam.

Other important issues in Islam

Testimony (Shahadah)

The Shahadah (شهاده), which is the basic creed of Islam that must be recited with the specific statement:

اَشهدُ انْ لا اِلٰهَ الا الله و اَشهدُ انَّ محمّداً رسولُ الله

‘ash’hadu ‘an-lā ilāha illā-llāhu wa ‘ash’hadu ‘anna muhammadan rasūlu-llāh“, “I testify that there are no deities other than Allah alone and I testify that Muhammad is his Messenger.”

This testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.

Prayer (Salah/صلاه)

Daily prayers, called Ṣalah or Ṣalat in Arabic, Namaz (نماز) in Persian, must be performed five times a day. Salat is intended to focus the mind on God, and is seen as a personal communication with him that expresses gratitude and worship. Salat is compulsory but flexibility in the specifics is allowed depending on circumstances. The prayers are recited in the Arabic language, and consist of verses from the Quran. The prayers are done with the chest in direction of the Qibla (Kaba, Mecca) though in the early days of Islam.

A Mosque is a place of worship for Muslims, who often refer to it by its Arabic name, “Masjid”. The word “Mosque” in English refers to all types of buildings dedicated to Islamic worship, although there is a distinction in Arabic between the smaller, privately owned mosque and the larger, “collective mosque” (Masjid jāmi). Although the primary purpose of the mosque is to serve as a place of prayer, it is also important to the Muslim community as a place to meet and study. Al-Masjid al-Nabawi the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina was also a place of refuge for the poor. Modern mosques have evolved greatly from the early designs of the 7th century, and contain a variety of architectural elements such as Minarets.

Fasting

Fasting, (Arabic: صوم‎ ṣawm), Rouzeh/روزه in Persian, avoiding from food and drink (among other things) must be performed from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan (Lunar month). The fast is to encourage a feeling of nearness to Allah, and during it Muslims should express their gratitude for and dependence on him, atone for their past sins, and think of the needy. Sawm is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would constitute an undue burden. For others, flexibility is allowed depending on circumstances, but missed fasts usually must be made up quickly.

Alms-giving

“Zakat” (Arabic: زكاة‎ ) is giving a fixed portion of accumulated wealth by those who can afford it to help the poor or needy and for those employed to collect Zakat; also, for bringing hearts together, freeing captives, for those in debt (or bonded labor) and for the (stranded) traveler. It is considered a religious obligation that the well-off owe to the needy because their wealth is seen as a “trust from God’s bounty”. The Quran and the Hadith(the quotes of Prophets and Imams) also urge a Muslim to give even more as an act of voluntary alms-giving called Sadaqah (صدقه).

Hajj Pilgrimage

The pilgrimage, called the Hajj (Arabic: حج‎) has to be done during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. Rituals of the Hajj include: spending a day and a night in the tents in the desert plain of Mena, then a day in the desert plain of Arafat praying and worshiping Allah, following the footsteps of Prophet Abraham (PBUH). Then spending a night out in the open, sleeping on the desert sand in the desert plain of Muzdalifah, then moving to Jamarat, symbolically stoning the Devil ( the symbol of Devil is Obelisk) recounting Prophet Abraham’s actions. Then going to Mecca and walking seven times around Kaba which was built as a place of worship by Prophet Abraham (PBUH), Then walking seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah recounting the steps of Prophet Abraham’s wife, while she was looking for water for her son Ismael in the desert, before Mecca developed into a settlement. The purpose of all is first to be far from all material relations and just think about God, and second to remind Abraham’s sufferings about establishing the religion of God and be thankful that we are not from idolatries.

Jihad

Jihad means “to strive or struggle in the way of Allah”. Depending on the object being a visible enemy, the devil, and aspects of one’s own self (such as sinful desires), different categories of jihad are defined. Jihad, when used without any qualifier, is understood in its military aspect. Jihad also refers to one’s striving to attain religious and moral perfection. Some Muslim, especially Shia, distinguish between the “greater jihad”, which pertains to spiritual self-perfection, and the “lesser jihad”, defined as warfare.

Jihad is the only form of warfare permissible in Islamic law and declared against illegal works, terrorists, criminal groups, rebels, apostates, and leaders or states that oppress innocent people.

Etiquette and diet

Many practices fall in the category of Adaab (behavior) and Islamic dietary laws, or Islamic etiquette. This includes greeting others with “Salam” or “as-salamu `alaykum” (“peace be on to you”), saying Bismillah (“in the name of Allah”) before meals, and preferring to use the right hand for eating and drinking. Islamic hygienic practices mainly fall into the category of personal cleanliness and health. Circumcision of male offspring is also practiced in Islam. Islamic burial rituals include “funeral prayer” over the bathed and enshrouded dead body, and burying it in a grave.

In Islam, guests are known as the friends of Allah and Muslims are wanted to respect their guests and welcoming them as best as possible. Islam wants human to be like brothers and sisters so that help each other, be well-behaved, respect to each other especially to the elders, women and children.

There are some restrictions for Muslims foods include not having pork products, blood, carrion, and alcohol. All meat must come from an herbivorous animal slaughtered in the name of Allah. Permissible Food for Muslims is known as “Halal” food.

Family life

The basic unit of Islamic society is the family, and Islam defines the obligations and legal rights of family members. The father is seen as financially responsible for his family, and is obliged to cater for their well-being. The division of inheritance is specified in the Quran, which states that most of it is to pass to the immediate family, while a portion is set aside for the payment of debts and the making of bequests. Marriage in Islam is a civil contract which consists of an offer and acceptance between two qualified parties in the presence of two witnesses. The groom is required to pay a bridal gift (Mahr) to the bride, as stipulated in the contract.

In Islam, Mother has the main role of children breeding and training, that is why Allah gave a mother mercy and patience (two of his qualities). A Muslim woman should be able to bring honest and nice children up who have advantages for their society, those children can make a family in the future and as a result, we will have an excellent society.

Women in Islam

Status of woman in Islam is incomparable to the other religions or ideologies: In Arabia or some other countries, before Islam, men had been buried alive girls. Women had no rights whatsoever and were treated no better than a commodity. Not only were they enslaved, but they couldn’t also be inherited as a possession. They were subordinate to their fathers, brothers, and husbands.

In Hindu scriptures, the description of a good wife is as follows: “a woman, whose mind, speech and body are kept in subjection, acquires high renown in this world, and, in the next, the same abode with her husband”. It was believed that a woman should cremate when her husband was dead as she was alive.

In Egypt, people were putting a bowl of honey just near the corps of dead men body, not women dead body because they believed just the soul of men would return. Women were not allowed to touch holy books or texts but they were used for scarifying.

In Athens, women were not better off than either the Hindu or the Roman women. Athenian women were always minors, subject to some male – to their father, to their brother, or to some of their male kin. In Roman law a woman was even in historic times completely dependent. If married she and her property passed into the power of her husband. The wife was the purchased property of her husband, and like a slave acquired only for his benefit. A woman could not exercise any civil or public office or could not be a witness, surety, tutor, or curator; she could not adopt or be adopted, or make will or contract.

The woman in Judaism was in the rank of a servant. The father had the right to sell his underage daughter. She had no right to inherit if her father had no male offspring. It is stated in the Old Testament (the distorted Torah) that the woman should not inherit as long as there are males in the family; rather, she is part of the inheritance if her husband dies, and the nearest male relative to the husband would inherit her.

Woman was believed to be the source of evil and sin. They considered her impure especially on the days she was menstruating and whoever touched her during this time became impure for seven days. They blamed her for the expulsion of Adam from paradise, but in Quran, Allah says, Satan fooled both Adam and Eve together and never knows Eve as the reason of expulsion of Adam.

There was widespread Christian belief that the woman had no soul. In 586 A.D, the Council of Macon was held to decide whether the woman was a body that had a base soul or that she did not have a “saved” soul. They made an exception to Mary (PBUH), may God exalt her mention, because she is the mother of Prophet Jesus (PBUH).

Paul declared that the woman is the source of sin, the basis of every evil and the fountainhead of every abominable act. St. Bonaventure said to his disciples, “When you see a woman, you should not think that you saw a human being or even a beastly being. Rather, you saw the devil in person.”

Jews and Christians believe Eva fooled Adam and she was the reason of quieting from heaven, but in Quran it is mentioned that Devil (Satan) fooled both of them and Eva never was the cause of fall from heaven.

In the pre-Islamic period, the Arabs regarded the woman as a piece of property or as rubbish. When the husband died, his guardian would cover the wife of the deceased with his garment and she could not remarry. They used to prevent her from remarrying until the young matrimonial guardian would grow up and then decide whether he wished to marry her or give her in marriage to anyone else and take the dowry as long as she was not his mother. If she was his mother, he would not marry her. The woman had no rights and she did not inherit anything. She was considered a source of humiliation and shame.

Islam prohibited all this and allocated for her a specific share in inheritance. Allah the Almighty Says: “there is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by parents and their relatives as heritage whether the property be small or large, it is a decreed share” (Surah Al-Nissaa, verse 7)

Moreover, the Arabs in the pre-Islamic era did not only deprive the woman of inheritance but also deprived her of life itself. When some of them begot a female child, they would dig a hole and throw her into it and heap dust over her. What is worse and more disgusting is that once, a father was away travelling when his wife gave birth. When he came back, he took his grown up daughter from her mother, dug a hole while she removed the dust from his clothes, and then, took her by surprise, pushed her into the hole, afterward, heaped dust over her while she was screaming for pity. But his heart did not soften for her. This situation is described in the Quran when Allah the Almighty says: “and when the female infant, buried alive, shall be questioned (7). For what sin was she put to death? (8)”   (Surah Al-Takwir, verse 8, 9)

Some mothers used to fear this painful destiny. So, the mother would dig a hole by herself during her pregnancy. If she delivered a girl, she would throw her into the hole in order to save her from the tragedy that would take place when the father would have returned from traveling. Some mothers would strangle their baby daughters after delivering them.

Some fathers’ faces used to turn dark when they received the news that their wives had given birth to a girl because of their intense hatred for girls, and they would be hesitant whether to bury her alive or bear the humiliation and let her live. Allah the Almighty Says: “and when the news of the birth of a female child is broken to one of them, his face darkens and he hides his inward grief and anger (58). He hides himself from his folk shamefully [regarding the news] and he wonders whether he should keep her with contempt, or bury her beneath the dust? Verily, evil is their judgment [regarding such discrimination] (59)   (Surah Al-Nahl, verse 58, 59)

Their hatred for girls was based on two reasons: First, girls do not take part in wars. Second, they feared that the girl may later become a source of shame. Despite their fear of shame, strangely enough, we find that many Arab tribes were quite lenient in the face of prostitution and that they used to force their slave girls into prostitution until Allah the Almighty revealed the verse forbidding this act: “do not force your maids to prostitution when they are chaste just in order to benefit from the perishable goods of this worldly life; and if the slave-girls do such filthy act under compulsion, Allah is the merciful forgiving (33). (Surah Al-Nur, verse 33)

Women in the pre-Islamic era used to expose their adornments and entice men. Noble verses of the Quran were revealed to prohibit Muslim women from imitating the disbelieving women just as Muslim men were prohibited before them from imitating the disbelieving men. Allah the Almighty Says: “And stay very often in your houses; do not exhibit your beauty and ornaments as the manner of the women of the time of ignorance; establish prayer, and pay alms and obey Allah and his messenger. Verily, Allah’s will is to remove away impurity from you, the people of the messenger’s household and to purify you thoroughly (33).” (Al-Ahzab, verse 33)

The Quran dedicates numerous verses to Muslim women, their role, duties and rights. In Quran, woman is named as the relaxation for man, as Allah says: “and of Allah’s signs of power is that he created mates for you from your own kind, [i.e., human being] to seek peace and happiness from one another and he caused love and kindness between you; and in all these there are signs of Allah’s power and divine wisdom for men of thought” (Surah Al-Rum, verse 21).

Allah wants men to care about women, love them, speak them softly, not to strict or hurt them because woman is divine trust. If a man slap or hurt a woman, he should pay atonement to her.

Right to vote, have been given to the women In the United State, by 1920, but the right of voting was given to the women in Islam more around 550 A.D. Islam knows the woman as the base of family and because of that the great responsibility of upbringing is taken on woman shoulders, i.e. motherhood.

Allah gave to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), a daughter as the only child, Lady Fatima (PBUH), when woman was known as nothing among Arabian people. Islam encourages women to educate and take part in social activities. In addition Allah put 12 Imams in his daughter generation and it also proves the importance of woman in Islam.

In Islam, a Muslim woman can only have sex after her “Nikah” (lawful marriage contract), with one Muslim man; sex is permitted to her only with her husband. There are a lot of rules about sex in Islam; also importance of woman’s satisfaction is mentioned. Islam admonishes Muslim women to dress modestly in garments that do not reveal the extremities to any man other than their husband, father, certain male family members, small children and male slaves free of sexual needs. The Quran specify limitations of covering by clothes, however, do not specify particulars, style or design of the clothing and other dress forms; clothing has varied widely across Islamic regions. Styles have changed over the centuries.

In Islam, there is no difference between men and women’s relationship to God; they receive identical rewards and punishments for their conduct. Many classical Islamic scholars, supported female leadership. In early Islamic history, some women took part in political activities.

Women have played an integral part in the development and spiritual life of Islam since the inception of Islamic civilization in the seventh century A.D. Lady Khadijah (PBUH), a businesswoman who became the Prophet Muhammad’s wife, was also the first Muslim woman. There have been a large number of female saints throughout the Islamic world.

 

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