Greetings Aden, and a warm welcome to the forum.
Some of us are born Muslims, some became Muslims later on in life. We are all brothers and sisters in Islam. A born Muslim, is not necessarily more knowledgeable than one who reverted to Islam after hearing about Islam. Some very knowledgeable people are actually reverts, may God bless them. And we'd love to welcome you the ummah (global Muslim community) too!
Here are some answers to your questions, not based on any personal views, but Islam, as taught by God and his Prophet (peace and blessings be on him)
Originally Posted by Aden Hirst
Allah (God) has sent a succession of prophets to people throughout the ages, to convey His message to them, and with guidance to show people how He wants them to live and worship Him. Muslims believe in all the prophets Allah sent, and do not reject or blaspheme any of them, from Adam, to the last and final prophet, Muhammad, peace be on them all. They were the purest and noblest of humanity and were not divine in any way.
Allah sent all the prophets with the same message and not different messages. The message was: to submit wholeheartedly to Allah and worship Him and Him alone, without any associates in, or parts to, His Exclusive Divinity, and to obey the prophet
. They taught that people should be under no misperception that they can commit themselves to Allah as their Lord, and then combine this with accepting others as their Lord, or associating others in His Divinity, in whatever way. They taught that we should strive hard to translate our belief in the One True God into practice, by obeying Allah and the messengers He sent, who were also role models and examples for us, showing us practically how to put the guidance they were sent with into practice in our daily lives, explaining the scriptures, warning against wrong-doing, giving good tidings, and giving additional legislation from Allah.
So Islam is not a new faith, but is the same ultimate universal truth that God revealed to all the prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be on them), and the same thing they all taught. Thus Islam is not named after a specific person (like Christianity, Buddhism), nor after a certain race or place (like Judaism, Hinduism), but is named by God Himself, the meaning loosely translating as 'submission to God', which is what every Prophet and their righteous followers did, from amongst all times, places and peoples. That in itself is one fraction of the evidence that it was the way of all the Prophets from the beginning.
With time, the message got forgotten or corrupted. So people started worshipping other gods along with Him, made idols, said that God begot a son, said that certain people were incarnations of God, some rejected belief in God altogether, while others elevated the status of some prophets to divine, or at the other end, rejected or blasphemed some of the prophets. Whenever God's message got distorted by people, or forgotten, a new messenger was sent, not with any new or changed message, but reinforcing the actual message that God sent all the messengers with, the actual core beliefs that people were taught from the beginning of humanity, confirming the true parts of previous teachings and scriptures, and correcting wrong beliefs and misconceptions that had crept in. God required that whenever He sent a new messenger, that messenger should be followed along with any new scripture given to him.
This chain of messengers culminates in prophet Muhammad (peace, blessings, and salutations of God be on him), who is the last and final prophet and messenger. Since his prophethood, God's message is available unchanged and unadulterated, for the entire world, until the end of time. He wasn't sent as prophet and messenger for a specific group of people and specific time (e.g. as Moses and Jesus were to the Children of Israel), but he was sent for all the world, for all time, until the Day of Judgement. Thus he is the last, not first, prophet of Islam; a messenger to all mankind, for now, and for all time to come. He is the messenger who must now be followed.
Originally Posted by Aden Hirst
The Qur'an is the last and final scripture of God, the very words revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad (peace, blessings and salutations of God be upon him) via the angel Gabriel. It's message is for the entire world, until the world ends. It is because Allah has promised to preserve the Qur'an that there won't be any need for a new Prophet, because the message is, and will remain, intact. Thus it is fully preserved with no word in it coming from any human. It is 100% the word of God, unlike the other scriptures that we have with us today, that have been changed by humans - thus it supersedes the previous scriptures, while being a continuation, confirmation and culmination of the original message contained within them, in its last and final form. The Final Testament.
The Qur'an has no versions or editions. Millions of people from all over the world have it memorised and they all recite word for word the same thing. It contains the central message as already described, and practical guidance on how to live, stories of previous prophets from which to learn lessons, warnings, rules, comfort, solace, good tidings, and in it God corrects misconceptions people may have about Him or His prophets. It tells us what has always been expected from humans since the beginning of time; what He told His prophets to teach people since the beginning. That message never changed. The essence of Islam is what always was, and has always been, the true and natural religion; the way of all the Prophets, the original and only message.
The Qur'an has been translated into nearly every language. These are regarded as translations of the Qur'an, but not as the Qur'an itself, which is in Arabic, and has rhythm and poetic beauty. Any preconceived notion that you might have of a book should be put aside. This book is completely unique in every way; its content, arrangement, style, authorship, preservation, and memorisability, amongst other things.
Originally Posted by Aden Hirst
The Prophet's practice and directives (the Sunnah), as taught to him by God, have also been recorded, and must be followed along with the Qur'an, not just the Qur'an alone, as the sunnah was taught to him by God. The sunnah has been recorded in records called the hadeeth.
Originally Posted by Aden Hirst
Perhaps this doesn't fit here, but don't know how much you know about the concept of God in Islam:
There is only One God. He alone should be worshipped.
He is our Creator, Sustainer, and Lord.
He does not beget, nor is He begotten.
He has no sons, daughters, spouses, siblings, parents, cousins, or relatives of any sort.
He is eternal and does not die. He does not depend on anyone/anything yet we all depend on Him.
He is free of all want and need.
There is nothing like Him.
He is all Hearing, all Seeing, all Knowing, all Powerful, Incomparable, the Creator of the Universe.
He did not/does not, become flesh, dwell in human or animal bodies, nor are there any incarnations of Him.
He is not mixed up in His creation in any way.
He is not composed of persons, nor a trinity.
There are no secondary, lesser, greater, equal, or multiple gods, nor any intermediaries. And no denying of God's existence either.
There are no sharers, associates, persons or parts whatsoever in His exclusive Divinity. Simply, He is One, in every sense.
As you can see, the concept is clear, simple, logical, makes sense, and befits the Majesty of God. The proper name of God in Arabic is Allah.
Also worth mentioning here, is our belief in accountability, life after death, and the day of judgement:
We are each responsible for and accountable for our own deeds, good or bad, and for the choices we make in life, each choice having a consequence. Nobody else is responsible for them or carries them away. No innocent person is made to suffer or die for other's sins. Babies are not born in a state of sin, but a state of innocence and purity. There is no concept of original sin, nor of God expecting perfection which cannot be achieved, nor of a broken relationship with God that requires reconciling, nor of ****ation requiring a saviour. Forgiveness is directly from God. Prayer is directly to God. God is the God of all, even of those who don't believe in Him.
In Islam, as Adam (peace be upon him) asked for forgiveness and was forgiven, so we too ask for Allah's forgiveness for our sins, as He loves for us to turn to Him in repentance, and loves forgiving. This forgiveness comes freely, just by Allah's will, when we sincerely ask for forgiveness and truly repent. Forgiveness does not require any type of sacrifice by God. Both Adam and Eve repented and were forgiven by their Merciful Lord; and indeed Adam was then chosen to be the first person to receive guidance from Allah, was honoured by Allah, and is counted among all the other Prophets of Islam. While guidance and the right way has been shown to us, we, as humans, have the freedom to choose, to err, and to repent sincerely, and should we do so, we will find Allah Forgiving. For all in the posterity of Adam, the door of returning to the right path is always open, prior to death.
THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT
This world is a temporary life. It is not just to work, eat, sleep, have children and die into nothingness. It is a test for us. After death, we will all be resurrected on the Day of Judgement, and called to account for our deeds, and recompensed accordingly. Those who may have escaped worldly justice, will not be able to escape and will face absolute justice.
Good and bad are not equal, thus the consequences are not equal. God does not treat good and evil the same. For evil or unrepentant sin not to be punished is against the Justice of God. Allah has a perfect balance of Forgiveness, Mercy, Fairness, Justice, and Firmness. Those who believed in and worshipped Allah alone, obeyed His Messenger, and did good deeds with sincerity, will, only through Allah's mercy, after being judged by Him, be admitted into a Paradise of bliss. Allah will also judge those who disobeyed Him, rejected His message, or did evil deeds etc; such people will go into hell. Allah will be just to everyone. Nobody will be wronged in the slightest, not even by a dot. It will be the day of perfect and ultimate justice, for Allah is the most Just. The door to repentance is open in this world. For all who repent, ask for forgiveness, and resolve sincerely to try not to repeat past mistakes, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. With this belief, a Muslim should always remember that Allah is watching everything he does, and that he will have to account for his deeds. This alone should prevent behaving in a manner against the guidance of Allah. Many present day problems in this world would disappear and new ones avoided, if everyone acted fully in accord with this belief.
Originally Posted by Aden Hirst
The five pillars of Islam:
The basic framework of a Muslim's life:
: The testimony that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the messenger of Allah.
: Prayer five times a day
: Annual alms-giving to support the needy, if financially able.
: Fasting from dawn to sunset daily in the month of Ramadan annually
: The pilgrimage to Mecca, once in a lifetime.
The latter 2 pillars if one is physically/financially able. Islam is built on these 5 pillars. They're a must.
BELIEF IN THE UNSEEN
Muslims must believe in Allah, His angels, the Scriptures He revealed, His Messengers He sent to mankind, Resurrection after death and the Day of Judgement, Allah's complete authority over human destiny and that whatever Allah has ordained must come to pass.
TO BECOME A MUSLIM - you verbally declare and believe firmly in the heart, the shahaadah, the words of which translate into English as, "I testify that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of Allah." Belief in, and declaration of the shahaadah, necessitates acceptance of following all that is mandated for a Muslim. When a person becomes a Muslim, his/her previous sins are wiped out, and the new Muslim starts at the point of the shahaadah, with a fresh, clean slate. Islam is for everyone, regardless of age, race, or status in society.
WHAT DOES ISLAM MEAN?
The word Islam means submission to the will and authority and guidance of God. It is derived from the same linguistic root as the word meaning peace. A Muslim is one who willingly submits to God.
I'll leave it here for now, apologies for some of the lengthy answers, and feel free to ask more and for clarification if this doesn't really answer your questions.